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Zebra at the NYCB Theatre At Westbury

Zebra at the NYCB Theatre At Westbury
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Zebra with special guests Youth Be Told
NYCB Theatre At Westbury
Westbury, NY
May 31, 2014

Zebra is a legendary power trio in two noted musical "hotbeds"—New York and New Orleans. Unfortunately, they are underappreciated in the rest of the U.S. Those who have "discovered" the band are well aware of the dynamic energy and musicianship of the players as well as the strength and intensity of Zebra's performances.

For those not in the know—Zebra was founded in 1975 and is comprised of Randy Jackson (guitar & vocals), Felix Hanemann (bass, keyboards & vocals) and Guy Gelso (drums & vocals). The band first came to prominence as a Led Zeppelin cover band. After paying their dues gigging around its hometown of New Orleans and in the Long Island area, the band signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Their eponymously titled debut album (Atlantic Records, 1983) contained the popular songs "Tell Me What You Want" and "Who's Behind The Door." That album became what was, at the time, the fastest selling debut in Atlantic Records history, peaking at #29 and staying on the Billboard charts for eight months. Zebra supported the debut by touring and opening for Loverboy, Cheap Trick and Journey. Over the years the band has opened for Molly Hatchett, Survivor, REO Speedwagon, Sammy Hagar, Kiss, ZZ Top and Aerosmith. Additionally, groups such as Queensryche, Bryan Adams and Dream Theater have, in turn, opened for Zebra. Over the years the band has released a number of well-received albums, including No Tellin' Lies (Atlantic Records, 1985), 3.V (Atlantic Records, 1986), Live (Atlantic Records, 1990) and Zebra IV (Mayhem Records, 2003). Though recording sporadically, the band members continue to perform together (in addition to solo and sideman projects) in intimate venues across the country.

The last day of May was a pleasant Saturday evening. The Long Island faithful were milling about in the NYCB Theatre parking lot, tailgating and renewing decades-old friendships based on their love of the band. The celebrations and stories were more a mass gathering of old friends than a bunch of individual groups having mini barbeques and small parties. The sounds of Zebra's catalogue wafted across the blacktop as these superfans reminisced about the past before entering the cozy Long Island arena to see their adopted local heroes.

Prior to Zebra taking the stage Youth Be Told, a four-piece local band comprised of local 14- and 15-year-olds, took the stage. The group announced its presence with a loud bang. The opening number was a note-perfect rendition of Rush's "Spirit Of Radio." It was immediately obvious that these were not "your typical teenagers." These kids could play! Comprised of guitarist Lennon Ashton, vocalist Jessica Kantorowitz, bassist Alex Taub and drummer Madden Klass, Youth Be Told's performance was strong, polished and incendiary. Mixing originals like "Crashing Down" and "Words Without Meaning" with covers of Led Zeppelin ("Heartbreaker") and Janis Joplin ("Piece of My Heart") and bluesy classics ("Train Kept A Rollin'" and "Crossroads"), the members of Youth Be Told showed a musical aptitude and maturity beyond their years. Collectively, as evidenced by its song selection, Youth Be Told showed an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock. Kantorowitz has the strong pipes and stage presence to not only sound believable but credible while belting out vocals made famous by Joplin, Robert Plant and Geddy Lee. Taub handled the intricate bass lines with aplomb. Klass kept perfect time and was a powerhouse behind the drum kit. John Bonham and Neil Peart would have been proud. Ashton's stellar guitar skills, if not instantaneously apparent by the ease with which he handled the leads on the Rush and Led Zeppelin covers, were further highlighted during the closing number, "Crossroads," on which he traded riffs, licks and leads with Zebra's axeman Randy Jackson. This band is going places. It isn't often that an opening act gets a standing ovation. Youth Be Told not only received a standing ovation and raucous applause, it deserved both. The band's self-titled six track EP (Independent, 2014) was produced by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon, Cheap Trick) and is available on iTunes.

After a short intermission, during which the crowd got even more excited in anticipation of seeing Zebra, the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone onto the stage, and WBAB disc jockey, Fingers, appeared. Sounding more like a gushing schoolgirl than a radio professional, the jock introduced the band and the crowd went wild.

Opening with "Arabian Nights" and roaring through "About to Make the Time," Jackson and his bandmates paused only long enough to remind the audience about the evening's rock CAN roll® charity (to beat hunger) raffle (the winner of which received a guitar signed by the members of Zebra). Jackson then came forward and announced that "we'd like to dedicate the next song, 'Angels Calling' from Zebra IV to Youth Be Told."

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