A few months back, it was our pleasure here at ROCKEYEZ to cover the homecoming show of Jersey’s own TRIXTER. Now… several months later, we were invited once again to cover their return to their home away from home… New York! Well, sorta!
This time the venue was The Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale, L.I. which, I guess, you could consider New York, right?!? Yeah, it’s not the city but close enough and definitely close enough to draw yet another near capacity crowd who were ready to rock the house! But it wasn’t just TRIXTER who was the big draw on this particular evening as Friday March 27, 2009 would also mark the return of true Long Island natives VALENTINE back to the stage not only here in Long Island, but here in America!
What a rare and exciting evening this was going to be. I am not ashamed to admit that ever since their debut release back in 1990, I have been a HUGE VALENTINE/ Hugo fan. I was always disappointed that the band didn’t stick around a bit longer as VALENTINE, but then there was OPEN SKYZ, lead vocalist Hugo’s solo projects, EVOLUTION and finally with the release of their second album entitled “Soul Salvation” just a few short months ago as well as their appearances at Firefest’s IV & V, it seems that the band VALENTINE has come full circle and are hopefully gonna stick around a bit more this time.
It’s been close to 18 years since I last saw these guys step out onto the stage as VALENTINE back at the old Ritz Theater in New York City and just like then, they opened with the edgy-rocker “Runnin’ On Luck Again”… the opening track from their debut, self-titled release. Within the first few opening riffs, I was blasted back in time almost 2 decades … what an incredible feeling! While the mix wasn’t always as up to par as I would have liked, these guys didn’t miss a beat and it was just absolutely exhilarating hearing the old songs again… as well as the new!
After “Runnin’…,” I was in for a complete shock when VALENTINE broke into “We’ll Find A Way” from Hugo’s 1997 self-titled solo release. This really took me by surprise as I expected them to pretty much stick with the VALENTINE stuff with “maybe” an OPEN SKYZ song or two thrown in for good measure. What a rare treat and truly something special for any Hugo fan and as for his voice holding up after all these years? Simply… amazing!
Next up, the band slowed it down a tad with my all-time favorite VALENTINE song “Tears In the Night.” As Craig Pullman’s soothing keyboards caressed the rich, Long Island night air, Hugo and the rest of the band cranked out a version that would have made even the most cynical of melodic-rock fans give up a standing ovation.
As the set pressed on, with his “almost” signature Gibson Les Paul strapped across his chest, guitarist Adam Holland’s tasty licks and scintillating chords invigorated the crowd through tracks like the riveting melodic-rock anthem “One More Chance,” “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” and the title track all from their latest release “Soul Salvation” as well as the soulful power-ballad “Never Said It Was Gonna Be Easy” and, of course and with no surprise, OPEN SKYZ’s “Golden Years.” All the while with the rich, favorable accompaniment of the thundering bass of Gerard Zappa and crisp, precise rhythms and fills of percussionist Mike Morales.
Winding down, the band broke into their final VALENTINE classic for the evening with an impressive rendition of “No Way.” But this was not to be out done by their “spur-of-the-moment” addition of KANSAS’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” to the set list. WoW!!! What an incredible, incredible show and a rare experience for any melodic-rock fan. As I mentioned earlier, yeah… the mix wasn’t always as up to par as I would have liked but I could listen to these guys all night long… even if they just played the same songs over and over again.
After the show, I got to spend a little time with the band as they were exiting the venue. As always, they all carried themselves as the true professionals they are and while I was disappointed to learn that, as VALENTINE, they didn’t have anything else lined up on the horizon, hopefully (if we can all help get the word out) these guys will be returning to the stage again REAL soon… maybe with an even longer set next time!
After what seemed to be a LONG delay in between set changes, finally the moment these fans have been waiting for… TRIXTER!!! What can I say about Pete, Steve, PJ & Mark that I haven’t said before? From the opening notes of “On The Road Again,” it didn’t take long to realize that these guys were on… REALLY on this evening and I hate to say it, but even more so than their triumphant return to New Jersey just a few months ago. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but the energy level just seemed to be through the roof to the point where you could almost feel it flowing off the stage and piercing through the crowd. Whether you were all the way up front or all the way in the back, TRIXTER once again delivered a high-octane performance that no one in attendance will soon forget.
While the set list itself didn’t change all that much from just a few months before, almost every song seemed exciting and new. From “Bad Girl” to “Rockin Horse” through “Play Tough,” from “One In A Million” to “Road of a Thousand Dreams” straight on through a killer rendition of “Ride The Whip,” as a band, TRIXTER played their asses off!!! That’s what makes this band so special… it’s not just an individual having an exceptional night but it’s the tightness of the unit itself that allows everyone in the band’s individuality to shine. Unlike a lot of bands out there, these guys look and play like they’re still legitimately having the time of their lives up on that stage.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… anyone who has not witnessed Steve Brown play just doesn’t understand what a true talent this man is. From his onstage antics to his playing “behind-his-back” solos, this guy isn’t just a good guitarist… not even a great guitarist. Steve Brown is an “elite” guitarist whom you can’t fully appreciate without witnessing him live. And the same can be said about every other member of TRIXTER as well because when you bring a group of talented artists like this together, they can really knock your friggin’ socks off!!!The ONLY question I have is, what the f$#% has taken you guys so long to get together again!?!?!
When the band slowed it down a bit with their ballad “Surrender” off their debut release, Pete’s vocals really came out and while he sounded on the top of his game all night long, this particular track sounded better than on the release itself. This emotional and heart-felt moment was truly one of the highlights of the evening.
Continuing on with “Power of Love,” “Heart of Steel,” and a brief but (as always) impressive guitar solo by Mr. Brown, the set absolutely continued to peak with their set enders “Line of Fire” and “Give It To Me Good.” What more could you ask of a band than a set like this? Hit after hit after hit… all the fan favorites were represented even as they took their final bows with a stellar performance of “Only Young Once” these guys delivered the goods… and delivered them just about as good as I have ever seen them, recently OR back in the day. This was one Hell of a show with the only regret of the evening not coming from the bands or the performances but the venue itself who were not… well, lets say as “media friendly” as we have been accustomed to but who knows? Maybe a laminate or two for the ROCKEYEZ staff would remedy any future “club” altercations… not that I’m hinting or anything! 8) (hint! hint!)
What a powerful “one/two” punch on a bill with VALENTINE and TRIXTER!!! Who knows if it’ll ever happen again but I am so glad I made that long-ass haul out to Long Island for this one. But even as individuals… these bands can still rock the house with the best of ‘em and are truly an experience not to be missed.