Date: 17th April, 2016
Venue: The Looney Bin
Ticket: $15/€13 (in advance) - $20/€18 (day of)
Most probably it was due to luck that I stared following Gus G from the third FIREWIND album and one of the main reasons that I continued doing so is his low profile that did not changed even when he joined Ozzy. A lot of water has run under the bridge since then, but still, his low profile, combined with the most recent FIREWIND albums, continues to showcase a still growing artist who does not like standing waters. However, the Euro Power Metal FIREWIND established with the first three albums bit the band back because the “die hard” fans did not like seeing the sound deviating for the norms they have in mind. You see, most of the metalheads do not like changes in their menu and like to stick with the same old but at the same time blame other bands - that they don’t like of course - for doing the exactly the same thing.
Anyway, this is not the time nor the place to analyze this almost schizophrenic behavior... I think the need to refresh his songwriting hand led Gus to release solo albums that I have to admit turned out to be really good. And to promote this work, he decided to do a short North US tour with a series of intimate shows for all the believers. Unfortunately and for reasons I don’t understand Chicago was not included in the schedule, so we had to take a long 1,5 hours drive to Bradley, IL where Gus and his touring band with Rob Rock behind the mic would perform in a really tiny venue. Yeah, The Looney Bin looked extremely small to host a live show with a non-existing stage and a general setup that made it difficult for people to have a direct viewing angle plus, having a bunch of tall guys right in the front did not help at all.
A couple of minutes after the announced time, the music stopped, SCORPIONS' “Rock You Like A Hurricane” started blasted off the speakers, and to my surprise the sound was loud and very good. You see, I didn’t expect to get this sound in this tiny venue but I gladly accepted my miscalculation. Gus and the session musicians showed up and kicked the setlist with the ultra-groovy “Burn”. Rob did a great job considering the short amount of time he had to rehearse the material and the only (occasional) hiccup was that he had to glance over the lyrics from time to time. Despite the tiny setup, Gus looked absolutely comfortable and even more happy (remember what I said about keeping both feet on the ground), delivering the material from this solo albums with the absolutely catchy “Brand New Revolution”. People, especially those standing in spitting distance from the band, looked like having a great time with what was going on, even though filming the entire show with a cell phone or (worse) trying to take selfies are not what I have in mind as concert-going habits. Or maybe this is the new norm and I am just old for all this cell phone madness...
“Good evening Bradley, it feels great having Rock ‘N Roll in your face” Gus said and then added “you may know this one” before blasting the characteristic riff of “I Don’t Know”. Of course, people reacted in this OZZY classic, proving that many had come to see the OZZY guitarist most probably being oblivious to what Gus has done so far... I did have equal amounts of fun with this classic but to be honest I enjoyed more the material from his solo albums, like the must sing along “Blame It On Me” with a killer singing performance by Rob who I think has a great voice for what Gus is trying to do with his albums (ok, Jeff Scott Soto and Mats Levén sound equally awesome). “This Sunday night feels like it’s a Saturday night!” Gus said and then rhetorically asked: “Do you want to hear a FIREWIND song?” Of course, the answer was a loud ‘yes', so “World On Fire” gave a hearty taste of Euro Power Metal. By the way, Rob did justice to the high pitched vocals of this one.
Rob left the stage to Gus for the instrumental riff galore of “The Quest” where melody and high-precision guitar playing carry his trademark sound (love the hammer-ons and pull-offs). This one was a bit extended to include a short drum solo underlining the fact that this lineup did not have enough time to rehearse more songs, so there had to be some ways to extent the setlist. The special treat of the set was “Garden Of Chaos” from the same-titled album released by Rob Rock some nine years ago that came out fantastic and got quite a boost from those who have been following the singer’s solo doings.
The perfect for a night drive “My Will Be Done” and the Hard Rocker “Redemption” got us back to Gus’ solo works but for me the highlight of the set was the amazing “I Am The Fire” (with the killer main riff) that got a real loud singing-along even though it was already late for a Sunday show. Keep in mind that I chose this one as the night’s climax and not the setlist closer that was - as expected - “Crazy Train”. During this one, Gus stepped right in the center of the venue’s main floor and delivered the guitar goods surrounded by the die-hards who had an awesome time (and a couple of more selfies...).
This is how this surprise show ended with Gus admitting that they did not have more songs to play and then joked about it saying they could do again the first five songs all over again. As much as I loved the extremely intimate setup (audience and band were the same), I’d prefer a bigger venue to get more people in and enjoy Gus' star-guitar-playing with a proper light show. Although, I am not very confident if more people would have responded to Gus’ solo tracklist, and that’s a shame, if you’d ask me. If you get the chance to see this show, I promise you’ll enjoy it from start to finish.
Gus G setlist:
02. “Brand New Revolution”
03. “I Don't Know” (OZZY cover)
04. “Eyes Wide Open”
05. “Blame It On Me”
06. “World On Fire” (FIREWIND cover)
07. “The Quest” / Drum solo
09. “Garden Of Chaos”
10. “My Will Be Done”
12. “I Am The Fire”
13. “Crazy Train” (OZZY cover)
(click to enlarge)