Hardline, Axel Rudi Pell and Crush 40 frontman Johnny Gioeli did what would likely scare the bejesus out of 99% of new “artists” coming out these days (in any other genre then melodic rock obviously), he sat down with, pretty much, nothing more than a guitar and his voice to perform for his closest fans.
Want to know how a singer really sounds? No effects, no backing vocals, no studio “tweaking”, let them have a go at this. A very naked, honest and real look at what a singer truly has to offer vocally. It takes guts, and in the case of Johnny, an insane amount of pure, God-given talent.
Obviously I never once doubted Gioeli’s vocal abilities. As I stated in my review of Hardline’s outstanding debut album, ‘Double Eclipse’, Johnny has always possessed one of my favorite voices, but his voice has matured over the years into one the best voices in rock, period. And this show simply cemented that fact. I have seen plenty of live footage of him online, but to finally hear him live for myself gave me even more appreciation and respect for the man behind this truly fantastic voice.
Funny, engaging, personable, humble and obviously a damn good singer, Johnny deftly delivered a perfect, albiet far too short, set of songs encompassing his whole career from Brunette to Crush 40.
He has a clear, beautiful, rough, raspy, soulful, rocking and emotional voice somehow all rolled into one, and hearing him in front of that microphone so raw and exposed with absolutely nothing between him and what we were hearing was a true pleasure.
Always the true frontman, Gioeli was charismatic, energetic, engaging and fun to watch as he sang. Talking to the fans between songs and obviously having as good a time doing it as we were watching.
Starting with a song from Axel Rudi Pell that they don’t play live on the ARP tours, Gioeli started the night out right as he delivered an excellent rendition of ‘Broken Heart’ before moving into a damn good cover of ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger from Whitesnake sounding better on the song then Coverdale has sounded in many years.
The next song, ‘Cure Of The Heart’, took us back to his pre-Hardline days with his band Brunette. For this song Johnny brought out a special guest drummer, his 12 year old son, Brandon, who proved to be quite capable behind his drumkit and did a fantastic job.
Then it was on to ‘Colorblind’, a song originally written for the Hardline record but never released. Johnny has played this live before and gotten great responses from it and now the song will finally be released on a special EP that he is doing that will accompany his solo album, available with some of the packages of his pledge campaign.
Next up was a rousing ‘Hot Cherie’ from the debut Hardline record. This is obviously a huge song among his fans and it showed as the fans responded very enthusiastically from the very first note.
It was time for a Crush 40 song now and Johnny gave a fantastic delivery of ‘What I’m Made Of’, which he said was his favorite song from the band’s catalogue.
At the time that ARP did his cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ it seemed like everyone and their brother was covering the song. When I heard it was going to be included on the next ARP ballads collection I was less than thrilled.
And then I heard the song.
Axel wrote a beautiful and fantastic arrangement, giving it a great guitar solo and bringing in a children’s choir to back up the vocals. It stands as my favorite cover of this song period.
And Johnny, what a vocal delivery. It is definitely up there near the top of his best songs. And that is a bold statement indeed when you look through his catalogue and listen to some of the insanely good performances he has done.
When he said that he was going to do this song next, the fanbase went crazy. And boy did he do it justice. Sounding absolutely superb throughout the song he managed to give us all of the passion and power that he gave on the recorded version.
Next up was a seemingly odd choice for a cover, Pink’s ‘Beam Me Up’. But yet again proving his abilities, Johnny took the song, made it his and did an outstanding job.
Rarely have I had the pleasure of talking to or meeting a rockstar that is so in tune and personable with his fans. It is such an enormous relief to talk to someone you have looked up to for years and have them turn out to be just as humble and nice as can be. Johnny takes the time to talk with his fans, answer back to their emails and posts, and, on this night, even took time out of his set twice to field questions, again giving me more respect for him for not forgetting his fans.
The set ended too soon, but he left us with a special treat, played live for the very first time, a song from the forth coming Hardline album. And let me just say, if this song is any indication of what is to come on the record, it can’t get here fast enough.
A terrific way to spend the evening. Johnny lived up to all of the hype of being an outstanding frontman and one hell of a great voice. He gave us a night to remember and left it feeling as if we had just hung out with a bunch of friends, that is how friendly and personable he was/is.
If you have not seen him live, or even if you already have, and get the chance to then do not hesitate to go. You will get a damn good show and you will not be disappointed.
Check out his Facebook page and click the link to his pledge fund and reserve your copy of his new forth coming solo album, it promises to be a winner.
For myself, I will be anxiously awaiting his solo album, the new Hardline album and the next time I am able to spend an evening listening to this golden voice live again.
Broken Heart – Axel Rudi Pell.
Love Ain’t No Stranger – Whitesnake cover.
Cure Of The Heart – Brunette.
Colorblind – Hardline, solo.
Hot Cherie – Hardline.
What I’m Made Of – Crush 40.
Hallelujah – Axel Rudi Pell (Leonard Cohen cover).
Beam Me Up – Pink cover.
Take You Home – Hardline.