Monsters Of Rock Cruise (West) – Day 3 – 10/3/2016

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Femme Fatale started the day’s festivities on the pool stage. I have been a fan of this band going back to their first album release in 1988 and was really excited to hear they were added to the Monsters of Rock Cruise a few years back. I photographed them then and enjoyed the show so I could not miss them this time around. The band was great and a whole lot of fun to watch live, not to mention photograph. Femme Fatale have just released a second album – one that was recorded back in the late eighties but shelved by the record company only to rear its head now, some 25 years later. Femme Fatale played songs from both records and the girls’ set really energized the day.

Loudness. Prior to the 80’s we really didn’t see a large presence of bands coming from Japan although Heavy Metal brought us a few, and the biggest of all were Loudness. The band is probably best known due to it’s 5th release, Thunder in the East, which debut in 1985, at the height of MTV. This release showed the U.S. just how good this band was. The guitar work especially shone through then and continues to be the shining star now. Akira Takasaki is a God among Gods in the guitar world and someone who all guitar players of a certain age will always have on their favorite’s list. But his star does not overshine the rest of the band, as each guy holds their own and gives it everything during their live performance. It was really great to see them again, and I would venture that the full theatre crowd would agree. And notably, Loudness still has its original line-up, sans the drummer, Munetaka Higuchi, who passed away from liver cancer in 2008.

The Winery Dogs ripped through another amazing set. This would be the fifth or sixth time I was to see and photograph this amazing band, and they were definitely one of the reasons I chose to join the MORC again. Richie Kotzen’s voice and guitar work have been a favorite of mine since I first heard him in early 1999. So with Richie at the helm of The Winery Dogs and the amazing musicianship of his cohorts, Billy Sheehan on bass guitar and Mike Portnoy on drums, this band can’t lose. Fellow rock cruisers knew this set would be amazing and the crowd was maybe the largest assembled as of yet on the pool stage. The band fed off that energy and delivered a killer set. Each one of these guys are monsters of their own craft and each have graced the cover of music magazines long before the idea of The Winery Dogs was ever thought of. However as one, this band is the complete package.

John Corabi was next. Corabi came on the scene through a band called The Scream – to your average joe, the name might not mean much but to the musicians who were there in 1991 when the album came out, well, they all know the name. From there John joined the ranks of Motley Crue when Vince departed. Sadly, the albums did not sell that well, not because they were not good albums – far from it. In fact in my humble opinion and that of countless others, Corabi’s work is some of the best vocal work on any Motley album. However, by 1984, the fans knew what to expect from a Motley album and anything that sounded different was not going to fly. However, if

those albums were released under a different name, they would have been huge. Okay, back to the show on the cruise… John played a short yet powerful set in the Atrium, and like The Winery Dogs before them, the crowd during the performance was maybe the largest crowd they had at this stage, which beckons the question why didn’t these guys get to play larger stage? But I guess with so many great acts, there just isn’t time to get them all on the larger stages. The set was great, John and Ian, his son, played alongside their talented sidekicks Jeremy Asbrock on guitar, Topher Nolen on bass, and new guitarist, Philip Shouse. The show was yet again great and I can’t wait to see them again. And wait, there is more – John Corabi also sings for The Dead Daises who I had the privilege to photograph earlier this year. This guy could sing the phone book and keep people interested.

The first time I saw Great White was in 1984. We hung out with them after the show and they were great guys then and they are great guys today. The band has changed faces a bit with only guitarist Mark Kendall as an original member but drummer Audie Desbrow and keyboard/guitarist Michael Lardie might as well be considered original members as they came on in 1985 and were with the outfit through the big years. Now with X-XYZ vocalist Terry Ilous and bassist Scott Snyder, the band still sounds great. Great White gets a great crowd. Toward the end of the set Mark brought his toddler out armed with a mini guitar and mic stand, and let me tell you that this was the cutest thing on the cruise. (See photos)

Back to the Atrium, where a mini Mr. Big reunion was taking place. It was billed as Eric Martin and Pat Torpey although Billy Sheehan joined them. (There was talk that Richie Kotzen might show for a few songs but that didn’t happen unfortunately. Also, for those keeping score, Paul Gilbert got off the ship prior to sailing.) The set was great, mostly made up of Eric’s solo material although he did do a few Mr. Big hits and a couple covers. All was done very well and again it was great to see Pat on stage.

Vixen had played the night before and I had meant to get there to shoot it, however due to the timing, I missed it. I wasn’t however going to miss their second show. When Vixen first came on the scene, I wasn’t all that into them, sure they were all lovely, but the music didn’t speak to me the way other bands had. However after seeing them a few years back I found I really dug what they were doing, and I think this time was even better. It seemed to me that although the song list was close to the same as last time, this time the performance seemed a little edgier, maybe more raw – like The Runaways or Girlschool. I really enjoyed their set. And I must say that I enjoyed the fact that there did not seem to be a lot of photographers at this second show, and the ladies really played it up for my lens, yielding me some nice frames. Take note – Vixen recorded a live album during these two shows, and when it is released I will be purchasing a copy.

The last band I shot was Steelheart. I had photographed them the year prior in Maine, and I knew that the show they put on was second to none. I was a little bummed that guitarist Uros Raskovoski was not joining them on this cruise, he had a prior commitment, but I knew bassist Rev Jones would be there. I photographed Jones with both The Michael Schenker Group as well as Steelheart and had a chance to hang out with him a bit. I knew this would be a great show. Vocalist Mijenko Matijevic, who is the only founding member still left in the band, still sounds amazing and carries the torch for the band’s history. Rounding the four piece outfit is drummer Mike Humbert who does an excellent job. My apologies to the fill in guitar player as I could not find his name listed anywhere. The show was again amazing and a great way to end my third day of the cruise.

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