Life onboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise is nonstop music – which means nonstop scheduling and hard work for the production crew behind the scenes. A shout out to all those hard working folk who keep the party raging for several straight days.Several acts were scheduled to play before we even left port. The first act of my cruise was The Iron Maidens. This was an act I was looking forward to seeing, as I had heard such great things, and they were quite good. And that is saying something since they had more than their fair share of obstacles to overcome – they had to start late, the lighting was nonexistent, their backdrop, which was supposed to be a large stage banner, was actually a huge television screen running a schedule of events for the cruise, and the stage was small for a five member band mic stands. The good news is that the place was crammed with people enjoying the show! The next act, “a surprise guest,” was RATT. Err… Well, they can’t call themselves RATT because the original RATT drummer somehow ended up with the rights to the name, so they were just going by The Stowaways. But for all intended purposes this was RATT. Warren DeMartini, Stephen Pearcy, Juan Croucier, and Carlos Cavazo, who replaced Robin Crosby in his absence. (Robin passed away in 2002.) On drums, replacing the estranged Bobby Blotzer, was X-Y&T drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. Again with the majority of long time Ratt members on stage, I am calling this RATT, and I don’t care that a piece of court paper says otherwise.
My initial plan was to shoot the first half of the “surprise guest” and then go shoot my friends KIX who were playing on another deck an hour later. But I was really enjoying the RATT set so much that I stayed until its finish. I have seen this band maybe 7 or 8 times since their start, most of the times with Pearcy singing, and I must say I have never heard them sound so good. Pearcy was singing in tune and everything sounded amazing. Warren DeMartini, who has always been one of my favorite guitar players was on fire. It was really cool to see Juan back with the boys, he had been a missed face in the RATT camp for some time now, but he really fell back in and looked like he was having a blast. RATT’s set was great as well, doing all the hits and a couple cool deeper cuts.My next band was KIX. Juggling the shows and trying to get my media pass meant that I missed much of this set, but I ran into the Theatre and shot the last three songs of KIX’s set. The Theatre was packed so I could not get anywhere near the front, and without my media pass I could not get on the stage to shoot from the wings so I shot from the seats. It was a different experience for me as I am typically shooting KIX from the foot of the stage, but I was okay with the change and got some wider frames of the full band or multiple band members. KIX was once again amazing. I’ve seen and photographed these guys nearly 20 times, and they are all friends of mine, some closer than others, and friendship aside I can say with no bias that KIX is one of the best live acts I have ever seen. They always bring everything to their live shows and leave nothing behind. I think that is one of the reasons they are in such high demand for the Monsters Of Rock Cruises and have been invited to every one. The next cruise in February of 2017 did not have KIX listed and the MORC webpage was plastered with requests to have KIX play. Last week KIX was announced as an addition to the lineup. This next act is one of my favorite bands and again, includes a favorite guitar player – Mr. Big. I have loved this band for many years but this was my first time seeing them play live, and they did not disappoint. Eric Martin on vocals sounded great. I had seen and met Eric before on a solo tour and know how humble and amazing of a person he is, and it really shows with his generosity to his fans. Paul Gilbert on guitar is a guitar player’s guitar player, and it was a great pleasure getting to see him play this evening. (Note: At this point we were still docked. Rumors were spread that it was due to the fact that Paul can not sail due to a problem with his equilibrium. These rumors were never substantiated, but it makes sense because just after Mr. Big’s set, we set sail.) Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago, a terrible disease in general even more so when you are a drummer. He had a small percussion set off to the side of the drum riser and spent most of his time on that and tambourines while gun for hire Matt Starr filled in on the drums. Pat did climb up on his rightful thrown for a couple of numbers. Last, but surely not least, was bassist extraordinaire Billy Sheehan who was playing double duty on this cruise, playing with both Mr. Big and the Winery Dogs. Mr. Big was incredible, and I was beyond thrilled to see and hear them play “Green Tinted Sixties Mind.” I sang along to every word while shooting their set. What a show! Pretty Maids are a band from Denmark who came about in 1981. I used to see them in an English rock magazine called Kerrang back in the 80s, but I don’t know if I had ever actually heard them before so I was looking forward to this. I must say I was quite impressed with their sound and wondered why I didn’t listen to them earlier in life. Singer Ronnie Christensen reminded me a bit of Biff Byford, Saxon, in appearance and really held his own on stage. Ken Hanson on guitar was great as well, a bit harder to photograph due to a cowboy hat that cast a huge shadow across his face and hid his eyes, but again he held a strong presence on stage. Both Ronnie and Ken are original cats, the others have been replaced over the years. One of my favorite members to photograph however was bassist Rene Sehic who wore a black top hat and long jacket and scarf. His stage presence was second to none – running around, jumping into the air and posing for the cameras. He was truly fun to shoot. On drums, Allan Tschicaja, who may be small in stature but makes up for it in his hard attack on the skins – this guy is a powerhouse. Last but not least, the newest member of the outfit, Chris Laney, who just joined the outfit this year, took on duties of keyboardist and rhythm guitar. I would say that this band was one of my favorite acts on the cruise. There are acts who I knew were going to be amazing and definitely were nothing short of just that, but with Pretty Maids, I came in with no expectations and was blown away. I’ve shot and hung out with the cats from LA. Guns going back to their first tour and a few times over the years since, however it has been a few years and I have never photographed them with this new lineup. L.A. Guns were great as usual. Phil sounded strong, and even pushing 60 he had the girls swooning for him. On drums, Steve Riley, hammered away at the songs wrtten so many years ago. On guitar, Michael Grant, does an excellent job and is a great addition in Tracii Guns absence. (Tracii was the original guitar player and a founding member.) On bass, Kenny Kweens, is the newest member, and along with Grant was a fun guy to photograph. Kenny’s appearance is not unlike the former L,A, Guns bassist Kelly Nikels. L.A. Guns were a lot of fun to photograph, and I stayed through the entire set and into the morning hours.