Michael Olivieri – The Lead Wolf Sheds His Leather

Michael OlivieriDie hard metal heads will recognize Michael Olivieri as the first-rate vocalist and front man for the acclaimed Orange County, California heavy metal outfit Leatherwolf.  Having shared the stage, in their lengthy career, with supergroups Metallica and Slayer at such venues as Woodstock and Radio City, and penning such prominent ditties as The Calling, Cry Out, and Hideaway, Michael has, in hand, a rather impressive resume.  But could this translate into a successful solo career?  Could this translate into a successful solo career deviating so far from his known metal roots?  This is one critic who believes there is absolutely no doubt.

Accompanied by the balance of his ten piece entourage consisting of obvious consummate stage veterans including a double drummer wall of percussion reminiscent of The Allman Brothers, Michael treated Santa Ana, California to what felt like an old school powerhouse all-star jam. 

The opener, Goodbye Rain, was simply ominous.  It’s churchlike intro was delivered to us in intoxicating fashion courtesy of a sweet vintage Hammond B3 organ.  Yet, this was merely the catalyst to a captivating roller coaster ride of emotion and soul which gave off an over all vibe that the fans were somehow being treated to a Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame Awards show.  That’s how pro they were as individual musicians and a unit, that’s how note-perfect their timing and delivery was, and Michael was their seasoned ring leader. 

Above and beyond an entire evening of pitch perfect vocals and catalog of hooky sing along originals, highlights of the night included tasty twists of Pink Floyd’s Brick In The Wall, Deep Purple’s Hush, and an acoustic version of Leatherwolf’s very own Hideaway.  Hideaway was a particularly notable point in the show as two Leatherwolf alumni joined Michael on stage, almost in their renowned triple lead guitar attack fashion, to dot the I’s and cross the T’s on the ass kicking the crowd was truly receiving.  Naturally, Leatherwolf fans went crazy.

This night would not have been complete without an encore, and the band graciously obliged.  During Listen To The Music, Michael made it clear he was determined to outdo even himself.  For the song’s extended freight train ending, he ingeniously incorporated Bristol board signs with hand written lyrics bringing to mind the video for Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.  Reiterating the close connection Michael demonstrates time and time again with his audience, many in the mob left with their own personal handcrafted souvenirs.  A smooth, memorable touch I might add.  As the last note of the finale decayed, the audience erupted once more.  

Extraordinary musical talent, a stripe typically pinned to the lapel of those who are either genetically predisposed or have earned it through endless dues payed, is few and far between in the music industry. Regardless of the science, Michael Olivieri is on that short list.  Perhaps I’m merely a sucker for flawless skill and showmanship.

Killer show.

Michael Olivieri
Galaxy Theatre
Santa Ana, California
May 7, 2010

By Kim Cushington
Photos by Dawna Francis