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America Rocks Tour 2012 -- Live Review

Reader and regular commenter "Him" shot me an email, offering up this awesome review of the first night of the America Rocks Tour. This review is amazing and I think you will agree. Many thanks to Him for thinking of us and sharing his thoughts on the tour. -- Allyson

America Rocks Tour 2012, June 15, 2012, Avalon Nightclub, Santa Clara, Calif.  

The first stop of the America Rocks Tour 2012—featuring Lillian Axe, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bulletboys, Faster Pussycat, and Jack Russell’s Great White—rolled into Santa Clara on Friday night.  If this show was any indication of what fans can expect for $25, there are reasons to be pleased . . . and worried.  

The brutal truth is that all of these bands are now anchored by one member from their glory days.  The less disconcerting fact is that several of the bands demonstrated an ability to provide a tight ride down memory lane.  The reality is that Friday’s show was a rough introduction of the tour to the fans, filled with technical problems, prima donna behavior, and signs that several of these bands don’t get along all that well.  

The doors opened at 8:00.  By the time we arrived at a little past 8:30, Lillian Axe was already well into their set and only a couple of songs away from closing with “Show A Little Love,” one of the bands more well-known songs.  Original member Steven Blaze looked every bit the metal elder while shredding away on guitar and relatively new singer Brian Jones capably handled vocal duties.  

After a twenty minute break, Pretty Boy Floyd—featuring original member Steve Summers on vocals—took to the stage with an initially energetic version of “Leather Boys with Electric Toys.” But things quickly took a turn towards the confusing.  Whether it was problems with the amps, or the drums, or the band, the set ended . . . before the first song was finished.  No explanation. No return to the stage.  Nothing.   

Another short break followed. Then things took a turn for the better. The Bulletboys, featuring Marq Torien, launched into the second best set of the evening.  Say what you will about Torien’s purported personality issues, the New Year’s Eve reunion show, or the hired hands that now fill out the rest of the band.  The fact remains that Torien is a showman and his mates knows how to hit their marks.  He prances and dances around like he is playing to thousands even when there are barely a few hundred in front of him.  Fans got a sleazy “Hard as a Rock,” a spirited romp through the O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money,” and a suitably over-the-top set ending “Smooth Up in Ya’.”  In contrast with Floyd, a technical glitch with one of the amps didn’t stop Torien.  He segued into an impromptu solo song and then right back into the set.  With theatrical guitar playing and a decent set of pipes, Torien proved he isn’t just going through the motions.  The fans reciprocated the energy, acting like they were also part of a far larger crowd at a much larger venue.

A slightly longer break occurred. Then Faster Pussycat, featuring original member Taime Downe, took the stage.  Downe--dressed in black, assuming a persona both aloof and raunchy--hit most of the songs fans wanted: "Bathroom Wall," "Slip of the Tongue," "House of Pain," and so on.  And it was the best set of the evening.  With a tight backing band anchored by the propulsive drumming of Chad Stewart and bassist Danny Nordahl, Downe avoided the flights of rage or techno that marred earlier revamped versions of the band.  He even yielded the stage to Nordahl, who led the rest of the crew in an animated cover of the Supersucker’s “Pretty ****** Up.”  Granted, this isn’t the Pussycat of old or even the one that Muscat trucked out several years ago.  This is Downe’s baby.  And he proved that Pussycat are still, at base, a punk/glam/50s monster capable of delivering fans a set to be remembered.  The concert seemed to be hitting its stride, with two great sets in a row and high expectations for the headlining act.

Then there was a wait.  And still more of a wait.  Then, wait for it, more waiting.  After nearly an hour, Jack Russell’s Great White took the stage.  From the start it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a set to remember.  Russell’s pipes sounded decent when you could hear them.  He even kept the crowd singing to a minimum (when compared to some of his peers).  But he was placed way too low in the mix for the majority of the set.   This led him to engage in a back and forth (and occasionally angry) routine with the sound guy, cutting out of songs to go get the level adjusted.  It was also coupled with several long parts where fans were treated to his backing band playing and singing without him.  Don’t get me wrong.  Guitarist Matthew Johnson is amazing to watch, letting his playing do the talking whereas fellow guitarist Robby Lochner seems more intent to get the crowd going with flash and facial contortions. But fans aren't there to see the backing band no matter how gifted or flashy they might be.  They are there to see Russell.  Which leads me to bassist Dario Seixas.  Coming from the Rudy Sarzo school of playing, Seixas caresses, throws, swings, and toys with his bass almost as much as he actually plays it!  He also does something that has popped up in previous clips of the band online: he takes pictures and texts with his phone in the middle of the set.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why he does it or why he has been allowed to do it.  It is a distraction and, in my opinion, unprofessional.   

