RATT’S JUAN CROUCIER DELIVER KILLER SET OF RATT CLASSICS
Date: September 26, 2015
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blotzer v. Pearcy — Blotzer v. Croucier — DeMartini v. Blotzer — the various disputes over the use of the Ratt name, which are all legal in nature, have been making headlines in the last few months. I am mindful that it is really likely corporations such as WBS, Inc. suing other corporations but we know the players or “directors” behind the corporations. There are currently three different versions of some form of Ratt spin-off band being pawned to the public. You have Stephen Pearcy, the ex-lead singer of Ratt, who has been touring on his own and playing the Ratt hits for decades. In the last few months, we have had Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience which was formed to play the Ratt hits and which in the last few days has “officially” adopted the name Ratt. Finally, you have Ratt‘s former bassist Juan Croucier who has just started touring under the moniker Ratt’s Juan Croucier. Personally, I have no issue with any of these bands because at the end of the day, it is obvious that Blotzer, Pearcy, Croucier and DeMartini are not able to work as a cohesive unit so even if you have one, two or even three watered down versions of Ratt spin-off bands out there, who fucking cares?
The real issue is that two out of the four men — DeMartini and Blotzer through their company WBS, Inc. — own the Ratt name and Blotzer now wants to presumably cash in and use the Ratt name by himself without anyone else referring to the iconic group’s name. Just like many of the other recent band name disputes — Great White v. Jack Russell and Queensryche v. Geoff Tate come to mind — eventually, a compromise or less likely a court decision will decide the whole situation surrounding the Ratt name. But for now, the public will be left with the various incarnations of Ratt using the group name, logo, etc. as they try to make a living using the moniker that they all contributed so greatly to.
I, for one, was very excited when I heard that Croucier would be touring as “the other voice of Ratt” while playing Ratt songs. At the time, the only date that I was aware of was Croucier‘s stop at The Rockpile venue in Toronto on September 26, 2015. The fact that Croucier is more known for his bass playing than singing prowess did not deter me in the least because I knew that Croucier had a good voice and could likely do a better job of singing the Ratt classics than Pearcy himself at this point. I am speaking from experience since I saw the Pearcy led Ratt group with Blotzer and DeMartini in tow play live at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto when they were opening for Poison a number of years ago and Pearcy‘s voice was pretty shot as he sang/talked his way through most of the Ratt hits. In any case, Croucier‘s stop in Toronto was certainly one of the most intriguing and anticipated concerts that I would be attending this year.
I have yet to mention that Ratt were one of five bands that I had considered to be my “favorite” band over the years. These days, I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite group but back in 1984 when Ratt‘s Out Of The Cellar had been released, the sleaze rock veterans were my favorite group! No need to say that I hold Out Of The Cellar in very high regard! In fact, I hold Ratt‘s first four releases in very high regard and Reach For The Sky wasn’t bad either. To be able to see Croucier lead his band through Ratt classics from that era was just too good to be true. I got to say that I was disappointed when I drove into the Rockpile’s parking lot at around 10:30 pm because judging from the number of vehicles in the lot, the venue would not be packed to the rim with people the way it really should be for such a great potential concert. It’s not every day that a Ratt member or former member comes to play live in Toronto. Back in the day, Ratt were on par — at least in my eyes — with groups such as Motley Crue and Twisted Sister who can still headline festivals and even sell out tours to this day.
I got inside the Rockpile at around the beginning of the last opening act called Amour who really should be paying royalties to KISS for all that they have borrowed from the iconic rockers. There were so many similarities between KISS and Amour, it wasn’t funny. The make-up, the clothes, the choreographed moves between the bassist and two guitarists, the bassist Rick Priest and one of the guitarists (presumably Mitch Knight) both handling lead vocals — the list goes on and on. Given that I have always been a big KISS fan, it was kind of cool seeing Amour playing as you could imagine KISS back in their early beginnings playing to a sparse crowd.
As is seemingly the custom at the Rockpile, unless the bar is packed with people and/or the audience is really into the opening act, the crowd tends to stay back near the bars and tables rather than get close to the stage in the general admission area. This was definitely the case for Amour who unfortunately played to a largely empty general admission area. That did not seem to stop the band from giving their all. At one point, the group’s frontman yelled something to the effect “Let me hear you Toronto.” There was a lukewarm response but that did not deter the frontman from trying again and the crowd response the second time around was a lot louder. My favorite song from the theatrical based rockers was “Devil’s Daughter.” I also enjoyed Amour‘s theatrical end of things and all of their songs sounded pretty good on a first listen. The guitar solos in particular were quite enjoyable. Next time that I know that Amour is opening at a Toronto area show, I will make a point of being there for their set.
