Having started at a very young age on piano, guitar and even violin, Tony MacAlpine developed into one of the most consummate virtuosos of our lifetimes. Since his debut album Edge of Insanity in 1986, Tony has continued to compose myriad songs. Songs that are complex, hard charging, and beautiful, often in the same piece.
MacAlpine has also contributed his talents on keys and guitar to many other projects, such as Vinnie Moore’s Mind’s Eye. Other highlights include his role in the band Planet X, alongside master keyboardist Derek Sherinian.
After releasing his album Death of Roses in 2017 Tony has toured steadily in support of it. Continuing his shows into 2019, he has changed up the set list considerably to keep things fresh for returning fans. A bright side of having so much material is a wealth of quality albums to pull from.
Tickets in hand (ok, on my phone), I drove down to Atlanta to visit my good friend Andy and attend the show. MacAlpine was booked at The Masquerade, a concert venue with a long history in Atlanta. I have seen shows there as far back as the 1980’s.
After two highly entertaining opening acts, Ryan Buck and Arch Echo impressed the crowds (more on these talented acts to come!), we were ready for Tony! In his unassuming manner he strode across the stage. With a quick glance over his equipment he launched into the first number. An intriguing aspect was that Arch Echo’s Richie Martinez (drums) and Joe Calderone (bass) re-took the stage to serve as MacAlpine’s rhythm section! The sheer amount of complex music these two guys had to memorize for this one night is mind boggling. Guitarist Emil Werstler rounded out the line up on second guitar. You have to be a pretty damn good player to stand shoulder to shoulder next to a guy like MacAlpine and trade licks. Emil proved himself up to the task.
As always, Tony had a great sense of dynamics. Smooth violin-like swells were swept away by jarring odd-time signature riffs, which then faded into crystalline echo-laden arpeggios. The music has never been all about speed, but I can assure you standing five feet in front of this man playing at full tilt is amazing and humbling!
After the show, Tony’s publicist Josiah Baker assured we got backstage to witness the meet and greet held for a few lucky fans. Tony was clearly at ease, seated in the middle of the group. As each person offered up a question, the musician turned his whole body to face them, giving each one his undivided attention.
All in all, it was a great show. Tony’s playing and compositions were just as impressive as they are on record. The fact that he turned out to be a nice guy is just icing on the cake.
By Peter Harris