From the second they step out on stage, Kvlts of Vice have their work cut out for them. They’re in front of a generally apathetic crowd, milling about while a classic rock playlist thuds out of the speakers. It’s a Saturday night, but there’s no vibe to work with in the room – and those that haven’t slunk out to the beer garden are probably under the impression they’re about to see the headliner; anyone else would be simply intruding. Vocalist Jordan Von Grae saunters on – a gaunt Peter Steele doppelganger, draped in an ankle-length coat – and proceeds to deceptively stun the on-lookers with his pipes.
Not since Susan Boyle has a look been so deceiving – the dude’s out here singing like Stryper’s Michael Sweet, breaking panes of glass with his high-notes. The music itself is pretty fun, too – think the first two Van Halen records with a pub-rock edge and you’re on your way. If you needed any proof of how Kvlts of Vice won their audience over, consider this: Before they started, the room was absolutely nonplussed. After they finished, Von Grae found himself getting rapturously cheered from the floor, eventually going down to celebrate with his new-found fans. There’s something to that, so credit where credit is due.
For as long as Chris Jericho has been entertaining the masses within the confines of a WWE ring, he’s been performing in a rock band. They’re called Fozzy, and – in alignment with Jericho’s in-ring persona, they’re a hard-rock outfit that dabble in classic rockstar showmanship. When was the last time you saw a band bring steam cannons into the humble 900-capacity Manning Bar – let alone set them off in the first song? Fozzy play every room like it’s an arena, and it’s this confidence that allows you to indulge in the show a bit more than you normally would.
It becomes clear early on that Jericho is, to borrow some wrestling jargon, working hurt – his voice is scratchy in parts, relying on backing tracks and the vocals of his bandmates to get over the line. That said, he refuses to compromise the show on account of it – he works his magic over the crowd, bringing on fans to dance and starting up as many Fozzy-related chants as he can muster. He even busts out his famous light-up jacket for a couple of songs, which gets one of the biggest cheers of the night. For what they’re going for, the songs generally hold up pretty well too – “Judas” is as strong an opener as a hard rock band could hope for, while their covers of ABBA’s “SOS” and AC/DC’s “TNT” raise both smiles and fists in approval.
“Enemy,” from 2005’s All That Remains, serves as the set highlight – thanks, in no small part, to lead guitarist and co-founder Rich Ward. The energetic axeman certifiably shreds a guitar solo across his side of the stage – and off it, too, as he crowdsurfs just for the hell of it during one section. He then leads the crowd in a sing-along of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’,” the soft-rock hit best known for serving as the basis to Warren G’s “Regulate.” Most of the crowd are unfamiliar with the song, but go along with it anyway – such is Ward and Jericho’s combined charisma.
Have Fozzy proven themselves to be the most vital, innovative rock band on earth? Absolutely not. But they’ve proven to be more than the sum of Chris Jericho’s parts, so let’s drink it in and give props to this.