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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rock Sugar Kills 'Em All in First Hollywood Show

May 25, 2010 Scott Essman

Though based on material from other artists, pop-metal hybrid band Rock Sugar showed how you can be wholly original regardless at their first LA show.

Reported from the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip on Monday night, May 24, 2010.

Formed by boyhood friends Jess Harnell on lead vocals and Chuck Duran on guitar, Rock Sugar, based in the LA area, seamlessly blend classic 1980s heavy metal songs with unlikely companion tunes from pop acts of roughly the same period.

Metallica Meets Journey

Storming onto the stage to their signature song, “Don’t Stop the Sandman,” Rock Sugar merged the unthinkably 20-year-old Metallica song “Enter Sandman” with the nearly 30-year-old Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believing” which has made a comeback of late on album-oriented-rock radio and at stadiums, not to mention a carefully placed spot at the very end of The Sopranos TV series.

“Sandman” provides the best of both tunes, blending the melodies and lyrics as if they are one completely new song. Familiar and at the same time fresh, the genius of Rock Sugar is nostalgia for the 80s with a love of arena rock shared by their adoring audience.

The rest of the Rock Sugar canon, only hinted at during this opening act slot, include turns on signature tunes by Ratt, Motley Crue, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss, merging them with pop tunes one would think to be so asynchronous to the aforementioned acts as to never blend together well. However, one only need sample Rock Sugar’s new album, Reimaginator to let the surprises wash over you.

The Strip Comes Alive

Throughout this first of LA shows, Harnell prances the stage like a caged panther, tirelessly pacing back and forth, his long mane of curly locks rendering him a cowboy version of a brunette Dee Snider from Twisted Sister. Not only is Harnell’s breathless singing ability a note-for-note match for notable wailers including Journey’s Steve Perry and Queen’s Freddie Mercury, he shows his comic skills as well between songs: Harnell is a legendary voice-over artist on all manner of animated projects, a renowned session singer, and a spot-on impressionist.

On stage left, Duran proves amore than worthy counterpart to Harnell, providing all of the licks made famous by axeman including Journey’s Neal Schon and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett among many others. Also a capable singer, Duran also handled lead vocals on one of the tracks at the House of Blues show. Rounding out the band is Alex Track on drums and vocals and Johnny Five on bass and vocals.

After their relatively brief opening set for another metal tribute act, Steel Panther, Rock Sugar certainly left them wanting more. On the heels of Broadway’s recent stage musical smash, Rock of Ages, one would think that Rock Sugar has a bright future ahead as a live touring band who deliver all the excitement of a new act with the fond reminiscences of a musical age now amazingly pushing a quarter-century past.

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