During one of Seixas’ rounds of texting, members of the Bulletboys and Faster Pussycat were standing in front of me.  They were openly mocking the band, even going so far as to take a picture of the texting which they then passed around to each other, laughing.  This wasn’t off to the side of the stage, and there weren’t that many people crowding the stage (at best, the crowd was a very light three deep during any of the sets and never more than a few hundred in total).  So they were out in the open and clearly none too worried about how their behavior would be interpreted.  And to be quite honest: why should they be worried?  Their bands pulled off headlining sets as opening acts.  It might be as unclassy as Seixas’ behavior.  But their bands left the audience wanting more.  By the end of Russell’s set, and at nearly 2:00 in the morning, not even “Rock Me” managed to get its customary reaction from the crowd that had stayed to watch.  

In terms of value, the America Rocks Tour 2012 makes sense in theory. With some of the technical kinks resolved, it might also work in practice.  But there are clear signs that some of the bands still think it is the 80s, others haven’t yet hit their stride, and still others see this as a paycheck. With the tour having only just begun, these are troubling signs indeed. I hate to say it: caveat emptor.

Reader Comments (47)

hey allyson, is this gonna be a big tour or just a few gigs, id like to see this if it comes to my towm, is there tour dates/
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdevin
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
"The brutal truth is that all of these bands are now anchored by one member from their glory days". I'm pretty sure PBF is 2 original members nowadays. Steve Summers AND Kristy Majors.
I'm seeing this show in Columbus, Ohio in 2 weeks, and I cant wait.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
I saw Lillian Axe a couple of weeks ago and will go see the "America Rocks Tour" just to see Lillian Axe again. I don't care if Lillian Axe only has one member from the "classic" line up or not... they still are a great band with great songs.

It really doesn't bother me if the other bands only have a member or two from their heyday either. I can't stand Bulletboys (and I've seem them a few times before between 1988 and 2008) and the last time I saw Jack Russell he was BAD... really BAD. Faster Pussycat and PBF are always fun.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRock-It
what rock-it says. I plan on going to see this tour @ the Starland on 6/30 and then onto Cinderella on 7/1. Ah...'48 hours to rock'. (Shameless PBF plug). I've been gilding Steve Summers lilly as well as poking some harmless fun at him on facebook for the past few weeks in an effort to keep him focused and on his game. If he wants to act like axl rose, then he should get off of this tour. grow up, shut up and play, mr. steve "sex" summers!
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfletch
Went down to San Diego to see this show and it was pretty much as Him described it, plus two local bands were added to the venue. One original band called Ruckus who I had never heard before, they sounded great and one cover called Uncle Junkie sounded like sheer crapola, There were serious technical difficulties. The prima donna shit from Bullet boys was tiresome, how ever they held their own but not to many fans will appreciate the singers fem-fatal place cater to me that shit may have worked in the 80's and 90's but grow up no cares except that you put on a god show that they are paying you for some humbleness to your fan goes along way.. I was not thrilled with pussycats vocals they sounded shredded but at lest there set was decent and Pretty Boy pulled off a good set and the most entreating musicians from JP's Great White were the guitarists, bassist and drummer they knew how to do the stage show. Jack clearly struggled with his vocals there were maybe 400 hun people. but rumor has it there were a lot of sold comp tickets in the house and way to may free comp tickets out there some kind snafu. The venue clearly lots a bucket load on this show. by adding two extra bands made for a very long evening this show also ended at 2 am on a friggen sunday and fathers day, any way you gotta be a diehard or just want a reason to get out and get drunk this is the show for you, there will be no problem making it a fun night with funny flashbacks.
Cezzya sayz later
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchezzya
You are correct Kenny. Sorry about leaving Majors out of the PBF mix.

And Rock-it is right: Lillian Axe sounded great. I wish I got to the venue sooner.

I also don't really care about how many of the originals are in the bands (like I also said, FP and BB sounded great regardless of who was playing).

But this is a tour that could easily have really great nights and some really poor ones. Going in knowing that helps.

