On Saturday September 21, 2019 four veteran hard rock bands rolled into Tags Summer Stage in Big Flats, NY to close out the summer concert series with a bang. 80’s iconic rock bands RATT, Warrant, Firehouse and Kix shared the stage for a night of rock and roll, reminiscing with gritty guitars, thundering bass, pounding drums, classic hits and power ballads. The entire six hour concert was abounding with that quintessential big driving eighties sound, par can lights, iconic riffs, screaming guitar solos, and lots of hair (for those who still have it) – along with plentiful lipstick and leather and vintage concert T’s both onstage and throughout the crowd. For many, 30 years ago seemed like yesterday and we were transported back to 1989.
Kicking the night off were veteran rockers Kix. Hailing from Hagerstown, Maryland, Kix formed in late 1977 with Ronnie “10/10” Younkins, Brian “Damage” Forsythe on guitars and bassist Donnie Purnell, with drummer Jimmy Chalfant and frontman Steve Whiteman coming on board shortly after. Kix released their debut self titled album Kix in 1981, followed up by Cool Kids in 1983 and Midnite Dynamite in 1985. It was after their release of their platinum album, Blow My Fuse in 1988, when the band experienced major commercial success with the hits “Blow My Fuse,” “Cold Blood,” and the power ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” which reached number 11 on Billboard 100.
Kix hit the stage at 5:30 pm and began figuratively blowing fuses with their jaw dropping performance. Never missing a beat, Kix hit the ground running and never slowed down a for second during their hour long set. Steve Whiteman’s vocals were as strong as ever and still hit those high notes effortlessly. Whiteman, who has been out front revving up the crowds for nearly four decades with his charismatic and highly energetic stage presence, ran out on stage wearing all blue, as the band kicked into their opening number “Midnite Dynamite.” Whiteman has avoided the fate of many rock frontmen of his generation and has withstood the test of time as he still has the pipes, stage presence and energy of performers half his age.
Despite being the first band in this classic line-up, many fans felt that Kix stole the show with their no frills, in your face, straight up rock and roll. As stated previously, Whitemans’s vocals were spot on superb. Both guitarists Younkins and Forsythe, although not overly flashy, were highly impressive with their style of playing and musicianship. Each yielding exquisitely beautiful guitars, their tone was magnificent as they complimented each others unmistakable style. Rounding out the astounding musicians in Kix were drummer Chalfant and newest member (2003) bass player Mark Schenker. Talk about a rock and roll bottom end, these two had the air moving. I’m sure the fans in the lawn section could feel the power emanating from the subs as the bottom end exploded like thunder.
The bands dominating performance unequivocally stunned the large crowd at Tags Summer Stage with their dynamic show stopping 10-song set. Their set included the opening number “Midnite Dynamite” as well as favorites “Get It While It’s Hot,” “Cold Blood” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” For a veteran rock band with a career that spans over forty years, Kix is proving to generations of fans, new and old, that they are timeless and still in charge. With seven studio albums under their belt, there are an array of songs in their catalog from the classics to the lesser known that they can pull out any night leaving the crowd wanting for more.
Next up was Firehouse led by original members vocalist C.J. Snare, guitarist Bill Leverty and drummer Michael Foster, along with newest member Allen Mckenzie who joined the band in 2004.
Firehouse wasted no time kicking things off in blazing style as they exploded into their opening powerhouse number, “Overnight Sensation,” from their 1990 double platinum self titled debut album. Next was “Crash” from their 2003 album Prime Time, followed by “Shake and Tumble” from their debut album. Although Firehouse has not released an album of new material, they are no strangers to touring as road seasoned and extremely talented musicians and showmen who continue to perform with the energy and presence they have been know for for the past thirty years.
Tonight was no different. Snare had the crowd engaged and on their feet from the minute he stepped on stage as he interacted openly, made jokes and even invited a couple onstage to celebrate a special occasion with a dance during “When I Look Into Your Eyes.” His stage presence and commanded rock and roll respect and his vocal range and power are still as strong and commanding as ever. Leverty’s guitar playing remains soulful and melodic, yet blistering and intricate as he takes his playing through the stratosphere with his custom C.R. Alsip guitar. As Leverty solos through all the iconic Firehouse songs, it is easy to hear why he still remains one of the most gifted and talented guitarists after all these years.
Rounding out the accomplished veteran line-up are original drummer Foster and their newest member, bassist McKenzie. Together, this dynamic duo kept the pace and rhythm with booming finesse as the band continued playing hit after hit including “Oughta Be a Law,” “All She Wrote” and “Lover’s Lane.” Firehouse closed out their 11 song power packed set with “Reach For The Sky” and lastly, “Don’t Treat Me Bad.”
The crowd at Tag’s did not have any time to cool off before Warrant took control of the stage in dominating fashion. With original members guitarists Erik Turner and Joey Allen, bassist Jerry Dixon and drummer Steven Sweet along with ex-Lynch Mob vocalist Robert Mason, who joined the band in 2008, they took the stage around 8:30, ready to roll as they exploded into their opening number “32 Pennies.” This summer Warrant is hitting the road promoting their “Dirty 30” tour in celebration of the anniversary of their first album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, which was released in 1989.
For the last thirty years Warrant has been tearing up the charts, recording and touring since the release of their double platinum debut album despite lineup changes on and off. Although Mason brings his unique style, energy and dynamic vocal performance to the band, he covers former original vocalist Jani Lane’s range effortlessly with tenacious vigor and rock and roll attitude.
Warrant exploded on stage with as much passion and attitude as they have for the last 30 years. It is obvious they want to give the fans what they have been coming to see after three decades of touring. Make no mistake, the performance, rock and roll attitude and energy are a big part of what makes Warrant as popular as they are with the fans, however the musicianship and dedication to their craft is what it is all about. Their powerful, unmistakable signature sound on all of their big hits such as “Down Boys,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “D.R.F.S.R.,” as well as their power ballads including “Sometime’s She Cries” and “Heaven” was evident Saturday at Tag’s.
After much excitement and anticipation, headliners RATT took command of the stage at 9:45. If the eager crowd at Tag’s had not had their fill of incredible rock and roll yet, they were in for a full out assault as RATT invaded Big Flats, New York. With only two original members of RATT in this current line-up, RATT, with frontman vocalist extraordinaire Stephen Pearcy is going strong; they look and sound as good as ever.
Along with Pearcy, bassist Juan Croucier is the only other original member of this multi-platinum commercially successful rock band. Despite the absence of three original musicians, this version of the band currently consists of guitarists Jordan Ziff (2018) and Chris Sanders (2018) formerly of Brittany Fox, along with drummer Pete Holmes formerly of the band Black and Blue. This line-up is phenomenal with Ziff easily filling the shoes of original RATT guitarist, Warren DeMartini.
RATT kicked of their supercharged 75-minute set with “In Your Direction” from their 1984 multiplatinum album Out of the Cellar, followed by “Wanted Man,” from Cellar and “Dangerous But Worth the Risk” from their 1985 follow up album, Invasion of Your Privacy.
RATT mesmerized the audience for over an hour with 14 songs from their catalog of hits including “Way Cool Jr.,” “Lay It Down” and “You’re in Love.” Ziff and Sanders shredded through the classic RATT songs with finesse and speed making even the most intricate guitar parts appear simple. Croucier appeared to have the intensity and vitality as he had during the early days of RATT with his dynamic stage presence and performance, flipping his bass guitar around and over his head. RATT closed out the show with “Back For More” and finally their biggest hit, and probably most well known song, “Round and Round.”
Despite the cooling temperatures on the last day of summer 2019, Kix, Firehouse, Warrant, and RATT easily had the crowd at Tags heated up and not wanting the night, or summer to end. However, for all that attended this awesome rock and roll show, the summer most definitely ended on a positive, memorable note.