LA Guns @ Riverside, Newcastle 02/09/2018
It’s 30 years since a wide eyed Tracii Guns and former Girl frontman Phil Lewis threatened No Mercy on a devilish debut album that briefly promised to catapult the second most dangerous band in the world into rock and roll’s big leagues.
That Guns N Roses (the most dangerous) had beaten LA Guns to the punch with Appetite For Destruction six months earlier didn’t help the latter’s cause and history confirms there would only be one winner – commercially at least.
But three decades down the line – and several high-profile spats later – LA Guns have never sounded better: significantly 1988’s self-titled tilt at the big time still made its presence felt during a full throttle, career-spanning set.
One More Reason and Sex Action stand alongside No Mercy as the most revealing examples of a band emboldened by a songwriting partnership that would go on to spawn the top 40 hair metal classic Cocked & Loaded. Lewis, in particular, relished the opportunity to revisit the glory days – roared on by a Riverside crowd ready to dive head first into a set awash with glorious nostalgia.
But credit where credit’s due. In 2018 LA Guns don’t rely exclusively on a back catalogue rooted in Hollywood fable. Latest long player The Missing Peace announced the unlikely reconciliation of Lewis and Guns and one of last year’s essential rock releases suggested hatchets had been well and truly buried.
Showcased live, the strength of the band’s new material adds credence to the view that discord and division have given way to unity and focus. Set opener The Devil Made Me Do It and the meandering The Flood’s The Fault Of The Rain – two of The Missing Peace’s finer moments – proved Lewis and Guns sound better together.
Perhaps surprisingly, they sounded better still when support act Jared James Nichols entered the fray for a riff-laden jam. Described by a genuinely gushing Guns as ‘the future of all that is good about rock and roll’, the towering bluesman – last seen at the Riverside in support of Stone Broken – reinforced his reputation as one of the rising forces of modern-day rock.
Nichols was back in the crowd by the time The Ballad Of Jayne allowed Lewis his defining moment behind the microphone. But in truth the night belonged to Guns. Founder members of Guns N Roses are few and far between and their appearances in intimate clubs rarer still. Think Slash owns the copyright to the Sunset Strip’s sleaziest riffs? Think again.