NITA STRAUSS March 16, 2024 @ The Skyway Theater, Minneapolis, MN

I’ve been a fan of Nita Strauss for a while now. She has an impressive and extensive resume; she started her career in the all-female tribute band, “The Iron Maidens,” is a touring guitarist for Alice Cooper and Demi Lovato, is the official guitarist of the L.A. Rams, and became the first female Ibanez signature artist to release her own model. So, when I saw that she would be touring through Minneapolis, I was determined to see her show. Her latest album, “A Call of the Void,” is a mix of both instrumental tracks and tracks that feature guest vocalists such as David Draiman, Lzzy Hale, Alyssa White-Gluz, and Chris Motionless. The album is incredible and I, along with several hundred other fans was super excited to see the songs performed live. Besides, the room she would be performing in, “Studio B,” is very small and intimate.

The first act to take the stage was one I had been hoping to see for several years but never had a chance to– Diamante! This Cali-born artist has rocked stages with Bad Wolves, Breaking Benjamin, and Shinedown. Diamante opened her set with one of her earliest songs, “Bite Your Kiss.” As dazzling blue lights illuminated the stage, the band continued to play “Haunted” and her latest single, “1987.” The crowd started singing to the music when she proceeded to play a cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield.” Next, were two of my favorites, “Coming In Hot” and “American Dream.” The songs have simple, yet memorable riffs. “Ghost Myself,” one of her most successful singles, was enjoyed and sung along by many. She closed her set with her industrial-tinged, “War Cry.” It was a great set and she exceeded my expectations. She also hung out at the merch booth throughout the night to interact with her fans and is one of the sweetest people I’ve met.

The stage lit up as the Starbenders (Kimi Shelter- vox/guitar, Aaron Lecesne- bass, Kriss Tokaji- guitar, Qi Wei- drums) took the stage. The Atlanta-based band started playing “Blood Moon” as red and blue lights flashed behind them.  As previously mentioned, Studio B is a small venue with a small stage- especially when four band members try to share it! Despite the small space, they rocked songs like “Seven White Horses,” “Cherry Wine,” and “The Game.” A fan knew it was Kimi’s birthday and yelled it out. Kimi then shared that she loved spending her birthday in Minneapolis with all of us and shortly after, the crowd sang the “Happy Birthday Song.” The band closed their set with “If You Need It.” This band was a hit with this Minnesota crowd. 

Finally, our headliner took the stage to the crowd’s delight. Nita made her commanding presence fill the room as she opened with “Summer Storm,” “Our Most Desperate Hour,” and “Mariana Trench.” The amount of energy that this band produces is unbelievable! Nita asked how many in the crowd knew her first album, “Controlled Chaos.” Nearly everyone in the crowd screamed back. She then went on to play “Alegria” and “Lion Among Wolves.” When technical difficulties delayed the band from playing “The Quest,” drummer, Josh Villalta played a solo, and when a fan yelled out, “One,” he treated us all with a snippet of Metallica’s greatest kickdrum parts. Nita introduced “Pandemonium” by telling us the story behind the song. Her favorite guitarist is Steve Vai and several years ago, before she had a record or any songs written herself, Steve asked if she would like to be featured on his compilation. She went home and wrote the killer track we all know and love. I believe “Kintsugi ” concluded the first half of the set.

Nita went on to introduce her friend, and touring vocalist, Kasey Karlson of Deadlands. Kasey did a phenomenal job singing, screaming, and channeling her contagious energy on stage. “The Wolf You Feed” and “The Golden Trail” were aggressive and a great way to open the second half of the set. To introduce the next song, “Digital Bullets,” Nita asked the crowd if they too were ever victims of online criticism. “Is there anything that makes you mad?” she asked. “Digital Bullets” is her response to the haters. The band rocked “Through the Noise” and Nita played the solo effortlessly. It’s such a great song.

As the night was nearing an end, Nita thanked our local rock radio station, 93X, and all her fans for helping her put her track, “Dead Inside” at Number 1 on the chart. She is the first female solo rock artist to accomplish this feat. Although it was different hearing Kasey perform David Draiman’s vocal part, she nailed it and it was a highlight of the night. Next was “Victorious” and the entire crowd seemed to know it and sang along. Nita said that since she is headlining the tour, she can decide to close her set with whatever song she wants, and she chose one of the greatest metal songs of all time, Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell.” It was a fantastic way to end the night. About ten minutes later, the guitar goddess emerged behind the merch table to sign autographs and take selfies with fans. If you haven’t seen Nita Strauss live, go out of your way to make it happen. It’s amazing.