Feline issues are not the kind of things one might expect from a music blog and yet I have decided to write about hairballs. It is surprising that such an issue would be talked about by a man that doesn't own a cat and the thought of me trying to ascertain how such a condition occurs is mind numbing. So imagine being presented with the chance to see "Hairball"... Live at the Mississippi Moon Bar. I was scared.
Okay so I wasn't scared, nor was the show at MMB about feline conditions but I will admit I was a little nervous as to what I might experience. What I knew of the band "Hairball" was that they performed '80's glam rock covers and that the band was apparently really good. Trepidation might be the optimum word while discussing the opportunity to see the band because of their choice of material, the genre is so vast and the possibility they may not measure up did cross my mind.
With the endless possibilities of material they may perform the potential for really terrible covers seemed like a distinct possibility. In the past year I have seen at least six bands that do mainly covers and to be honest the majority of bands have fulfilled those fears. Interestingly the experience levels of those bands has varied from really new and raw to complete ripoffs and local "legends" so my expectations weren't that high. I wasn't so sure that this band wouldn't be like a crappy band at a wedding reception, or even some bad "air guitar" nonsense. Comparisons of those bands to the band "Hairball" before "Hairball" even took the stage were unfair and I knew that but I immediately tossed them into that category.
As the curtains opened, the fog machine and lasers filled the stage, I began to rub my eyes because my eyes were obviously affected by them (the fog and lasers) because I couldn't believe what I saw. Anytime you see a large man dressed like Dee Snider (frontman for "Twisted Sister") running around on stage one must assume that their eyes aren't working properly. I immediately thought to myself that a great big "cheese-fest" was upon me but that was quickly dispelled.
A plethora of bands made appearances this chilly evening (Twisted Sister, KISS, Guns 'n' Roses, Poison, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, Queen and AC/DC) and... Prince. Yes I said "Prince" and I have to tell you I was flat out confused when I saw that. Each band was represented by the lead singer taking on the persona of the lead singer of each band in "costume" but at no time was it "campy" or "cheesy", this band did it right.
Earlier in the year I went to a show that was a KISS tribute band and they were flat terrible. From their costumes to their attempts to talk and sound like the band (I can't forget to include the crappy stage set) made the closing of their set the best thing they did that evening. Hairball wasn't like that in any capacity and it was refreshing. Their stage "props" including bass drum skins, backdrop and amp grills were all emblazoned with THEIR logo and not some cheap imitation of another bands stage.
What I found interesting about the band was the fact that they didn't try to "be the band" that they were performing as. Despite seeing Gene Simmons or Dee Snider (or their facsimiles) the remainder of the band stayed themselves, and didn't switch into costume (that would have made for one long and boring show). While it did appear that the lead singers would vocally try to meet a similar singing style, it was obvious they were not trying to be a ripoff.
What I did observe was a band that was trying to entertain the crowd, interact with the crowd and try to give the best possible show. As varied as the list of bands I posted earlier (Prince... really?), their musical styles and the strengths of the actual bands musicians would be a daunting task for any band and Hairball matched each of them note for note. Imagine how difficult it would be for a guitarist to play like Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Perry and Angus Young in one set oh and by the way try to do it well. Hairball did it to perfection and as I penned my notes I made a point to say the guitarist was "spot on" (for Van Halen), and "Joe Perry would be proud." This guy is un-FREAKING-believable and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has the skills to become a legend. Yes I said legend and I mean he could be the next Steve Vai, Randy Rhodes, or Slash.
As I listened to the band play I found myself experiencing some emotions of note. I think that I was taken aback by that too but not for any of the wrong reasons. As an example when I watch "American Idol" I will sit there and critique bands that do what I can "untouchable" songs, these are songs that are so legendary no matter how good that they are they shouldn't be attempted by anyone, EVER. We have all seen or heard someone do a song that its obvious it shouldn't be attempted because the original was so good and in doing so the standard is so high that no one will ever match it and then tonight not one but two classic songs reared their collective heads.
When the lead singer came out dressed like Freddy Mercury (Queen) I braced myself for disappointment and that was despite loving everything else before that. Hairball attempted three Queen songs and two of those songs meet the criteria for classic, legendary songs: "We Will Rock You" and "Bohemian Rhapsody". I have heard some very good artists attempt both songs and I have always been disappointed and as I listened to their versions of those songs I was stunned. Musically they played spot on and literally sounded like what I would have expected by Queen but... no one can match Freddy vocally on either of those songs. Please don't get me wrong, I LOVED their attempts but there will never be a better version that the originals.
On December 15th, 2011 I was witness to an incredible performance by the band "Hairball" and I was completely blown away by the talent of every member of the band. My fears of a crappy wedding band, or a terrible ripoff band, or even a shifty cover band were smashed. I can honestly tell you that this show I saw tonight was every bit as good as some of the other bands I saw this year. Do yourself a favor and see this band, you will not be disappointed. Bravo Hairball!