PUNISHMENT HOLDS BACK NO PUNCHES AT THE OSHAWA MUSIC HALL
Date: February 24, 2018
Venue: The Oshawa Music Hall Night Club & Concert Theatre
Location: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Tyson Briden
Photos: Karl Anderson/Anderson Creative
This past Saturday, I witnessed yet again, another brilliant performance by Toronto band Punishment.Of course Punishment were not the only band on the bill on this night, so I will give mention to opener Carbon and what would be termed as the headliner, Whiskey Rose Tribute: Whitesnake. Of course, both bands were very enjoyable, but for me the biggest reason for attending this show was to see Punishment.
I will say this about the Whitesnake tribute. At first I was skeptical. I am a huge Whitesnake fan. I feel that there is no one on this earth that can duplicate David Coverdale in any way, shape or form. Fronting the Whitesnake tribute band on this evening was none other than Red Dragon Cartel frontman Darren James Smith. Knowing how great of a singer Smith is, I knew it would be well done, but would it live up to my expectations of doing Whitesnake the justice they so deserve? The honest truth — they truly did capture my approval on this night. Smith did a fantastic job of duplicating Mr. Coverdale to a tee. If I can make one criticism, it is this. When the band came out, I was expecting Smith to call out to the crowd as Coverdale would “Here’s a song for ya!!!” That didn’t happen, but if that’s the only criticism, than I think Smith and co. did a pretty darn good job. As for the band behind Smith, they were just as stellar. They played everything precisely as the real band would.
Now getting back to our main topic of conversation -– Punishment. Over the last year, I have gotten to know all four members of the band. It’s not just the band either, it’s those behind the scenes. The people that work their butts off to help out the band any way they can. I am always treated with the utmost respect by everyone within their camp. It’s like a tight knit family and I am proud that they always make me feel part of it. With that said though, in no way is my review of the band biased in any way. I firmly believe Punishment are one of the best live bands period.
On this day, which was Saturday, February 24th, 2018 to be exact, my anticipation leading up to the evening’s event had me in high gear. That morning I made sure to get my half hour run in on my treadmill. I wanted to feel good, so running is the best possible way for me to achieve this. It’s an adrenaline thing. That afternoon, my wife decided that she wasn’t going to make the show. She was going to stay in and chill. I was cool with that. I thought, being that the event is so close to my house, it’s fairly mild out, I’ll just walk to the event. So at 6:20 pm, I made my way out the door. I figured it would take me at least 40 minutes to get to downtown Oshawa by foot. At exactly 6:40 pm, I arrived in front of The Oshawa Music Hall. So my 40 minutes was only 20 minutes. I sent a text to my wife, like a respectful husband would do letting her know I had arrived safely. Honestly though, was there ever a doubt? As I walked into the venue, I quickly noticed guitarist Kevin Gale. I made my way towards him, we shook hands, hugged like we always do and started conversing. Of course the show didn’t actually begin until 9:30 pm, with doors opening at 8:30 pm, but for me this was a good opportunity to hang out with the guys. Take in the behind the scene action as all three bands were preparing for the evening. So for the next few hours leading up to the show, we just casually hung out. At one point, bassist Mark Johnston and I got into a great conversation about one of our favorites albums of all time, Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast For Love. That is one of the great things about being a musician myself, when hanging out with musicians, the natural thing is to talk music. We all grew up with a passion for music, so it’s only fitting that we discuss this extreme passion.
As we were hanging, we were all somewhat waiting in anticipation. We were waiting for the arrival of Brad Rose. First you may ask who is Brad Rose? Well Rose is the gentleman who designed the band’s Remnants Of Things Left Unsaid album cover. For those who have seen this cover, it is apparent of Rose’s genuine talent. Secondly, why were we patiently anticipating Rose’s arrival? Well Rose had just designed the band’s brand new shirt that would be debuting on this evening. Rose’s company Get Seen Graphics had foregone this design of the new t–shirt from start to finish. Photos of the new shirt had been posted on Facebook earlier in the week, but none of us had seen it in person. When Rose finally arrived, he pulled them out and the response was nothing short of amazing.
At exactly 10:30 pm, Punishment took the stage. They opened with one of my favorite tracks — “Once Were Gods.” The band sounded so tight. Of course, singer Brad Searl was mesmerizing as always. A truly charismatic frontman, not in an obnoxious David Lee Roth manner either, but more of laid back Chris Cornell type attitude. Searl captures the crowd’s attention, but does it in a cool subtle way. Now with my saying this, Searl is still full of energy on stage, moving around from to side to side, interacting with the crowd and his bandmates. A true rock star in my eyes. There are few frontmen that really capture me. I put Searl in a class with all my personal favorites — Robert Mason, Paul Laine, Mitch Malloy, etc.
