The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

Dokken, MSG, LA Guns and Bang Tango
Phoenix Celebrity Theatre 17th July 2009

Don and the Dokken boys let rip in Phoenix

To say that I was excited at the prospect of a Dokken and MSG Double-bill that coincided with my summer visit to Phoenix would be a bit of an understatement. I’m a big Dokken fan and unlike some can accept the fact that Don’s voice can’t hit the notes he could in 1988. Hell there’s a lot I can’t do as well now as I could in 1988. I also happen to like the last few albums Dokken have put out so I’m hoping to hear a few new ones in the set list.

A few weeks before I set off for the States L.A. Guns and Bang Tango were added to the bill, which for me meant it would be a real night to remember.

The Celebrity Theatre looks like a hunk of concrete that has been thrown into a run-down neighbourhood with some force and then fenced in. Our Taxi driver warns us not to walk around here at night, he wouldn’t and he just lives down the block. Inside the Celebrity is cool - a big circular stage in the middle and seats all the way round radiating up; with great access and viewing positions for all. There’s even a ramp and walkway from which the bands literally walk through the crowd onto the stage. Acoustically it’s pretty good too.

On the down side beer is about the most expensive this trip (second only to Aerosmith at Superpages in Dallas) and the staff a bunch of little ‘No-Camera-Nazis’. You’d think these days when You Tube is a bands best free marketing tool that venues would learn. No one has cared anywhere else (even at Ratt and Extreme the night before down the road in Tempe). Mystifyingly there is also little merchandise in place. There’s a good crowd and all of these bands have missed a real opportunity to turn over a few dollars. No Dokken shirt with dates or at least 2009! Only LA Guns put out much merch and as a result clean up.

Bang Tango has always been one of my favourite bands and they had already played a storm the week before when I saw them at Rocklahoma. I don’t care what anyone has said elsewhere they had the biggest crowd of any of the side stage bands this year at ROK (or if they didn’t then Joe Leste’s other band Beautiful Creatures did – it was a close call).

Bang Tango’s set offers no surprises for a veteran (my 5th show since 1992). They play a few new ones (which are now a few years old – how about that new album guys?); all of the old classics and close out the shortest set of the night with ‘Someone Like You’. Joe is a new resident of Phoenix so this is like his first new hometown gig. Dave Henzerling from Big Cock stands in on guitar tonight (Dave is another Phoenix resident who played a blinder of a set on bass with Icon at ROK last week). He does a great job filling in for Alex. Bang Tango get the crowd going and everyone in the venue is already happy. It’s a good start.

L.A. Guns are next up and the crowd give them a great reception. One of my favourite rockers is with them this tour – Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate fame, step up to the mike. Again he’s done a great job with them at ROK the week before and no matter what you think about Jizzy he’s a great performer. Personally I would prefer Love/Hate - a band I grew up with and haven’t seen since 1992; but Jizzy does a great job getting the crowd going. Again due to the short set, it’s very much a Greatest Hits set; but they do get the time to playing ‘Spinning Wheel’ by Love/Hate; which is one of my highlights.

Already I feel like we’ve had our money’s worth and the two guys sat next to me are of the same thinking and nip off for a beer run during the surprisingly quick breaks between sets.

Mr S. played guitar…

I’d never seen MSG before and to be honest given Michael’s track record, until he actually set foot on stage and hit that first note I was still unsure if I would! But here he is in all his glory. And what’s more he looks happy and he is smiling! I’ve had a week’s worth of intense listening to get me ready for this and to be honest I find myself enjoying it. Schenker plays up a storm and the band sound great, even Gary Barden on vocals (who wouldn’t have been my first choice MSG vocalist). It’s a good set list; though I’m unfamiliar with a few. They get to play ‘Cry for nations’ and ‘Ready to Rock’ two of my favourites and lay down some serious UFO closing with ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’. MSG go down great, and I for one would be there if they came back as headliners.

One thing I didn’t expect was how the intensity would rise for Dokken. We’ve seen three great bands already had a few beers, we’re feeling fine but as soon as the roadies get on stage after the MSG set the intensity goes up and the crowd gets rowdier (and at these prices it can’t just be the beer).

Dokken hit the stage to a thunderous applause. It is quite obvious who the majority are here to see. The boys have just got back from that Greek holiday Isle of Crete where they supported the Scorpions, but there are no signs of jetlag. Phoenix had been burning up all week and even us tough Australians have had a hard time as the temperatures hit 115! Don opens up with “I just stepped off the plane and thought I’d died and gone straight to Hell.”

Then they kick into their greatest hits with ‘Breaking the Chains’ opening followed by the likes of ‘The Hunter’; ‘It’s Not Love’; ‘Just Got Lucky’. What a back catalogue!

I’m not sure why but tonight it looks like the Great White’s bassist has stepped in for Barry Sparks. Jon Levin is a fantastic and very underrated guitarist and over 90 minutes both he and Mick Brown prove they are two of the best in the business.

A little later we find ourselves singing ‘Alone Again’ with Don conducting. We get a couple of new songs (well the relatively new) ‘Too High to Fly’ and ‘This Fire’ from the new CD. Both of which go down well, and it’s a shame that we don’t get a few more newies.

The night ends with an audience rendition of ‘In My Dreams’. It’s a great close to a great night and there may well be a little tear in the corner of the eye. It’s still as hot as hell outside but our cab driver is waiting for us, last time he was here he saw the Grateful Dead, but he can’t really remember too much about those days.

I’ll be back to Phoenix again if you get nights like this, as long as they can do something about that heat…