Headbanging for dummies
Eighties metal wonder Quiet Riot plays a nostalgia show at LaSalles
I’ll be honest—I used to dig Quiet Riot back in my metalhead days.
This was the early ‘80s, when Ozzy was proving to the horned-fist crowd that he didn’t need Sabbath to rule the arena, and Randy Rhoads was on the verge of wresting the mantle of guitar god from Eddie Van Halen. All the headbangers were running around, trying to track down bootlegs of Rhoads’ first band, called Quiet Riot, ‘cause if Randy was in the band, then they had to be good, right?
Then came the news in ‘82 that Rhoads had died in a plane crash. The suits of course jumped on this golden opportunity and got the boys in the band to crank out Metal Health, the debut album that contained the hits, “Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).” I caught them at the now-defunct Old Waldorf in San Fran back in ‘83, and I remember it being a good time. Aside from the Metal Day at the first US Festival, I haven’t seen the band since.
Twenty years later, I grabbed the chance to catch them at LaSalles. Interestingly enough, I haven’t stepped into the bar in about four years, since a couple of knuckleheads from another popular hotspot bought the place and damn near drove it into the ground. New management stepped in and brought it back around, which is fortunate in that LaSalles is hands down the best venue to catch a band downtown. If bands sound bad there, it’s their own damned fault.
So how did Quiet Riot sound? Twenty years later, pretty much the same as when I saw them at the Old Waldorf. Unfortunately, the band made a bad choice in the house music, giving the crowd a taste of classic metal from the likes of Van Halen and Judas Priest as a warm-up before they hit the stage. I’m sorry, but there’s never gonna be a point where Quiet Riot is gonna cut a track that remotely nears the same realm as Van Halen’s “Unchained.” How could they hope to measure up to that? The crowd was game, though (despite the fact the band made them wait until 11:30 before deigning to come out), giving “original” members Kevin DuBrow, Rudy Sarzo, Carlos Cavazo and Frankie Banali the rock god welcome as they strode on stage to the theme from Peter Gunn.
“Sooooooo,” lead singer DuBrow (sporting an absurdly thick mane of hair, absurd in that 20 years ago what was left on his balding dome was pretty stringy) crooned to the audience. “Chico’s a college town, izzit? What are its courses? Drinking 101?”
Oh, please Kevin, where did you’d get that one, Headbanger Banter for Dummies?
From there, the band kicked off with newer stuff like “Rock the House” (which sounds like it could have been on their first album) to “classics” like “Slick Back Cadillac” and their tribute to Rhoads, “Fly Firebird Fly” (an utterly perverse anthem, if you consider the title—Rhoads was killed while aboard a private plane playing a game of chicken with Ozzy’s tour bus; the plane didn’t quite clear the bus). Only two lighters were hoisted at this point, perhaps in the name of irony.
Halfway through the set, an unhealthy proportion of the crowd decided that they had better things to do than wait around until the band capped off the evening with “Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Metal Health.” Which is to be expected, as Quiet Riot was always minor-league metal at best. At worst the group can be credited as a harbinger of the LA wave of glam posturing from bands like Ratt and Poison that pretty much diffused any music cred built by the likes of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Priest, Iron Maiden and the like) in the early ‘80s.
But then, what would you expect from a band whose only claim to fame was three hits (two of them covers of an obscure Brit band called Slade), who essentially built their ladder to limited fame with the bones of a former band mate?