LAST BULLET — THE BEST LIVE ACT FROM TORONTO
“Super impressed!” Those were the words uttered by my friend Eduardo after seeing Last Bullet play live for the first time at The Hub Bar & Grill in Oshawa. I could not agree more, as Last Bullet definitely put on one ass-kicking rock ‘n’ roll performance… but let’s start at the beginning.
For those who have read some of my prior concert reviews, you may have noticed that I am married and my wife is not a big fan of the hard rock/metal genre. Before you think I just shunned my Valentine’s Day (a pressure filled, way too overrated day in my book) duties to go see Last Bullet, I had previously found out from frontman Bryan Fontez that the band wouldn’t be playing until midnight. With my wife working an early shift the next day, everyone would be sleeping by the time I stepped out to see Last Bullet.
Last Bullet were headlining a gig in Oshawa, which is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Toronto, but I had never heard of the venue, dubbed “The Hub”, that they were playing at. I also had never heard of the two opening bands, Mumbai Standstill and One Divided. Although the greater Toronto area had been hit with one of the year’s coldest spells, with temperatures nearing -40 Celsius with the wind-chill, Eduardo and I made the almost one hour drive from Toronto to Oshawa. I must admit, that although I was very much looking forward to seeing Last Bullet play once again, I was a tad wary of their setlist as they announced on their Facebook page that they would be, “layin down some sexy grooves appropriate for the occasion”. What did that mean? Was the band going to be playing ballads all night? Whatever the case, my past three Last Bullet live experiences had all been excellent so even if the band decided to slow the pace down on this night, it would likely still be a great set.
By the time we arrived in Oshawa the town felt quite desolate, with the wind swirling and the cold temperature likely keeping everyone inside. The Hub Bar & Grill turned out to be a small pub, easily the smallest of the venues I had seen Last Bullet perform in, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that the place was packed (there was nowhere to sit) when we arrived. The first band, Mumbai Standstill, were wrapping up their set as we came in, so all I really remember from the band is that it felt like they had about ten people playing on the tiny stage.
Next up was One Divided, whose name I only figured out towards the end since there was nothing visual to “advertise” the band’s moniker during their set. The band played a brand of Bryan Adams rock ‘n’ roll meets alternative rock, which was good on a first listen. Their covers of Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick In The Wall” and the Beastie Boys‘ “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” were definitely the highlights of the performance and had quite a few people rocking near the stage during them. The band’s original songs were good too, but definitely on the lighter rock spectrum than what I usually listen to. The one mistake I think One Divided made was not to close their set with the rousing and spirited rendition of “Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, instead they elected to play one more song — I believe a yet to be released ballad called “Carry On”, that just seemed like an odd and anti-climatic way to end the set.
While the One Divided members were taking their gear off the stage, I got the chance to quickly chat with Last Bullet frontman Bryan Fontez, whom I had the pleasure to recently interview (click here to read the conversation). The singer advised me that the band’s set would be heavy on new unreleased material and added that he and drummer Chris Galaz had just made a surprise visit to a young Last Bullet fan’s home in the vicinity and ended up “jamming” with the him and his friend. Two rock stars visit your home… talk about creating memories of a lifetime for that young fan!
Although Last Bullet were essentially using the same sized platform as the opening bands, by the time the headliners had finished setting up it seemed that it was almost a different stage. Little things such as putting up their band banner over the beer emblem for a backdrop made a big difference. Before you knew it, Last Bullet started their set with a new and yet to be released song, which I later learned was called “Heart On Your Sleeve”, and which sounded good on a first listen. By the time the band had finished playing a rocking rendition of “Runnin’ Out Of Time”, the crowd started surrounding the stage and stayed there for the rest of the entire seventeen song set! In fact, when I snuck off to go to the washroom about halfway into the show, I noticed that all of the attendees had moved towards the section of the pub where Last Bullet was playing and there was no one left on the other side of the venue. Certainly this was a very good sign, and a testament to Last Bullet‘s stellar performance.
