||LA GUNS STUN LONDON WITH COCKED, ROCKED AND LOADED DISPLAY OF FIREPOWER
London Islington Academy, Saturday 25th March 2017
Words: Andy Rawll, Pictures: Chris Drew 2nd April 2017
It's remarkable that following years of hiatus, ill-will and stasis, the talismanic twins, mercurial six-slinger Guns and charismatic mouth-piece Lewis, agreed to reunite under the awkward, legally bland name of 'LA Guns' Phil Lewis And Tracii Guns' with the London show one week short of the 30th anniversary of their first meeting on April Fools' Day.
From the very first drum beat to the very last power-chord, it was clear that there was to be no f-f-fooling about. This was as high octane, membrane-shredding, aurally delicious and visually mesmeric as a rock'n'roll gig can be.
The band from the Sunset Strip are renowned for having spawned the most successful and notorious rock'n'roll band of recent times in Guns N' Roses, but has its own colourful post-Axl history.
Following a series of line-up changes, it was the arrival of Britt-ish squire and big Girl's bellower Phil Lewis in 1987 that provided the catalyst for our Trace's band to achieve increasing commercial success with 'Cocked n Loaded' and 'Hollywood Vampires' being particular highlights. That is, until the insidious ooze of grunge shifted musical predilections and the Guns' guys' world waned. 1995 then heralded almost two decades of line-up instability, with Lewis departing, re-joining and then forming a Tracii-free splinter group, all with diminishing returns.
The sheer glee that met the opening song 'Hollywood Tease' instantly consigned the past to become forgiven and forgotten history. The band and crowd response was electric. It was the perfect Sunset Strip anthem to kick-off the show, but ironic given that Croydon lad Lewis and Hackney boy Phil Collen co-wrote the song in 1979, when the fabled strip was a distant fantasy, so it's more likely they took their inspiration from closer to home. Purley Way Tease anyone?
As expected, the set-list mined the gems of the first two albums, with 'Slap In The Face' the only obvious omission. These were complemented by a handful of songs from the other four Lewis-fronted albums from 1991s 'Kiss My Love Goodbye' to 2001s 'Don't Look At Me That Way'.
Some might bemoan the relative brevity of the performance with the main set done and dusted in barely forty-five minutes, including Cheryl's favourite song 'Malaria'. However, the encore was more like a second set, stretching out a further thirty minutes and further elevating an already frenzied atmosphere that most will revel in the quality of the show, rather than the quantity, particularly considering the unique opportunity to hear so many songs from the first two albums. The storming version of 'Rip And Tear', that closed the show, included reinforcements courtesy of promising support band 'Stone Trigger' and best articulates what LA Guns did to the Academy.
Every aspect of the show was superb, with the supporting line-up of Michael Grant, Johnny Martin and Shane Fitzgibbon providing taut swagger to every song. They effortlessly locked-in and rocked-out with the poise and power of early Leppard and the swagger of classic Crue. I was also really impressed by Tracii's guitar mastery. It was far from the sloppy glam Metal riffery I was expecting. His playing was diverse, slick and groovy and had a gorgeous over-driven sound.
His soloing was exemplary and inventive, spiced-up with judicious Theramin and bowed guitar and playful quoting of some of rock's greatest riffs from Sabbath to Van Halen that the crowd loved. Beat that, man in a hat!
Yet, it was big teaser Phil that really elevated the performance with charismatic and rangy vocals that nowadays Joe and Vince can only dream about. While his skills as a frontman remain undiminished, his voice appears to have strengthened with age and augurs well for the 'Reloaded 2017' tour that continues in the US from April to July.
It's also great news that this revitalised incarnation of LA Guns has new material in the pipeline, so if you missed them this time around, be sure to catch them when they come back once that cat is dragged out its bag.
Over The Edge (introduced by bowed guitar solo)
Bitch Is Back
Sex Action (with 'Paint It Black' snippet)
One More Reason
Kiss My Love Goodbye
Don't Look At Me That Way
Guitar Solo (with riff jukebox, Iron Man etc)
The Ballad Of Jayne
Rip And Tear (with support band 'Stone Trigger')