Joe Lynn Turner / HESSLER / COVER DOGS / FIERCE ATMOSPHERE
Date: 20th January, 2018
Venue: Reggies Rock Club
Ticket: $20/€16 (in advance) - $25/€20 (day of)
Promoter: Empire Productions
The last time Joe Lynn Turner was in Chicago found us in the other side of the Atlantic, and missing his set hurt a lot. It has been almost 10 years since we had the pleasure of hearing all those RAINBOW classics from his voice live and the day he was in town we weren’t… Yeah, life works in mysterious ways but from time to time karma pays you back, so Joe Lynn Turner was meant to be our first concert for 2018. And this time we’d go to that show come Hell or high water.
The demographics inside Reggies were in favor of what you would call old-timers (us included) and although this was expected, it was a bit disappointing since this music is ageless, so getting the live treatment by an equally ageless voice is a not to be missed thing. On top of this, every metalhead should have strong Hard Rock foundations, but who am I to judge, huh?
Anyway, the first band we caught onstage was COVER DOGS and it didn’t require a ultra-high IQ to understand that the setlist we were going to be served was full of covers. Normally, I don’t like cover bands and especially those “tribute” ones that are on active acts. I mean, if I want to hear songs for a band, I will go and see that band. However, I do understand that some of them are hard to track down and there are songs (especially olds ones) that no longer appear on setlists. So, getting to hear “Say What You Will” live turned out to be an awesome experience, and not only because it is a rare song but because COVER DOGS played it great and had the proper attitude to deliver the Hard Rock goods. Not only did Jeff Hundrieser possess a powerful set of pipes to sing this stuff, but he also had the moves and the attitude fitting this type of music. I mean, if you do not feel the music, then no matter how good is the playing, the result will always be blunt. The guitar duo of Jon Dobbs and Nevin Trifunovich were also great delivering a tight rhythm / lead section sounding as close to the originals as possible. Speaking of rhythm section, it would be unfair to skip Kevin Cobleigh and Paul Bata on bass and drums respectively who were holding everything together. After all, the groove will be all about Hard Rock whenever a drummer holds the drum stick in the Jazz-way (the traditional grip). The end result was people getting into the Saturday night mood and busting a couple of moves in the process with “She Is A Roller”, “Let It Go (High 'N' Dry)” and with the surprise (for me, at least) closer RIOT’s “Swords And Tequila”. COVER DOGS turned out to be a great fit to prepping the way for Joe Lynn Turner.
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It has been a really long time since I had seen HESSLER live to that extent that I remembered them being female fronted with a rather Sleaze / Glam Rock appetite. So, I was a bit surprised seeing only two familiar faces entering the stage and kicking off their set with 2011’s “Bad Blood” with guitarist Igz Kincaid behind the mic. His harsher and more in-your-face singing has added a Punk element in HESSLER’s music, being less polished and rawer. The lineup that stormed the Reggies stage had two session musicians (in bass and drums), leaving Igz and Erik Michael on the guitar duty. This was drastic change from the classic Hard Rock COVER DOGS served and for this reason it took some time to settle in. “Intruder” sounded heavier than what I had in mind from past shows (although I wouldn’t put my money on my memory’s credibility) and I think what Igz said before “From The Dead” about “trying different moves” and “the drunker you get, the more you’re gonna like it” was like comparing this experience with a first date (or shorts). So yeah, the longer the set went on, more people started partying with HESSLER despite the rather cold shoulder part of the audience gave Igz when he asked about mixing politics with music. I guess, talking about politics in the US nowadays has become equivalent to walking on eggshells with everyone being ready to get on the fence about his beliefs, staying afar from what democracy teaches us...
The fast tempo of “Killing Machine” was a most welcome distraction for such thoughts and the first taste of HESSLER’s upcoming musical endeavors in the form on the lets-sing-along “Akira” sounded quite good, although the rough live mix is not the best way to draw conclusions. Even though stylistically / musically HESSLER were a big change from COVER DOGS’ classic covers, the audience had set the right mood and wetted appetite for the one and only Joe Lynn Turner.