I'll be interested to hear how others, like Chezzya, feel about the tour when it rolls through their town.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
HIM: your expectations 'are' too high. part of the solution is not only relying on them to perform...but allowing you to perform as well. I am going to see PBF and FP and (a little bit of) LA and BB. I will ONLY stay for JR if he comes on stage like he means it. If not, I'll leave and probably share a swig of 'daniels with one of the roadies in the parking lot.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfletch
I have to say I was rather excited to hear all these bands were playing together because all of them bring back great memories for me. I was supposed to go to the Santa Clara show but work ended up sending me to So. Cal. for the week so I decided to go to the San Diego show last night with a friend that lived down there instead.

I agree with HIM - mostly - whoever you are.

The bands actually sounded great with the exception of Jack Russell's. Oh my God what a train wreck! We left during their 4th song because it was so horrible. Now mind you, his BAND seemed to be great. They have lots of energy - far more than Jack and actually overpower his lack of it. They seem to know their stuff. But Jack's microphone seemed to be on mute from the get-go and the sound people didn't do shit about it despite everyone in the audience complaining about it - almost as if the sound people were told NOT to turn him up. Once they raised his volume, we saw why: Jack sounds like shit. He needs to hang it up. He looks emaciated, sickly and can't hit any notes, and the notes he can't hit we noticed that the guy on the left was filling in for him. What the hell? Sad. Jack used to be one of my favorite singers, too. Hopefully he will just retire with what dignity he has left.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSanFranGirl
david lee roth barely hit a note in his life
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfletch
I've been to many VH shows, and the only shows that sucked were this recent tour. I will never bother to pay to see VH ever again. NOW DLR should hang it up as well.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSanFranGirl
Agree with a lot of the SD show comments, but I disagree that Jack Russell sounded that bad. I think he sounded OK, maybe a little tired, and seems like he may have been beaten by the horrible production at 4th and B. After hearing about the production issues from the 1st show, I can understand why he may be pissed about the production, but he did not over react to the venues incompetence. It was clear that a couple of the other bands were seriously upset with Great White for some reason, and even vocalized it from stage. Also, no Babylon from FP was a bummer. It was also a bummer that FP was using prerecorded lead vocal tracks behind them. The opening acts showed that they will probably remain local. Lillian Axe was really good. The Bulletboys NAILED it. Best performance of the night. PBF was OK at best, but closing with Live Wire confused me a bit, especially since the rhythm section fell apart on it. The song was sloppy as hell and the lead vocals had lines mixed up and it was just a big mess. I have to say that the Bulletboys were worth the price of admission.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOLK
The review and the comments arent adding up on the PBF situation. The author claims they played one song and quit, while others here are saying that they played several songs, including a Motley Crue finale. So which is it? Was the author actually AT the show? What gives here?
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
Hi Kenny,

You must be searching for some sort of magical portal that connected the Santa Clara and San Diego (SD) shows. The closest you are going to get is the show in Salinas the day _after_ the show I saw and the day _before_ the one others have commented on. From the sounds of it, some of what I saw was continued and some of it was (luckily) not.

