Tuesday 10 June 2014

Marty Friedman - Live at Queen's Hall, Nuneaton, England

Marty Friedman, one-time guitarist for thrash band Megadeth, came to the UK for two live dates; I managed to get to the Nuneaton gig on the 22nd May.

So why am I writing about an American guitarist in a blog about Asian culture? While obviously not an Asian artist, Marty Friedman now lives and works in Japan, and has done so for many years now. He is fluent in speaking Japanese, has made and appeared on several Japanese TV shows, and has performed on records of a number of Japanese artists' music, such as Suzuki Ami, and Nanase Aikawa. He is also married to a Japanese cellist.

I first heard about Marty working in Japan when I saw clips of his TV show "Rock Fujiyama" on YouTube. He, along with singer/guitarist of 90's Japanese rock band Scanch, invited famous musicians onto the show to play music-based games, and talk about rock music. The show was a lot of fun, with some great guests, including one of my favourite guitarists, Paul Gilbert, and there was also a lot of guitar playing on the show too, which for me was what made the show so great. I've since managed to see all the episodes, and ever since then, I've followed Marty's career more closely than before. So it was great to find out he'd be on tour not only here in the UK, but actually playing a venue not too far from where I live. Often, musicians of his calibre only play in London, which can be a bit of a pain to get to sometimes.

Another reason for his inclusion here is that in Marty's band, the other guitarist is Takayoshi Ohmura, who I believe is considered a bit of a "guitar god" in Japan. I thought I had never heard Ohmura before, but it turns out I had! He is also one of the guitarists in BABYMETAL's backing band Kami Band, who I'll be going down to London to see live next month. He was sporting one of their t-shirts that night too.

Joining Marty Friedman on this the "Guitar Universe 2014" tour, and first on stage, was Gus G, another guitar virtuoso who also plays guitar for Ozzy Osbourne, and his own band Firewind. He was joined onstage by the bassist and drummer from Firewind, along with Swedish vocalist Mats Levén.

I'd never heard of Gus G before either, but I was suitably impressed by his playing; some pretty fast finger work and some decent songs too.

After some rocking tunes, Gus G finished his set with a rendition of Ozzy's classic hit "Crazy Train".

"Crazy Train"

After Gus G's performance, it was time for Marty to hit the stage. I believe he opened with new song "Hyper Doom", taken from the new album "Inferno" (released a few days after this gig), to get the crowd going.

After another song or two, the band played "Stigmata Addiction" taken from the 2006 album "Loudspeaker".

Marty's playing never ceases to amaze me; he pulls off some really intricate playing, sometimes with blisteringly fast picking, but Marty is not just about how fast he can play; he mixes it up with some truly melodic lines, and plays with real feeling; his guitar almost acting as vocalist in the absence of an actual singer, and you can hear this in the clip below. I managed to record just over a minute of him soloing on "Stigmata Addiction".

"Stigmata Addiction" (Solo)

This was followed by "Elixir", from the same album, a faster and heavier song than the previous, but similarly with some amazing guitar playing (it goes without saying really).

After these, it was time for a couple of songs from Marty's 2009 Japanese song covers album "Tokyo Jukebox". First up was "Amagi Goe" (天城越え), which is a Japanese enka song by Ishikawa Sayuri. Since hearing Marty's version, I went on to find the Ishikawa Sayuri version too, which I now really love!

Another song from this album was "Kaeritakunatta Yo", a ballad originally recorded by J-Pop band Ikimono Gakari. Unfortunately I didn't manage to record either of these two Japanese songs, so do go and check them out on YouTube.

Next up was another new song, "Inferno", the title song of the new album; the new video was released a few weeks back. It's a fantastic song; lots of different styles and tempos all in one song. After listening to the new material a bit, I really think Marty's music has evolved so much more, and I'm sure his involvement in the Japanese music industry has played a big part in this.


After a few more songs I don't know the names of, I'm pretty sure they played Megadeth song "Tornado of Souls", which was from Megadeth's 1990 album "Rust In Peace".

Soon after that was another song I don't know the name of, but this time guitarist Takayoshi Ohmura got a bit of a solo spot, and had his moment to shine in front of the audience, proving his credentials as a "Guitar God"! His soloing included elements of classical piece "Flight of the Bumblebee", written by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Great stuff!

Takayoshi Ohmura's Solo

Before their next song, Marty asked the crowd "Are there many girls in the audience tonight?", and after a few cheers from the female spectators, he proceeded to chime in with "This one's for the girls!", and we heard the opening bars of "Devil Take Tomorrow", another song from "Loudspeaker". It's a quite a soothing slower song, again with some wonderful playing to be heard.

"Devil Take Tomorrow"

After another song or two, Marty then invited Gus G and his singer to the stage, where they performed another song that I can't really remember, giving each guitarist time to show off their brilliant playing. Even the bassist was able to have a bit of a solo intro to the song. It would have been cool if there was a drum solo too, but it never materialised. Even so, the three guitarists all playing along together was aural pleasure!

Marty Friedman, Takayoshi Ohmura & Gus G

After that performance, guitarist Takayoshi Ohmura threw his plectrum in to the crowd; it landed on the floor and my friend managed to spot it and pick it up, and then gave it to me! Marty had been throwing his picks into the crowd all night, but none had come near us.

This was such a fantastic show! Every song was greatly received, with each musician playing superbly throughout. If you're into instrumental rock at all, I highly recommend going to see Marty Friedman live if you get the chance!

Buy the latest Marty Friedman album "Inferno" on Amazon.co.uk:

Image credit: Header - Marty Friedman Official FacebookAll other photos and videos by AZNPopCulture.com

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