YORK FAIR TRIPLE PLAY? MORE LIKE A GRAND SLAM!
Date: September 10, 2019
Venue: York Fair Grandstand
Location: York, Pennsylvania, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
Jackyl, KIX and Tesla. Together. On the same bill. When I read that these three bands would be sharing the stage at the 2019 York Fair, all I could say was “WOW.” In my opinion, this trio of bands put on some of the best live performances within their genre of hard rock. Following that thought (and before seeing the actual promo flyer for the show), I started to wonder… who would open the show? Who would headline? All three bands have an impressive catalog of music and draw (as in, selling tickets) very well when they tour. I base that statement on firsthand account of crowd levels at recent shows that I’ve attended.
That being said, my guess was that Jackyl would open the show. However, I was incorrect in that estimation. My reason for that assumption is that Jackyl primarily play clubs and the occasional bike rally when headlining their own concerts. That isn’t to say Jackyl are any more or less talented than the other two bands, it’s merely pragmatic. Tesla also play large clubs and theaters when they headline. However, they also do a lot of arena shows opening for other big-name acts. With a reported 15 million albums sold worldwide, they’ve also sold the most records out of the three bands performing. With those factors in mind, my guess was that KIX would go on after Jackyl, and Tesla would close the show. After I got all of those little fanboy details worked out in my brain, it occurred to me that this might just be a concert of epic proportions given the great reputation for each act’s live performance and the potential for a bit of friendly competition to go down. As it turned out, KIX opened the show and were followed by Jackyl and headliners Tesla.
The York Fair is generally a great place to see a concert and usually has at least one “rock night” on their concert schedule each year. The stage is set up in the median area of a horse-racing track, with seats extending back to what was once the grandstand for the horse races. Naturally, the seats at track level offer the best views, however seats in the grandstand provide shelter from the elements. The concert venue itself isn’t terribly large. As a result, grandstand seats are still surprisingly close and not what I would consider “nosebleed” seats at all. While you do sacrifice an up-close and personal view of the show to sit in the grandstand, the tradeoff is worth it in the event of inclement weather. I mention all of this only for the sake of recommending this as a cool venue to catch a show in late summer as the busy concert season is winding down.
KIX cut the ribbon on the York Fair “Triple Play” with a short but explosive set. The band is currently in the midst of a run through state fairs and outdoor festivals of late, having just played the Shenandoah Country Fair in Woodstock, Virginia and with several more shows on their itinerary for the month of September. There’s something truly exhilarating about seeing KIX perform in front of their “hometown” crowd. Baltimore, Maryland is where the band initially rose to popularity and the city is generally regarded as their point of origin even though it’s technically not where they’re from. Regardless, local area fans of this band take pride in them and are fiercely loyal. The energy level in the crowd at any KIX concert that I’ve been to is just electric and that held true for this show as well. York, Pennsylvania is just over the Maryland line, with Baltimore being just a short drive south down I-83. In terms of proximity, you could say we were still in “KIX country.” And when KIX play anywhere near their hometown, the faithful show up in droves. It’s like one big party where everyone knows every song. They sing along with Steve Whiteman and when he says “thank you”, the trained audience responds in unison with “you’re welcome.” It’s really just a terrific atmosphere and you can feel the pandemonium in the air.
Taking the stage to opening number “No Ring Around Rosie”, frontman Steve Whiteman pranced up to the center of the stage to take his place behind the microphone as the opening chords of the song signaled the audience that it was time to party. KIX have been at it since the late seventies, and the man should write a book on the secrets of aging well in rock n’ roll. He always gives 100% and has been in top form both physically and vocally any time that I have caught KIX in concert.
The most impressive was that, despite their truncated stage time of 30 minutes, the band still managed to squeeze in seven songs. Perhaps conscious to the fact that their time on stage was ticking, Whiteman kept his usual between-song banter to a minimum in favor of delivering more music. Not surprisingly, most of the material in the show was from their Blow My Fuse album. What did surprise me was that given such a short time slot, Hot Wire was the other album that they chose to play songs from. It isn’t out of the norm to hear Blow My Fuse tracks throughout their set, but I was intrigued that Hot Wire was the other album that they chose to represent rather than something from Midnight Dynamite or Cool Kids. No complaints though. “Girl Money” and “Same Jane” sounded great.
