BOOTHBAY OPERA HOUSE ,MAINE --
The thunderous, hard-rock instrumental really came into its own in the 1970s and has hung in there as a popular musical variant ever since. The latest manifestations would have to include some jam band music, but purveyors of pounding arena anthems still draw crowds as well.
Virtuoso electric guitarist Jim Weider and his quartet Project Percolator traverse much of the entire history of this music, touching on everything from neo-Led-Zeppelin power chords to processed-percussion electronica along the way. They provided a good sampling of their skills during a show (one of several area gigs in recent days) at the Boothbay Opera House on Saturday night. At times, their music had the feel of being simply very well-played mood music for the rock age. But in a few choice spots they soared with the best of them.
Much of the original material came from the group's eponymous album. "Flight" worked by contrasting a heavy-metal vamp with a more pastoral bridge, including a dash of country flavoring. Many of the evening's selections combined elements from various sub-genres that kept the listener's interest in a what-will-they-do-next kind of way.
"The Maze" was a catchy jam piece that expanded into almost an orchestral feel as the arrangement rose out of the groove set by drummer Rodney Holmes and bassist Ron Jenkins. Employing numerous electronic effects cued by foot pedals, Weider and fellow guitarist Mitch Stein produced some hard and nasty sounds.
Some of the best moments in the concert came when the two guitarists faced off for some improvised soloing. The music suddenly felt fresh and unpredictable during those passages, which to some extent reminded one of the dueling guitar extravaganzas for which such bands as the Allman Brothers are known.
There's something about a long string of rock-based instrumentals, though, that doesn't feel like quite enough. Especially when the emphasis is on power-playing, as it was on Saturday night, there needs to be a human voice in there someplace. Guest singer Kate Schrock, who had opened the evening with a set of her own music, joined the band to fill that need on a reggae-styled version of "The Weight."
The tune was especially appropriate since Weider had been a member of The Band in the group's later years. Schrock did a fine job in adding a bit of vocal warmth amid the guitar-heavy sounds.
The singer's own set featured several of her now classic songs, including "St. Jude," as well as new tunes like "At the Water's Edge, " a subtle anti-war piece. She proved to be a fine pop/folk vocalist who can draw emotion out of a tune through excellent technique topped off by engaging personal touches.
Whether its a soulful human voice or a loud electric guitar chord that gets you going is largely a matter of taste. But, when they both combined on Saturday night, there was no denying that the music felt complete.
Steve Feeney ,Portland Press Herald