The following is the first of a two part series with Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush. In this first part, we get a review of the band's October 13, 2006 gig in Milwaukee from writer Paul Kloiber. Part Two of the series will feature Dr. Music's interview with Frank Marino, and is scheduled to appear in the December issue.
When you hear the word "pure" you conjure up images of freshly fallen snow, a newborn baby, or a bride in a white dress. To be quite honest I did too, but not any longer. Now my mental imagery will be something that 99.99% of the world wouldn't even know, an image of Frank Marino and his guitar. Friday night, October 13th, I went to see the legendary musician in Milwaukee. I know that many people who are reading this are thinking, "Legendary musician? I've never even heard of this guy." And, since I know from personal experience that most people are unaware of him, I will try to explain to you who and what he is as I review his concert. The stage set-up was small and quite simple. The drums were, as always, center stage and to the rear. The bass was to the right, the rhythm guitar on the left, with Frank's guitar and pedal boards up front and just off center to the right. His guitar was set to flow through stereo stacks, one each on the outside of the other band members amps. This in itself caught my eye as most guitar gods have only one stack or amp mic'd up, and the sound comes from only one side of the stage. This was to be the first of many surprises for the night.
The lights came down and the band took the stage. With Frank giving a short wave and a nod to the audience, he picked up his guitar and away we went. He flowed through the first song with ease; "The Answer," a bluesy little rock number, immediately grabbed us in our seats and started us down the road to musical nirvana. The sound was tight and crisp; not only from Frank, but from all the members of the band. The make up of Mahogany Rush has changed many times over the years, with Frank being the only constant. This version was by far one of the best I have ever heard. Surrounded by Remy-Jean LeBlanc on bass, Avi Ludmer on guitar, and David Goode on the drums, this line up was a grand slam.
From this first song to the second and beyond, the band's power and Frank's passion ebbed and flowed like the ocean crashing on the beach. Songs I knew, such as "Dragonfly," "Poppy" and Frank's own completely unique version of the Hendrix classic, "Red House," rained down over me and filled my senses. The sound was so crisp and tight I have to give a pat on the back and an A+ to Dave, the board operator! From the soft blues notes and the rough gravel of Frank's voice, to the amazing sounds and effects wrung from his guitar through his own custom made pedal board, every note was perfect. Liquid lighting, projected to the back screen, gave a visual aid to the sonic mind trip that we were exploring. And when it came time to change directions and take a different approach, the band stood up and delivered. Whether it was a dueling lead between Frank on guitar and Avi on an electric violin, or the smooth tight bass solo that RJ's fingers tapped out (so smooth and effortless I found myself comparing him to The Who's John Entwistle), or the rapid fire drum solo that made me dub David Goode with the nickname "Justtoo" (because he was definitely "just too good"), this band was beyond anything I had expected. Frank's solos and his magical guitar effects took the form of everything from orchestral to even bagpipes (for a guitar rendition of "Amazing Grace" that blew my mind). The only slight downside was that the band has been touring the country doing a three hour show every night, and this show was cut down to a one hour and forty-five minute, dynamite packed powerhouse. One hundred and eighty minutes of sonic fury and power crammed into a hundred and five minute show talk about a powder keg waiting to blow.
I went to this show hoping to catch a glimpse of the past; Frank Marino in his glory days of 70's arena rock greatness. I wanted to see the multitude of faces that make up this awe inspiring guitar legend. What I saw was so far beyond the expected, that it was magical. Never one to be labeled, his music has spanned and crossed over so many genres that to describe it best takes only one word PURE. I started this review with that word and now it will end with it as well. This show was pure joy to attend. Frank and his bandmates played with pure passion that I watched with eyes wide, like a starstruck teen. Many things affected the direction this man took in his music; people, record labels, producers and managers pushed and pulled him like the water and wind. Sometimes he blew off course a bit, sometimes he crashed headlong into a wave of dissent, but the pure soul inside him somehow always found its way back to its musical center and stayed the course. When all is said and done, not everyone will know how good this guitarist/singer/songwriter/electrical technician/ innovator/ father/man is or was ...but everyone should. He should be known not just for his music, but because through everything, the music remained pure.
This show is rated as a SOLID and WELL DESERVED A.