KERRANG! ISSUE 284 APRIL 1990
LA GUNS, SHARK ISLAND – Sneakers, San Antonio
SHARK ISLAND kicked LA Guns’ butt tonight, only the audience didn’t know it. Sounds silly? Well, I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of being in a concert crowd that would cheer for anything as long as it was played by ‘their band’ – and while LA Guns put on a show that got better and better, the excitement generated was due almost entirely to the energy of their fans.
Shark Island’s set was packed with original songs and cool moves; strutters like ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Get Some Strange’ were fuelled by tall Chris Heilmann’s pumping bass – when this giant tells you to cheer, you cheer! – and Richard Black’s raspy vocals.
All the songs were expertly played and delivered, though the band could still do to get up a few notches on the energy meter. “Here’s a song we wrote by Fleetwood Mac,” they announced before a ballsy rendition of ‘The Chain’, and the classic tune roused Shark Island’s occasionally passive audience rather well. Radio favourite ‘Paris Calling’ set the rowdies waving their beer bottles, and finale ‘Shake For Me’ closed the show on an acceptable wave of howls and handclaps. Less than they deserved, but about what they expected.
The temperature in the nightclub got at least ten degrees hotter during intermission, all due to body heat. And when the lights went out and the first notes of ‘Slap In The Face’, cracked them across the ears, they went into a ; foaming, indiscriminate fist-waving frenzy. The force of the crowd response behind me ruffled my hair; in front were a few rows of scenes from the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and then the strangely sedate realm of the stage. Not just sedate in comparison, you understand, as (or much of the show LA Guns did not deliver ‘exciting baIls-to-the-wall rock’ as promised by their PR company.
When songs as potentially gut-shattering as ‘Rip And Tear’ and ‘Sex Action’ fail to deliver, you have to wonder why. It’s not the quality of the musicianship, it’s the attitude that has to exist before the songs are written, before the band jump onstage. LA Guns just aren’t hungry enough often enough.
But once in a while flint strikes stone at just the right angle and you get a haunting performance of ‘Malaria’ or a soulful ‘The Ballad Of Jane’. And then someone with heart – Tracii Guns – finally lets it out and delivers a blues solo that’s sensuous, passionate and just plain good. I didn’t know the dude had so much blood in him.
This was the turning point of the show; sad that it arrived so late, Three songs delivered full throttle, then off into the wings.
The crowd, which hadn’t backed down once, promptly began to chant, scream and stomp its feet. You’ve got to give LA Guns credit for managing to pull in fans like these, but sometimes you have to wonder why such adoration exists. The hard edged ‘One More Reason’, with its release of all the band’s unspent energy, gives me a hint though.
Good for LA Guns if these fans stick around, Good for us if the band gives them a reason to.