July 20, 2012
Pacific Amphitheatre
Costa Mesa, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon

Vintage Rock’s first show of the year at the Pacific Amphitheatre (during the 2012 Orange County Fair) turned out to be a first-rate barn-burner with two classic bands: Bachman & Turner and Foghat.

You take all the songs these two iconic groups have recorded, and you can expect a night of on-your-feet, sing-along, handclapping, footstomping rock ‘n roll at virtually every stop. If you needed to sit down at anytime, then you were too old be here.

Foghat hit the stage at promptly 7:30 with “Home In My Hand,” from the Energized album. This one’s always been a solid opener, although the band changes their set list regularly. Tonight, they played an abbreviated set of six songs, about 45 minutes, and they didn’t waste a minute.

Singer Charlie Huhn has the unenviable task of maintaining original singer Lonesome Dave Peverett’s vibe and style of delivery. After 12 years fronting Foghat, he’s also come very much into his own. Huhn’s certainly no newcomer, having paid his dues with Ted Nugent in the 70s and 80s, followed by brief stints with Gary Moore and Humble Pie.

Tonight, however, Foghat didn’t perform any songs Huhn or guitarist Bryan Bassett have recorded with the band in recent years. Their set was short, so it had to be the very best and most loved tunes. So they stuck with the tried and true with songs like “Drivin’ Wheel,” “Stone Blue” and “Fool For The City.”

At 66, original drummer Roger Earl still drives his kit like a rigid locomotive, and bassist Craig McGregor (with Foghat off and on since 1975) attaches a caboose to chug-a-lug the low-end. Together, they make sure the engine purrs while Huhn and Bassett tackle the chords and melodies.

Bassett slid up and down the neck of his guitar on ‘Drivin’ Wheel” with all the precision and power of the late Rod Price (original Foghat guitarist) at his peak. By the time they rolled into “I Just Want To Make Love To You” and “Slow Ride,” Huhn had the crowd in his grasp — the waving hands, pumped fists and backups on the choruses confirmed it.

All in all, it was a tight little set from a band that still has plenty of fuel in the tank. We can only hope that next time they'll play longer and dig deeper with cuts like "Honey Hush" and "My Babe."

After a short half-hour break, the lights lowered and Bachman & Turner, along with drummer Marc LaFrance, guitarist Mick Dalla-Vee and guitarist Brent Howard, were at the ready. A brief animated video segued nicely into “Roll On Down The Highway.” All at once, it was 1975 again.

I spoke with Fred Turner before the show, telling him I had seen Bachman-Turner Overdrive at the Fabulous Forum in 1975 with Climax Blues Band and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Thirty-seven years ago and we’ve both grown wiser, maybe a bit longer in the tooth.

But when Turner sang the first notes of the night, that voice, a growl with heart and passion, it was like going back to the Forum because he had no trouble replicating the part as prescribed. Together with Randy Bachman, Turner turned it to full blast the whole night and never let up.

A cowbell lifted off “Rock Is My Life And This Is My Song,” an autobiographical tome Bachman imbued great amounts of solemnity and soul into. He routinely returns to the theme of being a musician, namely on one of their most beloved songs, which we’ll get to in a minute.

“Not Fragile,” the title track from the band’s biggest album, was simply Fred Turner plucking out a floor-shaking bassline and delivering his strongest vocal of the night. Those haunting barks and shrieks alone could scare the tattoos off any metal death growler. He was equally convincing on “Four Wheel Drive.” You add Bachman’s touch on guitar, and you wonder how they can keep it to a level this intense after so many years apart and reunions in this and that configuration.

Without the Overdrive, apparently a litigious issue, Bachman and Turner are more about the Powerdrive...of youth. As with many of their contemporaries, having younger, seasoned players like LaFrance. Dalla-Vee and Howard — each instilling full-bodied accompaniment — in the mix keeps it lively, fresh and fun.

One of the best tracks of the night was “Stay Awake All Night,” a Bachman song Swiss heavy metal band Krokus covered in 1983. Maybe that has something to do with its appeal — how a heavy metal band could turn a BTO song into an anthem screaming for inclusion on the setlist.

It would serve as the perfect set-up for Dalla-Vee and Howard to shine, and Bachman to tap out a series of sci-fi sounds on his guitar with a drumstick, before falling into the trademark lead of “American Woman” that swept over the first ten rows like a lonesome tidal wave. Bachman may have had a hand in writing and recording the original, but he let Turner take the vocal, in his own inimitable style.

By the time they finished up the main set with another cowbell-driven dittie, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” most of the audience were on their feet with no intention of sitting down. The front row filled up with a varied selection of female fans, urging the five musicians to play on.

It didn’t take much to motivate a double-shot of “Let It Ride” and — you guessed it — “Takin’ Care of Business.” As they took their bows and shook hands, the sum of exactly what Bachman and Turner achieved had just taken place — they took care of business.

More Bachman & Turner / Foghat Photos

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