THE BULLETBOYS PUNK N’ “ROLLOVER” LEESBURG, VIRGINIA, USA
Date: August 16, 2019
Venue: Tally Ho Theater
Location: Leesburg, Virginia, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos and drawing: Jeff Onorato
Los Angeles punk n’ roll veterans the Bulletboys surprised fans when they announced a round of late-summer/gall tour dates around early July. When I heard that they were hitting the road, I immediately checked out their tour itinerary to find a show in my area. As luck would have it, their August 16th stop at the Tally Ho Theater in Virginia is just a few hours’ drive for me. So I decided to take a road trip to catch what was sure to be a great show. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the BulletBoys on several occasions over the years, and they’re always phenomenal live. With that in mind, I always look forward to catching them in concert and have no trepidation about buying tickets to their shows. I’ve been a BulletBoys fan from the word “go.” I can still recall the first time I saw them on MTV and heard frontman Marq Torien scream “Smooth Up In Ya” at the beginning of their hit single of the same name. I just stared at my TV with intrigue thinking “what IS that?” They sounded a lot like the bastard child of Roth-era Van Halen with an infusion of soul on their Ted Templeman produced debut, and they’ve had me hooked ever since. Every album, every tour, and I’m there.
Their newest effort, 2018’s excellent From Out of The Skies, sounds nothing like their debut album. And why would it? Thirty years have passed since the BulletBoys‘ first hit the music scene and dropped their debut album on the masses. As a young kid, I didn’t yet understand the correlation of an album’s producer to what is considered the “sound” of the finished product. Looking back, Templeman’s involvement in the band’s first two albums definitely explain that noticeable Van Halen influence we hear. Much like Mutt Lange or Bob Rock bring a trademark “sound” to records that they produce. And honestly, most bands from that era probably were influenced by Van Halen to some degree. Only vocalist / lead guitarist Marq Torien remains from the classic line-up of the band as heard on those first few albums, but the current configuration of the group includes an incredible roster of musicians. This tour sees long-time guitarist Nick Rozz and bassist Chad MacDonald joined by recently returned drummer Stephen Mills. They play so well that your ears might just trick your mind into thinking that they’ve been in the band since the beginning.
Regional area favorites American Jetset opened up the show, and as always brought plenty of energy and attitude to the stage with them. This band is hungry and they aren’t phoning it in. They play with such fervor and intensity and have the chops to back it all up. Admittedly, opening acts can be tedious to sit through at times. That’s definitely not the case with these guys. This was only my second time seeing them, having just been introduced to their music at the MB4 show in Halethorpe, Maryland back in May. When I saw that they were opening up for the BulletBoys, I made a point of getting to the venue early enough to catch their show. Showcasing material from their Live, Love Die on Main EP, they kicked off their performance with the fantastic opening number “Go It Alone.” The song reminds me of old Guns N’ Roses, especially at the chorus. It also happens to be the first song on the EP. Fans of Live, Love Die on Main were in for a treat on this night. The band played almost every song from the disc with the only exception being “Shameless.” “Forgotten Tragedies”, “Live, Love, Die” and “Monsters” were all in the show. There are a lot of different influences running through their music, and while they do carry the flag for the great sleaze rock bands of the eighties and nineties, to simply label them a sleaze rock band would be selling their music short.
With bratty vocals and nasty guitar riffs overtop of drummer Jeff Bradford’s pummeling drum beats, there are well defined elements of sleaze rock in their sound. Some of their songs have a modern spin though and there’s more to American Jetset beneath the surface. Case in point; their awesome cover of “Don’t Change” by INXS. It’s considered a classic in the INXS catalog and has been getting a lot of love from bands covering it this summer. Faster Pussycat have been playing the song out on their current tour, and American Jetset performed an excellent version in their set as well. Their up-tempo, almost punky take on the song got the crowd pumped up and American Jetset’s version is just proof of their versatility.
My favorite moment of their show was when they broke out “This Ain’t Hollywood.” This single has such a catchy chorus and infectious melody that will get stuck in your head for days after hearing it. The lyrics have a great message as well for anyone who’s ever felt defeated. Shout out to drummer Jeff Bradford for the cool Maryland flag wrap on his customized drum kit! Appropriately, American Jetset have shared bills with a wide array of artists including Every Mother’s Nightmare, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Living Colour and The 69 Eyes to name just a few. I could even see them touring with a band like The Darkness or The Wildhearts. They play locally and beyond and have an upcoming show in Los Angeles on September 27th with Jack Russell’s Great White. American Jetset are on the rise. If you’ve never caught them, what are you waiting for?
American Jetset’s setlist on Aug. 16, 2019:
01. Go It Alone
02. Forgotten Tragedies
03. Live, Love, Die
04. One More Time Around
05. Don’t Change
06. Gold & Nines
07. This Ain’t Hollywood
08. 1,000 Ghosts
American Jetset performing live at the Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg, Virginia, USA on August 16, 2019:
American Jetset Opening up for Bulletboys. Venue = Tally Ho Location = Leesburg, VA Date = 08-16-2019 Facebook band page = https://www.facebook.com/americanjetset/ https://www.americanjetset.com/
Love N Revenge:
Direct support on this run of shows came from Love N Revenge, who are out on tour in advance of the release of their upcoming album on RFL Records. I only recently got into Love N Revenge when I heard their 2017 album Karma, but they are hardly newcomers to the music business. Fans may remember guitarist (and songwriter) Damon Kelly from his previous band Rockarma. They’ve shared stages with a veritable who’s who in the world of rock n’ roll. In Kelly’s current incarnation of Love N Revenge, he’s joined by lead singer KC Chain, bassist Jay Jensen, guitarist Kevin Hunter and drummer Tommy John in what might just be the pinnacle line-up for the band. Damon Kelly has found some true talent with the addition of Canadian vocalist KC Chain.
