by Steven Sanchez
The year 2019 has gotten off to an epic start. These last couples of months have been very entertaining in the world of musical concerts and stand-up comedy shows that have taken place in the Central Valley so far. As the days pass more and more exciting events are being announced, and some that have been confidentially revealed to me, but I won’t say as it’ll spoil the surprise. The year 2018 was a benchmark for quality entertainment in the Valley, and this year is projected to take an even better trajectory to outdo the one before. I had the privilege to attend shows from Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famers and legends and the best is yet to come.
Last in Line
Ronnie James Dio, the legendary high-range vocalist of metal dynasties Black Sabbath and Rainbow, who then embarked on a successful solo career, unfortunately lost his life in 2010. His legacy will never be forgotten, and he can thank his former band members for that. His drummer Vinny Appice and guitarist Vivian Campbell, who were with him during his prime in the 80s, decided to form a tribute super group to help keep the memory of one of metal’s greatest voices alive. Joined by vocalist Andrew Freeman (The Offspring) and bassist Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne) that’s when Last in Line was born, and they brought that same spark to Tower Theatre on January 8.
Vinny and Vivian contributed to Dio’s acclaimed albums “Holy Diver,” “The Last In Line,” and “Sacred Heart,” and it was the classics from these records that they played which put the whole crowd into a frenzy. This tour was in support of their latest record “II.” Whether it was new or old songs, it didn’t matter, the Dio vibes remained consistent throughout the set.
It was especially awesome to see Vivian Campbell perform in person. He has been Def Leppard’s rhythm guitarist ever since the passing of their original lead guitarist, Steve Clark, in 1991. The band from Sheffield this year just got inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame and Last in Line performed around the time that it was announced, so it was a great sight to see a Hall of Fame guitarist shredding right in front of me.
This band would make the Holy Diver himself proud and as long as this group is still around, the greatness of Dio will never go away.
The former winner of Season 7 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing came to the Fox Theatre in Visalia on February 1, and proved to the sold out the crowd why he was crowned a comedic champion. Known for his self-deprecating humor towards his looks and weight, and his no holds barred topics whether it’s about politics, family, etc., nothing was off limits for the LA-based comedian and everyone in attendance loved every minute of it.
The Mexican-born immigrant turned comic delivered an onslaught of material of non-stop relatable riffs that there really wasn’t a time in-between jokes to catch your breath. Visalia has a big Hispanic population so a lot of his content was hitting home for some of the audience members, and it was felt through their laughter. At some point in the show he was all over the place that his belt buckle got undone and spent a good few minutes trying to adjust himself. Whether if it was a part of the act, it didn’t matter, everything he said and did was met with a gut-busting response.
I wish I could divulge and repeat some of the jokes he said because they were absolutely hilarious, but I won’t since it’s better to see him live. His brand of comedy isn’t only limited to the stage as he’s been making waves on the small screen appearing in primetime programs like NBC’s “Superstore” along with his HBO and Netflix specials. Proving that not even his own pants can contain this funnyman from breaking out and becoming a popular name in the world of comedy.
Alright Fresno, you wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world came to town for the last time…Kiss! On February 8, the four makeup clad rock stars came to the Central Valley for their End Of The Road tour meaning that it’s their final tour ever. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famers are calling it a career after forty years plus in the music business and Fresno’s Save Mart Center was one of their destinations to celebrate this retirement party.
The two band leaders who serve as the original and founding members of Kiss were there: the fire-breathing, blood spitting, tongue-waggling Demon bassist/vocalist, Gene Simmons; the front-and–center Star Child, and guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley. The second half of the original lineup wasn’t there: The Catman drummer, Peter Criss, and the otherworldly Spaceman lead guitarist, Ace Frehely. Former drummer of Lita Ford/Alice Cooper/Black Sabbath, Eric Singer, took up the Catman’s makeup and Tommy Thayer, who has worked with the band before in multiple capacities, donned the Spaceman’s suit. Either way, it still sounded like Kiss.
As a kid, I was the biggest fan of the these larger than life rock heroes. My first concert was a Kiss show, wearing the makeup and everything in Bakersfield at the Centennial Garden (which is now Rabobank Arena). I was a dedicated member of the Kiss Army as I owned all their albums, action figures, comic books, and other assortments of memorabilia. I even saw them a second time later that year in Fresno at Selland Arena, but the biggest coincidence is that I saw them in what was considered their Farewell Tour. And that was with the original lineup. That was back in 2000 when I was ten. Almost twenty years later, now I’m almost thirty and they are still going at it. People couldn’t seem to get enough of Kiss. And I got to say it was like being young all over again.
From the announcer giving the “you wanted the best/you got the best” hype up to the band coming down on levitating platforms to “Detroit Rock City” and the big over the top stage theatrics to shooting confetti and fireworks, the very things that makes a Kiss show a spectacle was all still there and nothing had changed. They played classics and favorites from every era of their existence from “Shout It Out Loud” and “Deuce” from the 70s, “Lick It Up” and “Heaven’s On Fire” from the 80s and some new songs from their recent albums. And, of course, the main entree, the cap off to end the night was and always has been their defining anthem, “Rock ‘N’ Roll All Nite.”
Obviously, I didn’t grow up in the ’70s, so I never got to see what it was like to see them during their heyday, but that’s why I bought the albums and memorabilia so I could have a taste of what it was like to experience that time in their Kisstory. Then I went to the shows as a kid to see what the spectacle was about, and now as an adult I got to be transported back in time twice, to be that ten-year-old me once again and to witness what has defined Kiss from their height of popularity till now will and forever always be the live experience. So, in closing, this was a great “kiss” goodbye.
Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band came to Fresno’s Save Mart Center on February 12 for their Final Tour. The Detroit rocker has been in the business since the early 60s, and he’s now calling it day, closing the door on what is an illustrious music career. Best known for the classic rock anthem, “Old Time Rock and Roll,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer showcased why his music journey has lasted for half-a-century. Supported by what look liked an orchestra-sized backup band filled guitars and backup singers, it was the epitome of what a rock show should be.
It was a smorgasbord of hits ranging from “Night Moves” and “The Fire Down Below,” and that’s just a taste. It may have been an older crowd in attendance, but as soon as each song would start, it was as if they became young again and they were dancing and rocking out. Seger maybe 73, but there were no signs of aging in his vocals, he still has that familiar raspy voice and he was getting into it and belting out the notes like it was nobody’s business.
Bob Seger along with Kiss are one of the many artists that have stopped in Fresno while hanging up their instruments once and for all. It’s kind of sad to see these artists saying their final farewells, but even though their live appearances will be long gone, it’s the music that’ll live on forever.
The former guitarist/frontman of ’90s alternative band, Brother Cane, and who has collaborated with rock royalty such as Stevie Nicks, Carlos Santana, and Steven Tyler, came to the Tower Theatre Lounge to perform a one man acoustic set on February 15. It may have been a small intimate crowd, but those attendees were ready to rock out and relive the 90s and hear some classic rock anthems.
In-between songs Damon would tell stories about his life and career and the passion in his voice when revealing his accomplishments was equally as entertaining as watching him play. Talking about what it’s like to play with Alice Cooper; how he went from being a big Thin Lizzy fan to actually becoming a member; what it was like to be a part of the 90s-alternative scene.
He truly did showcase his love for Thin Lizzy by playing their seminal hits “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back In Town.” I’ve never heard those songs being played acoustically ever before, and he made it sound so good. He performed his favorite Alice Cooper song, “I’m Eighteen,” and then he busted out the Brother Cane classics with the inclusion of some new material from his most recent solo album, “Memoirs Of An Uprising.” Tracks like the upbeat “Shivering, Shivering” really do compliment his head banging talents and his songwriting skills. He admitted he isn’t used to playing by his lonesome without the blistering sounds of having a band to back him up, but this night he didn’t need one.