Rick Keene Music Scene – Tesla / Joan Jett and Styx Put On a Rock n Roll Show !

Guest Writer Ron Roxtar

Tesla

There was only one thing that was hotter than the Montreal weather yesterday. It was the temperature of the burning heat from a rock n roll fire set off by Tesla, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and headliner STYX.

As the four vertical screens showed the Tesla 30th anniversary logo, band members appeared on the darkened stage to rock out with an appropriately titled I Wanna Live.

Tesla had a stage set up with a three tier drum riser leading to a massive drum kit for Troy Luccketta to pound on. The screens had images of wheel gears, animated fire and other images for different songs. Wearing snake skin print pants and a skull adorned scarf, vocalist Jeff Keith sashayed and swung his slim body all over the stage. Guitarists Frank Hannon and Dave Rude along with bassist Brian Wheat were keeping pace with Jeff as they rock posed around the stage playing hit songs like Signs and Modern Day Cowboy. Tesla proved they can hold their own as though they were a headlining arena act.

Setlist
I Wanna Live / Hang Tough / Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out) / What You Give / Signs / Love Song / Little Suzi / Modern Day Cowboy

Joan Jett and The Blackhearts

The stage set was considerably toned down for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with only a small drum riser and amps on each side.

Wearing all black Joan ripped out one punky chainsaw riff after another on her red guitar. The punk factor was upped a notch by the spiked hair of guitarist Dougie Needles. Since Joan is known as the Godmother of punk she churned out her Bad Reputation songbook of hits; Cherry Bomb, I Hate Myself For Loving You or Do You Wanna Touch Me. Some songs like Light of Day had a full video playing on the screen.

It was I Love Rock n Roll that got everyone singing along and pumping their fists. Playing keyboards was original manager Kenny Laguna who told stories in between songs about the Blackheart’s early days. As good as the performance was, I think it would have been better in a smaller venue. Unlike Tesla they did not hold their own as arena headliners. No media photos were allowed for the performance.

Setlist
Bad Reputation / Cherry Bomb / Do You Wanna Touch Me / Victim of Circumstance / Soulmates to Strangers / You Drive Me Wild / Light of Day / Fake Friends / Love is Pain / The French Song / Fresh Start / Love is All Around / I Love Rock ’n’ Roll / Crimson & Clover / I Hate Myself For Loving You / Real Wild Child / Everyday People

Styx

A NASA style countdown led into the lights going out. Above the drum set Todd Sucherman appeared ahead of guitarist / vocalist Tommy Shaw as if they had just landed on the planet earth ready to rock. Bassist Ricky Phillips and guitarist / vocalist James ‘JY’ Young came on stage from side doors beside the drum kit. With keyboardist / vocalist Lawrence Gowan on his carousel keyboard the band opened with the instrumental Overture from their excellent recent release, The Mission.

Gowan was bounding from one end of the stage to the other during another new song Gone Gone Gone. It was not all new songs as Tommy Shaw spread his arms open and yelled out “We came here for a rock show!” Tearing into Blue Collar Man.

Gowan showed off his sense of humour by telling everyone they should buy the new STYX album, The Mission. He then advised the audience that if they were going to download it illegally, they should go into an actual record store and steal a physical copy of it under their jacket. “If you’re going to steal it be a man about it.” This led into another new song Radio Silence with Shaw on lead vocals.

Another addition to this year’s show is the usage of the large screen.

During A Criminal Mind the screen showed the STYX band logo confirming that this song is not just a Gowan solo hit but a full fledged STYX song. In reminding people that it was also a solo hit the screen showed the famous cartoon image of Gowan’s face from the video where he says “I am.” This was not all about Gowan and Shaw on vocals as JY spoke about this year being the anniversary of The Grand Illusion and therefore rocked hard on Miss America. At one point JY even held his guitar behind his head and played it.

Being back in Quebec the band had no choice but to play the song that helped make them famous, Suite Madame Blue. The last time STYX played Laval it was at an outside field where they incorporated a choir into the song. Last night Gowan’s vocals were strong enough that no choir was necessary. That’s what makes a STYX concert in Quebec more special than most dates they will do. We are pretty much guaranteed two extra songs in the setlist with Suite Madame Blue and A Criminal Mind.

Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man) brought out original bass player Chuck Panozzo who would return for Come Sail Away and the night’s closer, Renegade. The audience had their hands in the air for the chorus sing-along and clap-clap for Too Much Time on My Hands. Gowan said it was time for a rock classic and ding ding dinged the piano keys singing the Queen lyrics “I see a little silhouetto of a man Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango” just as he got to the part where everyone was about do the head banging a la Wayne’s World he stopped and after a brief pause (knowing the audience wanted more), he tickled the ivories for Come Sail Away.

The most welcome addition to this year’s show is Mr. Roboto. The song that has never been played as a full band version. The screen showed the iconic Roboto masks, Japanese writing and fire while the band played. Gowan brings his own vocal delivery to the song and it was a real treat for fans who have been wanting to hear it all this time. The great thing about the performance is if Gowan’s not spinning around on his carousel then Tommy, JY and Ricky are working every inch of the stage.There’s never a dull moment at a STYX concert. As Shaw claimed they put on a rock show and proved why they are the tour’s arena headliners. Domo Arigato, STYX.

Setlist

Overture
Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Lady
Radio Silence
Rockin’ the Paradise
A Criminal Mind
Miss America
Suite Madame Blue
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Khedive
Come Sail Away (with Bohemian Rhapsody intro)
Mr. Roboto
Renegade

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Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Dr. Lonnie Smith; Doin’ Only What He Can Do

The word legendary. Tossed around like a flea – bit peanut monkey sometimes.

In the case of Dr. Lonnie Smith – it is he who is tossing the primate around …

Commencing his career in the late fifties alongside George Benson – Smith used his knowledge as a multi-instrumentalist and student of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and R&B to rise to the top of the Jazz world as master of the Hammond B3 organ.

Dr. Lonnie Smith has been the most sought after player in the Jazz world for over four decades and at Le Gesu as part of The Jazz festival, the good doctor and his trio showed why.

Jonathan Kreisberg and Jonathan Blake are both powerhouses in their own right. Trading unique craftsmanship with each other with Smith holding back to let them shine. If not for Smith’s ‘ jolt you from the seats’ playing – Kresiberg and Blake almost legendary themselves. Blake especially on the drums, combining fierceness and finesse – power and purring to go with a genius’ work.

Some Jazz leaders are perfectionists by birth. Not allowing others to breathe within a song as their visions are superior to others in their own advanced minds. Dr. Lonnie Smith is a genius as he paints with his ‘paint box’ in front of him yet he allows his trio to paint with him. He is the teacher yet his lessons are by participation and not by dissociation. Guiding – yes. Ruling with a steel hand – indefinably no.

What some have done for their instruments ( Hendrix on guitar) in the public eye – Smith has done for the Hammond B3 organ in not only the Jazz world, the music world period.

They don’t give the NEC Jazz Award to just anyone after all.

Visit Dr. Lonnie Smith here !

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Beth Hart’s Dynamite Show Steals the Jazz Festival

There are so many female vocalists on the planet. Great ones, good ones, average ones and yes – bad ones.

Beth Hart is in a class all by herself.

Think of the soul of Joss Stone. The power and rawness of Janis Joplin. The sweetness and velour of Adele. The danger of Amy Winehouse. Add the above together and Beth Hart is the sum of all their parts.

At Theatre Maisonneuve as part of The Jazz Festival – Hart displayed emotion and honesty. She wears her life on her sleeve and tells the tales between songs. It has not been an easy life for Hart and self admitting (on stage last night) – she takes medication to ‘make her less crazy’. That part of her personality is what propels the talent.Her demons shine through via pain, love and anger. Her vocals are the vehicle as she rides away from her very own highway to Hell.

Love Gangster, Your Heart Is as Black as Night ( Melody Gardot), Chocolate Jesus ( Tom Waits), Good as It Gets and I’ll Take Care of You. Just a few of the tunes which Hart uses as her very own ‘Morgan Freeman’. Narration through art and poignant lyrics which make hairs stand on end through Hart’s effortless singing and the band’s tight stops and starts. At one moment – a casual fan can hate Hart for her brash ‘barroom’ chat and ‘honky tonk woman’ appearance. In less than a second later – the same fans fall in love as Hart’s tenderness arises like the sun from the eastern shore.

