Ted Poley live at the Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Concert Review

TED POLEY DELIVERS A SET OF MOSTLY CLASSIC DANGER DANGER SONGS

Date: March 11, 2017
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Tyson Briden
Photos: Jessica Briden

COUNTERWAIT:

The show started roughly before 9:00 pm. Counterwait was the first of four bands for the night’s event. Counterwait delivered an in your face assault of ’90s sounding heavy rock in the vein of Alice In Chains. Counterwait featured two guitarists and vocalists. Paul Charlebois and Jeff Freitas did a very good job of keeping my attention. The two vocalists’ harmonies were mixed and matched perfectly together. The songs were kept very tight with bass player Jer Grischow and drummer  Jordan Malcolm creating a great groove behind the mastery of the impressive vocals. As for the guitar rhythms, the two guitarists were impressively tight together as if they had been playing together for many years.

RELLIKDOG:

Rellikdog was a band that I was slightly confused about. Not because they weren’t good, but because I found it very odd to have such a heavy band opening for Ted Poley. I would classify Rellikdog‘s sound as more ’80s Bay Area Thrash with a twist of ’90s Corrosion Of Conformity. The thing that caught my attention with this band was the appearance of the vocalist/guitarist. He was a big, burly man with piercing blue eyes. I am not sure if his eyes were contacts or real. Regardless, with his long dark hair and these blue eyes, he really caught your attention. Unfortunately, I have been unable to catch this man’s name, but regardless this man’s presence was intimidating. Vocally, he was gruff and his presence was felt. As for the remainder of the band, they were tight and played with the velocity that the music called for.

PUNISHMENT:

I was anticipating this band all night. Primarily because of my love for Slik Toxik and guitarist Kevin Gale. I am sure, Gale is proud of his Slik Toxik achievements, but may want to distance himself from that since this is an entirely new project and due to the fact that the band did not do any Slik Toxik material. That is my personal assumption. With that said, it is hard to not mention his association to such a stellar act. Punishment really made their presence felt before the show. They were hanging out at the merch booth and were really accessible to their fan base. The thing that struck me most before the show was singer Bradd Searl. He really had that rock star persona and attitude.

When they finally hit the stage, Punishment was tight and in your face. I will admit though, what I was expecting and what they sounded like was different. Searl‘s voice was more ’90s sounding, then the ’80s voice I was expecting. Searl was more of a lower register singer. As for Gale, he gave the impression of a seasoned pro, Les Paul Gold Top draped over his shoulder, through two amp heads and Mesa Boogie cabinet. As he strummed a few riffs for the sound guy during the short soundcheck between bands, it was apparent that his skill as a player had not subsided one bit. It is funny in terms of my perception of guitar players when I see a band, is that they are not only serious about their skill, but serious about the gear they are playing the music through as well. My perception of Gale was securely intact just by his gear itself. His sound was thick, with decent amount of distortion and great tone. If there was one complaint about one of the previous bands, it was that the guitar sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Over the top, in your face distortion with lack of good tone.

From Gale in terms of Punishment, I was expecting these blistering solos from back in the Slik Toxik days, which was not to be. Not that Gale didn’t play great solos because he certainly did. They were just different from the early nineties when Slik Toxik was a force to be reckoned with on the Toronto scene. Most of the songs appeared to be in Drop D and had a groove oriented feel to them in a Soundgarden vein. I recall at one point my wife commenting to me that one particular song sounded familiar. It was familiar because the riff and groove was very reminiscent to Marilyn Manson‘s “Beautiful People.” Not a bad thing because the song was memorable. If anything, Punishment, and Gale especially, was a continuation of where Slik Toxik left off on the Irrelevant album. To me that was a bonus because I loved that album a lot. Of course, Searl is a totally different singer than Nick Walsh, but the guitar grooves are reminiscant. The band was rounded out by bassist Mark Johnston and drummer Pat Carrano. The two were tight and flawless. They kept Punishment in check. In all, Punishment‘s performance was well done and I see a good future for this band. I look forward to catching them again.

