Hot as Hell!

P. D. Kelley

An hour before show time this past February 17th, the crowd was already wound up at the Rogue Theatre. The merch table was doing a booming business selling the familiar flashing devil’s horns and the concert hall was soon peppered with heads topped with the devilish red glow. Folks were chanting and hooting and calling out for the one, the only, Hell’s Belles! This all female AC/DC tribute band has been dubbed the best ever at what they do by fans, critics, and AC/DC’s Angus Young as well. I couldn’t agree more and these women simply brought down the house from start to finish. All the standards were done from “TNT” to “Highway to Hell” to, of course, “Hell’s Belles”. Australian native and lead singer Amber Saxon belted out number after number with an intensity that never wavered. She is a bit of a diva and played to the crowd with genuine affection. Judy Cocuzza, who recently joined the band, was impressive on drums. Lisa Brisbois on rhythm guitar and Mandy Reed on bass held the center with style and confidence. And then there was Adrian Conner on lead guitar. Diva doesn’t begin to describe her stage presence. Most importantly, she is a sizzling talent on her instrument, which must have had a transponder because she was not hooked up to anything and with her blonde dreds whipping around, sailed back and forth across the stage with, well, demonic energy. She never let up for the entire show so I will also say she is a well-honed and agile athlete. She can play in any position: flat on her back, pin wheeling around the floor, on the shoulders of an admiring fan, or crow-hopping across the stage ala Chuck Berry or Bo Diddly. She is also quite sassy in her bad schoolgirl uniform, in homage to Angus, certainly, but I don’t remember him doing a strip tease. Her cheeky piece de resistance was a flash of her bare backside, showing AC tattooed on the left globe and DC on the right. I was both shocked and amused and ended up laughing with the rest of the audience. Not your mother’s female rocker, for sure! If HB ever plays anywhere near you in the future, get tickets immediately. This is hard rock and roll at its best as well as an event, a celebration, and rowdy, wonderful performance art. I’ve said before that the Rogue’s audiences really respond to the shows with such enthusiasm and this band made it known that they loved their reception here and they loved playing at the Rogue. Come back soon, girls. We’ll leave the marquee on for you.

Opening for Hell’s Belles and doing an excellent job of getting the crowd’s musical juices flowing was Rod DeGeorge and his tribute to the Guitar Gods. With him this evening was Adrian May on drums and Tyler (could not hear or later find a last name) on bass. Praise for DeGeorge’s musicianship and teaching abilities is all over the net and I can see why. His guitar work is stunning, less so his vocals, although that really doesn’t take too much away from this exceptional trio. They made a big, big sound for just three players and all are masterful at what they do, particularly May. Simply one of the best drummers I have seen and heard, completely at ease and compelling to watch. Tyler on bass was right there as well and I haven’t seen an opening act I have enjoyed more since Tommy Castro opened for Lydia Pence last year. The song selection was mostly the classics from the likes of Hendrix, Clapton, Page, et al. DeGeorge also played some original compositions and they were quite good. Look up Dance for a Dragonfly on YouTube. This is one talented guy who knows how to play with other talented guys. What an evening!

Catch you on the flip side…

From Soup to Nuts

P.D. Kelley

Last Friday March 10th the Squirrel Nut Zippers were in town and the Rogue Theatre crowd was treated to one of the zaniest shows ever: wild, wonderful and oh so entertaining. You gotta love the name and, although I’d heard of the band before, I would have gone just to find out what squirrels, nuts and zippers could possibly have to offer! There is actually a drink called a nut zipper (tequila, Grand Marnier and cream) and a candy as well. Rumor has it that the band used to toss these sweets into the audience back in the ‘90’s. Sadly, not today but the great music was enough. Think modern swing, delta blues, gypsy, jazz plus a bit of funk and you might have this group defined in a nut shell (bad pun intended). James “Jimbo” Mathus, one of the group’s founders, played a mean guitar and was an excellent vocalist. Another SNZ original was Chris Phillips holding his own on drums. Dr. Sick was the crazed fiddle and banjo player. He spun his head like a top and whipped around the stage in a manic frenzy and still managed to hit every note strong and true. Tamara Nicolai made a fine showing on the upright bass and Kris Tokarski was smooth on the keyboards. The horn section was bold and rich with Dave Boswell on the trumpet, Charlie Halloran on trombone and Henry Westmoreland on the saxophone. For a dash of color and style look no further than Cella Blue on vocals. She had a classic “big band” voice and changed costumes several times during the show: original, a bit eccentric but always engaging. These folks have had some commercial success and have been around for several decades. They have a well-choreographed but still spontaneous quirkiness that their fans love. Watch for their new album, Beasts of Burgundy, coming out this month.

Catch you on the flip side…