October 7, 2011
Poor David's Pub
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Terry Walsh
Photos by Terry Walsh
Nearly 40 years after Montrose turned the music world on it's ear, Ronnie Montrose can still bring it with the best of them. Playing before a packed crowd at the intimate Poor David's Pub in Dallas, Ronnie took a walk down memory lane and trotted out a fistful of Montrose and Gamma classics to the rousing appreciation of everyone present.
It has been several years since Ronnie Montrose went out on the road, so this was a show not to be missed. The question leading up to the show was not whether Ronnie could still wail, but how would his new, young band handle the task? Turns out, that was a silly question.
Backed by Dan McNay on bass, Steve Brown on drums and vocalist Keith St.John, Ronnie Montrose played with the enthusiasm and fervor of a man half his age. From the moment the band took the stage to "Rock the Nation," Montrose let loose with riff after memorable riff and one jaw dropping solo after another.
One of the biggest surprises of the night came from vocalist Keith St. John. He took complete charge of songs made famous by Sammy Hagar and and Davey Pattison and turned them into his own. At times it was easy to imagine a 25 year old Hagar up on stage instead of someone else.
While the set was heavy on Montrose tunes, specifically those from the classic first album, the night was not without a couple of surprises. Stepping up to the mic midway through the set, Montrose spoke casually of another project he'd worked on after Montrose and to the roaring approval of many said... "We're gonna play a couple of Gamma tunes for you." With that, the band launched into the powerful "Fight to the Finish" from 1979‘s Gamma 1 album and a beautiful rendition of "Voyager" from Gamma 2.
Like many of his songs, "Fight..." and "Voyager" featured memorable solos and hearing them live was special. Montrose kept both close to the original and at the same time, worked in some extra stretches that kept the audience rapt with attention. When the last notes of "Voyager" had faded, the audience was on its feet. It wouldn't be the last time that happened during the set.
Guitar heroics aside, Ronnie Montrose should also get heaps of praise for his role in introducing two great singers to the world; Sammy Hagar with Montrose and Davey Pattison with Gamma. Both got their big breaks with Ronnie and each has sustained memorable careers. Keith St. John could well be another Montrose find and the ease in which he bridged the gap between Hagar and Pattison can't be understated.
As a long time Montrose fan, my only complaint was that the show was much too short (as most great shows are) and that the entire Montrose catalog wasn't touched upon. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing "Make It Last," "I Don't Want It," and "Rock Candy" from the first album as well as standout tracks from "Paper Money" such as "I've Got The Fire" and "Spaceage Sacrifice." In fact, "Fire" and "Spaceage" were two of the other big highlights of the show. But... I would love to have heard something like "Dancing Feet" from 1975's "Warner Bros Presents Montrose!" or "Let's Go" From the 1976 "Jump On It" album.
Opening the show was a local band called Plowboy. Comprised of Jonah Smith, Evan O'Brien, Issac Brodski and Brad Barteau, all ranging from 12-14 years old, the young band played like seasoned pros. During their 30 minute+ set, the band played original songs such as "Camels on Fire" and "Cold Sweat" and garnered nods of approval from everyone in the audience These kids can play and given some time have all the makings of an act to watch.
As Ronnie Montrose wound down his set, he looked out at the members of Plowboy sitting in the front row and said... "This is how we did it in the 70's!" and launched into "Space Station #5." With it's varied tempo and rapid-fire finish, bassist Dan McNay and drummer Steve Brown kept pace with ease and held the whole song together. As the final chorus of "see you next time around" faded, the band departed the stage briefly before returning with the obligatory encore of "Bad Motor Scooter."
This show was one of the most enjoyable I've seen in recent months and a reaffirmation of why music from this genre continues to attract loyal audiences spanning multiple generations.
Rock the Nation
I Got The Fire
Make It Last
Fight to the Finish
I Don't Want It
Space Station #5
Bad Motor Scooter