TED POLEY:

As a huge Danger Danger fan, I had mixed feelings going into this show, but still chose to check it out regardless. My feeling was this, sometimes the chemistry of a band is made up of certain key members. The backbone isn’t always the singer. In Danger Danger’s case, Bruno Ravel and Steve West are the brain’s behind the operation and have kept the Danger Danger train rolling for years. My hope was that Ted Poley would be performing more of his solo stuff rather than Danger Danger material. Poley has released a number of solo albums over the years. The catalog of material he has to choose from is immense. If this was not the case and he chose to perform Danger Danger songs, they would be ones that the band rarely performs.

The band came on in true rock n roll fashion with Poley being escorted through the audience by security as the band patiently waited on stage for the master of ceremonies to arrive. Immediately, Poley got things started with Danger Danger‘s Horny SOB off the classic Screw It! album. It was well executed and Poley sounded great. This is a song that Danger Danger rarely plays, so my hope of obscure songs was firmly in place and it was nice to hear. But being there at the time, it’s was a double edged sword. I love hearing Poley sing these songs, but at the same time I think to myself, something is missing! Bruno Ravel and Steve West maybe? Horny SOB is a song that was written by the two and the two not being there was a little disheartening. I have so much respect for Ravel and West that I almost felt like I was cheating on a girlfriend. As you can probably tell, as the show is going on, I am fighting with my inner conscience. It’s like in the cartoons where the angel is on one side and the devil on the other. So I start telling myself, “I knew this going in. This isn’t a Danger Danger show. Try to enjoy it! Embrace what Poley is doing and be open minded”.

The next song Poley played was a nice change of pace. Poley dug back into his Bone Machine catalog and played Man Alive. A very cool song with a great feel. For those who aren’t familiar with Bone Machine, this was the band created by Poley after his dismissal from Danger Danger in the early ’90s. At this point, I started to think that maybe Poley was going to dive into his whole career and give the audience something other than just rehashed Danger Danger songs.

Well that would not be so. Poley‘s solo catalog would be short lived for the time being. He quickly went into Shot Of Love from Danger Danger‘s lessor known masterpiece Cockroach. For me, the next two songs would be the highlight of the night. The Cockroach album is possibly my favourite album ever. And I honestly mean ever. It’s my deserted island choice. The band did a nice job of duplicating the feel of the song. On the next song from the Cockroach masterpiece, which I admittedly had a hard time deciphering at first, but quickly listened closely and caught my bearings. “Afraid Of Love” may be one of the greatest ballads ever written by the band. I will say that bassist Pete Ruello did a decent job of duplicating Bruno Ravel‘s fantastic background vocals on this song. I was starting to feel that maybe my apprehensions of this show were starting to subside and I could really look past this not being a Danger Danger show.

Poley changed gears once again and would play the one and only song from his recent solo album, Beyond the Fade. “Let’s Start Something” got the crowd moving. The song went over quite well and really had a great riff behind it. So far, so good… But that would all change quickly. To my disappointment, this would be the last of the material from Poley‘s solo catalog. From here on out, it would be Danger Danger classics.

“Don’t Walk Away” was well received by the audience. It was apparent that Danger Danger‘s classic self-titled album was what the audience wanted to hear from Poley on this night, so I really couldn’t blame him for the choice of material that would come. Poley wasn’t there to just appease me, but to the 300 plus people who had bought tickets to this show. Poley quickly jumped off the stage and into the audience where he performed the whole song with microphone cable lagging behind. The cable lagging behind was something I found very old school, with today’s technology, I would have thought Poley would use a wireless. My wife quickly made her way through the crowd and got a photo with Poley as he was singing.

