There are many bands that come to Massachusetts. And as much as I’d love to see them all, it’s not always possible. Sometimes you’ve got a plan that you’ve already made and you can’t get out of it. Other times, you don’t really have the funds if you’re saving up for something else. Having said that, we all have certain favorite musicians for whom we would do anything to see them live! Especially if we’ve already missed one opportunity to do it. Marty Friedman, to me, is one of those musicians.
If you’ve read my piece about Jason Becker, you might remember a little bit about Marty as well. In the ‘80s, he played in bands like Deuce and Hawaii but it was Cacophony, the heavy metal band he formed with Jason Becker, that put him on the metaphorical map. Marty and Jason were pioneers of neo-classical metal that showcased the technical capabilities of both guitarists while also infusing a lot of melody and classical influences. Of course, we can’t mention his career without also mentioning Megadeth. In 1990, Marty joined forces with Dave Mustaine and the rest of the band to release the iconic “Rust In Peace” album. He stayed with the band for about 10 years until he realized that he would be a lot freer in terms of songwriting if he pursued a solo career.
And that’s not the only thing he changed in his life… Feeling more and more inspired by the Japanese music scene, he decided to move to Tokyo in 2003. According to an interview he did with Rolling Stone in 2014, he didn’t really know anybody in the music scene there. He was starting from zero! But today, he’s a celebrity. Go on YouTube and check out Rock Fujiyama to see for yourself. And that’s only one example! Marty’s been involved with so many different TV shows and worked with so many artists. If you’re still not convinced that Marty’s indeed big in Japan, LA Weekly reported that “he was named a Japan Heritage ambassador — alongside six native Japanese celebrities, including former New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui — by the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs to promote Japanese tourism leading into the 2020 Olympics.” If that’s not a big deal, then what is?
I’ve always followed Marty’s solo albums ever since I got into Megadeth in 1998. I remember listening to Scenes and being blown away. It’s not a “metal” record – but then again, it didn’t have to be! We knew Marty’s metal side from Megadeth and from his solo album Dragon’s Kiss from a few years prior. He was getting into Japanese music and he had an opportunity to do an album with Kitaro. He wasn’t going to shy away from that! Scenes to this day remains as my favorite album from him, but he’s released many other great ones. There’s great music in all of them but Scenes, True Obsessions, Loudspeaker, Inferno, and the newest one Wall of Sound are probably my favorites. The melodies are too intriguing to ignore and they’re not melodies you can find on any other album.
Life after Megadeth obviously gave him a bigger opportunity to explore whatever kind of music he wanted. Between his TV gigs, he was always recording. And although it wouldn’t be fair to say that he “ignored” metal for most his post-Megadeth career, he certainly wasn’t prioritizing the heavier side of things for a while. Not only that, but his main focus was the Japanese audience. You could hardly find any mention of him in American magazines and there wasn’t a U.S. tour for a long time either. That changed in 2014 when Marty released Inferno, an incredible album full of songs that only Marty Friedman could pull off. It was very clear, through interviews he gave and the overall tone of the album, that he’d missed the heavy metal world and especially the North American audience who for years banged their heads to riffs and solos he played. He was ready to tour America for the first time since 2003.
Marty played Boston in 2015 to support Inferno but unfortunately I had to miss it. I was bummed because every single review of the tour was positive. People couldn’t believe how much energy he and his whole band had. Luckily, I got another chance. After releasing an equally amazing album this year, Wall of Sound, he launched another major tour across the country. And he once again played Brighton Music Hall in Boston on August 3rd. There was no way I was going to miss his show again. So, I went…
I won’t get into a full detailed review of Wall of Sound since this is about the concert. But I will add one quick comment in case you’re interested. This album is yet another display of how Marty can infuse so many different melodies and put them together in such beautiful order. He once again collaborated with guest musicians on a few songs – but the way he collaborates is very different than the norm. He doesn’t just ask for a guest solo – he asks his guests to write a song together with him! And that makes a difference. The album has a heavier vibe – but this is Marty, so don’t expect anything “conventional”. It’s music only he could write and in my view, he delivered! I’ve always liked it better when he incorporated some heavy metal. I think I still like Inferno a bit better but honestly, both of these last two records are amazing. You can’t go wrong.
