Review: Orianthi impresses live at Hard Rock Cafe

Posted at 08/31/14 3:40 PM

A wonderful glimpse at shred guitar heaven

Orianthi at the Hard Rock Cafe. Photo by Ray Mogarte Jr.

It’s the third and final leg of female guitar whiz Orianthi’s first visit in Manila. Previously, she strutted her stuff at the Chef & Brewer in Ortigas Center and 19 East in Sucat, Paranaque.

Orianthi flew to Manila primarily to promote her latest single “Every Road Leads To You,” a recent collaboration with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. The bigger come-on to see her performance begins with the YouTube videos in which she trades licks with the likes of Steve Vai. She also played in rehearsals with the legendary Michael Jackson in rehearsals for a world tour aborted by the Gloved One untimely demise. Her own idol Carlos Santana said Orianthi would be at the top of his list of candidates he’d pass on the baton when the legendary guitar player decides to lay down his axe for good.

All seats were already taken at the appointed show start. The crowd, who spent a two-hour wait feasting on Hard Rock’s gastronomic delights, stood up and cheered when the diminutive (by rock standards) Orianthi finally walked up to the stage.

She wore a top hat, black dress with sequined black coat and a black pair of short pants. The more striking things about her were her long blonde hair and the slight drawl when she greeted the audience with a curt, “How are you?”

After a spiel about loving every minute of her stay in Manila and a promise to be back soon, Orianthi launched into “Heaven In This Hell,” a crunchy pop-metal fare where she regaled the audience with a smooth, virtuosic guitar shredding solo before the fade-out. A batch of songs from her two previous albums got the same treatment before she unleashed a stirring cover of Santana’s blues classic “Europa.”

Orianthi picked up the pace once more with a pop-rocking “According To You,” the song she performed with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammys. With her fluid guitar work, it broke the teenage wunderkind Orianthi from relative obscurity to mainstream fame.

She then delivered a wildly appreciated guitar run that rocked the funk in Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” followed by a luscious jam with former General Luna lead guitarist Caren Mangaran. The latter was particularly impressive because instead of the typical grimace of male shredders, the crowd witnessed two lovely smiling faces comfortably picking melodic chords from their respective instruments.

Occasional wolf whistles issued at the back end of the hall but they came mostly from artist manager Ronnie Henares who had a hand in bringing Orianthi to Manila.

In fact, there was hardly any obvert sensuality emanating from the stage. Instead, an almost reverential awe came from the audience marveling at the peerless playing from Ori and her superb interaction with an all-Filipino back-up band.

Orianthi backed by an all-Filipino band. Photos by Ray Mogarte Jr.

The musicians played well together showcasing the support band’s remarkable timing at the beginning of every song, allowing Ori wide room to explore with her guitar. They may have known each another for only a week or so, but the apparent spontaneity of the whole show felt as if drawn from a long experience playing off each player’s strengths.

It’s easy to name check the sources that inspired Orianthi’s young career – ‘70s Santana, ’80 Eddie Van Halen, ‘90s Steve Vai.

On this night however, she was one original figure apart from her idols. Heroine or goddess of shred, all right, but also this generation’s best guitar slinger, to boot.