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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rocking The Riverfront Event featuring The Sweet / The Tubes

Rocking The Riverfront Event featuring The Sweet / The Tubes

Live in Detroit, Michigan – Friday August 10th, 2012

Every summer, here in ‘The D’ local classic rock radio station, WCSX presents the ‘Rocking on the Riverfront’ event on a series of Friday nights, throughout the summer.

This year was no different and in previous weeks there has been John Waite, Starship, Ace Frehley and Lou Gramm, on this past Friday night we had the double treat of two seasoned acts, The Tubes and The Sweet, both acts who have had their fair share of hits, so a good evening looked to be ahead of us …, but thunderstorms and even talk of tornado warning were doing the rounds.


The Tubes

The Tubes opened events, while it was still light and the band still feature original members, Fee Waybill (Vocals), Roger Stein (Guitars), Prairie Prince (Drums), Rick Anderson (Bass) and longtime keyboard player (Since ’96), David Medd.

I’d also learned whilst talking to Fee briefly prior to their performance, that he had broken his wrist the week before, during performing in a stage performance of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ which he'd been performing here in Michigan, so unfortunately the cast on his arm, prevented him putting on a lot of his stage jackets.
Hope that heals for you soon Fee! 

The Tubes live in Detroit - 10th August, 2012 - Photos: Alun Williams

I missed the opening number, but caught ‘She’s a Beauty’ next which sounded good and afterwards, Fee explained to the crowd, what he had shared with me earlier about his wrist break.

‘Amnesia’ is next and is another goodie for the crowd, although some of the harmony vocals seemed to be a bit of a struggle at times, but then often with outdoor shows, it can cause all sorts of sound problems.

Fee then gets an awkward reminder of his arm’s condition next, as he tries to put on one of those funky and bright coloured jackets for ‘What Do You Want From Life’ and realizes that it’s not going to happen!

Between songs, Fee runs offstage to grab another stage prop here and there and for the next song, I wasn’t sure of, he puts on some roman headgear, which he keeps on for next track, ‘I Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk.’
Pink feathers in the headgear worked well for the statement!

The band then kick right into a yes, punky version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and with that the headgear comes off.

 Tubes again, Rockin' the Riverfront in Detroit! - Photos: Alun Williams

‘Tip Of The Tongue’ provides a drum solo for Prairie Prince, nice job before they give us the huge power ballad, ‘I Don’t Want To Wait Anymore,’ which is a great song, but Fee struggles with some of those higher notes.

'Quay Lewd' alias Fee Waybill - Photo: Alun Williams

After disappearing offstage for a little while, Roger Stein introduces ..., '... fresh from the Olympics, ‘Quay Lewd!’
Out comes Fee in this alter ego character get up, that he’s walking very carefully in, on what look like eight inch high stiletto boots, silver spandex and huge blond wig and they throw in a little Iggy and ‘Lust For Life.’

Then it’s the song that is most likely responsible for getting the band on their way in the beginning, with ‘White Punks on Dope’ and off they go.

The crowd wants another and they come back out with ‘Talk To Ya Later.’

Nice show guys.

The Sweet

OK, for the record and yes, I know all Sweet fans out there will know this already, but there are only two surviving members of the classic line up of Sweet that gave the world so many great hits.

Sadly original vocalist Brian Connolly and drummer Mick Tucker have both passed away, some years back leaving just guitarist Andy Scott and bassist / vocalist Steve Priest as survivors from the classic lineup today.

In addition to this, the two of them do not get along, so Andy Scott lives in the UK and has his version of Sweet - Sweet UK - over there and Steve Priest has his version of Sweet here, so you can look at that however you like, but I can tell you that this version of Sweet, do sound good!

This line up, alongside Steve Priest features, Stuart Smith (Guitars / Vocals), Joe Retta (Lead vocals), Richie Onori (Drums) and Stevie Stewart on keyboards.

Ed's note:
As I’m finishing typing this up though unfortunately, it appears that this was the last time this lineup of the past four years, will play together …
More at the end of the review …

The Sweet onstage 'Rockin' the Riverfront' in Detroit! - Photos: Alun Williams

A classic Sweet opener is ‘Action,’ which in fact is a track that a few years back, Def Leppard use as an opener and it kicks in well and continues to rock the crowd, getting the set off to a rousing start, in front a very respectable crowd, especially considering the thunderstorms they were predicting!

