Kingston band SUZE rocks Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre with funky originals
WILKES-BARRE — A local rock band has grown in ability and reputation to play the small stage at the area’s premier theater venue, and on Friday night, it showcased a sound big enough to fill any room.
Kingston-rooted quartet SUZE energized the Chandelier Lobby at F.M. Kirby Center performing two sets of mostly original music adorned with a few choice covers for nearly 100 people who delighted in their performance at the downtown theater.
The atmosphere was familial: hugs, kisses and intimate conversation were abundant in a crowd that was clearly built outward from band members’ inner circles. Anticipation was palpable prior to the four-piece of Adam McKinley, Adam Gabriel, Brian Gildea and Jason Stefanski taking the stage to celebrate 10 years since McKinley founded the band.
David Fisk, of Strasburg, was on hand to take photos.
“I’ve known (McKinley) for about a year, and (the band’s) development in just the time I’ve known them is incredible,” Fisk said. “Their passion is really inspiring.”
SUZE opened its first set with a psychedelic funk intro that segued into “Who Are You?” by The Who. McKinley dug deep into his normally pure vocal register to invoke Roger Daltrey at his most gravelly.
The powerful rendition of the rock classic primed the lobby crowd.
Acquainting the audience with its original music, the band followed with “She Ain’t the Kind,” a pulsing rock ‘n’ roll number with a proper balance of gritty edge and smooth soul. McKinley offered lead guitarist Gabriel sultry blues licks, which Gabriel returned with psychedelic shred.
Facilitator of funk Stefanski took the rhythm to an icky level on “Goob’s Doobs,” an example of how vocal strength, tasty melody, cool technical work and intelligent progressions come together in SUZE’s compositions.
Rapping the first verse, McKinley dropped into “Stick Up,” a song that draws on both ’90s hip-hop and trippy soul-rock influences. Sonic technician Gabriel led a spacey walk into a dual guitar jam that pushed the envelope without losing the listener.
Stefanski and Gildea shined as a rhythm section in “Devil Woman,” playing masterfully in the pocket and flirting with its edges.
With the crowd eating out of his hand, McKinley took time to address the decade milestone but quickly turned to lauding his bass player and tubsman.
Gildea went on a low end romp of a solo that was as impressive as it was emotive and Stefanski followed with room-rattling work on the skins.
From the driving hard rock of “Another Cautionary Tale” to the thumping jam of “When the World Is Not Enough,” SUZE played with heightened feeling as the performers delivered gems from their unique catalogue.
In the only somber moment of the first set, a teary-eyed McKinley remembered a fallen friend, Garrett Piragus, and dedicated Ween’s “Roses are Free” to his lost comrade.
A good contingent of the lobby crowd on its feet, SUZE proceeded to its thick and groovy funk instrumental “Funk You,” showcasing the band’s feel for the style.
Shouting out to his “old school SUZE fans” McKinley ended the set with an explosive cover of “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult, shaking the roof of the Kirby like the iconic reptilian film titan himself.
Brian Wood, of Larksville, has known McKinley since the two attended kindergarten together in the Wyoming Valley West school system.
“I’ve been going to see SUZE since the beginning,” Wood said.
Watching the band grow from playing covers to doing shows comprised of “95 percent” original music, Wood said “it’s awesome” to see the current lineup play at the Kirby.
“We’ve seen ZZ Top here,” Wood said. “I saw Weird Al here, with (McKinley). And now I’m here to see (McKinley) play.”
The group continued playing well past press time.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.