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.