I’d never before examined ace guitarist Chris Poland’s left hand from 15 feet away; sorry to report that, as a medical freak show, it was a disappointment. Since an old injury nearly immobilized his index finger, Poland was forced to develop a style that incorporates a lot of sliding around the frets. The result is that he looks less like a spaz than other axmen, not more. In hopes of playing more like phalangially impaired musicians (Mr. Poland, Tony Iommi, Django Reinhardt, even Jerry Garcia), I have smashed several of my fingers in car doors, under furniture and with hammers, all to no avail. So skill must have something to do with talent.
If not for all the tattoos on his arms, you would never guess that Poland played on Megadeth’s first two albums. This evening, containing scant white hair under a black porkpie hat and sporting an unmetal short-sleeved shirt, he looked like what he is: a middle-aged artist. A painter, maybe.
Which is not far off the mark; Poland ranks color as a major priority. The gear through which he ran his double-cutaway gold semi-hollow-body made for extremely fine-grained distortion, further burnished and shaded by buffing off the treble and frequently selecting the neck pickup.
Poland rocked slippery and fast, more a brain guy than a cocksman, making slick use of his wah and whammy bar as he premiered tunes from Ohm’s new “Circus of Sound” album, including “Steps From Home,” a non-Stooges “Fun House” and the tunefully optimistic title cry. Even when the fresh material veered toward funk, as on the Godfather of Soul tribute “Mr. Brown,” Poland was his own man, lending a pronounced fusiony feel to the Jamesonian huh-huh-si-ta-tions as he phased, jigged and chicken-picked before downshifting suddenly into a bad-azz slow blues. Give the man a cape.
Always at the forefront of short-attention-span music, Poland relied on the quickness and chops of his Ohm-mates. Mugging outragiously, chomping gum, a watch cap crammed over his eyebrows, longtime bass fireplug Robert Pagliari pumped huge, cleanly shaped grooves, and squeezed out rambunctious pings and circuit-addled funkifications on his “Circus of Sound” solo. Drummer Frank Briggs had the packed house gasping as he knocked the air out of the cramped little room with his audacious double-kick interjections.
Heroic stuff -- fit for an arena, or perhaps, as befits wholesale slaughter, a Colosseum. And finely crafted to boot. All the better for us fans that this shit’s not fashionable. There were some young folks in the house, though; look out . . .