July 18, 2016 Millvale, PA- In the sleepy quaint town of Millvale just five minutes from downtown Pittsburgh there is a sacred rock n’ roll institution known as Mr. Smalls Funhouse. A former church and now one of Pittsburgh’s finest establishments to see a great show, as well as grab excellent beers and grub, Mr. Smalls this night hosted rock royalty in the name of Zakk Wylde. Former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, leader of Black Label Society, and all around badass, Wylde brought a slew of guitar gunslingers to blow our minds and brighten our hearts last Monday.
Opening acts Jared James Nichols and Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown were frighteningly good. Nichols brand of guitar playing is very much in line with Wylde’s solo work, bluesy Allman Brothers type rock n’ roll. He absolutely blazes and has great emotion behind every string played. His band’s work is really blood pumping, fist pounding classic style rock that made them a surprise favorite for many. Even the cover of Nugent’s “Stranglehold” brought chills and made your hair on your arms stand on end for it’s beautiful and true interpretation. This three piece (Erik Sandin, Dennis Holm) out of Wisconsin must be on your radar if you love a great bluesman who truly has the touch. Check them out…www.youtube.com/jjnicholsmusic
Tyler Bryant and his bandmates The Shakedown have been tearing up the road and this is by no means their first stop in Pittsburgh. Bryant has been recognized as a child prodigy guitar player by many, including God himself, Eric Clapton. Bryant has the soul of an old blues master and his style shows it. Staking his rep by moving to Nashville at 17, Bryant has put together a tight and impressive band to match. Shakedown members Caleb Crosby, Graham Whitford (Brad Whitford of Aerosmith’s son), and Noah Denney complement Bryant’s guitar like icing on cake. If you have not discovered these guys yet, you owe it to yourself to witness one of the best blues players around…www.tylerbryantandtheshakedown.com.
You know you are confident in your playing when you let two young guitar blazers open for you. Zakk Wylde is no stranger to the spotlight but prefers to do his talking through pickups, strings, and wood. Touring his Book of Shadows II effort, Wylde is accompanied for the most part by his regular band, Black Label Society. But don’t expect to hear Ozzy or Sabbath covers (although a bit of “The Wizard” on mouth harp was pretty awesome) or a bunch of BLS tunes. This is the other side of Zakk, the side that has been influenced by blues and southern rock.
The ten-minute opener of “Sold My Soul” was enough to make anyone’s jaw drop as he soared up and down his fretboard with wild abandon. The crowd was absolutely wowed and entertained from the first note. Wylde does not spend a bunch of time on stage banter, instead, he keeps the rock rolling as he went into, “Autumn Changes”, “Tears of December”, and “Lay Me Down”. Wylde and his band just kept pouring out their souls tune after tune, playing like they were in front of 50,000 instead of hundreds. The well packed Mr. Smalls ate up each moment, sang along and played air guitar. “Road Back Home”, “Yesteday’s Tears”, “Heaven and Hell” (with the aforementioned “The Wizard” as an intro.), and “Darkest Hour” rounded out the first half of the show (see the entire guest list in pictures below).
To have a fairly intimate setting with Wylde playing his solo material was an amazing treat that does not come around often. It was fun to see him play piano as well as his trusted axe and sing a bit differently than the more metal oriented BLS. Zakk will return in October with his new fun project Zakk Sabbath when they open for Clutch at Stage AE Oct. 1. And the hits just keep on coming…
All photos 2016 AWELDINGPHOTO