TORA TORA ANNIHILATES THE STAGE IN CHESTERFIELD, MICHIGAN
Date: October, 5 2019
Venue: Diesel Concert Lounge
Location: Chesterfield, Michigan
Reviewer: Tyson Briden
Photos: Tyson Briden
This past June, I took a trip down to Nashville, Tennessee, USA. This would be the third year in a row that I would visit this great American city. Somehow, this is a place that I seem to gravitate towards. I can’t really pinpoint the reason for this, but I have to admit that if I had the choice this is somewhere that I would take up residence. Now many of my Canadian counterparts may be left scratching their heads saying, “Why would a Canadian want to move south of the border?” Well, if the truth be told I love both North American countries equally. There are good and bad points to both nations.
With all that said, this isn’t about my views on the U.S. or about my belief that in Canada things aren’t as they used to be. So as we took a slight detour, let’s get back to my last trip to Nashville. On this vacation, I would be in touch with Tora Tora lead singer Anthony Corder. As I was in my favorite bar Big Shots on 2nd Avenue possibly drinking one of many beers of the day, suddenly my phone rang. It was Anthony. As I answered, I heard a positive, happy southern voice on the other end. “Hey man! What is going on? Where are you at?” As we conversed, it was decided that my wife and I would visit Anthony the next day at his place of work. Sure enough the next day, we headed from our KOA spot to Midtown, Nashville to visit with Anthony. For an hour, my wife and I got to see the inner workings of a musical engineering education facility.
A few days later, we would venture off to Memphis, Tennessee where we would meet up with Roxy Blue singer Todd Poole, but that is a story for another time.
As the months would pass since the Nashville / Memphis trip, I would occasionally hear from Anthony. As I was on Facebook one day, I suddenly noticed that Anthony and Tora Tora would be playing in Chesterfield, Michigan, USA. Technically, it was advertised in Detroit, but to my surprise when I checked the location on Google, it was indeed in the suburbs. That was somewhat of a relief as we all know the reputation of Detroit Rock City. I quickly messaged Anthony and asked if it was indeed true that Tora Tora would be coming to a city close by. Anthony quickly answered with a “Yes!” Sweet, a mandatory road trip would be in order!
A couple days prior to the show, I messaged Anthony again, warning him that quite possibly he should bring a jacket as the weather had drastically taken a turn for the worst. Anthony came back with, “What?! It’s almost 100 in Nashville. Cold front coming in this week…” I responded with, “As of yesterday, it was hot, then it cooled right down. Today was only 13 degrees Celsius… and damp!” As I was sitting in my shed watching Thursday Night Football, another message came in from Anthony, “I will have you +1 guest on the list!” I was very happy and let him know. I quickly messaged my buddy Red Green who was coming to the show with me that all was taken care of by Anthony. I told Red to be at my place between one and two on Saturday.
Well, sure enough, Red showed up before 1 pm. A little earlier than expected and I still hadn’t gotten showered or dressed. I was actually still cleaning the house. Now, you may be asking what the relevance to cleaning the house has to the show. Not much really, but a month prior, my house had been robbed by ruthless thieves. Then two weeks after the robbery, my wife and I left for Portugal for two weeks. Now not only did the thieves make off with six expensive irreplaceable guitars, jewelry, electronics, 190 vinyls (one being a mint, still in the plastic with original sticker of Tora Tora‘s Surprise Attack album that was mentioned in my Anthony Corder interview back in January on this very site), but the thieves stole our birth certificates and passports. So leading up to my vacation, the house was never cleaned thoroughly until we returned. So I was doing my due diligence and putting my life back in order so to speak.
At 1 pm, Red Green and I were ready. We hit the 401 like a bat out of hell with an awesome ’80s hair rock playlist blaring from the speakers of my 2019 Chevy Silverado pick-up truck. As we hit Toronto, it became obvious that our trip would have some delay. As usual, Toronto traffic was horrendous. Great planning by the great Ontario politicians back in the day I may add. From Toronto all the way to the town of Milton, it was stop and go. As we got outside of Milton, it became obvious that an accident had taken place and that was what slowed down a portion of the drive. As we got past the accident, things took a turn for the better. Within two hours we had crossed the Canada / US border and were within miles of our destination.
Just before 6 pm, we arrived at Diesel, the site of the night’s event. As we pulled into the parking lot and parked the Silverado, we both grabbed a beer from the recently purchased Budweiser case, cranked some Tora Tora and sat back, taking in the sites of Chesterfield, Michigan. As we looked towards the site of the night’s event, we quickly noticed that the venue was a multi-use facility with a bowling alley.
Within an hour, we decided that we should head inside. As we walked in the doors, we noticed the many bowling lanes, but were unsure where Tora Tora would play. Suddenly, someone said, “Go over towards the pinball machines! There’s an entrance there!” We made our way to the entrance, walking by the long bar towards the pinball machines. Our reaction to those machines was of astonishment. There must have been 30 to 40 vintage pinball machines. You see back in the early ’90s, Red Green, myself and a few other buddies would spend hours at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, drinking endless amounts of bottomless coffee and playing pinball till the wee hours of the morning. Red Green and I quickly made the rounds to see if any of the machines were the ones we had played back in the day. Sure enough, lying on the back wall of the venue was non-other than the infamous Terminator 2 pinball game. Suddenly, my heart skipped a beat and a feeling of nostalgia came over me. This was the moment where I thought back to the days of still living in my parents basement, having no responsibility, with ’80s hard rock being a way of life and life just seemed so much better.
Red Green and I went back to the long bar, ordered a beer, got some change and made our way back over to that Terminator 2 game. The challenge was on. This was such a defining moment of the evening. Here I was with one of my oldest friends, playing a game from 25 years ago and going to see a great band. Well, as for Terminator 2, I will tell you this, we were far removed from the pinball wizards we had once been. Neither of us really showcased our pinball talents on this night. We played a couple games and decided to head into the music venue. What I can say about this venue was that it actually had two stages. It appeared that Tora Tora would be playing at the back portion of the venue and another band would be gracing the first stage. Interesting indeed!
Once in, we decided we were in for the remainder of the evening. We then made our way to the merch table. There Red Green bought me the definitive Tora Tora t-shirt that featured the Surprise Attack album cover. We then made our way over to another bar. There we were greeted by a beautiful young girl who was working the bar. Both of us commented on the fact that this girl was very pretty. A slight distraction, but nothing that would get either of us into any trouble on this evening. It is one thing to comment on someone’s beauty, but another thing to act like an overbearing cave man type who feels that they are worthy of this girl’s attention. Remember, this is her job boys! Those days are long past for either of us as we are both happily married to the love of our lives. To be honest, it wasn’t that we were that much trouble back in the day anyways.
As the first band arrived to the stage, it became apparent that they quickly lost my attention. Here were three young man playing what appeared to be grunge music. They were called The Stepmothers. Enough said. From there another band appeared. Aftertauht was just as uninspiring as the band before. Just not my cup of tea. As for the last opener, well the same can be said. Kougaran possessed a good look and decent stage set-up, but on this night, I just wanted to get to the headliner.
As the headliner of the night was about to take the stage, I made my way to the front of the stage. I really wanted to feel the blood, sweat and tears of such a great band. I noticed that Tora Tora drummer John Patterson was setting up his own drums and using the kit of the previous band. He’s a definite pro, so no big deal. Bassist Patrick Francis was next to appear. He set up his rig, conversed with those in the audience and prepared for the evening. Minutes later, both Patterson and Francis left the stage.
Suddenly, the lights went down, and we were off to the races. Tora Tora opened the show abruptly with “Giants Fall’ from the bands latest Bastards of Beale album. Singer Anthony Corder, sounded great as he always does. I have to admit, there was such a difference from the three openers to that of a seasoned, band like Tora Tora. The band broke into “28 Days’ from the debut Surprise Attack album and the crowd went crazy. You could feel the excitement in the air. Everyone was seen singing along and just generally having a great time. Corder was smiling and shaking. If there was a modern day Robert Plant, it would be Corder. Dressed in faded bell-bottom blue jeans, a black designer dress shirt and of course those long curly flowing locks, there is no doubt that Corder belongs on that stage. It was not just the look, but his movements onstage that gave you the feeling that he learned from the best. He took that influence and made it his own. Now of course we all know Corder has a killer set of pipes, but along with that look, he becomes the definitive frontman.
From there, it got even more intense as “Amnesia” and “Guilty” would follow. There was no need for the other members of the band to sing back-up vocals because the crowd had that covered. As the band broke into “Mississippi Voodoo Child”, it became apparent that this band was indeed the real deal. Corder pulled a harmonica from his back pocket, playing the cool intro note for note. Something has to be said in terms of the Tora Tora style. This isn’t just a run of the mill rock band. This is a band that mixes hard rock with, funk, soul and blues. This is Memphis rock at its finest. If you take bands from the southern United States and put them up against bands from other regions in the U.S., there really is no comparison. There is something to be said about growing up in the south. It lives and breathes within the music.
Another composition from Bastards of Beale was up next, the amazing “Rose of Jericho” seemed to go over nicely. Some didn’t seem to know the song, but they were still shaking and moving. In settings like this where a band’s fanbase may not be aware of the new material as much as the old, Tora Tora did a great job of keeping the flow going. When “Dead Man’s Hand” came up next, the crowd was certainly pleased. This composition from the band’s amazing second album Wild America, which seemed to really give the fans a nice change of pace. This Rolling Stones / Black Crowes type rocker was well received and many were singing along. Although the horns were missing, the song still sounded amazing.
Now we have come to the middle of the show. Where would the band go now? Does it really matter? Tora Tora have so many great songs. “Lay Your Money Down” and “Love’s A Bitch” really brought the house down. These songs just created a feeling within that cannot be taken for granted. This is pure energy rock n’ roll at its finest. It was at this time that Tora Tora added what I would term as the ‘crescendo’ of the night. Corder quickly put on his Takamine wood grained acoustic guitar. As Corder and guitarist Keith Douglas jammed out sweet sounds of the opening guitar part to “Phantom Rider” it became obvious that this was the definite crowd pleaser. As the band played on, the defining question would be, “Does Anthony Corder still possess the pipes to sing the scream in the middle section?” Well folks, I have to say he does and it really gave me chills. Honestly, he blew me away.
From there, the dynamics of this great band became even more apparent. You see, there is something to be said about great chemistry. Within Tora Tora, there are two definite pairings. There is the relationship between the singer and the guitarist. Then there is that relationship between drummer and bass player. If executed properly, a good band becomes an unstoppable force. Now, when you take those two elements and put them all together it becomes the perfect recipe for a memorable evening of kick ass rock n’ roll. When it comes one of these relationships, seeing Corder and Douglas playing off of each other on “Nowhere To Go But Down” was really something special to see.
Of course, Tora Tora would include a couple more tracks from the band’s latest Bastards of Beale album. “Sons of Zebedee” went over amazingly well, but it would be the next song that would be special for me. You see, “Son of A Prodigal Son” has a personal feeling for me. When Anthony and I spoke back in January, he mentioned that the video was filmed at none other than the legendary “Handy Hall” on Beale Street in Memphis. Now, that may seem like just another video shoot, but the relevance to Tora Tora is so important to the band’s history. This was the same stage that the band filmed “Walkin’ Shoes’ at 30 years prior. On my trip to Memphis, I made a point of sitting at the bar at Handy Hall and enjoying live music as well as many Pabst Blue Ribbons. To even add more to that story, it was sitting at that very bar that I received a phone call from Roxy Blue singer Todd Poole about us hooking up for beers. It just proves the point that music isn’t just a listening experience. It’s what surrounds it. Where you were. Who you were with and how it made you feel. For me, it’s putting in many defining moments of a previous trip and how the music relates. Of course to close out the show, what was left? “Walkin’ Shoes’ would be the ultimate closer. What more can we say about that song? It was executed perfectly. There would be no encore, but did there really need to be?
Tora Tora’s setlist:
01. Giants Fall
02. 28 Days
05. Mississippi Voodoo Child
06. Rose of Jericho
07. Dead Man’s Hand
08. Lay Your Money Down
09. Love’s A Bitch
10. Phantom Rider
11. Nowhere To Go But Down
12. Sons of Zebedee
13. Son of A Prodigal Son
14. Walkin’ Shoes
The band bowed to the audience, shook many hands and headed to the back area to hang with the fans. Anthony was last to arrive at the back area as many were in need of his attention. He quickly saw me, reached out his hand to shake mine and asked, “Tyson, are you going to stick around for a bit? Let’s catch up!” Within ten minutes, Anthony was back. There were many fans congregated at the table he was sitting at. I stood at the bar and allowed the fans the chance to meet Anthony. When the time was right, I made my way to Anthony. Noticing me, he quickly offered me a beer. I went to his side and like two old friends, we struck up conversation. In our quick time together, Anthony introduced me to other friends that had come to see him. It was a great experience and became obvious to me why we struck up a quick friendship many months ago. As we made our way to the bar area from the table, Anthony introduced me another couple who he had known in Nashville who now lived in the Detroit area. We struck about a conversation about the business and it became apparent that Anthony’s passion for anything music is still so prevalent. Within minutes, I decided that it would be best for me to make my way back home. With my hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel and my eyes very heavy, Red Green and I made our way back home on the 401 highway. At 5 am, we pulled into the long driveway of the home that doesn’t seem as safe to me as it did a year ago, but that will be fixed in time. This was a memorable night that will hold true in my mind for years to come. Thank you to Anthony Corder and Tora Tora!
Tora Tora performing “Walkin’ Shoes” live at Diesel in Chesterfield, Michigan, USA on October 5, 2019:
Off my Digital Camera last night @ The Diesel Lounge. The Main Act……..TORA TORA