NEW FAMOUS UNDERGROUND MATERIAL SOUNDS GOOD!
With my family out of town, and my parental duties suddenly vanishing for the time being, this was a good time for me to catch as many hard rock and heavy metal concerts as I could squeeze in. First up was Famous Underground, which I had never seen play live before. I had already had the pleasure of interviewing the group’s frontman Nick Walsh via telephone (click here to read the interview) so I was looking forward to seeing him and his Famous Underground band mates perform live, as well as finally meet him in person.
The evening started off with a fashion faux pas as my friend The Meister and I realized that we were wearing the same Shock t-shirt when we met up at the Rockpile East. Nothing of great consequence, but since The Meister and I had done the same thing at the Autograph concert last month by each wearing the same M3 Rock Festival shirt, we may just need to connect before our next concert together to find out what the other is wearing. The Meister also had a Monsters Of Rock alumni with him named Bruce, and as it turns out he had specifically flown in from Calgary to attend the Famous Underground concert in Toronto. You would have thought he was the person who had travelled the furthest distance to see Famous Underground play, but that was not the case since there was apparently someone in the audience who had come all the way from Germany for the occasion.
I arrived just as the second opening act, CampX, was starting to play. I had never heard of them before and the psychedelic influenced rock that they played was not what I am into — nevertheless, they put on a good performance. I will note — and the Meister and Bruce concurred — that the melodic softer voice emanating from the band’s frontman was quite surprising and did not seem to match his Rob Halford-like facial features. Given that this was sort of the start of the Canada day long weekend — the holiday actually fell on a Tuesday this year — it was not surprising that there were only about 100 people, by my count, in attendance. That being said, a lot of those people were rabid Famous Underground fans and their enthusiasm made up for whatever additional people could have filled the venue.
Before too long, it was time for Famous Underground to hit the stage. I always enjoy when a band makes some effort to make a grand entrance, even if it is just in a club setting. Simply having a band walk up on stage, plug in their instruments and start the first song is nowhere near a rock star entrance. Luckily, Famous Underground did not disappoint in that regard. As some intro music was playing, the stage was dark and a few lights were flashing before each band member made their way onto the stage and the band kicked off with presumably a new song called “Dark One Of Two”. After Famous Underground tore through three of the best songs off their self-titled debut record — “Wasteland”, “Dead Weight” and “Overdrive” — the band’s founder and creative force, Walsh, advised the hometown crowd that they would be playing lots of new yet to be released material. Usually I would not be pleased to hear that I, along with the rest of the audience, would be guinea pigs for lots of new songs, but given that I was not overly familiar with Famous Underground it did not make that much difference to me. “Until The End” was next and sounded good on a first listen — in fact, all of Famous Underground‘s new songs sounded pretty good including the harder paced “Corrupted”, “You’re Lucky I Love You” (which Walsh twice tried to explain the meaning of) and “Love Grenade”.
Throughout the first half of the show, Walsh was visibly displeased with what he described as “feedback” when he was singing. After a few back and forth conversations between songs with the soundman, the issues seemed to be resolved — or at least Walsh stopped talking about them. From my vantage point near the front of the stage, I didn’t notice any “feedback” issues. If anything, Walsh sounded really good and I was very impressed with how he could still hit all the high notes and scream for as long as he did. Walsh is a lead vocalist that appears to have really taken care of his voice over the course of his singing career. Funny enough, at one point a female fan screamed to the singer something along the lines of, “We don’t care about the feedback as long as you (continue to) look nice.” Yes, it is true that Walsh has also kept himself in good shape — plus he still has all of his long hair helping him keep his rock star look.
I have always been more of a fan of Walsh‘s melodic tunes from both his Slik Toxik days and now sometimes with Famous Underground, rather than the harder modern metallic compositions his current band tends to offer. Accordingly, my favorite tunes of the night, prior to the encores, were “On Broken Wings” (which featured some nice vocal harmonies from Walsh and bassist Laurie-Anne Green) and the yet to be released “Love Grenade”, with its different tempos and cool guitar riffs. Famous Underground closed off their set with a rousing rendition of “Necropolis” — which was the first video from their debut record.
Obviously everyone was anticipating that Walsh and company would be playing some Slik Toxik tunes at some point during the show. When Famous Underground came back on stage to play their first encore, the crowd seemed to go nuts when they launched into the Slik Toxik classic “Midnight Grind”. The band sounded really tight while playing it and Walsh even commented that his Famous Underground band members played the song better than his former band. The singer also pointed out that he had not sung that song in more than 20 years! It must be somewhat disheartening when the audience’s biggest reaction is for a song that was created and performed more than two decades ago by a group that has long since disbanded. Yet that is exactly the situation Walsh faced on this night and likely every time that he performs. After playing another presumably new song entitled “Too Young To Die” (the title might be actually longer and end with “too tired to live”), the next biggest pop from the audience was when Famous Underground played their show closer, and other Slik Toxik cover, “Helluvatime”.
After the show, Walsh was the consummate professional — meeting and greeting just about everyone in sight. After waiting quite a bit, The Meister, Bruce and I were going to head out but Walsh called out Bruce in a good way saying something along the lines of “you flew all the way over here and are not leaving without talking to me.” Walsh then candidly talked with us about the status of Famous Underground‘s new recordings, his new gig as frontman for the legendary Canadian rock band Moxy and his involvement with Classic Albums Live. Clearly, the man is keeping busy!
Overall, Famous Underground put on a good show, which I enjoyed. Had I been more familiar with the band’s songs, I would have likely enjoyed the concert even more.
Famous Underground setlist:
02. Dark One Of Two
04. Dead Weight
06. Until The End
07. On Broken Wings
09. You’re Lucky I Love You
10. Bullet Train
11. Love Grenade
13. Midnight Grind (Slik Toxik cover)
14. Too Young To Die
15. Helluvatime (Slik Toxik cover)