Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Great White Infests Roanoke Bike Show

There was something in the air last month on April 10. Maybe it was all those exhaust fumes from all the motorcycles gathered for the Blue Ridge Bike Festival at the Roanoke Civic Center. Then again, maybe it was aroma of aqua net and spandex that gathered outside waiting for the doors to open. The scene outside was almost like a time warp: excessively teased hair, over applied eyeliner and very tight pants. Actually, that was just most of the guys!

That night's entertainment saw two of the best "hair bands" from the eighties on the same stage as Great White and Dokken were there to rock the crowd. Great White's career has been all over the radar throughout their thirty plus year career. The band gained national exposure in the late 1980s with several MTV friendly videos and songs that rode the "hairband" wave of popularity. Their popularity declined a bit in the 1990s but they continued to tour strongly and release new material. In 2003, they received national exposure again, but for all the wrong reasons. A club that they were playing at in West Warwick, Rhode Island caught fire due to a deadly combination of pyro that the band were using and foam soundproofing material that was behind the stage. 100 people dies in that accident including the band's guitarist Ty Longley.

Most of Great White's "classic lineup" is still intact with Jack Russell on vocals, Mark Kendall on guitar, Michael Lardie on guitar and keyboards, Audie Desbrow on drums and Scott Snyder on bass. The show was definitely a stripped down version of their eighties tours with less lights and no pyro techniques at all. This allowed the focus to be on the music: less style, more substance.

One couldn't help but notice that lead singer Jack Russell came out on stage on crutches and sat on a stool for most of the band's performance. In a meet and greet with the band after their set, Jack told me, "I just out of the hospital a few days ago from back surgery. I figured, going out on the road and performing for our fans was going to be more fun than some morphine drip!"

Jack didn't let his setback hinder his vocal performance. He may not look the part that he did in the 1980s and 1990s, but that voice of his is still just as magical. The band has been known for its bluesy style of metal and they haven't lost a step.
The band ripped through such classic cuts as "Rock Me" and "Call It Rock And Roll". A personal highlight of mine was "Save Your Love" during which Jack's vocals were insane! This man still has a set of pipes on him! The band was very tight and proved why, after 30 plus years of touring and recording, that they are still around.

The crowd was very into the band's set from the beginning through the "who would have guessed it?" encore of "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and actually were hungry for even more! It's always great to see bands like this who resist to roll over and play dead just because their style of music isn't the flavor of the week. Great White does this because they love to do it, not because it's the cool thing to do. That's why the industry today has too many "here today, gone today" artists. Great White is a rare breed that is true to its calling....true rock and roll pioneers.

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