On to the show…
There were two openers, The Fine Constant and Scale the Summit. I knew nothing about either band but I’m not the kind of guy who skips opening bands. Quite the contrary, I want to see them because that’s a great way of discovering new music. I must say, The Fine Constant wasn’t my cup of tea. Incredible players for sure – I was awestruck by what they were able to do! But while technically amazing, their music just didn’t do much for me. Scale the Summit was also great in terms of playing but I had similar feelings. Although, there were a couple of songs in their set that I thought were really good! Unfortunately, I don’t know the titles – but I’m going to listen to them a bit more and see what more I can discover.
And then Marty, along with his supporting band, hit the stage…
Looking around the venue, my first thought was where the hell is everybody? Brighton Music Hall isn’t a big venue to begin with – and it was half-empty. I felt bad for Marty – he’s an exceptional musician and has something to offer for fans of any genre. So, I wasn’t too thrilled to see that he wasn’t playing at least close to a sold-out show. I’m sure he didn’t care but obviously, I did. He’s such a professional that the way he played with such sheer energy just proved that he’ll play any venue any time. He made sure that every single person who attended got their money’s worth.
We all know Marty’s great; but man, so was his supporting band! I wasn’t too familiar with any of them so it was nice to get introduced to them all. They had the same level of energy that Marty had. His drummer, Anup Sastry, also played on most of Inferno and Wall of Sound so I was at least familiar with his playing. But his stage presence matches the music! I’ve got nothing but praise. His second guitar player, Jordan Ziff, looked so much like Marty from a distance that my wife, who came to the show with me, thought it was Marty when Jordan entered the stage first. It’s hard to get noticed as a guitar player when you’re playing with Mary Friedman but Marty let Jordan get the spotlight at a few instances where he let Jordan solo alone – and I’m glad he did because Jordan’s really good! I’m going to follow what he does and I’d be curious to check out his upcoming projects. And last but certainly not the least, his bass player Kiyoshii Manii was fucking amazing. I’ve never seen a bassist with that much upbeat drive to keep the audience engaged. They’ve just got a great chemistry together. Marty has a different drummer for the second leg of the US tour, so I didn’t get to see him but if Marty chose him I’m sure he also has an insane amount of what Marty must be looking for first and foremost in a musician: energy!
He played a good mixture from all of his solo albums. When he played Boston, his new album hadn’t been released yet (it was released a day later) so I am not 100% certain if he played some stuff from it. I think he played Whiteworm, which was made available before the whole album. But in general, he didn’t go too heavy on the new album and played a good variety to represent a big chunk of his career. Some highlights for me were hearing Elixir, an absolute monster of a track from Loudspeaker (2006), the title song from Inferno (2014), Tibet/Angel from my favorite album Scenes (1992), and of course that wonderful solo from Tornado of Souls. Some sources online say the songs from Scenes were played from tape – but that’s not true. They may have played certain melodies in the background from tape at the beginning but they for sure played the songs live! He also may have played more from Wall of Sound but like I said, I hadn’t heard the entire album yet so there’s a chance I didn’t recognize it. I have since listened to the entire album multiple times but I can’t recall if any, other than Whiteworm, got played.
I had never seen Marty Friedman in real life before. By the time I was able to see Megadeth for the first time, he’d already left. And I missed his show in 2015. But as many attendees will point out, the guy doesn’t look like he’s aged at all! It’s hard for me to believe he’s in his 50s. He looks exactly the same. And as I mentioned before, he’s got as much energy as he did in those early ‘90s Megadeth videos you find on YouTube. Nothing’s changed. In fact, I would argue he sounds even better today. And he’s releasing one killer album after another. If you are a fan of heavy metal that’s infused with a lot of melody and if you prefer a crazy amount of stage activity from the performers you see, you should absolutely try to catch one of his shows. And if you miss it once like I did, don’t worry. Marty seems to enjoy touring the U.S. and we certainly love seeing him here. I hope that next time, we can give him a lot more sold-out shows. He deserves it.