DIEMONDS AND L.A. GUNS PUT ON STELLAR PERFORMANCES
Date: April 26, 2017
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
L.A. Guns‘ stopover at The Rockpile in Toronto has been on my calendar ever since it was announced. Throw in that local sensational sleaze rockers Diemonds were opening and this has been my most anticipated concert so far of this year. With my lofty expectations, would I be disappointed? Odds were that I wouldn’t be because L.A. Guns have always delivered everytime that I have seen them live. And with guitarist Tracii Guns and singer Phil Lewis reunited once again, I knew that the band’s performance would likely be even more electrifying than usual. I based this last assessment on my Rock N Skull experience when I was able to say both factions of L.A. Guns — the “new” one featuring Guns, Lewis, guitarist Michael Grant and the rhythm section for Guns‘ “solo” band, and the line-up that we have (now “had”) known for 20 years or so which included Lewis and drummer / band manager Steve Riley. The Guns–Lewis led L.A. Guns headlined the Rock N Skull Pre-Party while the Riley–Lewis led L.A. Guns headlined Day One of the Rock N Skull Festival the next night. I ended up ranking the Guns–Lewis‘ L.A. Guns version at number two overall (out of 31 performances) while the Riley–Lewis led L.A. Guns finished at number eight overall.
All that to say that I was pretty stoked for the show! I arrived at The Rockpile by 7:40 pm or so which is likely the earliest that I have ever attended there for a concert since the summer of 2012 when Jack Russell’s Great White headlined a line-up that included Faster Pussycat, BulletBoys, Lillian Axe and Diemonds. Sadly, I did not review that concert as it was not yet my habit to review virtually every rock concert that I attended. Bottom line is that I was at The Rockpile very early because I had read that it would be an “early evening” and kudos go out to Steve Hoeg and The Rockpile for bowing to most likely venue attendees’ requests for earlier shows particularly on weeknights. Incredibly enough, it was advertised that the evening would end at 11:00 pm. To put things into perspective on how early that is for The Rockpile, the headlining band regularly doesn’t take the stage until 11:00 to 11:30 pm or so.
I was somewhat surprised by the amount of vehicles in The Rockpile‘s parking lot. There were quite a few even though it was only 7:40 pm. As I walked into The Rockpile, I was greeted by a familiar face — and one half of the new C.G.C.M. Podcast (“Canadian Geeks with beers Chat Metal Podcast) — and after some brief chit chat made my way near the front of the stage to secure a spot. I ended up only catching the last three songs from opening act Durty Little Secrets, which ended up being three covers — Skid Row‘s “Piece Of Me”, Alice In Chains‘ “Man In The Box” and Skid Row‘s “Youth Gone Wild.”
Next up was Suzi Kory. After getting a rather rave introduction, Suzi Kory got up on stage with her million dollar smile and quickly advised the crowd that this was her first show ever only playing original material. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable Kory seemed onstage and while addressing the audience. Kory took the time to acknowledge her 50 or so co-workers that apparently showed up to see her perform. It was definitely good that Kory was able to get so many of her co-workers to attend because from what I understand, The Rockpile requires that its local opening acts sell between I believe 20 to 30 tickets to any show they play. If a ticket costs $25, a band might be out $500 to $750 for playing a show at The Rockpile if its band members are unable to sell the tickets before the gig in question. Now I am not mentioning this to knock this “pay to play” format as venues these days need all the help they can get to draw people in and it doesn’t seem fair for an opening act to get the exposure of playing to a larger audience due to the headliner without chipping in some way to promote the show. Accordingly, it is wise for a local opening act to choose wisely on who to try to open for at The Rockpile given that some headliners may not draw that much of a crowd on their own. That definitely wasn’t the case for L.A. Guns as the venue seemed fairly packed already by the time that Kory took to the stage and I understand that The Rockpile was nearly sold out on this night.
Although Kory sold me with her good looks, enthusiasm, radiant smile and ability to communicate to the crowd, I wasn’t that into her songs but I did enjoy the faster paced ones which I believe were the second and fourth songs that she played of her rather short five song set. I suspect that Kory could have perhaps squeezed in one more song had she not addressed the crowd after each song played but I enjoyed her interactions with the crowd so whether she played five or six songs didn’t really matter to me. For the last song of her set, Kory went to change at the side of the stage with the help of presumably one of her friends and came back with a long black skirt, necklace of some sort and a black tank top showing a more elegant side. Overall, I was impressed with Kory even though her songs weren’t exactly my cup of tea.
