Saratoga Springs

Review: Dirty Honey, led by Niskayuna native’s powerful vocals, impresses in SPAC performance

Marc LaBelle and Dirty Honey perform at SPAC Tuesday
Marc LaBelle and Dirty Honey perform at SPAC Tuesday

“We’re the first unsigned band in the history of rock and roll to have a number one single,” announced Dirty Honey lead signer Marc LaBelle from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center stage on Tuesday night.

Looking glam in a black wide-brimmed hat, amber aviator glasses, and knotted neck scarf, the Niskayuna native led his Los Angeles-based band through its first-ever Capital Region gig — an enthusiastically received opening slot for The Black Crowes on their “Shake Your Money Maker” 30th-anniversary tour.

In front of a backdrop emblazoned with their name — which dripped like amber honey — and a giant set of lips and teeth in a nod to the Stones, Dirty Honey mined a classic formula that never seems to get old but is in short supply among new acts these days: a touch of L.A. glam and metal a la Guns N’ Roses melded with Laurel Canyon-esque roots rock and LaBelle’s powerful vocals, which recall classic rock singers like Steven Tyler and Robert Plant.

“They’re great,” said concert goer Jon from Boston during Dirty Honey’s set. The die-hard Black Crowes fan in the amphitheater hadn’t seen the opening act before but was impressed. “It’s a sound that’s missing from today’s music. Greta Van Fleet is the closest we have,” he added, referencing the Michigan band that plays a similar brand of hard-driving blues rock.

“We’ve got lots of friends and family here. This place has a ton of memories for me. We’re going to go full circle now,” LaBelle announced after Dirty Honey’s opening salvo of crunchy blues rockers: “Gypsy,” “Break You,” and “No Warning.” The band’s next song was a cover of Aerosmith’s “Last Child,” which took on heightened meaning because LaBelle’s first SPAC concert was an appearance by Aerosmith in 1997.

Highlights of the hour-long set included Dirty Honey’s latest single, “The Wire,” the clap-along “Tied Up,” “Heartbreaker,” “California Dreamin’ ” and “When I’m Gone,” which made history in 2018 when the single hit number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, signifying the first time ever an unsigned band landed the top position.

Since forming in 2017, Dirty Honey — which also features John Notto on guitar, Justin Smolian on bass and Corey Coverstone on drums — are seemingly on a meteoric rise, having opened for The Who, Guns N’ Roses and now The Black Crowes in their few short years together.

“We’re so proud that one of our own is making it in this crazy industry,” said Jim Gilbert from Niskayuna, who recalled LaBelle’s career as a hockey player at Niskayuna High School after Dirty Honey’s set. “[Marc’s] California adventure couldn’t be going better. He truly is the rock star he set out to be.”

The Black Crowes, led by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson but no other original members, still sounded fresh after 37 years. The Georgia natives played their seminal debut album “Shake Your Money Maker” from start to finish, sounding especially vital on the rollicking roadhouse rock of “Jealous Again,” the Sunday church choir gospel of “Seeing Things,” the Otis Redding-penned classic “Hard to Handle,” and the indelible 1990 single and addiction parable, “She Talks to Angels.”

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts


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