Winter Haven,FL ( December, 1)
Since Nita Strauss first hit the scene with the Iron Maidens, an all-female Iron Maiden tribute band, her career was destined for stardom. Her brand of fiery guitar work has followed in the massive footsteps of guitar greats such as Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai. When Orianthi moved on from Alice Coopers band, he hand picked Nita to join his band. As most know, he only picks the best of the best to accompany him on tour. With Alice Coopers touring schedule taking a break, Nita had the time to breakout on her own and launch her very own tour dubbed the Winter Wasteland tour. Joining her on the road would be former Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo, and NYC based band Black Satellite. While these are her main support bands at every stop. Along the way Nita would find a local band to join them as well. Obviously supporting the local music scene is important to her.
With the crowd still packing into The Haven in Winter Park located just outside of Orlando, Marc Rizzo made his way to the stage. What was immediately apparent was it was just him and his guitar. No one else. With his trusty seven string guitar he launched into some amazing guitar work. Backed by tracked musicians, all eyes were on him, and he did not disappoint. His speed and precision were awe inspiring and really got everyone in the mood for the night.
Eschewing the idea of making the tour a guitarist only fare, NYC based up and coming band Black Satellite was also to come along. The band is primarily made up of vocalist Larissa Vale and guitarist Kyle Hawkin, but tonight they also had a drummer and bassist to help round things out. Decked out in spiked leather and with a black band painted around her face, Vale created a striking stage image. If you are going to such a strong look, you had best be able to back things up vocally. On that front she nailed it. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. The final song of their set was a cover of Rammstein’s song “Sonne”. Singing it in German just like the original and with all the songs attitude they definitely left everyone at the Haven wanting to hear more from them.
With a smoke machine filling up the stage area for ambiance, everyone was getting restless. It’s understandable considering it’s not often that you can get so close to one of the best guitarists on the planet. Finally, the moment arrived that everyone was looking forward to as bassist Dean Christopher, and drummer Josh Villata made their way onto the stage as an up-tempo remix of the classical song Carmina Burana was pumped through the PA of The Haven. With strobe lights firing off like rockets on the fourth of July, the first notes of guitar shot out like gunfire as Hurricane Nita blew onto stage. With her blonde tresses flying about as she head banged while deftly playing her Ibanez. The visuals were every bit as impressive as her playing. After a couple of seconds, everyone realized what tune she decided to open the night with. Surprisingly she chose the theme from the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers! A bold choice indeed. But when you are as talented a player as Nita is, you can make a risky move like this look a genius move. Her fearless style of playing brought a whole new dynamic to the song. Instead of it being thought of as simply the introduction to a tv show, it’s now something that should be part of Nita’s arsenal as she made it her own.
Nita kept her foot buried to the floor and ripped into “Mariana Trench”, the first single off of her debut album Controlled Chaos. Bassist Dean Christopher and drummer Josh Villata provided the perfect support for her. They not only can keep up with her talent wise, but they help to create the mood of the song dynamically, which is no mean feet with a number like this one. Of course, everyone in the club was absolutely thrilled to hear her play one of her signature songs. Judging by the beaming smile on Nita’s face she was equally thrilled to be doing what she loves to do for everyone there.
With a mix of deftness, technique, and tons of energy she kept the set list to Controlled Chaos. Next up they performed “Algeria”, “Lion Among Wolves” and “The Stillness At The End”. Nita and her band brought more life to these live than one could have ever imagined considering just how good the recorded versions are. The exuberance of getting to step out on her own and take the reins of her own tour showed as she lived up to her Hurricane nick name. Rarely did she stay still, even jumping around in a circle as she hit every note, arpeggio, and hammer on.
At this point in the show, Nita walked up to the mic and asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a new song that no one has ever heard before. Without any hesitation everyone cheered for the chance to hear that treat. With the crowds obvious approval, she launched into “Summers Storm”. It was such an electric mood at that point. It’s not often that an artist whips out something that hasn’t been released yet, so the newness wasn’t lost on a single person that night. Just like every song up this point in the show, it was an absolute clinic on how a true master can perfectly wring out every single note from their instrument. One can only hope that this will make it onto Nita’s next album.
While Nita’s material is instrumental, her other job as Alice Cooper’s main axe player lets her perform some incredible classic rock music. Once again, she stepped up to the mic and said to everyone that this is a song you’ve definitely heard and please welcome Larissa Vale from The Black Satellite’s back to the stage. As Larissa made her way up, through the house PA system you heard the iconic words “Feeed my Frankenstein”, and with that they ripped into “Feed My Frankenstein” which was one of the best performances of the night. It was definitely a go big or go home move. But with the level of musicianship on stage they pulled it off. Larissa Vale killed it on vocals. The rasp in her voice and the just right amount of nasty attitude she brought to the song really made this their song. Sorry Alice, but this song now belongs to someone else. Hopefully this cover will make it onto Nita’s next record.
As they launched into “The Quest”, the band was moving along like a well oiled machine. Halfway through, Nita and Dean left the stage with just Josh behind his kit. Instead of just branching off into what one would be a drum solo, Metallica’s “Blackened” started to play and Josh took over for Lars Uhlrich and started to bang out his drum part. Josh kept up the drum solo/ medley by taking on the beast himself Vinnie Paul, buy playing the drum part of the Pantera hit “A New Level”. He dipped back into the Metallica collection with “Fight Fire With Fire” and closed out the solo with Slayer’s “Reign In Blood”. As the cheers for Josh’s incredible drum work started to fade, Nita and Dean came back to finish the song.
Recently Nita released the single “Dead Inside” with vocal duties handled by Disturbed’s David Draiman to critical acclaim. This song has propelled her into the top ten of the charts, which is the first time this has happened for a female solo artist in some twenty six years. While David obviously isn’t available to do a tour with Nita, what she did do was use a vocal track of David while the band performed Nita’s latest single flawlessly.
After nearly an hour of face melting guitar shredding, it was now time for the last tune of the night. They chose to close the show out with “Our Most Desperate Hour”. Using all the guitar fireworks in her considerable arsenal she, just like every song through out the night she was going at maximum attack leaving everyone breathless. If you could script a perfect ending to a show like this, Nita and her band couldn’t have done it any better.
Whether you are a music fan, a guitarist, or someone that appreciates incredible talent, Catching Nita Strauss live is a must see event. She doesn’t just attack every note like some technical shredders, she crafts perfect instrumental numbers and can play them with flair and style. Every song that she performed this night was exactly that flawlessly played and performed with sheer unbridled joy, and massive amounts of energy. While it is an amazing experience getting to see her perform on stage with Alice Cooper, when she is on her own her charisma, energy, and skill go to stratospheric level making it a show you have to circle your calendar in pen when the tour is happening. If you miss this tour, make sure you don’t repeat that mistake and catch her when she comes to your town.