Sound Check: Joe Vitale Jr.’s band to perform at Akron Civic Theatre

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Joe Vitale Jr. to perform Cabaret show at the Civic on April 4, 2014.
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Joe Vitale Jr. is a second-generation rocker.

His father, Joe Vitale Sr., may not be a household name but the music he’s helped write and/or make — including tunes with Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Crosby Stills & Nash & Young, the Eagles and many more — is definitely heard pretty much anywhere classic rock is played.

Vitale — like his father — is a multi-instrumentalist but Vitale Jr. fronts and plays guitar in his own band, the Joe Vitale Jr. Band, which will perform on Friday night at the Akron Civic Theatre.

Vitale and his band — Trevor Wozniak on guitar, Ryan McDermott on bass and Dylan Gomez on drums — will be playing music from his solid 2008 album, Dancing With Shadows, as well as a few of his recent singles and a few choice covers including some tunes by his dad’s old buddy Walsh.

Vitale, a 1996 graduate of Jackson High School, spent time growing up on the road, but unlike some other kids who grow up on a tour bus and get caught up in the very adult rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, he heeded his parents’ advice.

“Growing up on the road was quite an education in itself,” he said “My parents always raised me to know what was right and wrong and to stay away from drugs and so forth.”

For the young Vitale, traveling with CSN, the Eagles and others wasn’t a school-skipping, rock-star adventure; it was just, you know, life.

“For me, I loved being on the road, and, yes, it did feel normal. I didn’t really realize the significance of who my dad was playing with until I was in high school,” he said. “To this day, I still discover songs my dad has played on I never knew he did, one of which is Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo and it’s one of my favorite songs. I had no idea it was Dad playing on that until one day in 2000.

“But for me, every band was like another family. I learned much of what I do with my own band from those years.”

What he does with his band on Dancing With Shadows is a mélange of melodic arena-rock riffs and moves mixed with some ’80s dance rock synths and a dash of funk rock.

In these genre-mashing times, some indie and EDM-loving folks may find tunes such as the simmering mid-tempo title track with its lightly funky bass, soft-verse-loud-chorus and wah-guitar licks and screaming solo to be too much like “standard rock,” but fans raised on “standard rock” should find plenty to nod their heads to in tunes such as the bouncy Beautiful Girl, the light-hearted It’s Not Me, It’s You, or the driving ’90s riff-rock-flavored You Make Me Feel Alive.

“I still very much believe in rock,” said Vitale, who lives in the Canton area.

“When I write music, I draw from a large myriad of influences. … I have had a lot of classic-rock influence, but I also draw from a lot of contemporary artists as well,” he said.

“A lot of my guitar styling comes from listening to Joe Walsh, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, etc., while my vocals and harmonies come from CSN and the Eagles. My electronic and synthesizer influences come from artists like Gary Numan, Nine Inch Nails, Thomas Dolby, BT and other electronic artists.

“My style is a blending of classic rock, modern rock and industrial. While some of these are far and wide from each other, I love to bring them all together to make something unique, while at the same time stay relevant with something people can relate to.”

As a songwriter, Vitale forsakes bitterness, proselytizing or political or moral finger-pointing for songs such as Fight It or Self Destruct (“I never will self-destruct, you can’t stop what you can’t control, you’ll never stop me,” he sings with conviction) with positive, uplifting messages — and, of course, a few songs about hot girls.

“I do consciously write to be positive. Don’t get me wrong: there are days I will write some heavier stuff, but with each of the songs I release, I try to make a negative into a positive to give people strength or a feeling of happiness,” he said.

“My entire message of the music I produce is ‘triumph over adversity.’ My faith in Christ has kept me moving forward and strong all these years, and I try to convey that message of strength to others. I also try to keep things light and funny with songs like It’s Not Me, It’s You.

In addition to his gig as a bandleader, Vitale is also a veteran audio engineer and video director who got his professional start behind the boards in 2001 after impressing Stephen Stills with his audio editing skills on a song called Feed the People that eventually appeared on Stills’ 2005 album Man Alive!

Vitale went on to work on Stills’ next three solo albums and mixed the Live at Shepherd’s Bush From London DVD. Vitale is also a director who helmed a short film, Encryption, written by his fiancée, Mix 94.1 (WHBC-FM) on-air personality Kathy Vogel, which won best drama at the 2012 Canton International Film Festival. Vitale Jr. has also directed several videos for his own band and others.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.


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