It has been asked, by music fans of a certain age, “Why don’t concerts start earlier?” Work the next day, parental responsibilities, and the perils of advancing years are frequently mentioned during these conversations.
But is that what we really wanted? A rock and roll show starting at 6:30 p.m. is the musical equivalent of a trendy dining establishment offering an Early Bird Special so that its patrons can get home in time to watch a “Matlock” rerun on MeTV.
Such was the case with Buckcherry’s show Sunday night at RISE Rooftop. A notice on the venue’s website read, “Doors 6 p.m. Show 6:30 p.m. Ends 11 p.m.” Three opening acts were on the bill: Seven Year Witch, Hold On Hollywood, and Mirror Lake. Three? Prior to the show, fans had to wonder if Buckcherry was generously offering an opportunity to up and coming bands or arranging the situation so that they didn’t really have to play all that long. As things turned out, it was the latter.
Buckcherry guitarist Stevie D. had to battle challenging acoustics at Sunday's show.
Photo by Patrick Alcala
Lead singer Josh Todd, the only original member of the band, led a group of ringers though a set that – with a bit of filler – stretched to slightly over an hour. At 52, Todd is still in great shape, all the better to exhibit his tatted torso. And his voice was solid, despite a reported case of COVID early last week. His moves? Axl Rose would be proud to do such a snake dance these days. But for all of his attributes, what Todd lacks is the ability to summon up even a modicum of irony or self-awareness.
The best rock and roll front men — Mick Jagger, David Lee Roth, Steven Tyler, even Robert Plant (that whole “Does anybody remember laughter?” thing excepted) — have delivered their performances with an implied wink to the audience. We all know this is kind of silly, they seemed to say, but isn’t it a hell of a lot of fun? There is no comparable sense of the absurd with Todd. No playfulness. No sense of mischief. Accordingly, his performance rang rather hollow. As Gertrude Stein used to say, “There’s no there there.”
Josh Todd, in all of his tatted glory, dispalyed a fine voice Sunday night, despite suffering from a case of COVID within the past week.
Photo by Patrick Alcala
Rise (OK, I did their all-caps thing once already) is an attractive but curiously constructed venue, at least for live music. Its retractable roof is quite tall, so as to allow for premium seating in balconies above the floor. However, when a high ceiling is combined with large glass windows and concrete floors, the sound can take on a tinny, shrill character. As a result, Buckcherry's mix was dominated by snare and cymbals, with precious little low-end thump. Todd’s vocals could be heard for the most part during the songs, but when he spoke, his words were often unintelligible. When mohawked guitarist Stevie D. ventured up the neck of his instrument, the solos turned into washes of noise, overtaken by too much reverb.
Another unfortunate aspect of the space’s design is that there is little in the way of a backstage area, nor any wings to speak of at the sides of the stage. Consequently – and this certainly presented a challenge with multiple acts on the bill – roadies had to carry guitars, mic stands, etc. through the crowd to a curtained-off area at the rear of the hall after each band concluded its performance. Nevertheless, set changes were accomplished quickly, if not efficiently.
Buckcherry's relatively brief set included hits – the rocking “Lit Up” and the power ballad “Sorry” – in addition to the dreaded “songs from our new album.” Actually, the material from Hellbound
, released last year, stood up solidly against the more well-known tunes. The highlight for much of the audience was a sing-along on “Crazy Bitch,” which also included snippets of “Jungle Boogie” (Kool and the Gang), “Bad Girls” (Donna Summer), and “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival). It sounds better that it actually was. Again, Todd and his charges missed an opportunity to inject a bit of much-needed levity into the proceedings.
When the Black Crowes first appeared on David Letterman’s show, performing “Jealous Again” from their debut album, the host was quite taken with the band. If memory serves, Letterman said to Paul Shaffer, “Now that’s
get drunk and go home with the waitress rock and roll!” Buckcherry’s show fell far short of that mark. The band is tight, and the players are all perfectly adequate. But there is no joy, no sense of catharsis that the best rock and roll contains. Here, it was just jaded cynicism. Which may explain why the band wrote a song a few years back bearing the title “Say Fuck It.”
Something That Didn’t Fit in But Shouldn’t Be Left Out:
I imagine that this has previously been pointed out to the proprietors, but, if so, it bears repeating. On Rise’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which has the names of departed musicians painted on each step, Janis Joplin’s first name is spelled “Janice.” I didn’t check, but I hope that Jimi’s last name isn’t listed as “Hendricks.”