The other night my beautiful wife and I were out for a walk in our little town, and we heard a big noise coming from one of the parks. Turns out it was a show being put on as part of the Homecoming festivities that have been clogging up the streets, hotels and restaurants around here lately. So, of course we walked over and checked it out.
It was $5 to get in, but we realized that we could see and hear just fine by standing out at the road, so I’m not sure why anybody paid to get in. Anyway, we directed our gaze into the park in time to see some guy being hauled into a rowboat down in the harbour, and the local fire department putting out a rather large conflagration on a raft not far away from the dude that got rescued. Apparently, this guy Santini (or something like that) considered himself a magician and locked himself inside a box on the raft and then had it lit on fire. Of course, he dramatically escaped and what we saw was the ending, when he was in the water in the aftermath. According to posters I glanced at later, he called the trick Valhalla (or something like that).
It seems to me that magic “tricks” like this, at a local level, have all the ingredients to make the recipe for disaster. It worked out for this guy, on this occasion, but somehow it just screams the headline “Local Man Dies In Fire During Magic Show.” It takes all kinds, right? And the one other thing that occurred to me is that it is not at all advisable to swim in that harbour. The water is really low this year, and everything just kind of washes into there. People fish from there, but I can’t imagine eating what gets caught. It’s nasty. So if his trick involved ending up in the drink, the headline would read “Local Man Survives Fiery Magic Trick, Dies Of (insert river disease here).” Blech.
Anyway, they had the local classic rock station announcers there, whose colour commentary was so far from riveting as to be farcical, so we were all set to leave when they announced that coming up next was a band called Thunderstruck. We knew about these guys, because they’ll play any venue in the area, any chance they can get. They are, as you’ve likely guessed by their name, an AC/DC tribute band. Of course we had to stick around and see what this was going to be like.
So, from the P.A. comes the recorded bells as the intro to Hell’s Bells, and then the band started into the song. The band themselves were actually pretty competent. The Angus Young-wannabe played it note-perfect, and even had the schoolboy outfit and the Chuck Berry shuffle. The rest of the band held together and didn’t at all sound like a garage band taking a crack at their favourite tunes, yet they didn’t sound anywhere near the actual band they were covering either. It was somewhere in the middle, neither good nor terrible.
The issue was in the singer’s voice. He did a fairly passable imitation of Brian Johnson at times, but it quickly became obvious that he has not yet mastered control of that howl. Did you ever see that episode of the Simpsons where Homer’s shirts turn pink in the wash, and he gets sent by Mr. Burns to a mental institution for being a free-thinker, and while inside he meets a guy named Leon who thinks he’s Michael Jackson? This sounded like that – at times, kinda like AC/DC, at times exactly like a 40-something factory worker who smokes a pack a day. The between-song banter was all in the factory-voice, causing the whole thing to be a little surreal, and it took a few lines into the songs for him to get back up to where he wanted to be in the growl. Strange, indeed.
We stayed for exactly three songs (Hell’s Bells, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and Who Made Who), and left as they were starting to play Jailbreak. We figured we’d heard enough, and we figured right. If I want AC/DC, I’ll play AC/DC. The crowd of about 200 people seemed really into it, though, from what we could see. Then again, not much ever happens around here so the locals are sort of starved for shows, and they really will take whatever they can get.
As we walked home, we had this great discussion about the influence of AC/DC, about how many songs they’ve written that you know and recognize in the first few notes, whether you consider yourself a fan of them or not. Their sound is a template for 70’s blues-based cock-rock, and it really is pretty amazing that they’ve been going for over 30 years, considering that they really haven’t changed at all in all that time.
As we neared home, the discussion veered into a talk about cover bands, and about how we really hope those guys have another band, where they write their own songs too, because if they are solely an AC/DC tribute band, that’s actually kind of pathetic. I mean, there already is an AC/DC out there, doing it way better than these guys can dream of doing it, right? Oh well, I guess it makes them money, but spending your life in imitation of someone else is just… sad.
Now, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes came up, because they do nothing but covers as well. But I pointed out that not only do they play songs from a wide array of genres and artists, they are also all members of others bands, and the Gimmes was just a side project. I don’t think they count the same as someone calling themselves Thunderstruck, or Shania Twin (oh yes, she’s out there somewhere too), going around doing covers all the time. How boring.
Anyway, this was one helluva long review about a magic show we didn’t see, and a concert for which we only stayed for three songs. Charles Dickens’ word count ain’t got nothing on me, dear KMA readers. And for those about to rock (either well or half-assed), we salute you.