STATION IMPRESS DESPITE HAVING TO DELIVER ACOUSTIC SET
Date: August 28, 2016
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I admit that I was on the fence about attending Autograph‘s tour stop in Toronto this time around. It’s not that I did not enjoy myself the last time that I saw them play more than two years ago but rather that I have never been that into the band. Sure, I have Autograph‘s first three albums — Sign In Please (1984), That’s The Stuff (1985) and Loud And Clear (1987) — but I hardly ever listen to them unless the band is coming through town. Perhaps I am just sick and tired of hearing “Turn Up The Radio” which is one of only four “heavy metal” songs that my kids seem to tolerate / perhaps even like when I play them in the family vehicle. That all changed when I found out that Station had been added to the bill and would open for Autograph in Toronto. As it turns out, this would be New York based Station‘s first time playing an international show.
The first time that I had really heard Station play was at the M-Pre Party in Columbia, Maryland, USA back in April 2015. Not being familiar with their songs, I ended up getting a bit frustrated at how long Station‘s set was that night compared to the other bands, some of which I was quite familiar with (in particular Last Call Messiahs and Lady Beast). About a year later, M-Pre Party organizer Dave Dillman explained to me that he had asked Station to play an extra long set given that some of the other bands had declined to play a little longer than what was originally planned. Accordingly, I do feel a little bit bad about complaining in my review about Station‘s extended set since in reality, they were perhaps the only band to step up to the plate that night. I should add that while I was not crazy about Station‘s extended set, most of the rest of the crowd were really into Station.
Fast forward more than a year and I have had the chance to listen to Station‘s debut full-length album quite a bit and although I am not crazy about the high number of ballads on the album, there is no question that Station have some very good songs. This time around, I was very excited to see Station play live. Accordingly, I purchased my ticket from the other opening band SFD (Six Feet Deep) who were responsible to sell some tickets presumably as part of their deal to open for Autograph on this night. Might as well support the local band while purchasing my ticket! I was supposed to be joined by Sleaze Roxx writer Eduardo but he bailed on me on the day of the show with admittedly a very valid reason. Not wanting to miss Station, I ended up contacting the band to find out exactly when they would hit the stage. Station guitarist Chris Lane was quick to respond and confirmed the rumours that Station were the first band to play on this night. No offence to SFD but I would have thought that Station, who have played all over the States and who had opened for Britny Fox, Killer Dwarfs and Autograph the night before, should have played after SFD and just prior to Autograph on this night.
I arrived at the venue a few minutes before Station‘s scheduled start time of 8:00 pm and was greeted by SFD‘s drummer Steve Scott (more like I introduced myself) who provided my concert ticket for the night. Scott delivered some horrible news to me in that Station had some border crossing issues so would be playing an acoustic set minus their bassist rather than the full plugged in set with the entire band. I have never been a big live acoustic fan having only really seen three performers play acoustically (Jack Russell of Great White fame, the Killer Dwarfs‘ frontman Russ Dwarf and former White Lion singer Mike Tramp). Oh well. At least Station were still going to play and had decided not to cancel their performance unlike some other artists faced with the same issues coming up to play at The Rockpile in Canada.
While there was a good share of cars in the parking lot, that did not seem to translate into many concert attendees as I counted about 50 people ready to witness Station‘s set. Pretty soon, Station‘s lead vocalist Patrick Kearney and guitarist Chris Lane took the stage, sat on these high stools and kicked off their set with two songs I didn’t know. Kearney seemed very comfortable on the stage explaining why they were doing an acoustic set and providing some interesting comments between songs. I am surprised that all the concert attendees did not turn their attention towards me seated at one of the tables in the back because there must have been a big “thud” sound that could be heard when my jaw literally dropped to the floor as Kearney started singing “Dressed To Kill.” Wow! That man can sing! What a voice! What a voice! “Dressed To Kill” is a fast paced song and Kearney sang it as if he had a fully plugged in band. On this night, he only had Lane strumming away on his acoustic guitar so the splendour of Kearney‘s voice was in full display and I was loving it!
