(Live Review) SLAUGHTER + VIXEN - St. Charles, Illinois (9/8/23)
By The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, followers and fanatics, your tireless reviewing duo (The Beard and Little Johnny) attend show #53 and bands #237-238 on The Reviews Never Stop Tour 2023. This evening finds us once again back at The Arcada for 80’s Metal from Slaughter and Vixen.
Openers Vixen have been around in one form or another for forty years. Their prime was approximately 1987-92 when they released two charting albums and were darlings of the LA glam rock scene touring behind such acts as Ozzy Osbourne, The Scorpions, KISS, and Bon Jovi. Musical differences, (that old chestnut which often just means the band was sick of one another), caused them to disband in 1992 until an attempted reformation in 1997. After the band’s third release, original guitarist, and band originator Jan Kuehnemund (who was not part of the reformed act), successfully sued for trademark infringement ending Vixens first reboot.
Kuehnemund reformed the band herself (with original singer Janet Gardner and original drummer Roxy Petrucci), in 2001, but this was not even to last one tour before disagreements broke them up again. Kuehnemund recruited three different woman and continued touring, releasing a few more albums.
Although Kuehnemund planned to reunite the classic Vixen lineup in 2012, sadly she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2013. The remaining three ladies carried on in 2014, eventually changing guitarists in 2017, (adding Britt Lightning), and losing singer Gardner in 2019 leaving drummer Roxy Petrucci as the last classic era Vixen member. The band continues with the lineup of Petrucci (drums), Lightning (guitar), former Femme Fatale vocalist (Lorraine Lewis), and Julia Lage on Bass.
Nice solo leads by Britt Lightning on Vixens first number. The second song seemed a little sloppy, but then again, I really didn’t know it. Lorraine Lewis has toured for an exceedingly long time and therefore has developed a good crowd rapport. Vixen knew how to “rock pose,” (especially Lewis), although upon close examination both she and Petrucci do show their (other side of 60) ages.
Make no mistake, the Beard would consider himself lucky to get with any one of them, however Little Johnny, (being much younger), astutely stated “Beard, I’m thinking with these ladies, the chick you go to bed with is not the same chick you wake up with.” “Good point little dude.”
I enjoyed the guitar work of Vixen. Brit Lightning can certainly play, but then the Beard also has a known weakness for lady axe wielders. ("What’s that Johnny? No, no I did NOT think Lizzy Borden was hot.")
Vixen’s cover intro of “Running with the Devil” transitioning into “Hellraisers” was a nice touch as they are an 80’s band and the throwback nod was nice. Lightning even threw in some nice Whitesnake chops on that one. Vixen never stops crowd pandering, but to be perfectly fair, the front section never stopped eating it up and snapping pictures and video either, so as long as the crowd is happy, Vixen did their jobs well. Of course, "Edge of a Broken Heart" was the closer followed by more requisite rock star posing.
Overall, a decent/good set. 84/100
Headliners Slaughter have been around for 35 years (forming in the late 1980’s out of remnants of The Vinnie Vincent Invasion.) Their debut album Stick It To Ya in 1990 went double Platinum and spawned three billboard top forty singles. Follow up The Wild Life in 1992 went Gold but was a drop from their initial success. Before they could release their third album original guitarist Tim Kelly was arrested for drug trafficking and bassist Dana Strum was in a motorcycle accident injuring his hand.
Shortly afterward EMI dropped Slaughter from their label. BMG picked them up and released their third album to minimal success in the USA, but they still did well in Japan. In 1997, Tim Kelly returned to the band, but then was killed in a car accident a year later. Slaughter forged forward with Saigon Kick guitarist Jeff Bland, (Johnny started laughing at that name.) “I agree that is an unfortunate last name for a rock guitarist.”
Since then, Slaughter has mostly survived on festivals, rock cruises, and State Fair appearances. Like Loverboy earlier this year, Slaughter, (with two original members), is at least authentic.
Slaughter made us wait for their entrance. The lights went out (about ten minutes past their posted start time, and then we got to listen to Enter Sandman and Highway to Hell both played in their entirety before Mark Slaughter and the band finally came out to "Mad About You". A ten-minute intro before you hit the stage? The Beard is a little Mad WITH You.
Mark Slaughter’s voice was okay, but not particularly impressive. Jeff Bland’s guitar was good, so we will give him a pass on the unfortunate name. The star of the stage was drummer Blas Elias who was very animated ... not allowing the drum stool to limit him from playing wherever he wanted as he occasionally stood atop the stool with one foot and the kit with the other balanced precariously yet playing in time. Johnny thought that was cool.
“Spend My Life With You” definitely had a late 1980’s vibe to it, but if I am honest, music like Slaughter was the reason I did not like hair/glam metal back in its prime. Some would say Slaughter is not either of those, (glam or hair metal), but that is the vibe.
Little Johnny said, “They rock, but, except for that drummer dude, it’s like they’re stuck in slow motion.”
Slaughter did attempt a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". Initially I thought “Oh, this will be cool,” but the song lacked two somewhat crucial elements, one, the vocal range of Robert Plant and two, the guitar work of Jimmy Page, (as Bland did not even attempt the solo lead Page played in the live version of that song.) Now, frankly, if you are going to perform Zeppelin, but cannot actually emulate Plant or Page adequately, here is an idea - maybe don’t do that.
"Eye to Eye" brought shades of the Motley Crue sound. So, in the last two songs, Slaughter has shown me who they aren’t. Come on guys, show me who you ARE. Now, although I have already legitimately seen a hundred drum solos this year, I will admit Blas Elias’s was in the top third. Energetic and different. Not the same old same old. Points for that.
“The Wild Life” continued the Motley Crue sound. Now, while The Beard's departed wife might well have really enjoyed these guys, Little Johnny and I stared whilst the Beard made the Fred Sanford hand tremor gesture that says “ehhhhhhhh…it’s okay.” A reference that about four people will understand.
Slaughter’s ballad, "Days Gone By", had crowd support, but I personally found it scratchy and raspy, so I was quite content to just let IT go on by. I am still looking for the hook of Slaughter.
"Real Love" had a good falsetto moment and good guitar parts, but otherwise was still forgettable. (Proven by the fact that now a few days later I really cannot remember it.) Even mega hit "Fly to the Angels" did not knock me out, other than a nice lighting and backdrop setup that made it look polished and professional. Once again, the crowd support was solid, so I am willing to concede it was mostly just me.
Encore "Up All Night, Sleep All Day" seemed musically muddy despite the crowd singalong. There seemed to be some shades of Pete Townsand guitar leads from "Won’t Get Fooled Again" in the free form solo portion. Although it was close enough for me to recognize it, this just brought home the gulf between those top tier bands and what Slaughter does.
The Beard respects a crowd, but to be honest none of this was impressive.
I turned to Johnny for a second opinion, and he said, “These guys would be okay early in a day long festival.” “I agree little dude.”
Slaughter gets a 78/100.
So, that wraps up show number #53 and bands #237-38. Continue to read us each Wednesday and Thursday on your home for all things metal ...
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Until next time ...