CONCERT REVIEW OF
FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH
QUEBEC CITY JULY 3RD 1998 AT LE KASHMIR
by John Francis
The Land of 3,500 Miles. An Odyssey of a Journey to See Frank Marino Across Time and Space.
Hi, My name is John Francis. I have been a Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush fan since 1977. As a veteran of the rock concert circuit, I have been used to traveling huge distances in a country sparsely populated to see great shows. There is something about going a long way to see a guitar player. You have a vision of what it should be like, sometimes it's great, and sometimes it isn't. Travelling from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Quebec City to catch this show made my own expectations pretty high.
This time, on this the longest journey of my concert attending career, the show even exceeded my own vision of what it should and could have been.
After 5 years absent, Frank Marino and band did gigs in Ottawa and Quebec City. I attended the Quebec City show, on Friday, July 3rd, 1998 at Bar Le Kashmir. The hotel was prearranged via the Internet and I was able to get great info through the Strange Universe website and Wild Willy Parsons Hey Willy!!!
Fatigue and travelling can get the best of people. Waiting to see Frank for 40 minutes after the show was tiring, but when it counted, during the show, my feet were locked no more than 5 feet from Frank for the entire course of 2 hour and 45 minute display of such pyrotechnical wizardry, that the entire tonnage of materiel consumed during WW II fell short of what I witnessed.
No, Frank has not lost his edge or his passion for playing live. If anything, 5 years absence has only served to rekindle his fire for the appreciation of being front and center, a damn good place to be when you can play guitar like him.
With a new band together, and apparently only two days of practice before these shows, you'd think these guys had been playing full-time as a unit permanently, forever.
Peter Dowse, a Frank veteran, who replaced bassman Paul Harwood, in 1986 if I am not mistaken, provided solid experienced back up for everyone to follow.
Drums were handled by Dave Goode, a basher from the San Diego area, who has previously played with "Onoffon" from that area.
Phil Reznick handled the rhythm guitar with great competence following Frank's cues for dynamics up and down when called for. He lives in Montreal and met Frank a number of years back while recording with other projects at Frank's studio in Montreal, Starbase.
The chance to see Frank in a small, but intimate venue made for the best show I had ever witnessed. Bar Le Kashmir, presumably named after the black hash, is ironically named with all the troubles Quebec has been going through with the biker wars there. It has a capacity of maybe 300 , but there were more like 400-500 there! It was jammed to the rafters and he crowd was well behaved and cultured befitting the chance to see a master of his craft at work.
Anyway, onto the song list!
The band started with "Voodoo Child", original version, not Slight Return. A rootsy blues groove made me think of how great it would be if Frank ever put out a totally blues record. I have never heard Frank play this before during 6 previous shows I have attended. This was followed by one of my favourite tunes, "The Answer", inspired by younger brother Vince off the IV album. Next came "Midnight Highway" off the Juggernaut Album. Then came "King Bee" with the extract from "Back Door Man" and then "Dragonfly" to finish the first 45 set.
Apparently, the club had wanted 2 forty-five minute sets. Frank begrudgingly took a 15 minute break. Trying to tell someone like Frank Marino, who really enjoys playing live, to play two short sets is like a two year-old trying to stop the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
Frank came back exactly 15 minutes later serving up 2 hours of nuclear meltdown. He opened with "All Along the Watchtower" and a deadly version of "Poppy", then broke into a jam of "Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame/Mona". I was surprised by how much What's Next was represented during the show. My personal opinion was that album suffered on the production end. A blistering version nonetheless of "Rock Me Baby" was next. Then we got a surprise. The band played a new song, as yet unnamed from the upcoming album. Frank asked me after the show of what it should be called. All I could offer was what I had put in chicken-scratch in my notes. "Jazz in A." This does not do this new composition justice. Reminiscent of Poppy, it built up to a blistering frenzy from a soothing beginning, once again proving that Frank Marino is and always has been, a master of dynamics.
"Johnny B. Goode" was next with the extract from "Who Do You Love". Dave Goode (sic) did a killer drum solo next which worked into a rhythm section jam and some killer bass work from Peter. Then the master came back on stage and did a solo that would easily put Yngwie Malmsteen to shame. I have all of Yngwie's Records and then some, but this was of course Rock'n'Roll Heaven with my hometown hero. "Electric Reflections of War" drifted out of this solo and then came a real surprise. "Try for Freedom" which is like a hymn was next. Then came a song I had never heard Frank play, "Are You Experienced". Wow, what a blast from the past! The previous year, I had met Al Hendrix, Jimi's dad at a Seattle Robin Trower show. This practically brought tears to my eyes.
Frank ended the night with a blistering version of "Roadhouse Blues". There was no encore. The lights came up in the club right after he was off stage. But given the heat and the fact that he was probably just a bit tired after this exquisite display of soul balanced with technical wizardry, this is understandable.
The sound was great at Le Kashmir. After getting back, I found out that Billy Szawlowski, Frank's studio compatriot was doing sound. No wonder the sound was so good. Billy dates back to Strange Universe when he took the knobs for the core of Mahogany Rush's and Frank's career. This is the man that helped define Frank's sound in the studio. His knack for making everything audible in a loud compressed environment speaks volumes for his skills as a professional. I sincerely hope that Billy does future work with Frank on the new album etc.
Because of the lateness in the evening, and demands on time, I didn't have the chance to pass on a special "Hello" to Frank from Graham Chambers, a drummer who used to jam with the boys back in the 70's. Graham got a "thanks" credit on the Strange Universe album if you're curious. I have come to know Graham in the Vancouver area where he jams with friends of mine on Gabriola Island. It was weird because the day before I left, Graham had called me to say he had just gotten off the phone with Paul Harwood.
My thanks to Phil for sending me some background info I needed to complete this article as well as Willy Parsons, without whose help would not have made it possible to have a few words with Frank after the show. Willy has also given all us true fans this wonderful outlet for us to express our appreciation of Frank's music. My thanks also go out warmly to Aleck, Frank's road manager who seemingly read my mind to invite me back stage after the show. Of course, wearing a Robin Trower tour T-shirt from Seattle, and a button from the Live album that Paul Levesque, Frank's former manager from years ago had given me probably helped :)
Cheers to all from a die-hard fan. To anyone out there, if you get the chance to do only one thing before you die, treat yourself to Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush live performance. You'll never be the same, you'll be better!! God Bless!!
JOHN FRANCIS 7-7-98