Gig Report by Chris Martin (Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Rockin’ With Dokken: Seriously, What Else Am I Going To Call It?
Dokken are a band notorious for turmoil, in-fighting, and dysfunction. And this has seemingly been throughout their entire career. They’re also known for writing some of the best hard rock ever. They’re one of the few bands that despite a few hitches musically (Shadowlife still ranks as one of the worst albums I have ever listened to, which pains me to say,) have remained fairly consistent over the years. Sure, there has been a mellowing with age, as well as Don’s much documented vocal problems, but seriously how many guys that have been doing it as long as he has can still hit those notes? Exactly! However, unlike some of those guys, he doesn’t try to push himself beyond his limitations and can still sing his ass off. Sadly, despite a slight up-tick with the album Lightning Strikes Again that breathed new life into the band (and just to be frank their last album Broken Bones is just as awesome as it) they’ve kind of hinged on the fringes of a resurgence in popularity. The thing that seems to keep them back is the fact that there is no George Lynch. I freely admit that Lynch’s playing is certainly one of the things that have appealed to me over the years. The thing is is that current axe slinger Jon Levin is just as capable as Lynch, and in some respects I’d say he’s even better. I know that will create some controversy with some people, but I don’t care.
The only other time I have managed to see Dokken live was during the Erase the Slate tour when they were on the Poisonfest that year. Reb Beach of Winger was playing guitar at the time and he is definitely a worthy player for that spot. Dokken has been through this area a few times since then, but either due to them playing on my weekend to work, not having any money, or both I’ve had to miss them. This time was not to be the case. Originally my friends Annette, Jimmy, and Leigha were going to join us (as well as attend an old school rasslin’ fanfest earlier that same day,) but due to circumstances beyond the three’s control they weren’t able to join AJ and me. Blake and Roger weren’t necessarily interested to begin with, hence their MIA status this time. We ended up missing the fan fest thing as we didn’t sleep well the night before and opted to catch some extra zzz’s. Extra sleep taken care of we got ready and headed our way down the road with a side trip at Showmar’s for some supper.
Unlike the last couple of shows, AJ and I had plenty of time to make it to Manifest Records. This place is so awesome (though I think the Metal section has shrunk some, which was a little disappointing.) I could literally spend hours and plenty of money there, but I reckon my bank account is thankful that I don’t get to shop there much. They were having a BOGO 50% off sale on t-shirts so we made our way to that section first. For those who have not seen the fat bastard that I am, I typically require a 2XL shirt and often times get screwed out of finding proper attire. The first shirt that caught my eye was this KISS one of a live shot from the Eric Carr era while Ace was still in the band, but they only had XL. Then my eye spied a Hot Rats Frank Zappa shirt. Sadly, my closet is lacking a Zappa shirt and again they only had XL, but this one looked a little bigger than your typical XL. The shirts were hanging out of my reach, so I had one of the employee’s get their reaching stick to get it down. I was very pleased to see that the Zappa shirt would work fine. After some deliberation I decided to have the KISS shirt brought down to compare it. It was a little larger as well so I got them both. Didn’t get any music this time as what I wanted they didn’t have and nothing really jumped out at me…well except they had the You Can’t Do That On Stage box set from Frank Zappa, but since it was $149 I left it where it was, though had we lingered much longer I likely would’ve snatched it up. The only other purchase I made was a zombie fridge magnet.
Once we got to Amos’ we had a helluva time trying to find a place to park. I really wasn’t expecting there to be quite that many folks there. We finally settled on this pay lot, which I typically hate using, but we simply didn’t want to walk too far. By the time we got inside the first band, The Michael Tracy Band, were pretty close to finishing. We only got to see a couple songs from them. They were pretty decent- kind of high energy, almost classic rock style music. I’m not sure I’d go see them on their own based on the little I saw, but they did a good job. After their set was done we went to check out the Dokken merchandise. AJ is a big fan and since this was her first time seeing them I got her a shirt. We took it out to the car, hung outside for a little bit, then made our way back up front for the next band.
Hair Nation is a local 80’s hard rock cover band. I’m pretty sure I have seen them before. They really are pretty damn good. They played a good mixed bag of 80’s stuff ranging from Cinderella and Skid Row to Enuff Z’Nuff and LA Guns. I liked how, with a couple of exceptions, they did more obscure covers and lesser known bands. There are so many cover bands out there doing the standard tracks that it’s nice to see a band proving they loved more than just the hits. The musicians themselves were all pretty talented and clearly love the style they play. Hell, they did a better version of “Bathroom Wall” than Faster Pussycat did the one time I saw them years ago. Can’t really say a lot about these guys other than I thought they were the perfect lead in for a Dokken show and would imagine seeing them as a headliner would be a lot of fun.
As for Dokken, they are one of the few bands that I actually know almost all the lyrics for, barring a handful of recent stuff and obviously Shadowlife and most of Dysfunctional. I was pretty stoked about the show, though I kept my expectations low. The reason for that was based solely on the fact that I wasn’t sure how Don’s voice was holding up these days and seeing the most recent setlists it looked like it was going to be limited to all old stuff and be a short night. Any reservations I had melted away as soon as the band took the stage. Don is the only remaining member of the band. He’s compiled an outstanding group of guys with Jon Levin on guitar, Sean McNabb on bass, and Jimmy DeGrasso on drums. Last I heard Mick Brown was still with them, but I’m assuming he was on tour with Ted Nugent and opted out of Dokken. With all due respect to George, Jeff Pilson, and Mick, this line-up of Dokken are super tight and most importantly it appears that Don is having an excellent time. He was smiling so much this night. Yes, as I mentioned before, he’s not able to reach the heights he is known for, but his voice is still strong and soulful on the low end and when he needs to belt he does, but doesn’t try to surpass his limitations. I have no issues with his vocal abilities today, and anyone that does…well that’s just your problem I suppose.
As for my fears of a shortened show and a setlist limited to the hits, boy was I mistaken! Granted, so many of their songs are hits and classics that this wouldn’t be a problem, however I was wanting to hear stuff from the new albums as that material rocks just as much as the old stuff to me. They played a couple from Lightning Strikes Again and premiered “Empire” live from Broken Bones. And just as I anticipated the new stuff fit in perfectly with the classic songs. As for the older material, they brought it that night. Sticking primarily to their first four albums they played such hits as “Alone Again,” “Breaking the Chains,” “The Hunter,” as well as dusting off “Dream Warriors,” “Kiss of Death,” and my personal favorite “Tooth and Nail.” I was so hoping they would play that one as it would prove to me the Levin vs. Lynch debate. Anyone worth their salt in Dokken history knows that there is a part in the guitar solo at the end that Lynch does that is so badass and key to pulling off that song. I saw Lynch do it years ago with Lynch Mob and now I have seen Levin not only do it, but nailed that bitch like he owned it! They even did “Too High To Fly” from the Dysfunctional album and that was an excellent showcase for the musicians. The night ended with “In My Dreams” and “When Heaven Comes Down” which capped an excellent night.
Hoarse and covered in sweat we left Amos’ beyond satisfied. Dokken have still got it and can still put on an excellent show. I hope they continue coming through and next time I will make the extra effort to get out there and see them any time I can. Bands like Dokken are the reason I still love going to shows, and being the fan is exactly why I write these reviews. I will never do a write up from a journalist point of view because that’s bullshit if you ask me. If you’re not a fan and at the show for the love of it, then what’s the point of writing about it? None if you ask me. At any rate I just hope you folks love to read these as much as I love sharing them with you. Until next time my peep’s always remember: Desperate living- driving me mad; writings on the wall. Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had just to watch them fall.