Bourbon Square, North Hollywood CA,
May 1995.

Standing And Delivering.
Live Review by Jon Dunmore © 13 May 1995.

"I am the Black Ace / I'm the boss-card in your hand..."

So sings Bryan O'Neal in the a cappella prelude to Black Bart's set. And before one can contemplate on whether this is his job description or just a delusionary flashback, Black Bart suddenly unleash the beast of Rock, ravaging the listener with a fury unmatched by 90% of LA's so-called hard rock and - huh! - "heavy metal" bands.

The first truth that hits you is that this is real Rock and Roll. Since before groupies carried protection. Since before washing was invented. This is what Neanderthal Man must have heard in his wildest eclectic nightmares; some dreaming trog, twisting and turning in his sleep, imagining (in his own troglodyte way) that if he could reproduce these gargantuan decibels with such ferocity, all the stray village women would be clawing for a piece of his leopard-skin fur...

The original Black Bart was a highwayman - an outlaw, a bounder, a rogerer and a puker. Although Black Bart the band did not do any rogering or puking (not during their set, at least), they are definitely outlaws - rock and roll outlaws. No compromises here - this is Old School foundation with a 90s vengeance against all that is Non-Rock. It's guttural, it's visceral; no need to analyze it - if you can count to four, you'll like it just fine.

That being said, by no means are these guys Neanderthals with guitars (as many of today's "artists" seem to wanna be). Their dexterity as players and performers glares past the volume and leather - Sean McNabb, the moves, looks and presence of the arena-stage bassist; Stefan Kennedy, whom Bryan introduced as "royalty" surely deserves to be, as he turned his back on speed, fingertap and juvenile scale-meanderings to pour forth instead catchy, memorable fretwork; Steve Felix, like Vinnie Appice, has that knack for making the simplest drum maneuvers look really difficult - and of course, the difficult stuff looks impossible. And at the helm, calling down the thunder, Bryan O'Neal's imposing, reptilian-psycho-sexual persona, bleeding through the mic and into the arteries leading directly to the bestial corner of the brain.

Okay, so I like my rock loud, wicked, filthy and larger-than-life. Is that so wrong? Put down the Mozart and let the healing begin...

Just as it threatened to get too brain-damaging to bear, after the first three songs (which included the damning Soul's Not For Sale), Bart slid into mid-tempo with The Tide, which featured Bryan on keys. The acoustic guitar on Home then gave our sweat the chance to dry, a laid back number which the MTV generation would call "unplugged." The band had proved itself by then, exhibiting this imperative flip side of the power-rock coin - the subtlety - which only seasoned players can pull off.

Black Bart easily exert their hold over the watchers in the darkness, flaunting the innate power they know they possess. But the cramped coffin-space of Bourbon Square was not conducive to their brand of larger-than-life charisma. They need the arena stage to really project, to fly, to strike fear into the hearts of men.

Soulful, barbaric, groovy and gritty - goddammit!, why aren't there more bands like Bart? I'd pay good money to watch these guys - hell, I'd pay bad money, I'd pay counterfeit money (this isn't blood money / It's a fee - nothing more...)

Like the graffiti used to proclaim (in bygone days when bands had more shame than to wear their hand-me-down flannels onstage): Rock and Roll Still Rules OK.

Now for god's sake, turn it up and gimme another beer...


Added: 2006, Feb 20