Review by Cameron Arndt,
All pictures provided courtesy of and © Mark Rutherford except where noted
Marco Mendoza loves playing music, loves touring, and loves meeting the fans. It hasn’t been too long since he came this way with his solo band – last May in fact – but with a few months off from Dead Daisies duty he decided to head back on the road once again. Even though it’s only been seven months since he visited Glasgow, this gig was highly anticipated, not least here at Rock And Roll Traffic HQ, both because we didn’t manage along last year and also because we had the pleasure of interviewing Marco recently – a chat which had certainly whetted our appetite for the show.
So a good group of us assembled at Glasgow’s Hard Rock Café this past Friday, excited to find out what was in store. Marco has of course played with Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy, the Dead Daisies, and many others, and he always puts on a great show. This was a different proposition, however, promising a more eclectic mix of music, and a chance to see more of Marco’s own personality than you can when he’s a part of a legendary rock group. With a superb band, an excellent, varied set list and a loud Glasgow weekend crowd it was all set up nicely for the man from LA. He didn’t disappoint.
First up though were Welsh ‘alternative indie rock band’ Kane’D who precede the headliners with a punchy, high energy set of rock tunes culled from their two records, debut Beautiful But Tragic (2013) and Rise (2015). They even throw in a storming version of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell. The (reasonably sized) stage at the Hard Rock seems totally full and at first it’s hard to work out just how many people are in this band! It transpires that they are in fact a very unusual seven-piece with dual guitar, bass and drums, fronted by the Kane sisters, Chez, Stacey & Steph. That’s right, three lead singers! They trade vocals, harmonise and generally rip things up, putting on a very entertaining show. Check out the band at their official website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Then it’s time for the main man to take the stage. Marco Mendoza and his band step up to a hearty cheer from the crowd. Strapping on his signature ESP 5-string bass and looking happy and healthy in smartly cut denim jacket and bright blue shirt covered in purple circular patterns – yep, he pulls it off! – he leads the band into Let The Sun Shine. The euphoric, life affirming track from his debut solo album, Live For Tomorrow (2007), gives Mendoza an early opportunity to connect with the appreciative audience, telling them about his optimistic, glass half-full outlook on life – something which he had expanded on in our interview, saying ‘I’m so grateful to be part of this industry and, to be honest, to have this long journey…I like to live with the ‘attitude of gratitude’ and when I live there, everything is fine, you know? When I forget about being grateful for things in life, and the journey, and the music business I start getting in trouble! So I try to live there, and I encourage anybody and everybody to think like that.’
Also right from the start, the full extent of his considerable talents are on display as he illuminates the opening number with a sparkling bass solo while singing along with each note. His fantastic bass guitar skills are of course well known, but he also has a unique, highly adaptable voice which is intriguingly reminiscent of the cool, nasally quality of Joe Walsh’s singing, but with a range and power that might even match Glenn Hughes. He’s capable of switching registers with ease, sweeping into high, soulful whoops in between lines to add extra texture to the vocal performance. He also seems to relish having the frontman role for a change, directing his backing band with good-natured signals and instructions and constantly interacting with the crowd. He’s a genuine and engaging performer and instantly establishes a rapport with the audience, happily chatting away to them between songs and egging them on to get involved with the singing. He had also mentioned in the interview how much he still enjoys playing… ‘I still have that lust for it, I really thrive on it, you know, I dig it…I turn into a 20 year old kid, jumping around, all energised and I have a blast.’ This is easy to believe as he sweeps into a grooving version of Ted Nugent’s Hey Baby, jumping up and down on the spot, making the first of many excursions offstage and into the crowd, then returning to the mic for some high ad-libbed vocals.
The set-list is indeed eclectic, though it’s built around a spine of tracks from his aforementioned first solo album – well worth checking out that record, co-written, produced and including the guitar talents of the incredible Richie Kotzen. Tonight Marco includes the rocking Look Out For The Boys, with it’s killer guitar riff and shoutalong chorus, and the moving ballad Still In Me – amongst others – but also adds in numbers from some of the other band’s he’s played with, and makes excursions into different genres with covers ranging from funk to soul to blues and beyond.
He’s backed on this tour by a stellar band including Italian duo Fabio Cerrone and Pino Liberti who were out with him last year, and an extra addition in young backing guitarist Jack Davies – who does a great job pulling double duty tonight – appearing for the headliners just after performing with Kane’d. Meanwhile, Cerrone dispenses cutting riffs and fiery lead guitar playing, and is given an early opportunity to shine on Neal Schon’s slow, heavy blues number Hole In My Pocket, during which Mendoza also gets the crowd involved with a singalong. At the back of the stage, Liberti rattles away at the kit with power and precision. He’s a hard hitting drummer, but also more than capable of a funky groove as the band cover James Brown, or a lighter touch on the several slower, soulful numbers.
It’s one of these tracks that provides perhaps the most memorable moment of the night. After citing it as one of his favourite songs to sing, Mendoza begins Billie Holiday’s God Bless The Child with some subtle bass playing and without the aid of the microphone. Indeed, he performs the entire song with his vocals unamplified, and much of it from right in the middle of the crowd, staring up to the heavens as he turns in a truly affecting performance.
With perfect style the band then ramp the show back up, bringing the funk with the James Brown cover, followed by a storming version of Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground. They then turn to Mendoza’s tenure in Thin Lizzy and treat Glasgow to a blistering run through Chinatown. Returning for a loudly demanded encore they complete a tremendous night with the subtly groovy rhythms and big chorus of Your Touch from his debut album.
Though the show might have finished, the night wasn’t over as Mendoza always insists on meeting as many fans as possible, and he spends over an hour at the merch table, signing CDs and getting pictures taken while the rest of the band also mill about chatting to people. It’s a great gesture from a group of top class musicians who truly appreciate the support they receive, and enjoy connecting with the fans.
For a last word we caught up with Mendoza/Kane’D guitarist Jack Davies to get his thoughts: ‘Both sets went down really well! Kane’D are starting to build quite a following in Scotland which is awesome & we feed off that when we perform live. It’s always nice to see people come out again & again to watch you play even if its not your own headline show. As for Marco’s set I’ve absolutely loved every minute performing along side him. He’s such a lovely guy and I’m honoured he asked me to join him. As always his set goes down a storm with the Scottish crowd and was an amazing show, one of the best of the tour in my opinion.‘
We couldn’t agree more!
Check out our full interview with Marco here!
Tour Dates: He may be finished in the UK (for now) but Marco’s still got plenty of shows left around Europe. Get along if you possibly can!!!