|Dead End Drive-In: Now Showing - L.A. GUNS|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Saturday, 23 February 2013 03:00|
L.A. Guns - 'Live In Concert' (Deadline Music/Cleopatra Records)
Read this article as quickly as you can because, by the time you've got to the end, L.A. Guns will surely have replaced at least a couple of band members.
I jest of course but, remarkably for any other band possibly, not this one, L.A. Guns have actually replaced the guitarist featured on 'Live In Concert' not once, but twice since the DVD's contents were filmed. The fact that the concert footage included on this release was filmed just nine months ago makes that fact an eyebrow-raiser, the fact that one of those new recruits' tenure in the band's ranks lasted for about as long as this disc's running time much more so.
The L.A. Guns that we're focusing on here now find themselves to be the only band operating under that name once again...as it should always have been. The Tracii Guns-led doppelganger of a band has ceased to exist so now L.A. Guns proper (zero apologies to those who take offence at that fact), the Phil Lewis/Steve Riley version, is in sole control of gobbling up members like Annabel Chong.
I can't help but joke about the band member revolving door that has spun like a whirlwind around the band, especially given the circumstances surrounding the replacing of guitarist Stacey Blades who parted company with L.A. Guns in December of last year. News of Stacey's replacement came five short days after the announcing of his departure...and it was a good one: Frankie Wilsey was confirmed as the band's new six stringer and, known for his work in cult outfit the Sea Hags (along with work alongside RATT frontman Stephen Pearcy in Arcade), his appointment was universally accepted by sleaze sisters and glunk rockers worldwide.....for exactly a month until it was announced that he had himself been replaced by Endeverafter axeman Michael Grant. Leave your coat on, Granty-boy...
...sleazy come...easy go...
The line-up featured on this impressive, it has to be said, DVD/CD package from Cleopatra Records includes the aforementioned Stacey Blades alongside the legendary frontman Phil Lewis and monolithic drummer Steve 'Muthafuckin' Riley, with bass duties handled by Scotty Griffin who, after joining the band at the start of 2007, left the band himself in 2009 - replaced by Beautiful Creatures four stringer Kenny Kweens - before rejoining in January 2011. This line-up recorded the solid 'Hollywood Forever' album in 2012 and the live footage featured here was recorded just a few weeks prior to that recommended album's release.
'Live In Concert' was filmed during the band's performance at last year's M3 Rock Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland and impresses due to the simple fact that it eschews the opportunity to overdub, trigger or tart up the performance in a manner sadly accustomed to bands of their ilk. No, L.A. Guns offer a live performance here that is loose, flawed in that live and dangerous rock 'n' roll manner that we all (should) embrace, and much better off for it.
Lewis, Telecaster strapped to his good self for most of the performance, looks as cool as ever enshrouded in black and, alongside trusted sidekick Griffin, in front of skin-bashing elder Riley, throws out a timely reminder that not all bands from the era that forced the Ozone to buy a big-haired voodoo doll or ten need to embarrass themselves while pissing on their legacy. It is, however, Stacey Blades who threatens to steal the show. His departure could prove, over time (and god knows how many guitarists), to be costly. But back to the show...
'Sex Action', from that 1988 debut album that has aged wonderfully, if at all, opens the show and, after a sound guy suddenly remembers that vocals actually need to be included in a performance, the classic song settles into its expected strut, Lewis's Tele jangling surprisingly high in the mix.
As the band took to the stage the camera angle made the venue look worryingly empty, thankfully the camera was focusing on a (way too large) photo pit, the crowd in attendance, when finally shown in full, appears wonderfully massive, the M3 fest looking like a very cool place to be. Especially if you have a thing for MILFs shaking their stuff to '80s cock rock, Bowling For Soup video-style.
'Never Enough', from sophomore release 'Cocked & Loaded', follows and, although the backing vocals draw a wince every now and then, it's blatantly obvious that Phil Lewis has grown into this show in the space of just one song.
'You Better Not Love Me' is next up and, considering that 'Hollywood Forever' hadn't even been released, it was a brave move slapping this out early, and alongside another new song, 'Sweet Mystery', at an event generally sold on nostalgia. You have to love that hook in the former though, classic Phil Lewis - if you loved Girl, or his work with Tormé, then you better not hate this. Thing is you can't, it's great. The latter is another way cool tune too, and kudos to L.A. Guns for chucking out two new tracks at songs 3 and 4 on a setlist afforded just a 45 minute running time.
'Revolution', from 2002's 'Waking The Dead', is next up and, again, a song from one of the later albums in the back catalogue, the last one to feature Tracii Guns as it happens. Lewis, stripped of guitar now, leans into the micstand sneering the verses and, yeah, it's good, the backing vocals now on a high. The band get 'Cocked...' once again, after a brief band introduction, as 'Sleazy Come, Easy Go' spits and snarls its way out of the PA. Easily the best sounding track of this performance.
"Give me a 'Fuck Yeah!'" screams Lewis, "this one's for all you gypsies." Fuck yeah, we're back in 1988 for another go around that awesome debut. 'Electric Gypsy' gives way to the timeless intro to 'The Ballad Of Jane', a little too loose of an intro it must be said, Phil improvising some of the melody, getting the crowd to sing lyrics. There's no denying the qualities ensconced in this, one of the few '80s power ballads that actually stands the test of time, and when Lewis screams "I Love You" to the audience after they sing every word back at him you almost see the realisation behind the guy's eyes that people, even after all the shit and spats and OTT personnel turnover, love this fucking band. There's just enough time for the ninth, and final, track, a storming run through of 'Rip N' Tear', before the band leave the stage, Lewis hanging around to tell the M3 audience how great they were and how that was the best show of the band's year. It sounds like the usual patter and hyperbole, it looks genuine.
The live performance part of this set (and Cleopatra have included an audio disc of the show in this package also), as cool as I've made it sound above, isn't actually the best part of this release. No, after a trio of music videos from 'Hollywood Forever' - 'You Better Not Love Me', 'Arana Negra (Black Spider)' and 'Requiem (Hollywood Forever)' - that form an ambitious if low budget trilogy, the storyline of which sees Lewis end up with his throat cut (did one of his former bandmates write the treatment?!) as the band plays in front of an impressive L.A. Guns backdrop o'lights, 'The Making Of Hollywood Forever' documentary arrives to take the acclaim.
Split up into chapters, giving it an almost webcast-style movie extra feel, 'The Making Of...' is a real eye opener. With Blades, Lewis and Griffin taking the lead, Riley sadly missing for large chunks of the doc, the talk of how the songs came to be is great, the input of Stacey and Scotty happily large. Footage of Blades recording a guitar solo as producer Andy Johns calls him a cunt will give six string fanatics a semi and the rest of us a good laugh, while the footage of Lewis recording vocals in what appears to be someone's box room is enlightening: think that these Hollywood bands are surrounded by groupies and hangers-on in coke-addled multi-million dollar studios? Think again.
My favourite part of the documentary? The band's former bass player Kelly Nickels turning up to play on the album and ending up contributing backing vocals alongside the other four band members in a hilarious scene that ends with him trying his hardest to get everyone else to crack up - he succeeds. This shit will endear the band members to you, just in case you lost a little hope with all the drama that has clung to the L.A. Guns logo over the years.
Cleopatra Records have produced a bit of a rough diamond here: it's loose and low budget as noted previously but, if you love L.A. Guns you will treasure it. If, like some, the band once had your attention, give this a shot and I guarantee that they'll have it once again.