Ted Poley playing “Don’t Walk Away” at the Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 11, 2016:

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Don’t Walk Away” Toronto, Ontario 2017

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Don’t Walk Away” The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub, Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 11/ 2017

One thing I will credit Poley for, is that every time I have seen this man perform he is always smiling and giving the crowd the thumbs up. Tonight was no different from past performances. Poley was there to entertain and have a good time. Poley kept the crowd going when he quickly sang the opening lines to “Bang Bang.” The audience went crazy and sang along to Poley‘s every word. As Poley played this song, I thought it was different from how Danger Danger does it now. Danger Danger no longer performs the vocal intro, going right into the first line of the song… “It was a warm night, on the south side of town” etc… Poley did it as it appears on the album. A nice little twist that I thought was cool.

The next two songs Poley performed are ones that I honestly admit I do not truly love. “One Step From Paradise” and “Feels Like Love” — these songs to me are a little too keyboard heavy and light sounding. In my mind, if Poley is doing Danger Danger songs, my preference would be to hear more from Screw It! or Cockroach, but I get it, the self-titled album is the most recognized. If asked, and like that’s gonna happen, I would have preferred to hear “Under The Gun” rather than the other two songs. Poley sounded dead on on these compositions though and the audience really ate it up. He had them eating out of the palm of his hands.

The night’s show was quickly drawing to an end as Poley announced that himself and the band would be doing two more songs. Poley then made it known that they would be heading to the merch table after the show to drink and sign CDs. I quickly noticed that guitarist Maz Mazza was putting his guitar into Drop D tuning. I thought maybe they would be performing “Sick Little Twisted Mind” from Cockroach. In knowing the Danger Danger music so well, much of the catalog is played in standard tuning. It was surprising to me when the band broke into “Monkey Business” from the classic Screw It! album. I had never quite heard the guitar part played in that tuning and I was open to Mazza‘s interpretation.

Ted Poley playing “Monkey Business” at the Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 11, 2016:

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Monkey Business” Toronto, Ontario 2017

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Monkey Business” The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub, Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 11/ 2017

As “Monkey Business” ended, bassist Ruello quickly broke into the opening bass line of “Naughty Naughty.” I was a little confused at the bass sound. Bruno Ravel always plays that part with a very clean tone. Ruello‘s tone was more distorted. I have to admit my blood boiled a little bit and I think at this point I was just being critical, looking for something to find wrong about the show, which I shouldn’t have. There’s that devil on my shoulder again. As I stated before, to me, a band’s beauty is in the players that created the original sound and no matter how the musician replicating the original tries, in your mind, they just don’t give it the same justice that you have come to expect. Although Ruello did play the part correctly and precisely, I think I was being far too objective and really wanting to stick up for the musicians who originally played on this song. I think as human being, it’s a natural reaction.

Mazza‘s guitar parts were decently accurate with the exception of the non-existant clean, chorused guitar in the verse that adds a depth and dynamic to Poley‘s vocal. Again, here’s me being critical and biased. In my eyes, there is only one Danger Danger and the music really can’t be duplicated as well by others. I will note Rob Marcello did replace Andy Timmons, but Marcello is Marcello. A true virtuoso who may be the greatest guitarist on the planet. Marcello has always played Timmons‘ parts with flavour. Only straying when it really fits. That to me is what makes a true virtuoso guitarist. Marcello can take some else’s song and you don’t even notice when he improvises. I am not taking anything away from Mazza‘s performance because he did play the songs 99% accurate and he is a great player. The bottom line is, as it was pointed out to me by a friend, there aren’t too many Timmons or Marcello‘s on this planet and Mazza was up for this challenge, to which I think he was successful. As “Naughty Naughty” was coming to a close, singer Darren James Smith of Red Dragon Cartel joined the band on the singing of the chorus. For those who are fans of Smith‘s, it was a nice touch. For me, I thought it was odd, as Smith really wasn’t performing there that night, just in the crowd catching up with old musician friends and fans. Then again, Smith is relatively known in the Toronto rock circuit and it didn’t take anything anyway from Poley‘s performance. No harm, no foul!!!

