Kickin Valentina, SteelCity, Asphalt Valentine & more live in Hanover, Maryland, USA Concert Review

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL GETS ITS REVENGE

Date: May 23, 2021
Venue: Cancun Cantina
Location: Hanover, Maryland
Event: Sunday Showcase Series
Promoter: BLE (Brad Lee Entertainment)
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

What a long, strange trip it’s been. If you had told me back in February of 2020 that I was about to attend my final concert for what would be roughly a year and a half, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. The events that followed as the year unfolded were even harder to believe and, as most of us know, dealt a crippling blow to the music industry. Particularly for artists who rely on touring to sustain their livelihood. Fortunately, the light at the end of the tunnel looks to be getting closer and closer as we move farther along into 2021. Around April and May, news of concert tours were beginning to be announced right and left.  One that immediately caught my attention was Kickin’ Valentina’s East Coast run in support of their fantastic new album The Revenge of Rock, which was released back in January.

As part of the new Sunday Showcase Series, Brad Lee Entertainment assembled a killer (and FREE) line-up of entertainment for Sunday, May 23rd at the Cancun Cantina in Hanover, Maryland (home of the Sleazy Slimey Sunday in previous years). The Cancun Cantina is a cool venue to catch a show, with an outdoor/themed “beach” area providing a relaxed atmosphere to hang out. This was my first time catching a show there, and my only complaint with the Cantina is that the patio stage has a steel railing that runs across the front of it. I’m assuming that in the original layout of the club, what now serves as the stage area was once just a small balcony or elevated dance floor. There is also a staircase at centerstage, which leads me to this theory. Whatever the case, the berm ultimately detracts from being able to fully see what’s going on onstage (i.e. the band members playing their instruments). That’s a minor gripe, but I found myself thinking about that railing often while watching each of the acts perform their respective sets. But on a positive note, the Cancun Cantina is a very cool venue, and this gives them a spot to drape advertising banners and hopefully pay the bills.

Stairway to Halen

Stairway to Halen are a Connecticut based tribute band specializing in, you guessed it, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen covers. And they do a mighty fine job of it too, I might add. They started their set at around 2:30 pm, and what better way to kick off an evening of rock n’ roll festivities than with two legendary catalogs of music? That being said, executing many of Van Halen and Led Zeppelin’s songs takes a certain degree of musical aptitude. Stairway to Halen have the chops and were certainly on the level. They blazed through staples by both acts and alternated back and forth 50/50 with “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, “Immigrant Song”, “Atomic Punk”, “Ramble On”, and “Good Times Bad Times” among others. Guitarist Billy DiNapoli turned in a blistering version of “Eruption” that wowed onlookers as he passed through the audience while playing the solo. Lead vocalist Andre Vanchot also impressed, tackling the dauting task of hitting Robert Plant’s range and then pulling it back enough to be a respectable Diamond Dave understudy for the night. A noteworthy display in versatility, given that Plant and Roth have such contrasting vocal styles and range. During their cover of “Whole Lotta Love”, the band even segued in a few bars of Whitesnake’s “Still of The Night” before finishing off the song. It had me wondering how many people caught the subtle little interlude before they resumed their rendition of the Zeppelin number. All in all, Stairway to Halen were a blast to watch and I hope to catch them again in the near future.

Native Sons

Kentucky’s Native Sons were involved in a car accident the day before the show and nearly had to cancel their performance. The collision resulted in their vehicle being badly damaged, and this unfortunate twist left them stranded several hours from the venue. But as the saying goes, the show must go on…. and it did. Their label president, Bill Chavis of HighVolMusic, travelled several hours to pick up the band and deliver them to Hanover, Maryland just in time for the show. Props to the band and Mr. Chavis for rising to the occasion and overcoming this unexpected adversity. Those in attendance were treated to a stellar showing by the recently re-configured line-up of the band, who are currently out in support of their debut album The Natives Are Restless.

