by Lou Fiorito
Saturday, April 15, 2017.
The Players: Lee Aaron (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Sean Kelly (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dave Reimer (bass guitar, backing vocals) Kevin Saulnier (keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals), John Cody (drums)
A power failure the day before at this venue left the heating and cooling systems in the building badly discombobulated, creating a stuffy overhang. However, Lee Aaron and her sparkling four piece band were not about to let the audience focus on the mild discomfort in the room. Like a rocket being launched at Cape Canaveral, they opened the show with “Tomboy” from Lee’s latest release entitled “Fire and Gasoline”. It was obvious from the get-go that the quintet up on stage meant business.
They subsequently moved in to the more familiar “Hands On”, which was a MuchMusic staple, back when the station existed to play and promote music videos. With the audience duly warmed up, a pleasant surprise was offered up in the form of a groove-oriented cover of Montrose’s “Rock Candy”. Full marks to the locked in rhythm section of John Cody and Dave Reimer for breathing new life in to the original version.
Several tunes later, the pace was altered with the slow and moody “Fifty Miles”. While it may have given the SRO crowd an opportunity to catch their collective breath, the band seized the moment to stretch out. Lee’s voice was soulful and passionate, and her singing was aided by the skilled slide guitar playing of Sean Kelly.
Several things struck me during the performance. Firstly, Ms. Aaron has taken tremendous care of her voice through the years. While many vocalists timidly attempt to reach the upper registers of their range, Lee confidently went for it each and every time, as she knew her voice still had it. Secondly, she is a gifted communicator who was able to forge a connection with her audience, regaling them with stories of the trials and tribulations of touring, and of family life. She is gracious to everyone she interacts with – both on, and off the stage. Lastly, though she is billed as a solo artist, that would unfairly diminish the role her backing band plays. Their playing is highly proficient, and their harmony vocals take the material to a place of indisputable polish. The interplay between the band and Aaron is highly entertaining, and an integral part of the overall presentation.
As the group moved into the greatest hits segment of the show (“Some Girls Do”, “Sex With Love”, “Only Human”, “Whatcha Do To My Body”), their only stumble was the inclusion of a jazz number reminiscent of BTO’s “Looking Out For Number One”. It was fun to the see band do a 180 in terms of style, but from a show perspective it appeared to confuse the audience, and sap a bit of the momentum and energy that had been created up to that point. That being said, I will concede that the trip-up was extremely minor in nature.
The show was closed with a spirited version of “Metal Queen” – the song that launched her career. By this time, the band and audience were having a glorious time.
In an age where pitch correction and autotune are the unfortunate norm, the opportunity to see and hear five musicians making music sans the assistance of modern technology was refreshing. Given the sauna like conditions in the showroom, it was the exact refreshing metaphorical libation that the audience required.
Heading to Europe this summer? Look for Lee Aaron and her band making their way through Germany and England in July.