The next song “I Can’t Live Without You” sounded vaguely familiar but I should have known it considering it is on Station‘s debut full-length album. Kearney then advised the crowd that he and Lane were going to take the opportunity to play an unreleased song, which was one of the first songs that they had ever written. The song “Burnin’ Out Fast” sounded quite good on a first listen and I hope it makes its way onto a Station album in the future. I can’t remember exactly when this occurred but at one point, one of the strings on Lane‘s guitar broke. Kearney then warned the crowd that it would be hearing Station songs like they had never heard them before. The next memorable song that was played was Station‘s kick ass rendition of Skid Row‘s classic “I Remember You.” Once again, my jaw literally dropped to the floor and all I could think about was how Kearney should be the new Skid Row singer. I did joke with Kearney after Station‘s set that he should be the new Skid Row lead singer to which Kearney jokingly advised that he never got the call. I did point out that I would rather have Kearney in Station given that Station had released better material than what Skid Row has released in the last 20 years or so.
Station closed off their fantastic acoustic set with “With Me Tonight” and “Everything” — the latter which rocked just like the prior “Dressed To Kill.” While it was disappointing not to have all of the Station band members playing a plugged in set, Kearney and Lane did a great job and simply converted me into a bigger Station fan. I should point out that the crowd seemed truly appreciative of Kearney and Lane‘s performance providing fairly loud applause after each song and particularly from “Dressed To Kill” onwards.
Station’s acoustic setlist:
01. More Than The Moon
02. I’d Understand
03. Dressed To Kill
04. I Can’t Live Without You
05. Burnin’ Out Fast
06. All You Need Is A Heartbeat
07. I Remember You (Skid Row cover)
08. With Me Tonight
Next up was SFD who ended up boasting the best stage show simply by having two big black banners indicating “SFD” in large white print. The reason for that is that Autograph came to play in Toronto (and perhaps everywhere they play) with the most minimalistic no-frills stage set — a drum set, some amps and guitars. Accordingly, SFD looked like the main headliner when they played although they did not necessarily have the hit songs or well known songs to back up their stage show like Autograph did. I do confess that I ended up chatting with the very friendly Kearney for a good portion of SFD‘s set and that only two songs stuck out for me. The first one was the song “The Fight” which I think is likely SFD‘s best original song. As soon as I heard the chorus of that song, I remembered how much I had enjoyed it hearing it for the first time back when SFD opened for Lynch Mob a few months prior at the same venue. The other track that stood out was the group’s cover of I assume Pat Travers‘ “Snortin Whiskey.” I am pretty sure that was the song that SFD closed their set with.
After SFD‘s set was over and just prior to Autograph taking the stage, I ran into a new co-worker and her boyfriend who unfortunately missed out on Station despite my suggestion to come early to see them play. It was certainly cool to meet a co-worker at The Rockpile who seemingly is as passionate about music as I am although her taste in music is definitely way broader than mine.
Next up was the headliner Autograph whose band members embarked on the stage to little fanfare. What was notable compared to SFD was the no-frills stage set up. I really shouldn’t have been surprised since almost two years ago, Autograph showed up at The Rockpile with the seemingly same bare bones set up. I had chalked it up last time to the fact that the reformed group consisting of guitarist Steve Lynch and bassist Randy Rand along with newcomers Simon Daniels (lead vocals, guitar) and Marc Wieland (drums) were just starting to tour for the first time.
