AUTOGRAPH PHOTOSHOOT + FIRST SHOW WITH NEW GUITARIST JIMI BELL
Date: August 31, 2019
Venue: Shenandoah County Fair
Location: Woodstock, Virginia, USA
Reviewer: Christopher Carroll
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography
I originally had plans to go to another concert but when I got the word that Autograph were going to play their very first show with new guitarist, Jimi Bell, just an hour and a half from my home, I changed my plans. Just recently, original guitarist, Steve Lynch, announced his decision to leave the band in order to pursue a musical adventure with his girlfriend. The remaining members didn’t seem to waste any time finding his replacement. When I started hearing rumblings about whom it was (and who it wasn’t), I became more and more interested. The new guitarist, Jimi Bell (House of Lords, Maxx Explosion), didn’t have much time to prepare but from what I’ve heard, he is a total pro and he quickly learned the entire set to perfection before their one day of rehearsal before the show! At the time, I had never seen Jimi play live but, as I mentioned, I had heard only great things about his ability. I looked forward to being one of the first to see this new incarnation perform.
In the time leading up to the show, we also made plans to shoot a promo photo for the band. I was excited about the chance to create a photo that would capture the new energy of Autograph. Upon meeting the guys, it was easy to see that they were all very comfortable, experienced and extremely open. They seemed extremely ‘at ease’ with one another, Jimi included. He expressed to me how excited he was to be a part of the band and graciously told me how welcoming the members have been. This band is a fun bunch of guys to hang out with. Each one of them was extremely friendly. Drummer, Marc Wieland, greeted me immediately with a smile and a handshake and then joked about how I should make him look in the photo. Bassist, Randy Rand, was the first to greet me, immediately commenting on my Lita Ford concert shirt (Randy played and toured with Lita in support of her first solo album, and can be seen in the “Out For Blood” video). Not a nerve in sight, Randy is ‘super chill’! Maybe it’s because he’s already been through it all so many times but it’s still impressive. This man is full of great stories (and I plan to extract some in the future)!
After the photo shoot, Simon Daniels and I had a quick conversation. We discussed photographers and he told me about his experience being involved in photo shoots with, cream of the crop photographers, Glen La Ferman and Neil Zlozower. He also talked about the change in dynamic when he joined Autograph and how they discussed their use of keyboards. Simon explained how most of the keyboard parts of the older songs, now performed on guitars, remain the same or similar, but that the guitars translate a harder, edgier sound to the same musical arrangements making the overall sound more ‘hard rock’ than progressive. The guys were all against using keyboards (an instrument that Simon plays) from the very beginning and Simon agreed because they all wanted to push the band toward a harder musical direction. The songs would keep the same melodies, melodic choruses and harmonies, but now, they would now have more balls.
Simon also explained how, when he joined Autograph, he had no desire to imitate, original singer, Steve Plunkett. He said “I told them I liked Plunkett’s voice, but I wanted to sing and perform from the heart and not just mimic the old singer. I felt my contribution should be bigger and heartfelt”. Watching him perform onstage, there is no doubt he made the right choice, as Simon sings with a conviction that can clearly be felt by the audience
Once they hit the stage, it was surprising how well Jimi immediately fit into the band. As I mentioned, I’m not sure they practiced more than one day but you would never know it. Jimi didn’t miss a beat. He grabbed his side of the stage and owned it. His playing was impressive, his interaction with the band was natural and the background vocals (which were already excellent) were now amazing. The harmonies were so good that some might think they were pre-recorded tracks but I was right there and I was listening to them rehearse just the harmonies for the song “You Are Us, We Are You” off their most recent album, during sound check. It was all real and all great. The show sounded amazing. Watching Marc play drums, you can tell he’s having a great time. His showmanship is as impressive as his playing. Randy, seasoned veteran that he is, was perfectly at home on the stage. Cool poses, solid playing and Simon sounded perfect. I had mentioned to the guys before that I found it impressive that Simon is one of the few singers, of a band in this genre, who has replaced an original and been embraced by the fans! Old fans, new fans, they all love him and from the sound of the crowd this night, they’ll give Jimi that same respect.
I look forward to hearing what this talented group of guys will deliver next. In the meantime, if you get the chance to see them live, take it! They’re FUN! They play all of the old favorites and their set includes new songs that are just as melodic. Also, hit the merch booth after the show because these guys love to come out and hang with the fans!
Entire set of Autograph performing live at Shenandoah Fair in Woodstock, Virginia, USA on August 31, 2019:
Autograph with New lead guitarist Jimi Bell August 31st 2019 Shenandoah County Fair Woodstock, VA Band Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/autographband/ Band Website – http://www.autographband.com/