Sonic Slam Tour feat. Tom Keifer, L.A. Guns & Faster Pussycat in Fort Myers, FL, USA Concert Review
TOM KEIFER STEALS THE SHOW
Date: July 24, 2022
Venue: The Ranch Concert Hall & Saloon
Location: Fort Myers, Florida, USA
It had been three years since my wife, kids and I had made the trek together to sunny Florida for our annual summer getaway. Ever since 2013, we have made our way to Florida every summer give or take a year or two. Everyone has different motivations to be there. For my wife and kids, shopping in Florida is definitely an attraction. Cheaper prices and more selection, particularly when it comes to summer clothing makes Florida a fun place to shop for them. I, on the other hand, hate shopping but accompany my wife and kids in any case on their Florida shopping excursions. Someone has to pay for the new clothes at the end, right? We had just arrived the day before after a long almost 24 hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Fort Myers, Florida. Of course, we ended up going shopping the next day (for food and clothing) and as I patiently waited for my wife and kids, I started to look to see if there were any concerts for me to catch while I was down in Florida.
In pre-Covid years, I would have already known exactly what artists or bands were playing in Florida during my upcoming time there but my keenness to see concerts has somewhat dissipated a tad after more than two years without seeing any concerts. I would have thought that I would have been chomping at the bit to go see concerts once the Covid restrictions eased up but instead the opposite occurred where I am suddenly unwilling to commit the time to attend concerts like I had previously done. Luckily for me, there was one concert that I was interested in while my family and I vacationed in Florida and it happened to be only a 20 minute drive or so from where we were staying in Fort Myers. And it wasn’t just a concert. It happened to be the Sonic Slam Tour consisting of Tom Keifer, L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat, which I had previously all but ruled out in catching since all of the tour stops were in the States.
The only hitch was that the Sonic Slam Tour was hitting Fort Myers that very evening. It would have been preferable family optics wise for me to attend the concert at least a few days later but obviously, I have no control on when a concert might take place in a particular town. After patiently fulfilling my tour of duty waiting and waiting while my wife and kids tried on various clothes, I announced that I would be attending the Sonic Slam Tour that evening (timing is everything). I reassured my wife that this was the only concert that I would be attending during our family vacation and within a few hours, I was off to The Ranch Concert Hall & Saloon to catch the concert.
Funny enough, if L.A. Guns hadn’t been on the Sonic Slam Tour bill, I really don’t know if I would have bothered attending the concert and as things turned out that evening, that would have been a real shame. Obviously, I’m a fan of all three bands and each group has at least one album that I played the absolute shit of back in the day, namely Faster Pussycat‘s self-titled debut album (1987), L.A. Guns‘ self-titled debut album (1988) and Live: A Nite On The Strip (1999), and Cinderella‘s Night Songs (1986) and Long Cold Winter (1988). However, I was disappointed with the last time that I saw Tom Keifer perform live (dating back to the M3 Rock Festival in 2018) and I’ve never found Faster Pussycat to be an overly strong live band. Nevertheless, with L.A. Guns on the bill, I eagerly purchased my ticket priced at a reasonable overall amount of $42.07 US.
I always love checking out new venues so it was fun coming into The Ranch for the very first time. I had seen it from the outside in years past but didn’t realize how big and spacious that the venue was until stepping foot inside. The Ranch was all on one level but very deep and very wide. I have to say that I am surprised to read online that The Ranch‘s capacity is only 1,785 people. Given its cavernous size, I would have thought it could hold way more people than that.
The venue poster indicated that the show would start at 7:00 pm and that’s pretty much what happened. Within a minute or two of getting into the venue and getting settled in (I was maybe five rows back from the stage in the standing portion of the general admission area), Faster Pussycat started their set. There had been some changes to Faster Pussycat‘s line-up since I had last seen play live in the summer of 2018. Guitarists Ace Von Johnson and Xristian Simon had been swapped for more energetic members consisting of guitarists Sam “Bam” Koltun and Ronnie Simmons. Faster Pussycat‘s newest members were bundles of energy moving around on stage, headbanging at times and just generally putting on a great show. Bassist Danny Nordahl was more subdued but was able to get the crowd to cheer quite loudly on a number of occasions. Drummer Chad Stewart seemed to be the musical director counting down for before the band launched into at least one song. He also provided a lot of backing vocals to support singer Taime Downe who sounded quite good to my ears. Downe even seemed to have a little more pep in his steps and he did slightly more than just stand around in one spot like in previous shows.
