Danny Carey and Volto! Show Their Classic Prog Roots at Intimate NYC Club Show
When guitarist John Ziegler introduced Volto as a “jam band” from the stage last night at New York City’s Highline Ballroom I was a bit mystified; I mean, duh, these three prog nerds (plus a sit-in keyboard player) all clearly love to jam, but doesn’t the term “jam band” have all sorts of connotations you wouldn’t usually associate with the fusion, jazz and heavy rock overtones of Volto’s music? But later on when the band tore through a Yes-like keyboard passage in one of their original compositions and followed it up with a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” everything came into focus: Volto basically are a classic prog rock jam band, a vehicle for Tool drummer Danny Carey and co. to have a little fun indulging in their roots.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Carey is the obvious draw of this band, a fact not lost on Ziegler, the band’s on-stage voice in between songs. “Yeah, I know!” Ziegler acknowledged after a hearty applause following one of Carey’s many drum solos throughout the night. “I’ve had the best seat in the house for ten years!” he continued, motioning towards Carey just a few feet to his left. Seeing Carey up close in the intimate confines of the Highline Ballroom was as much of a treat for us as it continues to be for Ziegler, his performance on the drum kit easily matching his intimidating physical presence. He’s a towering, sinewy-muscled, mammoth of a human being whose stature over the relatively scaled down kit (by Tool’s standards) was akin to a full grown adult of regular proportions sitting down at a toy kit intended for a five-year old’s playroom. No video screen or squinting necessary, per Tool’s ordinary arena-sized stageshow; just sit back and watch one of the genre’s all time greats smash through an hour and a half of tunes that, best of all, included a number of sections designed to let him run wild and improvise.
Though Tool t-shirts outnumbered all other articles of clothing in the room by a good 10 to 1, it’d be hard not to walk away from the gig without being extremely impressed by the rest of the musicians in Volto. The aforementioned Ziegler’s rhythm tone was thick and juicy, his leads ranging from atmospheric guitar swells to lightning-fast Petrucci-esque shred, with everything in between. Ziegler introduced bassist Lance Morrison as “kick ass” before the latter began the trademark alternating bass octave of Pink Floyd’s “Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” launching into an extended keyboard-based jam that would’ve made Rick Wright proud (R.I.P.) and put Nick Mason to shame. With all due respect to the keyboard player, whose name I do not know — a different one is sitting in with the band at each tour stop — he was quite swell, too.
The audience make up of musicians, musicians and more musicians rendered the contents of the setlist of much less import than simply WATCHING THESE GUYS PLAY ANYTHING. But Volto kicked things off with a few tunes from their [highly excellent!] new album Incitare (stream here), well received by the audience. A couple of rounds of fan-purchased kamikazes later — the band’s official drink, according to Ziegler — the band kicked off their melange of covers, fully allowing each player to stretch out and make Ziegler’s “jam band” proclamation ring true.
Volto retired after 90 minutes without an encore (thank jeebus! other bands: take note) and we headed out shortly after the house music came on (Gin Blossoms, lol via house sound guy thinking “this crowd will dig it, it’s from the ’90s”), so we didn’t get to see whether the band made true on Ziegler’s promise to hang out at the bar and sign anything fans had brought, “even him” (motions to Carey). All the better, as it wasn’t really necessary: seeing Volto play at the relatively small Highline was a treat in and of itself, all the excitement I needed for an early-to-bed Sunday evening.