Hairball, that quintessential '80's hair metal cover band made another appearance in the world that is my wandering aimlessly from venue to venue in search of new bands. In December of 2011 I wrote about the band and their appearance at the Mississippi Moon Bar and I was blown away. Could the magic befall once more and transport me back to the '80's? Would their be mullets? How about weird old people acting like they were fourteen all over again? Well...
How to I put this in the kindest way, Yes, Oh yeah, and keep me out of this. Hairball is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen so on May 10th, 2012 I revisited the Mississippi Moon Bar to see what new twists the band might have. I'm guessing that you might be thinking like I did, "Can a band that does '80's hair metal covers do anything different?" Yes. Yes the most certainly can and they most certainly did.
What I like about this band is they are talented musicians and singers and just as importantly, they are a blast to see live. As I sat in my chair (no I didn't to the General Admission shtuff) I perused my notes from the first show. I waited in anticipation hoping that the band might throw a change or two into their act but I also hoped I could cheat off of those notes while writing this piece. As the December show started it was to the gentle tones of Twisted Sister and the stage presence of Dee Snider, but the May show started with a David Lee Roth look-alike.
When I was in school attempting to get my associates degree (which I DID get), I asked a musician that I had met what is the one thing you hate being asked to do when you are playing. He thought about it and then replied, anything Van Halen related. His rationale was simple, no one could pull off Eddie Van Halen so everyone that tries sucks at it therefore why try to attempt it. He made a valid point, I have heard people try to do just that and the suck factor could only be explained by a number with a whole bunch of exponents (see I did go to school). With all of that in mind (except for the school stuff) I forget about it (that previous nugget of musician speak) because I saw a band not only pull off a pretty good David Lee Roth, but an amazing version of Eddie Van Halen as well.
The first three songs are not easy to accomplish well let alone spectacularly but when those songs are "Unchained", "Jump" and "Panama" its far from the realm of possibility to succeed. All three of those songs are iconic Van Halen and Jump and Panama are so popular that attempting them is really like asking a fourth grader to tackle Barry Sanders. The album from which those two songs originated "1984", is one of their greatest albums and probably the most recognizable of all of them. Hairball performed all three of the songs like masters and I am dead serious when I tell you that the guitar was bordering on "OH MY FREAKING WOW".
It's fascinating when you realize all of the costume changes this band goes through but more importantly the demeanor of the bands they are portraying. After Van Halen the band broke into Twisted Sister and the two most recognizable songs (We're Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock) complete with the Dee Snider costume and makeup. As if the difference of attitude between Dee Snider and David Lee Roth wasn't enough, imagine the vocal style of both and the huge differences in those styles. I do believe that their portrayal of Twisted Sister may possibly be one of my favorite parts of their act.
As the transfer between Twisted Sister and the next act begins it becomes perfectly obvious what is next from the band. Obviously when one sees a Gene Simmons character stroll out to the stage the first band you think they will be taking on is Justin Beiber (no its not, its KISS stick with me). I have seen two bands try to do KISS before and there has been uhm, mixed results. Of the two Hairball was the drop-dead, hands down winner and the other was a KISS tribute band and that band was possibly the absolute worst band I have ever seen. Obviously I expected the best from Hairball and once again they delivered. What was really cool about all of this was not just the fact that they did three songs (Deuce, I Love It Loud and Rock and Roll All Nite) but they put on a great stage show from Mr. Simmons (or his lookalike) and fire spewing forth from his mouth as well as the sword that Simmons slams onto the stage following it.
When "Prince" took the stage, complete with a guitar that looks like the one Prince wields, down to the spot on guitar work and on-stage demeanor from the "Symbol" himself, Hairball nailed it. Tackling any Prince song is difficult but playing "Let's Go Crazy" and "1999" arguably two of Princes best known songs makes it even tougher. Hairball pulled it off once again and I think everyone would agree with that summation BUT there was one thing that still confuses me. PRINCE, where does that come from!
With the Axel Rose persona as well as Axel Rose-like movements, Hairball pulled off two great renditions of "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle". Its interesting to hear people attempt GN'R because there is always something wrong with their attempts. It can be any variety of reasons too, including vocals, off key guitar and bass, or any other innumerate reasons, its almost impossible to pull off their songs. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls let me assure you that the product put out by "Hairball" hasn't a single one of the innumerate reasons befall them. Hairball pulled it off lock, stock and barrel.
Last year I made the arduous journey to see Bon Jovi in concert (yes I said and meant arduous) and I walked away with reinforced beliefs and ideas about the band and their music. Although I am not a fan of their body of work I do like the song "Runaway" so when the '80's Jon Bon Jovi strutted onto stage looking like he stepped out of a video my interest was immediately piqued. The band hammered out two songs (Livin' on a Prayer and Runaway) and in all honesty they nailed both.
