It's always a pleasant surprise when you see a tribute band that makes you fall in love again with the legendary band that they're covering. Having always been an AC/DC fan, that spark was once again ignited after seeing an incredible tribute band who respectfully honoured the Aussie band. Some may say it's all about the music, but admit it, the main attraction at any AC/DC show is watching Angus running around in a schoolboy outfit. If there was any doubt whether or not these guys could pull it off or not, it became evident by the end of the first song that they could. A last minute decision to go out ended up being an enjoyable not one, but two nights in a row seeing a great group of guys who know how to rock...AC/DC style.
It's my honour to introduce you to Friday & Saturday's lineup of 'Hell N Back':
James Alcock - Vocals
Kyle Cyr - Lead Guitar
Jeff Collins - Rhythm Guitar
Garry Lennox - Drums
Tony Cappello - Bass
Calling the Greater Toronto area home, 'Hell N Back' have taken on the huge task of reproducing both eras of AC/DC. The boys rolled into Toronto's Seven44 club Friday night and SpotOne in Brampton on Saturday night.
Both nights, the haunting and hypnotic intro to 1975's 'Livewire' kicked off the show. Guitarist Kyle Cyr, in full schoolboy attire began to command not only the stage, but the dance floor. With ballcap pulled down low covering his eyes, he mirrored the signature Angus Young moves, all while continuing to play the leads with ease. It was an impressive site to watch him move around the floor. Assuming the role of both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson is no easy task. To have the ability to switch from the gravel, raunchy vocals of Bon to the high pitch scream-like vocals of Brian, would be daunting to most, but to James Alcock it seems to come almost effortlessly. He accepts the challenge and delivered successful performances of the late Bon Scott, as well as honouring Brian Johnson, all while showing no signs of stage jitters.
When it was necessary, James would change his voice and stage presence to recreate that signature Bon Scott stance and sound. Then, like a flick of the switch, he could take on the powerful and demanding vocals of Brian Johnson with ease. It was remarkable watching him switch from one to the other when the song required it. All of the guys performed well, but with the capability to have fun and skill to draw the audience in and keep them there till the song ended.
Both nights, the setlist ranged from the top hits to some that maybe only true AC/DC fans would know and appreciate. I respected the guys greatly for including those hidden gems. It was nice to hear such underrated tracks like 'Dog Eat Dog', 'Problem Child', 'Rock and Roll Damnation' intermingled with the hits that we all love and expected to hear from any tribute band, such as 'Highway to Hell', 'You Shook Me All Night Long', 'Back in Black' etc.
Kyle did a fantastic job embracing the Angus Young character. He appeared confident and comfortable in such an attention grabbing role. It was fascinating to watch him play as he would wander around the bar between people. He really shines in this role and is a young, but great talent on guitar.
Equally commanding in their roles and completing the 'Hell N Back' lineup were, Jeff Collins (guitar), Tony Cappello (bass) and Garry Lennox (drums).
Providing backing vocals, Jeff and Tony, equally strong in their guitar and bass playing respectively, contributed to the success of the band being able to pull off the AC/DC material. It was entertaining watching them, as they seemed to have fun both interacting with each other as well as the audience.
With any band, tribute or not, the key to success is having a strong beat keeper. 'Hell N Back' are fortunate to have the incredible drumming styles of Garry Lennox to finish off the lineup. A no frills drummer, fully capable of providing a great backbone to the band.
It's one thing to get up on stage and play the music of AC/DC well, but what 'Hell N Back' does to take this tribute act to a whole new level, is the incorporation of the visuals.
Case in point, during 'Bad Boy Boogie', mid-way through the song, Kyle put down the SG and began working the stage and floor, performing a strip tease that would have made Angus proud. For those familiar with AC/DC's 1980 VHS release of 'Let There Be Rock', (that documented their 1979 Paris concert), they did an amazing interpretation of that song. In fact, all of the songs contained little gestures that took me back to seeing that movie for the first time, as well as the occasions that I have seen AC/DC live in concert over the years. I was really impressed with 'Hell N Back', individually as well as collectively. They played with such passion and intensity at times, that it gave all of us in attendance two incredible back to back nights of great music. These guys know their stuff, both the music as well as what is required to produce a successful show.
'Hell's Bells' began with the prerecorded sounds of the familiar ringing bell. It was a nice touch and the crowd appreciated it by the cheers and excitement that could be felt in the venues. With minimal but effective crowd interaction during songs, James proved he was comfortable in the lead role. It was engaging to watch him, Garry, Jeff, Tony and Kyle perform these songs and put on a couple of fantastic shows. They gave me the impression that they enjoyed being on stage and interacting with the people who came out to see them.
The high energy that emitted from the entire band was contagious in the sense that at times it was hard not to smile and sing along with them. Egos and attitudes aside, they appeared to be having as much fun as the audience. A group of hard working musicians who succeeded in giving the audience at both venues a great night of straight up rock and roll.
'Hell N Back' successfully took all of us at both shows on a journey on the AC/DC rock and roll train. It was a great ride that left us wanting more even after three sets of music winded up the night.
Off stage, they were all very welcoming and approachable. The guys have a great sense of humour and charming personalities that made it very comfortable and enjoyable to chat with them after the shows. Five down to earth guys who enjoy playing the music from a legendary band that just makes you feel good and enjoy yourself.
Both shows were exciting and entertaining, they held the audience captive until the closing number each night, which of course was the iconic 'For Those About To Rock'. The music was good, the music was loud and everyone enjoyed themselves.
Many thanks to the guys in 'Hell N Back': James, Jeff, Kyle, Garry and Tony for two nights of amazing music and fun times. It was a blast and an honour to meet you all. Thanks to Garry and Kyle for the drumstick and guitar picks.
Special thanks to all of you for the poster and signatures.
To find out more about 'Hell N Back' and when they're playing next 'Like' them on Facebook:
Official 'Hell N Back' Facebook Page
Photo Galleries from both shows:
'Hell N Back' Flickr Collections
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