June 3, 2016
St. Charles, IL
When I saw this show listed I had to question the order of the bill.
Both acts were key elements in establishing the L.A. metal movement of the 80's. Ratt had a huge hit with "Round And Round," and Quiet Riot was responsible for, arguably, the greatest metal anthem of all-time with "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)". And, although I might even enjoy the overall Ratt catalog a bit more than the Quiet Riot catalog, I had trouble calling Quiet Riot a "special guest." And after I saw the lineup that Ratt was bringing to the stage, I had trouble calling them Ratt. Drummer Bobby Blotzer is the lone rock ranger of the Ratt army, with everyone except bassist Robbie Crane being a new recruit. You really couldn't be sure that the band was still going to be able to call themselves "Ratt" by the end of their set. Let the lawsuits commence.
Many would say that Quiet Riot is in the same lake, if not the same boat. You could say drummer Frankie Banali is the only one left from the classic lineup, but if you look deeper you'll find more. Bassist Chuck Wright plays bass on two tracks from the band's classic Metal Health record, with one of them being the iconic title track. Wright has been an on again-off again member of Quiet Riot for more than 30 years, with a majority of those years in the "on again" position. In my eyes, that makes him a key member of the classic lineup. Current guitarist Alex Grossi has been rocking with these guys for more than 10 years now, and has more than comfortably settled into his role. Quiet Riot has taken a beating in the past for churning out singers faster than Simon Cowell, and Jizzy Pearl is the latest in line. Pearl has been around for about three years now, and he seems to be the most successful fit since the loss of Kevin DuBrow. Not to mention, this is a guy that hung himself from the "Y" of the Hollywood sign like some rock and roll Christ. It don't get more metal than that.
Yes. This is Quiet Riot now. This is not a fly-by-night outfit that was assembled in a pinch. This lineup has been carefully assembled and they come well rehearsed.
As Quiet Riot takes the stage and teases the rowdy crowd with the opening chords of "Metal Health (Bang Your Head)," they take a sharp turn into "Run For Cover". They looked and sounded like a band with a legacy to uphold, with chops to deliver on that daunting task. As the band ran through an abbreviated set of all their greatest hits, which included "Cum On Feel The Noize" and "Slick Black Cadillac," they really were firing on all cylinders. Chuck Wright laid down his boogie woogie thump, Grossi nailed every solo with a feverish respect, and what Pearl lacks in vocal tone he more than makes up for in strength and stage presence. Banali was, of course, the tremendous powerhouse you would expect him to be. He's one of those guys that's just always "on." Not too many guys do what he does with a such a minimal set of tools. His Bonham-like setup is one of the smallest in the business, and it sounds like one of the biggest. It's what he does.
The band was a tight unit, evidenced by the crowd commentary once the lights went up. Comments like "Quiet Riot kicked ass" and "Those guys still rock" echoed throughout the venue.
I have to say, going into the Ratt set I wasn't expecting too much. Drummer Bobby Blotzer was not a key songwriter in Ratt, and with the exception of longtime member Robbie Crane, he was assembling a very fresh lineup. I expected them to sound a little loose. I expected the solos to be unrehearsed and vague. What I got was quite the surprise. It wasn't Stephen Pearcy on vocals, but it was good. It definitely wasn't Warren DeMartini on guitar, but the riffs and the solos were pretty well done for the most part. Blotzer seemed to be having fun behind his kit, stopping and starting his young band with cymbal chokes every chance he got. This band was definitely sharp for barely knowing each other's names.
The setlist ran through most of the classic tunes. I was hoping for a few more from the first two releases, say perhaps "You Think You're Tough," "Tell The World" or "Morning After," but the set coverage was more than adequate. Toward the middle of the set Blotzer came to the front of the stage to talk to the happy fans. He came across like an excitable 12-year old, which is a good thing as long as you don't have to work with him, right? His reminiscing about local venues of the past and his love for playing Chicago was met with the expected primal cheers.
My favorite moment in the set came when they did "Way Cool Jr." with a nice and slow, dirty blues intro. It really set the tone for the tune, which is probably my favorite of the Ratt catalog. The dedication of "Closer To My Heart" to late Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby was a sweet moment, but the band got lost with what seemed like a different arrangement of the song with a slower tempo. But for the most part, the opening riffs to the Ratt classics like "Lack Of Communication" and "You're In Love" were sharp, and the solos were usually pretty true to their original form.
I say this, and I mean it in the nicest way -- this is probably the best Ratt tribute band out there. Put Blotz and his new crew (let's call them "Ratt," as long as it's still legal to do so) in the "special guest" slot, and give the headbangin' boys that make the Noize about 30 or 40 minutes more time in the headlining slot, and you'd have yourself a pretty damn good rock show.