SVEN GALI ARE FUCKING BACK MOTHERFUCKERS!
Date: July 20, 2018
Venue: Norma Jeans
Location: London, Ontario, Canada
Funny enough, I was very close to not going to see Sven Gali play their “comeback” show in London. The Canadian sleaze rockers were scheduled to play in Hamilton the next night so why bother attending a show (in London) two hours away from my home in Toronto when Hamilton was one hour away. Greed I suppose (two concerts rather than one), the rarity of the occasion (Sven Gali had been pretty much dormant since their guitarist Dee Cernile died of cancer in 2012) and oddly enough, I had just recently “discovered” Sven Gali‘s amazing self-titled debut album. What? How could this be you may think? Well, I did have a period where I mostly only listened to the bands that I grew up with just when grunge was about to kill the hair band scene. It was only with the discovery of the Sleaze Roxx website in or about 2006 that I started listening to “newer” bands again. Now that I am unexpectedly at the helm of the Sleaze Roxx site, my hope is that some of you will discover some of the great newer bands that are out there carrying the torch of ’80s styled hard rock / heavy metal.
I am embarrassed to say that part of the reason why I never got into Sven Gali‘s songs back in the early ’90s was that I simply did not like the band’s name. Shallow? For sure. My reality at the time — yes! In addition, with some much great music coming out in the late ’80s / early ’90s, I just didn’t put in the time to listen to all the newer bands after a while and Sven Gali were one of those bands that I admittedly never gave a chance to. However, running the Sleaze Roxx website has pushed me to discover many of the bands that I previously overlooked and one of them was Sven Gali! Back in early February 2018, Sven Gali announced their return including some tour dates across the province of Ontario in Canada. At that time, I only had a passing interest in checking them out live given that I wasn’t really familiar with their material. A couple of months later, I was browsing the CDs in a record store (remember those?) in Hamilton, Ontario (which I learned yesterday from Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald happens to be Sven Gali‘s hometown) and I happened to stumble across a used copy of Sven Gali‘s self-titled debut album. I quickly purchased it and have been playing it ever since on a regular basis, which partly explains the lack of new album reviews on Sleaze Roxx this month!
With my wife and kids scheduled to be away for two weeks, I made plans to see Sven Gali perform live two times — in Hamilton on July 21st and Oshawa on July 27th. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Oshawa gig eventually ended up getting cancelled so I decided to add the London gig on July 20th to my itinerary. Now while making the two hour trek one way from Toronto to London is not a big deal, what is less enticing for me is doing the two hour drive back to Toronto in the wee early morning hours, which would surely be the case with Sven Gali playing Norma Jeans. I had done that once before five years ago when Airbourne played Norma Jeans and although the show was a great one, I recalled that the work day afterwards was a tough one and as noted in my concert review for that show. Nevertheless, when push came to shove, I elected to make the trek to London to check out Sven Gali‘s initial comeback gig. I arrived at Norma Jeans at around 10:00 pm and I got to say that I was disappointed with the sparse attendance. Sven Gali are rightfully one of the main bands playing at the Hull Metal Heaven at the Welly Club in Hull, U.K. on September 14, 2018 and I suspect that there will be many people specifically attending that festival to get a glimpse of this great hair metal band from the past.
After seeing Norma Jeans packed to the rafters when Airbourne came to town five years ago, I would have thought that the same thing or close to it would be occurring for Sven Gali. In any case, I arrived just as the first opening act was finishing its set. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch that band’s name and understand that they pinched in at the last minute so the group name is not on the poster above.
Next up was a band named Carbon. I had never heard of them but they caught my attention right from the first guitar riff that I heard. I’d describe their sound as something between classic rock with a touch of AC/DC. To be honest with you, when I entered the Norma Jeans venue, I asked the ticket booth representative whether there was another opening band playing after the one currently playing because I was hoping to go in, see Sven Gali and leave given my two hour drive back. As soon as I heard Carbon play, all thoughts about leaving early went away and I was actually hoping that the group would keep playing one more song from the time that it got to its sixth song and could potentially have to wrap up its set.
Carbon kept things simple with their songs that were based around some cool guitar riffs, some strong vocals from new lead vocalist Shawn and some timely background vocals. My favorite songs from what I recollect were the opener “Shots Of Whiskey,” “Love & Money” and the set closer “Feeling Wasted.” The singer Shawn, who was quite tall, was good at talking to the crowd between songs and noted that although he wasn’t someone to complain, something had to be done about the lights, which I assume were blaring in his eyes. I’d love to tell you the names of the various band members but it’s proving pretty challenging to get background information on these guys. I know the singer’s first name from talking to him after Carbon‘s set. Surprisingly, the group emanates from Oshawa, Ontario which is less than an hour away from downtown Toronto. Funny enough, I asked the singer Shawn if the group had a CD for sale but he advised that he was new to the band and the group’s debut album Elements Of Surprise was with the previous singer so they weren’t promoting that one. Fair enough, I hope that Carbon release a new album soon as I really enjoyed their songs on a first listen. Of note, I was quite impressed with lead guitarist Andrew Losier (I had to find his name via an internet search) who played some cool but measured guitar solos throughout the night.
