Guitar virtuoso Alan Azar is one of the most hard working local musicians out there today; he has been consistent in his live performances as well his studio albums, and let’s not forget his contribution to other bands like The Kordz.
My latest event review of Alan Azar was nearly a year ago at the same venue Nova pub (check it here) and I am surprised to see that some of the points I discussed in that review are still valid.
I am not technically qualified to judge a professional musician’s performance to begin with, so my reviews are generally written from an attendee’s perspective and from a music enthusiast who wants to enjoy his night out. However I can’t but stress the point that my opinion of Alan’s music in general has not changed since last year, here’s some main points I always think about after watching Alan perform (the quotes taken from my review of Alan a year ago):
– ‘played with both technicality, professionalism and most importantly passion‘ – you can always count on that with Alan and his bandmates, whether it’s the melodies and cool techniques, the arrangements and composing method, there’s a high level of musicianship involved here. Their stage performance shows genuine appreciation of the music, they are not copying any famous Iron Maiden / Judas Priest live moves, they’re just passionate about performing.
– ‘I personally think that the key to the band is their understanding of musical buildup‘ – this is evident from both of Alan’s studio albums, the songs are structurally solid, there’s always a memorable melody in a given song which Alan then adds the icing on top of the cake with his soloing. The way the band builds up toward a desired mood(s) shows that this is not some guitar player playing with a band serving as a ‘live backing track’.
– ‘what’s next for Alan Azar? A different musical path with some additions to the western style instrumental rock mostly influenced by Joe Satriani an his peers?‘ – this is the only point which I feel is keeping Alan from really reaching great success. This one year old question has been discussed with friends, musicians and even Alan himself. At one point, you simply end up with ‘this is what he wants to do, he’s comfortable with this style / genre and he’s trying to build up some momentum as a solo artist’.
However, I have to talk about the reaction I get when I ask people about their attending status for an upcoming Alan Azar event; their reaction is not ‘I’m not attending because I don’t like that band‘, it’s ‘I mean they’re good and all, but I’ve seen Alan Azar several times already and it’s the same thing‘. I’m not making things up here, and it shows from the attendance rate at Alan’s events, it’s always below 100, but those who show up are dedicated music fans and not your average metalhead who’s looking for a good moshpit and a beer-filled dizzy night.
On this night, Alan played great, the setlist was indeed varied, a Joe Satriani cover here, some really good songs from his previous 2 albums there and a couple new songs which sounded quite good in my opinion, capturing the same melodic essence that makes you say ‘that sounds like an Alan Azar song’. Compared to the recent Metal gigs at Nova, the attendance rate was lower whereas the age average was higher; there was a good vibe there, you look around and you see drummers, guitarists, bassists, local musicians who are also trying to find their own musical touch (or simply enjoying what they do), but there’s also that feeling when you’re anticipating something huge but you eventually settle with ‘the usual’.
In my opinion, Alan Azar needs to step his game, and that’s not saying that he should play anything that doesn’t fit his own musical personality, but I think he should consider expanding his influences, perhaps bringing more musicians into the band, I’d love to see what he can do with a saxophonist, a couple of background choir vocalists on some songs, a percussionist that pushes the Progressive aspect of the band further, etc. They should explore new genres and incorporate them into their songs (like Alan’s ‘Control Panel‘ from ‘Defective Harmony’), perhaps some Jazz runs here and there, anything to go beyond the Instrumental Rock tag which I believe is limiting their collective creative spirit.
Am I disapointed of last night? Well no, I did enjoy the band’s performance, but as did everyone else, I didn’t leave with a huge smile on my face talking about how good it was. All in all, Alan is still on my favorite list when it comes to local Rock / Metal musicians, and he’s still getting the respect he deserves from everyone who meets or watches him perform, but my question this year will be: When will Alan Azar undergo a musical metamorphosis?