PARADISE KITTY STEAL THE SHOW
Date: July 29, 2018
Venue: The Montage Music Hall
Location: Rochester, New York, USA
After a horrific afternoon of battling bumper to bumper traffic, which resulted in my friend and Decibel Geek editor Rich “The Meister” Dillon reluctantly giving up on going to see Quiet Riot in Le Roy, New York, USA, we were at it again two days later to see Faster Pussycat along with openers Paradise Kitty (all female Guns N’ Roses L.A. based tribute band) and comic Don Jamieson play at The Montage Music Hall in Rochester, New York, USA.
So what happened the first night you may ask? What should have been a less than three hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Le Roy, New York, USA turned into a bumper to bumper nightmare ride on the QEW highway that led to the Canada – USA border. After spending more than three hours in mostly bumper to bumper traffic on the QEW and still not out of the Hamilton, Ontario area, Rich and I concluded at about 6:20 pm that we would not be able to make it on time to see Quiet Riot at Jam On The Ridge since we only had about 100 minutes left to make the more than two hour drive (under normal traffic conditions) along with an unpredictable wait time to do the border crossing. Although there was no official set time posted for Quiet Riot‘s set start, Rich and I felt that we had pretty good information that Quiet Riot would start by 8:00 pm and the band was to be off the stage by 9:30 or 10:00 pm. Accordingly, a beautiful Friday afternoon turned into a very long five hour ride to nowhere.
Despite what can only be deemed to have been a very unsuccessful road trip to see a concert, The Meister and I were at it again on a Sunday afternoon taking the same route on the Canadian side that proved to be the nail in our coffin so to speak two nights earlier. With traffic reduced to bumper to bumper during some parts of the Canadian journey and a long one hour wait to cross the border from Canada to the US, The Meister and I were lucky that we budgeted an extra two hours to get to Rochester, New York. That turned out to be a great move because had we not done so, we would have likely missed what turned out to be the most pleasant surprise of the night.
For those who have been to The Rockpile in Toronto, The Montage Music Hall has a sort of similar set up with a triangular shaped stage but a wider and larger general admission area with lower ceilings and darker lighting. Rich and I were excited to be checking out a new band as Maybe Never were about to take the stage. There was a pretty good crowd on hand as The Meister and I made our way close to the stage. With a little polite maneuvering, I got to within one row of the stage while Rich stayed further back. Maybe Never were first up and they really looked the part of a rock n’ roll band. Not to insult the band members in any way but they looked like experienced musicians and stage performers. Bassist A.D. Zimmer must have been at least 6 foot 4, sported a big smile and moved around quite a bit. Guitarist Steve Cone looked like the grizzled veteran while playing a V shaped guitar and some solid guitar riffs. Drummer Aaron Robinson seemingly likes to work out as he was sporting some big pipes while laying down the beat. Finally, female lead vocalist Jody Luce looked fantastic with her long flowing blond hair and sounded even better with her powerful vocals.
Maybe Never had a good following present at the show as it seemed that every second person was sporting a band t-shirt near the front of the stage. While all of the band’s songs sounded good and I would rate the group’s music as the heaviest on this night, it wasn’t until the track “Hangman” that I really started getting into the group’s set. Interestingly, Cone advised the crowd that the band was playing “Hangman” for the first time. What Cone elected to leave out and what Rich and I learned after the group’s set at its merchandise booth was this was only Maybe Never‘s second ever gig. Both Rich and I were very impressed as the group sounded really tight and looked like it had been around for a number of years. As it turns out, Maybe Never have only been around since April 2017 and have released a 14 song debut album earlier this year. Getting back to Maybe Never‘s set, the group followed up the song “Hangman” with “Something About You.” Both songs seemed to have more melody than the first few songs that Maybe Never had played. Maybe Never then proceeded to play a rather catchy and spirited song called “Everybody Up.” By that time, I was very excited about Maybe Never. The band finished its very strong set with a spirited rendition of the Led Zeppelin classic “Communication Breakdown.” After the show, Rich and I made sure to purchase the group’s debut CD, which turned out to be “lighter” sounding than when the band played live.