Next up was my favorite “local” band and frankly one of my favorite sleaze rock bands period – Diemonds. I think that Diemonds’ last two albums – The Bad Pack (2011) and Never Wanna Die (2015) – stand up to any two last releases from just about any band. Yes, The Bad Pack and Never Wanna Die are that good. Although drummer Aiden Tranquada is still listed as Diemonds’ drummer on the group’s Facebook page, he wasn’t there on this night. Tranquada was replaced by a young looking man with some very bright yellow hair. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter what was the colour of his hair as he more than proved to have the necessary chops to handle the drumming requirements for Diemonds on this night.
This was Diemonds‘ first show of 2017 and they seemed like they had a lot of pent up aggression from being on the sidelines (i.e. not playing gigs while they worked on their new album). It felt like I was seeing the headlining band when Diemonds hit the stage. Wow! It just felt like they were on fire. Diemonds kicked things off with two of the heaviest and best tracks from their latest album Never Wanna Die — “Better Off Dead” and “Hell Is Full.” Next up was “Over It” from the same album, which has never been my favorite but which admittedly worked really well live and got the crowd, including myself, singing along. You know the opening band is really good when the headlining band is catching part of the opener’s set from the side of the stage. That’s exactly what happened as L.A. Guns guitarist Michael Grant and I believe frontman Phil Lewis were both at the side of the stage for the beginning of Diemonds‘ set.
Funny enough, a crowd member (an Asian lady) ended up hopping onto the stage at the beginning of Diemonds‘ second song that they played. There wasn’t a whole lot of room for the Diemonds band members to move around given that their drum kit and amps were set up in front of L.A. Guns‘ gear. Nevertheless, here was this “fan” staying on the stage for the entire song, bumping occasionally into bassist Tyler Buccione and generally taking up precious space onstage. Perhaps the most surprising part was when the “fan” stayed onstage for an entire other song (“Over It”). Finally, it appears that Buccione suggested to the “fan” that she should get off the stage. One of the bouncers or security people should have come and taken that “fan” off the stage a lot sooner. I am sure that if this would have occurred during L.A. Guns‘ set, that “fan” would have removed from the stage in a hurry.
As much as I really like Diemonds‘ latest album Never Wanna Die (which finished #3 on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015), I like even more their previous album The Bad Pack. Accordingly, it’s always a treat hearing any song live from that album. Next up was “Get The Fuck Outta Here” which is probably the one song that Diemonds have always played every time that I have seen them play live, which is about 15 times at this point. I remembered that this was guitarist C.C. Diemond‘s favorite Diemonds song at the time that I interviewed Diemond, singer Priya Panda and guitarist Daniel Dekay way back in September 2012. As I double-checked the interview to make sure that I was correct, I noticed that Panda‘s favorite Diemonds song at the time was “Loud N’ Nasty” while Dekay‘s favorite was “Trick Or Treat” at that time. Lo and behold, the three songs played from The Bad Pack on this night were the trio’s favorite Diemonds songs back in September 2012!
On a side note, the interview in itself back in September 2012 with the three Diemonds members was kind of funny as it was my first one ever. I had told the band that I would take some photos but I only had a tiny camera, which must have been a shock to them when they saw it. In any case, they were really good sports about it and C.C. in particular even ended up playing around with one of the photos a day or two after the interview and making it look a whole lot better. Check out the black and white photo that was included in my Diemonds‘ interview back in September 2012.
Now back to Diemonds‘ set. After a spirited version of “Never Wanna Die”, Diemonds played two new songs for the first time live. The setlist posted on the stage indicated that the songs were named “Our Song” and “Breathe.” Both songs sounded great on a first listen and I’m now even more excited about the new upcoming Diemonds‘ album! The energy spent onstage by all five Diemonds‘ members was truly impressive. In particular, Panda‘s David Lee Roth like high kick near the end of Diemonds‘ set was quite impressive. At first, it seemed that Panda had her game face on but as time progressed, you could, at times, see a huge smile on her face as she basked in or appreciated the love from the crowd. Towards the end of their set, C.C. Diemond gave a shout out to L.A. Guns guitarist Michael Grant whom he described as a long-time friend of the band. Diemonds closed off their too short but stellar set with a sped up version of “Loud N’ Nasty” and “Trick Or Treat” which were both songs that I had not heard in a while.
