It was Friday the 13th. For me, that was a piece of good luck because I was able to see one of my favorite bands, Schleigho. They were touring incessantly in the mid-to-late 90’s and were gaining something of a following, then for whatever reason they slowed down in the 2000’s and were all but stopped for the last few years. Recently things started to pick back up with more shows and such, when out of the blue drummer Erik Egol announced that he was moving to California. I guess that can be rather rough for a New York-based band.
They’ve got another show tomorrow night, but there’s nothing after that on the schedule, so it looks like I might have been witness to one of the last Schleigho shows ever. I hope it’s not true, but if it is they’re going out at the top of their game. It’s just a shame that more people don’t know about them. I guess heavy progressive fusion is kind of a niche market though, not everyone really “gets” it.
This particular show (at the Rex Theater in Pittsburgh, PA) had a bunch of surprises. The first one was that Jesse didn’t have the keyboard rig I was used to seeing from him. That would be the Hammond B-3, a Fender Rhodes, and (sometimes, depending on how well it was working that night) a really beat up Clavinet. Instead, there was just a Nord synth there, but it was run through his usual effects. Know what? The sound was almost exactly what I would have expected from the old rig, but with less to set up and carry.
Erik wasn’t playing his drum set either. Since they were opening for Marco Benevento, he had to use their drummer’s set. This meant that Erik had to make do with about half as many drums and cymbals as he’s used to. I was frankly amazed at how well he adapted and made the most of the kit he had available.
Suke wasn’t playing the Gibson ES-137 I’m used to seeing him with. Instead it was a solid body Godin. He also had a bunch of effects at his feet instead of the usual wah and distortion pedals. Any doubts I had about this setup disappeared with the first note though, as it all sounded great. His playing was on fire tonight! I suspect some of the effects were for his flute. It may have been the same old flute, I don’t think I would have noticed if it was a different one.
So what about the bass? Well, Drew was back in that slot. If you’ve been following along at home, you know that he was the original bassist, then Matt took over for a little, Paco played for a while, and there were a few others that filled in here and there. But now Drew is back. He had a 5-string fretless, perhaps even the one in the album art for the Farewell to the Sun CD (but not the long hair). This wasn’t much of a surprise, but there was a bass surprise coming up later in the show.
They started their set with the classic epic Farewell to the Sun. If you went in with expectations that maybe they would sound a bit rusty, this immediately proved that wrong. Suke’s vocals sounded great too – maybe the best I’ve ever heard them. This set the tone for the evening. Schleigho is a band that has been known to play different types of sets depending on their audience, ranging from nearly straight-ahead jazz to their complex, heavy, darker material. This evening was almost entirely the latter. They played Same Game next, a great song I can’t believe they’ve never released officially. More vocals from Suke (they’ve been known to do these songs instrumentally). That morphed into a bass solo journey from Drew that came out on the other side and somehow we were in Go Children Slow! This was played with such conviction that even though it was one of the lighter songs of the set, the intensity didn’t let up one bit.
After that, Drew took a break and Paco came up to play Keep It In The Car on his beautiful 6-string fretless bass. This was a nice surprise, but not entirely unexpected since Paco lives in Pittsburgh and had said on Facebook that he would be there. I do love the way Paco plays, he can make that 7/8 riff funkier than should be legal. It’s not exactly the most complex song in their repertoire, but considering this was done without any rehearsal (I know because Paco didn’t arrive until after sound check), it was amazing. It sounded like the last 10 years or whatever since Paco was the regular bassist didn’t happen.
Drew returned on bass, and they played a scorching version of Or Something and for the 1000th time or so, I wondered why Suke isn’t better known for his guitar playing. It’s one thing to shred neoclassical metal, but heavy jazz is quite another. This was also a vocal version of the tune. It might be their heaviest, most complex (but not their longest!) tune, but I don’t think anyone missed a note. They closed with Palindrome from their first album, another nice loud complex crowd pleaser. Sometimes they slow it way down after the intro and build it back up, but this time they stayed fast – and then went even faster! More guitar and organ shredding that I wished would never end. But it did, and there was no time for an encore.
If there were some way I could start a petition to keep Schleigho playing more often – and a new album would be nice, if I’m allowed to dream that far – I would. They looked like they were having a blast up there, and it sure sounded great. I know they’re saying it might be over, but judging from what I just witnessed, I don’t think any of them are ready for that to happen.