BUCKCHERRY are an enigma - they rose to wide scale prominence on the back of one misogynistic song - Crazy Bitch - and since then have occupied a relatively high pedestal within the hard rock pantheon.
Yet last night (Wednesday Novembe 27th) in Belfast's Limelight1 Josh Todd and his band were taught a lesson in attitude by Swedish rockers Hardcore Superstar, whose determination and energy showed all present what it means to be hungry for yet more success.
Openers on this triple bill were California act Venrez. Looking slightly askance at the crows, with almost hippy like gestures, singer Ven is not your 'typical' frontman.
Confined to a minute space at the front of the stage Ven could barely move out from the confines of two monitor speakers, resulting, perhaps, in some of the more bizarre gestures and an overall opening feeling of languidness.
Halfway into their 30-minute set something of a sea-change seemed to happen - they kicked into a higher gear with Unforseen and current single Sanctify energizing the band and an initially doubting audience. Given a longer set - and a bigger stage to work in - they would have gained more of a backing and more time to showcase their takents. Fair to say that Venrez can deliver.
Hardcore Superstar have been knocking around for a while, yet they trouped on to the Belfast stage as if they were still hungry young bucks determined to shake up the establishment of hard rock.
Jocke Berg has the right balance of cocky arrogance and talent to carry off the demands of being the focal part of the band on vocals. Vic Zino (guitar) and Martin Sandvik (bass) flank him on stage with a jokey sneer, followed by a smile, their permanent facial gestures. Backing it all up Adde Andreasson was pounding his drums as if he felt real animosity towards them.
They are a tight cohesive unit musically, coming across like Motley Crue, the Sex Pistols and a prettier Motorhead in one Scandanavian power unit.
With nine albums behind them and a 'best of... compilation released a couple of years back Hardcore Superstar are in tour mode now ahead of their next release. While 'sleaze' metal and punked out glam metal may have peaked in the 80s Jocke and his cohorts play as if they were living next door to the Rainbow Bar 'n' Grill in LA.
Highlights included Dreamin' In A Casket, Above The Law and Last Call for Alcohol. To be sure, we can write off the melodramatic poses and stunts of bands like this, but pull it all of with the right dose of basic, stripped down sleaze then the implicit knowing smile between band and audience creates a live bond that simply just works.
It worked for Hardcore Superstar.
Had Buckcherry not been following Hardcore Superstar then their set would have been a good listen, but their slick US groove seemed a bit flat in comparison to the Swedes.
There was nothing wrong, per se, about their performance, and Josh Todd is still a capable frontman, even if at times the backing vocals carried the choruses.
Lit Up, Crazy Bitch, Sorry, and Wrath are all fantastic songs, delivered with panache and adulation from the people down the front of the Limelight. However, what was noticeable was the crowd were beginning to thin out. Wandering around, one of the doormen told Belfastmetalheadsreunited that there had been several taxis ordered and collected passengers not long into the Buckcherry set.
To be clear, they were enjoyable, they were competent and they are fine entertainers. However, it seemed a little bit too finely delivered and as a result came across as slightly 'flat'.
Many, like ourselves, found our focus drifting halfway through the set, even wandering up to the Limelight's Rock Garden smoking area for a break.
In order to properly assess Buckcherry as they look to 2014 it would only be fair to see them with different support acts, perhaps on the festival stage; otherwise the comparison last night may have done them a disservice.
One final point, before awarding the 'scores on the doors' - bands who ply the hard rock path can and should avoid misogyny; in the wise words of Dave Coverdale 'You don't have to be a sexist to be sexy..."
Venrez - 3 out of 5: needed to kick into high gear earlier in their set, and stay off the sauce before going on stage
Hardcore Superstar - 5 out of 5: slick sleaze seems an oxymoron, but they treaded the fine line between ridiculousness and ecstasy like the accomplished act they are
Buckcherry - 3 out of 5: Lots to like about their set, but equally too many dips that marred the performance - tour fatigue or general ennui about their jobs.
Last night was A Distortion Project promotion, one of many James Loveday has laid on in 2013, more reviews and previews of Distortion Project gigs to come as the year draws to a close and we will have a bright shiny 2014 to destroy!