L. A. Guns + Stone Trigger + Burnt Out Wreck
Thursday 2nd November
The Underworld, Camden, London
Now I'm not one for pre-event hype or the sales pitch for a bands latest album but when I read the promo for L.A. Guns latest incarnation it piqued my interest. As a guitar nerd I'm a big fan of Tracii Guns. He's a guitarist's guitarist with a strong following on various social media (facesnapapp thingy) as well as being an integral part of the whole LA rock scene from the 80's. He and I were also born but a few weeks apart so are of the same vintage. But I'm also the most cynical being on the planet so when I read the following press release I had my usual 'Yeah right ....' moment:
"As the revival of the classic 80’s hard rock and heavy metal scene continues unabated in the 21st century, one reunion has long been top of the wishlist of many a fan: the combination of Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis under the L.A. Guns banner. Now, what once seemed like a distant memory with no hope of return has finally come about and those supporters of the band have been amply rewarded for keeping their fingers crossed and hopes up.
L.A. Guns never looked like pretty poster boys, unlike many of their peers, but rather the sort of band that you would be terrified of bumping into in a dark alley. Yet, despite having songs to back up that image, they could also write powerful ballads (such as ’The Ballad Of Jayne’) that displayed serious songwriting chops. Those chops are on show again on ‘The Missing Peace’, the band’s brand new album and arguably one of the most vital releases in their catalogue.
The story of how we got from the powerful early years of L.A. Guns to here has been well documented already. What is important to know is that the driving force behind all the band's classic songs, Tracii and Phil, are back in a major way. As inspired and excited as when they first started out, but now with the benefit of years of wisdom and experience behind them,
‘The Missing Peace’ will please fans of not only their classic albums (the self-titled debut, ‘Cocked And Loaded’ and ‘Hollywood Vampires’) but also their heralded comeback releases (‘Man In The Moon’ and ‘Waking The Dead’). In fact, the new record feels like the next logical step after ‘Waking The Dead’ and sees the duo newly invigorated with this diverse set of crowd pleasing dynamic sleaze rockers and epic, slower songs."
They have a point. Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis are the integral ingredients of what was one of the best bands of their time. So to see them back together again did get my cynical pulse moving. They performed two gigs at London's excellent and intimate Underworld with the Thursday night that I attended being a greatest hits evening with the Saturday evening being a night to promote their new album. Sandwiched between the two nights was a not insubstantial trip to Bradford. What was the tour manager thinking? Anyhow.
Thursday saw a my favourite venue open their doors to sadly too few people for the opening act Burnt Out Wreck. Fronted by Gary Moat, once drummer of Heavy Pettin', the skin jockey is now displaying his vocal talents whilst leaving the snare smashing to Paul Carnevale who does a fine job. Squashed at the front of the stage, between the backline and the stage edge, the five piece play some classic Rock music. Twin guitars - a Gibson Flying V and a Washburn through Marshall JCM800's - of Adrian Dunn and Miles Goodman create that great squealing Marshall growl fronted by the voice of Moat that is a mix of Biff Byford, Bon Scott and Noddy Holder. Does that give you and idea of how classic they sounded? And let's not forget bassist Alex Carmichael adding a strong bass line with added mirrored shades. Bass always sounds better with sunglasses. Their short set was well received and I look forward to seeing them again at the Hard Rock Hell festival.
Burnt Out Wreck Setlist
She's A Dirty Love
Pullin' It Out
She's The One
Burnt Out Wreck
The crowd swelled further as the evening wore on, and the Worlds End pub above us started to empty, to the benefit of our second band, Dublin's Stone Trigger. Unleashed from the confines of a cramped stage, this 5 piece were allowed free reign over the whole stage - about 2ft more than before but it all helps when you are a band that likes to be active on stage. Formed in 2011, Stone Trigger are heavily influenced by bands of the L.A. Guns 80's era. Entering to the soundtrack from 80's film Terminator, the four piece seemed to produce a larger sound from the larger stage. Front Man and vocalist Tommy Rockit could have been a young Axl Rose - Tracii's one time bandmate who went on to form a quite well known band. Rockit has the voice and the front man skills to entertain. And they have that sleaze sound too. Contrastingly clean cut guitarist Andii Andrews plays a beautiful Les Paul Traditional through the Marshall JCM800. Initially I was impressed that his lead playing was both restrained and tasteful. But then I was even more impressed with his ability to shred when the band went all Anthrax on me. Word up to bassist Peter Jordan and drummer Moyano El Buffalo as well. They had a great time with a warming crowd, one of whom presented Rockit with a gift wrapped bottle half way through the set. It's nice to be appreciated. The set was short but exciting and included a cover of Backstreet Boys 'Larger Than Life' and ended with their new single 'Edge Of Insanity'. Good rocking.
