Where to even begin with Orianthi Panagaris – known mononymously as Orianthi. The Australian guitarist and singer songwriter began playing piano at the age of three years old before moving to acoustic guitar. Orianthi self-released her first solo album Violet Journey in 2007 before being asked to be Carrie Underwood’s guitarist which brought her to the attention of one Michael Jackson and being chosen for the ill-fated This Is It comeback residency. Whatever the thoughts on Jackson himself, he always surrounded himself with class musicians, but the show only got as far as rehearsals before the singer’s untimely death in 2009. Orianthi released her second album Believe in 2009 which spawned the insanely catchy platinum pop-rock hit According to You – currently sitting at 29million streams on Spotify. From the same album, the instrumental Highly Strung featuring Steve Vai saw millions of views on YouTube with Suffocated appearing on one of the popular Guitar Hero series of games. Orianthi toured extensively in the US, Japan and Australia and probably became more widely known to rock fans by joining Alice Cooper’s touring band in 2011 while still releasing her own material – the Fire EP was released the same year with a further album Heaven In This Hell in 2013. Orianthi quit Cooper’s band in 2014 although she joined up with Alice again in 2015 with his Hollywood Vampires supergroup (also featuring Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and Hollywood actor Johnny Depp) for the song Whole Lotta Love from their first album. As well as opening for artists such as Daughtry, Kid Rock and Mika, Orianthi is prolific in collaborating with other/artists musicians such as Michael Bolton, Don Felder, Dave Stewart and James Durbin and also released an EP in 2017 with Richie Sambora under the RSO moniker. Orianthi has not been short of accolades either winning Elle magazines 12 best electric guitar players or Guitarist magazine’s Breakthrough guitarist of the year – to name but two. Orianthi is also prolific on social media connecting with her followers and more than keeping in touch or just using it as a promotional tool, Orianthi inspires millions with her playing, her talent and charisma. There was a gap between recorded material, but Orianthi signed to Italian label Frontiers and released her latest solo effort, the excellent O back in 2020.
Obviously, during the pandemic, live music all but halted and artists had to become creative as to their engagement with their audience. A live album pre-pandemic was just another release and often a stop gap between studio albums and in keeping their name out there. With live music returning, it feels strange to have an actual live album in front of an audience when some bands are still releasing their streaming events in physical formats. The “new normal” is here, live music is back but they are words uttered with the spectre of covid still in the background. There is a real joy to a live album and in front of an audience. If there is one aspect that stands true of Live from Hollywood is that it is a real live album and it is quite rough around the edges, it is natural and happening, the album is not overdubbed to death and is an atmospheric listen. Orianthi’s talent shines through and with O having a darker tone, opener from that album Contagious does set the scene for this live show. Orianthi’s voice is smooth and soulful and as much as the star of the show is obvious, the band can be heard loud and clear. Sinner’s Hymn has a lovely thick bass, and the heavy blues-like riff of Heaven in This Hell is mesmerising. Without the pop sheen of the album Think Like a Man is heavier and more compact. The 11 tracks of the album only really scratch the surface of Orianthi’s discography, but she does cover her bases well over the course of the show captured here and including even manages to do the beautiful blues of RSO track Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone. Even the pop-rock perfection of According to You has some heft to it – and adding to the natural feel to the show is that the feedback that blights the song is left in.
Live from Hollywood comes as a CD/DVD package and the visual is a real beauty and does lift the album as just more than a live album. When Orianthi appears for that first song Contagious, the wide brimmed hat and guitar and the stage shrouded in darkness with the spotlight on her, it does look spectacular and it feels special. Of course, there is nothing like actually being there and sure, the whole thing will find its way to Youtube and, DVDs are allegedly old hat but the complete package feels like something.
Live from Hollywood does sit as more than just a live album, it is the progression of Orianthi as a solo artist and an act that is clearly not one genre or the other, from pop-rock to blues, hard rock to soulful, Orianthi has it all. Get acquainted because Orianthi is going places and who would not be wanting to be in on the ground floor?