For the first half of their set Last Bullet mostly played new unreleased material, with only a couple of the first nine songs emanating from their first two EPs ‘Last Bullet’ and ‘Love.Lust.Illusion’. All of the band’s new songs sounded good, but my favorites were two that I had previously heard when I last caught the group live back in July (click here to read my review) — namely “Bright Lights” and “Southern Lips”. It shouldn’t be too long before Last Bullet releases new music, given that Fontez announced that the band would be going into a recording studio in April. As usual, Fontez proved to have a good sense of humor — prior to “Southern Lips” he spoke about how the band members had become more mature and were tackling more serious subjects before announcing that the next song was about pussy! Also, before the band embarked on a cover of Stone Temple Pilots‘ “Vasoline”, the singer emphasized to the crowd that they had “written” the next song. I have never been a big fan of the Stone Temple Pilots, so in my mind there were way better songs that could have been covered. One thing that became quite evident was what a smooth polished machine Last Bullet were, in that they sounded great — from the strong rhythm section of bassist Will Shannon, rhythm guitarist Michael Silva and drummer Chris Galaz to guitar great Brenden Armstrong through Fontez‘ awesome voice. The one who impressed me the most was Galaz — given the venue’s small size, I had a good view of him performing live for the first time. Looking quite similar to muscled wrestler Roman Reigns with his shirt off, he was simply a beast pounding on his drums the entire night.
Not that the beginning of the show wasn’t great, but during the second half it just felt like Last Bullet tore the house (or in this case the pub) down with one killer song after another. First up was my favorite Last Bullet song “Cowboy”, which had me singing along quite loudly, and one I was glad was back in the Toronto band’s setlist — then again, with an unexpected lengthy set of seventeen songs plus a guitar solo, I would have been quite disappointed had it not been included! Next up was “Jet”, with its witty lyrics including, “Have you met my drummer yet?” that work so well live. As a testament to the quality of the band’s self-titled debut, three of the last five songs played emanated from that EP — “Can’t Move On”, “Girl’s Gone Wild” and “Rock ‘Til We Die”, are guaranteed to make you move and are tailor made to be played live. Last Bullet finished their set with the riff based “Forget The Rest” — which was the band’s first video filmed, as Fontez described, on a farm north of Canada’s Wonderland with hot girls washing a hot car — and a stellar cover of Elvis Presley‘s “Jailhouse Rock”. The latter had the singer busting the moves and dancing with a female fan in the audience, and also getting everyone to sing, “Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock”. I even got the chance to sing into the microphone, a first for me, when Fontez ventured into the audience — but I must have sounded pretty awful because he pulled it away from me before I could, ahem, “sing” all of the words!
As soon as Last Bullet‘s stellar set ended, and all of the band members except for Galaz stepped off the stage , the crowd started chanting “one more song; one more song; one more song” — to which they obliged. However, when everyone was back on stage, Fontez pointed out that they had not planned on playing an additional song so the next one had not been played in over three months! They then finished an amazing night of rock ‘n’ roll with a blistering version of “Rock ‘Til We Die” (which really should be included in the setlist at all times), during which Fontez climbed the top of the bar with his head at ceiling level.
I don’t know how many present at The Hub were really familiar with Last Bullet prior to their performance, as I got the feeling that the crowd consisted more of “locals” than actual fans who had travelled a bit of a distance such as myself. The fact that the band seemed to be selling a lot of their CDs after the show seemed to validate my impression. Julius Caesar’s famous adage of “veni, vidi, vici” seemed most fitting for this occasion — Last Bullet came, saw and conquered the crowd in impressive fashion. I have no doubt that all those who left The Hub on this night were, or had become, Last Bullet fans. There are many great live bands that emanate from the Toronto area, and not to take anything away from any of them, but I think out of the ones I have witnessed to date Last Bullet are the best. To close, I am going to borrow the eloquent and succinct words from my friend Eduardo and state that Last Bullet‘s live performance at The Hub left me, “super-impressed”.
Last Bullet’s setlist:
01. Heart On Your Sleeve
02. Runnin’ Out Of Time
03. Bright Lights
04. Keep Your Head Up
05. State Of Confusion
07. Smoke & Ashes
08. Southern Lips
10. Vasoline (Stone Temple Pilots cover)
13. Can’t Move On
14. Girl’s Gone Wild
15. Guitar Solo
16. Girl’s Gone Wild (reprise)
17. Forget The Rest
18. Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley cover)
19. Rock ‘Til We Die