Cabaret du Mille End
Montréal, Québec Canada
June 28th, 2013
By Ryan Sparks
Rock n’ Roll Susie | Heat In The Street | Crash and Burn | I’ve Got News For You | Black Betty | Diamond Girl | Can Do | Stevie | Black Dog Blues | Red House | If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day | Snortin’ Whiskey | Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)
When guitarist Pat Travers leaned into the microphone between songs, early on in his set on Friday night in Montréal, and asked if anyone remembered the last time he had done a gig in this town, maybe it wasn’t all that surprising that no one in the crowd fired back a swift response. Yes, it had been a long time, but here we were, Pat’s loyal Hammer Heads, gathered together in a small non-descript club ( that unfortunately wasn’t nearly close to being packed to capacity) in a trendy part of town, ready to have our collective asses kicked.
In the midst of a creative rebirth of sorts the past couple of years and with a solid new album Can Do to promote, Travers and his band trekked up to the Great White North for a weekend warrior set of gigs, that finally saw one of our country’s finest and most successful musical exports make his long overdue return to our fair city. After a couple of inspired sets by local bands Rusted and Vinyl Hero, the anticipation was running high. By the Travers and crew hit the stage, they wasted little time going for the jugular, hitting the ground running with the scorching “Rock n’ Roll Susie” to kick off the evening’s fireworks.
Armed with his killer band, which includes guitarist Kick McKim, bassist Rodney O’Quinn, and veteran drummer Sandy Gennaro, this version of the Pat Travers Band runs like a well-oiled machine, and in my opinion, is certainly capable of giving the ‘classic’ Cowling/Thrall/ Aldridge lineup of the late 70’s a run for its money on any given night. They definitely showed it on this evening as O’Quinn and Gennaro laid down their thunderous wall of sound, anchoring the rhythm section while McKim and PT were left to shred to their hearts delights. While it’s his name on the marquee, Travers certainly has no qualms about sharing the spotlight with fellow six stringer McKim, who is a supremely talented guitarist in his own right.
The pace was definitely kicked up a notch as the band deftly slid into a couple of tracks from that aforementioned classic lineup, delivering an absolutely blazing romp through “Heat In The Street”, before down shifting ever so slightly into the reggae tinged title track from Pat’s Crash and Burn album from 1980. After that it was on to a double shot of covers, that began with the stellar bluesy take on Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got News For You”. In addition to firing off some searing solos, Pat’s trademark growling vocals really shone through on this song. Flawlessly delivered, it almost brought a tear to my eye at just how amazing his voice soared majestically out into the crowd.
By the time they launched into the fifth track, the band was really hitting their stride and Travers had the crowd firmly in the palm of his hand, as they tore the roof off the joint with a blazing version of Leadbelly, by way of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”, which featured more of that fabulous and seamless guitar interplay between Pat and McKim. After such an impressive start to the show, it was only normal that the pace and intensity level would drop off at some point. This happened when the band inserted a couple of new tracks into the mix. First up was the glimmering sheen of “Diamond Girl”, which Pat dedicated to two women seated near the front of the stage. A bit of a different sounding song, with a poppier feel, this is definitely one of his more radio friendly tracks, which is a good thing. He followed that up with the title track to the new disc, a beefy, mid tempo rocker, that sits nicely alongside Pat’s extensive back catalogue of work.
From there the band shifted back to full on blues mode, but done PT style. He mentioned jumping at the chance to record an album full of 1920’s blues songs for the record label Cleopatra, the result coming in the form of his 2012 disc Blues On Fire. They tore through “Black Dog Blues”, the opening cut from that album, before wasting little time launching into what was perhaps the most potent one-two combination of the evening. Travers unleashed some lethal slide licks on Hendrix’ “Red House” and a souped-up version of Robert Johnson’s “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day”. Once again the killer rhythm section of O’Quinn and Gennaro, took this one over, sounding like an out of control freight train, barreling down the tracks at break neck speed.
The biggest reaction of the evening not surprisingly was saved for the final two songs of the set. Pat introduced “Snortin Whiskey” as a song taken off of an album that marked the end of the innocence for him, making reference to the fact the top 40 track was released the same year that John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. With that both he and McKim tore into that killer, familiar opening riff. After a plethora of wicked, tradeoff solos between the two, I took a moment to just sit back to take it all in and just revel in the mighty power that this band possesses. As I sat there with what must have been a shit eating grin all over my mug, I just didn’t want the song to reach its inevitable conclusion, which of course it finally did. They delivered the final knockout blow of the set with a raucous run through of Pat’s signature tune “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)”. Originally released on his debut album back in 1976. It’s the familiar call and response version that appears on his top 40 live album Go For What You Know, released in 1979, that the fans know and love so well. This live staple was all over classic rock radio in the late 70’s and over thirty years later, it still sounds as potent as ever.
With that the band said their goodbyes and headed off stage for a brief break, before returning to the stage a couple of minutes later to serve up “Gettin’ Betta”, another hard rock nugget, which turned out to be the only encore of the evening.
Pat Travers in 2013, looks and sounds great. It’s hard to believe that he’s almost pushing sixty, because you would never guess it by the endless amount of energy and boundless enthusiasm he possesses. You can tell he’s enjoying every minute up there onstage and this current incarnation of the PTB is pushing him to even greater heights night after night. I cannot say enough about the man himself and his killer band, because they delivered a killer set of high octane rock ‘n roll and kicked some serious ass. My only qualm here was the fact that the set seemed a little short at around 80 minutes. Would I have loved to see and hear more? Absolutely! Considering the man has such an extensive, back catalogue of original material to choose from. In the end it didn’t really matter though, because regardless if it’s an arena or a club show, PT performs with the same intensity, giving it everything he’s got and leaving it all on the stage. You can never ask for more than that.