Lita Ford, the Babys and the Sweet — the three sets of musicians that made up Sunday night’s killer bill at Hudson Gardens, the fourth show in this year’s summer concert series — have stories coming out of their collective wazoos. From splits and reunions to abusive relationships to the almost-conventional sex, drugs and rock and roll — there’s very little in the debauchery-filled rock history books that hasn’t been checked off by these three.
Take English glitter rockers the Sweet. Singer Brian Connolly died of leukemia back in 1997, and for a while there were two versions of the band on the road, one here in the States and the other in Europe. The one across the pond seems to have gone quiet, leaving Steve Priest, the only original member in the U.S.-based band, to carry the flag.
In fairness, Priest has assembled a solid lineup, including powerhouse singer Joe Retta, and the band rattled through excellent versions of “Little Willy,” “Action,” “Fox on the Run” and “Ballroom Blitz” early on Sunday. Mind you, it all got a bit Spinal Tap when the drummer literally fell from his stool off the back of the stage.
Whether this band is actually, technically the Sweet is open to debate. It’s certainly as good as we’re going to get in 2016, and these guys do nothing to taint the legacy. Under the early-evening heat, the band made for magnificent entertainment.
Those same accusations about authenticity can be aimed at the Babys, though they trump the Sweet on the “number of original members” test by one, boasting both guitarist Wally Stocker and drummer Tony Brock in the current lineup.
The Babys had a string of hits in the late 1970s and early ’80s before singer John Waite left to pursue other projects. The band split in 1981, and that was the last anyone heard of them until they surprisingly re-formed in 2013, 31 years later. Only Stocker and Brock returned, with John Bisaha left with the unenviable task of filling Waite’s shoes, something he does with aplomb. The “new” Babys even put out a new album in 2014, I’ll Have Some of That, the first new material from the band since 1980’s On the Edge, and the band's sixth studio album overall.
The Babys played songs from all six albums on Sunday and sounded great throughout. The epic “Back on My Feet Again” was a highlight, though “Midnight Rendezvous” — reminiscent of a 1980s movie — was the highlight. Hey, John Waite, they ain’t missing you at all.
Up last was Lita Ford, the former Runaway who became the reigning Queen of Metal in the 1980s and early ’90s before pretty much disappearing to focus on her family. It wasn't until recently that fans learned that she was suffering in an abusive marriage.
But guess what? Lita’s back. She’s picked herself up from the canvas, dusted herself off, and is ready to go again. Back in the day, Ford proved that in an undeniably testosterone-fueled metal world, she could match the men in terms of guitar shredding, songwriting, singing, everything. Ford will be damned if a man keeps her down now.
Leather-clad and full of energy, Ford looked fired up on Sunday and, surrounded by a great set of musicians, she sounded awesome. A career-spanning set list included the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” tunes from the Lita album including “Can’t Catch Me” (co-written by Lemmy Kilmister) and, of course, “Close My Eyes Forever. Additionally, she played “Larger Than Life” and “What Do You Know About Love,” from the criminally underrated Dangerous Curves record, and some new tunes that sounded, well, fine. We could have done without the overlong drum solo though, despite Bobby Rock's obvious skills.
Naturally, “Kiss Me Deadly” ended the show, and everyone trundled home having seen three acts that have all somehow, through hell or high water, dragged themselves back onto a stage and are once again kicking ass. Kudos to all of them.