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Before Hair Bands, There Were Bands With 70s Hair

A Review of Tributes to Stevie Ray Vaughn (Cold Shot), Queen (Under Pressure) and Journey (Lights)

By Mary Elizabeth Ladd

December 31, 2006 - January 1, 2007
Tarzana , California

For New Year's Eve this year, Ape Culture decided to take in some tribute bands at Paladino's. The tribute band phase seemed to be nuts a few years ago when Ape Culture saw girl tributes of Black Sabbath (Mistress of the Dark) and Cheap Trick (Cheap Chick), and tributes at BB Kings at Universal City Walk of Journey (Escape) and Fleetwood Mac (Bella Donna). We never catalogued our adventures so we were glad to see the tribute phenom is still rocking in the Valley. Paladino's is a rock club in Tarzana, just off the 101. We immediately felt like we had hit a time warp -- many guys with long straight hair down their backs, girls with feathered bangs, pool tables that cost just 50 cents.

We arrived just in time to see Cold Shot, the Stevie Ray Vaughn trio tribute. Coolia went off to play pool.

My date informed me they had two hits and that they played them and that the very young guitar virtuoso played just like Stevie. I have no way of knowing as I'm Stevie-Ray-Vaughn-disabled. I ignored him once when I saw him open for Huey Lewis and the News back in the 80s. Maybe my tastes have marinated because I loved the tribute.

Photo by Bill Gilman

Under Pressure, the Queen tribute was next. Now, I've never seen Queen. I've always regretted that. I was alive for all their gimmicky 80s hits, but I didn't become a true fan until their swan song album: The Show Must Go On, and I've always been moved by their keep on keeping on courage in the face of Freddie's AIDS. I was hoping this tribute would capture some of the band's magic the way I felt some of the other tribute I'd seen in the past have done(Mistress of the Dark, Escape). Although they didn't, I did enjoy their act. The fake-Freddie, Chuck Di Maria, entertained us with his spandex, ass-hugging outfits. He just didn't have the smirking charisma of Freddie, nor did he have the clean, powerhouse chops. But he played the part acceptably and the red unitard was something to see. Happy New Year indeed. Their set list:

Tie Your Mother Down
Somebody to Love
Best Friend
Another One Bites the Dust
Fat Bottomed Girls
(During this song, their #1 staggering-drunk fan came up on stage in unkempt hair, sweat pants and high heels.)
Under Pressure
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Bohemian Rhapsody
(I think spliced with) Killer Queen
We Will Rock You
We Are the Champions

Most of our group felt Freddie's incessant banter made him seem bitter and angry. (At one point, someone said, "I bet the rest of the band hates him."), and he did go overboard with comments about the birds to prove he was not gay like Freddie.

I think their set was fun but not a cream of the crop tribute. They had the theatrics in place, but they didn't sound all that much like Queen. Still, maybe Freddie is one of the hardest acts to follow - and I'm not just talking about his hard ass. All in all, seeing Under Pressure just made me wish all the more that I had seen the real deal.

Before the Journey tribute, Lights, came to the stage, someone in our group quipped that Journey is itself a tribute band now. I saw Journey in the late 80s with the real Steve Perry (the red tailed coat Raised on Radio tour) and again in the 90s (see our review of the show along with our Journey song-Edgar Allen Poe-story media morph) with the new guy, Steve Augeri, who sounds like Steve Perry but looks like Kenny G. Journey is still touring and recording although they are not filling stadiums like in days of yore. I wonder if they see tribute bands as flattering, competition, or a death sentence (see our Cruise Ships haikus). I loved watching the tribute back Escape back at BB King's. I really felt the crowd energy and believed they tapped into an exciting Journey experience (like I had in the 80s) but in a small club atmosphere. Lights didn't quite reach that level, but they have potential to get there. Here's Lights' set list:

Separate Ways (I heard some feedback right away; this is a new band, playing since March, and they seemed a little green.)
Only the Young
Stone in Love
A New Song
Who's Cryin' Now
Don't Stop Believing
(this rocked us like a train into the New Year)
Ask the Lonely
Be Good to Yourself
Open Arms
Send Her my Love
Anyway You Want It
Wheel in the Sky
Encore (I've never seen a tribute band get an encore before): Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'

The Latino Lights singer, Juan Del Castillo, had a great Perry-esque voice that never wavered after over an hour of belting like Steve. But the band didn't spend much effort on costumes or a look. They looked like any modern bar band. They also didn't move around much in typical bar-band fashion. But, with some time under their belt and some polish, they could become a real fine tribute band, even better, because the sound was there and when you add a cross-cultural alternative spin to the band (like Mistress of the Dark, Dread Zepplin), you've got something almost original.

Palidino's was pleasant enough. The drinks weren't that strong but we had a good time anyway. Gone were the hang-ups and drink prices of trendy Westside and Hollywood clubs. You can relax there. There's something fun and effortless about enjoying a tribute band. At their best, they tap into the energy of classic rock songs, performed with the verve and sincerity of a new band who has not yet become an empty vessel from performing them year upon year.

Official Tribute Band Websites
Cold Shot
Under Pressure


Seen these tribute bands? Leave a comment here.

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