It’s been just about two years since I last caught Cactus at the B.B. King Blues Club and while the band has not released any new recorded material since that time, it’s always the kind of smoldering Heavy Blues Rock that makes for a good time on the live concert stage so I had to make sure that I was in the B.B. King Blues Club venue this evening to see them do their thing once more. In 2012, Cactus features drummer Carmine Appice, guitarist Jim McCarty, vocalist Jimmy Kunes along with bassist Pete Bremy and harp player Randy Pratt. Tim Bogert, their legendary founding member seems to no longer be a part of the touring lineup and while Pete does a fantastic job there are many fans that wish he would be a part of these shows just one more time. Here is how the gig went for those who came on down.
The show featured one opening act and that was Rickity, a new band that was comprised of Randy Pratt and Patrick Klein who many might remember as being members of The Lizards at one time. The band was solid and very similar in feel to The Lizards and had a strong Blues base to their strong structure. I would see them again for sure. After their brief set, The Radio Chick or Leslie Gold to her close friends would take to the stage to bring out the guys in Cactus. She first sent a shout out to Dick Clark who had passed away earlier that day of a heart attack. Leslie would also describe the band Cactus as a band who would leave the stage in dust after their performances and this got the crowd riled up and ready for the band to come on out and get down to the practice of doing their thing. With that note, the opening tune of “Long Tall Sally” was started and this has been the bands opening number for the last few times that I have seen them. With no new material, the band focused on their classics and that was good thing to do because their legacy fans are not looking to hear new stuff as much as they are dying to hear the songs from the past once again. We see this often with this kind of band and have experienced similar reaction from the fans supporting Uriah Heep. Songs like “One Way…Or Another” still sound sweet and grooving and when it came to “Bro Bill”, Carmine took the microphone and dedicated it to the memory of Rusty Day, their original vocalist who will have been dead almost thirty years to the day of this show. The longtime fans of the group screamed louder at the mention of his name.
Carmine took the microphone again to speak about the next song “Can’t Judge A Book” by saying it had not been played in over thirty years and they had been working on it a lot the past week. It was a good one for sure and a number that I am glad that they decided to pull out of the archives because otherwise the set would have been almost exactly the same as the last time. Singer Jimmy was in excellent form tonight and I have really enjoyed his voice over the years that I have been catching him do this and now it was time to showcase some of the tunes that they recorded for the 2006 release “V” which came out on the now defunct Escapi Music label. From that album we got three of its staples in “Muscle And Soul”, “Electric Blue” and “The Groover” and I have to say that if you don’t somehow have this album that you should search some of the back bins at places that carry hard to find stuff to get a copy. It’s worth owning and really showed that this kind of sound can still be delivered to excellence when done by the right people. There was a lot of energy up on the stage and it seemed as though Randy was taking more front stage time than just hanging in the backlines of it when playing his harp. In the past I generally only remember him stepping up front once or twice but tonight he was hanging close to the audience a lot. It makes sense to let him do this since he has worked extensively with the band since they reformed.
When it came time for “Evil” we not only got one of the bands best tunes but a smoldering drum solo by Carmine. I had to say that I liked this solo a lot more than the one I caught him do with Vanilla Fudge a few months ago and that was because this one seemed “heavier” to my ears. Watching Carmine deliver a solo is always my own highlight of a Cactus show. As the night drew to a close Jimmy and six string wizard McCarty helped bring the veritable house down with the incendiary “Parchman Farm”. Fans who hear this song today can liken it to a Van Halen track as it has a lot of the vibe of a tune like “Hot For Teacher”. Give it a listen and tell me if I am wrong. Jimmy spoke to the audience a final time and said how much they love playing at this venue and view it as the Rock and Roll Church. He then joked how they would play your backyard if you paid them enough. From there we got “Rock and Roll Children” and the show was done. Carmine announced that the crowd should hang around a little bit so they could all meet the band and how they were going to set up a table and do a meet and greet with anyone who wanted to participate. That is always fantastic to find happening and it’s usually easier when there is no second event following the Rock show.
All in all, this was a solid performance and a fun one. I was glad that I attended and it seemed as though everyone around me felt the same way. The set list was different enough to find the night being a little more special than being a simple revisit to a show you have already seen. Some of the songs that they swapped out this time were “Sweet 16”, “Cactus Music”, “Oleo”, and “Part Of The Game” but in their place we got some different stuff. I’ve closed reviews of this band up before by saying if Heavy Blues Hard Rock is up your alley then you want to see Cactus at least once before they decide to no longer do it. Kunes is a respectful credit to the memory of Rusty Day and Pete Bremy is doing a bang up job of filling the shoes of Tim Bogert. Nice work gentlemen, please don’t wait two years to return to us.
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Official Web Site: www.cactusrocks.net
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