By Sean Palmerston; Photos by Albert Mansour
Last Friday night was a good night. It was road trip time with good friends and I got to knock another band off my bucket list of must-see groups. The band in question was legendary NY crew Riot. Around the time that Hellbound.ca got rolling in June of 1999, the band played their first reunion show with the Thundersteel era line up of the band and we were lucky enough to have Pharaoh guitar slinger Matt Johnsen do a very thorough review of the show (read it here). It sounded pretty awesome and fellow Hellbound scribe Rob Kachluba decided there and then that if the band played anywhere locally we had to go.
The “local show” ended up being in Rochester NY, some three hours away from Hellbound HQ in Hamilton, ON, but Rob, Albert Mansour and I made the trek after work on Friday night to check it out. Mr. Kachluba was worried about getting there too late to see the entire Riot set, so we departed at 6:45 in hopes of making it to the venue for 10. There was no problem there, we got in and acquainted with the place only to discover that (a) there were four opening bands and (b) the second of said four was still on stage. Great. I have no idea who selected these bands, but I hope they paid him for the honour to open up for Riot. It’s the only thing that would make sense. None of these bands fit well with Riot’s sound, so it was pretty painful waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
It was nearly midnight when Riot hit the stage, after a strangely garbled intro, the three instrumentalists of the band got things going with a ripsnorting take on the classic instrumental “Narita” before vocalist Tony Moore joined them onstage for “Fight Or Fall” and showed the crowd almost immediately that he still has terrific pipes. Moore never missed or dropped a note all night. His voice was perfect through out, just like the performance by the rest of his band. Of course, Riot guitarist and founding member Mark Reale wasn’t there for the show. I am sure you all know by now that he passed away only a few days after this show, but the band had his guitar case front and centre on stage in tribute to their missing leader. In his absence, the band’s lead guitarist Mike Flyntz did such an amazing job that it’s still giving me goosebumps a week later. Having never seen him perform live before, I can definitely say that Flyntz is very underrated. Looking similar to Jeff Beck, he had no problem filling the air with wicked riffs and some very tasty soloing without becoming showy.
Over the course of nearly eighty minutes the band played a great selection of material from the early years of the band as well as the Thundersteel/Privilege of Power years. It was just fantastic to hear “Road Racin” and “Warrior” side by side with new track “Riot” and my personal fave Thundersteel song “Flight Of The Warrior”. Bassist Don Van Stavern was the most animated, jumping up on the stage’s outer wall and pushing the crowd to really get into it; drummer Bobby Jarzombek was in great shape, never missing a fill and even throwing in some cymbal splashes behind his head. This band live is a well-oiled machine indeed!
Riot’s set was a whirlwind affair, ending way too early. The band did give the smallish crowd of approximately 125 people an encore of “Swords and Tequila” and “Thundersteel”, but it was still way too short for my liking. I wish they could have played for two hours plus, but I am sure the absolute freezing temperature in the club – Tony Moore mentioned it was the first time he had ever played a show without breaking a sweat – didn’t encourage them to play any longer. Nonetheless, their set gets full marks from this impressed writer. I only hope that Reale’s death this week doesn’t mean this will be the band’s final US show ever. RIP Mr. Reale, you will be missed.