I don’t know about you but I am getting fed up with the media telling us that “rock is dead”. Who says? Simon Cowell (whose idea of “rock night” makes me wonder if he has actually heard of the Trade Descriptions Act) and pop radio in general? Certainly it would seem that the cast and crew of American Anthems are firmly on the side of rock fans.
Even before the start of the show, the voice over sets the stall for what we can expect – singers who can sing, a live band (who actually plug their instruments in and (thank the Lord) no auto-tune. We were even told not to turn off our mobile phones – “you won’t hear them, this is a rock show”.
The story is centred on the search for Rocky Rhodes, the “worlds greatest rock star”, who disappeared on the eve of a concert in the late 1980s. However, like many “jukebox musicals”, the story is not really the point of the show – what counts are the songs, and this is where American Anthems delivers in spades. Quite how Axl would feel about Sweet Child of Mine featuring in a musical is anybody’s guess however the range of classic American songs made the night rock – Van Halen’s Jump, a medley of Bon Jovi’s biggest hits, Boston’s More Than a Feeling and, the now somewhat ubiquitous, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey are only a few of the numbers to enjoy.
At times some of the songs were a little non-rock for my taste (Neil Diamond, Elvis and Dusty Springfield not being my usual listening choices) however they did go down a storm with the Manchester crowd – a broad cross section of ages and tastes who quite clearly enjoyed every minute of the show. Audience participation was certainly not discouraged – allowing the cast to ad-lib lines and play for laughs.
The highlight for me was during the second half. Arriving in a bar whilst hunting for Rocky, our heroes are entertained by John Parr. His presence in the show certainly added to the enjoyment and excitement – the first sight of that famous “Stars & Stripes” guitar sent shivers down my spine. John played two of his biggest hits (Naughty Naughty and, of course, St Elmo’s Fire) accompanied by the American Anthems band. Separating these was a solo acoustic version of the Peter Green classic “Oh Well” – an absolutely stunning version that mixed elements of acoustic blues and flamenco style guitar playing. John is most well known for his vocals and song writing but his guitar playing is unbelievably good.
Great singers (who have developed the skills on the theatre and tribute circuits), a very slick live band (especially the “baby” of the band who celebrated his 21st birthday on the night Rock Zone UK attended) and a whole host of great songs – all add up to a great fun, sing along, top value night out. If you want to put a smile on your face in these depressing times get yourself to “American Anthems”.
For tour date and ticket information see the “American Anthems” website:
By David Wilson