Review and photos by John Jeffrey
Akron, NY - Next to Van Halen, the band from the 80's that most epitomized the term "Guitar Hero" was Dokken. Although the role of the 'hero' has changed, and has been played by a various cast of characters since the original "Mr. Scary," George Lynch, lead vocalist Don Dokken continues to carry on with the band named after him, and brought the latest incarnation of the group to Braun's Concert Cove last Friday night. The outdoor show happened to take place on a abnormally warm early Fall evening, as hundreds of metal heads made it out for Dokken's first WNY appearance in almost 10 years.
The last time Dokken was here, was in 2003, when they performed their infamous gig at the now defunct Continental. Although the show was sold out, the funny thing is that the Continental was well known for being a hardcore metal/punk/goth club, which never had (hair) bands like Dokken perform there. Since 2003, Dokken has gone through personnel changes and the only remaining original member of Dokken, is Don himself. Long time drummer, 'Wild' Mick Brown (who recorded the drums for the new 2012 Dokken CD, "Broken Bones"), shares his time between Dokken, T&N (aka Tooth & Nail, which is essentially another version of Dokken, but without Don, featuring the classic lineup members George Lynch and Jeff Pilson, who also have a brand new CD coming out, also featuring Mick on drums) and his 'full time' gig, playing for Ted Nugent. With Mick not committing to this tour, filling in for him currently is Jimmy Degrasso, most known for his time in Alice Cooper's band and Megadeth. On bass, is three year Dokken veteran Sean McNabb, and on guitar, nearly ten years in, is 'the new guy' Jon Levin.
At 9:30 pm, Dokken hit the outdoor concert stage at Braun's, which is essentially a giant, fenced in, backyard patio setup - behind the main building (where the bar is located), big enough to hold the amphitheater sized stage and sound system, and can comfortably accommodate a couple thousand fans. There were tiki torches which outlined the perimeter of the concert area, which created a cool, almost medieval type setting. It was like watching Dokken perform inside of a castle or something. It doesn't get much more metal than that!
Their 90 minute set included all of the Dokken hits one would expect, but surprisingly, they didn't preview the audience with any new tunes from "Broken Bones," which was being released four days after the show (September 25). The sound was extremely loud up front by the stage, but it wasn't distorted, and seemed to taper off quite a bit, once you were out of the immediate 'free-fire zone.' The band's playing was tight, even with replacement time keeper, Degrasso. Guitarist Levin, while given flack for being a 'George Lynch clone' with his guitar playing, did a flawless job recreating the classic riffs and solos. Playing everything the way it should be played, Dokken is lucky to have a player like Levin in the band, as not every guitarist who came in after Lynch, did such a convincing job. Bassist McNabb was equally as solid.
Don Dokken, who gets much criticism regarding his post surgery vocals (he had surgery on his vocal chords in early 2011), delivered a solid performance. While Don sings in a lower register these days and has altered the vocal melodies on many of the songs, he still sounds strong and has an unmistakable voice. His in between song banter was enjoyable as well, as he comes across very humble and apparently has a pretty good sense of humor, as he poked fun at himself and also other people, like Lady Gaga. Don commented on the recent "fat" photos of Lady Gaga, which have appeared on the internet by saying, "She looked horrible before, now she REALLY looks like shit!"
Aside from the Dokken "classics," they played "Too High To Fly" from the 1995 "Dysfunctional" CD. Before going into this song, Don told some funny stories about his past drug history (he said at one point, he "smoked anything you put in front of me"), and then during the breakdown of the song, he went into full on Jim Morrison mode, and included some lines from classic Doors songs. Levin also had an extended guitar solo during the song, where he played some tasteful blues-rock licks, ala Warren DeMartini (Ratt).
Ending the show with "When Heaven Comes Down" and "In My Dreams," Don thanked the crowd for their support and enthusiasm, and for allowing him to "relive 1987." After witnessing a very enjoyable set by the 36 year old band, almost the same age as myself, it just goes to show that you're never too old to go 'Rokken with Dokken.'
Special Thanks to Ross Catalino for making the arrangements for us to review the show!
Review and photos by John Jeffrey