January 19, 2016 Hookers & Blow Light Up Revolution In Amityville, NY 1-8-16 w/ Appetite for Destruction
The 1980s was an era known for decadence, and the Rock-n-Roll scene was at its peak. A time where the Sunset Strip in Hollywood California was pumping out a new band every day, all of them had dreams of being the next Van Halen, living large, and embracing the essence of the true Rock-n-Rock lifestyle; booze, drugs, women, and non-stop partying. One individual who has probably witnessed the era first-hand was Keyboardist/Pianist Darren “Dizzy” Reed. Originally hailing from Colorado, Reed spent five years playing the club scene in Los Angeles during the late ’80s and came across a band calling themselves Guns N’ Roses. Reed would remain friends with their frontman, Axl Rose, a friendship which eventually developed into a partnership in 1990 when Rose asked Reed to come collaborate on their two Use Your Illusion records. Step back three years prior to Reed’s official joining up with Guns N’ Roses, the band rocketed to stardom with their debut album in 1987, Appetite for Destruction. The rest, as they say, is history. Reed would tour with the band through the early ’90s and survive the hiatus to be part of the new Guns N’ Roses come the release of 2008’s Chinese Democracy album.
Remaining active in and out of Guns N’ Roses, Reed connected with Beautiful Creatures and Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi to lay down some tracks for the Beautiful Creatures’ album Deuce in 2005. Jamming in Los Angeles clubs together just for fun, under the ear-catching name Hookers & Blow, the guys decided to take the act to the road, and in the process enlisted some pretty amazing musicians. This group, eleven years later, consist of Reed on keyboards/vocals, Grossi on guitar, Mike Duda of W.A.S.P. on bass, and Johnny Kelly of Danzig/Type O negative on drums. Pretty killer right? One may wonder, “Ok, so what do they play?” Well, this crew offer up some rarely heard, live, deep cuts from the Use Your Illusion era and other Rock classics. As Grossi told CrypticRock, “We are not re-inventing the wheel, just having fun.” With that in mind, the band kicked off a tour in 2016 with dates along the East Coast, as well as Midwest in January and February.
A fitting location for Hookers & Blow to stop was at The Revolution Bar and Music Hall in Amityville, New York on Friday, January 8th. A nightspot that allows for true Rock fans to come and un-wind with local, tribute, along with of course national acts, the visit from Hookers & Blow was just what the doctor ordered. Coming together with Guns N’ Roses tribute band, Appetite for Destruction, Captain Co-Pilot, Mr. Scary, Streetlight Circus, and the comedy of VH1’s That Metal Show, Don Jamieson, there was plenty of action ahead.
The night started out with some very talented New York based local bands – Captain to Co-Pilot, Mr. Scary (Dokken/Lynch Mob tribute band), and Streetlight Circus. Amping the crowd ready for a night full of Guns N’ Roses excess, Jamieson fit in a fifteen minute Comedy bit before the first main act. Focusing on the fact that, thankfully, Rock fans are not politically correct, he poked fun at some famous musicians such as Justin Bieber and Courtney Love. Mixing in some raunchy material, not to mention some jokes about Guns N’ Roses,a toast to the great Lemmy of Motörhead, the crowd seemed to warm up to Jamieson’s jokes over the course of his set that had many laughing.
Next up was Appetite for Destruction hailing from Lindenhurst, New York. Having been on the scene portraying and performing as original members of Guns N’ Roses all over the Northeast for around fifteen years, the band has played on the same bill as ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist, Gilby Clarke, headlined BB King’s for five years straight, and is now currently on tour with Hookers & Blow. Their lineup consist of John Ricotta on guitars as Slash, Rob Pfeffer on vocals as Rose, Mike Ficalora on bass as Duff McKagan, Andrew D’Amato on rhythm guitar as Izzy Stradlin, and Shawn Callahan on drums as Steven Adler. In every aspect of their set, they become Guns N’ Roses, and they have left no detail or sound left un-turned.
Each member embraces the band’s original 1980s wardrobe, sporting wigs to match hair color, to McKgan’s famous lock chain necklace, to Slash’s infamous black top hat he sports even today. What makes this band unique, and definitely a crowd pleaser, is the fact that Pfeffer plays to the audience. His voice was spot-on for Rose himself, and he stays in character and mimics all of Rose’s famous moves. The rest of the band is extremely animated and one would think after fifteen years of playing as a tribute band they would bore, but that is not the case, in fact they eat up the attention of the crowd, and feed off of it. They realize that those who come see them are die hard Guns N’ Roses fans and want to have a sing-along and be taken back to the era when Guns N’ Roses was the world’s most dangerous band.
