Apart from being a bloody good weekend, any of the numerous Hard Rock Hell events are key because they also bring countless bands over to the UK for regional live dates. No point in flying over for just one show, might as well make it a party, and everyone is invited, dude! LA rock n’ rollers Little Caesar graced the stages of rock clubs and pubs from London to Glasgow to shake off the cobwebs in time for HRH AOR. Going by tonight’s performance, any band having to follow Little Caesar will have to be on the top of their game.
With the forthcoming new album ‘Eight’ to promote, this was a lesson in how to blend the newer material that some people will be unfamiliar with (‘Time Enough For That’ goes down rather well, and the classics from the last few decades, including ‘Stand Up’, ‘Rum & Coke’, ‘Hard Rock Hell’). The eponymous debut album from 1990 currently nestles in my top three debut albums of all time (alongside Pearl Jam ‘Ten’ and Thunder’s ‘Backstreet Symphony’, if you are arsed), so when vocalist Ron Young beckons everyone to take a few steps forward closer to the barrier, and the opening bars to ‘Rock-N-Roll State Of Mind’ kick in, it’s time to drool like a cop in a doughnut shop. The current Little Caesar line-up features Young on vocals alongside original members Tom Morris on drums, and the Energizer bunny himself, Loren Molinare on guitar. Accompanying these original three amigos are bassist Pharoah Barrett (who also packs a hefty punch as a vocalist) and ex-Bang Tango guitarist Mark Tremalgia, who joined late last year. I’m not really sure how many shows that they have together under their belts, but the good-natured banter, and the way that they feed off each other, would fool you into thinking that they have had many years on the road together.
The debut album forms the backbone of the set. Apart from the aforementioned set opener, we are treated to the ballsy rockers ‘Hard Times’, ’‘Down-N-Dirty’ and ‘Drive It Home’ (the latter coming with a great intro from Young about the much-missed art form of the double entendre). Little Caesar were always about more than just the riff rockers, Young has an incredibly warm, soulful voice, and his Motown influences shine through. Before ‘In Your Arms’, Young tells the wonderful tale of growing up watching all the great black vocal groups (The Temptations, Jackson Five etc), and the inspiration that they gave him. The song is a stunning example of a band taking the influence from an era where it was all about the hooks, ramping it up, and running it through a stack of amps (Blackstar naturally). Chuck in a few bars of ‘Proud Mary’, and it’s just one of the many highlights of the evening. Another would be when we are treated to an upfront airing of ‘Mama Tried’ from the new album. Christ Almighty, it is off the hook! A bonafide outlaw country classic from Merle Haggard that Little Caesar have turned up to eleven and put their own spin on it. The guitar work from Molinare and Tremalgia is stunning, and even Blind Pew himself couldn’t miss how much fun these two are having playing alongside each other. There are times during the set that I glance over at Tremalgia, and he is busy watching Molinare bounce all over the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of someone much younger. Loren Molinare is the real deal folks; founding member of Michigan band, The Dogs. Thought punk began with Malcolm McLaren, et al? Nope, think again. Detroit Michigan, MC5, Iggy & The Stooges… The Dogs… sticking it to the man before punk was a movement, and when gobbing at bands was the in thing. Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!
Before long, the dreaded curfew looms and Little Caesar put the foot down. ‘Cajun Panther’ from the debut album is as sizzling as ever, and when Young leads the band through an incredible version of ‘Nobody Said It Was Easy’, from another under-appreciated band that Young was a member of – The Four Horsemen, then it truly is manna from heaven. Finishing on a raucous mash up of the Stones’ ‘Happy’ and Rod Stewart’s ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’, it is a fitting end to an incredible evening. Little Caesar were stupidly lumped in with the “hair metal” brigade. The truth is, they belonged over here, as did other American bands like The Four Horsemen and Junkyard. American born by the way of Detroit and Tamla Motown… but with a little British blood in the roots. We do get some things right over here… just now and again, though.
No bullshit, this was one of those nights when you just had to be there, and with something like only eleven weeks of 2018 gone so far, it’s hard to imagine anything topping it. Little Caesar end their run of UK dates at HRH AOR, before hitting mainland Europe later this year… roadtrip!
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Dave Jamieson