Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Virtuoso bassist Marco Mendoza is back in the UK for the first time in many a passionate moon. Our nearest neighbour, in the solar system, has waxed and waned multiple times since his last trip across from his Californian base but the enthusiasm of this humblest of rock starts remains steadfast.
As does, indeed, the passion of his fans.
Here this evening, in the depths of the South Wales valleys, we are treated to an intimate show that whilst encapsulating the rock n’ roll ethos is as close to free-form jazz or blues that one is ever likely to be fortunate to bear witness to. It’s a skillful, soulful alloying that precious few can surely achieve and master with the depth of expression that Mendoza is blessed with.
It’s a set of delectable juxtaposition. One moment proceedings flow and meander gracefully with the magnitude of regal rivers such as the Nile and Mississippi; producing rich, fecund deposits that deliver plenteous harvests of reve rberating rhythms along with enticingly palatable six-string licks that peer into the core of one’s soul. The very next it’s tumbling and descending rapidly with the new-born energy of an Alpine stream hurtling over a precipitous margin before plummeting to the valley beneath.
It’s clear Mendoza is adept upon stages of any size. Having a career clocking in at over three decades he has graced the largest of venues treading the boards in the ranks of Journey, Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders and Whitesnake to name but a few.
However, from this evening’s performance. It seems a spiritual flame burns brightly for these close-quarter environs. It is in such venues he can cohesively captivate one and all on an individual basis yet simultaneously play to a unified audience.
Mendoza is, as ever, keen to promote emerging talent and opening for him on the UK leg of his European tour are much-lauded Scottish sleazy glam-infused rockers Bad Actress.
They bring more than a degree of sparkle, eye-liner and leopard-skin print to the party and then proceed to stoke the fire right up until flames are roaring out the chimney! It’s their very first visit to Wales and they’re loud and unabashed from the very off. There’s more than a daubing of LA glam herein but there’s a novel Gaelic twist; it immediately garners The Patriot faithful’s attention.
With a loud drum roll from sticksman Lui and a roar of guitar from Tommy B and bassist Alexi so vocalist Vinnie Vex and lead axeman Chick are summoned stagewards.
The hi-octane energetic ‘Poison Snake’, lifted off their recent EP ‘Red Hot’, sends a rock n’ roll tsunami down the valley towards the Welsh coast with a delectable hint of cowbell surfing the waves. Rolling headlong into the 2020 single release ‘High Speed Heartbreak’ it’s suddenly the mid 80s and I’m recollecting my misspent teenage years! Think ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ melded with ‘Too Fast For Love’ and you’re approaching the correct ballpark.
They’re grinning from ear to ear and deservedly so. Vinnie exclaims “This is our Welsh debut and fuck me what a place! We love it!” Injected with a Blue Oyster Cult level of cowbell – levels that would have the Saturday Night Live crew in uproarious form – punchy rocker ‘Outta My Head’ is introduced as a “Song about getting absolutely fucked up on Red Bull!”
Claws out feral rocking ‘Red Hot’ does exactly what it says on the tin; rock n’ roll dialed up to 11 in true Spinal Tap fashion. Vinnie encourages the crowd to take a step forward “The leopard-skin isn’t contagious” he quips. There’s plenty of confidence engaging with the crowd and approvingly dedicating ‘She’s Got Fire’ – a rasping glam-metal number – to Sarah; a brightly attired lady he’s spotted down the front.
Rattling through the set this fine outfit pay respect to one of their clear influences with a dazzling rendition of Poison’s first ever charting single ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ – hitting number 9 in the US Billboard Hot 100 back in ’87. The band are more than happy to dive into the Patriot crowd and bring the party to the masses with rough n’ ready rocking n’ rolling with ‘Mama Ain’t Talkin’ and ‘Acting Like An Animal’ lifting the rafters. Off the latest EP ‘Hellbound’ brings proceedings to a befitting frenetic finale.
It’s clearly apparent Bad Actress have enjoyed their first Welsh gig!
Vinnie commenting towards the end of the set “Holy fuck Crumlin we didn’t expect this response!” They are keen to return for more; a wish granted with a forthcoming support slot with The Electric Boys at Hangar 18, Swansea on 25th August.
With the crowd suitably warmed up Mendoza takes to the stage with his drummer Kyle Hughes (Bumblefoot) and slick six-stringer Tommy Gentry (GUN) showcasing his arrival. It’s the same pair of musicians that he toured with back in 2019.
A swift “Alright? How you doing? Thanks for coming out tonight” and Mendoza et al are right into their stride with the blues-edged intricate rocker ‘Viva La Rock’. Killer guitar and a thundering beat is certainly how to introduce yourself! There’s a nod to prime time Steven Tyler in Mendoza’s wideranging vocals whilst Tommy lays down a blistering solo from the top end of his fret whilst all the while a funky bassline wanders in and around like a free-climbing clematis.
The contagious funky rock continues, apace, with a tasty tribute to Ted Nugent in the form of ‘Hey Baby’. There’s a bluesy nucleus with a finger-clicking soul that seamlessly disembogues into Duke Ellington’s jazz legend ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’.
During a brief pause to tune his bass Marco comments upon the temperature differentials inside and out that are playing havoc with his tuning.
Though on the cusp of sizzling within it’s definitely ‘Baltic’ with a chill wind whipping up through the valley this evening. With a hard trucking intro Neil Schon’s (Journey, Bad English, Santana and Hardline) ‘Hole In My Pocket’ delivers a blues-drenched feel of Cream alloyed perfectly with early Zeppelin. Sweeping into a highly apt ‘Give Peace A Chance’ Marco steps forward to the barrier to continue singing, minus mic, a hair’s breadth from his adoring audience.
The chopping riffs of the growling ‘Rocketman’ follow before Marco’s howl at the moon vocals bring in so-solid rocker ‘Look Out For The Boys’. Entranced, hellbound we meander down the freeway colliding into the V12 ZZ Top-riffing dragster that is ‘Sue Is On The Run’.
Tantalisingly Marco announces a brand-new single landing mid-April before heading back to 2007 for ‘Your Touch’ is given a deltalands AC/DC working. Midsong atop a soulful segment we’re encouraged by Marco to “Sing whatever comes to you.” It’s that sort of a free-flowing experience.
Marco’s full-on driven bass alongside Tommy’s exquisite fret-work and precision percussion from Kyle produces a heavied up airing of Stevie Wonder’s subliminal ‘Higher Ground’; there’s a funkiness on par with what Red Hot Chilli Peppers achieved in their charting release of this classic. The track envelops a brace of Thin Lizzy numbers – ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Jailbreak’ – that are consumed whole.
The joyfully expansive sounds of ‘Sweetest Emotions’ provide a rousing encore to bring the metaphorical house down around us. It’s been an emotive experience, one that will live long, that has taken us on a journey through the nomadic wildlands of Marco’s musical loves.
This has been no regular gig; this has been a peregrination from mountain peak to the point where the river delivers to the ocean. It has been proffered from the soul and heart of this truly humblest of individuals and his talented compatriots.
Kyle, Marco and Tommy we salute you! Viva La Rock!
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM