Animals as Leaders Live at The Bourbon Theatre

Animals as Leaders at Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday, July 14, 2023. (Photo by Peter Amisano)

BY PETER AMISANO | Go Venue Magazine

The Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, Nebraska was the venue hosting some of the best musicians I have ever seen.  The headliner, Animals as Leaders, is well known for their intricate melodies, timing and complex 8-string guitar work. However, the openers complimented the bill, making it an extraordinary night of music. 

The first band, The Machete Archive, native to Nebraska, started the show in perfect form. Preparing the crowd for a night of elaborate instrumental tunes. This trio started the show with all the flash and energy worthy of this bill.  The Machete Archive had taken a hiatus from performing, but have returned with a vengeance. They had a tight and flawless performance with Ryan Thomas on guitar, Saber Blazek on Bass, and Ian Francis on drums, this progressive rock band filled the evening with dissonant melodies. Each performer, lost in their instruments, complimenting one another, making it easy for the audience to join in the band’s energetic performance. 

The second band, Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, was a surprise. Reminiscent of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, drummer Maison Guidry, bassist E’Lon JD and Jonathan Scales on steelpans provided an unexpected melodic symphony. Each member of the band is a virtuoso in their own right. The musicianship on stage for this performance was unbelievable.  I must admit, when I saw the steelpans with drums and bass accompaniment, I had my doubts, which Jonathan Scales addressed by saying that is the typical response they get. That is, of course, until they start playing.  The odd time signatures were another eye-opener.  At one point in the show Jonathan had the crowd participating in a 7 count, for 6 measures, then a 6 count, double time, while the band played along.  I cannot say enough good things about the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.  The music was enjoyable, the energy was high.  You could literally hear the drummer, Maison Guidry, yelling during the show, he was so into the moment. Check these guys out if you have the opportunity 

Most fans of progressive rock are familiar with Animals as Leaders. The complex rhythms and amazing guitar work has earned them a place among the greats such as Dream Theater. I remember seeing a video of Tosin Abasi sitting with John Petrucci. Tosin was doing some tapping on an 8-string guitar and John’s response was “wow”. I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen Animals as Leaders live, until this show. I have watched YouTube videos of their live performances, but I can honestly say that the videos do not do them justice. Being there in person is a much better experience.  The emotion of the musicians, the energy of the crowd, this was a great show! Animals as Leaders, also a trio consisting of Tosin Abasi on guitar, Javier Reyes on guitar and Matt Garstka on drums, is another unusual configuration, but they pull it off perfectly.   

The bill for this tour is an exercise in symphonic perfection. The musicianship of all the bands played nicely to the differing instruments and musical signatures. At one point, during the Animals as Leaders set, Jonathan Scales came out and played the steelpans with them. It was phenomenal! The steelpans meshed perfectly with the guitar melodies. 

This was one for the ages. I am so happy I was able to catch this show live and honored to have been able to photograph the show.  Again, check out these bands if you have the opportunity. 

Animals as Leaders

Jonathan Scales Fourchestra

The Machete Archive

All images © Peter Amisano

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