Normally a night at The Knitting Factory is a working event for me. Mind you it’s a job I love, but it’s work none-the-less. That being said, Friday’s night’s Hell’s Belles show would have been the equivalent of the company party—an out of control, panties-left-in-the-copier, someone’s-gonna-get-fired-on-Monday, party. For me it was a night to introduce a good friend to a band she had never experienced, and to see them from a fresh perspective through new eyes. In that regard, the night could not have gone much better. The crowd at the Knit packed the place from wall to wall, and the band’s delivered the goods.
First off, my apologies to our friends in Break Surface. A pre-show engagement caused me to miss their set, though I heard wonderful things from those in attendance.
Defenders of the Faith, performing their last local show until this summer…if they can keep themselves away from the stage that long…delivered a scorching set of classic Judas Priest. As promised, they also dialed up a quick tribute to Iron Maiden in the form of “The Trooper.” The band opened with “The Hellion/Electric Eye” and closed with “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” In between were anthems such as “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Hot Rockin’” and “Freewheel Burning,” alongside deeper cuts like “Night Crawler,” “Exciter,” and “Desert Plains.” The show marked likely the only time we’ll see the band perform with Mortal Ashes drummer Brandon Hedin behind the kit. Bassist Robert Walther had his inner Ian Hill dialed in, while the guitar tandem of Josh Taube and Doug O’Neill were equally rocked and loaded. As always, frontman Gerrad Anthony led the charge and amp’d up the packed crowd.
Hell’s Belles, the reason for the evening, came next. I have never seen them put on a poor performance, or even a weak one for that matter. They always hit the stage with a fury of infectious energy, with guitarist Adrian “Angus” Conner leading the way. This was a first chance to experience the band with Judy Cocuzza behind the drum kit, and she anchored the band with casual Phil Rudd confidence. Cocuzza’s battery mate, bassist Mandy Reed, rumbled along right in step. Lisa Brisbois delivered flawlessly as Malcom Young, and Amber Saxon (bugGiRL) continues to grow and shine in the role of Brian Johnson/Bon Scott. Her vocal inflections and embellishments truly hit the mark. As is always the case with Hell’s Belles, Adrian Conner becomes the focal point of the show, with her non-stop adrenaline and Angus Young antics; rolling around on the floor, wailing away on her Gibson SG, and goose-stepping across the stage. She becomes the embodiment of AC/DC and Angus Young, and perhaps everything we love about rock and roll. Even her sisters in the band cannot help but grin as Conner bounds about like a crazed monkey with a six-string straight-razor; her fingers igniting the fretboard. And of course, there are the tunes; classic AC/DC from all eras, faithfully performed. The band opened with “Shoot to Thrill,” and closed with “For Those About to Rock” with a runaway train of riff and roll ear candy in the middle. During “Sin City,” Conner, as she always does, gave the crowd a little salacious fun, stripping off her tie and shirt, and performing the rest of the set in her little red bra. Stand out tracks included, “Let There Be Rock,” “Hell’s Bells,” “If You Want Blood,” “Jailbreak,” “Dirty Deeds,” “Highway to Hell,” “Back in Black,” “Have a Drink on Me,” “TNT,” and “Thunderstruck.” Saxon worked the crowd like a master, and Conner kept them mesmerized. For me it was simply another excellent performance from a band that has never failed to impress me. For my friend who experienced it all for the first time, she was near speechless, and kept repeating, “These guys are awesome.” Simple, but accurate.
While outside the walls of The Knit the night turned ice cold, inside the heat never relented; and fans and bands alike kept the fire stoked. As always, The Knit staff did a wonderful job, and was never less than gracious. Thanks to one and all for another memorable event.
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