On Saturday January 26, 2008, three of the NY/NJ areas finest performers were combined on a bill which surely promised to be an absolutely killer experience.
Dexter’s Entertainment Complex in Riverdale, NJ hosted this extraordinary event which featured HOSTEL INC. featuring the one and only Ray West from SPREAD EAGLE behind the mic, Jersey favorites AMERICAN ANGEL and the legendary vocals of Jersey’s own Mr. Joe Lynn Turner! Of course, ROCKEYEZ was there!
Joined by our CEO Brian Rademacher and his wife/ ROCKEYEZ editor Stephanie, we made the long trek up to Riverdale from our central NJ homes where we also hooked up with staff writer Mark Balogh who arrived just moments after we pulled into the parking lot. To our surprise, the parking itself was just jammed and we were lucky to get a parking spot at all! This place was going to be MOBBED… but so much the better! It’s nice to see all the fans coming out again to support all these talented artists.
Now I have to mention a few things about the venue itself. This was my first visit to Dexter’s but let me tell ya… it definitely won’t be my last! As you walk in the main entrance, you are immediately in the restaurant/ bar area. To your right are tables and booths all complete with their own private television sets as well as the big screens
hanging in the corners which also act as video screens for the performance as well. Very, very cool! Then to your left is a huge bar area… also fully equipped with multiple TV sets and through out both of these areas are various pieces of rock memorabilia hanging on the walls done very tastefully and not overbearing as say a “Hard Rock Café.”
I didn’t get a chance to sample anything from the menu myself, but I am told the food is excellent and ranges from your simplest of items to complete dinners and all at very reasonable prices. Had I known this, I may have shown up a little earlier as did musicians Vic Rivera, Eric Ragno and their party whom we ran into as we were passing through on the way to the nicely sized performance area in the back. But I digress… this is “suppose” to be a concert review after all! But let me just wrap this part up by saying Dexter’s is just an awesome, awesome venue and surprisingly enough, from the restaurant and club areas right through to the bathrooms… the place is immaculate! I really hope it maintains this atmosphere and is able to attract more and more successful artists in the future.
Now… on with the show!
First up on the bill were HOSTEL INC. which actually had me a little concerned at first. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ray and I love the work he’s been doing and ALL the guys in HOSTEL INC. but I was worried that with their more aggressive and heavier style, they may have a hard time with the fans of the other two acts who have that more melodic, hard rock/ AOR sound. I am happy to say that I really had nothing to worry about at all as it didn’t take long for Ray and company to win this crowd over. I guess, bottom line, rock ‘n roll is rock ‘n roll no matter how you slice it and good shit is good shit… HOSTEL INC. is definitely GOOD SHIT!
Now backed by thundering drummer Jeff Hardee, grinding guitarist Steve Ladd and bassist extraordinaire Chigger, Ray and the rest of HOSTEL INC. pierced the crowd with some of their latest material which included song titles like “Devil’s Sundown,” “State of Grace,” and “Blood from Stone;”
all gritty, aggressive rockers with a touch of modern flair, which really personify the heart and soul of heavy metal.
Ray and the band were REALLY on and just about as tight as I have heard them so far. Not only has Ray’s voice withstood his somewhat long hiatus from the music industry, but actually sounds better and more mature now than it ever has. This combined with the growling, unrelenting guitar riffs and searing solos of Ladd and one of the best rhythm sections in the business in Hardee and Chigger has HOSTEL INC. ready to give the music industry a well-deserved kick in the ass!
Some other highlights of their set included the shredding “Execution Style” which is probably one of my favorite songs of theirs right now and can be heard right on their MySpace site at: www.myspace.com/hostelinc. And lest I forget “Novacaine” which is a song that Ray’s been kickin’ around now for a while and was originally recorded with another band of musicians. Again, just an excellent, excellent song and if you’d like to judge for yourself, log in to stickman radio and request it for yourself! Other than that, the only real critique I have, and have always had, is of the song “Got My Gun.” While the song itself is “ok,” I just never got the chorus’ which build to Ray absolutely screaming into the microphone and with his vocal range, I always found it just a little disappointing because I feel and KNOW he is capable of so much more.
Then finally rounding off the set were a couple of tracks a little more familiar to the crowd. First was the powerful SPREAD EAGLE thrasher “King of The Dogs” which always gets the crowd pumping followed by another SPREAD EAGLE classic “Switchblade Serenade.” No matter how many times I’ve heard it, I always cringe just a little bit whenever I hear musicians other than Rob De Luca and Paul DiBartolo try to pull off that particular track but let me tell ya, these guys did it and did it in style! HOSTEL INC. kick some MAJOR ASS and I can’t wait to hear more from these guys in the months to come!
Next up, now bear with me here, was the man everyone had come to see, the always stupendous Joe Lynn Turner! Yeah, I know, I know… a little strange for the headliner to be going on when there is still another band on the bill but after all… this is Jersey and anything can happen so DEAL WITH IT!
