The paring of The BellRays and Dallas Frasca was an inspired choice. Both acts have a take-no-prisoners approach to rock’n’roll, complete with charismatic front-women who leave you with no choice but to engage in the live experience.
Local act Squeaker fitted nicely into this mix, with the powerful vocals of Georgina Staben and a range of well-crafted rock tunes that set the tone for the night. A slick opening act, they got the early punters warmed up with a pacey and appealing set; just the right flavour to start an evening of high-octane performances.
Dallas Frasca are an old school, hard working rock outfit; touring relentlessly, they have been regular visitors to Adelaide in recent times. Their shows are always quite an experience, and Friday night was no exception. Delivering a loud and uninhibited display of rock’n’roll power, they showcased songs from recent release, Love Army, as well as tunes from the back-catalogue.
Frontwoman, Dallas, is a commanding presence, a natural born band leader who displays great chemistry with the power duo of guitarist, Jeff Curran, and drummer, Josh Eales. Jumping from the stage and beckoning people forward, she was engaging, personable and authoritative. Adelaide audiences are fortunate to be getting another chance to catch the band in October when they return to play with SA legends, The Beards.
The BellRays announced themselves with singer, Lisa Kekaula, preaching the gospel of “Friday night”, reminding everyone that it was the end of the working week and time to let loose. A force of nature, Kekaula demands attention every second she’s on the stage (and also when she leaves it to walk through the audience). Equal parts James Brown and Janis Joplin, she has an awesome stage presence and the vocal power to match.
As an outfit, the great appeal of The BellRays lies in their no-frills approach to performance; with no pyrotechnics or multimedia effects, it’s all about the power of the music. This can best summed up in the performance of guitarist, Bob Vennum, whose power-chords and Jimmy Page style riffs are at the heart of their songs. While most guitarists surround themselves with a plethora of pedals and imposing speaker stacks, Vennum played with minimal effects through a compact Fender DeVille amp and without changing guitars during the night: the lack of vanity here is refreshing, it’s simply about the music.
With twenty-five years of experience behind them, The BellRays delivered an impressive, frenetic show. Mid-set they took ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and made it their own (appropriate, considering Led Zeppelin adapted an existing blues tune to give us this song in the first place); it was a real highlight of the night, as was their main-set closer, the feverish soul of recent single, ‘Black Lightning’.
Throughout the performance, Kekaula paced the stage like an old time gospel preacher echoing theme of the night’s sermon: this was not about sitting back and passively watching something on a screen, this was rock’n’roll, an interactive experience to be lived.
In the streaming age, The BellRays are a timely and potent reminder of the unique value of live music.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor