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SAIGON KICK / MEDICINE MAN
Daytona's; Riviera Beach, Maryland; 01/17/00

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Ever since signing their major label debut in 1990 Saigon Kick have taken a crazy roller coaster ride that only the music industry could offer.  The band has seen some highs and some lows, but they've always managed to crank out a variety of songs to please any rock'n'roll fan.  So, it was with much excitement that I learned that Saigon Kick had released their fifth album "Bastards" and that a tour of the United States was in the works.

I was able to get to the show (kudos to Brian and Jill for making this happen) and it was with great anticipation that I waited for Saigon Kick to take the stage.  However, I was informed that guitarist (and main songwriter) Jason was no longer in the band and that the original vocalist Matt Kramer and the original bassist Tom DeFile were back in the band (both Matt and Tom played on the first two Saigon Kick CDs).

This turn of events threw me for a loop - I was completely unprepared for this shift in band personnel.  And who the hell would be playing guitar, anyway?

The opening band Medicine Man seemed to be a hard rock version of Gov't Mule.  Medicine Man were technically competent, but this is one instance where I only cared about one act on the bill.  Medicine Man did throw a couple of curveballs by covering Stone Temple Pilot's "Crackerman" and AC/DC's "Shot Down In Flames."  Medicine Man are touring in support of their debut album. 

I'd seen Saigon Kick only once before in 1991 at Hammerjacks (oh, how I miss that place!) in Baltimore.  Saigon Kick was touring behind their self-titled debut record; what I remember about that show was that Saigon Kick had a challenge on their hands because they were opening for the best American punk band ever - the Ramones.  Fans of the Ramones literally wanted no part of Saigon Kick - much to Saigon Kick's credit though, the band gave a blistering performance and actually won some fans over.

Nine years later I would have figured that the band's challenge would be to re-establish their American audience.  Saigon Kick is still immensely popular in Asian markets, but remain ignored in America.  Having learned that Jason was out and that Matt and Tom were back in, it appeared the challenge would be to regain their footing as a band - still an intriguing challenge if you ask me. 

Saigon Kick's set started with a tape playing the intro to "New World" as the band took the stage and blasted into the rest of the song with typical Saigon Kick intensity.  To answer my question about who was playing guitar it was Jeff Blando; you probably last saw him playing guitar for Slaughter after the untimely death of Tim Kelly. 

The first set were songs from the self-titled debut: the aforementioned "New World," the bouncy "Suzy," "Coming Home," the hilarious "Down By The Ocean," and a vicious rendition of "What Do You Do" were performed in workman-like fashion.  Banter was kept to a minimum as the band seemed determined to reclaim their rightful place in the musical spotlight.

The band took a quick break while "Cruelty" played over the PA.  The second set took flight with one of the more underrated (and most misunderstood) songs ever "Peppermint Tribe."  The completely unexpected "Miss Jones" followed while "God Of 42nd Street," "All Alright," and a vibrant "Hostile Youth" rounded out the set of tunes from their sophomore disc.

The encore was started with a snippet of the semi-downer "Come Take Me Now" before quickly shifting in a 180 to one of the true ballads of rock radio with the ever hopeful "Love Is On The Way."  Saigon Kick ended the night with a vigorous version of "Ugly."

It was a short set, but it was good while it lasted.  It was weird not to hear anything from "Water," "Devil In The Details," or "Bastards" but given the band's "new-old" lineup I'm not surprised.

The band was tight and that's all you can ask for.  The rhythm section of Tom DeFile and Phil Varone were as solid as ever - it didn't sound like DeFile and Varone had any trouble re-connecting after all the years.  Seeing Matt Kramer was bit bizarre because I wasn't expecting it, but hey, I'm not complaining.  Jeff Blando played well and filled some pretty big shoes - his six string slinging and background vocals did an admirable job rounding out the Saigon Kick sound.  Blando's tasty playing didn't imitate Jason, but it did evoke the broad spectrum of Saigon Kick's sonorous resonance that is worthy of their eclectic catalog. 

Is Saigon Kick going to make another run at musical stardom?  Let's hope so as there is still a fighting spirit for this underrated band. 


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