Monday, July 31, 2017

WARRANT - Poopy's in Savanna, Illinois - July 29th, 2017

The history of rock music has enigmas woven inside its very fabric so tight that at times it becomes what is the enigma and what is reality.  Any fan of music from the late '80's - early '90's surely understands because that whole time frame is that hazy.  While the number of bands that entered into the foray of "hair metal" was seemingly in the tens of thousands few remained viable in any capacity after the popularity began to fade like many hairlines.  What if one of those that remained was still out there, as popular as before and what if they went from enigma to stalwart?

That is a legitimate question; what if they went from an enigma to a stalwart?  What does that even mean you ask?  An enigma is a puzzling situation in its basic form and a stalwart is strong, imposing even but in life we encounter dozens of these transformations.  For example how did the Chicago Cubs garner all of those fans during the 108 years in between World Series wins?  How does a lovable loser remain that popular without real rational thought because that is the definition of an enigma.  Is it possible that the Cubs could become a powerful team for years to come because that would take them into the stalwart position in winning and it would wrestle the role away from their stalwart position as lovable losers.

Music is no different.  Don't believe me?  Just look at all of the "one hit wonders" out there that never progress to any success other than that one shot.  The "era of hair" was full of bands like "House of Lords," "Autograph," and "Ugly Kid Joe" that were great bands but never materialized into the next "Poison."  That was the nature of the beast then as record labels pushed out so much music that sounded alike, with similar content in the music that the music consumer had enough and the false belief that "grunge" killed that era was born.

I would almost contend with confidence that the only thing that separated the enigmas from the stalwarts of the time was really WHEN they entered the scene itself and achieved popularity.  I think it goes without saying a band like "Guns 'N' Roses" was going to become what they became regardless but some bands fell into it and then there were those that actually made it because they were that talented, take WARRANT for example.

Warrant was founded in 1984 and despite being what one might consider chaff during that era, just like every other band that graced the streets of Hollywood and Los Angeles during the 1980's they never really were.  Despite being lumped into that era as "just another band" Warrant was different.  I was never huge into the music of the era when I was in that era myself, I liked punk and bands like Testament and Slayer but I can remember when I first heard the band with vivid recall.  When I was younger I used to have parties every weekend and we would always watch "Headbangers Ball" on MTV so I usually saw my fair share of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue videos and I discounted the bands I saw there quickly because of the cheesy videos and stupid lyrics that graced every song.  I was a snob like that, it was awesome but what usually got me to like a band was to hear them before I saw them first.

A friend of mine and I were together one night and he brought this cassette from "Warrant" and we listened to it much of the night.  It was intriguing to me to say the least, yes there were similarities to other songs by other bands but there was a grit to the music that most of its contemporaries just didn't.  That was brutally apparent with their second release "Cherry Pie" in 1990 because it was powerful and lyrically superior.  To this day I am still blown away by the song "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in fact, it is not content one expected from a band from that era.  Warrant continued to put out incredible albums with content that still blows my mind, and securing their rightful place in rock royalty in my mind's eye.

As we fast forward to July 29th, 2017 when Warrant appeared at Poopy's in Savanna, Illinois much more history, music and tragedy had befallen the band since that first album but they took the stage with a lineup that is even better today.  I mean that sincerely, this is not the same band that was formed in 1984, much like every band there are changes and tragedies but for the most part it has been the same band since 2004 with three of the four members having been on the roster since then.  Each member is cog that really does make their role conducive to success of the others individually and the band as a whole.

Erik Turner, the Omaha, Nebraska native and founder of Warrant is still an absolute master at his craft.  I was so impressed by how he interacts with the fans during his performance and how effortless he makes it look.  Turner has a stage demeanor that is that of nothing less than a complete professional, he is entertaining and shines as he looks over his fans while performing.  Turner is a performer that makes it look effortless but he is smiling and having fun at the same time which connects himself with the fans because he just looks like he is having the time of his life.  Erik Turner is a quintessential rock star.

I have seen Warrant several times since 2011 and every time I do I have to look back at pictures of the band to try to place the next performer:  Joey Allen.  Allen joined Warrant on lead guitar in 1987 with a full head of hair and immense talent and although the talent has grown expansively, Allen rocks a bald head on stage.  That is the reason I have to look at the old pictures because I still have it ingrained in my head that members of any band from the "era of hair" will have copious amounts of flowing locks but Allen will have none of that.  What Allen will have is a skill set that is unquestionably one of the best in music today.  Allen has that swagger that is befitting a lead guitar player and the stage presence that makes the best indeed that.

