It had been over twenty years since I last saw Little Cæsar headline the infamous Marquee Club in London back in the early nineties. That evening the venue was packed to the rafters and it was hot and sweaty. Two decades later on a cold, December night in Sheffield, the sleazy blues-rockers from Los Angeles, California, finally rolled back into town but to a lot smaller audience of approximately fifty persons. Serious illness to bass player Fidel Paniagua had prevented him from flying twelve months previous, forcing the band to cancel their planned date at The Sheffield Corporation.
The small, but nonetheless enthusiastic crowd, did not deter the band putting on a terrific show. As the band hit the stage the first thing that was evident was that they looked nothing like the band from the early nineties despite four original members: gone was the long hair but the tattoos remained as did the recognisable blues-rock sound.
The opening salvo of “Rock ‘n’ Roll State Of Mind” and “Hard Times”, from 1990’s glorious eponymous debut, got things of to a great start. Ron Young, using a Chuck Berry-style microphone, was still in full possession of his superb soulful voice. When Ron moved from his home of New York to LA back in 1985, he must have sold his soul to the Devil on the journey, for such a voice!
“Supersonic” preceded a string of new tunes from the latest album “American Dream” which is a real return to form. Songs like the ballsy “Hard Rock Hell” and “The Girl’s Rockin’”; the ballad “Prisoner Of Love” and title-track “American Dream” all going down very well.
The title track of 2009’s comeback album, the powerful “Redemption” had the whole band rockin’ The Corporation again.
I personally feel that Little Cæsar are at their ultimate best when they are playing the soulful blues as encapsulated on the splendid “Cajun Panther”.
“Real Rock Drive” had the band in full hard rock mode once again. Guitarist Loren Molinare bounds around the stage á la Pete Townsend minus the windmill arms but expertly manages to always avoid his other band members. When he, Ron and Fidel are stood side by side there is more artwork on display than at the National Gallery! The line-up is completed by original drummer Tom Morris and newest member, guitarist Joey Brasler who bares an uncanny resemblance to actor Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing”; “The Good Guys”). All, except drummer Tom, provide excellent backing vocals throughout the whole ninety-minute set.
On a side note, during the second number of the support group Deadset Dreams, the young lead guitarist got rather carried away and nearly knocked himself out on an over hanging speaker at the front of the stage and then his guitar broke! The first part was hilarious in true Spinal Tap fashion! Being only a young band (don’t appear to have started shaving yet) they did not have any spares; the first support band, SKM, appeared reluctant to land them any of their equipment but not so Loren who set the young lad up with his main guitar!
After the classic debut Little Caesar found it incredibly difficult to follow up and the sophomore album only had a couple of moments of excellence, one being the bar-room boogie of “Rum & Coke”.
If it is taken as read that the greatest cover version of all-time is Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” then it is arguable that Little Caesar hold positions two and three with their amazing Motown classic covers of “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Chain Of Fools”. These two cover versions were real highlights of a brilliant performance.
“Sick & Tired” and “Dirty Water” paved the way for an extended version of “Drive It Home” featuring R&B classic “Mustang Sally”.
The band then congregated at the back of the stage for a minute before returning for a well deserved two-song encore. First track was the rockin’ “Down To The Wire” that first appeared on the Roadracer Records Compilation “Street Survivors” and also featured in the Hollywood film “Point Break”.
Final track of the evening was a cover of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” that is that good it sounds more like an original.
An hour and a half of high quality hard blues-rock that could only have been marginally improved by the inclusion of one or both of my personal favourite Little Cæsar song’s “In Your Arms” and “From The Start”.
The band left the stage to a passionate reception and immediately interacted with the crowd, the whole band happily taking time to sign autographs, take photographs and chat to the fans. Little Caesar are five of the most genuine, hard-working and likeable musicians you are ever likely to meet.
My friend Scott, finally got to see his heroes after over twenty years and was not disappointed. To me, Little Caesar still remain the greatest hard-rock blues bar-band on the planet!
Hope it is not another twenty years before I catch them live again!