Stratospheerius – Live in Chicago, IL, April, 2007
By Greg Olma
I always find it a little daunting to review a concert by a band that I know nothing about. Such was the case with the Stratospheerius show at Martyr’s on April 23, 2007. I did a little leg work beforehand, looking on the Internet and listening to mp3 samples, but I was still pretty “green” as show time approached. Ultimately it didnât matter what I knew (or didn’t know, as it were) because you either make a connection with the music or you don’t. Well, I’m happy to say, the connection was made and I have since held Stratospheerius as one of my new found gems.
I purchased the new CD prior to the show at the merch booth thinking that maybe a couple of tunes would be played that night. Those fans that knew Joe Deninzon and company were still in for an evening of new music. The new album Headspace wasn’t available yet (except at the shows) so pretty much everyone in attendance was just as “green” as I was to the new material. 70% of the set was culled from the new record which would have been the kiss of death for most bands but for Stratospheerius, it was all about music and not whether it was familiar or not.
I have read that Joe Deninzon is the “Jimi Hendrix of the electric violin” and I can see why this statement is true. Deninzon played his violin, creating a lead guitar sound that just dripped emotion. Like Hendrix, he used his instrument to paint the musical picture in his head. It was certainly not a “let me show you what I can do” display. The other obvious comparison is that Hendrix never played a song the same way. Deninzon and company follow suit by improvising parts during tracks that add at least a few minutes to each song. By nature, improvisation is spontaneous, and you could tell that each member played where their mood took them. It must have been fun for the band to play this way because each show is fresh and exciting.
The highlights of the show for me were “Driven To Tears” (the Police tune), “Old Ghosts” (my favorite off the new record) and “New Material.” Although Joe Deninzon is the leader, the other band members are no mere sidemen (or sidewomen). Lucianna Padmore (drums) and Mack Price (guitars) were given space to play and “show their stuff.” They all looked like they were having fun up on stage. Stratospheerius have carved out a nice little niche for themselves by being a technically proficient band that both musicians and non-musicians can enjoy. For those folks out there that are looking for a night of good music, check out Stratospheerius. You just might make the same connection that I did.
Photos by Greg Olma