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.
I Wanna Live / Hang Tough / Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out) / What You Give / Signs / Love Song / Little Suzi / Modern Day Cowboy
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 like, 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.
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
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.
Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Rockin’ the Paradise
A Criminal Mind
Suite Madame Blue
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Come Sail Away (with Bohemian Rhapsody intro)
The night before this show drummer Todd Sucherman gave a drum clinic at Steve’s Music Store. Todd performed four songs two of which are from The Mission. This shows you just how much the band believes in this album. He did a long drum solo that was powerful and made you realize why he was voted the best drummer in rock by Modern Drummer magazine a few years back.
What’s interesting about Todd’s clinic is he spoke about the technicality and inspirational motivation of drumming. He showed how to make different drum sounds by moving the sticks just an inch further. There was also talk of how using Maple sticks are better than other wood types as they do not chip or break easily and could be purchased right there at Steve’s Music store (for a very reasonable price of $15 I might add). Another very interesting fact is Todd told us that Sabian cymbals will make you any kind of cymbal in size or style that you want. He stressed that you need to be passionate about whatever it is you do especially if it’s drumming.
I got to ask Todd what was his most memorable Spinal Tap moment. Here’s what he said : In California on this tour we had this roll drop that would come down during the last two notes of Renegade. There was a giant gust of wind and the whole thing came off. The next thing I know the whole drum kit including me was covered by this big canvas. I thought this must be what dying is like. The first person to uncover me was our tour manager. He’s a real gentleman and there he was trying to uncover me.