With a strong stage presence that commands attention and a stellar voice, KC absolutely wailed throughout their set as they performed tracks from Karma and covers of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and SteelHeart‘s “Stand Up And Shout.” There aren’t many singers that can hit the notes that Miljenko Matijevic reaches in the SteelHeart original, but KC has the pipes and comes pretty close! When I heard drummer Tommy John and bassist Jay Jensen starting into the intro of the cult favorite, I was a bit worried. There aren’t many bands that can execute this faithful to the original. All of my doubts were cast aside as KC belted out “Stand Up And Shout” over the thunderous rhythm section. Wow! I thought my jaw was going to hit the ground. I predict very big things for this young man in his career.
But what I really like about Love N Revenge is that they aren’t afraid to just be themselves. Regardless of current trends, they do what they do best and Karma is a testament to that. To my ears, the album is reminiscent of early Dokken with its strong harmonies and incendiary guitar licks. I also hear traces of Mötley Crüe, KISS and AC/DC in their sound. How can you go wrong with that combination? Their music is heavy on melody and anthemic choruses with relatable song lyrics about debauchery and life in the fast lane. Chances are good that you’ll identify with the song “It’s Rock n’ Roll” if you’re reading this review. You’ll want to turn that song (and the rest of Karma) way up when you hear it. Their forthcoming album was preceded by the single “All 4 U” earlier this year. If the first single is any indication of things to come, I’m really looking forward to hearing the rest of the CD with it hits the streets. Love N Revenge have mastered the formula for great arena rock, which has them well poised to play those very same venues in the near future.
Hitting the Tally Ho stage like a wrecking ball, the BulletBoys came out swinging with an unexpected opening number “What Cha Don’t“, and from that moment on, I had little doubt that they would be turning the club on its side that evening. This song is what I would consider to be a “deep cut” on From Out of The Skies so it was very cool to hear live for the first time. And it worked! From there it was straight back to 1988 as the band hammered out “Hard As A Rock” and “Hell On My Hells” from their eponymous debut.
Two classics (and staples of any BulletBoys show) were up next. “Symphony” and “Rollover” from their 2015 album Elefante were as well received as ever by those in attendance. Admittedly, I was a tad disappointed when I heard that drummer Anthony “Tiny” Biuso wouldn’t be joining the band on this run of dates. The man simply crushes it behind the kit and I’ve always thought that he’s a great fit for the band. That being said, drummer Stephen Mills played all the songs perfectly and didn’t miss a beat. An act at the level of the BulletBoys obviously aren’t going to hire someone without chops to go out on the road with them, but Mills hit the drums hard and was like a cyclone behind the kit. Fans may remember Stephen from previous years. He also provided the drum tracks on the Elefante record.
Bassist Chad MacDonald perched over the front of the stage and stood his bass guitar upright as the opening notes of their next song slithered out of his bass to begin “THC Groove”, before the full band came crashing in full-force on the monstrous tune from Freakshow. Sadly, it was the only song that they played from that album. “Hang On St. Christopher” was nowhere to be found. I think it’s a really unique song that shows a whole different dynamic of the band. Is it a ballad? Is it a rock song? Maybe next time. “For The Love of Money” continued the onslaught and it’s another song of theirs that as soon as you hear the roll of the drums, you know it’s going to be good.
Without slowing down through their entire performance, I’m always amazed at how lead vocalist / guitarist Marq Torien sings as well as he does while simultaneously handling lead guitar duties. To fellow musicians, it may seem like an easy thing, but from the perspective of someone who doesn’t play music it’s mind boggling. One minute, he’s singing like a bird and the next he’s screaming like a banshee into the microphone while simultaneously ripping away on the guitar. And rhythm guitarist Nick Rozz isn’t exactly a slouch on the instrument either. He cranks out sinister groove after groove, laying down the foundation of the songs with Torien tackling the majority of the leads. And they make it look easy.
The second cover song in their set came in the form of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones, with bassist Chad MacDonald singing lead vocals. From a fan standpoint, this was cool to see and hear. It isn’t often that you hear a BulletBoys song without Torien at the microphone. The BulletBoys set this evening was on the shorter side of the spectrum, and they wrapped up their show with the hit “Smooth Up In Ya.” Before leaving the stage, frontman Marq Torien took a few moments to briefly speak to the captive audience and remind everyone to keep the faith in this age of violence and uncertainty in America. In the spirit of peace, he said to go out into the world and “spread love, not hate.” Well said, Marq. These are words to live by.
Bulletboys’ setlist on August 16, 2019:
01. What Cha Don’t
02. Hard As A Rock
03. Hell On My Heels
06. THC Groove
07. For The Love of Money
08. Blitzkrieg Bop (lead vocals by Chad MacDonald)
09. Smooth Up In Ya
In my free time I sometimes draw up pictures of my favorite rock bands. I found a photo of the BulletBoys during the 2018 Hair Nation Tour that I thought would make a cool illustration and the result is above. My drawing of the Bulletboys:
Trivia Question: BulletBoys frontman Marq Torien provided lead vocals for which L.A. band on their 1997 album? Hint: the initials of the album are L.O.L. No cheating!