Maybe Never’s setlist:
01. Smells Like Sin
02. Ghost Me
03. With Blood
04. In The Water
06. Something About You
07. Everybody Up
08. Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin cover)
This was not the first time that I was seeing Don Jamieson’s comedy routine as he was on tour with Hookers & Blow a couple of years ago and I caught his comedy routine during the Toronto tour stop. I have to say that although Jamieson was more than qualified to be there as a former That Metal Show co-host, I would have liked to see another band play rather than listen to his comedy routine. Although that’s how I felt, I will point out that Jamieson had a sizeable crowd listening to him and laughing along as he cracked joke after joke mostly sticking to the heavy metal and sex topics. My friend Rich who had seen Jamieson perform a number of times on the Monsters of Rock Cruise was laughing when he heard Jamieson tell the story of doing his comedy routine (which involved some swearing) on the Monsters of Rock Cruise next to a more family oriented cruise boat. Rich was apparently there that fateful day. You can just imagine how poorly Jamieson‘s jokes would have went over to some of the people on the family oriented cruise ship. Overall, I didn’t stick around to hear all of Jamieson‘s jokes but he did have me smiling and laughing from time to time.
You’ve probably noticed that Sleaze Roxx does not usually cover tribute bands. First of all, can you imagine how many bands that Sleaze Roxx would have to cover if it gave coverage to every tribute band? To start with, there must be an AC/DC tribute band in every North American major city. Second of all, I think it is a lot more work to write your own songs and come up with enough strong original material to put on a killer set. Finally, I have always thought of The Iron Maidens as the exception to the rule in terms of not covering tribute bands since The Iron Maidens offer something truly different from Iron Maiden as an all-female rock band playing Maiden tunes. Paradise Kitty do the same except they pay tribute to the mighty Guns N’ Roses.
It seemed to take forever for Paradise Kitty to start their set as first off, all of the band members could be seen fine-tuning their instruments and making sure that the sound was just right. My friend Rich who had seen Paradise Kitty on a number of previous occasions advised that the band’s line-up had changed considerably with only lead vocalist Jenna Syde and drummer Rachel Rine as the only remaining band members from the last time that he saw the band play live. I’ll get back to Syde later in this review. I must say that diminutive lead guitarist Ariel Bellvalaire was very impressive. She handled most of the guitar solos, moved around quite a bit, sported a big smile highlighted by her red lipstick and even did the splits while playing a portion of her guitar solo during “Paradise City.” Rhythm guitarist Shani Kimelman was a little more subdued but often smiled her million dollar smile showing how much she was enjoying performing live. I am not sure who the bassist was as she is seemingly not listed on Paradise Kitty‘s Facebook page but she was definitely the most timid member of the band in terms of stage performance on this night.
Getting back to Paradise Kitty frontwoman Jenna Syde, she was perhaps the best female performer that I had ever seen. The tall woman with the flashy red hair, and tight red and yellow catsuit simply dominated all night long with an impressive performance. She covered the stage very well. She addressed the crowd often and appropriately getting the audience to cheer many times. It was very difficult not to keep my eyes on her as she simply captivated my attention. Given that Paradise Kitty were not playing any original material and playing Guns N’ Roses songs, they had a huge head start on Maybe Never in terms of connecting with the audience. It was a given that most people would know most, if not all of the songs, played by Paradise Kitty so it just came down to performance and setlist. With Guns N’ Roses‘ debut album Appetite For Destruction being one of the best records of all time, Paradise Kitty certainly had a lot to choose from in terms of their setlist. Quite simply, Paradise Kitty‘s setlist was phenomenal and one that I would like the actual Guns N’ Roses to be playing in concert (with a few more tracks from the Use Your Illusion I and II albums) without all the other filler material that the latter’s three hour concert entails. With ten songs out of twelve being played from the classic Appetite For Destruction, it was simply almost impossible for Paradise Kitty to go wrong. Taking into account the phenomenal live performance from the band and in particular from Syde and Bellvalaire, I was a bit surprised to feel that I preferred Paradise Kitty‘s set over Maybe Never‘s solid performance and as it turns out, Paradise Kitty set the bar way too high for Faster Pussycat to follow.
