All-Star Ensemble Pays Glorious Tribute To ‘The Ox’ & ‘The Loon’

Review by Andrew Bansal
[Photos by Carsten Steinhausen] 

April 24th 2014, House Of Blues Sunset Strip, West Hollywood CA: In recent years, the team of Brian Tichy and Joe Sutton have developed a great tradition of organizing all-star events to pay tribute to rock legends like John Henry Bonham and Randy Rhoads, and continuing on in the series of such events, they put together a tribute to John Entwisle and Keith Moon of The Who, affectionately known as ‘The Ox’ and ‘The Loon’ respectively. It took place at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip last night, and promised attendees a show featuring a truly star-studded lineup of tremendous musicians.

As we neared the 8:30 PM start of what would turn out to be a tribute show of epic proportions, I scanned the House Of Blues and walked around to see if I could find any familiar faces. Except for one or two, I couldn’t, and considering that I usually run into a lot of people at shows, this just proved the disparity between the rock and metal audiences and the partisan nature of the LA music scene, wherein a metalhead wouldn’t listen to a band like The Who and a fan of The Who wouldn’t listen to metal. To be honest, I wasn’t really much familiar with The Who’s music before going into this show, but as a journalist and music lover I took it on as an exploratory adventure, and my goodness, I’m glad I did so.

In keeping with the aim of saluting one of the most legendary and influential rhythm sections to ever exist in the world of rock ‘n roll, the show laid greater focus on bass and drums as those instruments were played by the more high-profile guest musicians, but the vocalists, guitarists and keyboardist that took part in the gig also performed their roles just as brilliantly and on the whole the event was a musical exhibition in every sense of the term.

Early on in the show, veteran bassist Phil Chen ignited plenty of sparks with his delightfully over-the-top slap bass antics while Brian Tichy himself was the first to sit behind the drumkit. With Joe Retta (Heaven & Earth/Sweet) on vocals and some of the regulars in Brian Tichy’s ‘Moby Dicks’ Zeppelin tribute band on the other instruments, proceedings began in earnest with the songs ‘Can’t Explain’ and ‘Join Together’. From then on, a long series of musicians came on to play a couple of songs each to put forth an overwhelmingly amazing amount of great music for this audience, as Joe Sutton and Brian Tichy served as the hosts on stage and introduced each one of them. Nearly everyone that took part did a fantastic job, and there were so many great moments that it’s extremely hard to pick out a few highlights but I’m going to give it a try.

Dave Lombardo and Pancho Tomaselli, the rhythm section of LA-based rock power trio Philm blew away the audience with their performance on ‘Bargain’ and ‘Summer Time Blues’, and they were very much bringing the Philm style of musicianship into their renditions of these The Who classics which was interesting to observe if you listened to and looked at them closely enough. Almost all drummers and bassists got to deliver short one-minute speeches after they were done playing, and it was extremely refreshing to see Lombardo’s honesty when he admitted that he isn’t hugely familiar with The Who but did a lot of research for this gig when asked to participate. The straight-up, no-bullshit, honest and hard-working attitude of the man was clear to be seen, and it is what perhaps enables him to be such a versatile musician, unlike most of his peers in the thrash metal genre which he ruled as a drummer for so long.

Amongst the drummers that played, I already expected great things from many of them but there were some whose talents I wasn’t all that familiar with to be honest and their exploits came off as a pleasant surprise to me, turning me into a new fans of theirs. I would list Rikki Rockett, Veronica Bellino and Stephen Perkins in this category, while on bass Sean McNabb, Jeff Pilson and Phil Soussan were new discoveries for me and the respective performances of these musicians were just about as impressive as any of those whom I was already familiar with.

On the guitar front, Tracii Guns wowed the House Of Blues with an immaculate guitar tone early on in the songs ‘Squeeze Box’ and ‘Kids Are Alright’ and towards the end of the four-hour show on the beautiful ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. Along with him, the regulars Brent Woods, Rowan Robertson and Tichy himself carried out guitar duties for the most part, except for a three-song segment where an overly hyped and not-so-special guest played guitar. But more on him a little later.

Vocally, Oni Logan was hands down the standout performer as he showcased his skills when fronting ‘See Me, Feel Me’ and ‘Listening To You’, and one wishes he could have participated for a lot longer. Bassist Michael Devin also did a few songs solely as vocalist, and actually, his singing on ‘Young Man Blues’ with Chad Smith on drums and Tichy on guitar was one of the highlights of the entire show. ‘Who Are You’ sung by Tom Gimbel was another amazing moment, which also involved Devin on bass. The 63-year old Dug Pinnick continues to defy his age, was was evident from his vocal delivery on ‘The Real Me’ which was also undoubtedly a memorable part of the show as he was also joined by Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo for this one. And as usual, Chas West delivered the goods on vocals as well, owning the stage with his gigantic personality.

But without a doubt, the best part of the show was the segment that featured Mike Portnoy on drums and Billy Sheehan on bass, as they played ‘Tommy Overture’, ‘Amazing Journey’ and ‘Sparks’. Before taking his position behind the kit, Portnoy, fully dressed in white, spoke about Keith Moon being his number one drum hero, and his insanely amazing drumming on these two songs clearly showed that it meant more to him to be doing this than anyone else who took this stage last night. Watching and listening to him give his 100 per cent and more into it gave me actual goosebumps, and that’s saying a lot as I wasn’t even familiar with the songs. Besides, his combination with Billy Sheehan which was given us two great bands PSMS and The Winery Dogs clearly looks and sounds like the perfect marriage, a match made in heaven, and I hope they continue playing together till they retire.

Aside from all the great music, there were two ‘legend’ bassist and drummer award presentations made as well, aptly named after John Entwistle and Keith Moon. The bass legend award went to none other than Lemmy Kilmister, who came up on stage to accept the award as I almost lost my voice cheering him all the way through. The multi-faceted and hugely prolific Kenny Aronoff, who also participated on quite a few songs in this show, rightly won the drum legend award. Other award shows like the one I witnessed the night before should take a cue from Tichy/Sutton productions on how to give out legit awards.

But as enjoyable as the night truly was, there were a couple of negatives I must point out as a reviewer. Firstly, let’s revisit the not-so-great guest musician I mentioned earlier, and you guessed it, it was Ace Frehley. His was pretty much the only bad performance amongst the 30-odd musicians that took the stage, and by putting forth a typically sloppy, spineless and heartless display on guitar and vocals, he did not disappoint any of his critics whatsoever, specially butchering ‘The Seeker’ with absolutely no command on the lyrics and not even being able to read them properly off a paper in front of him. If not for the tremendous efforts of Matt Starr on drums/vocals and Chris Wyse on bass who had the enviable/unenviable task of jamming with him, Frehley would have embarrassed himself furthermore. Even as a lovely German female friend of mine was buying me beers and whisky shots during this time, my buzz was being neutralized by what I was seeing on stage. Secondly, I’ve never been a fan of musicians/hosts reading speeches written on a piece of paper. This is not the senate, it’s rock ‘n roll, and I’d have appreciated some of the speeches more if they came spontaneously and straight from the heart.

To bring the event to a fitting conclusion, all musicians, the ones still in the building, took the stage together and jammed on ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ for well over 20 minutes as each drummer got on the kit to play a solo, and following them, each bassist did the same. Brian Tichy then regained his position on the kit and ended things with the drum kit in tatters. Snares, toms and kick drums were flying all over the stage, and although it was a safety hazard for the hard-working photographers in the photo pit, it made for a great sight.

All in all, this show was in every sense an extravaganza for The Who fans in the audience, but for people like myself who’re not familiar with The Who, it was a great eye-opener. It’s shows like this that turn me on to such great music that was well before my time, and I’d urge each and every one of you readers to not only check out The Who’s amazing discography but to also keep an eye on future events put on by Brian Tichy, Joe Sutton and the gang.

Check out a comprehensive photo gallery of 146 amazing photos from the show below (view it here if you’re on a non-Flash device):

Set List:

01. Can’t Explain – Brian Tichy (drums), Phil Chen (bass), Joe Retta (vocals), Rowan Robertson (guitar), Brent Woods (guitar), Stephen LeBlanc (keyboard), James Lomenzo (backing vocals)

02. Join Together – Tichy (d), Chen (b), Retta (v), Robertson (g), Woods (g) , LeBlanc (k), Lomenzo (bv)

03. Squeeze Box – Rikki Rockett (d), Sean McNabb (b), Tom Gimbel (v), Tracii Guns (g), LeBlanc (k)

04. Kids Are Alright – Rockett (d), McNabb (b), Gimbel (v), Guns (g)

05. Goin’ Mobile – Dave Lombardo (d), Dug Pinnick (b), Michael Devin (v), Woods (g), Robertson (g), Tichy (g)

06. Bargain – Lombardo (d), Pancho Tomaselli (b), Retta (v), Woods (g)

07. Summer Time Blues – Lombardo (d), Tomaselli (b), Retta (v), Woods (g)

08. See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You – Veronica Bellino (d), Lomenzo (b), Oni Logan (v), Tichy (g), Woods (g), LeBlanc (k)

09. Punk And The Godfather – Bellino (d), Lomenzo (b), Chas West (v), Woods (g), Tichy (g), LeBlanc (k)

10. My Generation – Stephen Perkins (d), Jeff Pilson (b), Tom Gimbel (v), Robertson (g), LeBlanc (k)

11. Pinball Wizard – Kenny Aronoff (d), Pilson (b), Gimbel (v), Robertson (g), Tichy (g), Woods (g)

12. Boris The Spider – Aronoff (d), Phil Soussan (b), Gimbel (v), Robertson (g)

13. I Can See For Miles – Aronoff (d), Soussan (b), Gimbel (v), Tichy (g), Woods (g), LeBlanc (k), Lomenzo (bv)

14. Who Are You – Aronoff (d), Devin (b), Gimbel (v), Woods (g), LeBlanc (k), West (bv), Lomenzo (bv)

15. Tommy Overture – Mike Portnoy (d), Billy Sheehan (b), West (v), Robertson (g), LeBlanc (k)

16. Amazing Journey / Sparks – Portnoy (d), Sheehan (b), West (v), Robertson (g), LeBlanc (k)

17. The Real Me – Perkins (d), Robert Trujillo (b), Pinnick (v), Jody Porter (g), LeBlanc (k)

18. Long Live Rock – Perkins (d), Trujillo (b), Pinnick (v), Porter (g), LeBlanc (k), Lomenzo (bv), Tichy (bv)

19. Young Man Blues – Chad Smith (d), Lomenzo (b), Devin (v), Tichy (g)

20. Baba O’Riley – Smith (d), Lomenzo (b), Devin (v) Tichy (g), LeBlanc (k)

21. Substitute – Matt Starr (d), Chris Wyse (b), Ace Frehley (g/v)

22. Pictures Of Lily – Starr (d), Wyse (b), Frehley (g/v)

23. The Seeker – Starr (d), Wyse (b), Frehley (g/v)

24. Love Reign O’er Me – Tichy (d), Devin (b), West (v), Guns (g), Woods (g), LeBlanc (k)

25. Won’t Get Fooled Again / Grand Finale – Everyone

The Ox & The Loon links: 

House Of Blues Sunset Strip links: