HELIX AND LEE AARON TURN BACK TIME WITH SPIRITED PERFORMANCES
Date: October 26, 2017
Venue: Rose Theatre Brampton
Location: Brampton, Ontario, Canada
One thing that has always impressed me about Helix is how many great songs that the veteran rockers have as I hear them play live. Helix really do have a vast underrated catalogue of songs and I am always pleasantly surprised how I know so many of their songs despite really only listening to a few of their albums (such as 1990’s Back For Another Taste) on a semi-regular basis. This was going to be my first concert ever in Brampton, which is another town/city adjacent to Toronto and part of the “GTA” (greater Toronto area) with the latter having a population of over five million people. I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the venue Rose Theatre Brampton but once again, it was a “wow” facility in that it was more akin to hosting operas in my mind than hard rock / heavy metal bands. You could tell by the elegant bar just outside the main theatre, the building’s big windows and the ushers inside the theatre taking you to your seats. Both Helix and Lee Aaron would benefit from a huge stage and lots of lights on this night. This was definitely the classiest venue that I had ever seen Helix (or Lee Aaron for that matter) play at.
Funny enough, when I first heard that Helix and Lee Aaron were playing together, I automatically assumed that Helix were the headliners but on the day of the show, I noticed a Facebook post stating that Helix were playing first at 8:00 pm. No need to say that I made sure to arrive by 8:00 pm! As stated, the venue itself looked spectacular. As an usher showed me to my seat and within minutes, I noticed that I must have been one of the ten youngest people attending the concert. Taking into account that I now have to consider myself in the dreaded “middle age” category, the audience on this night was an older one, likely filled with many people that followed both Helix and Lee Aaron since day one. As I sat in my assigned seat, I immediately thought “Man, this a comfy seat.” Just about everyone else in the audience must have thought the same thing because almost everyone stayed seated in their seats for both the spirited performances from Helix and Lee Aaron. You’ve got to give credit to both bands for being able to put on a great show despite most of the audience (including myself) staying firmly seated in their seats.
This was the third time that I was seeing the current Helix line-up live and which consists of long-time frontman Brian Vollmer, classic line-up members Greg ‘Fritz’ Hinz (drums) and Daryl Gray (bass), and guitarists Kaleb Duck and Chris Julke, and honestly, they always put on a great show (check out my concert reviews in April 2015 and November 2015). What was apparent once again is the chemistry between the band members as you could see how they seemingly enjoyed playing with each other. Given that the stage was so big and the “monitors” placed back quite far onto the stage, Vollmer often walked up in front of the monitors to take center stage and get closer to the audience. Vollmer was not the only one as sometimes Gray, Julke and Duck would all join him and often one of them would come up to get closer to the audience before retreating behind the “monitors” so they could sing their background vocals in their microphones nestled on their stands.
Once again, Helix showed that they have a rich history of great songs as they obviously played many songs from their likely highest selling albums — No Rest For The Wicked (1983), Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984) and Long Way To Heaven (1985) — but also threw in a new song (“The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight”) and another fairly new one — “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)” from the 2014 album Bastard Of The Blues). I was somewhat disappointed that there were no tracks played from my favorite Helix album Back For Another Taste (1990) but understand that the band was playing a shortened set given that they were presumably sharing the co-headlining status on this night with Lee Aaron since both played about the same number of songs. Just for loyal Sleaze Roxx reader Daven DeMeyer, there were three songs played from No Rest For The Wicked (1983), a whopping five songs from Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984), three tracks from Long Way To Heaven (1985), one song from Wild In The Streets (1987), a rare track (“Danger Zone”) from B-Sides (1999), and the aforementioned one track from Bastard Of The Blues (2014) and one new song “The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight” (2017).
It felt odd sitting for Helix‘s entire set but unlike my first experience when this type of thing was happening, this time I was quite content to just sit back, relax and enjoy the concert while singing along seated in my comfy chair. It was almost like sitting at home watching a DVD on a large television screen. All that was missing was some popcorn. It was nice also to be seated and have everyone else around me as well as it facilitated my task of taking photographs to accompany this review. Now, don’t get me wrong. Even though, just about everyone was seated for Helix‘s concert performance, there were many smiles in the audience and loud cheers between songs for the band. Vollmer was his usual entertaining self between songs regaling the audience with the history behind some of the tracks including that “Danger Zone” was the last song that he wrote with guitarist Paul Hackman who tragically lost his life in a bus accident involving the band back in 1992. Sadly, I couldn’t find any videos of Helix’s performance on YouTube to accompany this review so you’ll just have to take my word on what a great set that Helix delivered! My favorite tracks played on this night were “Kids Are All Shakin’,” “Deep Cuts The Knife” and “Dirty Dog.”
01. Long Way To Heaven
02. Wild In The Streets
03. Kids Are All Shakin’
04. The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight
05. Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)
06. Danger Zone
07. When The Hammer Falls
08. Make Me Do Anything You Want
09. Deep Cuts The Knife
10. No Rest For The Wicked
11. Drum Solo
12. Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’
13. Heavy Metal Love
14. Dirty Dog
15. Rock You
15. Six Strings, Nine Lives
For a fleeting moment, I thought about skipping Lee Aaron‘s set and leaving early to go home but I am glad that I didn’t end up doing that. I had like many others first discovered Lee Aaron through her video for her classic track “Metal Queen” and followed her more or less until her 1989 album Bodyrock. However, after that, I pretty much lost track of Lee Aaron until she released Fire And Gasoline in 2016 and apparently got back to her rocking ways. I had seen Lee Aaron once before in concert at the Gloucester Fair in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and although I was always under the impression that it was in 1987, it was apparently in 1990 according to setlist.fm.
What surprised me the most about Lee Aaron‘s set is how many songs I recognized that she played and how I really enjoyed the ones that I didn’t know. Kicking things off with “Tom Boy” from her latest album Fire And Gasoline, Lee Aaron mixed her older classics with her newer material very well. “Hands On” brought back a wave of memories as I believe that I had not heard that song in over 20 years (my Bodyrock CD along with most of my CD collection was stolen from me back in 1996 and I never replaced the Bodyrock one) yet here I was singing along to most of the words. Next up was a new song called “Diamond Baby” from Lee Aaron‘s upcoming new album, which she later described as a “blues infused contemporary album” and “a bunch of covers they made their own.” I’m not so sure about that description for the song “Diamond Baby” but I know that I really liked the track right away on a first listen. After hearing another new track (“I’m A Woman”), there is no doubt in my mind that I will be purchasing Lee Aaron‘s upcoming new album!
Lee Aaron, just like Vollmer before her, was very good at talking to the mostly seated crowd. I didn’t know but this was a sort of homecoming for the Canadian female singer as she advised growing up or “finding herself” (or something like that) in Brampton. In fact, Lee Aaron went to a high school somewhere in Brampton and she advised writing her classic “Metal Queen” I believe in her parents’ home in the suburban town. “Fire And Gasoline” was next and you could see that Lee Aaron and her very good backing band — consisting of guitarist Sean Kelly (who also writes a lot of songs with Vollmer), bassist Dave Reimer, drummer John Cody (who Lee Aaron introduced as the father of her two children) and a guitarist/keyboardist whose name escapes me — were having a lot of fun onstage. Clearly, I had forgotten how much I liked the Bodyrock album as “Sweet Talk” brought another wave of memories and had me singing along once again. Mixing old with new, Lee Aaron then launched into “50 Miles” from her latest album Fire And Gasoline. Another album that I should check out in its entirety.
From then on, there were quite a few songs that I didn’t know such as “Baby Go Round” and the encore “Odds Of Love” (which I identified via setlist.fm), and the new track “I’m A Woman” which turned out to be a killer rendition of a Koko Taylor — I know, who’s that? — cover. Lee Aaron closed off her set before coming back for an encore with arguably her three best known songs — “Only Human” which she described as her first top 40 hit, the song that put her on the map — “Metal Queen” — which Lee Aaron described as her Britney Spears‘ “Baby, One More Time” moment and of course “Whatcha Do To My Body.”
Lee Aaron‘s set turned out to be a really good greatest hits set mixed in with many new songs. The breakdown of her set on this night was obviously one song from her Metal Queen (1984) album, one track was from her self-titled record (1987), three from Bodyrock (1989), two from Some Girls Do (1991), surprisingly two from Emotional Rain (1994), three from Fire And Gasoline (2016) and two from her upcoming new album. Funny enough, even though Lee Aaron has been coming to play seemingly annually in the greater Toronto area over the last couple of years, I had always skipped her concerts thinking that I wouldn’t really enjoy them but she definitely proved me wrong on this night. Next time Lee Aaron comes to town, I’ll be sure to catch her playing live!
Lee Aaron’s setlist:
01. Tom Boy
02. Hands On
03. Diamond Baby
04. Fire And Gasoline
05. Sweet Talk
06. 50 Miles
07. Baby Go Round
08. Some Girls Do
09. Sex In Love
10. I’m A Woman
11. Only Human
12. Metal Queen
13. Whatcha Do To My Body
14. Odds Of Love