Firefest is festival in Europe that came about after the end of another festival called The Gods of AOR. Firefest started in 2004 and it was bigger and even better than the Gods festival. Jeff Scott Soto performed at the Gods festival in 2002, and even released the show on a live CD/DVD. Jeff got the call again to do the festival in 2008 and he said Yes, obviously or this discussion would be ridiculous.
It wasn’t easy for Jeff because at the time of the festival, he was in the middle of rehearsals for the Trans-Siberian Orhcestra’s annual Winter Tour. TSO rehearsed 12 hours a day and Jeff was probably exhausted, but he jumped on a plane on a Friday in the U.S and landed in London by Saturday morning. He had to rush to Nottingham and meet his band. Luckily, it was his band so it was Howie Simon, Gary Schutt and Dave Dziaklak, but they hadn’t played in over about year and had like an hour to rehearse and get ready for the show. Did they pull it off…well, of course they did! They are professionals. It is a great show and another great live album from Jeff.
But…I have a major problem with this release and it isn’t the quality of the show as Jeff sounds amazing and the band is tight and all is good. It is the fact that this setlist is almost identical to Jeff’s last live release ‘One Night in Madrid’. Every song on here was played at that show in this order. The only difference is that the Madrid show had more songs (and was a totally killer show). I feel like I just reviewed this show and not really sure what new I can say about it. I could basically cut & paste that review here, delete out the songs that aren’t on here and BOOM!…the review and you probably wouldn’t know the difference.
So what I will do is walk through the little differences between the shows so I at least give you something different. Like the Madrid show, this one kicks off with the opening track “21st Century” from his latest album ‘Beautiful Mess’, but the big difference is when Madrid goes in to the next song “Colour My XTC” you get the whole song while her you get a small prelude portion before going in to the great “Soul Divine”. One of the highlights on this and the other live show is “Our Song” from his latest album. Jeff sounds amazing on this one and the band nails the song. A power ballad with a lot of Jeff’s powerful vocals. Such a great song.
Back in 2003, Jeff did his first ever solo tour and at the stop in Madrid, the energy from the crowd was insane and he said that if he made it back he would record the show for a live DVD and CD. It took 6 years before his next solo tour brought him back to Spain and he delivered on that promise and now we have ‘One Night in Madrid’. The tour was in support of his latest solo album ‘Beautiful Mess’ and the show as on April 18, 2009 at Sala Heineken in Madrid, Spain.
This time the band was not his usual cast of characters, but a brand new band consisting of Jorge Salan on lead guitar, Fernando Mainer on bass, Edu Cominato on drums and BJ on keyboards and acoustic guitar. Now, of course Jeff Scott Soto was their singing as it is his tour. I have the CD of the show and it is a 2CD set and includes 22 tracks including solos and the ever popular Funky Medley. Let’s go ahead and jump right in to another great show by Mr. Soto.
The show opens with a radio being changed from station to station and each stop was a classic Jeff Scott Soto song. Then a voice comes on says, “That was then…this is now!” and the show starts with the lead song from ‘Beautiful Mess’ called “21st Century” and it sounds great. Jeff really sounds on point and the band captures the essence of the song. The guitars sound fantastic, the backing vocals are all perfect and I would say this new band clicks pretty well together. And if you need further proof listen to “Colour My XTC” from his Talisman days. The bass on this one is key to make it work as Marcel was a beast on bass and Fernando holds his own on this one, really great job.
We get more of Jeff’s solo work the classic “Soul Divine’ off ‘Lost in the Translation’. A true highlight of his career. Then we go in to the 2nd track from ‘Beautiful Mess’ with “Our Song” and the crowd is clapping along. It is the softer side of Jeff and then goes more power. On the album it had an irritating electronic drum track, but here it is raw and real drums and so much better. Then it is back to the rock with “Drowning” another from the ‘Lost in the Translation’ album. The guitars on this one are badass, some great riffs and real heavy. A real barn burner with this one.
Jeff Scott Soto’s last solo albums was back in 2005 called ‘Lost in the Translation’. A lot had happened to Jeff after that album including Soul Sirkus and his brief stint with Journey as well as the final Talisman album. To say he had been busy would be an understatement. When it was time to sit down and do another solo album, Jeff wanted to shake things up a little sort of like he did with his band Redlist, only not as extreme as that. He had been loving the music of Swedish musician Paulo Mendonca and wanted to work with him on the album. Paulo ended up producing the as well as co-writing 11 of the 14 songs. Heck, Jeff only co-wrote 7 of the 14 songs which means a lot of these songs were written by other people for him to sing. To be honest, that scared me as Jeff has always written all or almost all of the songs on his albums in the past. Plus, Jeff’s normal band of Howie Simon, Alex Papa and Gary Schutt didn’t get to play on the album as it was Jeff and Paulo mostly which is disappointing.
The album was completed and released on February 20, 2009 with Frontiers although they wasn’t originally the expectation since Jeff felt the songs didn’t fit his normal sound. Soto’s sound for this album wasn’t as heavy as ‘Lost in the Translation’ and sort of went the other direction. It was a little bit groovy, a little bit funky, a little bit of soul and even a little bit of pop with maybe a dab of hard rock and a dash of blues. It is really all over the place. Is that good or bad, I guess we will see. The album was titled ‘Beautiful Mess’ and became known as ‘BM’. Wow! That is a disgusting nickname for the album. I don’t usually enjoy my BM’s so do I want to listen to an album nicknamed BM?
The album does kick off with a rock song. “21st Century” is a guitar driven track, however, Jeff’s vocals are more funky and there are modern electronic elements as well. The chorus though is as catchy as you’d expect as he knows how to have a little hook to make you sing along. It definitely sets the pace and lets you know that this isn’t going to be the typical Soto release. It is a little left of center and yet it works and is a great start to the album with its high energy and all around fun sound.
“Cry Me A River” slows the tempo down and brings us more of a funk-infused pop song with some heavy soul influences. The bass line is pretty cool, that funked-up guitar riff is interesting and though Jeff doesn’t go full on singing for the verses, that bridge and chorus are full of that Soto sound. This confirms you aren’t getting what you expect and so far I’m okay with that change.
There are only a few bands in your lifetime that come along and touch you in ways that nothing else can. I have been fortunate enough to have that happen on a few occasions. Needtobreathe is one of those bands for me. Their music speaks to me and makes me feel things that have made them a part of my life. I have only seen them live 3 times now and each time they get better. I have all their studio albums on vinyl and now their 2 live albums. The latest to the collection is the release ‘Acoustic Live, Vol. 1’. And that is what we are going to talk about here today.
Back in 2017, Needtobreathe went on their first ever acoustic tour. They played smaller venues and stripped it down bare to make the shows as intimate as they possibly could. Sadly, I had to miss the show due to my work schedule and let me tell you how much that sucked. I hate that work gets in the way of life.
Back to the album…the cover art was drawn by none other than Bo Rhinehart, lead guitarist. He is one talented MF. He also designed the videos shown during their most recent tour that my wife and I caught this past Summer (read about HERE). The rest of the artwork is really strong giving the album this vintage, retro look of say the early 1900’s. It is really cool.