BULLETBOYS at Key Club, West Hollywood, 2011

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Live review: BULLETBOYS at Key Club, West Hollywood, December 30 2012

WITH all the current eulogising about the years of Sunset Strip ruling the rock world, one fact is overlooked: the staggering apathy Los Angeles fans are, and always have been, capable of.

At one stage late in tonight’s show, Bulletboys drummer Jimi D’anda – wearing only a pair of red briefs with the insignia of superhero The Flash on the front – walks to the lip of the stage and shouts: “hey! This is the first time these guys have been on stage together in years and years. You’re just sitting there saying ‘oh, cool’. Make some noise, you bastards!”

At the end of a week which has seen Van Halen wind up rehearsals a couple of doors away at the Roxy, a band once accused of being their overly slavish acolytes has reassembled with its original lineup for the first time in just under two decades. That’s Di’anda, singer Marq Torien, bassist Lonnie Vencent and guitarist Mick Sweda.

An off-kilter evening ends weirdly when the DJ says ‘there’s time for one more song’ and tries to get a chant going. The response is half-hearted.  Bulletboys – who had cut their set short by removing “Save Your Prayers” – do not return.

True, if this was a new band then the muted reaction would perhaps have been justified. It is a nervous start, there are some uncomfortable breaks between songs and arrangements occasionally seem muddled. But – supposedly – Hollywood bands of this era are these days due some reverence; presumably that’s why this reunion has happened in the first place.

However, the mood in the Key Club – relatively full but not as packed as it is for some midweek Steel Panther residencies – is strangely subdued.  As at a Steel Panther show, the floor is dotted with luminaries from Ratt, Whitesnake and LA Guns.

Despite the rustiness, it’s clear these are four very accomplished hard rock musicians. Spinning, whirling Torien’s range is largely intact, Vencent – shirtless for much of the night – is as visual a bassist as you will see this side of Gene Simmons, D’anda is aggressive and impressive while the accomplished Sweda looks something of a cartoon character with his un-ironic rock posturing and grey corkscrew curls.

At first they seem to be trying a little too hard. But when ‘Kissin’ Kitty” off the 1988 debut is rolled out, it all starts to come together. This was not a great gig – not at all – but it marked the first steps of a beast that has been dormant for a long time. In many ways, Bulletboys were less than the sum of their parts tonight but that will change with practice and opportunity.

Bulletboys are/were a darker, less gregarious Van Halen. Torien – who has kept the brand alive in the absence of the other three – calls Sweda his best friend at one stage and the others the best at their respective instruments in the world – all of which makes you wonder why they disintegrated in the first place.

“The four of us are never going to break up again,” Torien says near fulltime. Hopefully they can get out of Hollywood and find some “bastards” who care.

STEVE MASCORD

Filed for: CLASSIC ROCK PRESENTS: AOR

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