Unfortunately, the group didn’t have much time to play. They ended up only playing for 40 minutes or so but crammed in quite a few songs and didn’t waste precious time like L.A. Guns ended up doing (more on that later). Given that new Sleaze Roxx writer Jennifer Mihalic Rosko had reviewed the Sonic Slam Tour‘s stop in Greenburg, Pennsylvania last month, I knew which songs that Faster Pussycat would likely be playing. The group kicked things off with its seemingly usual opener “Jack The Bastard.” The band seemed to kick it up a notch with “Cathouse” which got a bigger crowd response. Early on, I was mesmerized and pleased with Koltun‘s guitar tone. Man, his guitar playing sounded so good and he seemed to play the guitar with so much ease. Once Faster Pussycat launched into “Don’t Change That Song”, it felt like the crowd was really into it from my vantage point. I always like to see bands from the 80’s era throwing a few new tunes so although I wasn’t overly familiar with “NOLA”, it was nice to see Faster Pussycat include that song in their set.
Faster Pussycat performing “Slip of The Tongue” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):
“Poison Ivy” was a pleasant surprise as it seemed to be a slight deviation from Faster Pussycat‘s set back in Greenburg, Pennsylvania. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the song. I was expecting Faster Pussycat to close their show with both “Bathroom Wall” and “Babylon” but alas, only “Bathroom Wall” ended up getting played. As it turns out from looking at other setlists from Faster Pussycat throughout the Sonic Slam Tour, they don’t always play “Babylon” and in fact, seem to change up at least one song from night to night. Overall, I thought that Faster Pussycat put on a solid opening set and certainly proved that they more than belonged on the star studded bill with L.A. Guns and Tom Keifer.
Faster Pussycat’s setlist on July 24, 2022:
01. Jack The Bastard
03. Slip of The Tongue
04. Don’t Change That Song
06. Poison Ivy
07. House of Pain
08. Bathroom Wall
Faster Pussycat performing “Poison Ivy” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel’s YouTube page):
I was really looking forward to seeing L.A. Guns perform live. The time to take down Faster Pussycat‘s gear and finalize the installation of L.A. Guns‘ gear was done rather quickly. By 8:00 pm or so, L.A. Guns hit the stage. Just like Faster Pussycat, there were two new members that I had not seen play live with the band before consisting of guitarist Ace Von Johnson and drummer Shawn Duncan. Given that it had been about four years since I had seen L.A. Guns play live (damn the Covid pandemic), the last time that I had seen them play, Adam Hamilton was playing rhythm guitar (given that stellar and show stealing guitarist Michael Grant had apparently been fired a few months back) and Shane Fitzgibbon was still on his first run with the band. Funny enough, in that four-year span, Fitzgibbon stepped down and was replaced by Scot Coogan who was then temporarily replaced by Fitzgibbon (again) before Duncan was called into action. In fact, there always seems to be at least one different member each time that I have seen L.A. Guns play live since Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis officially reunited in late 2016. Johnny Monaco was the second guitarist when I saw L.A. Guns play live back in May 2018. Michael Grant was in the line-up in April 2017.
As it turns out, I was kind of lucky to see L.A. Guns perform in Fort Myers given that they had pulled a no show in Daytona, Florida the night before. I didn’t know about this until after I came back from the Fort Myers concert. Supposedly, the L.A. Guns band members arrived in Daytona, did part or all of their soundcheck before electing to leave and skip the show. To make matters worse, no explanation was apparently provided by the band or the promoter to the Daytona crowd. I would have been completely pissed if L.A. Guns would have pulled a stunt like that for their Fort Myers show. Whether it’s the promoter’s fault (there were apparently some sound and technical issues) or simply Tracii Guns being unable to play at that outdoor gig due to the hot temperature (which apparently triggers his anxiety disorder), people who have paid money to see the Sonic Slam Tour should have been provided an explanation as to why L.A. Guns were not playing that night. It’s simply unprofessional and very hard to believe that this would have taken place if Steve Riley was still in the band.