Native Sons’ album was originally recorded by frontman Ashton Blake and other members, only to be shelved until HighVolMusic brought it to the light of day. Based on their Sunday night performance, I wouldn’t have guessed that this was a new line-up of the band. Their run through the setlist was tight and the band members gelled as a cohesive unit onstage. Blake’s soulful vocals soared over the band’s dirge of guitars and heavy grooves, at times reminding me of Oni Logan. Native Sons sound nothing like Lynch Mob, but I did draw a slight comparison to Shinedown and even detected a hint of Southern rock in the vein of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Quite a few songs in their set stood out for me, notably “Monster”, “Master of My Fate” and “Peacemaker”. I was so impressed by the band that I picked up a copy of their album from their merch booth and highly recommend it.

Wild America

Three-quarters of Stairway to Halen pulled double duty for the Sunday Showcase, also performing original material as Wild America (which also features vocalist/guitarist Joe Labbadia). However, their performance as the third act of the night showed no signs of fatigue. In what felt like sweltering heat, they cranked out the Wild America setlist with ferocity and finesse despite having just turned in a full performance about an hour or so prior with Stairway. That was fortunate, given that the crowd was really starting to fill in as they took the stage. While I wasn’t at all familiar with the band prior to this performance, their passionate brand of anthemic, driving hard rock was well-received by the audience. Most surprising was that Wild America have a new single out (“Are You Ready”) but didn’t play it at the Sunday Showcase. Roughly half of their set was comprised of tracks from their debut album, Gasoline. A definite standout for me was their performance of “Stronger”, which saw the group joined by SteelCity’s Roy Cathey on vocals. It’s a cool tribute to the real heroes of 2020. Wild America are currently signed to Kivel Records, which will be releasing their sophomore album in the near future.

Wild America’s setlist:
01. Long Road
02. Love ‘Em/Gone
03. Something Inside
04. She Will
05. Sometimes Love
06. On the Outside
07. R U Ready
08. Good Woman
09. Gasoline
10. Rock Star
11. Is Anybody Listening
12. Stronger
13. What’s Your Name?

Asphalt Valentine

Atlanta’s Asphalt Valentine had just returned from a hiatus and released their new album, Twisted Road, when the pandemic was about to hit. The original date for Brad Lee Entertainment’s Ballroom Blitz event would have been the kickoff of their promotional efforts in support the disc. Subsequently, the band is trying to make up for lost time and give the album the legs that it deserves. Despite what felt like record heat inside the club, the guys were true professionals onstage and played relentlessly throughout their eleven-song performance. For me, the true surprise of Asphalt Valentine’s set was their rousing rendition of “Ooh La La” by Rod Stewart. It fit in well with their original material and also brought a bit of levity to their show. The recorded version appears on Twisted Road, and they put a cool spin on the song by ditching the sultry feel of the original by upping the tempo and with Joe Flynt’s more passionate vocal sound. Asphalt Valentine are a killer live band, and seeing their show has me interested in backtracking to check out the earlier releases in their catalogue.

Asphalt Valentine’s setlist:
01. Livin’ Dreams
02. The Only
03. Something More
04. Bullet
05. Ooh La La
06. Saving
07. I Don’t Care
08. Rain
09. City of Halo
10. Love and Gone
11. Twisted Road

SteelCity

SteelCity were another band on the bill that I’ve not had the privilege of seeing live before, and they absolutely kicked ass. Fans of heavy, melodic hard rock with powerhouse vocals will find a lot to like with SteelCity. The band members intersect from various parts of the country but were there to rock-out in support of their Perris Records release Mach II.  Most of the songs in their set are featured on the new disc, which was released back in March of 2020. Veteran frontman Roy Cathey (Cold Sweat, The Fifth) exuded confidence behind the microphone as he belted out the eleven songs that made up their setlist. The band was originally scheduled to play thirteen songs but were forced to cut their set short due to timing. Nonetheless, their time performance was flawless and packed a punch. They were joined by former Great White drummer Derrick Pontier, who was filling in for their official drummer, B.J. Zampa. I was curious as to why they chose to omit two original songs from their set rather than the two covers that they performed, but both “The Mob Rules” and “She Sells Sanctuary” were absolute crowd-pleasers and the crowd reaction answered my question. Particularly the Sabbath classic, which saw the place go nuts within seconds of the start of the song. Hopefully we’ll be seeing SteelCity on more festivals and package-type bills in the future.

