Lee Aaron with opener Heavens Fire live at The Rockpile in Toronto, ON, Canada Concert Review


Date: February 15, 2019
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Olivier

I’ll eventually get to the rather funny encounter suggested in my title above but first let’s talk a little bit about Lee Aaron. Dubbed the ‘Metal Queen’ due to the title track and signature song of her second album way back in 1984, she could also be the ‘Blues Queen’ or simply the ‘Singing Queen.’ Wow! What a voice at age 56! Lee Aaron‘s singing sounded absolutely fantastic in a live setting. She also looked fantastic clearly showing that age is only a number. Although I admit that going to see Lee Aaron live is not at the top of my list when thinking about which bands that I want to see live, this was my third time seeing the Canadian singer performing live and each time, I have left on a high from a great live performance. My first time catching Lee Aaron dates back to 1990 when I saw her play one evening at the Gloucester Fair in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. My second time was at the Rose Theatre Brampton in Brampton, Ontario, Canada 27 years later and I wrote in my concert review that the next time that she’d be in town, I’d make sure to catch her live.

Just like Lee Aaron did back in October 2017 when I saw her live in Brampton, she lined up three Ontario dates in a row likely to make her trek all the way from British Columbia on the west coast of Canada (about 2,700 miles) worthwhile. This time, Lee Aaron was playing Ottawa (the nation’s capital), Toronto and the picturesque Niagara Falls. I was actually glad that she was coming to play in the middle of winter because I had been concert starved up to now in 2019. I count Killer Dwarfs‘ New Year’s Eve performance at The Rockpile as a 2018 concert so Lee Aaron‘s stop in Toronto was my first concert of 2019. Clearly, this is too long to wait to feed my concert addiction. Apparently, I wasn’t the only concert starved Toronto resident because The Rockpile was packed by the time I arrived at 10:00 pm. Finding parking was especially challenging in the snow filled Rockpile parking lot. Given that the front of the Rockpile lot is now used by Enterprise Rent A Car, there were a few snow banks in the lot and with the big crowd on hand to see Lee Aaron, parking was quite limited. It took a little while but I was able to “create” a parking spot for my car near the parking lot’s entrance.

As I made my way into The Rockpile, I pretty much immediately saw two friends — Brian Ronald (Decibel Geek photographer) and Rich “The Meister” Dillon (Decibel Geek editor and CGCM podcast co-host). I was shocked how many people were already standing in front of the stage and Brian mentioned that it was like that since 8:00 pm (around when the doors presumably opened). After some quick chit chat with Brian, I made my way closer to the stage but was still a good five to seven rows behind the stage. Ugh. I had actually hoped that I would make it sooner to The Rockpile to catch CGCM podcast co-host Wally Gator‘s cover band Jaded Edge play but getting to The Rockpile for 8:30 pm turned out to be a no go with all my parenting duties. Hopefully, I’ll be able to catch Jaded Edge another time!

Heavens Fire:

I did make it to The Rockpile just in time to see Heavens Fire, which was another opening act that I was hoping to catch. For the longest time, I equated Heavens Fire as the band that singer Darren James Smith was fronting prior to joining Jake E. Lee‘s Red Dragon Cartel. This was some time ago of course. Heavens Fire did release the album Judgement Day with Smith on lead vocals back in 2014 but it seemed that the band understandably stalled a little bit once Smith departed for Red Dragon Cartel. In the summer of 2017, Heavens Fire released their third studio album titled Playing With Fire with Rafael Bennett on lead vocals. Although I did post Sleaze Roxx articles on Heavens Fire’s new release and heard each featured article song at least once, I have to say that it wasn’t until seeing the band live on this night that I was really taken by the group’s music.

Heavens Fire seem to play a brand of mid-tempo Dio like songs, which sounded really good live. They were so good that I snatched up one of the band’s two CDs on sale after the show. Sadly, I only had enough money left for one of them with the rest of the money going to my babysitter (which doubled the price of my ticket price). My favorite songs from Heavens Fire were “Unbroken” and ‘The Best I Can.” One of the band’s songs reminded me a lot of Stryper due to the extensive background vocals and perhaps since guitarist JT Harris looks quite a bit like Stryper‘s Oz Fox. Harris has a few incredible stories himself having been diagnosed with cancer along with his father back in 2000. Harris was able to beat the cancer but sadly, his father wasn’t able to. That also brought Heavens Fire to a stop but Harris reformed the band in 2012.

Getting back to Heavens Fire‘s set, they played in front of a packed crowd and it seemed that there were many in the audience that knew their songs. Their brand of Dio type songs went down really well. Although Heavens Fire have Brazilian born Raphael Bennett listed as their lead vocalist on their Facebook page, their singer on this night didn’t look like Bennett at all. I suspected that it wasn’t Bennett since the singer pointed out to the crowd that he and the bassist were both from Barrie, which is about one hour away north of Toronto. Since the concert, I have been informed that the singer is Maxel Black. In any case, Black‘s singing on this night was very good. Although the band was a four member unit consisting of Black, Harris, presumably bassist RC Ricci and a masked man behind the drums (who was later identified as Alexis Von Kraven), it seemed that I could hear some keyboards at times. At one point, Black advised while introducing the song “Children Of The Storm” that he wanted to play in the band when he heard that song. Overall, Heavens Fire put on a great set and I couldn’t help but think that had they been around back in the late ’80s, they would be a household name right now with such great songs.

