Dateline, March 3rd, 2017, Sunset Strip, Hollywood, CA. Inside the legendary Whisky a Go Go, the floor swells with what might seem like an over capacity crowd. The typically diligent security at the Whisky, which ordinarily keeps the crowd from blocking the red walkways, have clearly given up on even trying to influence the maintenance of those passageways. As one looks around the room, the anticipatory mob consists of people in their 40’s and 50’s. It’s nearly midnight, and most of the attendees are probably on any other evening, well asleep by this time of the night. This however is not just any other night. It is a trip back in time, some 30 years, to a day when these concertgoers were in their teens and 20’s. For maybe one night only, this group of spectators has relinquished the responsibilities of parenting and grown up worries and has been transformed into the living after midnight set.
As the full club anxiously awaits the arrival of the headliners, down the stage stairs comes a man in a sport coat and tie. He grabs the mic and begins to speak, the voice rings familiar, and as the lighting technician directs a light on him, it becomes evident that this is legendary KLOS funnyman, Frazer Smith. Clearly this turn of events must have raised more questions in the minds of the audience as to whether this was reality, or if they had entered some Twilight Zone portal back to the 80’s. Smith does about 10 minutes of his campy schtick, consisting of more “dick” jokes than anyone in attendance had most likely ever heard at one time.
L.A. Guns finally hits the stage and tears into No Mercy with band namesake and lead guitarist Tracii Guns ripping off the guitar intro. As the stage is illuminated, the band members mostly in 80’s inspired rock star garb, further reinforce the questionable place in time. There is a very distinct contrast between vocalist Phil Lewis and Guns. Lewis still looks the part of a Los Angeles 80’s metal band frontman. Guns, exhibiting a much more contemporary look, is adorned in basic black jeans and black denim jacket and sporting a full beard. Guns’ appearance is the totem that signals the brain that this is reality, it’s 2017 and Guns and Lewis are on a stage together again and L.A. Guns is cocked and reloaded.
This incarnation of L.A. Guns is very tight. Lead and rhythm guitarist, Michael Grant, who has handled all guitar duties for the past few years, in the Gunsless version of the ensemble, is a more structured, technical player, complimenting Guns’ unbridled, marauding of the guitar. Recent additions, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer, Shane Fitzgibbon round out the present lineup of L.A. Guns. Martin provides great bottom to the sound and contributes with Grant to backing vocals. Fitzgibbon delivers a very clean, timekeeping which is true to the L.A. Guns style, and preserves the roots of the overall sound.
This two night engagement at the Whisky, the crowning dates on an eleven gig, U.S. “weekender” tour, is about the joining together of Guns and Lewis. The years have not been unkind to Lewis’ voice. It could be 1987 again if you just listened to Lewis deliver the vocals. His ability to switch between the soft to the slightly raspy accents of the songs is untarnished. The Whiskyites are treated to a 10 number set, highlighted by the obligatory, 80’s excess and debauchery anthem, Sex Action and the grinding, Killing Machine. The main set seems over all too soon.
Never fear though, L.A. Guns re-assumes the stage and embarks on a four song encore. Guns, in the intro to the second song, detours into a melange of some classic rock favorites, Heartbreaker, Aint Talkin’ ‘Bout Love and Hell’s Bells. Capping off the evening’s festivities are the must play and probably their most popular song, The Ballad of Jane followed by an energetic version of Rip and Tear. The set ends at 1:00 a.m. and it’s time for the L.A. Guns faithful to return from the trip back in time and head home with a sense of satisfaction to the present day.
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