Carbon’s setlist (as per posted setlist on stage):
01. Shots Of Whiskey
02. Dark Secret
03. Love & Money
04. Give Love Laugh & Cry
07. Shades Of Night
08. Just A Dream
09. Feeling Wasted
With the clock about to strike Midnight, Sven Gali started their set. New drummer Dan Varga seemed to have a monster drum set which reminded me a lot of Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee‘s drum set but on a smaller scale. The stage set had the look of a real headlining band’s set, which is nice considering that so many bands seem to put so little effort in that regard these days. For example, L.A. Guns — who put on a great show — recently played The Rockpile in Toronto with really no stage set of any kind aside from some amps. In any case, that was not the situation for Sven Gali although some credit may have to be given to the venue Norma Jeans who had a lot of lights. I’m not sure who provided the smoke machines but they were used — or almost abused — throughout the night for Carbon and particularly for Sven Gali’s set. Sometimes there was so much smoke that you could only make out portions of certain band members’ bodies.
Knowing what got them to the table so to speak, Sven Gali played a very healthy and generous amount of songs from their self-titled debut album. How many? How about nine out of the twelve tracks from that album, which was fantastic! Not being familiar with how the Sven Gali band members look aside from some early videos that I had seen, I was curious to see each band member as they made their way up the stage. Original Sven Gali band members — singer Dave Wanless, guitarist Andy Frank and bassist Shawn Maher — along with new drummer Dan Varga were all sporting short hair while new guitarist Sean Williamson was the only one really sporting a “rock star” look with his long hair. Despite the smaller crowd than I suspect that Sven Gali anticipated, they put on a great and enthusiastic set, and it genuinely felt like they were having fun up onstage. Right from the beginning, I was impressed with how Wanless‘ voice had stood the test of the time! He sounded great and I am sure that everyone can appreciate how a singer’s voice is so important to a group’s credibility long-term. How many times do people say that Don Dokken or Vince Neil — for example — should hang it up because their respective voices are just a shadow of what they once were?
After a double shot from the debut album, Wanless advised that they were going to play a song titled “Hurt” that didn’t make it onto Sven Gali‘s second album but that they loved to play live. It would be fantastic if that song made it onto a new Sven Gali studio album in the future (hint, hint). Next up was a double ballad shot with “In My Garden” and “Love Don’t Live Anymore” which had Varga come out onto the stage for the latter alongside Wanless and Frank while playing some sort of hand drum. Again, Wanless really sounded great. The frontman also had good stage presence while his bandmates seemed to be playing their hearts out. Wanless noted that Sven Gali had had the opportunity to tour with some big bands in the past including Def Leppard but sometimes it was more fun playing a smaller venue with “true rockers” (like on this night) rather than a big arena with 40,000 people. I don’t know if I really believe that but at least Sven Gali were making the best of the situation on this night.
Next up were two tracks that I had not heard before — “Keeps Me Down” and “What You Give” from the seemingly grunge influenced sophomore album Inwire. It’s kind of unfair to compare those tracks to the ones on Sven Gali’s first album since I was hearing them for the first time and I have listened to the songs off the debut many many times but the two Inwire tracks sounded weaker than the ones from the debut album. Next up was the rocking “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” which sounded awesome. Eventually, Wanless advised the crowd that the group had gone to New York to write a song with the producer from the group’s debut album and they had come up with “Kill The Lies.” To be honest, I really didn’t like the song when I first heard it but it sounded a lot better in a live setting. Sven Gali ended their set with a cool rendition of “Tye Dyed Skies” and a rousing version of “Under The Influence” which had the crowd singing along and which was preceded by the recognizable track intro. At the end of the song and probably sensing what a great set that the band had performed, Wanless exclaimed “We’re Sven Gali and we’re fucking back motherfuckers!”
The Sven Gali band members went off the stage for a brief moment before returning to play two encores. Wanless advised the crowd that the band used to play some covers back in the day before ripping into an awesome version of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Mountain Song.” Sven Gali ended the night with a spirited version of “Stiff Competition” from their debut album. The crowd that was there seemed very appreciative of Sven Gali‘s performance and it almost felt like the band was like a well kept secret. I expect that more people will turn out for the group’s homecoming gig at This Ain’t Hollywood in Hamilton, Ontario tonight and consider myself very lucky to have a band of this ilk so close to home.
Sven Gali’s setlist:
04. In My Garden
05. Love Don’t Live Anymore
06. Keeps Me Down
07. What You Give
08. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
09. Sweet Little Gypsy
10. Kill The Lies
11. Tye Dyed Skies
12. Under The Influence
13. Mountain Song (Jane’s Addiction cover)
14. Stiff Competition