In any case, L.A. Guns did show up in Fort Myers. Even before I found out about L.A. Guns skipping the Daytona show, I noticed that the air conditioning was blaring throughout The Ranch venue so thought Tracii Guns shouldn’t be having any heat issues on this night. L.A. Guns opened their set with “Cannonball” from their latest studio album Checkered Past. While there was certainly some excitement level when L.A. Guns hit the stage, “Cannonball” didn’t really seem to get the crowd going that much. I thought that the song lacked melody and especially compared to the similar paced “Speed.” The group then raced through “Electric Gypsy” which was seemingly played at a much faster pace than what you can hear on the band’s self-titled debut album. Perhaps the song was being played at a faster pace given that L.A. Guns only had (unfortunately) 40 to 45 minutes to play. “Electric Gypsy” definitely seemed to get the crowd going a lot more.
I had previously mentioned that L.A. Guns had wasted some time during their set. It’s not that they didn’t cram in a lot of stuff into their 40 to 45 minute set but rather that they could have likely played one additional song if only Tracii Guns had not wasted time with his various guitar solos. Right after only the second song in L.A. Guns‘ set, there was Tracii Guns all by himself “treating” the crowd to a guitar solo while using a bow. I thought that it was way too early in L.A. Guns‘ set for a guitar solo and this unnecessary spotlight on Guns was taking precious minutes away from the band’s set. Next up was the track “Over The Edge.” While it is a decent song, I don’t understand how that song made it into L.A. Guns‘ very time limited set. It seemed to me that there were a lot better classic L.A. Guns songs to play live than that one such as “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “No Mercy” and “One More Reason.” From then on and with no time to lose, L.A. Guns just played the songs that I would expect them to play to close out their set including “Sex Action”, their big single “The Ballad of Jayne”, their one standout new song since the Lewis–Guns reunion — “Speed”, and the easy to sing along to “Never Enough.” The band did also play the intro music section to the AC/DC classic “Hells Bells” before “Never Enough” but since there were no vocals from Lewis, it was a tad disappointing overall and again took away from L.A. Guns‘ limited time to play their own material.
L.A. Guns performing “The Ballad of Jayne” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):
Before long, it felt like encore time since Tracii Guns came out by himself to “treat” the audience to yet another guitar solo. This was more wasted time before Guns hit the familiar riff that launched the band into its obligatory closer “Rip And Tear.” While the L.A. Guns members provided a set filled with lots of energy and seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage, I really felt like the band mismanaged its time on stage with the various Tracii Guns interludes. All of the various Tracii Guns solo interludes reminded me of KISS‘ Animalize Live Uncensored video where I was puzzled back in the day to see Eric Carr, Gene Simmons and even Paul Stanley each taking extended time throughout the concert for their own solos / interactions with the audience. I’ve always felt that KISS wasted a lot of precious time by doing that. Luckily, they eventually and seemingly figured out that the crowd would rather hear more songs since by the time I first saw KISS perform live during their Hot In The Shade Tour, the bass and guitar solos were no longer a part of the band’s live shows. By the way, I don’t count Simmons breathing fire or splitting blood, or Stanley “flying” over the audience to get to a smaller stage, as a “solo”. That is just cool entertainment!
Getting back to the L.A. Guns concert, Phil Lewis seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying his time on stage. He had a real “pirate” look with his funky, old styled, curled up moustache. It was fun seeing bassist Johnny Martin almost dance away while playing his bass on “The Ballad of Jayne.” Guitarist Ace Von Johnson seemed to have a Lemmy type stance given that he was singing high up in the air into a microphone when providing background vocals. Unfortunately, it definitely felt like he was the “second” guitarist in the band with Guns taking most of the spotlight between them. I did end up getting two of Von Johnson‘s guitar picks throughout the show. I felt one hitting my chest and quickly located it on the general admission floor. Another time, I looked down at the floor and noticed a pink like guitar pick right next to one of my feet. There was one other pick that hit me close to one of my eyes but I couldn’t locate where it went. It ended up flying behind me as I noticed a concert attendee quickly reaching out on the floor behind me to get it. In any case, it’s always nice to leave a concert with one or more guitar picks as a souvenir.
Overall, L.A. Guns put on a good set but they could have squeezed in another song had they trimmed the fat (the Tracii Guns‘ guitar solos).
L.A. Guns’ setlist on July 24, 2022:
02. Electric Gypsy
03. Tracii Guns’ guitar solo with a bow
04. Over The Edge
05. Sex Action
06. The Ballad of Jayne
08. Never Enough (with snippet of Hells Bells at beginning)
09. Tracii Guns’ guitar solo
10. Rip And Tear
L.A. Guns performing “Rip And Tear” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):
My expectations for Tom Keifer and his band were on the low end going into the night and it is safe to say that the Cinderella singer and his bandmates easily exceeded my expectations and ended up delivering the best set of the night. Apparently, Keifer has a lot of fans in the Florida area because the crowd seemed very loud when he hit the stage. The opening track “Touching The Divine” was alright but things quickly ramped up when the band launched into the Cinderella classic “Night Songs.” From there on, it seemed that Keifer played the veteran card by playing one or two Cinderella songs before offering one of his solo tunes. That seemed to work quite well to keep the energy up while giving Keifer the opportunity to play some of his solo material, which turned out to be four songs (“Touching The Divine”, “It’s Not Enough”, “Rise” and “Solid Ground”) out of fourteen that were played that night. I have to say that I really liked “Rise” which I hadn’t heard that many times and even Keifer noticed that the audience seemed to be getting off on that song too.
Keifer noted to the crowd that it was just like old times as Florida has always been great to him and his band. There definitely feels like there is more of a rock n’ roll culture in Florida compared to Toronto (in Canada). I can walk in a gas station in Florida and hear a Poison tune blaring and not just one of Poison‘s biggest hits but a deeper cut such as “I Want Action.” The Fort Myers audience seemed to be made up of mostly people that had grown up listening to 80’s hard rock / heavy metal and it seemed that most knew all of the words to the various 80’s classics. For instance, while the crowd waited for Keifer, Dokken‘s “It’s Not Love” was playing and whomever was controlling the PA system would turn down the volume as soon as the words “It’s Not Love” needed to be sung and you would then just hear the crowd singing those words loudly every time. There was definitely some great energy coming from the Fort Myers crowd and you could see that Keifer felt it as well.
Tom Keifer performing “Somebody Save Me” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):
It was fun to see a piano getting placed on stage on two occasions because I think everyone knew this meant that Cinderella‘s two biggest ballads — “Nobody’s Fool” and “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” — would be getting played. I think for both songs, Keifer asked the audience to sing along and the crowd certainly did that. On the latter song, Keifer‘s wife Savannah was sitting across the piano from him and it felt like Keifer was almost singing to his wife on that one. It was cool seeing all the cell phones light up for that song as well. In terms of Keifer himself, he had a much taller and imposing presence than I remembered. It was neat seeing Phil Lewis standing on the side of the stage taking in the early portion of Keifer‘s set. After all, Lewis could have easily been relaxing somewhere after L.A. Guns‘ set but here he was, taking his time to catch Keifer and his band playing at least five songs from what I can remember. To me, I interpreted that as Lewis still having a lot of passion and fire for his music craft as he was taking the time to check out and enjoy one of his contemporaries playing live more than 40+ years after getting into the music business.
I was impressed with Keifer‘s band and particularly guitarist Tony Higbee who looked like a real rock star out there and who really seemed to be enjoying himself. Higbee is a frontman himself in his band The East Side Gamblers so Keifer has a real star backing him up night after night. I really enjoyed each and every Cinderella track that Keifer and company played except for “Shelter Me” that I have never been fond of. Overall, I thought that Keifer did a great job of keeping the energy levels up throughout his set and he seemed to have delivered exactly what the crowd wanted. It’s hard to see how anyone could have been disappointed with Keifer‘s set.
Tom Keifer performing “The Last Mile” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):
Tom Keifer’s setlist on July 24, 2022 (as per setlist.fm):
01. Touching The Divine
02. Night Songs
03. Coming Home
04. It’s Not Enough
05. Somebody Save Me
07. Nobody’s Fool
08. Solid Ground
09. Fallin’ Apart At The Seams
10. The Last Mile
11. Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)
12. Shake Me
13. Shelter Me
14. Gypsy Road
Tom Keifer performing “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” and “Shake Me” live at The Ranch in Fort Myers, Florida, USA on July 24, 2022 (video from Steve Netzel‘s YouTube page):