Lita Ford

January 11, 2014
M15 Concert, Bar & Grill
Corona, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Jeff Serpa

Protocol used to dictate that a woman past the mid-century mark who still wants to rock needs to reevaluate her priorities. Fortunately, Lita Ford has never followed protocol and keeps her priorities in check. The former Runaway can play, sing and tantalize an audience better than most women half her age. Dressed in skintight black leather, she also looks the part without much effort — the tough and sensuous queen of hard rock never really went away (though she was missing in action for some years), even as she endeared herself to the humble, fervent gathering at the M15 Concert, Bar & Grill on a balmy Inland Empire Saturday night.

The show was the last of a three-night marathon for Ford and her band — Mitch Perry on guitar, Bobby Rock on drums and Marty O´Brien on bass. On Thursday, they pretty much killed it at the Whisky, celebrating its 50th year, and welcomed special guests Cherie Currie, Slash and Glenn Hughes to the stage. Friday, it was Las Vegas with Hollywood’s own London opening. And tonight, after four (!) local bands (Xntricks, Ubi, Broken Toys and Vizionz), Ford and company turned up at 11:30 for a sizzling 75-minute set.

A little “Balls To The Wall” from Accept and a spot of “Your Wake Up Call” (from Ford’s Stiletto album) intensified the pre-show vigil before Ford let go with an “Alright Corona!” and kicked into her high-energy swipe at Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back.” The song, previously released as a bonus track on the 2012 studio album Living Like a Runaway, doubles as the title of the Ford’s live album, recorded in California in 2012 and released in the Fall 2013. “The Bitch is Back” and its swaggering message (“It's the way that I move…The things that I do”) fit Ford to the tee, and tonight’s boisterous rendition resonated profoundly with the M15 crowd.

With eight studio albums in the can, Ford had plenty of material to draw from, but five of the songs played were from her third and most successful album, 1988’s Lita. This included the lightning-fast tumbler, “Can’t Catch Me,” a song Ford co-wrote with  Lemmy from Motörhead, as well as the album’s two singles, “Close My Eyes Forever” (her biggest hit, originally recorded as a duet with Ozzy Osbourne) and “Kiss Me Deadly,” the night’s finale featuring two kids plucked from the audience. Considering the song’s lyrical content, it was at once sinister and empowering, especially to the little girl who practically had the chorus all to herself by the time it ended.

Musically, Ford and her band have developed into a tight and able-bodied unit. She and Perry, a guitar veteran who shagged power chords with Talas and MSG back in the 80s, faced off for a blazing duel during “Relentless.” They then fell into a hypnotic groove on “Back To The Cave,” simmering with pinches of jazz and country licks before erupting into a power-driven call-and-response that spanned the fretboards and pushed the arpeggios into the danger zone. When the rhythm section wasn’t making it easy for the guitarists to explore the harmonic terrain, they grabbed a little of the spotlight for themselves, especially Rock, whose drum solo enthralled the floor while giving the other players a chance to catch their breath. “You’re a beast,” Ford remarked to Rock when she returned to launch into “Living Like A Runaway,” an autobiographical tome that transcended the usual crash-and-burn abandonment of the earlier tunes.

Adding to the fire were Ford’s arsenal of guitars — a black B.C. Rich Warlock, a white doubleneck Warlock (a 1982 prototype), and a customized B.C. Rich Stolichnaya Vodka guitar. When she reached way back to the Runaways' “Cherry Bomb,” she pulled out the black Gibson Explorer guitar she supposedly played on the original. Yeah, it would have been epic to see Cherie Currie or maybe even Joan Jett come up and join in on this one, but the faithful ate it up just the same. To sum it all up, it felt like a full-throttle assault with a fairy-tale ending. Very much a parallel of where Ford seems to be headed these days, protocol and priorities be damned.    

 

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