Thanks again for noting my mistake in the review in your previous post.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHim
Sorry I should have stated specifically I was talking about the SD show. I thought the content would have specified that. BTW, Kenny, with what I saw and heard, I will not be surprised if this tour doesn't make it to Ohio, at least with the same lineup.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOLK
Since MetalBoy! isn't posting his slant on these scabs, I will. The waters are definitely troubled with sharks, mermen and the faint smell of some fishy-ness.
The bands are now getting to venues about 7 hours before show time to unload, set up and sound check. This wouldn't be unusual if you were playing an arena, but most of these dives are tiny. The problem isn't too many bands and band members, its over the top egos. They're making the clubs usual decent or standard sub-par sound and sound guys a nervous wreck. It's creating havoc because they're taking these club guys out of their element. Alone each of these bands would walk into these holes on solo tours, accept the sound, play, pick up their pay and move on. Now with five bands, 30-35 band members its just too much. Its overload for the clubs and their people. What should be very easy is now a nightmare. Technical issues arising because every band wants something different. They ALL want to be the ALPHA BAND and it's causing riffs between the bands, sub par sounding performances, and pissed off fans. The clubs just don't have the necessary boards, etc to compensate every band on the bill. There are only so many channels and so much you cand do. Each of these bands have a major EGO in them.
Lillian Axe? Really? I know they have a HANDFUL of fans in the audience each night...who gives a fuck, they're playing 20 minutes. Pretty Boy Floyd? SHIT! They're supposed to sound like shit; have you HEARD their records? Not quite Mutt Lange produced. The Bulletboys? On their OWN they would only pull 40 people to these shows. Faster Pussycat? Now you've got a band that would put 100 plus into the show. Maybe. MAYBE they get some extra attention in the "we need this in our monotior" shit. But face it, Jack Russell is the draw. He should get the red carpet sound attention. ZERO reason why he should sound like shit in the mixes.
The average fan doesn't give a shit if they hear every single note clear as a bell. They are there to rock out and the bands are taking that energy and killing it, worrying that the guitar lick in "Show a Little Love" or the bass break in some other song obscure song isn't mixed properly with the ping of the crash cymbal. Who fucking cares? Grow the fuck up. PLAY YOUR SHITTY SONGS with some fucking enthusiasm, some energy and some of the rock n roll fuck you attitude. Otherwise put a trailer on the Faster Pussycat van with a soundsystem and sound guy loaded in it, set it up at these shitholes 7 hours before you hit the stage and it's in YOUR control. Fucking FUNNY MONEY travels with their own lights, sound board and sound guy. I've seen them many times over the years and NEVER did they sound bad, be it in a shit hole dive bar or a quality concert hall. And the ONLY attitude that Steve and the guys bring is a FUN LOVING one. Do they still have problems? Sure they do, but you don't see Whiteman throwing a hissy fit and end it all. The people that forked over their paychecks to see these shows would be happy just to hear these guys fart even out of key.
The only people in the audience who will make a fuss are the frustrated musicians who know better than everyone else. The average McDonald Swing Manager won't even notice. They just want to get away from their everyday hum drum pressure cooked fucking lives and scream "Smooth Up in Ya" or "Call It Rock and Roll"! There calling this the AMERICA ROCKS tour...let em ROCK. Shut up and play your asses off and leave the prima donna shit in the bus, van or rental car with your medicinal marijuana and stamped down coke.
These bands should be happy to be on a pretty well paying tour, playing to more people in one night than they would in a weeks worth of solo touring and to a crowd that isn't there to help the opening bands sell tickets to fill their shows. But, no one ever accused rockstars of being compassionate caregivers to the fans or to the brotherhood of rock n roll. Shame it's blowing up so early in the tour, but take a look at the frustrated "should have beens" opening this tour and the EGOS...yeah, no surprises. As OLK pointed out...this tour will be lucky to reach Ohio. Hell it might be lucky to reach the end of me typing this.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Insider
To The Insider: BRAVO!!!!!!!Well said my man (or woman) Alot of these guys couldn't draw flies anymore,even if they were a steaming pile of shit. So suck it up,collect your money at the end of the night from the promoter (who most likely lost his ass on the show for the above reason) and move on. Ain't one of your bands going to sell outa 1000 seater on your own.Thats why you're packaged together with 4 other "80"s bands" just like you.......
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Insider... First off, I agree... Egos can be destructive and dangerous. But the fact is...They exist and always have.

Well Insider... I'm not going to this show to see Jack Russell. I'm going to see all of the bands. It just so happens that Jack Russell will be there that night. In fact, if it was just Jack Russell and a couple of average local bands I wouldn't make the 2 hour drive to the show.

To compare these musicians to Steve Whiteman makes no sense at all. Believe it or not... Steve is an exception to most others. When you get that many people (musicians) together there are going to be disagreements or egos.

Each and every band on this tour wants to sound as good as they can.. they want to put on a great show. These bands know that they will be compared to each other as long as this tour goes. With short sets it is even more frustrating because there isn't much time to fix the problem. I'm not sure if you have ever played in front of a crowd or not... but I'll tell you... I know each and every time I played for people (no matter how many or how few) I wanted things to be as close to perfect as possible. It is frustrating when things go wrong because most musicians want the crowd to enjoy the show. It is true that some musician handle these things (problems) differently from one and other. When I had issues on stage I tried to handle them in a more quiet (behind the scenes manner) so as not to interfere with the crowds enjoyment of the show.

I know.. that was a lot of rambling. I guess I'm just trying to say that EGO has been a part of Rock "n" Roll since the beginning. It's always going to be there. It is part of Rock "n" Roll's charm.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRock-It
I actually, for the most part, completely disagree with "The Insider" and think in his post he comes off as a bitter twat. Just my opinion though.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
I actually made that up. I like to make shit up and get people to think that I know what's going on.
June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Insider

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