In Sioux City, IA, USA, August 1, 2003

Great White played in Sioux City, Iowa on the 4th show of their latest tour, a tour that is regretfully haunted by the deaths of 100 fans from the Rhode Island tragedy. Historically speaking, Great White, even though they did sell out 10,000 seat arenas in their hey-day, were never truly appreciated for their talents. Great White is NOT a hair band, although they were often uttered in the same sentence as bands like Poison and Warrant. Great White is a blues-based rock and roll band with arguably the best singer (Jack Russell) the genre has ever seen, and a guitarist (Mark Kendall) that takes his craft to a level glam-rockers like C.C. Deville could never hope to obtain. And for now, they are back together, bringing whoever will listen a glimpse of rock and roll being played the way it was meant to be played.

You’ll hear the jokes, of course. “You going to the Great White show?” “Uhh, they gonna use pyros,” followed by Neanderthal chortles. It is sad that they are going to have to carry this with them until the public lets them either fade away and once again be a band that is largely ignored, or make a comeback. Yes, the first one is much more likely, but you can always keep hope alive …

The concert was played at an outdoor venue, a beach area complete with sand and volleyball courts, and it was a perfectly clear and hot summer night. Great White hit the stage with “Lady Red Light,” and as soon as Kendall played that opening riff, everyone was on their feet. If you haven’t seen Kendall in a while, he looks way too close to the American political personality known as “The Ragin’ Cajun,” James Carville. But he’s still wearing the shades, of course, his trademark since the ‘80s.

Instead of going on to the next song, Russell waited until the cheers died down and spoke a few words about the tragedy. He thanked everyone for giving to the cause — proceeds from the tour will benefit the Station Family Fund — and for coming out to see them. He then asked everyone to bow their heads for 100 seconds of silence to honor, as he said, “our fallen comrades.” Dead silence ensued, and when the 100 seconds were up, the band was ready to put this behind them, at least for the next couple hours, and give the fans what they came to hear.

The set consisted of songs from almost every one of their CDs. To hear “On Your Knees” live was incredible. This is one of their heaviest songs, and although most of the crowd was too young to appreciate the rawness of that tune, many people were screaming along with it. Off of Shot in the Dark they played “Face the Day,” and somehow, Russell can still hit those high notes. Some other surprises were “Can’t Shake It” from Hooked and “Play On,” from Thank You … Goodnight.

Of course, they had to play the crowd favorites. “One Bitten Twice Shy” had all the people singing along, jumping up and down, and even though the band probably doesn’t even enjoy playing the song — it’s an Ian Hunter cover, if you didn’t know — they were there to make everyone happy. They also played the obviously similar tune from Hooked “Call it Rock and Roll.” The semi-hit “Rolling Stoned” was a crowd favorite as well, but “Rock Me” may have stood out as the best of the best.

Some parts are missing from the original, of course. Michael Lardie brought a distinct element to the band, namely the keyboards and his perfect backing vocals, and Audie Desbrow WAS the only drummer who would work in many of Great White’s fans’ ears. Derrick Pontier on drums did a capable job, though, but the other two touring members — Jordan Martin on guitar and Scott Pounds on bass — look like they may be too young to appreciate where Great White should stand in the hierarchy of great rock bands. And of course, Ty Longley, the guitarist lost in Rhode Island, is visibly missed every time the band takes the stage.

Russell made it known that CDs were available to be purchased, but that if they bought t-shirts and some other items, those funds will go directly to The Station Fund. He even said, “Don’t bother picking up our CDs; you can get them anywhere. If you are buying something here tonight, give to The Station Fund,” or something close to that.

So, Great White is on a truncated tour for now. They are out until the end of September, give or take, and then we’ll see what the future holds for them. While they could wallow in the pity of “being the victim,” and getting airtime on such idiot-TV as Oprah Winfrey to talk about how much they’ve been hurt, they are letting the music do the talking. If you get the chance, for a myriad of reasons, this is a can’t-miss show.

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