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L.A. GUNS In New Bedford, MA

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Monday, April 22, 2019 @ 11:17 AM

At The Vault Music Hall & Pub April 13th

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It's funny how plans sometimes change in the blink of an eye. My original plans for Saturday, April 13th was to just stay at home and relax all night long. The L.A. GUNS show at The Vault Music Hall & Pub was sold out and I initially had no plans to attend the show in the first place. The reason for that was that, much to the chagrin of one of my metal friends, I never considered myself a huge fan of the band. I loved their first album but beyond that I never gave L.A. GUNS much notice. That is until their The Missing Peace album from a couple years back. I heard it at my local record shop hangout and really liked it.

Still...when the show, which was officially billed as L.A. GUNS starring Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns, was announced I didn't plan on going. But April 13th was also Record Store Day. I knew the record shop would be busy so I didn't drop by until later in the afternoon. I ran into Troy, another music friend that I've made since I started attending so many shows at The Vault, and he ended up telling me he had a ticket available due to a friend of his not being able to make the show. As it turned out, I really had nothing else to do so I paid him for the ticket and raced home to get ready for the show. This also gave me the chance to let my latest new music friend, the eminently cool rocker chick (if you'll forgive the admittedly passe description) Denise, that I would be coming to the show after all and see if she wanted to hang out during the concert.

As for the show itself, the opener was a L.A. band called THE DARBIES. According to their Facebook page, this is the band's first time touring across the country. I'm not sure how familiar anyone else in the audience was with the band, but I had no inkling of their music beforehand.

The first thing I noticed as they took to the stage was that they seemed almost impossibly young. Of course, that might be just that I'm an old man now but I mentioned to Denise that they looked young enough that they should be playing a high school dance.

But once the music started, the band's musicality was hard to deny, lack of familiarity aside. Their sound brought to mind some of the psychedelic rockers from the 70's mixing with a more straight ahead hard rock thrust. Guitarist Ronny Dave Castro, who's guitar seemed almost bigger than he was, had both the playing chops and flair that you found yourself glued to his performance during his solos. Brother Nico Castro laid down a hard foundation with bassist Joe Galate. As for vocalist Jani Jaako, he had a whirling dervish stage presence and certainly brought a gritty yet demanding tone to his vocals. Denise mentioned to me that she thought his performance was a cross between Jim Morrison and Rob Thomas. I get what she meant though I'd add that some of his stage mannerisms (dropping to knees or falling to the stage and just laying there) came off as a bit too calculated for my own personal taste.

Again, I was completely unfamiliar with their material going into their set but that didn't stop me from enjoying most of what I was hearing. I did think that "Letters To My Love" dragged a bit in the song's midsection (despite an otherwise thunderous musical soundtrack) though.

I think the first song of their set that really got my attention was "Secondhand Shake", which featured a fantastic bluesy solo from Ronny as well as a bass solo from Joe.

There was a little bit of an issue with the mic during their set as the song "Muddy Blues" lost an entire verse from Jani. I am not sure exactly what happened but last part of the vocal in the song disappeared completely. If it wasn't for that audio hiccup, the stomping swampy drawl of the song drew me in completely.

The band rebounded strongly though and closed out with a triple threat of songs that made me wish there was a CD available for me to purchase. "Gold N' Blue" had a blistering pace that was just a complete rocker while I thought "Sermons of Sympathy" was their showcase track of the night. That one really got me buzzing. They closed their set with a cover of the FLEETWOOD MAC song "Oh Well" and left the stage to a rather generous round of applause. I'm not sure how swamped they were at the merchandise booth after their set, but when I left the venue after L.A. GUNS finished, they were out there again taking photos with people who I'm guessing were buying a T-shirt or two as well. I wasn't sure what I was going to see with them before they hit the stage but for my money, they put on one heck of a show and won me over.

Set List

  • Intro/"Poetry"
  • "You Think You Got It All"
  • "Secondhand Shake"
  • "Letters To My Love"
  • "Every Bitter Sun"
  • "Muddy Blues"
  • "Gold N' Blue"
  • "Sermons of Sympathy"
  • "Oh Well" (FLEETWOOD MAC cover)

After a brief intermission, L.A. GUNS hit the stage and rocked their way through an economical hour-and-fifteen minute set that saw them focus on the band's first three albums and last two albums for their set list.