01. Better Off Dead
02. Hell Is Full
03. Over It
04. Get The Fuck Outta Here
05. Never Wanna Die
06. Our Song
08. Loud N’ Nasty
09. Trick Or Treat
What can really be said about L.A. Guns? This was my eighth time seeing them live — seven times with Phil Lewis in the line-up, four times with Tracii Guns in the line-up and six times with Michael Grant in the line-up — and every time they deliver. Michael Grant you may ask? Isn’t this all about the Guns and Lewis‘ L.A. Guns reunion? Sure, that is exciting but I was even more pleased when I found out that Grant would be joining the duo in their new version of L.A. Guns. Simply put, Grant is one of the best performers live that I have seen. He’s got the rock star on stage thing down pat. Now although I have thought numerous times that Grant stole the show when L.A. Guns were playing, this time around, it seemed like he was holding himself back a little bit to put the focus rightfully on Guns who deserves whatever accolades are to be bestowed on him. After all, the two most important people in L.A. Guns‘ history in my opinion are Guns and Lewis. They played together on all of the biggest L.A. Guns albums including the self-titled debut album. But back to Grant — what impressed me the most this time around was how he let Guns take center stage more or less, and seemingly most of the guitar leads while at the same time, still looking like he was really enjoying himself in his new role as more of a rhythm than lead guitarist.
I had expected that L.A. Guns would be kicking their set off with “Hollywood Tease” given that Sleaze Roxx writer / ace photographer Christopher Carroll had done a concert review of L.A. Guns‘ show just five nights prior and since the posted setlist on the stage indicated as much. However, L.A. Guns hit the stage running with the classic “No Mercy” followed by the even bigger classic “Electric Gypsy.” They then launched into the heavier “Killing Machine” from the Vicious Circle album. I would have much preferred hearing “Long Time Dead” from that album. It was pretty hot inside the venue by that point and kind of funny to see Grant and bassist Johnny Martin in leather jackets. Lewis even made a comment that both of them would be keeping their “real leather” on for the entire show no matter how hot it was to which Grant replied in a microphone while smiling, “That’s metal” or something to that extent. Guns and Lewis seemed to have great chemistry together, and Grant and Guns seemed to connect well together. It was interesting to see Martin play as he often stood with his legs spread apart with a very low vantage point. I often wondered how on earth that he could be comfortable playing most of the night in that position but he apparently does it so often that even his mic stand was positioned for him at that level.
Every song that L.A. Guns seemed to play was well received. I really liked hearing “Bitch Is Back” and the new song “Speed.” If every song is as good as “Speed” on L.A. Guns‘ upcoming studio album with Lewis and Guns, well, we’re all in for a real treat! One annoying thing this time around at The Rockpile was that apparently no one was allowed to take photos with a real camera. I didn’t exactly catch what Lewis said towards the beginning of the show but he made some comment about someone being behind a video camera the whole night. Before I knew it, a security guard was coming around to anyone taking photos with a camera in the first few rows telling them not to do so. Definitely, a first for The Rockpile. I have to think that this must have been a request from L.A. Guns because this requirement was not in place when the opening acts played. At one point later in the show, Grant had joined Guns on his side of the stage and I thought those would translate into some cool shots. I took out my camera for two quick shots and before I knew it, there was the security guard again beside me except this time he was threatening to take my camera if I took another photo. Hopefully, this new “camera restriction” won’t be implemented for any more shows at The Rockpile.
Eventually, Lewis introduced one of his favourite L.A. Guns song — “Don’t Look At Me That Way” — from 2002’s underrated Waking The Dead album. Next up was “Malaria” which I had not heard in quite some time and which I have never really liked that much. I can’t recall if L.A. Guns left the stage after that song or whether “Never Enough” was the set closer but everyone knew that there were at least two songs more for L.A. Guns to play. The “Jelly Jam” turned out to be extended guitar solos from Grant and Guns. Although enjoyable, I would much rather heard another song instead. In predictable fashion, L.A. Guns ended their very good set with “The Ballad Of Jayne” which had most of the crowd singing along which pleased Lewis and of course “Rip And Tear.” I was impressed once again with Grant who gave a shout out to his friends in Diemonds at the end of the night. Perhaps the most impressive thing was seeing Lewis grab a setlist and a bunch of guitar picks at the end of the show that he gave to my neighbour at the side of the stage who was in a wheelchair. Lewis didn’t speak a word about it but went out of his way in quiet fashion at the end of the show to make sure that fan left the show with some cool souvenirs. To me, that spoke volumes about the type of man that Lewis is. Overall, this is one concert that lived up to its hype.
L.A. Guns’ setlist:
01. No Mercy
02. Electric Gypsy
03. Killing Machine
04. Over The Edge
05. Bitch Is Back
06. Sex Action
08. One More Reason
09. Kiss My Love Goodbye
10. Don’t Look At Me That Way
12. Never Enough
13. Jelly Jam
14. The Ballad Of Jayne
15. Rip And Tear
L.A. Guns playing “The Ballad Of Jayne” live at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on April 26, 2017: