Sunday, March 1, 2015

Frank Hannon's Guitar Extravaganza and The Return of Atomik Tommy McClendon - Gig Review - Folsom, CA

Frank Hannon Band/When We Become Kings
The Powerhouse Pub
Folsom, California
Feb 28, 2015

Tucked away behind a high end pizza joint on a row of retail shops for social climbers there was a whiskey fueled rock 'n' roll party going on last night in the normally sleepy town of Folsom, California. For the paltry fee of twelve dollars (7.77£) the stuffed to capacity crowd at the Powerhouse Pub witnessed a long night of guitar heroics explode from the axes of headliner Frank Hannon (Tesla) and Atomik Tommy McClendon (UFO, SoulMotor) of the opening band When We Become Kings, and not a soul went home disappointed.

When We Become Kings is a new band that features the immense talents of veteran guitarist Tommy McClendon, best known for his two album stay in UFO in the mid-to-late '80s. He's joined by vocalist/guitarist Matt Sudfeld, bassist SJ Rehn, and hard hitting drummer Michael "Fro" Frowein, and their set of all original material covered a lot of ground, ranging from anthemic power pop to a more modern alt-rock 90s sound, but the evening's best moments came when they would contort into a sleek, hard riffing rock machine over which McClendon laid down solo after solo of melodic brilliance. It will be interesting to see what this band sounds like in the studio. Their identity was a little unclear due to the genre shifting nature of what they laid down, but there were many excellent moments to be found in their set.

Atomik Tommy McClendon
Atomic Tommy McClendon is a source of constant controversy on UFO fan sites, as the band's hard core fans debate the relative worthiness of any lineup that doesn't include Michael Schenker, but in spite of the fact that the albums that featured the fleet fingered McClendon suffered from horrific production that rendered his guitar tone to much less than it should have, and could have been (UFO were not well regarded by the industry after ten years of horrendous mismanagement and drug related horror stories), the songs and the actual guitar playing were to my ears the best the band ever sounded without their mercurial German six stringer. I've often found myself going back to these albums, and wondering what could have come from a better set of circumstances - McClendon was one of the most interesting hard rock guitar players on the planet at that time, but through the twists of fate, he never got his proper due. The good side of the story is that he is playing better than ever, and the moments of brilliance to be found in his band's set were all his.

The Frank Hannon Band is a long running, and longtime favorite of Northern California audiences, who are the beneficiaries of Hannon's time off from his day job with classic rockers Tesla. He has an absolute crack band in drummer Kelly Smith, percussionist/vocalist Robbie Furiosi, and bassist Aaron Leigh, and they supply plenty of versatile fire power over which Hannon layers his fine voice, and his excellent guitar playing. The material was mostly covers, tunes from his various solo records and side projects, but this was mostly a complete and unabashed exhibition of Hannon's six string prowess, and a fine example of his ability to morph in and out of various genres and guises - his own material is a fiery blend of hard rock riffing and Hendrixian blues rock that have given birth to the tag, 'Heavy Metal Hippy'.

The setlist was wide ranging to say the least - there were homages to Santana (an incendiary take of 'Hope You're Feeling Better') to Johnny Cash, Santo and Johnny, a mind bogglingly accurate reproduction of Peter Frampton's 'Do You Feel Like I Do', and when sometimes co-guitarist Billy Raney took to the stage the band turned very close to classic metal with plenty of power chords and guitar harmonies. This was all about Frank Hannon taking the party out of the rehearsal room and into the streets, and he pulls it off with the aplomb worthy of a man who has marched on larger stages for many years. The night ended with an extended set of jams that saw McClendon return to the stage for some excellent jamming.

This is pretty much how it should be when a guitarist takes to the limelight. A fun night of rock marred only by a less than adequate sound man who couldn't seem to control a terrible tendency to send feedback screaming through Hannon's monitors, visibly irking the affable guitarist. You can't blame him a bit, and I'm seeing this more, and more in club gigs as venue managers seeks to go cheap and not hire a pro to run the sound. But, all in all, at the end of the day it as a great gig for a fair price, and the loving hometown crowd got to show their love for two of their favorite local heroes.        


Anonymous said...

Many of us friends/followers of Atomik Tommy have long held the opinion that he is w/o a doubt one of the elite guitar players. This band represents not only a strong musical statement, but also a "relevant" musical statement. So I'd be hesitant to slap an "identity" on them. The genre shifting IS the point. There are many age groups and genres they can easily adapt to. When We Become Kings are the real deal. So represent the Kingdom!!
-the Jester

Anonymous said...

Anything Frank is involved with is Top Shelf, Class & Cool. I am so sorry I missed it but it's out in the universe now making the heavens rock without a doubt!

Keith O'Gara said...

I went to the show and it kicked ass. Very good and accurate story. Although the feedback was out of control the sound was pretty good and loud. The drums and bass were thick with Franks band. This was one of the best bar gigs I have ever witnessed all the musicians were incredible I felt like I was inside the guitar hero game in the crowd. I will never forget that experience.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the great years Tony! FYI for the record, atomic Tommy was mixed by the powerhouse engineer, Frank Hannon was mixed by Tesla's engineer