Every year like clockwork, the ladies of Hell’s Belles faithfully return to the Boise Knitting Factory to deliver up their own infectious tribute to the mighty AC/DC. Every year they serve up a spectacular, high-energy performance that is both fun and authentic. Friday night at The Knit, they went to work, er play, as they always do, in front of a madly enthusiastic Sold Out crowd, leaving those who came to rock thunderstruck in their wake. One might say that it cannot get any better than this, but it can, and it did…
Before the Bells shook our foundations, fans got a little Thin Lizzy love from our own Still Dangerous. This of course, is where I must out myself as the dirt bag I am, for my arrival at the show coincided with their walk from the stage. I’m sorry guys. However, in speaking with friends throughout the crowd, I’m told they gave an unerring and inspired performance of several Lizzy classics. These guys do not play too often, so they should not be missed when the opportunity arises. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I shall endeavor to correct my ill-timed misfortune. Fortuitously, the amazing Katarzyna Cepek was on hand to capture some of their magic!
I did get to see one member of Still Dangerous, guitarist Jeffrey Fultz, who served double duty with Hand of Doom. The Boise Black Sabbathian tribute project took the stage next. Frontman and leader, Gary Glaesemann held court with his trusty Gibson SG as he, Fultz, drummer Troy Wright, and bassist David Holtz, led the packed crowd through gospel of Sabbath’s classic 1970 opus Paranoid. They opened the set with the iconic classics, “War Pigs,” and “Paranoid” before delving into the spaced out semblance of “Planet Caravan”. “Iron Man” came next, followed by the song from which they took their name, “Hand of Doom”. They played the album in its entirety, including “Rat Salad,” “Electric Funeral,” and the closer, “Fairies Wear Boots.” Hand of Doom delivered a precision performance, as they always do. The addition of Fultz has only added depth to the already impeccable fret mastery of Glaesemann.
The capacity crowd were fully stoked and ready when Hell’s Belles finally took the stage. While they hail from Seattle and Austin, Boise has always seemed like something of a second home for the Belles, and the interaction with the crowd crackles with this symbiotic energy. As always, guitarist Adrian “Angus” Conner came out immediately, giving the horns to the fans and setting the tone for the night. She was joined by the girls that got rhythm; bassist Mandy Reed, drummer Judy Cocuzza, and guitarist Lisa Brisbois. Powerhouse vocalist Amber Saxon brought them all together as they opened with “Highway to Hell” and “If You Want Blood.” From there, the ladies took us an a fret-fueled, high energy rock and roll roller coaster, picking classic AC/DC gems from the band’s mammoth catalog of iconic songs; including fan favorites like “Thunderstruck,” “Back in Black,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Hell’s Bells,” “Dirty Deeds,” and “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.”
I’ve always been astounded by the group’s tight performances and the endless amount of fun they have onstage, and guitarist Adrian Conner is the catalyst of it all. From the first riff to the last note, she bounds about the stage like an electrocuted Energizer Bunny, and through it all her fingers faithfully strike every chord with unbridled enthusiasm and ardent execution. She is one of the most underrated guitarists I know. Like a vortex, Conner pulls in the entire crowd, and Saxon ups the ante with her own contagious and joyful conviction. The girls of rhythm, Brisbois, Reed, and Cocuzza, faithfully anchor the maelstrom of infectious mayhem in front of them.
During “TNT”, Conner lowered herself into the photo pit and allowed a fan to play with her guitar, and during “Bad Girl Boogie” she stripped down to her bra as she does at most performances. Cocuzza delivered a nice drum solo in the mix, and Saxon kept the momentum going between the band and the crowd. After closing the set with “For Those About to Rock,” Conner returned for her own solo moment before the band sang of their “Big Balls.” They finished their encores with an electrifying performance of “Let There be Rock.”
I have said it before, and it won’t be the last time, I would much rather spend my time and money watching Hell’s Belles deliver these seminal songs in a sweaty, smokey, intimate club, than from the band who crafted them on some massive arena stage. There is just something amazingly organic and addictive to the quality of Hell’s Belles performances. And I say that with all due respect to the masters themselves, for without AC/DC, this would all be a moot point. Can’t wait until they return again.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also take a moment to recognize Gary Pike and the entirety of the amazing Knitting Factory staff, because the environment in which we experience the music has such an impact on the performances and the tone of the night. The newly remodeled Knit looks amazing. The sound is better than ever. Steve Taylor was masterful behind the controls. Moreover, the helpful and friendly attitude of the staff, service, and security, just made you feel welcome. So for those who help us rock, we salute you!