Drummer Bill Ransom, Bassist Bob Marinelli and guitarist Jon Nichols back Hart with so much perception. A compliment to Hart’s sometimes ‘all over the place’ chatter and forgetfulness (the set-list).

Marinelli appears like a young Sam Elliot. Stoically keeping both time and Hart on track within the battery of himself and Ransom. Nichols supplies the chords and screeching solos when called upon. Amy Winehouse had The Dap Kings to make her shine. Beth Hart has her band to make her the star. That’s their job and they do it more than well.

Following an eighteen song set with odes to her Mom in a very powerful Mama This One’s for You and an effervescent Leave the Light On – emotions circulating the theater were on high alert. Hart won everyone over with her simple recipe. Truth through song and truth through words. If anyone in attendance did not want to bring Hart home to take care of her, they were not human …

Visit Beth Hart here !

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Ranee Lee Delivers A Performance For The Ages Despite Sadness

Ranee Lee has endured some tough gigs in her time yet nothing like the one last night at L’Astral.

 

Earlier in the day – Lee’s husband Richard Ring ( Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Ed Thigpen, Ray Brown, Michel LeGrand, Oliver Jones ) passed away following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Ring was not only her husband but her longtime guitar player and mentor. Emotions were high yet as they say; the show must go on. Richard would have wanted it that way …

Ranee ( a member of the Order of Canada, a Juno Award winner, an actress and teacher) took the stage with true professionalism. From the very start – a song was in her heart and the love for the material on her sequined sleeves.

The Dark Divas was the theme as Ranee both educated and displayed the talents of all the legendary African-American women who inspired Ranee as a young woman. Billy, Sarah, Dinah, Pearl and Ella to name a few. A who is who of American female musical history portrayed through a concept written and conceived by Ranee herself.

Andre Menard ( the co-founder of the Montreal Jazz Festival) introduced Lee and gave the audience a heads up on the morning’s events (perhaps for when Lee was not able to carry out a great performance or maybe not continue at all). If that was the case – Ranee disappointed any of those in attendance who thought the grief would be too much. In Ranee’s mind and soul, seated right beside her, was her husband.

Theatrically, joyfully and triumphantly – Lee hypnotized the crowd with vocal depth, power and control. Lee was no longer a Grandmother. She was that young woman from Brooklyn with stars in her eyes. The young woman raised by a musical single Mom who taught Ranee piano under the stairs. The young woman who Richard Ring believed in so much.

As the night weaved through classic after classic. As the night steered through the magical musicianship of Ranee’s band, everyone kept waiting for the moment or the song which would cause Lee to break. That one memory shared between two people which would evoke emotions too strong to stop the sadness from coming. It never came in the form of an outburst. Inside – who knows yet Lee did not show she was struggling. Joy and her obvious love for both the tunes and her late husband was all that came across. In the end the crowd stood. The punters well aware of what they saw from an artist so pure and so strong.

On such a sad day – music and the togetherness brought on by the Dark Divas’ songbook turned a ‘normal’ performance into brilliance. A not-so-normal day into a historical Jazz Festival moment.

With Richard Ring high above on guitar …

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – Boz Scaggs Redefines His ‘Public’ Image

Admit it. Lido Shuffle is all you know …

Boz Scaggs is that type of artist.

The masses think that if an artist is outta sight – outta mind, they must be dead or their career is. True fans know – artists such as Scaggs do not care about hits.

William RoyceBozScaggs – is known for vocals with The Steve Miller Band. he is also known for Lido Shuffle and Lowdown, both of which were from his critically acclaimed album Silk Degrees (released 1976). The 1970s were very kind to Scaggs and that decade is what brought many people to Theatre Maisonneuve during the Montreal Jazz Festival.

What Scaggs and his formidable band did bring was intense and tight. aside from the aforementioned ‘hits’ – Scaggs et al were a highly professional unit led by the voice of an angel. At seventy-four years young, Scaggs can sing better than most people half his age.

