There were no gimmicks over the weekend at the Buffalo Rose, beyond some rock theater, and none were needed. Great White, of all bands, gave us a startlingly strong rock and roll show, the likes of which isn't often seen these days.
When the band came on stage, it looked like what it is: a veteran hard rock band. Before anyone took a step from the back area of the Buffalo Rose stage, a recording of a bit from Jaws played through the P.A. -- the scene when Robert Shaw's character talks about how the only emotion one sees in a great white shark happens when it bites into flesh and the whites of its eyes roll over the pitch black. Going immediately into "Shot in the Dark," it was obvious that these guys were taking the show and the music very seriously. They also looked like they were having the time of their lives. And the crowd reacted in kind.
What was striking about the show was how joyous and triumphant it felt. One imagined what it must have been like when the band played during its early heyday at those classic rock clubs where hard rock and glam bands played in the early-to-mid-'80s minus any of the dark side of that scene. It was an unfiltered rock show played by guys who knew how to be theatrical without seeming phony or corny. Terry Ilous was a charismatic and commanding figure who struck the proper rock poses but it came off more as a way to accentuate the emotions the band projected.
You could practically feel the camaraderie from the stage and everyone in the band seemed thrilled by how much love the band was getting from the crowd. Of course, people knew the songs and often sang along heartily. In the late '80s, at the height of the band's popularity, some of the songs like "Rock Me" and especially its cover of "Once Bitten Twice Shy" played at the very end in the encore, seemed a little silly even then, but at this show it was like every song was an anthem to good times and a love of life.
Mark Kendall took a number of solos mid-set but it was never boring. He didn't wank on the guitar so much as lay out some truly compelling blues rock riffs. He was commanding in his own right. He made what could have been boring and self-indulgent seem so powerful and electrifying it took you aback because it was expressive, tasteful and pushed the songs along. Kendall displayed his guitar prowess with creativity and imaginative playing in a way that should place him as one of the best guitarists among his would-be peers.
Continue on for the wrap-up and set list.
A lot of times when a singer tries to get the crowd to sing along it seems desperate or awkward but Ilous had no problems. He even got this reviewer to loudly sing the chorus of "Once Bitten Twice Shy."
The whole room seemed to be with him when he asked the crowd to sing along every single time and he didn't really have to do a whole lot of cajoling because people wanted to be a part of it. Ballads like "Save All Your Love" weren't silly hair metal exercises -- they got the proper treatment as well-written songs that always seemed to come from the heart. Even "Mr. Bone," and its unabashed lust-laden lyrics came off as a party song like any other. And that was just it, even if you weren't into party music so much, Great White's performance was so infused with a joyous energy by the band you couldn't help but be caught up in it too.
Drawing from the broad spectrum of its career, Great White played "On Your Knees" from the 1982 EP Out of the Night as a nice surprise and a reminder that the guys were not necessarily the ballad band its remembered as being by many people, as well as "(I've Got) Something For You" and a song Ilous said was for his daughter, "Hard to Say Goodbye" from 2012's Elation. And in mentioning his daughter, Ilous was so sincere and not fishing for empathy it was actually touching.
Throughout the show some things emerged even to a veteran showgoer, there was nothing jaded about the performance. Great White was loving it. Its fans were loving it. No arms folded and scowls. Just unabashed joy and gratitude. Apparently, so we learned, Ilous lives in Denver at least part time these days and Michael Lardie, after Ilous introduced the rest of the band, referred to Ilous as "The Denver Demon." He even mentioned this being his home town, at least these days, and that he expected a bit more from his hometown crowd. And he got it.
The sheer strength of the musicianship and the performance generally and the seemingly never ending enthusiasm from the band made you wonder how a band this great this far into its career isn't headlining bigger shows. Who knows? Since its new single, "Complicated," entered into the rock charts at sixteen, maybe Great White will be making the comeback this show truly earned.
Great White set list for Buffalo Rose, 7/26/14
1. Shot in the Dark 2. Lady Red Light 3. Desert Moon 4. (I've Got) Something For You 5. On Your Knees 6. House of Broken Love 7. Save All Your Love 8. [sounded like a blues improv with vocals] 9. Mr. Bone 10. Complicated 11. Big Goodbye 12. Can't Shake It 13. Rock Me Encore 14. Hard To Say Goodbye 15. Once Bitten Twice Shy
Bias: Confession time: I was originally interested in this show because I thought it might be funny. As someone who mainly listens to experimental music, psychedelic rock and post-punk, I assumed the show would be at best amusing. Well that whole expectation got turned on its head, because I love a good rock show, and it really was not just good but great for the reasons outlined above. Not "awesome" in that ironic way but awe-inspiring. Great White brought its A game, as it were, like almost no straight-ahead rock band I've ever seen. It didn't sound dated, it just sounded like what a lot of hard rock bands now aspire to. Probably because Mark Kendall, Terry Ilous, Micharl Lardie, Scott Snyder and Audie Desbrow aren't in their band. Impressive all around. I am a completely un-ironically a fan now.
Random Detail: It was Buffalo Bill Days in old Golden town. But it didn't really make it difficult to get to the Buffalo Rose and it was not difficult finding parking. More festivals and events could take some cues from that.
By the Way: I was a little too wiped to be able to stick around for the meet and greet but I bet Ilous' promise to sign stuff after they had some time to get off stage and cool down some was kept because they just seem like a band that truly appreciates the people that show up.
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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.