Sunday, February 1, 2009

Live Review: KEEL


Club Vodka at The Knitting Factory

Hollywood, CA


Keel weren't the biggest band to emerge from the '80s hard rock scene, but that's the difference twenty years can make.

The band blew out of the gates in 1984 and had as strong a five year stretch as a band could ask for, touring the world with the likes of Van Halen, KISS, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, and being hailed as the best new band by some of the biggest magazines of the era. They released four albums in four years, had hit singles on radio and MTV, and sold more than two million records. Then they splintered into separate directions in 1989 and weren't heard from again.

Until last night, when a reunited Keel - frontman Ron Keel, guitarists Marc Ferrari and Bryan Jay and drummer Dwain Miller - performed for the first time in 20 years, delivering a 75-minute set at the Knitting Factory that reminded Hollywood, CA, just how good the '80s felt.

The set wasn't an exercise in cerebral fitness, but the best hard rock seldom is. Songs like "Reason to Rock," "Rock and Roll Outlaw," "Raised on Rock" and the band's hit anthem "Right to Rock" didn't shake things up thematically, but what the songs lacked in diversity the band made up for in delivery. Every song was a fist-pumping, feel-good, guitar-driven rocker that promised little more than a few minutes of escapism, and delivered true to its word.

At the helm, Ron Keel looked great. He's aged gracefully, and while Keel is every bit a rock and roll band - and the music doesn't stray from the safe confines of '80s rock for even a moment - the band's namesake isn't trying to hide from the more country-inspired path he explored over the past decade. While the rest of his band was in black, he wore blue jeans with ripped knees, tan boots and a tan button-up shirt. He looked like he could be as comfortable at Stagecoach as he was in front of the faded clothes and frayed ends that filled the Knitting Factory to capacity.

There was no bitterness or surly banter demeaning modern music, just big smiles, a lot of thank yous to the crowd for coming out, and a palpable energy that was contagious.

"Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" featured Keel - who performed with a headset mic for much of the set - Ferrari and bassist Geno Arce (a six-year veteran of Keel's more recent band IronHorse) rocking their guitars in synchronized form across the front of the stage. Ferrari handled his lead guitar duties with ease, missing his long locks from days gone by but never coming up short with his licks, and Arce and Miller forged a rock-solid bottom end, also providing much melodic depth with their backing vocals.

As a band, Keel had a lot working in their favor, most notably a twenty year absence that has heightened their legacy as many of their peers have toured themselves to oblivion and back. But to their credit, they also took nothing for granted, delivering a well-rehearsed set that not only justifies their 25th Anniversary reunion, but also gives it a pair of legs to stand on and run with.

Covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night" and the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" were crowd favorites, as were Keel classics "Somebody's Waiting," "I Said the Right Thing to the Wrong Girl" and "Tears of Fire."

It was a late night - the show didn't end till shortly after 2am - but the encore was worth the wait, Cinderella drummer Fred Coury, Quiet Riot bassist Chuck Wright and former Black 'N Blue and Warrant frontman Jaime St. James joining Keel, Ferrari and Jay for a jaw-dropping run through the Thin Lizzy classic "The Boys are Back in Town," St. James pulling off the best Phil Lynott vocal this side of "Chinatown."

Keel may not have been the biggest band to emerge from the '80s hard rock scene, but if their first show in twenty years was any indication, they plan on rewriting a little bit of history...

1. Reason to Rock
2. Rock and Roll Outlaw
3. Evil Wicked Mean and Nasty
4. Somebody's Waiting
5. Speed Demon
6. Because the Night
7. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
8. Electric Love
9. Cherry Lane
10. Let's Spend the Night Together
11. Raised on Rock
12. I Said the Wrong Thing to the Right Girl
13. Tears of Fire
14. Right to Rock
15. The Boys are Back in Town
(with Fred Coury, Chuck Wright and Jamie St. James)
16. We're an American Band

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Keel MySpace

Keel Official Website

1 comment:

Chavis Records said...

Great review! Thanks Paul...