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THE DEAD DAISIES @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto (August 24th, 2018)

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The Phoenix Concert Theatre has hosted several concerts reviewed here at Sonic Perspectives: Saga, The Darkness and Suicidal Tendencies played there recently, and many more are scheduled for the upcoming months. Last Friday, August 24th, the house was taken by assault by Hookers & Blow and The Dead Daisies.

Before the two main acts reached the stage, the house featured several local bands, among which Counterwait, Phear and Crisis Ctrl Club. The latter was the most interesting of all, and consisted of a guitar/drums duo with an 80’s pop sound. They cleverly made use of sampled keyboard parts and triggers, and their sound alluded to Duran Duran and The Smiths.

Hookers & Blow is a project formed 15 years ago by longtime Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed and Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi. The lineup tonight was completed by the solid backbone of Johnny Kelly (Danzig) on drums and Robbie Crane (Black Star Riders), and they also brought in the sultry moves and silky voice of Nadja, a mysterious backing vocalist.

After manning the flanks for almost three decades on Guns ‘N’ Roses, Dizzy took center stage for a change, and acted like a completely different person than his restrained figure in GNR. While he certainly has the charisma and clout to shine on his own, this was somewhat undermined by his choice of songs tonight: five out of eight songs were Guns ‘N’ Roses covers. The remainders were a blistering version of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and two songs from Dizzy’s solo album, Rock ‘N Roll Ain’t Easy: the title track and “This Don’t Look Like Vegas”. All covers had a somewhat different approach than GNR, with obviously more emphasis on the piano arrangement – Dizzy showed no mercy to his Roland A-88, and Alex Grossi’s no slouch either when it comes to shredding. But you kind of wonder what’s the point of putting a side project together if you’re playing material from your main band for the most part. Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but it would be nice to see the band take more risks in the repertoire. Dizzy’s debauched stage persona when taking the lead was surely magnetic, and his solo songs were a joy to hear. I would be curious to see what they could do as headliners, and when the audience feels that way, you know the opening band did something right.

The Dead Daisies was initially formed by singer Jon Stevens and guitar player David Lowy in 2013. It was initially conceived as an all-star band without a firm lineup, much like another similar project entitled Kings of Chaos. For a while it worked as a “who’s-who-in-the-zoo” of hard rock, and over the years every musician under the sun played with them: Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses), Darryl Jones, (The Rolling Stones), Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses), Charley Drayton (The Cult, Divinyls, Cold Chisel), John Tempesta (The Cult), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Sass Jordan), Frank Ferrer (Guns N’ Roses), Alex Carapetis (Nine Inch Nails), Clayton Doley and Jackie Barnes (Jimmy Barnes). However, the lineup soon became stabilized with the current members: John Corabi (vocals, ex-Mötley Crüe), Doug Aldrich (guitars, Dio, Whitesnake), Deen Castronovo (drums, ex-Journey) and Marco Mendoza (bass, Whitesnake, Black Star Riders), with David Lowy as their mastermind. Notice that it took us almost an entire paragraph to list all the past and current members, so let’s get right to the account of what the concert was like.

Having toured Europe and Japan recently, The Dead Daisies are currently on a lengthy North American trek, and 2018 promises to be the year that will solidify this lineup and bring the band to a new level of popularity. The usually restrained Torontonian crowd received them with open arms, and they hit the stage with all guns blazing. Kicking things off with the self-references of “Resurrected” and the protest song “Rise Up”, both from the 2018 album Burn It Down, was a great choice. John Corabi, the consummate unsung hero of rock and roll, took his time to heat up his vocal chords, and once he did that, his raspy voice was in top form. The missing link between Rob Zombie and Robert Plant, Corabi released a single album with Mötley Crüe, which despite being considered by some their best effort, did not appeal to a significant part of the fan-base, and soon the band called Vince Neil back. He was then engaged in a series of projects, and now appears to have found a home for his talents in The Dead Daisies. His stage banter and presence were always on point during tonight’s set – entertaining but not overblown.

The anthemic “Make Some Noise”, with echoes of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, and the AOR-tinged “Song and a Prayer” were bulletproof crowd pleasers, and the band had no trouble getting the Canucks engaged in singing the chorus. “Dead and Gone” is the bastard son of Skynyrd and Zeppelin, where Deen Castronovo’s timekeeping skills were put to the test – and he passed with flying colors! The Dead Daisies is formed by artists from an era where the music business had a remarkably different setup, but Corabi seemed updated on the current trend, since he asked the audience to like the video they made for “Dead and Gone”. Record sales? Who cares!

Things take a heavier turn with “What Goes Around”, and it was time for Marco Mendoza to shine, with precise backing vocals and his thunderous bass tone. Known for his use of the “head set microphone” and for throwing as many picks from the stage as the concert attendance, he seemed happy and relaxed, and donned the trophies and scars of having lived a life on the road. He also stole the show on the escapist anthem “Mexico” and on the beautiful ballad “You and I”, which had Doug Aldrich using a talk box in the intro.

With musicians of such high caliber and such prolific careers, it would be strange for the band not to engage in a few covers, and they did it with class and charisma: their take on The Rolling Stones“Bitch” (a homage to some of his ex-girlfriends, joked Corabi) was insanely heavy, and they made “Midnight Moses” (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) their own. For the introduction of each band member, they also brought in a few bars of staples such as “Highway to Hell”, “Rock and Roll All Nite”, “The Boys Are Back in Town”, “Smoke on the Water” and “Heaven and Hell”. I could have mentioned here the bands that originally recorded those songs, but if you’ve made it this far into this review, I feel that won’t be necessary.

Bringing Dizzy Reed back on stage for the encore, they closed the proceedings with “Helter Skelter” and “Highway Star”. At this point in the show the band is so confident and loose that they look like a bunch of high school kids having fun – just like any half respectable rock band should be. Although the summer is almost over, the “party-like-there’s-no-tomorrow” atmosphere lingered on, and not a single soul left the venue with less than a cheeky grin on the face. With a more stable lineup and under the artistic guidance of main-man Lowy, there is definitely growth potential for the Daisies’ fanbase, and this is a tour not to be missed.

HOOKERS AND BLOW Setlist

Pretty Tied Up (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover) / Dust n Bones (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover) / It’s So Easy (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover) / This Don’t Look Like Vegas (Dizzy Reed song) / Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie Cover) / Don’t Cry (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover) / Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns ‘n’ Roses cover) / Rock ‘N’ Roll Ain’t Easy (Dizzy Reed song)

THE DEAD DAISIES Setlist

Resurrected / Rise Up / Make Some Noise / Song and a Prayer / Dead and Gone / What Goes Around / With You and I / Last Time I Saw the Sun / Drum Solo / Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) / Devil Out of Time / Medley / Leave Me Alone / Bitch (The Rolling Stones cover) / Mexico / Long Way to Go / We’re an American Band (Grand Funk Railroad cover)

Encore: Midnight Moses (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band cover) / Helter Skelter (The Beatles cover) / Highway Star (Deep Purple)

 

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