A musical explosion hit the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles back in the early eighties, invading notorious venues such as the Whiskey A Go Go, while partying hard afterward for some booze at the Rainbow. These long-haired, invincible, and alluring Rock stars were part of the Glam Metal movement consisting of artists such as Mötley Crüe, Autograph, and Lizzy Borden from the West Coast, and Twisted Sister, Danger Danger and Bon Jovi from the East Coast. This era endured with loud hair, loud desires, and an unforgettable loud sound. It was towards the late eighties, when Grunge Rock was on the brink of emerging, that the Los Angeles-based group BulletBoys came up, introducing a crispier and bluesier tone to the glamorous scene. Heavily influenced by Aerosmith and Van Halen, they swept themselves right into the spotlight after the release of their 1988 self-titled debut album, with historical hits like “Smooth Up in Ya” and “Hard As A Rock.”
Twenty-eight years after their initial formation, BulletBoys have survived through a surplus of roadblocks including breakups, lineup changes, the Grunge Rock movement, the Nu-Metal explosion, as well as the Metalcore invasion. Recently releasing their eighth studio album Elefanté via Cleopatra Records in June, it was time for them to kick-off their own headlining tour. The first round of the North American Armed Alliance Tour ignited on July 6th and included a total of twenty-two dates. On Tuesday evening of July 21st BulletBoys dominated the Gramercy Theatre in New York City, bringing along the acclaimed Tracii Guns with his latest band, Gunzo, the Swedish-Canadian Rockers Killer Bee, as well as a pair of local Heavy NYC Metallers, Kore Rozzik and Scottish Widows.
Launching the evening was New York City/New Jersey natives, Scottish Widows. Formed in 2010 as a Classic Rock cover band who progressed into an original heavy act of their own, the band consists of Carl Rizzo (guitar), Mikey Vee (drums), Eric Suky (lead vocals) and Al Russo (bass guitar). Influenced by acts as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Stone Temple Pilots, ZZ Top, Dio and the Scorpions, shapes their unique dynamic which ranges between Classic Blues to downright Heavy Metal. There was no need for these guys to warm up to the stage, as they opened up with the fierce “Can Ya Feel It.” Suky howled his screams while fans instantly embraced their energy.
Steaming in next with the aggressive “Threw It All Away,” which detonated into a truculent guitar solo by Rizzo, Scottish Widows moved fearlessly along while all the time maintaining their energetic stage presence. They continued with the soul-crushing uppity track, “Time Alone.” Suky ravelled the crowd, demanding all to shout along with them, he even demanded a chanting do over in order to make sure the audience was loud enough during “Let Her Rock.” Taking a quick break, Suky kindly stated how happy they were for playing in their hometown, New York City and went into, “Shallow.” During this track, Russo briefly placed his bass on top of his head and continued to perform. As their set came to a close, Suky mentioned how the next one was for a Jessica that was in the house that night and how their co-workers were supporting them as well, as they concluded with “Drive Me Crazy.” This track ended in a strong drum finale by Vee, where fans begged for one last song. With a feisty spirit this group showcases, it’s only a matter of time until they get signed to create a full-length studio album.
A brief moment later, it was time for the New York City natives, Kore Rozzik to monopolize the stage. The mesmerizing frontman, Kore (vocals/guitar), has built a group like no other, playing across the New York City area for the last three years, establishing a growing name for themselves. Influenced by bands such as Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Iron Maiden, Cinderella, and Judas Priest, it was guaranteed that their stage presence was going to be filled with Metal surprises. Jolting the crowd right away with their latest single, “Doomsday Walks,” the band came crashing in with a monstrous energy, headbanging along as they commandeered their gear. Fans were screaming with delight while, Kore demanded all to shout out “hey!” After a riveting guitar solo, Kore asked if New York was with him, and didn’t stop until the venue echoed in screams.
