Concert Review: Cinderella, John Corabi & Mass at Club Casino in Hampton Beach, NH
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
Triple Bill..very old school. I like local music just as much as the next guy but there is a big difference between being curious and checking out a local opener and actually looking forward to seeing the support acts as much as or even more so than the headliner. I have been a John Corabi fan since hearing the first release with The Scream in 1991. I have always liked his vocal style and enjoyed his work with Motley Crue, the Union records, and also seeing him perform with RATT. MASS has been a New England staple for as long as I have been able to walk into a nightclub and 2011 has seen them supporting some of the best rock shows of the summer. Cinderella, on their 25th anniversary tour, had the most to prove on this nig, at least to me. No new record since 1994, Tom Keifer has had throat issues over the past few years and could he still sing and what about the general attitudes and state of mind of the other three members? Is there still a fire in the belly or would they just go through the motions and mail in a lame set of hits with no regard to audience interaction, some hope for some new music or possibly throw in a rare song or two. Well from my perspective Corabi delivered a terrific set, MASS was on fire and Cinderella, for the most part, was listless, predictable and underachieved on a night where they needed to show me something..and they didn’t.
John Corabi has to be the most unlucky yet talented musician I’ve ver seen WHO STILL GETS IT and JUST PLAYS BECAUSE HE LOVES IT . The Scream should have been bigger but he bolted for the Motley Crue gig, and who could blame him. The Motley album he recorded (as good as it was) should have been called something else other than Motley Crue because the fans didn’t fully accept it and only waited for the return of Vince Neil. The Union records also came out at a time when the music scene was shifting again and didn’t do as well as they should have. He then tours with RATT but they never hit the studio and we will never know what he could have added in terms of song writing or vocals with that line up. But forgetting all that, tonight John gave us a little bit of everything from his past in a 30 minute set that included a Union song, two songs from The Scream, a few Motley staples a Beatles cover along with a brands new song “If I Ever Said Goodbye” which will be appearing on an acoustic record John plans to release sometime soon. His set was moving, heartfelt and very uplifting. I would love to see John in another band setting, with Union or just playing unplugged like he did tonight. Just play John..just play! (Thanks for signing my Angora record by the way!)
Having the middle slot, MASS did benefit from going on a little later in the night then they have in prior shows and they took advantage of it giving the late arriving crowd a reason to raise their fists and rock as they ripped through a roughly 45 minute set of older hits plus a few newer songs from 2010’s Sea of Black. I could tell right from the opening number ‘Falling from Grace” that the guys wanted to leave their mark on this Club Casino crowd and that’s exactly what they did. The great thing about being a New England band is that even though you’re playing to a hometown New England crowd you have to earn their respect each and every night. No matter how many times I have seen MASS they always play like they have something to prove. Call it getting “no respect” or being “the underdog” call it whatever.. I always call it a quality gig. They just keep getting better and this night truly belonged to MASS. I had people around me watching Louis belt out and hold notes with disbelief wondering how is he doing that? One guy actually asked me if they were a “new band” and I pointed them right to the direction of the merch table and gave him a quick history lesson. They played harder and louder tonight than they have all summer long. It’s tough to nail down a set list (especially when you have twice as much original material as the headliner and play half the set time) but they did a good job of covering all the bases. The future is “Lookin Good” for MASS not only in 2011 but into 2012 and beyond.
I just want to say right up front without hesitation that I love Cinderella. No one was a bigger fan and saw them as often as I did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Arenas, theaters, club dates I saw it all. I always thought they put on a quality show. I recall a concert at Great Woods with Tangier and White Lion when it snowed onstage during “Long Cold Winter” and then all the bands came on the stage at the end of the night and jammed to “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Jumping Jack Flash”. Fun, different and they seemed to try to keep things fresh. Even tours in 2000 and 2002 they seemed to rock out and you figured at some point there would be some new music. Where is it? It’s now 10 years later and still nothing. You have to go back to 1994 and Still Climbing (drummer Fred Coury not even on that one having left to join Stephen Pearcy in Arcade) to find any new material. After the effort I witnessed last night I’d have to call Cinderella “Barely Crawling,” the set left me bored, frustrated and curious as to the bands next move.
Right from the opening riffs of ‘”Once Around The Ride” it looked as if vocalist Tom Keifer was straining to reach even a mid level range. Never what I would call a “gifted vocalist” I did enjoy that raspy “Steven Tyler meets Mick Jagger meets Brian Johnson” sort of feel I always got from him. The guy is talented. Songwriting, piano, guitar and even played a little sax on “Shelter Me” towards the end of the night. What Keifer has lost, in my eyes, is the ability to connect with his audience and create a set list that flows and to be a showman. One could argue that he was never a “showman” and maybe that’s true. He is not nor was he ever in the David Lee Roth school of frontmen BUT when your touring for your 1st and 2nd albums and trying to prove yourself you don’t have to be. However when you’re still playing that same set list and seem sedated and grumpy on stage try something different to make your audience smile and be appreciative. I mean why would you play “Heartbreak Station” 3 songs into the set and lose whatever momentum you may have gained right after playing your first hit “Shake Me “ so early in the set? That’s what I mean about no flow. Let’s just play all the hits and get the hell out of Dodge. I saw the audience DIE and head for the bars and restrooms as soon as that song started.
It was not all subpar for the entire show. Drummer Fred Coury and bass player Eric Brittingham at least played as if they wanted to be there by providing a solid rhythm section and harmonies when needed. “The More Things Change” and ‘Somebody Save Me” were probably the best two songs of the night. Keifer’s vocals did get slightly better as the night wore on but it was such a sort set list (70 minutes) that he didn’t have time to gain much in terms of momentum. Guitarist Jeff Labar played all of the songs ok but has lost the flair that I used to enjoy about seeing the band live; Keifer did the lion’s share of the tough guitar parts anyway. After ‘Shelter Me” closed the set Keifer and Labar looked as if they just played a 3 hour set and played like 20 gigs in a row without a day off.
Maybe I’m being overly harsh but I’m often accused of sugar coating the bands I like and no matter what they did, are doing or might do in the future I’m always in their corner. This is a very true statement, but I’m also fair and to the point. This was a boring headlining gig played by a tired band resting on their laurels and not looking ahead but instead stuck in the past and having no clue how to satisfy their audience 25 years after originally kicking my ass, making me laugh (cue the Shelter Me video “We are going to the Cinderella concert and you’re not”) and giving me a show worth paying for. Hey there is nothing wrong about going back to the past for a short visit..after all I am the “80’s Guy For The Modern Eye” but Cinderella took the Way Back Machine to 1987 and left it there.
John Corabi Set List:
Love (I Don’t Need You Anymore)
If I Ever Said Goodbye
Father, Mother, Son
Driftaway/Home Sweet Home
Man In the Moon
MASS Set List:
Falling from Grace
Pedal to the Metal
Turn it all around (Into) Reach for the Sky
Empty Soul (Into) Kashmir
Do you Love me
Sea of Black
Cinderella Set List:
Once Around the Ride
Somebody Save Me
The More Things Change
Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)
Long Cold Winter