Lee's Palace - Toronto. ON
Aug. 29, 2015
Have you ever seen a tribute band that can transport you back in time to when you were in attendance at the original band's show? Last night at Lee's Palace in Toronto, it didn't feel like I was at the mid sized bar, it felt more like the first time seeing Guns N' Roses at the CNE Grandstand back in 1991.
The century old building was once a bank, then a movie theatre before being transformed to a dual level concert venue. It has played host to some of Canada's biggest names in the music business. Tonight the venue was treating everyone with a double dose of hard hitting rock and roll with 'Gunslingers' and 'For Those About to Rock' the latter being an amazing AC/DC tribute band who we've reviewed previously. (Review here)
Admittedly I was expecting to see five musicians adorned with costumes, wigs, accessories like bandannas and of course a top hat. What was presented instead, were four musicians, who didn't need to dress up to play GN'R's biggest hits. Toronto's Gunslingers carried the torch and paid respect to the band all while doing it their way.
|Luis Assing (Bass) Abraxas Leon (Drums) Kelvin Lugo (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar) Francisco Meza (Lead Guitar)|
Since they didn't need to cater to the aesthetics, they focused more on the music, which was fantastic. Francisco's heavy guitar riffs, slide, solos, supported by the heavy, strong rhythm section by Luis and Abraxas, on bass and drums respectively, rounded off by Kelvin's vocals that exuded confidence, multi-ranged power that he could control and when required exercised great restraint without lowering the power. His rhythm guitar playing complemented the lead guitar and proved there was no need to have a fifth member. 'Gunslingers' did a fantastic job running through a setlist that would satisfy any real Gunner fan.
Covering songs from the iconic 'Appetite for Destruction', through to both 'Use Your Illusions', they took the audience on a trip back in time to when the '90s were ruled by Gn'R at the top of the charts. Notable tracks such as 'Welcome to the Jungle', 'Paradise City' and 'Sweet Child O' Mine' made an appearance towards the end of their set and generated the most excitement from the audience. Throwing in other heavy hitters such as 'Live and Let Die' and 'Patience' equally satisfied the fans. There was a little bit of something from every release. With the exception of 'Chinese Democracy'.
Tackling 'Civil War', 'Don't Cry' and 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' which included a sing-a-long with the audience, all proved that these guys were not fooling around. At one point, Kelvin put the guitar down for an amazing version of 'You're Crazy'.
Watch video: 'Welcome to the Jungle'
The four of them commanded the small stage at Lee's Palace with ease. At times exchanging smiles with each other, it appeared they were enjoying themselves up there.
Luis' bass playing was key in making the outfit work. He understands his instrument and how his playing influences the overall sound of the band. Maintaining the groove all while enhancing the band dynamics. Occasionally he would stroll over and share the mic with Francisco.
Assuming the role of lead guitar in any band, especially one that needs to recreate the presence that Slash had with Gn'R is no easy task. Francisco is fully capable of handling that responsibility and some.
He wasn't grandstanding, more like demonstrating the vast talent and knowledge of the music that he chooses to play. He clearly knows the music and enjoys it. The impressive marathon guitar work during 'Estranged' was enthralling to watch.
They say without a killer beat keeper the band can fall apart. Thankfully for 'Gunslingers', they have Abraxas to hold it all together behind the drum kit. Adorned with a Gn'R t-shirt and sunglasses, he kept the time and gave the music drive and excitement.
Some say the drums carry the band. They keep their bandmembers in 'line'. If that's true, then Abraxas did his job well. He kept it going, song after song, without missing a beat or throwing anyone off their game. He made it look easy.
Watch video: 'Sweet Child O' Mine'
Having the hard task of recreating the primal screams and ranges that Axl was known for in his prime, Kelvin approaches the microphone with a confidence and self assurance, however, without the arrogance. He doesn't imitate Axl or try to force the range of his voice. He sings the songs the best way he knows how...as himself.
At times I was wondering how he was going to deliver certain songs, the vocally challenging ones. It was incredible to see how he could maneuver between the low, tender verses of 'Patience' and 'Don't Cry', to the higher register lyrics of 'You Could Be Mine', 'I Used to Love Her' and 'My Michelle'.
Watch video: 'You Could Be Mine'
Watch video: 'I Used to Love Her'
I had the honour of speaking with him at the end of the night, and complimented him on their performance. I was appreciative of the fact that he wasn't trying to 'be' Axl, but instead used elements of his own singing to replicate the music. Being the first Gn'R tribute act I've seen, I have to say that I was not disappointed in the least.Watch video: 'Rocket Queen'
They don't try to 'copy' any member of Gn'R, or claim to be the best. Instead, they utilize their own skills and talents, along with passion for the music and make it their own. They embrace the audience, encouraging sing-a-longs during 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' and 'Paradise City'. They seemed to be very approachable off stage, shaking hands and speaking with the people at the bar.
Watch video: 'Paradise City'
To say that it was a rocking great night would be an understatement. The music was amazing and definitely rekindled my interest in Guns N' Roses and the music that I once enjoyed throughout the '90s.
The guys are hoping to get more shows within the Toronto area, as well as surrounding cities. I would highly recommend 'Gunslingers' to anyone who wants to go out for a night of authentic music and a trip back in time to when Guns N' Roses ruled the music charts.
Special thanks to Kelvin, Luis, Abraxas and Francisco for an amazing night of great music. You guys are truly fantastic musicians and I look forward to seeing another 'Gunslingers' show in the future.
If you want to know where Gunslingers are playing next, be sure to follow them on their various social media sites.
Official Gunslingers Facebook Page
Official Gunslingers YouTube Channel
Official Gunslingers ReverbNation
Official Gunslingers Twitter
View more photos at:
Official KaoticNotes YouTube Playlist