Jojo (1980) led things off and in no time – the punters were standing at attention as the reality of a musical night hit like a ton of piano keys. Drowning in the Sea of Love, It’s Over and Gone Baby Gone set the table for a tune that established the groove that most bands strive for live. The Feeling Is Gone – a Bobby Bland cover saw Scaggs and his mates hit that ‘small club’ feeling. The sold out crowd picked up on it immediately and as they say; the rest of the night was ‘gravy’.

Scaggs knows music as his tutelage with The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section dictates as well as having the future members of Toto play on his album Silk Degrees. Those acquired skills and knowledge shine through live as Scaggs not only holds court on vocals – his guitar playing with just the right space; a pleasure to witness. Scaggs’ knowledge also dictates to let his band play their parts with freedom and respect.

Cadillac Walk – the Moon Martin cover, led the crowd into familiar territory as Lido Shuffle and Lowdown played out hard and with appreciation by all. The show ended with the ‘we know you will be back applause and that is when the music took over from the hits.

What Can I Say, Somebody Loan Me a Dime ( Fenton Robinson) and Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell gave the BAND and Boz the room (and joy) to say thanks to both the fans and the history of where they came from. The latter giving proof that Rock n Roll once ruled the world and that swing was a big part of it.

Visit Boz Here !

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Interview – Jordan Officer Blows the Roof Off Place des Arts !

Jordan Officer is a groundbreaking artist. Kinda …

Groundbreaking in a way that combines his talent with old school tools and old school sounds.

You see – Jordan is a scholar. A student of where music comes from. Blending Dick Dale with Joe Bonamassa. Bob Wills with Stevie Ray Vaughn. Guitar with the fiddle. All elements of music that make music what it is today in all genres.

Please listen below as Jordan discusses his ‘roof shattering ‘ show at Place des Arts as part of The Jazz Festival. A show that should place Officer into the music stratosphere.

Jordan? What’s up?

Visit Jordan Here !

 

 

Rick Keene Music Scene; Jazz Festival Review – George Thorogood ‘Destroys’ The Jazz Festival ( for a few hours).

What is there to say about George Thorogood that hasn’t been said before ?

Electrifying ! Exciting ! Raw energy ! Just some of the adjectives used to describe Lonesome George and his music ensemble The Destroyers. Okay – so those words were utilized by George himself. So what ?

One of the reasons George (et al) were here as part of The Montreal International Jazz Festival some forty years following their first Montreal appearance is because George is a salesman. A barterer bent on selling The Blues, the legacy of the Blues and his own Bluesy tunes. George is indeed a salesman but he ain’t selling junk.

Legend has it that George heard the Stones and wanted ( needed?) a guitar in hand. History has it that Thorogood utilized that Chuck Berry, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Brian Jones and Keith Richards tone to create and master the art of selling energy. The forefathers of The Blues required attitude to make it work. Thorogood took that attitude and defined attitude – ness. Attitude – ness with a capital A.

Earlier in the day – George received the B.B. King Award from the co – founder of the Montreal Jazz Festival Andre Menard at a press conference. During the question and answer period, Thorogood was praised for ‘sticking to his guns and remaining true to himself.’ In true George fashion he quickly dispelled that notion. “It’s all I know. I never tried to become someone else or remain true to my music. Three chords is all I know …”

Before an almost sold out Salle Wilfred Pelletier at Place des Arts, Thorogood went on to display those ‘three’chords with conviction. 

Rock Party, I Drink Alone, Bad to the Bone, Move It On Over and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer were all served in a dirty glass. Shaken – not stirred. Tunes that everyone came to hear set the night right. The stage was staged but the passion was not.

George may be getting older and his movements not as quick as the older days but age will do that to any musician. Active ones such as George are more noticeable when the energy is harnessed instead of wasted. A smart transition for Thorgood as longevity will never end the love affair he has with his fans.

Thorgood has reached the ‘right’ to play as a legendary figure. He is allowed to make mistakes (which he doesn’t) and talk more and play less (which he doesn’t).

In all genres of music, once you have outlived the sin, the business side and all the rotten side orders that come with it and still have gas in the tank to bleed on the stage; you do not drink alone with nobody else.

Everybody is funny that way. Now George is funny too …

George Thorogood will be at Trois Rivieres en Blues in August. Click here! 

Visit  Lonesome George Here!