FASTER PUSSCYAT AND BANG TANGO PUT ON GREAT PERFORMANCES IN FRONT OF PACKED HOUSE
Date: July 25, 2019
Venue: Club XL Live
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Review, photos & drawing: Jeff Onorato
When I first heard that Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango were teaming up for this summer’s Return To The Sunset Strip tour, I was psyched to say the least. I’ve been a fan of both bands for as long as I can remember, and consider both iconic to the Los Angeles / Southern California music scene. While their recorded output has waned in recent years, both bands continue to tour and play shows regularly. From a marketing standpoint, this package is obviously a great pairing since both bands are from the same era and share a fan base to some degree. The heydays of the Sunset Strip may be long gone, but that didn’t stop Bang Tango and Faster Pussycat from packing the house for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania stop of their tour at Club XL.
The music of both Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango has evolved over the years, and one certainly cannot fault any artist for wanting to experiment and grow creatively. Otherwise, it would be like painting the same picture, year after year. While their more current musical offerings are not all that similar to one another, both bands still deliver what is essentially guitar-driven hard rock with great melodies and hooks within the foundation of memorable songs. Faster Pussycat and Bang Tango were also label mates at one point, having both been signed to Cleopatra / Deadline Records in the late nineties.
Two great local cover bands, Time Bomb and Leadfoot, got the crowd primed and ready for the headliners with fantastic renditions of all the ’80s classics that one might find on Sirius XM’s Hair Nation. Most impressive was the enthusiasm and accuracy that the songs were delivered with. Time Bomb tackled hits from FireHouse, Van Halen, Whitesnake and Autograph while leaving Poison, Mötley Crüe, Warrant and the BulletBoys to Leadfoot. I have to give a nod to Leadfoot for the exceptional mash-up they did of Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head” with “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies and “Jump Around” by House of Pain spliced in. Yes, you read that correctly.
Following opening band Leadfoot, Bang Tango were first to the stage. I last saw Bang Tango perform at the M3 Rock Festival back in May, and I confess to being a bit disappointed with that performance. The band members certainly gave it their all that day and performed like professionals, but they seemed to be battling sound issues that ultimately resulted in their short set failing to really take off for me. It is with great joy that I report that their performance on this night saw no such obstacles. Kicking down the door with opening number “Don’t Count Me Out “ from Love After Death, Joe LeSte and company were at the top of their game this time around and truly took no prisoners. They played eight songs during their short but killer set, and stuck to their most recognizable material. “Attack of Life”, “Wrap My Wings”, “Love Injection”, United And True” and “Soul To Soul” were among them. LeSte never stopped prowling the stage throughout their set, and took time to joke with the audience in between songs. Bassist Lance Eric and drummer Timmy Russell make for an awesome rhythm section too. They seemingly had the club shaking with those funky basslines and hypnotic grooves that helped to set Bang Tango apart from other bands back in the late eighties. “Someone Like You” rounded out their show and left the crowd wanting more as Bang Tango exited the stage.
And then, it was time. The moment I had waited months to see. The lights in the club dropped, and much like a sky full of dark clouds warn of an approaching storm, Faster Pussycat took the stage. From the first chords of “Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way“, I knew it was on. The hard hitting “Jack The Bastard” followed it up, and as I was listening I couldn’t help but think that the Whipped! album should have been bigger for the band. There’s a lot of great material on that record, but unfortunately it was released in a time when the musical tide was shifting. It was cool to hear the album revisited later in the show via Friends, which is new to Faster Pussycat’s set. The Stones-y ballad is a nice addition to “Jack The Bastard”, which has been a staple in their setlist for quite some time. I’m often intrigued at how bands choose which songs they’re going to play and this was one of those moments. If I had to guess which song they would have added from Whipped!, it would have been the single “Nonstop To Nowhere”, but I’m certainly not complaining. Speaking of staples, “Cathouse”, “Bathroom Wall” and “Don’t Change That Song” were all present and accounted for. Again, no complaints from me. Bassist Danny Nordahl took over lead vocals in the middle of “Bathroom Wall” for a short detour into “Pretty Fucked Up” before resuming course for the finale of the song. Those songs from their eponymous debut still sound great live, thirty years later.
Three covers were tackled during the show, and the true surprise of the evening came in the form of one originally recorded by INXS. Their decision to take on “Don’t Change” by the Australian pop / rock band had me scratching my head at first, but it actually sounded great. Michael Hutchence from INXS and Taime Downe sound nothing alike vocally, but their uptempo take on the original version just worked. Props to guitarist Xristian Simon for his execution of those new-wave, synth sounding guitar parts. It’s commendable to me when bands cover a song by another artist and really make it their own. In the case of “Don’t Change”, I think Faster Pussycat have certainly accomplished that. Another surprise for me was the new band member up on stage with them. Budderside guitarist Sam “Bam” Koltun has joined Faster Pussycat for their summer jaunt, and he fit in really well with the rest of the band. You’d never know this was his first tour with them. I thought that his style of playing fit right in with the other members of the band and he brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to their performance. Not to mention his flawless guitar solos. “You’re So Vain” and “Shut Up and Fuck” by Betty Blowtorch rounded out the cover songs in the set.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since we’ve heard any new music from Taime and the guys. The Power And The Glory Hole came out in 2006 and I’d say that new music is long overdue. Even if they were just to release a few new songs, I’d be satisfied with that. I personally like The Power And The Glory Hole, and felt like it was a natural progression for the band when it was released. Sonically, it also helped to bridge Taime Downe’s Newlydeads project back to Faster Pussycat territory. The Power And The Glory Hole really is a cool album in their catalog and I think it’s one that fans would like if they gave it a listen. For their less intrepid followers who may not want to buy or download the entire album, “Number 1 With a Bullet” and the title track were included in the set and give an inkling as to the tone of the record.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been a fan of Faster Pussycat forever. They were basically the soundtrack to my adolescence. Earlier this year, I illustrated them in the drawing below as a tribute to the band that has brought me countless hours of listening enjoyment through the years. I think it’s safe to say that both Bang Tango and Faster Pussycat have undoubtedly inspired a new generation of musicians and left a lasting mark on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.
Faster Pussycat’s setlist:
01. Where There’s A Whip There’s A Way
02. Jack The Bastard
04. Slip of The Tongue
05. Number 1 With A Bullet
06. The Power And The Glory Hole
07. Don’t Change That Song
08. You’re So Vain (Carly Simon cover)
09. House of Pain
10. Don’t Change (INXS cover)
12. Bathroom Wall / Pretty Fucked Up
13. Shut Up And Fuck (Betty Blowtorch cover)