LIVE: Talas @ Jupiter Hall, 3/13/19
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Talas was a rock band formed in Buffalo at the end of the ’70s. They played a mixture of hard rock and a more commercial hybrid pop/glam style that would become popular in the next decade with the onset of “hair metal”, but they remained fairly peripheral and never really quite broke through.
Indeed, the band would largely be forgotten apart from two factors:
1. Their bass player, Billy Sheehan, went on to fame and fortune with the David Lee Roth Band, Mr. Big, the Winery Dogs and the jazz trio Niacin, alongside various other projects, that firmly established him as one of the finest exponents of his instrument in the rock era.
2. In the never ending spirit of nostalgia, most of the original (well, at least strictly speaking, the second original) line-up has re-united for a small tour of their old stamping grounds of the North East.
Happily that included Albany, and they were greeted by a vociferous and enthusiastic capacity crowd of devotees at Jupiter Hall. Sheehan seemed genuinely moved by the show of support, and the band delivered with an energetic set of old favorites and cover versions that kept the faithful happy and rocking throughout the night.
Veteran members of the band, vocalist Phil Naro and drummer Mark “Machine Gun” Miller, along with new guitarist Kire Najdovski, joined Sheehan and blazed through Talas originals like “High Speed on Ice”, “Sink Your Teeth into That” and “Shy Boy.”
Yes, that ’80s DLR hit was actually a Talas cover. Who knew? Well, my good pal and Talas fan Sim did, and he tipped me off to that fact.
The covers they played were both interesting and had a personal resonance for the band, too, a rocking version of “Doctor Doctor” had Sheehan reminiscing about touring with UFO. He then played a staggeringly virtuosic bass solo that segued into a riff that was instantly familiar to me. “Why, that sounds just like “Battlescar?” I thought, not knowing that Sheehan was personal friends with and had once considered joining the mighty Max
Webster. (Note to those of you not in the know, Max Webster being the finest Canadian rock band that is not named Rush).
Imagine my delight when the band then thundered into a version of that very song. I never thought I would witness a band covering the Toronto Tontos, but there it was.
Special guest Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (best known for his stint in Guns ‘n Roses) joined the band for the last few numbers, revving up the guitar madness with his double neck, complete with twinkling Christmas lights. A manic, high-speed “Shy Boy” closed out the set before the encore of “I Don’t Need No Doctor” saw NajDovski, Thal and support artist Kristen Capolino trade off guitar solos with Sheehan echoing them on bass. Sure, every solo was over the top and went too long, but by this point we were deep into ’70s rock excess and nobody seemed to care.
Welcome back Talas. If only for a brief time, you rocked righteously.
Talking of bringing the rock, Woodstock based Kristen Capolino gave another great performance as the night’s support act. The diminutive musician with the flying V is absolutely the “World’s happiest guitarist.” (Again, props to Sim Morrell for that description.) Hunched over her guitar she radiates pure joy as she careens about the stage, spraying out blistering leads, all the while with a megawatt smile that could light up a city.
Her eclectic selection of covers included “Into the Arena” and “Still Got the Blues,” both of which were stellar. If you see that she is on the bill on any forthcoming shows, get there early and don’t miss her.
TALAS SET LIST
Inner Mounting Flame
Do You Feel Any Better
King of the World
Don’t Stop Me Tonight
Hit & Run
Hearts Break Down
Outside Lookin’ In
Doctor Doctor (UFO)
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Nina Simone)
Battlescar (Max Webster)
Sink Your Teeth into That
High Speed on Ice
I Don’t Need No Doctor (Nick Ashford)