Stone Trigger Setlist
Children Of The Night
Rattle Your Bones
I Declare War
Gotta Get It On
Show Your Hands
Larger Than Life
Edge Of Insanity
Lights down and up fader with Ozzy's 'Diary of a Madman' to herald the entrance of the main event. The pre-event hype got it right, there is a real sense of excitement amongst the crowd as the Tracii and Phil combo take to the stage to relive a set of mostly classic tracks from their back catalogue of Rock excellence. As the 80's track reached it's triumphal conclusion, with Randy Rhoads exquisite guitar tones ringing in our ears, one guitar genius gave way to another as Da Man took to the stage with his four compadres. Sporting an unusual Chubtone GT350, plugged into the ubiquitous Marshall JCM800, Guns was the only member of the band not sporting leather and studs. He still looked the mutts nuts though. Tracii takes stage left whilst Phil moves to centre stage, quite rightly, announcing to the bouncing crowd how it's good to be back, it's good to be home - he's a Londoner you know. But as LA as the rest of them. And the chemistry between the two of them is back at it's best. They really play well off each other and enjoy themselves immensely. The band launches into opener 'No Mercy', from their inaugural album 'Cocked and Loaded'. Which pretty much sums them up. It's raunchy sleazy cock Rock that's loaded with power and riffage. I love it.
Backing Guns is Michael Grant on what looked like a Zemaitis A24MF through a Marshall JCM900, a shredders amp if ever there was one. Grant has all of the required swagger and all the chops too. Both Guns and Grant also appeared to be using Friedman pedals to boost their sound. On bass is 'the missing Ramone' Johnny Martin, with legs as far apart as is humanly possible, knackers dusting the stage. He's one of those bassists who doesn't take front of stage yet always catches your eye. The Underworld's stage isn't he most spacious, so you are hardly likely to lose him, but with the front of stage trio hogging the limelight, he still manages to be a giant amongst men. Not bad at playing bass either. And back of stage driving the band is clubbist Shane Fitzgibbon from Guns prior band Gunzo. Together, the five piece managed to notch the volume up yet further leaving the ears ringing for days. In a small low ceilinged sweat pit like the Underworld, you would expect, and want, nothing less.
Having shown us 'No Mercy', the hits started coming. 'Electric Gypsy' gave Guns a chance to show why his guitar skills are so revered using every tap, slide, pick and technique you could ask for whilst classics like 'Hollywood Tease' and 'Over The Edge' added interesting nuances including use of a bow a la Jimmy Page. Great stuff. The audience were in raptures, singing along to some real classic Rock anthems. The audience were an interestingly broad church of ages. Not the sole domain of 50 somethings, there were many of younger, and older vintage (in their 80's?), singing with equal enthusiasm. Lewis was having a ball with them. Guns needed no encouragement but revelled in the adulation of the crowd whilst Lewis really did look like he had come home. Grant, resplendent in classic sleaze peaked cap, controlled stage right and more than held his own in the popularity stakes. He even took centre stage when Guns and Lewis left him to front and sing the unusual choice of his cover of Prince's 'Purple Rain', a staple amongst many bands sets following the unfortunately premature death of the 80's star. It was an interesting cover though well received by the majority. A real singalong for all the family.
Hit followed hit with a couple of newer tracks getting a show, including 'The Flood's The Fault Of The Rain' which is a future classic. 'Malaria' gave Guns the chance to show some subtler skills although he also chose to use a Theramin - a sound altering device of a bizarre nature which seems to enthral guitarists like Guns and Joe Bonamassa. Doesn't work for me. What did work for me was Guns launching into AC/DC's 'Hells Bells' riff into his classic 'Never Enough'. That's like having Ben and Jerry's with Haagen Daz. Tasty. Which led to the 'Jelly Jam' - Guns excuse to indulge himself, and the crowd, in a jam of assorted riffs and solo's that left all with a satisfied feel. What's better than watching the master at work?
The gig drew towards closure with the epic 'Ballad of Jayne', complete with microphone failure that was handled with all the experienced indifference that you would expect from consummate professional Lewis, before Lewis ex-bandmate, and Rock legend Bernie Torme joined them for closing track, and every set must have, 'Rip and Tear'. Torme handled his Strat with great skill. There was a lot of love up on that stage, matched by the adoring audience happy to see their heroes back together and as good as ever.
So did the band live up to the hype? No. They exceeded it. In an era where we have bands from the 80's reforming or disintegrating, the hype rarely reflects reality. Many of those bands just can't do it any more. Voices have gone, drug fuelled lifestyles have taken their toll. But not with the Guns. They are still firing on all cylinders and hitting the bull. If you can impress an old cynic like me you must be doing something right. Must be an 80's thing.
LA Guns Setlist
Over The Edge
Bitch Is Back
The Flood's The Fault Of The Rain
One More Reason
Kiss My Love Goodbye
Don't Look At Me That Way
Hells Bells Intro to Never Enough
The Ballad of Jayne
Rip and Tear