Kore introduced his name to the audience and jokingly asked for their names as well. Taking a deeper gaze, he continued with his humor and asked if they can see or hear him as well, and went into “Kill the Clown.” Kore’s participation progressed, where he jumped into the audience and startled all to a silent captivating gaze. Shortly after he amusingly asked what was up with them, seeing if they forgot to drink their red bulls and resumed. Kore announced the next track was the one their fans have all been waiting for, it was their single release party of “Rockstar.” He had the entire venue cry out “I am a rockstar,” and carried on with the catchy new tune. Moving forward with a theatrical performance for “Psychological,” where a guest female dancer waltzed on stage with Kore, who presumed to be his girlfriend as they reenacted an argument live that evening. After the dancer left the stage, Kore asked if everyone was having a good time, the crowd instantly cheered in approval. Ending their set with “Raindrops and Broken Glass,” left all in the room pumped for more Rock ‘n’ Roll glory. With their invigorous energy, they are bound to have a bright future ahead.
It was time for the night to shift to a legendary note where, Killer Bee was ready to lead the Gramercy stage. Originally formed in the nineties by songwriters, Brian Frank (vocals) and Andres LA Ronnblom (bass), where they released three sensational albums and have toured across the globe with acts such as, Megadeth, R.E.M and Oasis. Their music career was growing fast and one day after a trip in the Canary Islands, they took a break that lasted fifteen years. Reformed, refueled and refreshed, they have returned and in 2011, they released their fourth studio album Almost There; and recently in April, 2015, Rock Another Day, which compiles tracks from their latest Evolutionary Children (2013) and From Hell and Back (2012) as a way to introduce the United States their latest material shortly before their North American tour. The lineup has gone through a few changes after the recent departure of Denny DeMarchi on rhythm guitar, with the recent addition of André Hägglund on rhythm guitar, Morgan Evans still running strong on drums however, touring with them on lead guitar was the notorious, Paul Chapman from UFO.
Angrily cutting in with “Scream it” from Evolutionary Children where their instrumentation shined for all, as they happily jammed up close to the New Yorker crowd. Frank thanked the audience and asked everyone to scream along with them that evening and went into “Children of Evolution,” where Ronnblom, Frank and Hägglund walked to the front of the stage for a trio jam. Towards the end of this track, Hägglund and Chapman fleshed out a duo guitar solo that echoed out in complete unison. Keeping up with their momentum they rolled into the next, “Step Into My World” off of From Hell and Back. Chapman shined during his guitar solo in the UFO cover of “Doctor Doctor,” which bled into an immaculate instrumental performance. Ronnblom and Chapman dueled together between the ripe bass lines and the flawless guitar closeout. The fun continued in “All Night Long,” when Frank brought the house to sing, clap, and cheer. Ronnblom even grabbed his cellular phone and took video of the New York audience. Shortly after he went back to his bass, Hägglund stood behind him and impulsively played his bass for him. The biggest surprise of their set was the last song, “Take Me Home” from the 1993 album Raw. Frank and Chapman performed neck to neck with each other as it ended with all members gathering up front for a final closeout. With the unstoppable endurance they showcased this evening, hopefully, they will come back around again to headline their own North American tour.
At this point of the night a new stream of fans rushed to the front of the stage, pushing the early birds to the side in order to see the latest Gunzo rule the platform. The renowned guitarist, Tracii Guns (founder of L.A. Guns) conspired with the legendary bassist, Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake) and made their live debut last February, to celebrate historical music from the eighties compiled with notorious songs from L.A Guns, Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio, and Montrose. To complete this rejoiced act, Keith St. John (Montrose) joined on vocals and Shane Fitzgibbon came in on drums.