At this point, it’s been a little over five years since we’ve heard any new music from KIX. It would be cool to hear a few new songs from the band, even if they were released exclusively to digital platforms. With the music business in the state that it’s in as far as album sales go, I can understand the financial reasons for artists wanting to focus entirely on live appearances. While my preference would be for a new, full-length album of original material, I think a KIX covers record would sound phenomenal given the level of musicianship within the band. In any event, their 2014 effort Rock Your Face Off proved that the guys can still come up with catchy, blues-based hard rock of the caliber that fans have come to expect from them. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
With a mere 30 minutes of stage time. It was definitely the shortest set that I have ever seen from the band. But what their show lacked in duration, it more than made up for in quality. KIX were there to amp the audience up for Jackyl and Tesla but I do wish they could have played longer. As the old show business adage goes “always leave them wanting more.” They did just that.
01. No Ring Around Rosie
02. Get It While It’s Hot
03. Girl Money
04. Don’t Close Your Eyes
05. Same Jane
06. Cold Blood
07. Blow My Fuse
KIX performing “Same Jane” live at York Fair Grandstand in York, Pennsylvania, USA on September 10, 2019:
Kix performs Same Jane live at York State Fair PA on 9/10/19 .
The eternal road warriors from the south hit the stage like a ton of bricks! Their traditional opening number “Blast Off” did just that, and let the audience know that Jackyl was in the house and wouldn’t be pulling any punches. I use the term “warriors” to describe the band because they really are like redneck punks of the road, even going so far as to proclaim “always on tour” on the back of their t-shirts. Jackyl is such a tight, well-oiled machine at this point. The sonic assault continued to roll out with “My Moonshine Kicks Your Cocaine’s Ass.” When you watch the band perform, you just get the sense that any given member of the band could play the show blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back.
Frontman Jesse James Dupree offered up his usual “family reunion” shtick in between songs, albeit to a lesser degree — presumably to let the music do the talking through their quick set. Drummer Chris Worley stood tall behind his kit coercing the audience and miming along to Dupree’s banter. You get the sense that he has heard these jokes before. Even so, you have to give credit to Jesse for his comedic interludes and efforts made to engage the crowd. I much prefer this over a frontman that doesn’t speak to an audience at all during a show.
Some fans may enjoy the more mid-tempo, ballad-esque songs in Jackyl’s show such as “Secret of The Bottle” and “Just Because I’m Drunk.” The band routinely include at least one of these songs in its set and this was the case with the latter of the two on this night. Personally, I prefer their more raucous material. I still find myself wishing they would omit one of the slower tunes and add in a song or two from their Cut The Crap album. “Dumb Ass Country Boy”, “Lets Don’t Go There” or “Locked & Loaded” would all be cool additions to their repertoire. And “Crazy” from ROWYCO might just make a crowd go bananas if they were to play it live on any given night. It’s easily one of my all-time favorite Jackyl songs, and I consider it to be ROWYCO’s best track.
No Jackyl show would be complete without their trademark encore of “The Lumberjack.” As the band broke into the slow blues groove of the song, you could hear Dupree’s Stihl chainsaw being revved up side stage. Only to be carried out to him by none other than Tesla’s Jeff Keith. He seemed to be having fun winding it up and toying around before passing the blade over to Jesse for the band’s final number.
Jackyl have the attitude that they are going to keep doing what they do for as long as the fans show up to see them “whether you like or whether you don’t.” And rightfully so. With little to no mainstream radio support, fans continue to flock to their shows. If you’ve ever seen them in concert, it’s certainly not hard to see why. From the word “go”, they bang out one great song after another without waning and without looking back. I’m still dreaming of the day that I catch a remnant of the bar stool that Jesse demolishes with his Stihl chainsaw at the end of encore “The Lumberjack.”