‘Hellraiser’ is up next and alongside ‘Action’ it’s a driving rocker and all seems great with the band, although sounds like a few technical problems with the Hammond organ … I hope that it will improve and sure enough it certainly does. Good stuff.

You know, I recall much of the consensus towards the Sweet, from my then classmates in senior school, contempt to disrespect of the band, dissing them as simply bubblegum, glam pop fodder. Suffice to say, in later years, I worked with some other guys who had seen them before as the Sweet in the mid-late 70’s, saying that the pop songs didn’t do them justice and that their album tracks rocked!

I have to say that there are some seriously great old songs, sure some that were certainly of the more poppy direction, but when these guys play them live, they give them new life and yes, they rock!

Joe Retta centre stage with The Sweet - Photo: Alun Williams

Perhaps a prime example of this is next song ‘Teenage Rampage’ it really does come across so well live and just anyone from the crowd that evening and they’ll no doubt tell you the same.

Seriously though, the appeal of the band reaches across so many generations as is clear from the audience tonight, very young and old alike, families where obviously the parents were fans back in the 70’s / 80’s who now have young or teenage kids and the whole family is clearly enjoying it and singing along!

Then there are older fans - I kid you not! - that were waiting around afterwards for autographs or a drumstick and they were clearly in their 60’s, not to mention the cute young ladies on the side of the stage, right next to Stuart Smith the whole time …

Stuart Smith onstage with The Sweet ..., I think the ladies rather like him!
Photos: Alun Williams

I mean what can I say? They still have great appeal, right across the board, to all ages and all comers!

‘Love Is Like Oxygen,’ a killer ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Fox On The Run’ all follow in quick succession to great applause, although when Joe’s microphone starts cutting out during ‘Fox …,’ a quickly replaced lead gets the band back on track.
Incidentally, Joe has a really great voice that does nothing but complete justice to that of Brian Connolly. Nice going Joe!

Steve Priest introduces ‘Windy City’ from the ’77 released ‘Off The Record’ album as a song they wrote while they were playing in Chicago and saw some serious poverty first hand on the streets.

Joe Retta and Steve Priest (The Sweet), live in Detroit! - Photo: Alun Williams

Have to say though, the riff has always made me think back to Deep Purple’s ‘Woman From Tokyo’ which is no bad thing in my book, love both tracks equally well!
Fine lead work from Stuart Smith here too, but to be honest the whole band seem right on their game.

Joe Retta grabs an acoustic guitar and introduces ‘The Six Teens’ next, another great catchy song in such a massive back catalogue that is quickly followed by the rocking, ‘Sweet F.A.,’ which is killer!

The crowd is now getting absolutely drenched as the heavens have opened, there’s thunder and lightning, but Sweet continue their own thunder onstage with two of their best known hit single songs in ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Little Willy’ before ‘AC/DC’ gets an airing too.

By now, it’s amazing to see around 80% or more of the crowd, still enduring this rain to not miss the band’s set.

Stuart Smith then tells the crowd that they are fantastic and ‘we love you and normally we would go off around this time, for you guys to cheer and get us back for an encore, but as this weather is so bad, we’ll call this our encore to you. Thank you!’

Somewhere in there, '... the man at the back ...' is Richie Onori on drums!

Photo: Alun Williams

So ‘Ballroom Blitz’ closes the set and there are no boos, as I think we all agree that Stuart’s call was the right one!

A great fun night, enjoyed by many, a good turnout for this event indeed and it seems, as I started to mention earlier, that this will sadly be the last performance by this lineup as Stuart Smith has decided to call it quits with The Sweet.

In between rehearsing and playing live shows with The Sweet, he’s been trying to get his main project Heaven and Earth, to complete their fourth studio release and third album proper and with doing The Sweet gigs, it’s taking him away from that focus.

He told me last night on the phone, that it’s been a fun four years, but The Sweet is not his band and he needs to focus on getting the new Heaven and Earth album finished and out there for the fans!

Nevertheless, thanks guys, really enjoyed the show, fun evening even with the rain!
Stuart, you will be missed in the band, as you often provided great guitar, heroics!

Rating overall – 4 out of 5 for a great fun double bill evening of entertainment!

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