HOOKERS & BLOW — THE PERFECT REMEDY FOR A ROCKING NIGHT
Ever since the absolutely stellar month of October, which brought tons (and I do mean tons) of great live shows to the greater Toronto area, it has felt like a real concert drought has occurred. October saw an incredible amount of hard rock and metal bands roll through town — including Judas Priest with Steel Panther, Airbourne, Vixen, Doro, Blaze Bayley, Rusted, King Diamond and Alice Cooper to name but a few. There were so many concerts in such a short time frame that attendance had to be adversely affected — but since then pickings have been slim, especially given that I have been out of town while a couple of shows made their way to the GTA.
With this concert drought continuing well into the new year, I decided to attend a show that I originally had not intended on seeing by a band that I was not familiar with — Hookers & Blow (what a great name by the way). Billed as the brainchild of Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed and Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi, I originally thought that the band would essentially be playing covers from those two bands. However, when I decided to attend Hookers & Blow‘s Toronto gig, I took a sneak peek at the setlist and was surprised to see that it mainly consisted of somewhat more obscure Guns N’ Roses songs and none from Quiet Riot.
My friend Eduardo and I got to the Rockpile West venue well into opening band Infinity‘s set, and I enjoyed the two songs or so that I did hear from the three piece band. Next up was Second Pass, a band that seems to play a couple times per month in the Toronto area. In fact, I had last seen them a mere twenty days ago during the last concert I attended — when they opened for Sebastian Bach, who rocked the Phoenix Concert Theatre. This time around, just like the first time I saw Second Pass live back in June of last year, I really enjoyed their set and again was mesmerized by how good lead vocalist Veronica McNamee sounded. I’m not sure if it was because I was seeing the band play in a small club setting, or because I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the headliner Hookers & Blow, but Second Pass‘ performance felt so much stronger than when they opened for Bach. Eduardo, who had also caught the Bach show, agreed that Second Pass sounded even better this time around.
Second Pass kicked off their set with two of my favorites from their catalogue: “Biting My Tongue” and “My Life”. McNamee then gave props to the opening band Infinity‘s singer, praising his voice — but if anyone deserved accolades for their voice on this night, it was clearly McNamee. While I have previously compared Second Pass‘ sound to Led Zeppelin, I did hear some Black Sabbath influences this time around — especially during one of the new tracks played. As good as the band, and in particular McNamee, sounded, her interactions with the crowd were sometimes puzzling. While there is no doubt that McNamee was having fun on stage, as her constant smile attested, it sometimes seemed like she was softly talking to her bandmates or a particular person in the audience rather than the audience at large. It was also at times difficult to hear exactly what she was saying. Nevertheless, Second Pass delivered a strong performance and reminded me why I was so excited to purchase their debut CD after I first experienced them last year.
Don Jamieson, one of the co-hosts of the iconic That Metal Show (and apparently quite the stand-up comic), was scheduled to perform prior to Hookers & Blow hitting the stage. When I saw Reed, Grossi and the rest of Hookers & Blow setting up all their gear, I figured that Jamieson would not be performing on this night. So it was surprising that after everything was set up for the headliners to play, all of a sudden, there was Jamieson towering right in front of me — not because I am really short, but because the stage was about waist height for me. I have always thought that mixing comedy and metal is a win-win situation so I was actually looking forward to hearing Jamieson‘s stand-up routine, even though I admittedly rarely take in this type of entertainment. I won’t repeat any of Jamieson‘s jokes in this review, given that he likely uses many of the same jokes from town to town, but suffice to say I had some good laughs as did many in the audience.
