Friday, May 30, 2014
California Breed - The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost - Rock Ain't Near Dead....
Rock 'N' Roll is alive and well. I went to the mountain, got the sermon, and I am here to spread the gospel. I saw the history of British rock played out with an American twist as Glenn Hughes returned victoriously to the stage of the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood after a 44 year absence, and he brought with him, Jason Bonham, the son of the greatest hard rock drummer in history, who is currently state of the art at his art, and they brought with them the new messiah of rock, 23 year old wunderkind Andrew Watt, who played and looked the part of the second coming of the rock star circa 2014. They tore the joint up, and love was in the air.
Glenn Hughes had some points to make - new band, new album, post heart surgery, post bad band trauma, and he couldn't have done it better. The voice was in attendance - not wary, not held back, but in full blossom and rage. He commanded the stage like a monk gone to war, spreading love instead of violence to win the day. He hit every high note, and he never stopped thanking the loyal for being just that.
Jason Bonham - I don't remember ever seeing a drummer more intent, more in tune with what he was doing in every moment, and he has indeed gotten better with every outing. He's done what few have done in living up to the legacy, and doing his father proud. There's no tougher job in rock than to be the kid of the father, and Jason has grown into the role with grace, talent, and passion.
Speaking of rock royalty and following in the footsteps, it was Julian Lennon, one of the most gracious of famous rock father's sons who introduced young Andrew Watt to Hughes at a John Varvatos party in New York City, and one wonders if he knew what he had begun. Watt could not have had a better night - he wrung notes out of his guitars and Orange amps rig, drenched in blustery feedback and with hubris that removed all doubts as to whether this kid deserved to be where he was at. He tossed off fiery solos, he recreated some classic tracks while retaining a bit of himself in each one, and he sang like a guy who could damned near give Hughes a run for his money. When he took the lead on Spit You Out, he owned the club, and Hughes and Bonham were his sidemen. I never saw that happen before, and it was great to see. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - we have a new guitar hero in Andrew Watt.
I had spoken to Glenn Hughes a couple of weeks ago, and I had asked how they would fill out a headlining set with just one album under their belt, and he had said that these shows were all about the new album, but that they would try to fill out the set with the appropriate history. He wasn't lying. It takes a certain confidence to do Led Zeppelin's What Is And What Should Never Be less than half way into your set, but their rendition was superb, and it flowed well with the set. Returning to the Whisky more than four decades after his LA debut with Trapeze, it was only appropriate that they dusted off and brought out Medusa, and somewhere, Mel Galley was smiling as Andrew Watt posted an homage that both paid great respect, and took the ball and ran with it. Hughes completely took possession of The Immigrant Song for the evening, and Watt came close to evoking the rock 'n' roll spirit of Ritchie Blackmore with his gypsy looks and flair for the Deep Purple chestnut Burn.
As for debuting their new album, they did play it in its entirety, From The Grey to The Way. The push/pull frenzy of Day They Come makes it easy to see why it's the band current favorite, and when they slowed things down for All Falls Down, it sounded like they had a smash upon their hands.
It was great to watch Andrew Watt displaying his wares - he looked like the literal second coming, and his obvious passion for the art shone through as he milked lead after lead from his guitar, and when he took to the mic, he took no prisoners.
Hughes says the band will be working this record on the road for some time. It will be fascinating to see how they develop as a band, and how the material grows with repeated performance. In the meantime, I can't imagine a band having a better first gig, and the sold out crowd at Los Angeles' hallowed home of rock could not have agreed more. Now I just have to figure out if that was Will Farrell, or Chad Smith beside me.
California Breed came, and they conquered. Buy the album, see the shows, and come to know that Rock Ain't Near Dead.