Alive at Five opened its season Thursday night in downtown Albany on the Hudson River, with the heavy rock group Great White, with co-founder Mark Kendall running things, and singer-showman Terry Ilous out in front for the entertainment.
Ilous told us he was 5 years old when the original Great White first got together 36 years ago. Ilous joined them in 2010, and is a spectacle to watch with his incessant moving, talking, singing, pantomiming. Sometimes he seemed genuine, sometimes he seemed to be imitating the metal genre.
It was Kendall who surprised us with his on-point guitar solos, more blues-based then metal-heavy, and a good number of blues-rock tunes.
They opened with “I’ve Got Something for You,” a medium-heavy collection of power chords, that sounded similar to the next one and many others.
Next Kendall started playing a heavy blues intro, alone and softly. Ilous came out to sing after two rounds, then backed away and told Kendall to play another round. Ilous did a little call-and-response with Kendall — guitar called, vocals responded — and eventually all the instruments joined.
Kendall next launched into a real Delta blues riff, then moving into a rock feel, sounding more like Chuck Berry than Eddie Van Halen.
The seats were filled — not jam packed, but filled — but the grass was thin with people, which grew thinner as the night moved on.
Ilous screamed, “Raise your hand if you know this song.” Kendall played a nice intro to begin “Face the Day.” A good number of hands shot up in the front standing section. Kendall took his time on this solo, until Ilous ripped a high-pitched scream, triggering Kendall to pick up his speed and volume but stay under control.
Ilous’ European accent — a mix of French, Spanish, and now English — came through clearly when he spoke between tunes. There was humor in hearing him yell, “Let’s party Albany,” and “Who loves the Great White,” with his dialect. The accent disappeared during the songs and particularly the screams — the man seemed to have no concern of hurting his vocal chords.
They played “I’m Alright” off their newest record, which moved not very differently than all their other heavier tunes.
For those who believe rock lyrics should remain simple, this was your show. Songs were filled with choruses like “I’m alright,” “hey mama I’m coming around,” baby make it alright,” and “rock me tonight.”
The large black double-bass drums that centered the stage offered the visual of heavy thrumming sounds. But the songs were lighter than expected, even airy in some spots, as was the drummer. Often Kendall was the only guitarist, when the rhythm player shifted to keyboards, or on one occasion, blues harp.
Ilous dedicated “Save your Love,” a metal ballad and one of their larger hits, to a couple in the front that he chatted up while on stage.
They continued with a string of their hits to end the show, which included “Rock Me,” and the song that catapulted their career, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”
There were plenty of happy fans up front and scattered around the grounds that reveled in the memory of these tunes.
The local Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Band opened the show. They gave it their best, played awfully hard, but the sun was still high, the audience was still settling in, and it was difficult to squeeze enthusiasm from this crowd.