Since Jamieson is mostly known for his affiliation to the heavy metal genre, I felt that his best (and most appropriate for the setting) comedy material was when he poked fun of various bands or anything related to metal music. Some of his material had me laughing out loud, but whenever he strayed into generic material (such as sex, which any comic could have come up with) I felt that his shtick was more suited to a comedy club than just prior to a Hookers & Blow concert. Whatever the case, most of Jamieson‘s material was metal related so I found his “specialized” comedy routine — Steel Panther being the only others I know of that partakes in this “specialty” — a lot of fun to listen and laugh to. That being said, I would not want to have a stand-up comic opening every metal show, or even at half of them — but given that Jamieson has celebrity status among the metal community through his work with VH1 and That Metal Show, it was cool to see him perform and meet him after Hookers & Blow‘s performance.
Oddly enough, I had never viewed an episode of That Metal Show until I stumbled upon the TV show while vacationing in Las Vegas a couple months ago and then I ended up watching quite a few prior episodes via the internet. I remember trying to watch a few more episodes once back in Canada but it wasn’t working, which I always attributed to a bad internet connection. As it turns out, Jamieson informed me that That Metal Show was not available for viewing in Canada — which explained my prior issues in viewing it while on Canadian soil. What a shame, because That Metal Show rocks!
I am straying off track, so back to the concert review. The first thing I noticed about Hookers & Blow was that Dizzy Reed‘s keyboard was front and center stage, which was a first for me. However, this was not surprising given that Reed handles lead vocals for Hookers & Blow and of course has been Guns N’ Roses‘ keyboardist for almost twenty five years. The one great thing about Hookers & Blow is that you get to enjoy some obscure Guns N’ Roses tunes that you probably wouldn’t hear if you were seeing that legendary band live. Songs such as “Pretty Tied Up”, “Dust ‘N’ Bones” and “Bad Obsession” usually don’t make their way onto Guns N’ Roses‘ setlist these days.
After opening with the classic track “Pretty Tied Up”, Hookers & Blow really got the crowd going with a rousing rendition of “It’s So Easy”. Shortly after, Reed apologized to the audience for his voice — although I’m not sure why, since there was really no reason to apologize and I don’t think anyone was expecting him to sound like the distinctive Axl Rose (which would be tough to do). I thought that Reed‘s vocals sounded a lot better when he was singing songs other than Guns N’ Roses ones though, such as David Bowie‘s “Ziggy Stardust”, Elton John‘s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” or the Rolling Stones‘ “Sympathy For The Devil”, given that his voice seemed more suited for those songs. The entire band looked like they were having a great time on stage and Reed remarked that this was the first time Hookers & Blow had played in Canada during their ten year history — making this gig a special one for all who ventured to see them perform. Reed was also sometimes quite funny, as he mentioned that Hookers & Blow had no intention of ever getting a record deal but if someone wanted to provide the band with advance money (even in Canadian dollars) the band would gladly take it. I also liked that Reed seemed down to earth, advising the crowd that he would sign anything for them after the show. It is always nice to see performers not try to make some quick cash by charging fans simply for them to sign something.
My one knock on Hookers & Blow was that their setlist seemed a bit short, with only eleven songs being played. From checking other shows on their latest East Coast tour, it appears that this is about the number of songs they usually deliver. I would have liked to hear a few more Guns N’ Roses classics, given that I was enjoying Hookers & Blow‘s performance so much. Just like opener Second Pass, every song played by Hookers & Blow was a good one. Sometimes you go to a concert with low expectations, and this was the case for me heading to the venue, but I ended up leaving elated — thinking what a great show I had just witnessed. If I ever get the chance to see Hookers & Blow perform again, I will definitely grab that opportunity!
01. Biting My Tongue
02. My Life
03. Broken Life
04. Last Man
06. Outcome Or Will
08. Hate The Keeper
Hookers & Blow setlist:
01. Pretty Tied Up
02. It’s So Easy
03. Dust ‘N’ Bones
04. Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie cover)
05. Don’t Cry
06. You’re Crazy
07. Used To Love Her
08. Bad Obsession w/ drum and bass solo
09. Sweet Child O’ Mine
10. Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting (Elton John cover)
11. Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones cover)