Steven Sweet is the drummer extraordinaire for Warrant and as Robert Mason said "he's the guy singing all of those high notes" and he is damned gifted as both.  As Sweet was performing I looked toward the riser and amid flashing lights he beat the drums with a skilled ferocity.  I would harken the name Mike Tyson while comparing Sweet on the drums but I'm not sure that would be fair to Sweet.  Although Sweet has probably never bitten off the ear of an opponent he has the focus that Tyson seemingly lacked as his career waned.  Sweet doesn't show any signs of waning any time in the future for that matter and he remains at the top of his game and it is reflective in the drive of the music and the pace of a Warrant show.

The heart and soul of a rock band is that driving beat and it is achieved through the drums and the bass guitar.  To accomplish that task with Warrant is Sweet on drums and Jerry Dixon on bass with the combination of the two being dominant in doing so.  Dixon is what a think a rock star should look like, he just has "it."  What is "it" you ask and I will answer I have no idea entirely.  While Dixon is on stage he looks stern, exuding an attitude of being there to dominate the stage.  He is there to make your toes tap, your head to bang (or bob depending on your age) but he is there to make Warrant run like a well-oiled machine.  Dixon has the rock star confidence but why wouldn't he, he is a BEAST on bass.  Seriously this is a guy that looks the role, he has a skill set that FEW can compare with and he is a professional master on that damned bass guitar.  While Dixon looks "stern" he smiles throughout, interacts with fans but I would say he wants to be the best he can be every time out and it shows.  Jerry Dixon is a phenomenal bass player that would be home in any band and would improve any band immediately before even playing a note for them.

Warrant is an iconic band and every iconic band gets there with a "face of the band," the lead singer and I think its hard to not think back to those early videos with the "face of he band" being so prevalent with not equating it with someone different.  How could you not?  The first seven albums of Warrant were the vocal playground of Jani Lane but Lane left the band totally in 2008 (after a comeback following a previous departure in 2004) and vocal duties were taken over once by Jamie St. James and then by Robert Mason.

I brought up Lane for a specific reason and it wasn't for comparison reasons actually.  There are certain bands that I think are BETTER despite a change of lead vocalists and there are bands that had massive hits fronted by someone that I think sound better with the new vocalist and Robert Mason has done that in Warrant.

Robert Mason, the blonde prototypical front man is similar to Dixon, he just has "it."  He really is the entire package in a lead singer.  He has the attitude, the demeanor, the skills, the look and the voice in which I think sounds better on all of those Warrant classics than Lane.  I've said this before about other bands including Myles Kennedy with Slash singing all of those GNR classics, and I said it about Johnny Solinger when he was with SkidRow, both singers make that music even better.  Mason has a vocal range that is superior to that of Lane (and St. James).  He has a vocal quality that makes the songs more robust and rich.  He has a fire in his belly though that feeds off of his bandmates that takes the band to an entirely different level.  The man never stops moving, ever.  He is a whirling dervish but he engages the crowd with every breath and fiber that I simply cannot fathom.

At one point in the show, very early on in the show, Mason had propped up his mic stand literally against a post right next to where I was standing and he spun away from the post and the mic stand came within inches of my face.  To prove to you how in control this man is I would have assumed it was an accident and a pure gift of God that he didn't knock me for a loop but Mason looked back at me and smiled, he is that in control.  He was singing and navigating cords when he was doing that, hell he could have hit me and knocked me clean out but he never missed a beat.  Warrant is better with Mason just plain and simple.

Those are fighting words for some fans I know but I stand by it and I think the fans that saw Warrant at Poopy's on July 29th, 2017 would agree with me.  The entire band was tight, vocally they were superior and I think that those in attendance saw exactly the same thing I did.  A kick ass performance by a band that came into the world of rock at the same time hundreds of contemporaries did.  The problem was that they had the chance to be an enigma or a stalwart and I think in some ways Warrant was both.

Warrant was an enigma when you think to yourself that they did something so many did not; they succeeded.  They were successful during a time when other bands blew in and blew out just as fast.  They put out music that was smarter, harder and in such a way that few others could.

Warrant was a stalwart as well.  How else could you explain nine studio albums, one live album and three compilation albums?  Two Top 10 albums each which went double platinum and a third that went gold?  The band cannot be a stalwart if they just blew in and blew out, they formed in 1984 so they have the longevity behind them as well.

Warrant earned both titles but what they also earned is the respect from fans worldwide and still bring their brand of rock to the stage that is head and shoulders above their contemporaries.  Should you get a chance to see Warrant on tour make sure you do because you will leave with a sense of respect and awe of this band that I cannot put into words properly for you.  Warrant put on one of the best shows I have seen this year regardless of genre this year and when you see them you won't be disappointed by any stretch of the imagination!

Great job guys!  I can't wait to see what is next, what an awesome show!!

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