Despite being a big Billy Sheehan fan, I had never checked out his work with Niacin, the free-form, jazz rock combo that he's been a part of since 1996. Niacin includes keyboard player John Novello and drummer Dennis Chambers. Naïve me, I had never heard of Novello or Chambers before. When I got the new Live in Tokyo DVD, I was looking forward to bass-heaven, Billy Sheehan style. Instead, what I got was a keyboard-heavy fusion style that left ol Bill in the background.
If you're a fan, you already know this but Niacin is built around the Hammond B-3 organ antics and sound of Mr. Novello, and Sheehan and Chambers play around him. And what a show Novello puts on. Not since Keith Emerson has someone wailed with so much to say without repeating. Mr. Fleet Fingers burns up the keys with such speed that it's a wonder the tops weren't melting.
There are 10 cuts here, most Niacin originals, except for the standard "Birdland" and Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep Me Hangin' On". Chambers shines on a couple of cuts, proving that he belonged in the funk powerhouse Parliament a few years back. Sheehan looks like he's wailing on the bass but the sound is such that you cannot hear him clearly. The band look like they're all very familiar with each other. They sit facing each other watching what the other is doing and reading the transitions very well.
Unfortunately, as with a lot of jazz music heard by non-jazz aficionados, after the novelty of the abilities wears off, you're left with twiddly bits. Greatly performed. Also greatly appreciated when they're done. And in this case, there's no between song banter. No extra stuff that comes with many DVDs. So I'd have to rate this live concert set as for jazz-rock fanatics only.