Backed by bassist Paul DiLeo, keyboardist Carmine Giglio, drummer Mike Sorrentino and veteran guitarist Karl Cochran, Turner and the band wasted no time kicking it straight into overdrive with the RAINBOW classic “Death Alley Driver” and how fitting since the song tells the story of a famed drug run right down Jersey’s own route 1 & 9! What a trip! No matter how many times I hear it, Joe’s voice just never ceases to amaze me. His pitch, his range, his tone… every note a perfect symphony and at the very least, Joe’s legacy should be that he goes down in history as one of the best rock vocalists of all time.
But Joe and his band were just getting warmed up!
They continued their RAINBOW montage with an incredible version of the fan favorite “I Surrender” from the 1980 release “DIFFICULT TO CURE.” This was followed up by another track from 1982’s “STRAIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES” titled “Power” leading right into the 1983 hit “Street of Dreams.” The next song, “Jealous Lover,” was really an absolute surprise! While it did receive a decent amount of airplay back in the early 80’s, the song was never meant to be anything more than a B-side to “Can’t Happen Here.” But after radio stations picked up on the song, it was only released as a studio track on an EP of the same title… though you may be able to find several live versions floating around.
Finally the band briefly shifted out of “RAINBOW mode” and tore into one of my favorite tracks off of Joe’s 2005 solo release “THE USUAL SUSPECTS” called “Power of Love.” This was always just a perfect track and after hearing it live, I love the song even more! As I said, the shift from “RAINBOW mode” was only temporary as shortly after the band shifted back into that mode once again with RAINBOW’s “Can’t Let You Go.”
As the evening pressed on, the capacity audience was treated to even more RAINBOW classics such as “Can’t Happen Here,” “Spotlight Kid,” and, of course, a mind-blowing rendition of “Stone Cold.” These were complimented by a couple of other songs from Joe’s latest release “SECOND HAND LIFE” in “Blood Red Sky” and the electrifying “Your Love Is Life.” I guess my biggest complaint about the whole set thus far was that with all his solo material out there, I really wish Joe had reached a little deeper into his own solo career archives and pulled out a few gems from there and maybe omitted a RAINBOW song or two.
Hmmm… now what’s missing from this set? Of course, DEEP PURPLE! Joe did actually fill in as lead vocalist for them a while back so why not? The set ended with a clap of thunder as Joe and company ripped into the DEEP PURPLE classics “Highway Star” and “Burn” really leaving the crowd almost desperately begging for more! What an incredible night of music from this legendary artist… now who could possibly ever (or want to) try and follow that?!?
Well… that was dilemma now facing AMERICAN ANGEL. How could you possibly top that? Truth be told, you can’t but let me tell ya, AMERICAN ANGEL certainly did their damnedest and actually came through with flying colors.
I have to say their set started out a little rough but to no fault of the band itself! There were some technical difficulties where Rocco’s (Fury) mic would go in and out for the first few songs “Vanity,” “Permanent Pause” and “Seven” all from their latest release “VANITY.” It really was a shame too because Rocco was REALLY in rare form.
After that, AMERICAN ANGEL settled in a bit more but what really impressed me about the whole show was that in most cases like this, people come to see the headliner and rarely care about the other performers on the bill. This was not the case on this particular evening because while you would think people may have filed out in droves after Joe’s set… they didn’t! And I am actually happy to say that these guys still got to perform before the near-capacity crowd they deserve.
Continuing on, Rocco and the band treated the crowd to some old classics like “Back To You” and “After The Laughter” mixed nicely with some more new material off of “VANITY” including songs like “Breathe,” “Pantomind,” and my personal favorite track “Turns To Grey” which is just a great, great song and sounds even better live! And lest I forget to mention that keyboardist Eric Ragno flew in all the way from California just to play this show with them… and what a compliment to the band and music he was!
Bringing an end to this incredible night of music, AMERICAN ANGEL brought down the house in true “Jersey-style” reaching deep into their archives and performing “Open Up The Balcony” from their “EP 92” release before wrapping things up with their trademark “How Can I Miss You.” I said it before and I will say it again, I still will never understand why this band never hit it big and their new release “VANITY” is just awesome! If you haven’t heard it yet, trust me… you want to pick this one up!
Great venue, great atmosphere and GREAT music! What more could you possibly ask for? All of these artists are great musicians and performers in their own rights but having them all together on one bill was really a rare treat. If you missed it, you really missed one Hell of a show but don’t worry… Joe is coming back to Dexter’s on Saturday March 29th with his project BIG NOIZE which includes guitarist Carlos Cavazo(QUIET RIOT), bassist Phil Soussan(Ozzy) and the legendary Vinny Appice(DIO/ BLACK SABBATH) on drums AND once again, backing him up will be HOSTEL INC.! So if you missed it the first time around, you don’t get many second chances in life so GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!