Prior to Autograph hitting the stage, I had snuck a peak at the setlist and was surprised how similar it looked to the one played by Autograph more than two years ago. There appeared to only be two new songs added to the setlist since the last time consisting of new tracks “Lost In America” and “You Are Us, We Are You.” I was surprised to see that the setlist was dated June 20, 2015 and apparently for a show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Aside from switching the order for the new songs and omitting to play two songs (“Cloud 10” and “That’s The Stuff”), Autograph‘s setlist on this night in Toronto was exactly the same as the one more than a year ago in Las Vegas, Nevada. And that was even though Autograph had released a new EP entitled Louder! back in January 2016. Oddly, Autograph‘s last two singles “Every Generation” and “Watch It Now” were not included in the band’s setlist. As I stated writing this review, it dawned on me that Autograph‘s setlist including the order of the songs in which they are played has stayed pretty much the same for the last two years since I was able to cut and paste the setlist from Autograph‘s May 2014 show in Toronto and simply make some minimal changes to it for the purpose of this review. No need to say that the setlist was a bit disappointing this time around.
At least this time, Autograph had some merchandise to sell along with some guitar picks that they threw in the audience from time to time. Yet, the group’s “merchandise booth” ended up being a disappointment since the lady manning the booth informed me that Autograph had sold out their new EP Louder! A long time ago, I had planned on picking it up at the show since it is only apparently available via Autograph‘s website or at their gigs.
Despite these setbacks (lack of stage setup and no new EP available for purchase), I was still looking forward to seeing Autograph play. All of the band members looked happy to be there with Rand, Daniels and Lynch sporting big smiles throughout the night. There seemed to be something missing though. The excitement when I saw Autograph back at the M3 Rock Festival in April 2014 and less than a month later in May 2014 simply was not there for me on this night despite the group delivering an enthusiastic set. My favorite songs on this night played by Autograph were simply the ones that I liked best — “Bad Boy,” “Blondes In Black Cars,” “Send Her To Me,” “She Never Looked That Good For Me” and of course “Turn Up The Radio.” I enjoyed how Daniels made fun of Rand by introducing him with such titles as — I am paraphrasing at this point — “An Example of Sobriety” given that Rand had received what has to be perceived as negative coverage for falling on stage after having apparently one drink too many. Daniels pointed out that in this day and age of social media, everything gets noticed. In any case, it was nice to see that the rest of the Autograph band members and particularly Daniels not bothered by Rand‘s one bad night.
I would have liked Daniels to come up with some better ways to introduce various songs throughout the night. It seemed that he was using a lot of cliches to introduce certain songs. Why not have Lynch or Rand provide some background on a song rather than have Daniels say something such as — and I am paraphrasing — “Are there any bad girls in the audience” before the band eventually launched into “Bad Boy.” It’s the kind of lacking song intro that KISS‘ Paul Stanley seems to never tire of.
Alright, enough with the negative points. I still had a good time while seeing Autograph although I am not sure that I will be going to catch them play again the next time that they are in town. The Autograph guys are also very genuine as either Lynch or Daniels announced to the crowd that they would be out in about 15 minutes after their show ended to say hello and mingle with anyone that stuck around. In these days of “meet and greet”, it’s nice to see a band not charge people for the opportunity to meet them.
I’ll also give a shout out to Ottawa native and Shock fan Dennis who did a rather classy move. At one point, Rand had thrown one of his bass guitar picks and although it landed in one of my hands, I dropped it right in front of me. There was a big monitor between me and where the bass guitar pick landed so Dennis who was standing beside me was able to grab it before me. Rather than keep it for himself, Dennis handed me the pick stating that I had pretty much caught it anyways. After thanking him, we discussed how there was one bass guitar pick on the stage floor that was within reach and sure enough, Dennis was able to retrieve it moments later.
01. Deep End
02. Dance All Night
03. Loud And Clear
04. Bad Boy
05. Blondes In Black Cars
06. When The Sun Goes Down
07. All I’m Gonna Take
08. You Are Us, We Are You
09. Send Her To Me
10. Guitar Solo (Steve Lynch)
11. My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me
12. Lost In America
13. She Never Looked That Good For Me
14. Crazy World
15. Turn Up The Radio
Autograph playing “Turn Up The Radio” live at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on August 28, 2016: