Written by Eric Sperrazza
It was the summer of 1991 and while on, what felt like, an eternal car ride for a family vacation in New Hampshire, I discovered the band, Slaughter.
While in the backseat with my sister and cousin for hours, I was armed with nothing more than a mere Sony Walkman and a new cassette of the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey Motion Picture Soundtrack. I was a big enough superfan of the Bill & Ted franchise that literally anything could have been on that album and I would’ve given it a shot so long as Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves were presenting it. But, that LP had some memorable tracks by Megadeth, Faith No More, and KISS.
For me, the breakout was the very first song on the first side of the cassette, “Shout It Out,” by Slaughter. A fun party tune with slick riffs, it felt like the polar opposite of their prior year’s hit single, a “Couples-Only Skate” classic by the name of “Fly to the Angels.” From that point forward, I was on the hunt for more Slaughter in my music collection.
Fast forward to the present. Spam emails are omnipresent in a half dozen different devices of mine with ads for shows and Groupons just begging to be opened. I almost never bite the forbidden but on one particular day an ad caught my eye – “Slaughter and Great White at Rivers Casino!” So, I opened it only to be thrust backward in time, singing the Great White hit, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” in my head. Maybe it was the mixtape-making, hair band-loving kid inside of me, but I was intrigued with the prospect of seeing if these bands could still move me and a live audience.
The night of the show, I got to Rivers Casino early in order to give myself time for any Covid precautions and procedures. Sure enough, there was a mask mandate but Security was kind enough to have extras at the ready for folks ill-prepared. I brought my teenage son along with me to weigh his take on the music and, with a powerful stroke of serendipity, the two of us were able to set up and settle in, right in front of the stage (An experience that the Junior High School version of me would have died for!).
Slaughter was first to perform and Mark Slaughter wasted no time showcasing that his famous high octave voice still had gas in the proverbial tank. The band ripped into two hits from the Stick It To Ya album, “Mad About You” and “Spend My Life.”
But, if there were still non-believers in the house, the band began to cover Led Zeppelin’s legendary “Immigrant Song.” In that, Mark Slaughter hit every note, beat for beat, and the room was left aghast. In between tremendous amounts of fan interaction, with adults and children alike, the band performed their seminal ballad, “Fly to the Angels.” The show closed with a fitting tribute to Van Halen, as the curtain fell with their take on “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.”
With Mark‘s feats of vocal strength, the fan service, and the infinite amount of picks tossed to the crowd, Slaughter was a tough act to follow; but, Great White was up for the challenge!
The longtime lead guitarist, Mark Kendall, revealed himself from behind the curtain and began a slow build-up solo that was like climbing the incline of a rollercoaster ride. At the precipice and without notice, the new frontman, Mitch Malloy, exploded on stage with the look of Robert Plant and the energy of David Lee Roth. Most importantly, the singing chops of a young and powerful hard rock singer. The band tore right into “Can’t Shake It” and “Lady Red Light.” I’m fairly confident Malloy did not stop moving for a second as he commanded every square inch of that stage to envelope everyone in attendance and welcome them to the party.
Great White continued on with hits like “Save Your Love” and “Rock Me,” but the climax of the night was the band performing “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” as the finale. On the micro, it was the same type of crowd pop you can expect when Kiss encores with “Rock And Roll All Nite.”
Band member, Michael Larkie, (Of whom I interviewed in anticipation of the show) even spent a few moments talking with my son and me.
I can safely say that there were no seat-fillers in the audience that night. Everyone in attendance was a true fan and helped in lighting up the room with an energy that both bands gave back to the crowd in spades. It was also so nice to audibly be taken back to a simpler time in my life when batteries for my Sony Walkman were my biggest concern. It renewed a little hope to rewind time back to my childhood, if but for one night.
Moreover, the biggest takeaway of the night was seeing my son catching guitar picks and singing along to newly learned choruses while throwing his horns to the sky. I may have not ever been front row as a teen riding a wave of electricity through two different hard-hitting sets, but I gotta live it through him as he expanded his already eclectic pallet.
This was truly an experience worth the price of admission. They say that you can never go home but on a rainy Friday night in October, I was back to my childhood bedroom, headphones full blast.
Until next time, Be Excellent To Each Other.
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