L.A. Guns Reload at the State Theatre

By on July 9, 2017

All Photos by Travis Failey

When the rejuvenated and reunited Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns hit the stage at the State Theatre, all seemed right again in the world of rock n roll, at least on this Saturday night in St. Petersburg. Say what you want about L.A. Guns, but they know how to get the crowd amped up for a night of sleazy rock n roll.  From the opening riffs of “No Mercy” from Cocked and Loaded, to the chorus, fists were held high in the air and some of the women in the crowd longed to be groupies again. There was genuinely a old-school vibe in the venue sans the few typical drunks and some muscle heads flexing their own guns, but that seems to be the norm these days at shows.

After going all the way back to their debut album by playing “Electric Gypsy,” L.A. Guns broke out their first surprise of the night with “Killing Machine” from the 1994 Vicious Circle release.”Killing Machine” is a raw, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners song that should have charted back in the early 90’s, but Vicious Circle and L.A. Guns were both casualties of the Seattle grunge movement.  It was also during this time that the band started to go through their various lineup changes with Tracii leaving prior to the recording of Vicious Circle then coming back in to finish the sessions and the tour.  After additional lineup changes, the band was eventually dropped by their label, Polygram.

Tracii Guns kicked off “Over The Edge” by whipping out the bow during the introduction solo and mesmerized the crowd .  Lucky for us, Tracii wasn’t finished breaking out his “toys.” During the solo in “Malaria,” Tracii did his best Jimmy Page impression by playing the theremin.  It is an instrument that is controlled and played without physical contact using two metal antennas. Jimmy Page used it on two Zeppelin classics “Whole Lotta Love” and “No Quarter.”

Michael Grant and Tracii Guns shared the stage and traded off performing leads throughout the night, looking like they’ve been playing together for years. No egos were bruised and the back line of bassist Johnny Martin and Shane Fitzgibbons sounded like a natural fit, rounding out the five piece. Both Martin and Fitzgibbons were part of Tracii’s version of L.A. Guns.

Grant, Martin and Fitzgibbons were in tune with all the vocal harmonies and it was evident that this version of L.A. Guns could have some staying power especially during the song ‘Speed” from their upcoming release. Usually when a band plays new material, they lose half the crowd. This wasn’t the case as “Speed” is an aggressive, memorable track that could get some serious air play if it gets to the right people (i.e., Eddie Trunk) at SiriusXM.

The three-song encore kicked off with a solo by Tracii Guns that included snippets from some of the great classic songs of the past including “Hells Bells” and “Smoke on the Water.” The solo led into two of their biggest hits, “Never Enough” and “The Ballad of Jane.” The latter really showed off Phil Lewis’ pipes, but Phil was on fire all night long. At 60 years old, yes 60, Lewis still has “it” like some of the other “elder” statesmen in rock, like Coverdale and Tyler.

The set concluded the traditional L.A. Guns way, with a roof raising version of “Rip and Tear,” showcasing the assassin Michael Grant (as called by Phil). Johnny Martin also had two basses around his next and played them both during the song. Usually when you think double bass, you think of the drums, but after Saturday night at the State Theatre in Saint Peterburg, Johnny Martin has to be included the conversation.

As the band took a bow and the fans screamed with appreciation, one was left to wonder how many bullets L.A. Guns have left in the chamber. From the chemistry that was evident and their performance combined with the fans and the new music, It sure seems that L.A.Guns are once again Cocked and Loaded.

For tour dates and other information: http://www.laguns.net/

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