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Photos & Show Review: MARTY FRIEDMAN Offered A Lethal Mixture Of Unbridled Energy & Guitar Mastery Live

A live set that conveys dynamism and adrenaline in spades.


There are very few musicians in the world with life as colorful as Marty Friedman's. His presence in the world of metal, the world of guitar and the Japanese pop culture is mystifying, bizarre, and nothing short of inspiring. His first major impact in music was in the game-changing guitar duo Cacophony, which he founded with equally enigmatic and now-legendary guitarist Jason Becker. He then spent 10 years as lead guitarist in the genre-defining thrash metal act Megadeth before moving to Tokyo due to his love for Japanese music, language, and culture.

Following his move, he landed a starring role for a new TV comedy Hebimeta-san (Mr. Heavy Metal) and its spinoff, Rock Fujiyama, which ran for six seasons and propelled him into the living rooms of Japan's mainstream. He has since appeared in over 800 TV shows, movies, and commercials, including a two-year campaign with Coca-Cola for Fanta, authored two best-selling novels and was the first-ever foreigner to be appointed as an ambassador of Japan heritage and perform at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Marathon in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022.

At the same time, Marty has continued his career in music with several solo albums, in addition to writing and performing with the top artists in Japanese music, racking up countless chart hits, including a No. 1 with SMAP, two No. 2 songs with Momoiro Clover, a No. 2 with Sound Horizon — just to name a few.

Marty has been all over the news recently – once again – as after 23 years he reunited to play three songs with his former Megadeth band-mates during their recent appearance at the historic Budokan venue in Tokyo, a momentous occasion for all the band followers, which was offered as a live-stream event that ran for 3 consecutive days. And less than a week later, he is now in the opposite side of the world, embarked in a 30 days US solo tour (his first since 2019), in support of his recent solo record Tokyo Jukebox, opening for Queensrÿche; while also headlining two shows on his own: March 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada at Count's Vamp'd and March 18 in Los Angeles, California at the Whisky A Go Go.

Now, Marty is not your typical average shredder, and in fact he doesn't like the term "shredder" – for all the right reasons. For me Marty belongs to a selected elite of maestros of the six strings, he possesses a unique and wonderful tone and sports a very unorthodox picking technique. His versatility is endless, he is the kind of guitarist you expect to be able to play anything (I would love to see him playing a blues one day), which is precisely what makes him special.

When Marty appeared on stage at Orlando's Plaza Live this past Friday, the venue erupted in cheers. It was a very hot Friday night, and such heat factor was accentuated by the unfortunate fact of the A/C not being functional in the room, turning the area in a bit of a sauna. They gathered together around the drum-kit turning their back to the crowd, raising their hands, and joining their fists in a circle, like some sort of a ritual while repeating phrases I couldn't hear, because of the impending clamoring of the audience. After 30 second or so, they turned around and the show began with a supercharged rendition of "Stigmata Addiction."

Marty's music is almost 90% instrumental, therefore, there's no "engaging front-man repeating well-known lyrics while interacting with the multitude" here. However, there's no need for that, whatsoever. We were treated with a combination of virtuosity, flawless playing, and ruthless energy, all of them encapsulated in three skinny guys and a young Japanese woman. Saying that the band was on fire is a complete understatement.

But not only Marty's unparalleled guitar skills made this show special, but also the badassery of his supporting band: Looking at Wakazaemon (the bassist player) before she started playing, would lead anyone to the picture of a typical and timid Japanese girl in a cute modern pink attire. But after the first note she became somewhat possessed by an uncontrolled and dark enthusiasm, slapping his bass mercilessly, and serving up infectious grooves, while the energy exuding through her hands was paired with a grinning face. Guitarist Naoki Morioka, whom Marty jokingly introduced as "someone hailing from New York City" is a very young and extremely talented guy, who held more than his own and ripped some otherworldly solos while backing Marty's flawlessly, even trading guitar licks with him in more than one occasion.

And finally, Chargeeeeee, the drummer, who looks like taken out of a Hollywood's movie. Marty introduced him like "And on the drums… I don't even know what planet this motherfucker came from" and if something rings true to that statement, is the fact he plays like if he just landed in an alien spaceship a minute ago, and he had brought some kryptonite with him. His stage name couldn't be more accurate, he is completely, and effing "Charged" with a level of adrenaline like no other. His drumming is so powerful and at the same so theatrical that is hard to take your eyes off him, and in more than one occasion, between songs, someone from the audience shouted "Marty, who's the drummer?" He looks like a freak and plays like a beast. That sentence sums it all.

The 45 minutes set-list –  including cuts like "Amagi Goe", "Paradise Express" and "Dragon Mistress" – literally flew in front of our eyes, with Marty just being himself on stage: constantly moving around, head-banding – his extremely long and curly hair going all over the place, and showcasing his unorthodox and impeccable technique, a true delight for the eyes of everyone absorbing the magic amalgam of sounds coming out of his instrument. And as you can guess, the revered "Tornado of Souls" solo made its appearance at the end of the third song, enacting a unanimous roar from a crowd bravely battling the lethargic heat without moving an inch.

I've attended to shows of the last three tours Marty has done in the States, and my only complaint is how far in between they are. His live show remains the same as the first time I witnessed it, or possibly even better: A lethal mixture of unbridled energy and guitar mastery that conveys dynamism and adrenaline in spades.

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