As Punishment were playing, you could feel a certain electricity in the air. As if nothing could go wrong — oh but wait Tyson, don’t get ahead of yourself. This is where things get interesting. I was standing directly in front of guitarist Kevin Gale, I decided to make a move towards the bar and get myself another beverage. As I was doing this, out of the corner of my eye, I see a member of security jetting through the crowd. My eyes follow him to the stage on Gale’s side. “Holy shit, where’d the Mesa head and Marshall cabinet go? Where’s Kevin?” Well turns out, Gale had tripped on his guitar chord, falling back and taking out his amp arsenal. “Oh boy. I hope he’s okay!” was my first reaction. Sure enough within seconds, Gale was back on his feet. The most interesting part of the story was that Gale didn’t miss a single note. It may have been a Spinal Tap moment, but like the true professional he is, Gale kept rocking. Unfortunately, Gale did sustain an injury. Talking to him after the show, it was apparent he was in pain with his back and arm hurting. It didn’t show one bit on stage, so that just goes to show you what a true rock n’ roll soldier Gale truly is. I use this analogy, it was like Bobby Baun of The Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1964 Stanley Cup game where he had broken his ankle earlier in the game only to return in overtime to score the game winning goal. Gale had a crowd to win over. A job to do. Unless Gale was knocked unconscious, he would continue forth. With pun, he endured some Punishment, but there was no slowing this boy down. He prevailed no matter what adversity he was faced with. Great job my friend.
As the show continued on, I would watch drummer Pat Carrano. It is always amazing to watch Carrano. He is so precise and dynamic. Not only is he a fantastic drummer, but a great all around guy. He always has a smile on his face. So watching him work, is so gratifying. He’s into the music. You can make eye contact, but his intent is to put on the best possible performance, so if he doesn’t make eye contact, it’s not something you take offense too. He’s working his ass off. I always attribute my attention to someone’s personality. Sure you can be an asshole, but in the end, if your personality is not so desirable, I really am not going to pay attention to your work as closely as I would for someone I respect. If you’re a jerk, I will always give credit for a fine performance, but my passion for what you do will be somewhat jaded. Treat me as Punishment does, than I am always in your corner. I truly love all four guys. I recently listened to a story that Mark Slaughter was telling about the demise of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Slaughter sat down with Vinnie Vincent and management as Vincent and bassist Dana Strum were not getting along. Vincent clearly asked Slaughter, “Where do your loyalties lie? With me or Dana?” Slaughter quickly responded, “I would rather be in the gutter with Dana Strum than here!” That is great integrity. It somewhat pertains to Punishment in a manner of conveying my loyalty towards the guys in the band. When you are treated with respect, you give back that respect. The Slaughter scenario plays out as follows — Dana Strum had gotten Slaughter into the band, having believed in the young vocalist. Vincent never really thought much of Slaughter to begin with, or so he claims. To this day, Vincent still talks badly about Slaughter, where Slaughter always shows respect for Vincent no matter how he truly feels. We all know how that whole scenario played out as Slaughter became a much bigger entity than the Vinnie Vincent Invasion ever did. That loyalty paid off in the long run. It’s all about karma.
From my perspective, there are those that I have met throughout doing this job that I really wasn’t fond of, but there are also those that have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome. I will never divulge any behind the scenes info because frankly I don’t want to be TMZ. In this age, certain media outlets can make or break someone. To me, that’s not fair. The artist’s work on stage or on record is the most important. There was one instance where I felt that a band crossed the line and I spoke up about it, but I like to keep my cards close to my chest for the most part. In Punishment’s case, I will make light of them as people. They are genuinely great people in my eyes. I know this is supposed to be a concert review, but I wanted to shed light on the evening’s experiences and my personal thoughts. Hopefully, it gives you the reader a little bit more to sink your teeth into. Not just being about how this song sounded or what the singer wore. We’re painting a picture with a different brush. Using a little more color to an already priceless piece of art. Now the art I speak of isn’t my writing, it’s Punishment of course. This isn’t all about me.
So getting back to the performance, all and all, this was an event of epic proportions. Of course, we know of the latest news of guitarist Kevin Gale joining the reformed line up of Sven Gali, but we’ll save that for a later date. This is about Punishment. For me, it was great to be at the front of the stage enjoying a brilliant performance. Brad Searl and Kevin Gale were constantly interacting with me. Smiling, laughing, just having a great time. I am sure bassist Mark Johnston would have interacted as well, but I was not on his side of the stage. Save that for the next show Mark. It’s moments like that that you really enjoy doing what you do. I am a music fan first. I don’t see myself as a critic. Sure I review an artist’s work, but from my perspective besides being on stage, this is the next best thing. I am there to enjoy live music. It becomes a great life experience that I get to talk about to my grandchildren when I am older. I guess it becomes the legacy in my mind that I will carry forever. If you had told me twenty five years ago that I would be doing this today, I would have said “yeah right, you’re joking!” I was a huge fan of the whole Toronto scene in the late ’80s/early ’90s, but I was too young to enjoy it in a live setting. If it wasn’t for Drew Masters and M.E.A.T. (Metal Events Around Toronto) magazine, I would have been left out in the cold. Thankfully all these years later, I am getting a glimpse of what it was like back then. That time back in the early ’90s was exciting. A band like Punishment is keeping that legacy going strong. To see a great band live, that works really hard — to me, that’s what it’s all about. I work hard at what I do because it’s my passion. It’s not really work to be honest. Punishment are exactly the same thing. Behind the scenes, there are hours of work put into what is seen onstage for 45 minutes, but they have that same passion. My hope is that more will read about this passion and see for themselves what Punishment are all about. Better yet, just discovering a new great live band who truly deserve many accolades for what they do.