01. “Bad Blood”
03. “From The Dead”
04. “Ghost Dance ”
05. “Black Rose”
06. Guitar Solo / “Killing Machine”
07. “Rebel Yell” (BILLY IDOL cover)
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The beer, the Saturday night-out mood and the previous sets had fueled the already growing excitement for Joe Lynn Turner. As I said, the average age of the audience inside Reggies was well-above 40s and the first rows were officially occupied by seasoned Hard rockers. I hate relating music with age but after some years I have started accepting this status quo. Anyway, the band around Joe showed up onstage under the trademark RAINBOW intro with the “Wizard Of Oz” movie excerpt, sending shivers down our spine. The overload with emotions when hearing this RAINBOW tune and at the same time feeling in your bones the reality of “time waits for no one” was a bit overwhelming, but as soon as the guitar groove of “Death Valley Driver” kicked in and Joe showed his face, everything was (almost) forgotten. The performing qualities Joe possesses are so hard to come across nowadays and this made me feel a bit sad since this can be easily a species close extinction… “Come on, can I see your hands? You have the power” Joe briefly said to keep the momentum growing as the hard rockin’ “Power” followed and was topped off with “I Surrender” coming from one of my favorite RAINBOW albums of the Turner era. There was a guy in the front row who was screaming lots of stuff at Turner being overwhelmed by the excitement but I think beer was doing most of the actual talking. In the beginning, this was kinda cute and fun but soon enough it became some short of annoyance because he was constantly interrupting Joe who was trying to say some stories as an introduction before each song. I mean, Joe was so nice to him that he felt obliged to answer to whatever the fan was shouting… Anyways, Joe did manage to tell the phone call / jealousy story, obviously introducing the probably grooviest Hard Rock tune RAINBOW have written with Turner behind the mic; yeah, “Jealous Lover” came next and I was instanlty in Hard Rock heaven. I tell you, it was fun to (try) to sing-along this massive tune. The killer way to start off the set was topped off with the fast and singing-demanding “Spotlight Kid”. Sure, Joe cannot hit all the notes the studio-pitch way, but the way he is delivering these tunes is more than enough to compensate everything.
Just before “Dark Days”, Joe said that he wouldn’t get into politics and as it happened during the HESSLER set, there was a brief moment of awkwardness as if he was about to say something wrong… Oh my, I am close to believe that freedom of speech has turned into something totally different...
It was time for guitarist Angus Clark to step on the spotlight and with one foot on his wah-wah guitar pedal kicked off “Spanish Castle Magic”. That went down really nice and gave us the chance to cool down a bit and get ready for the second half of the set. Fortunately, the guy in the front had most probably too much to drink so Joe was able to go on with the story-telling and gave the back story on how the inspiration to write “Drinking With The Devil” came up; it was after some heavy drinking and in particular a response to the question "you don't look quite good; what have you been doing?". Such stories even if they may be not quit true or a bit changed over the years add another flavor to the show so this is why I got a bit annoyed by seeing him interrupted for now particular reason.
With the huge backcatalogue that Joe has, I did not expect to see songs outside of his realm, although “Perfect Strangers” and “Long Live Rock ‘N Roll” sounded awesome and were perfect to get everyone join in. Still, songs from his SUNSTORM works or more from his solo albums would be more welcomed, although I am well aware of the danger of “nobody is familiar to these ones”, so choosing the hits was the only way to go. I mean, “Blood Money” came out great, even though Joe introduced this by saying “this is about the politicians stealing your money”… One of the highly anticipated moments of the set was something from Turner’s time with Malmsteen and - of course – it was time for “Rising Force” which although it came close to the end of show, it managed to get us headbanging even harder. The set ended with some singing-along during “Long Live Rock ‘N Roll” that came with DEEP PURPLE’s “Lazy” as the icing on this Hard Rock cake. Joe said his goodnights but before doing so, he promised to see us again, so hopefully we will get more North US visits from this legendary singer. Thank you, gentlemen!
Joe Lynn Turner setlist:
01. “Death Alley Driver”
03. “I Surrender”
04. “Jealous Lover”
05. “Spotlight Kid”
06. “Stone Cold”
07. “Street Of Dreams”
08. “Dark Days”
09. “Spanish Castle Magic” (THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE cover)
10. “Blood Red Sky”
11. “Perfect Strangers” (DEEP PURPLE cover)
12. “Blood Money”
13. “Drinking With The Devil”
14. “Rising Force”
15. “Long Live Rock 'N Roll”
16. “Lazy” ( DEEP PURPLE cover)
Joe Lynn Turner
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