Owl - Majestic Theater, Ventura, Ca. USA, Sunday, June 4th, 2017
Set List: Charmed/Things You Don’t See/Send/Violent Center/Alive/Lake Ego/No Light/Pusher.
When I ventured back to Los Angeles, this past month, one of my goals was to catch the final OWL show of the West Coast leg. My intention was to attend as a friend and not a writer. I have seen the band, live, many times but have never written a piece on OWL. While OWL do not tour as much as they would like, they have a solid fan base combined with constant new recruits. So why not write about OWL?
This particular show featured OWL in the opening slot of the Yngwie Malmsteen tour. This was, also, not the band’s traditional line up. Chris Wyse, principal songwriter, bassist, vocalist and founding father of the band has always been a constant. Not only a distinguished and much sought after bassist, but, also gifted with rich, melodic, captivating vocals.
Guitarist, Eric Bradley, recently returned to the OWL family fold but still maintains his band, The Young Royals. Bradly replaced long time guitarist, Jason Achilles Mezilis, who ventured forward with his own musical projects. This night, Ace Frehley drummer, Scot Coogan manned the skins for long time drummer, Dan Dinsmore who needed to return home due to a family emergency. Coogan, also a renowned vocalist added his own accompanying flair.
So, why write about OWL? The answer to this question is not only are OWL are one of the best bands live, but, they are also extremely appreciative and down to earth guys. Whether it is a short set or their headlining set list, the audience is guaranteed the same exceptional performance. While they do not tour regularly due to band member projects; they have a loyal following and large social media presence. Those who first witness OWL live leave new aficionados often inquiring about future gigs.
While tonight required a condensed set, due to the time slot, the band made exceptional song choices. Not only did they choose many of my personal favorites but also gave an appropriate representation of OWL. Opening with ‘Charmed’, a high energy track from their self titled debut, the gathering audience immediately took notice. While a large percentage of the onlookers were in the venue for the headlining band, murmurs of inquiry were heard. Questions in regard to the band, their origin, and their music were plentiful.
An opening slot can be hit or miss as much of the crowd attends for the main act; for OWL this was a hit. Wyse, a seasoned veteran and no slouch to manning a stage, knew, precisely, how to engage the audience. Rolling into the title track of their third release ‘Things You Can’t See’, Wyse’s bass prowess danced through the opening chords parallel to Bradley’s melodic guitar sound.
The band continued to offer well chosen samples from all three of their current releases: ‘Send’ a beautifully written piece from ‘The Right Thing’ - an album that reads as a relatable emotional journey deep into the human psyche. Tonight the song was dedicated to drummer, Dinsmore, who was in the thoughts of friends this evening.
Whipping back and forth between their first and current release; we heard ‘Violent Center’ which boasts powerful bass work and ‘Alive’ which is a perfect song for popular radio airplay. ‘Alive’ appears on OWL’s debut album in its original form featuring Wyse’s upright bass and signature pedal work. There is also an acoustic version, re-released as part of ‘Things You Can’t See’.
While it is so difficult to choose a favorite OWL song, I do have to cite ‘Lake Ego’ as close to the top of my musical food chain. I was promised I would hear this song this evening and I was not disappointed. This is definitely my personal favorite from Things You Can’t See and it was wondrously perfect; but already knew it would.
So, I chose to write about OWL, I am enamoured by their multi-layered sound; each listen reveals something not noticed before. Their live performance not only embodies who they are but brings their artistic ability to the forefront. When a band consists of a trio, each member has to be strong and masters of their trade; OWL does this marvellously. The chemistry that exists on stage is awe-inspiring and their fans share in that.
The whole is equal to the sum of its parts and these three, no matter what version graces the stage; bring it every time.
By Dawn Belotti