L.A. Guns – Live Review – Tally Ho, Leesburg – 6/1/13

I must admit there was a complete moment of disbelief when I read that L.A. Guns were scheduled to play my local town up here in Northern VA. For one I didn’t even know there was a concert venue in Leesburg capable of hosting them! Well, that’s not strictly true, since a friend of mine was due to play the same place a few weeks earlier in May, which is how I came to find out about the L.A. Guns gig in the first place… let’s rewind about 8 weeks.

So my friend Danny O’Rourke plays in a stunningly good Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band called “Tuesday’s Gone” (which I swear I will get a review written someday soon) and he mentioned they were coming to our hometown, Leesburg. So, I thought I better look up the place they were scheduled to play. This turns out to be the old town cinema/theater that has now been re-purposed as a concert venue. I’m going to try to write up a few venue reviews, so for now all I will say in this regard is the venue is excellent, with a nice high and large stage, great sight-lines from anywhere in the venue and an excellent in-house PA system. I surely hope they book more rock and metal bands, because not only is this place 10 minutes down the road, but it’s a great place to see band. While looking at the Tally Ho website (http://www.tallyholeesburg.com/) I scanned down the list of bands coming to play and blow me down… L.A. Guns! I had to do a double take and took a quick look at the L.A. Guns website and indeed it was them!

I previously reviewed the last L.A. Guns album release, “Hollywood Forever” and you can find the whole thing here http://wp.me/p2hj3p-19, but the short version is this is an excellent CD and, if you don’t have a copy already, go buy one. At the time I scored it an 8.5/10, and I stand by that well over a year later. As a testament to how well this record stands up over time, I still have the CD on rotation in the car today. I also glossed over the rather confusing duality that existed at the time; yes, there were two versions of the ‘Guns, one led by founding member, Tracii Guns, while the other, and the artist of the prior CD and indeed this live review, led by Phil Lewis. Fortunately this situation is now just a fading memory, as Tracii has stopped flogging that horse and disbanded his version in late 2012.

Not all has been plain sailing in the Phil Lewis ensemble however, with long-time guitarist, Stacey Blades (who joined way back in 2004), leaving back in December. The guitar slot is now filled by Michael Grant (ex-Endeverafter), who it seems got the job after walking past the rehearsal studio where auditions were being held, and “looked right”. After checking out his guitar skills (which are pretty much way up there…), he was roped in as a full-time member and roughly 2-days later was playing his first show, which strangely was another Virginia date, back in early May, at Empire in Springfield. After that show, another reviewer mildly panned Michael’s playing, but the fact he made it through the set at all is rather amazing, given all he had was 2-days to learn the set. Read on to see how he was doing when we got to see him!

When we arrived at the Tally Ho I asked the guy on the door what the turn out was like and he had a count of 150 I believe, which was a pretty healthy number for a new venue. Over time I suspect it peaked at 160 or so, but I will note that by the end of the L.A, Guns set the audience had shrunk to perhaps 80-90 or so. We were treated to two local support acts, the first we all but missed entirely so it would be unfair to comment on them, while second up were local favorites “Westmain”, who themselves thought were a rather eclectic band to pair up with the ‘Guns, being more of a pop-rock outfit. However, don’t take that in any negative sense – they were tight and overflowing with great musicianship. I don’t remember the name of the song, but there was a song some 4 or 5 tracks into the set that was simply excellent. We have the CD at home, so hopefully I can figure out exactly what song it was and update this at some point. I suspect that Westmain was responsible for a good chunk of the audience, which to a large extent is the point of having a local support act, so overall job well done.

After some stage clearing, next up were L.A. Guns themselves. Now I will admit to some concern at this point, since it turns out the venue had misread the contract and missed the fact that the rider required the provision of a full backline and drum kit. Now all credit to the folks at Tally Ho, who after figuring what might be useable from the support bands (which amounted to one half-stack), went out and simply bought the required gear (yes, a full drum kit, bass rig and Marshall half-stack). However, I don’t think L.A. Guns ever got a sound check due to a bit of running around necessary to gather all the gear, so there was a little bit of a longer pause while the stage crew got everything figured out. However, fear not, these L.A. Guns fellas have experience out of the wazoo and from the moment Phil Lewis sauntered on stage, sleaze was in town and running on full tanks.

With little more than a momentary strum on their respective guitars, L.A. Guns were off and running, opening with “Over The Edge” from Hollywod Vampires (’91). There’s something just natively cool about Phil Lewis and tonight was no exception; cool was literally dripping off him. With the opening number behind them and the soundman now just about caught up with what was happening on stage, we were treated to the obligatory “Sex Action”, followed by “Never Enough”, which of course fired up the crowd and really set the course for the rest of the night. The band were loud, the drums tight and the audience was into it. At this point I need to mention the new-guy, Michael Grant, on guitar. Not only does he absolutely look the part, but this dude can play. Now, I’m not expecting note for note transcriptions of all the previous solos, but what we got was the soul of those previous solos brought to life with the character of Michael’s playing. This is what you need when you bring in new blood. Any misgivings brought about by earlier reports were quickly dismissed and filed as “not an issue”.

We then got a couple of numbers from the latest CD, Hollywood Forever, with “You Better Not Love Me” and “Sweet Mystery”, which to be fair settled the crowd down a little, since I’m guessing these are not necessarily what everyone came to hear, but sounded great to me. I won’t recount the remainder of the set track by track, but will comment that the “big hit, the one you all came to hear”, yes, “The Ballard Of Jayne”, was perhaps my least favorite track of the night. We did get a drum solo from the excellent Steve Riley, who, for those without access to Google search, was in W.A.S.P. and Keel prior to joining LAG back in 1987. I enjoyed his solo, as much as do most drum solos… We also got a pretty ripping guitar solo from Michael Grant. So far I haven’t mentioned Scott Griffin on bass, but this gent reeks ‘cool’ and was rock solid all night. As for Phil Lewis, he sounded absolutely spot on from start to finish and it’s very hard not to like him – his in-between song banter is simple chit-chat and far from the cliché laden scripts that a few lead vocalists lean on to get through the night.

The set closed with “Rip and Tear” which is pretty much the standard for the band, but it was clear we were in for at least one more, and after a brief interlude with most in the, now diminished, crowd yelling “LA GUNS!, LA GUNS!…”, they were back with not one, but two encores, starting with “Gypsy Soul” and finishing up with “No Mercy”.  In total we got 14 songs (well, 13 discounting the drum solo/guitar solo), with a run time of around 1 hour 20 minutes or thereabouts. To be honest I enjoyed every minute and the band themselves seemed to be having a good time which tends to be infectious. After the show I never heard anything that how good the band sounded and what a great time everyone had, which I would whole-heartedly agree with. The band seemed to like the venue, so I really hope they make a return visit next time they swing through the East Coast. My score for the night: a hard rockin’ 9/10. Oh, yes, the band re-named the town: It’s now called sLeesburg… (Though I believe they had a little help with that one Mrs. NoVAMetalReview…)

– Neil Waterman

Photo credits: mostly Michelle

LAGuns 048 LAGuns 054 LAGuns 058 LAGuns 063 LAGuns 075

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One Response to “L.A. Guns – Live Review – Tally Ho, Leesburg – 6/1/13”

  1. Nice to read and entertaining! Hope your wishes all come true.

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