SteelCity’s setlist:
01. Turnabout
02. Hearts On Fire
03. Dead Men
04. Heart And Soul
05. The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath cover)
06. Give It Back
07. Spotlight
08. Do You Love Me
09. Steal Your Heart
10. Wasted Time
11. She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult cover)

Kickin Valentina

Kickin Valentina were the band that I was truly there to see, and they did not disappoint. They had a slight delay to their approximate 10:30 pm start time while a few tweaks were made by the sound man, which resulted in frontman D.K Revelle trading in his wireless mic for a wired one. Seems like a trivial skunk in the works, but when you consider what an animated performance he delivers and how much he interacts with the audience, it likely took some adjusting on his part. Nonetheless, he sounded great and didn’t let the mic issue hinder his delivery and onstage antics in the least. BLE’s stage manager took care so as not to let the cable become a hazard as Revelle made full use of the railing and stairs that flanked him.  As the band began to play their opening number, they were countered by a swell of fans that rushed the front of the stage for a pummeling of “Sweat” (figuratively and literally – the temperature gauge read 93 degrees Fahrenheit).

Their set focused primarily around The Revenge of Rock, easily one of my favorite albums of 2021 (so far). They played six of the nine songs on the album, and the crowd ate it up. I attribute that simply to the energy, quality and catchiness of the music. Remarkably, I saw a lot of people singing along to the newer stuff, which had only been out for about four months at the time of the show. “Freakshow” began with the same distorted welcome as heard on the album. They also threw in “Looking for Me”, which the band had only performed a few times leading up to the show. The track has great melodies, comedic lyrics and an uptempo beat that qualify it as a possible staple for future gigs.

Perhaps the most well-received song from the new album was “War”, which seemingly had the entire room singing along and many fists were in the air. It’s one of the heavier tracks on the new album with a double-entendre, and a soon-to-be classic. Bassist Chris Taylor stayed cool and collected at stage right throughout Kickin Valentina’s set, effortlessly holding down the rhythms in tandem with drummer Jimmy Berdine, while towering behind his mic stand and firing-off background vocals. He brings that darker, gritty edge to the band’s sound that I think broaden their appeal. Taylor and Berdine are the driving force behind Kickin Valentina’s heavy grooves and were in the pocket during “Get Ready” from their debut EP. It was also the band’s closing song for the night. If you’ve ever heard their Chaos In Copenhagen album, you know that in the live version of this song, D.K. Revelle spends the final few seconds of the song crediting the band members and throwing out their names to the audience. He did so tonight as well, also mirroring the closing sentiment on the album by telling the crowd “YOU. KICKED. ASS.”. Back at ya, KV.

Kickin Valentina’s setlist:
01. Sweat
02. Freakshow
03. On My Side
04. Easy Rider
05. Rat Race
06. Somebody New
07. Heartbreak
08. Looking For Me
09. Alone
10. Turns Me On
11. War
12. End of The Road
13. The Revenge of Rock
14. Get Ready

The Sunday Showcase assembled a bevy of talent, and marked the official return of live rock n’ roll for me. It was refreshing to see the return of some semblance of normalcy, and I’ll always look back on this concert as my first show “post pandemic.” I’m sure I speak for many when I say that it was a glorious awakening from a hibernation that I hope to soon forget. I remain optimistic that this was yet one more nail in the coffin to cancelled and postponed live performances from the bands that we all know and love.

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!