I’ll be honest. I have a special place in my heart for 80’s rock. And though there are many of you out there who cringe at the sheer thought of admitting it, I know I’m not alone. Consequently, when I was presented with the opportunity to cover RATT’s reemergence from the "where are they now files," I jumped at the chance.
I arrived two hours early to the Key Club in the heart of Hollywood in order to get a good spot, my chest pounding with anticipation. After all, I had never seen this band who’s breakout album I had worn out several times over. Not unlike several other bands who themselves arose out of an early 1990’s "grunge-a-cution," I had faith RATT would come onstage, kill it, and dispel any notion from nay sayers that they were merely a blast from the past who should remain as such in order to not poison their royal stature in glam rock history.
Sadly, I must report I have very mixed feelings about what I experienced.
Musically, RATT was impeccable. I give the decision makers of the band credit for selecting Carlos Cavazo, and Robbie Crane for their new campaign. This duo was an outstanding musical match-up for original instrument slingers Warren DeMartini and Bobby Blotzer. The unit chemistry was spot on, so much so, those who did not know better would have assumed this was the original line-up. No disrespect to Robbin Crosby or Juan Croucier intended. The flawless guitar heroism of Carlos and Warren was simply jaw-dropping. The music was loud, tight, and rolled over the sold out crowd like an M1 Abrams Battle Tank. Unfortunately, therein lays the dilemma. The band, musically, was so good, it almost over emphasized the discrepancy between it and Stephen Pearcy’s vocal ability… or lack thereof to be specific. It was even more noticeable than what I’d heard through urban myth.
At first I thought, perhaps, I was being a little too critical until I overheard several others in the venue discussing between each installment of their sixteen live and uncut RATT ‘n’ roll classics how comparable Stephen’s voice was to nails on a chalkboard. Apparently, to these RATT die hards, nothing had really changed much since they had seen the band the first time around.
Hacking his way through nostalgic gems such as You’re In Love, Lay It Down, Wanted Man, and Back For More, I sincerely hope the band is paying Robbie Crane well. If it truly weren’t for his rock solid vocal "parachute" mixed with the crowd singing the songs in unison from front-to-back, the night could have been a complete disaster. Luckily, the sound guru knew to bury Stephen’s vocals far enough down in the mix so that everyone else in the venue could pull up the melodic slack and the instruments could hide the rest. Whew. They got by.
I’ve always lived by the mindset that if you’re going to do something, kick the hell out of it or don’t do it at all. Stephen had a long enough hiatus to tackle this vocal ghosts which have been haunting the corridors for the better part of twenty-seven years. If you want people to pay tribute to you through spending their hard earned money on tickets, parking, merchandise, and all the other added costs, don’t merely show up for the sake of. "Show up" on stage, and give them their money’s worth. If this was the mid point in a grueling tour, I would cut Stephen some slack. But the very first show?
Listen, I’m not trying to hate on Stephen Pearcy. I don’t know him. I still like the band despite what I heard. I even dig the new tracks and will most likely buy the album. It’s certainly not ground breaking material in 2010, but the tracks parallel the genius of 1984’s Out Of The Cellar and will fit well in my collection covering that time period. I’m merely disappointed in Stephen’s performance which affected the vibe of the entire experience. I know many others left with the same anticlimactic feeling.
RATT is not a baby band. They’ve been there, done that, and then did it again. They’ve sold millions of albums, and have been revered by fans and musicians everywhere for well over two decades. They are professionals who know their brand, and should know better than to let a rat like this out of the cage before it’s good and ready.
The Key Club
April 20, 2010