Their set began with classic “Night Train,” and listeners from the bar area made their way to the front of the stage immediately. The set list continued with “Live and Let Die,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “You Could Be Mine.” Singing along with the fans, they enjoyed every minute on stage and seemed to capture the sound of Guns N’ Roses original line up with a little twist of their own persona while playing. The crowd roared when they played “Mr. Brownstone,” but as “Civil War” began, a new face appeared on stage. It was the one and only, Mr. Dizzy Reed, who took the part of the keyboards. Provoking an excitement from the crowd, the energy radiating from the band in trying to execute the greatest version they have done to impress the man himself. Pfeffer, at the end of the song, stated, “This truly is a dream come true.”
Following Reed’s departed from the stage, “Rocket Queen” had the fans dancing and singing along in unison. The last song for the set was of course the infamous “Paradise City,” and Pfeffer, whistle in hand, blows were timed exactly like Rose. When the song ends, Pfeffer and the rest of the band said goodnight and were humbled by the reaction. Those looking for Guns N’ Roses reenacted with an authentic sound, look no further than Appetite for Destruction.
Acting as MC, Jamison took the stage once more to introduce his friends Hookers & Blow to a now packed room. Wasting no time, the band began their set with Use Your Illusion II track “Pretty Tied Up.” The musical performance from Kelly, Duda, Grossi, along with Reed showed off that these musicians are seasoned and could pull off the sound that made the song famous. Although Reed was singing, and his voice is a departure from the famous Rose style most fans are accustomed to hearing, nonetheless he made the songs his own and sang powerfully as he has plenty of experience spending years singing back-up for Rose in Guns N’ Roses. Then they played a cut off Use Your Illusions I, “Dust and Bones,” and Duda’s bass solo was perfect as Grossi truly embodied the guitar solo, showing off his expertise.
The fans seemed to eat up every bit of the set and it proved that even after over thirty years, Guns N’ Roses’ music still has a place and popularity that hits home with so many individuals. The next two songs played were the infamous “Out Ta Get Me” and “Used To Love Her.” Before Reed started, he had to fix his keyboard, so he asked Duda to talk to the people. Engaging the audience as a whole band, the fans cried out for Duda, Kelly, and Grossi all set long. Reed, loving every minute of it, encouraged his bandmates and made sure they received the respect they deserve. Graciously, Reed said, “Thank You,” numerous times, to the crowd and proposed cheers as fans brought up drinks for the band. Furthermore, what was special about the performance was it was a mix of songs that had not been heard live in a long time. With that said, “Don’t Cry” started out with a piano intro which was beautiful, but unlike the original version, it does not contain the haunting guitar solo, although no less effective. “You’re Crazy” and “Patience” both followed, taking the fans back to 1988’s classic album, Gn’R Lies.
The aforementioned “Patience” started with a very long piano solo by Reed, in fact, it almost felt like the whole song was going to be played just with piano, until Grossi entered with his guitar playing. Duda and Kelly kept the track tight in the percussion section, something Adler and McKagan were notorious for. Then, Reed stopped and said goodnight, during the break in “Patience” right before the final chorus, but then quickly came back. He apologized to the crowd, stating he thought the song was over and he was going senile.” Getting a big laugh from the crowd, it was all in good fun as they picked right back up to sing the famous line, “Just a little patience, yay ya.” Playing on with “Bad Obsession” before fan- favorite “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” the audience went crazy and the energy of the club could be felt all around. Then adding an element of surprise, the Punk-driven and fast-paced “Nice boys,” off the Gn’R Lies, followed as Duda and Kelly seemed to flourish while the keyboards and guitar took a backseat. Finally, the show came to an end with a cool cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright,” which had everyone howling.
As Hookers & Blow left the stage, Reed told the crowd they ruled and would see them soon, as well as expressed one more thank you. It seemed the band was enjoying their time on stage together. Even after all the collected years of stardom, they truly just enjoyed being on stage doing what they love, playing Rock-n-Roll music. For anyone who thinks that Guns N’ Roses music has not touched the lives of so many people and changed Rock N’ Roll music forever, has not been paying attention. Hookers & Blow, alongside Appetite for Destruction, brought Guns N’ Roses fans together for one night to let loose and not only relive a part of the iconic band’s repertoire of music, but the spirit of what true Rock-N-Roll should sound like.