Guns led right in with the teeth grinding, “Rip and Tear” from L.A. Guns, and picked the pace up with his solo mastery. St. John pranced all over the stage during the Ozzy Osbourne cover of “I Don’t Know,” while Sarzo conquered the stage as fans screamed his name watching him pick up the bass like no other as he stuck out his Heavy Metal tongue. St. John ripped right into the Montrose cover of “Bad Motor Scooter” as he jolted to Guns for a melodic embrace. Moving right along St. John announced to the wild crowd, Rudy Sarzo on bass as he entered in with a thunderous solo. The energetic St. John grabbed his cell phone and captured video of the rambunctious audience. Guns switched to an acoustic set shortly after as they went into the L.A Guns classic, “The Ballad of Jayne.” Their celebratory continued as they rocked back to electric gear and flushed in with Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Fans were singing on top of their lungs to this piece. Guns and Sarzo united with an incredible guitar and bass solo, where fans were split up shouting out “Rudy! Rudy Rudy!” and “Tracii! Tracii! Tracii!” St. John looked at the audience and called them dangerous as they went into the Montrose cover of “Rock Candy.” He took video of the crowd once more during an acclaimed solo by Guns. Continuing to move on all areas of the stage, St. John waltz to the back and accompanied Fitzgibbon on drums during the enduring solo between Guns and Sarzo.
As fans cheered and embraced this glorious moment, it was time for Gunzo to close their set as they concluded with the favored L.A. Guns track of “Never Enough.” Sarzo managed to surprise the crowd even further by playing the bass behind his shoulders and even used his teeth. At the end of this track, the band walked up to the front of the stage and bowed in front of their fans as they begged for more. Tracii gracefully looked at the audience and shared his gratitude by saying, “you are all too kind.” On July 24th, it was hinted on their facebook page that they are on their way to the studio to record a new album, hopefully, they will be back with original notes of surprises.
During the short break before BulletBoys were going to hit the stage, a fan asked out loud, “when do you get to see these two bands to play like this?” Shortly after bassist, Chad MacDonald walked on the platform, to do a quick soundcheck. The fan rushed over and yelled out “hi Chad!” MacDonald humbly responded and said hi back. This fan informed MacDonald that this was the circle of his fans. A brief moment later, the screen rose up and out appeared the only original member of the group, frontman Marq Torien (vocals and lead guitar), Nick Rozz (rhythm guitar) and Shawn Duncan (drums).
By now the volume was turned up to eleven as they opened up with “Born to Breed” from their sixth studio album in 2009, 10¢ Billionaire. Torien ruled right in with his enticing guitar solo as it led towards a splendid eighties head boppin’ closeout. Looking happy as ever to be on the stage that evening, Torien shouted out “NYC, this one is for you!” as they went into their classic, “Hard as a Rock.” Shredding right along with their infamous “Hell on My Heels,” which is also from their debut studio album. Torien, MacDonald and Rozz jumped together while Duncan pounded away on the drums. Rozz erupted in a guitar solo as MacDonald followed shortly after. Torien continued to danced across the stage towards MacDonald and introduced him to all. He then swayed towards his own guitar and ripped into a solo of his own.
After their classic hits pumped up the crowd, it was time for samples of the latest Elefanté, as they went into “Rollover” and the emotive “Symphony,” which is a song written for Torien’s sons. Switching it up with “THC Groove” from the 1991 Freakshow, MacDonald dazzled all with his stage presence and captivating bass lines. Torien sustained his charismatic facial expressions throughout, as he rocked out and headbanged with Rozz. MacDonald joined in as the three of them embraced their melodic instrumentals as they slowly walked towards the crowd. Moving back to their debut, it was time for the O’Jays cover of “For the Love of Money,” which ended with the band at a frozen solid state. They stood still until the audience screamed with all of their might in order for them to conclude the song.
Cruising along with the Heavy and Bluesy, “Saving You From Me” from Elefanté, proved that the audience were loving the new material. The energy continued to fuel in as Torien leaped in the air while the rest continued to jump without missing a beat. Torien was incredibly honored to be back on their own headlining tour and embraced the New York energy that he even blew out a kiss of appreciation to his fans. Sadly, it was time for them to conclude their set with the infamous, “Smooth Up in Ya.” This performance startled the crowd with astonished amazement. MacDonald even went to his aforementioned circle of fans and waved his bass towards them to play. Their act was a one of a kind thrill, which was refreshing to see live at the Gramercy Theater. Do not miss BulletBoys live, there are still a few shows left in August including ’80s in the Park Festival on the 27th, in Melbourne Florida.
Photo credit: Sarah Mankoff Photography