Heavens Fire’s setlist:
01. Playing With Fire
02. Push Harder
03. The Best I Can
04. Children Of The Storm
05. Unbroken
06. Screamin’

Lee Aaron:

One thing I like about The Rockpile compared to in years past is that everything is on schedule these days. Lee Aaron was supposed to hit the stage at 11:00 pm and that’s exactly what she did. By that time, I had made my way to about two rows from the stage without pushing or squeezing through anyone. Lee Aaron has an amazing backing band starting with “hometown hero” / guitarist Sean Kelly, her husband / drummer John Cody and bassist Dave Reimer. The group sounded really tight and everyone looked like they were having a great time on stage. There was a bit of good natured band member banter on stage as Lee Aaron asked whether her husband would be doing a drum solo before pointing out to the audience that he hates to do so. Lee Aaron also joked with Reimer pointing out everyone can be a girl.

Lee Aaron kicked things off with “Black Cat” from her new covers album Diamond Baby Blues. The concert really picked up when the band launched into “Hands On” which had just about everyone singing along. Lee Aaron‘s singing was spot on and although she is a petite woman, she dominated the stage with her moves, personality, smile and charm. Obviously, she is in good shape as at one point, she made a David Lee Roth like kick with one of her legs way up in the air. Prior to the third song,  Lee Aaron pointed out that her band had been touring for about five years (on and off) and she was very complimentary of The Rockpile venue calling “the club” in Toronto from what I recall. Next up was the title track from her latest album, which sounded really good. The slightly overplayed “Rock Candy” song was next. It was interesting hearing the song from a female vocalist’s perspective but I’m a little tired of the Montrose classic with Chickenfoot / Sammy Hagar always playing it and even L.A. Guns (with  Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns) back at the Rock N Skull Festival in 2016. Lee Aaron introduced her next song “American High” as being fitting with the crazy things going on in the world (she didn’t name Donald Trump but it must have been him that she was referring to — who else could it possibly be?).

Lee Aaron performing “Hands On” at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Concert Review:

Lee Aaron – Hands On @Rockpile, Toronto, 2-15-2019

No Description

Next up was the title track of Lee Aaron‘s previous studio album Fire & Gasoline released back in 2016. Lee Aaron pointed out that this was her first rock n’ roll album in 15 years (given that she did jazz during that time span) and playing rock n’ roll was like riding a bicycle. You don’t forget and it seemed from the singer’s performance on this night that she had always been playing rock n’ roll throughout her music career without any breaks from it. Lee Aaron advised the crowd that she was bringing some songs back in the setlist given that she had received so many requests for some tracks such as the next one, which turned out to be “Sweet Talk” which happens to be one of my favorite Lee Aaron songs. It’s a slow building but very powerful tune and I loved singing along to it. “Some Girls Do” was next which Lee Aaron explained was not about what people might think but actually about gender equality. Lee Aaron pointed out at one point how cool it was to see so many young people in the crowd as well as a large female contingent given that back in the day, she had a mostly male audience. Another great song was “You’re No Good” which is a track that Lee Aaron had wanted to cover ever since hearing Linda Ronstadt sing her version of that song many moons ago. At that point, someone from the back screamed to Lee Aaron, “You’re fuckin’ hot” to which the singer quickly replied without batting an eyelash, “Yes, it’s hot in here tonight.”

I was hoping to hear the ballad “Only Human” but Lee Aaron switched things up a bit playing the ballad “Peace On Earth” which I was not familiar with. Next up was the terrific “I’m A Woman” from the Diamond Baby Blues album. I loved Lee Aaron‘s rendition of the song when I first heard it back at her Brampton concert in October 2017 and was singing along heartily while the band played it again on this night. After a couple of times of singing / screaming “I’m A Woman”, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious. At that time, Lee Aaron and I seemingly made eye contact and that’s when I decided not to sing “I’m A Woman” outloud anymore since it simply felt weird to do so. After the song, Lee Aaron pointed to me while stating that “this guy” was singing “I’m A Woman” before suddenly stopping and saying something to the effect that there was nothing wrong with a guy singing those words. I thought that Lee Aaron was incredibly intuitive to figure out that is exactly what had gone though my mind. I also for the first time related to how female audience members must feel hearing and wanting to sing along with male vocalists singing songs from the male perspective. In any case, it was a funny moment.

Lee Aaron‘s setlist closed with the obligatory “Metal Queen” which if I remember correctly, the singer dedicated to the entire audience. Lee Aaron then suggested to the crowd that the band had one more song to play. Without giving away the title, Lee Aaron asked the crowd to sing the first line and she got a very loud “Whatcha do to my body” back in response prompting the band to launch into arguably the singer’s second best known song. I was kind of expecting the evening to end without any encores but the band came back onstage after being prompted to cheer from someone who was not visible from where I was standing. Lee Aaron came back with her band playing a slower bluesy number which I presume to be “My Babe” from Diamond Baby Blues (complete with a very good “surprise” drum solo from Cody at the end) and a faster paced song which I could not identify.

Overall, Lee Aaron and her band put on a great performance. It was great to see a more diverse crowd at The Rockpile (i.e. more women than usual) and so many people singing along to the songs. There was a great vibe and I can’t wait to see Lee Aaron play live again in the future.

Lee Aaron’s setlist:
01. Black Cat
02. Hands On
03. Diamond Baby Blues
04. Rock Candy
05. American High
06. Fire & Gasoline
07. Sweet Talk
08. Some Girls Do
09. Sex In Love
10. You’re No Good
11. Peace On Earth
12. I’m A Woman
13. Hard Road
14. Metal Queen
15. Whatcha Do To My Body
16. My Babe
17. [Unidentified song]

Lee Aaron performing “Peace On Earth” at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Concert Review:

Lee Aaron – Peace on Earth @ Rockpile, Toronto, 2-15-2019

No Description