By the time that Ratt’s Juan Croucier hit the stage, most of the audience it seemed were inside the general admission area waiting in anticipation for what turned out to be one of the best concerts that I have seen this year. I seem to be saying this a lot lately but the last five concerts that I have attended have ranged from good to excellent and the performance from Ratt’s Juan Croucier on this night was definitely at the excellent range of things. Prior to the band hitting the stage, I had had the chance to sneak a peak at the setlist for the night and man, was I pleased! Eight songs from my favorite Ratt album Out Of The Cellar, deep cuts from Invasion Of Your Privacy, “Way Cool Jr.” from the Reach For The Sky album, one song from the Ratt EP — what a great setlist!
Although Croucier had fronted his own band Dirty Rats for a number of years after leaving Ratt, the big unknown for me was how Croucier was going to sound like as the lead vocalist since I had never heard him handle the lead vocals before. The moment of truth came during the first song as Croucier and what amounted to his all-star band launched into the opening track for the evening — “Dangerous But Worth The Risk” from Invasion Of Your Privacy. Funny enough, Croucier has a much clearer and less gritty voice than Pearcy so I thought that his lead vocals on the opening track lacked a little punch. However, it seemed that by the second song “Scene Of The Crime,” Croucier had adjusted his singing to adopt a grittier delivery which suited the songs a lot better and was closer to what Pearcy might have delivered back in his heyday.
Despite the smaller crowd that I, and surely the band and venue, would have liked to see, it seemed that whomever was there to witness the show was a big Ratt fan. This was especially evident when Ratt’s Juan Croucier played the bigger Ratt hits such as “Wanted Man” and “Lay It Down” because Croucier’s vocals were getting drowned out a little bit from all the singing coming from the audience. Croucier had advertised ahead of time that he and his bandmates, drummer Pete Holmes of Black ‘N Blue fame, and guitarists Toni Aleman and Mike Moore, had worked very hard to sound as good as they possibly could. Well, that was certainly the case. The entire band sounded so tight and in particular, Aleman had that guitar God quality to him. It was simply so much fun to see him play and move his fingers from up close. Aleman and Moore are definitely two very talented guitarists and also provided very strong background vocals throughout the entire show. The contrast in style between Moore and Aleman was also fun to watch as Moore was just an angry monster out there with his long hair covering his face for at least half the show while Aleman was all smiles, had that smooth DeMartini quality and provided an abundance of rock star poses throughout the evening.
While Croucier‘s bandmates were all very good, the star of the evening was Croucier who really impressed me with his intricate bass playing while handling the lead vocals. I still remember way back when viewing a VHS tape which had Croucier playing a live set while a member of Dokken in Germany back in 1982. He had his own style while playing the bass back then and continues to have this cool way of playing the bass to this day. Clearly, Ratt’s Juan Croucier let the music do the talking because there was absolutely no stage decor to view of any kind aside from the usual Rockpile lights. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps Croucier is waiting until his presumably legal battles with Blotzer are sorted out before getting a banner of any kind printed out with the band’s name. Whatever the case and despite the no frills stage setup, Ratt’s Juan Croucier proved that the music is the most important thing at the end of the day.
For an old diehard Ratt fan such as myself, just about every song played was a highlight. Getting to hear eight out of the ten tracks from Out Of The Cellar was certainly an unexpected bonus. Hearing deeper tracks from Invasion Of Your Privacy such as “Dangerous But Worth The Risk” and “What You Give Is What You Get” was a fantastic treat. If I had to pick a few songs that stood out, I particularly enjoyed “Wanted Man” (likely my favorite Ratt track), “She Wants Money” and “Lay It Down.” It was also fun to hear Croucier introduce some of the songs including “Lack Of Communication” which was played with the original song lyrics, “Back For More” which Croucier advised reminded him of the deceased Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby (whose fall in life and death are one of the saddest stories of what drugs can do to you) and “Nobody Rides For Free” which Croucier announced as the last Ratt song written with him in the band. Ratt’s Juan Croucier closed off their amazing set with a spirited version of “She Wants Money” and the only possible set closer “Round And Round.”
After the last song was played, Croucier started shaking and/or tapping hands with the audience before exiting the stage while Aleman started tossing a bunch of guitar picks — of which I was able to catch the first one thrown. I have never been the biggest merchandise fiend but had Ratt’s Juan Croucier had some t-shirts for sale, I would have certainly purchased one. At the end of the show, I could not help but think that Blotzer and DeMartini should have continued Ratt as a four piece with guitarist Carlos Cavazo and Croucier handling the lead vocals instead of Pearcy. Croucier certainly proved in Toronto that he not only had the vocal chops to do so, but that he was a good frontman as well. For those of you on the fence about seeing Ratt’s Juan Croucier play live due to all of the various Ratt spin-off bands that are going on, do yourself a favour and go catch the band play live — I am sure that you won’t regret it!
Ratt’s Juan Croucier’s setlist:
01. Dangerous But Worth The Risk
02. Scene Of The Crime
03. In Your Direction
04. Wanted Man
05. I’m Insane
06. Lack Of Communication
07. Lay It Down
08. You’re In Love
09. Way Cool Jr.
10. You Think You’re Tough
11. Nobody Rides For Free
12. Body Talk
13. Back For More
14. What You Give Is What You Get
15. She Wants Money
16. Round And Round