L.A. GUNS (Live)

at Rock In, Oslo, Norway, February 20, 2004

Before I went to this show I watched some music videos I recorded from MTV’s Headbangers Ball in the late 80’s. Very amusing. Among these videos was “The Ballad Of Jane” by L.A. Guns from their break through album Cocked & Loaded in 1989. That year L.A. Guns established themselves as one of many hard rocking bad boys units with the compulsory power ballad. The “Ballade Of Jane”-video brought my memory back to a time, and a year, when American rock bands really ruled the charts. Think of it… 1989; Skid Row’s debut and Aerosmith’s Pump. Mötley Crüe hit the number 1 Billboard spot with Dr. Feelgood. Alice Cooper and Kiss released records this year as well. And the list goes on.

More than one million cassette and vinyl buyers gave L.A. Guns’ Cocked & Loaded platinum status back then, a big deal thanks to the broad appeal of their Ballad. The year before they’ve already got quite an attention with hard rocking songs from their debut album, e.g. tracks like “Sex Action” and “One More Reason”. At the turn of the decade their future therefore looked promising. Then came the grunge wave. The grunge took over the party, and all those rock ‘n’ rollers got out dated. It all happened so fast.

In 1994 I was standing in a record shop in the Middle-of-Nowhere-Norway, where I happened to live. Suddenly, under a “new releases”-sign, I saw a cover of a new L.A. Guns-record. Vicious Circle. I was thinking “What are these guys doing in 1994?!” The time couldn’t be right. I listened to it right away, and immediately got impressed. It was, and is, such a good album, so rich on variety, and so straight-to-the point rocking and rolling. I knew a long cold winter, and the grunge depression, was loosing its grip. The rock & roll scene never became the same again, (and maybe that was necessary…), but however, now, ten years later, L.A. Guns are still touring. They are alive, and there’s a room for them.

…Not that they fill big clubs or venues any longer. Merely 150 people showed up at Rock In, this small rock-club in Oslo, to greet L.A. Guns on their European leg of their world tour.

Anyway, Phil Lewis & co. didn’t mind the modest size of the audience. They gave the crowd everything. Unfortunately the “& co“-term did not include founding member Tracii Guns on guitar… I really don’t want to talk about that. (Tracii Guns is, as you might know, these days occupied with Brides Of Destruction, Nikki Sixx’ new band.) However, new guitar player, some Stacy, did the guitar duties well enough, and even had the balls to do a lot of the stuff in his own ways.

Adam Hamilton played the bass, which he as a newcomer did on the recording of their latest album, Waking The Dead. Steve Riley, long lasting member, hit the drums as usual.

But in front: Phil Lewis. Looking in a surprisingly good shape (even beyond his dyed hair), he also looked very happy about playing for this tiny crowd on one of their many nights in Europe this winter. Never being known as the owner of one of rock’s greatest voices, Lewis did a great job as a front man. His rhythm guitar contributions did justice to their hard rock ambitions as well.

Opening with “Over The Edge” from their third album, Hollywood Vampires, they set the night’s standard; rock and roll and melancholy. Following up with “Sex Action”, from their debut album, they got loud vocal response from both glamers and bikers and everyone in between who were standing in front of the stage.

The sound never got close to a world record in perfection… This happens to be a quite frequent drawback for those who tend to love to go to rock concerts… Parts of the music were drowning all the time, but still… there was never any doubt what were going on from the stage; rock & roll!

“Revolution” was the only track chosen from their latest album, Waking The Dead, and the underestimated Man In The Moon album from 2001 was totally left untouched. They rather turned to older days. “Long Time Dead” from the Vicious Circle album was great, leaving the new guitar player a chance to do a solo way beyond Tracii Guns’ style. They then continued with “Crystal Eyes”, a slow tune which in my opinion is their best down tempo effort. “Crystal Eyes” fond its way to both the Hollywood Vampires and Vicious Circle albums.

Classics like “One More Reason” and “Electric Gipsy” were also played. The latter suffering from a very bad job from the sound desk. The band was working hard though.

L.A. Guns’ next release will be an album with cover songs. For some reason. They gave us some tastes live; early in the set they played “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” by Rose Tattoo. It worked well and fitted their own songs. Their first encore, on the other hand, David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”, didn’t do well at all. It fell flat in front of an uninterested audience. Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, which the recorded for their 1992 release Cuts (EP), would be a better choice.

Then of course came “Ballad of Jane”. Slow as always, and not really a that good song after all. The timing in 1989, when it first came, was good though. People were uncritically looking for slow rock songs/ballads everywhere.

However, the band ended the show with “Rip and Tear” from the Cocked & Loaded album, and the party was over. This was not a happening a lot of people will remember for a very long time, but the L.A. Guns sure reminded everybody about that rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t seem to go away easily. L.A. Guns has out-lived so many other bands without having been close to commercial success the last fourteen years. Respect!


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