Bang Tango/House of Lords/The Dropoutz in Newport, RI

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 @ 5:10 PM

At The Newport Blues Club

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By George Trippe

The Newport Blues Club is booking metal shows in its small confines, located just miles away from the mansions on Bellevue Drive. In a coincidence or perhaps a statement of the hard rock scene of 07, two musicians performing at the last “metal” date in the venue – the BulletBoys and LA Guns’ Guns and Bullets tour stop – appeared here with The Dropoutz and the latest incarnation of Bang Tango.

Joe Leste enjoys a following in the Northeast, regardless of his band of the moment, be it Bang Tango or Beautiful Creatures. Bottom line, regardless of the venue, crowd size, or his own personal state, Leste brings it, and this Bang Tango set drew from all of the band’s releases, save for the import-only Love After Death. Opening with “Ready to Go,” this Bang Tango version was locked in, with Michael Thomas (Beautiful Creatures, BulletBoys) and the rhythm section of Timmy Russell (drums) and Lance Eric (bass) joining Leste for this run of dates with Leste. His voice no more weathered than in its hoarse heyday, Leste and co. delivered the manic-paced “Dancin on Coals,” which segued into a “Strangehold” and “Attack of Life” medley.

Introducing songs from the new “From the Hip” disc (“Go, Go, Go” and a driving “It’s All OK”), Leste showed off a self-deprecating sense of place, insisting the Perris indy release had already gone gold in Pakistan, twice urging the fans to hit the merch booth to subsidize the band’s “cocaine and prostitutes” budget, and referring to himself as a “wine drunker” as he polished off what he described as a syrah from the stage. While not fully matching the sonic roar and funk-driven precision of the original line-up, the latest BT incarnation is worth seeing, delivering faithful renditions of “Don’t Stop Now” and “Someone Like You,” with Thomas’ scorching guitar work complementing Leste’s Tyler-esque frontman work. Black hairdye or not, Leste’s act is aging well, with an edge that cuts across the years from the band’s debut to the modern-sounding ass-kickers of today.

The revitalized House of Lords headlined, with James Christian serving as the only original band member for a run of US and international dates in support of the 2006 World Upside Down release. Christian’s voice remains as powerful as it was in the “Sahara” days, and fans of the band’s heyday should check out this version of House of Lords. Despite a somewhat-gnawing reliance on prerecorded keyboard and vocal backing tracks, the band’s newer material (“S.O.S in America” most notably) stood well-positioned alongside such classics as “I Wanna Be Loved” from House of Lords’ debut. Frankly, Christian’s voice is so spot-on that you find yourself checking if the man is lip-synching – no, he’s just that damn good.

Material this classically flavored and grandiose requires a crack band, and guitarist Jimi Bell delivered the crisp solos the songs required. It will be interesting to see if Christian and Co. can make a serious run at reconstituting a career that got side-tracked by 90s grunge. If the set in Newport was any measure, they’re taking some well-intentioned first strides toward a spot in the today’s scene.

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