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Review: Lita Ford and Warrant fun to watch, Stephen Pearcy not so much

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Lita Ford rocks the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Black Diamond Entertainment
Lita Ford rocks the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Black Diamond Entertainment

Decked out in 80’s glamour and growling guitars, Warrant, Lita Ford and Stephen Pearcy came to Great Falls with one goal on Tuesday night — to explode some eardrums while leaving everything they got on stage for one rocking night at the Montana State Fair.

And, for the most part, they did just that.

Right off the bat I want to be up front with this review and say that 80s hair metal rock isn’t my favorite genre of music. I enjoy certain songs and I’m open to being impressed by those who do it well. I’m not up on the discography of the bands, so this review might be a little light on critiques of certain songs, only because I went to the show not remembering some of the tracks, that or it was the first time I heard many of them.

That out of the way, I’ll start by saying that I’m sure Stephen Pearcy has his fans and they have legitimate reasons for liking his music. But, I found his set uninspiring and ordinary.

I just couldn’t connect to any of it in any meaningful way. Other people  mentioned on social media after the show that he was intoxicated. I didn’t notice that, although I found it in bad taste when he claimed to have slept with all of the younger audience members’ mothers back when he was in Great Falls with his band Ratt. That’s his schtick, I get it, the bad boy rocker. But, when you’re pushing 60 years old like he is, it kind of comes off as creepy.

Part of what makes a good show in my mind is how well you can identify with the performers. And indeed, I did find I was able to enjoy parts of what the other guys in the band were doing — Erik Ferentinos on guitar, Matt Thorne on bass and keyboards, Greg D’Angelo on drums and Chris Hager on guitars.

A big part of my problem with the set, I believe, was in the music itself. I, quite frankly, do not remember any Ratt songs. Part of it is generational, I grew up in the 1990s, not the 80s, but another part of it is just that they haven’t been a relevant cultural figure for so long that it takes people who were either A) there in the 1980s when they were a popular touring band, or B) someone who to this day loves that genre and has gone back and discovered their discography because it aligns with their already-established taste. Neither apply to me, necessarily. I even found myself sitting down before he was finished playing, waiting anxiously for his set to be over.

Lita Ford, by contrast, made me become a new fan. Her music, her stage presence and her look made me pay attention. I ended up wanting to hear more from her and was bummed when she was playing her last song.

But, that approval didn’t come right away, mind you.

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Warrant performs at the Montana State Fair on Tuesday night. Photo courtesy of Ace Winterrowd, greatfallsmusic.com

She came out a little off-key vocally on her first song, the deliciously titled “The Bitch Is Back.” Part of me worried whether or not we’d be in for an entire set of off-kilter vocals, but my fears quickly disappeared at the start of the next song “Hungry for Your Sex,” which seemed to start getting the crowd into the groove.

You could tell right away after that first song that this wasn’t Lita’s first rodeo. Even when she had an issue with her guitar, she nonchalantly let the crew go backstage to fix it and asked one of the other guitarists in her band if he could play lead on the next song, and she rocked it just as hard without the guitar as she did with it.

My favorite song she played had to be her classic track, “Kiss Me Deadly.” It was then, or the few songs before, where I found myself finally at comfort with the music, the room and the atmosphere.

As far as interactions with the crowd, whereas Pearcy came out and started bragging about all of the people’s mothers he had bedded, Ford talked about how even though the airline lost her luggage, it gave her an excuse to visit a local store and pick up some cool clothes. At one point someone in the front row gave her a beer and she proclaimed, “How did you know this was exactly what I needed?”

It also was amusing how she kept calling her male lead guitarist “bitch” as in, “bitch come back here, we have another song to play” or “Bitch, let’s play something off “Runaway,” shall we?

Frankly she could have played three or four more songs and nobody in the room would have minded.

But she did close with a bang with hers and Ozzy’s “I Close My Eyes Forever,” minus Mr. Osbourne, of course.

Then, after about 20 minutes of setup, Warrant came on to play. Part of me wished the concert had started a bit earlier as it was getting close to 10:30 when the final act was starting to get going. On a Tuesday night, if anyone had to come into work this morning, it may have made for some tired eyes.

But, I digress.

Warrant came out of the gate swinging. This set was particularly where I wished I had known more about what songs they were playing because they were all super metal and super easy to get into. I just didn’t know what they were singing about.

And even though the band of course is without it’s longtime lead singer Jani Lane, who died in 2011 of alcohol poisoning, the rest of the remaining members still had plenty of rock left to share. It also should be noted that current lead singer Robert Mason took over his duties for the band in 2008 before Lane passed.

Anyhow, Warrant stormed through their classic hits with ease. They did that thing that old bands do, however, even if it wasn’t quite as annoying as it could have been, mostly because the song that followed was just as rocking.

About midway through, Mason said, “I’m glad we’re able to play some of these old songs that you all enjoy, but now we’re going to play a couple of new tracks off of our new album, and I know you’ll like those just as much as the old ones.”

Firstly, that’s a big if. Secondly, if you’re going to throw in brand new songs songs — just play them. There’s no need to announce them beforehand. If people like them, you can announce it was a new track after you play it, but by saying it before you play them, the artists run the risk of people saying to themselves, “oh great, here comes the crap,” before they even hear whatever it is, even when, as was the case last night, the songs were decent.

That’s a bit of a minor complaint, however, as like I said, they tore it up on stage for the most part, even if it did seem as if they could have amped up the energy level a notch or two.

The guitarist for the rock band Warrant shreds a solo at the band's show at the Montana State Fair. Photo by Ace Winterrowd, greatfallsmusic.com
The guitarist for the rock band Warrant shreds a solo at the band’s show at the Montana State Fair. Photo by Ace Winterrowd, greatfallsmusic.com

I wouldn’t say my opinion of Warrant changed after seeing them in person, but on the other hand, I didn’t expect it to, either. They’re a decent band with some great old songs who still have the capability to tour and perform well-crafted shows. I won’t be seeking out their latest records or waiting for them to come back so I can see them again, but that’s OK. I’m not their core demographic anyhow, so they’ll be doing just fine without me.

All and all it was a fun show and another successful event from Black Diamond Promotions. The crowd wasn’t a sellout, not by far, but at least half of the standing-room area was filled with people, and the bleachers had pockets of people, too.

Part of the problem with these shows, I feel, is that unless you’re bringing in Journey or Paul Simon or Garth Brooks, maybe Jake Owen, the Four Seasons Arena can be quite a big space.

As a friend of mine who works at a local radio station was telling me at the show, if this show played at the Mansfield Center, for instance, it’d be a packed house. But, then it wouldn’t be a Montana State Fair show, so there’s not really any easy solution to fix that problem, other than accepting the fact that it might seem empty even if there are thousands of fans in attendance.

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