Artist: Lita Ford
Venue: B.B. King Blues (New York, NY)
Opener: Psychic Drive
Label: Independant Artist
The original billing for this event was listed as “Kiss Me Deadly” a Tribute to Lita Ford, and while such a thing is not impossible in terms of existing, one definitely had to wonder how a tribute act to such an artist would be headlining the famous venue as opposed to a major label act. The listing also noted that the gig would feature a very special, but unnamed guest and while it didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess that it was going to be a Lita Ford gig, it remained a secret until several media outlets announced that it was actually her that would be performing. Apparently the 80’s Rock Goddess was set to perform at the 2008 Rocktober Festival and was listed there as her only scheduled North American appearance. Tonight’s show would essentially be one of those live practice gigs to warm Lita up for the festival appearance and to work out any kinks that might be present in the set list and it would be where most gigs of note seem to happen, Times Square’s own B.B. King Blues Club. Opening up the gig would be a band called Psychic Drive.
Psychic Drive: This would be the first time I had ever heard of Psychic Drive and the band is a pretty solid Rock & Roll outfit that tosses in a healthy dose of Punk attitude to their songs. Having no real experience with them, I was just the intrigued observer tonight and would not be able to document any of their set but still I was prepared to enjoy myself and let others know what they were all about. They are set up as a three-member group that consists of Lizzy (guitars/vocals), Connie (drums) and Kristin (bass/vocals) and they were really doing their best to keep the assembled crowd entertained before Lita Ford and her band would hit the stage. They seemed to go over quite well which was nice to see because we often find acts such as this being given the cold shoulder or blank stares. After about 45 minutes of their brand of Rock and Roll, the manager for Lita Ford came out to announce that she was indeed the surprise and that this show was the worst kept secret ever. What surprised me was that after he came out the venue was treated to an appearance and additional introduction by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider. This really geared the crowd up and soon Lita was on the stage all smiles and a little bit nervous it seemed from my vantage point. Hey, who could blame her after being out of this game for so many years.
Lita Ford: Back in the day I was always more of the casual Lita Ford fan more than an insane fanatic to her stuff but I have to admit that did love a healthy amount of her tunes and was glad to see that a talented woman was kicking as much ass as she was in the largely male dominated genre of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. A lot of Lita’s stuff was musically and melodically strong and for the most part it was rather catchy. Combining this with her cover girl looks made her quite the popular attraction. As soon as she came out she was a very pleasant entertainer and smiled at everyone and made little jokes to loosen up some of the nerves and as far as rocking, well she jumped right into that with little difficulty. Lita has assembled a kick ass bunch of musicians for her band and among their number are Tom Cavanaugh (guitar), Teddy Cook (bass), Stet Howland (drums) and Michael Ross (keyboards). I have seen Cook in a number of tribute acts over the years and of course I remember Stet very well from his work with Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P.
Lita’s set was definitely a good one and she jumped right into the mix by opening with “Larger Than Life” and “Hungry” to a very positive crowd response. Her older material wasn’t ignored as “Gotta Let Go” was delivered and while I had really hoped to find it in the set list she would not perform “Dancing On The Edge”. She gave us a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed” and after a couple of more of her standards announced that we would find a special guest for the night and that would be drummer Carmine Appice who would come up and play the Jimi Hendrix classic “Fire”. Carmine was more than adept on the massive kit of Howland with him being one of the drumming world’s legends himself. He also seemed to have such a fun time that it looked like he was going to remain for an additional number. Lita joked and said this would probably lead to a King Kobra reunion but I don’t really think that we will see that anytime soon. Let’s hope not at least because while amusing at times, there is no need for every artist from the eighties to return. When Carmine stepped off the chair it seemed as though the guest stars were not done as we once again saw Dee Snider who would join Lita and the band onstage for a rousing version of Sammy Hagar’s “There’s Only One Way To Rock”. The selection definitely surprised me as I felt covering a Twisted Sister number would have been more appropriate. It sounded good but Dee really has a different register than Sammy does so it sounded a little weird to me being a fan of both of the singers. This was the final number of the main set and the remaining tunes would be the encores. The first encore was the hit ballad she performed with Ozzy Osboure, and this time around for “When I Close My Eyes Forever”, she would not be joined by the iconic front man but instead the assembled audience of B.B. King’s would be accompanying her. I saw this idea fail miserably when the guys in Apocalyptica chose to let the audience join them for “Nothing Else Matters”, but lucky for Lita everyone in the crowd knew the song and was singing it back to her with limited queuing. Since he sings as well, it might have sounded much better had she just let Teddy sing it. Of course it would have been interesting if her own husband Jim Gillette (formerly of Nitro) had come out to do it since he was seen about the venue as well.
The grand finale would be “Kiss Me Deadly” and that’s a favored track to this very day and can be heard on numerous outlets as well as being in many cover band repertoires. It was the perfect closer for a really fun show and with the whole audience singing along with her for this one you just knew that the singer had to be a little moved. I don’t think anyone left disappointed and I am sure that we shall see her here again in the future. The crowd could have been bigger but I had to say that we saw the same amount of folks in place for the Winger show that was early in the year. The holiday weekend had just passed and this was the Monday evening afterward so that probably had something to do with it as well. Good job Lita, and welcome back, you’ve been missed.
1. Larger Than Life
3. Gotta Let Go
4. Black Widow
5. Cant Catch Me
6. Fallin’ In And Outta Love
7. The Ripper
8. Only Women Bleed
9. Back To The Cave
10. Playin’ With Fire
11. Fire w/Carmine Appice
12. There’s Only One Way To Rock w/Dee Snider
13. Close My Eyes Forever w/Audience – encore
14. Kiss Me Deadly – encore
Here’s a couple of shots of Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider as he introduced Lita.
Dee is a great front man in his own band and showed how good he was as concert announcer as well.
After the show was over we snapped a few candid shots and this first one is drummer Stet Howland and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. I loved Stet’s playing when he was a member of W.A.S.P. and of course you know that Bumblefoot is part of the New Guard of Guns ‘N Roses. I wanted to ask if we would see “Chinese Democracy” anytime soon, but I held back from such questioning. Nice guys the both of them.
While I had hoped to get a couple of more photos of Lita and some of the others around that was not meant to be as the guitarist felt ill that day and just closed up shop after she had finished to get some rest. I did however manage to run into two of the charming babes who make up the Motley Crue tribute band Girls, Girls, Girls. That’s Tawny Lee on the left and Nikita Seis on the right.