This was the part of the program that Hairball threw me a curveball, Steve Perry (or his look-alike) strolled forth and onto the stage. I have never seen Perry's former band "Journey" play and this was the first time I had seen "Hairball" try to tackle the vocal capacity of Mr. Perry. What I really liked was the two songs they played (Don't Stop Believin' and Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)). Both songs show the vocal range of Perry and reflects a degree of difficulty while trying to take on said songs. Perry's voice was once described as "the Golden Voice" so attempting any Journey song is daunting. The boys from Hairball pulled it off again.
Its been an interesting journey for me, in the last year I have seen "Poison" (once) and the "Bret Michaels Band" (twice) so when the singer du jour (or at least the next singer) came out dressed like Michaels I had a pretty good idea that "Poison" was to be next. As the band began to break into their Poison phase I was curious to see what was in their wheelhouse. I'll go out on a limb and say that "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Nothin' but a Good Time" are two of their most recognizable songs and the fans in the MMB at that time we're expecting them. The fans were far from disappointed as Hairball played both impeccably.
I live in the northwest corner of the State of Illinois as well as the City of Rockford, Illinois (no I haven't lost my way keep reading) and from that geographic locale a little band called "Cheap Trick" emerged. So when a Robin Zander look alike emerged on the stage and the song "I Want You to Want Me" began, I was like a pig in mud. I love "Cheap Trick" and they have had so many songs so I was trying to figure out what song would be next. The answer I got was kind of mind blowing, there wasn't another song. I was a little disappointed by that but they did a great job on the song they did and as Rob Halford walked onto stage I totally forgot about.
I should preface the previous statement it wasn't "Rob Halford", but he sure did look like him. I'm a huge Judas Priest fan so when "Breaking the Law" and "You Got Another Thing Comin'" were next on the set list I absolutely loved it! The band pulled it off once again and by this point the crowd was in a bit of a fevered pitch. If you think about it both of those Priest songs have such power that it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that such energy would fuel the fevered pitch.
Most of us can say that there is a band, a performer or an act that they wish they could see but for whatever reason they haven't. Time, dates, money, jail, being locked in an attic with log chains, these are all great reasons to not see a band and for me that band has always been "Alice Cooper". As I am told, Alice Cooper has the most incredible stage show (rock n' roll theater) so as the emphasis switched to Alice Cooper I knew it was going to be good. When the singer came out all made up like Cooper (complete with a glittered 'Uncle Sam' costume), boa constrictor and impaled dolls I truly wasn't expecting it. I knew that Cooper is a showman and I have seen videos of Cooper so none of the shtick was really unexpected but I wasn't expecting Hairball to do it.
During the songs "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Schools Out" the crowd was treated to one heck of a show. I think part of the show that some may not have expected was that in fact that was a live boa (I would assume so based on the way it crawled over the Cooper look-alike). This part of the show was also one of my favorite portions of the entire act.
I would venture a guess that if you were to think about what bands Hairball had yet to play that evening you might look in the direction of "Motley Crue". I truly think that the entire genre of metal for that era without the Crue the genre would have died. The Crue did everything a real metal band could do to give itself serious props and at times those "props" did actually include music. When asking a Crue fan to name their top five favorite songs its a pretty good chance that "Home Sweet Home" and "Kickstart My Heart" are on that list. Apparently the boys from Hairball feel the same way because they provided their versions of both songs. Its hard for me to explain how much the song "Home Sweet Home" means to me so when I hear a version of the song I become almost protective.
As the band began the song I really got nervous because of how much it means to me but within mere moments of their performance all of my trepidation wafted away. It's refreshing to hear a version of the song that isn't just a pig in lipstick and its proof to me how much this band really does enjoy playing. Great job here, and a sincere "Thanks!"
The last time I saw Hairball I commented on their performance of "Queen" songs I commented on the two "Freddy Mercury" singers and how much fun it was, and although the double shot of Mercury (wow that sounds toxic) previously worked great, this time there was only one. As I thought about this version it became abundantly clear that this time only one could work. At this performance Hairball gave us just two songs and both were just a "little" connected: We Will Rock You and Bohemian Rhapsody. Although no one will ever match Freddie Mercury's talent and persona (how could they he is the closest thing to the perfect mold of a singer), Hairball did an amazing job.
As the night began to wind down Hairball decided to provide us with one more group to satisfy our musical appetites. As the song "Back In Black" began and the singer began to belt out the lyrics it was immediately apparent that AC/DC had made its way into the MMB. Yes I know it wasn't the real AC/DC but what it did come hither was flat out good. When we think about AC/DC and Brian Johnson one other song had to be in the repertoire. That song would have to be "Shook Me All Night Long" and by crikey that is exactly what it was. It was a great song (and great rendition) to end the evening with.
Hairball isn't your ordinary band, nor are they an ordinary "cover" band, this band is something that 99.999% of all "cover" bands can only hope to be. Within this thing that Hairball is one has to realize that to do this many songs from so many different bands cannot be even remotely easy. It goes without saying that this band is talented, and will provide its fans with the greatest product they can. Hairball is a band that wants their fans to enjoy themselves and based on this show alone I can honestly tell you that this is a band you need to see and hear! Great job once again!!!