01. Blast Off
02. My Moonshine Kicks Your Cocaine’s Ass
03. Down On Me
04. Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound
05. Just Because I’m Drunk
06. I Stand Alone
07. Dirty Little Mind
08. Redneck Punk
09. The Lumberjack
Jackyl performing “The Lumberjack” live at the York Fair Grandstand in York, Pennsylvania, USA on September 10, 2019:
The Lumberjack (Tesla Lead Singer Jeff Keith Comes Out with the Chainsaw), Jackyl, York Fair Grandstand, York, PA; September 10th, 2019; Triple Play Tuesday …
Tesla is another band that is seemingly always on tour. With little to no radio support for their current albums, playing live is really the only way that bands like Tesla can get their newer music to the masses. This was my third time seeing them live in the last two years, and they’ve been nothing short of fantastic each time. This performance had the distinction of being my first time catching them since the release of their Shock album last spring, so I was looking forward to hearing a few songs off of that album. I was also hoping to hear a few older tracks that I’d heard they recently added into their show, such as “Be A Man” from The Great Radio Controversy and “Breakin’ Free” from Forever More. I’ve never heard them play either of those songs live, so I was eager to hear them in the set. The Great Radio Controversy is my favorite Tesla album, so they could play a set consisting entirely of material pulled from that record and I would be just fine with that.
“Cumin’ Atcha Live” is the perfect song for Tesla to kick off any show with, and they did just that. Mechanical Resonance fans were in all their glory as the classic “Modern Day Cowboy” immediately followed it and scored the band a roaring reception from the crowd. That album is just classic, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of listening to it. Their next song was one that I had really been looking forward to catching since it was a new addition to their set since the last time I saw them. “Be A Man” from The Great Radio Controversy sounded great and I think it’s a keeper in the show. It went over surprisingly well given that it was sandwiched between two of Tesla’s biggest songs. Guitarist Dave Rude teased the audience a bit with a few slide guitar licks before breaking into the next song. As soon as he began to play that recognizable riff at the beginning of “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, everyone knew right away what song was next.
“Breakin’ Free” from Forever More was the other new song that I had been wanting to hear, but it was not in the set for the York Fair show. Regardless, I was glad to see that the band made an effort to play songs from most of their albums, as it gives the audience a broad overview of their work. Especially for younger fans who might not have ever heard the band. The only exceptions to that overview were Forever More, Into the Now and Simplicity, which had no representation in the show. They can’t get to everything though. “Taste Like” and “Shock” were both played from the new album and received somewhat mixed results from fans. “Taste Like” went over well, but I think some of the momentum of the show was lost with the modern-sounding track “Shock.” I base that opinion solely on the audience’s response. Tesla‘s Shock album is by no means bad at all. Just listen to “The Mission.” It sounds like classic Tesla and I think it would be a much better fit to their setlist. This album has been one that some fans feel very strongly about though, and my only advice is to give it a chance and listen to the entire album before forming an opinion. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that they add “The Mission” into the show at some point. It’s my favorite track from the new album and a song that I think would go over very well for them in a live setting.
01. Cumin’ Atcha Live
02. Modern Day Cowboy
03. Be A Man
04. Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
05. Taste Like
06. Miles Away
08. Gettin’ Better
09. Call It What You Want
10. What You Give
12. Edison’s Medicine
13. Love Song
14. Little Suzi
Tesla performing “Miles Away”, “Changes” and “Getting’ Better” live at York Fair Playground in York, Pennsylvania, USA on September 10, 2019:
Miles Away & Changes & Gettin Better, Tesla, York Fair Grandstand, York, PA; September 10th, 2019; Triple Play Tuesday Show with Tesla, Jackyl, and Kix
You may be asking “which band stole the show?” or “did a friendly rivalry escalate a particular band’s performance?” Ok, maybe you weren’t wondering that at all. I’ll tell you anyway. Going into the show, I really had high expectations. All three of these bands have been nothing short of amazing any time I’ve seen them and are known for their spectacular live shows. Given the varied set lengths and levels of stage production though, it would be like comparing apples to oranges. With the exception of the abbreviated sets, my expectations for all three acts were met in spades. It’s so great to look out into the crowd and see the venue packed with fans young and old there to see bands that have achieved legacy status. It reaffirms my belief that rock n’ roll is alive and well. With that, I walked away from the Triple Play of KIX, Jackyl, and Tesla feeling a rush of adrenaline and with a smile on my face. I’d say that this trio of bands was more of a grand slam than a triple play for the 2019 York Fair.