Paradise Kitty’ setlist:
01. Out Ta Get Me
02. Mr. Brownstone
04. Rocket Queen
05. Welcome To The Jungle
06. Sweet Child O’ Mine
07. You Could Be Mine
08. Mama Kin
09. It’s So Easy
10. My Michelle
11. Used To Love Her
12. Paradise City
With one very hard act to follow (Paradise Kitty), Faster Pussycat were up next. Having seen Faster Pusscyat play before (in 2013 and recently at the M3 Rock Festival earlier this year), I knew exactly what to expect from the band simply because there aren’t many changes to the setlist and show. Everything starts off with band stalwart Taime Downe. Although I am definitely happy to see Downe rocking away and doing seemingly well after his health scare last year, the singer unfortunately doesn’t move a whole lot on stage and hardly tries to even connect with the audience. Aside from saying something to the likes of “How is it going motherfuckers?” and “We’re Faster Pussycat”, Downe lets the music do the talking.
Given that Downe is the only original member left from the group, the rest of the band members reminded me of the documentary Hired Gun, which can be seen on Netflix. For those who haven’t seen it, Hired Gun has many musicians such as bassist Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio and many others), guitarist Phil X (Bon Jovi) and guitarist Nita Strauss (Femme Fatale, The Iron Maidens, Alice Cooper) who have worked for famous musicians and discuss what it’s like to be a “hired gun” and how you have to be on every night. What the various musicians do not state during the documentary is that you can’t upstage the famous musician in the band. In other words, Nita Strauss can’t be seen upstaging Alice Cooper (which would be hard in the first place) aside from when she is given the spotlight.
In Faster Pussycat‘s case, that essentially means that Downe‘s supporting cast of lead guitarist Ace Von Johnson, rhythm guitarist Xristian Simon, bassist Danny Nordahl and drummer Chad Stewart cannot upstage Downe on stage. This poses somewhat of a problem because Downe doesn’t do a whole on stage aside from standing while sitting, and standing and looking cool with his arms to his waist when not singing. That seemingly limits what Downe‘s supporting cast can do onstage and in particular Von Johnson who reminded me of former L.A. Guns guitarist Michael Grant who was seemingly held in shackles and holding himself back with Tracii Guns back in the band. It just felt like Von Johnson in particular could be doing so much more. I got a little glimpse of how Von Johnson would be as a frontman when he took a turn handling lead vocals towards the end of Faster Pussycat‘s set and I would love to see him take the reigns of a band. The problem of course, just like any hired gun, is that Von Johnson doesn’t have the well known song material to rely upon if he was to branch on his own and in this musical climate, he’s better off being a “hired gun.”
Not being super familiar with Faster Pussycat‘s discography aside from the debut self-titled album and the second record Wake Me When It’s Over (that I haven’t heard in more than 25 years), I was surprised to find out after the show that the band had played songs from all four of their studio albums with four from Faster Pussycat (1988), three from Wake Me When It’s Over (1989), three from Whipped! (1992) and three from The Power And The Glory Hole (2006). I could have done without the three songs played without Downe as Ace Von Johnson, Don Jamieson (who did a pretty good job) and Danny Nordahl took turns handling lead vocals. I know that this seems to be Faster Pussycat‘s routine to do that when playing live but I really don’t know why. I would much prefer Downe to handle the lead vocals all night and play some other Faster Pussycat material rather than cover songs. Towards the end of Faster Pussycat‘s set, I was just hoping that the band’s set would end knowing that I likely had between three to four hours of driving ahead of me (taking into account driving Rich home).
Faster Pussycat’s setlist:
01. Jack The Bastard
03. Slip Of The Tongue
04. Number 1 With a Bullet
05. The Power And The Glory Hole
06. You’re So Vain
07. Don’t Change That Song
08. House Of Pain
09. Nonstop To Nowhere
10. Where There’s A Whip There’s a Way
11. Bathroom Wall
12. [Unidentified song] (with Ace Von Johnson on lead vocals)
13. [Unidentified song] (with Don Jamieson on lead vocals)
14. Pretty Fucked Up (with Danny Nordahl on lead vocals)
15. Bathroom Wall (reprise)
16. Shut Up And Fuck