 

Ted Poley playing “Naughty Naughty” at the Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 11, 2016:

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Naughty Naughty” Toronto, Ontario 2017

Ted Poley (Danger Danger) “Naughty Naughty” The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub, Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 11/ 2017

Just when you thought Poley was leaving, he called for another song and the band broke into the KISS classic “Rock N Roll All Nite.” The band was then joined by all the singers from the previous bands that played that night, as well Darren James Smith. By this point I felt that Poley and band had lost me. It felt to me like it had become a jam night at the local bar. That’s just me being possibly being critical again. Maybe my expectations are just too high. I believe in professionalism and these situations take away from that. It’s not the first time a band has done it and I am sure it won’t be the last.

In all, Poley and co. were very good and as I have stated, it was the good cop/bad cop scenario playing out in my head throughout the whole show. With that said, generally, I am not the biggest proponent of the lead singer going out performing all of the songs that his band — as a band had success with — as a solo artist. Poley sounded great, but to me he would have sounded greater with Bruno Ravel, Steve West and Rob Marcello backing him. The same applies to Vince Neil, Bret Michaels or Stephen Pearcy. The chemistry these artists possess with their respective bands cannot be duplicated and that is what got them to their height of success.

When I first saw Vince Neil as a solo artist, it was fantastic because he was doing songs from his Exposed album with a couple Mötley tunes thrown in. Now, I wouldn’t pay ten cents to see Neil performing all the Mötley hits with a back up band. If Neil was to dive back into his previous solo material live, I would easily pay. I realize these guys need to work and really do work hard. At the same time, I guess it could be said that certain artists are riding the coat tails of the songwriters who originally wrote the songs. To me in some ways, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That’s me as a musician and songwriter though. I attribute it to when you buy a pair of knock off jeans. They fit the same, they look the same but something just doesn’t feel right. You know in your heart you wanted the real thing, but couldn’t afford it. With today’s musical climate, that’s what this all comes down to… money.

Having Ted Poley fly into Canada as a solo artist will cost a venue a lot less than having Danger Danger fly in. You factor in flights, hotels, food, alcohol for the band and it gets quite pricey. And the question is this? If it’s Danger Danger, will the numbers equate in terms of ticket sales? How many more tickets would be sold for Danger Danger, as opposed to Ted Poley? So we get Ted Poley as a solo artist playing Danger Danger songs. That’s not a bad thing because the man can still sing, he performs his ass off and the audience gets a glimpse of what Danger Danger is. Everyone goes home happy. Unfortunately in 2017, this is the state of music. People don’t buy new CDs, so Ted is forced to perform songs from days gone by. I am sure if you asked him, he would prefer to play 80% of his solo stuff and 20% Danger Danger. It’s just the marketplace and it must be frustrating. I hope I am not coming off as negative. To me, it’s just the true fact of what the industry has become.

Ted as a vocalist and as a performer is fantastic. His band was overall very good. If you’re able to look past it being just the singer, with a back up band, performing his band’s hits, then I highly recommend the Ted Poley band. For me, I prefer the real thing and I am not saying I would never see Poley again, but if I had the choice it would be Poley with Danger Danger. I will note and it made perfect sense to me that I made my feelings known that evening to my wife as we were leaving — about Poley doing songs written by others. Her immediate reaction was that Poley still sang those songs and people recognize that. He is the frontman. Does it tarnish the “brand” of Danger Danger? And in 2017, I have to admit I despise the word “brand” in terms of music artists. Quite possibly. But does the average listener care that Bruno Ravel and Steve West wrote these songs?  They associate Danger Danger with Ted Poley‘s voice. So no matter how I regard this situation, Poley still gives 100% and entertained all who were there.

Ted Poley’s setlist:
01. Horny SOB
02. Man Alive
03. Shot Of Love
04. Afraid Of Love
05. Let’s Start Something
06. Don’t Walk Away
07. Bang Bang
08. One Step From Paradise
09. Feels Like Love
10. Monkey Business
11. Naughty Naughty
12. Rock N Roll All Nite