Seventies rock act The Babys are back with a vengeance and I was there to witness it live and up close last night.
While the clock keeps ticking, taking many of the bands and much of the music of my youth with it, there’s still room for nostalgia. Hell, I built the entire Growin’ Up Rock Podcast on the premise of memories and stories intertwined with the classic rock music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. That’s not to say that there is nothing relevant about the new music coming out today, it just so happens in my opinion that the new good shit coming out today channels that killer music from my youth, with just a bit more updated sound.
So I love it when classic bands like The Babys mount a comeback. Inevitably though, any comeback talks today turn to classic lineups in rock n roll.
“Kiss is playing the arena tonight.” “Yeah, but it not the original lineup.”
“Is it really the Babys without John Waite and Jonathan Cain?”
“The Eagles are touring again, yep, but Glenn Frey passed away a short time ago. It’s not the same guys anymore.”
The same conversation is taking place every day in music circles around the world. STOP!!
Yes, I for one, take part in those same discussions. And of course, I would love to see the original Van Halen play live again, or GNR, Skid Row, Foreigner, or The Babys. But the bottom line is that time moves on, people move on, and the older we all get, health and age take their toll, personalities change, people change, and life gets in the way, and that will never change.
As a music fan, I have a choice to make. Accept these circumstances and move forward, or lock myself in a room, grow a Rip Van Winkle style beard, and only listen to my cassettes, 8-tracks, and LPs until I wither and become “Dust In The Wind.” “Write That Down.” There’s a song in there, I think.
You may be asking yourself, what the heck does all this have to do with a concert review, and I promise you, there is a point to all of this. I’m gonna explain to you in no uncertain terms, how a 2.0 or even 3.0 version can be better than the original. This can apply to bands the same as it can to iPhones or Androids, because you sure as hell, ain’t trading your brand new sparkling cell phone for the classic original and even if you did, that thing ain’t working very well, if at all, in this day and age.
I first saw a sign that the newer version could be better than the original last year, when I saw Foreigner on their 40th anniversary tour, with only original member Mick Jones playing. Even though Kelly Hansen and Jeff Pilson have been a part of that band now for many years, they brought a youthful injection to that lineup and have never looked back. They sounded amazing and were full of energy. Highly entertaining and so many great songs!
Last night I had the opportunity to see ‘70s British rockers The Babys. I love this band and their music and I was never able to see them growing up because I was too young when they were touring. Although I have no benchmark to use with this band for live performances having never seen the original with lead singer John Waite, I can tell you that the 2018 version with John Bisaha blew my socks off.
Eddie’s Attic is a well-known, very small (about 150 – 200 people jam packed) club in Atlanta that is geared more to acoustic performances than a complete band setup. They have had everyone from Bob Dylan to Elton John and The Indigo Girls grace their stage.
When Tony Brock, drummer and original member of The Babys, mentioned in a recent interview I did with them for the Podcast (find that Episode here) that the band intended on doing a fully-loaded band set, I was surprised and reluctant all at the same time. How could a rock act with seven members from the ‘70s cram onto a postage stamp-sized stage in that intimate venue and rock out these great songs I have grown to love over the years and do them justice?
I was determined to see for myself. I braved the freezing temperatures and got there about 40 minutes before the show was scheduled. The band was still soundchecking, but I had to say, out in the waiting area, it actually sounded pretty good. I was more than a little relieved at that point.
The Babys hit the stage about 30 minutes later than advertised, introduced by long-time Sheryl Crow guitarist and friend Peter Stroud, and from the opening riff of “Midnight Rendezvous” it was apparent to me that I was going to enjoy this night.
Having two original band members in drummer Tony Brock and lead guitarist Wally Stocker is always great, because it gives credibility to the music and history of the band. Stocker (64) and Brock (63) have been doing this thing for a very long time, so don’t expect anyone to be doing acrobatics off drum risers and smashing guitars into amps (not that they did that even in their youth). Musicians sometimes have a way of tapping into the fountain of youth, and based on this night’s performance Tony and Wally both have, the question may be how did they find that fountain?
Enter in a youthful injection provided by singer/bassist John Bisaha and guitarist Joey Sykes. These two guys, along with brand new keyboardist Louis Middleton, on his first night with the band no less and the beautiful and talented Babettes Holly and Elisa, although not part of the original lineup, have brought with them the musical integrity of playing these songs to a tee and a younger, but seasoned, perspective of creativity and live performance. There was an energy that was infectious and awesome to see in the cohesive Babys unit.
The band rocked through classic such as “Gimme Your Love”, “Isn’t It Time”, “Back On My Feet Again”, but also sprinkled in some deeper tracks like “Postcard” and “Darker Side Of Town” from the “On The Edge” album. In a very intimate setting, John did a great job of including the audience in many of the conversations and working them like an arena rock veteran.
The band has such an amazing catalog of tunes to play, that one could argue they don’t want to hear the new stuff, but that would be an uneducated and unfortunate argument. One of the highlights for me in the set was “Sunrise and Goodbyes” off the 2013 release “I’ll Have Some Of That” featuring Bisaha and Sykes.
The band closed out the seventeen song set with “Got The Time”, “Turn And Walk Away”, and a knockout punch of “Head First”. This band contains half of the original Babys lineup, but in my estimation are as good, if not better, than the original, and would be right at home on a huge stage opening for the likes of Cheap Trick, Styx, Foreigner, REO, and many more of the classic acts still treading the stage boards each and every summer.
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