L.A. Guns Acoustic LIVE!
February 19, 2011 at Hotel Café, Hollywood, CA.
by Trevor Portz
Announced as a special acoustic performance to be recorded for an upcoming live release, Tracii Guns’ L.A. Guns booked two nights at Hollywood’s famous Hotel Cafe. A small and intimate club, it served as the perfect venue to capture a more laid-back performance by one of L.A.’s most important metal bands. It’s always interesting to witness unplugged performances by heavier bands, but L.A. Guns proved that they are more than just distortion and power chords.
Opening act Stiletto Ghetto — who won the gig through an online contest — unfortunately didn’t do a whole lot to get things moving. Their songs weren’t inherently bad, but the dull performances and sour notes only served to make the audience eager for the announcement of “We’ve got one more song for you.” Perhaps nerves mixed with the acoustic setting could be to blame, but unfortunately the shortcomings overshadowed anything that would have drawn new fans.
Hitting the stage at a shockingly unrocking 8 p.m., the current incarnation of L.A. Guns included Tracii, fan-favorite vocalist Jizzy Pearl, drummer Chad Stewart and bassist Danny Nordahl (where’s Jeremy?) along with former bassist Muddy Stardust on guitar, legendary keyboardist Tony ZigZag, and percussionist “Tito Puente” (aka Doni Gray). Mick Cripps was mentioned as a guest, but he didn’t appear (perhaps his role was saved for the second night). Dropping the usual rocker garb for more dressy digs, there was certainly an air of sophistication, at least as much as can be created by rockers known for songs like “Sex Action” and “Sleazy Come, Easy Go.”
The set predominantly comprised more acoustic-friendly L.A. Guns songs, as could be expected, but this also gave the band a chance to dust off some long-lost classics that maybe wouldn’t fit so well in the usual high-energy electric sets. “Crystal Eyes,” “Dreamtime,” “One Way Ticket” and “It’s Over Now” worked excellently unplugged, and reminded fans that L.A. Guns have always had significantly more depth — musically and lyrically — than many of their contemporaries.
A few heavier songs were given the acoustic treatment, with crowd-pleasers such as “Never Enough” and “Electric Gypsy” (retitled “Acoustic Gypsy” for the night) being particularly effective. “Decide,” from the terribly underrated Shrinking Violet record, sounded dark and eerie, though it suffered a small loss of bombast without the electrics. Of course, being such a strong song, it feels like nitpicking to even point that out.
The show did boast the debut of one new, original song, introduced as “the Country Bear Jamboree” by Tracii, but it’s officially called “Little Soldier.” It showed a very different side of LAG, delivering a full-on country flavor and, apparently following in the footsteps of other rockers, gone a bit country, Ricky Warwick and Robin Zander. Nevertheless, it was a fun song and showed off the diversity of the band members’ writing.
Performance-wise, things were tight, and perhaps most importantly, everyone looked to be having a great time. It seems almost rare these days for a band to enjoy what they’re doing, but it was clear that everybody involved was having a blast.
While Tracii’s guitar playing was as strong as ever (albeit extremely quiet due to a strange mixing choice by the engineer), the gold star for the evening goes, without question, to Jizzy Pearl. Having been in the business for more than 20 years, Jizzy seems to have bucked the trend suffered by most of his compatriots and has retained the range he had back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. His tackling of an Otis Redding cover (deemed risky by a fellow vocalist in attendance) was superb, channeling Janis Joplin’s wail in both screechiness and power. Perhaps even greater, though, was hearing Jizzy sing the classic L.A. Guns songs as they were recorded. Other LAG vocalists have been known to change melody lines to compensate for lack of — or faded — vocal range, but Jizzy sang them true, in all their high-pitched glory. After the show, Jizzy noted that he felt “very naked” performing in the acoustic setting, but he absolutely rose to the occasion and exceeded expectations, which were fairly high to begin with.
Assuming the second night went as well, or even better, the forthcoming record culled from the show should be on every metal fan’s must-have list. Of course, the true hope is that it simply will be an enjoyable holdover for an all-new L.A. Guns album, also rumored to be released this year. At least it’s good to know the band is in top form and ready to go. And hopefully they got any desire to countrify out of their collective systems. This is the ultimate L.A. Guns line-up and hopefully will remain constant for a long while.
Set list (in a rough approximation of order):
One Way Ticket
It’s Over Now
Over the Edge
Otis Redding cover
The Ballad of Jayne