With guitarist Ace Van Johnson, bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Scot Coogan providing ample musical support, the spotlight was obviously focused on Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns. Alongside both Denise and her friend Doreece, I was right in front of Tracii Guns for the whole show. I have to say that he made what he was doing look easy.

Kicking the set off in a killer fashion with "No Mercy", the band moved mostly effortlessly from one song to another and the crowd was into each and every minute of it. There was a real sense of intensity to "Rage" which helped the song live up to its title.

I have to say that I still found the song "Sex Action" as cool as it was when I first heard it. I guess it is probably the one song I really wanted to see live. The crowd got involved in singing back to the band on "Over The Edge" and I loved the solo from Tracii Guns.

The microphone issues that I mentioned with THE DARBIES seemed to continue during the GUNS' set because every so often the first line of a lyric from Phil Lewis seemed to get drowned out. At first I thought it was from the music being "too loud" but as it was a recurring issue, I think it was the mic itself or some sort of problem at the control board.

The band's new album, The Devil You Know, was recently released and they ran through a strong performance of the title track. Throwing a bit of theatricality into the mix, Phil donned a devil's mask halfway through the song and finished the song wearing it. At various points throughout the show, he came right up to Denise and Doreece with a little flirtaciousness as he sang to them for a brief moment or two. Denise ended the night with Phil giving her a feather from his stage hat and getting a pick from Tracii Guns.

I know that I heard "The Flood's The Fault of the Rain" when I listened to The Missing Peace album but it was only during the song's performance during the show that I really got just how good a track it is. Most of the set was a pedal to the floor pace, but on this song L.A. GUNS slowed things down a good deal and out came a song that became a kind of epic. I've got to go back and listen to the album again so that I can fully appreciate the song again.

Meanwhile, Phil Lewis dedicated "Kiss My Love Goodbye" to all the women that had dumped him in the past, which gave me a chuckle. Maybe that should be my theme song for the same reason? I really liked the way the band used the opening intro for the AC/DC song "Hell's Bells" to lead into their own song "Never Enough" too.

During their four song encore, L.A. GUNS kicked things off with a purely metallic burst of energy during "Speed". The "Go Fast" chant in the song gave ample opportunity for the crowd to sing along as Phil Lewis exhorted them to do so.

It was Phil and Tracii on a beautiful rendition of "Crystal Eyes", which was a new discovery for me as I've never listened to the Hollywood Vampires album. It was just a powerful lyric with an understated delivery and as it led into "The Ballad of Jayne", you got a double shot of the more emotive side of the band. Of course, that's not where things ended as the show rounded for home and closed out on a powerful run through of the electric "Rip and Tear".

Other than the microphone issue, there was one nitpick that I had with the show that left it being slightly imperfect. It was Phil Lewis continually addressing the crowd as "Boston". Since the show was in New Bedford, which is 90 minutes away from the city of Boston, my sense of accuracy was crying out to say "We aren't in Boston!" but I held my tongue because I was having way too good of a time to ruin it.

Still, for my first time seeing the band live, I'm now convinced that I have to go back an investigate at least some of what I've obviously missed. Because L.A. GUNS put on a hell of an adrenaline charged show. Their performance knocked me out and left me wanting more!

Set List

  • "No Mercy"
  • "Rage"
  • "Sex Action"
  • "Over The Edge"
  • "Electric Gypsy"
  • "The Devil You Know"
  • "Kiss My Love Goodbye"
  • "The Flood's The Fault of the Rain"
  • "I Wanna Be Your Man"
  • "Never Enough" (with AC/DC's "Hells Bells" intro)
  • "Speed"
  • "Crystal Eyes"
  • "The Ballad of Jayne"
  • "Rip & Tear"

CONCERT FUN FACTS: At the end of "The Flood's The Fault of the Rain", Phil Lewis spotted my KNAC.COM T-shirt and said, "KNAC...That's Good!"

During the chorus of "Speed", Lewis came over to me twice while getting everyone to say "Go Fast". The first time he tried to get me to say it but I was a little slow in response. He kind of gave me a "HUH?" look. But the second time, I got the timing right and he had a pleased look on his face after that one.

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