Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cherry Bomb: Cherie Currie Concert Review and The Last Piece of My Runaways Puzzle

Rock'n'Roll is eternal. If you don't believe that, then you haven't been paying attention.



If you've been following this blog since it's inception, you know that I've been on a bit of a journey/quest in 2013. I wrote some thank you letters to people who have had a significant impact on my life. Two of those people happened to be my guitar heroes, Joan Jett and Lita Ford. I wrote another message and it went to Cherie Currie, the former lead singer of the ground-breaking band The Runaways. Cherie Currie was the last piece to my Runaways puzzle. I was fortunate enough to meet both Joan and Lita in 2013, and in my mind, I thought I'd probably never get the chance to meet the Cherry Bomb herself, Cherie Currie.

Cherie Currie has had a life journey that so many would not have been able to survive. But in spite of all the odds stacked against her, Cherie survived. Drug addiction, the stresses of being a teenage girl coming of age in a rock band, divorce, and most recently, a "breakup" of sorts with her former record label. The politics behind it are of no importance to this blog writer. The fact that Cherie forged ahead without label support for a new album should make people involved in the music industry think about how the entire industry is set up. The fact that she carves sculptures with a chainsaw when she's not rocking out should make you realize that you can't get cooler than that.

As a fellow musician, I feel for Cherie and the struggle she's endured with trying to get an album out, against all odds. Being a musician is often a series of letdowns. No matter how hard you work, sometimes, things just don't go your way. Here's what I mean. I remember being 8 years old and loving the opportunity to sing. I sang in my room (while playing the drums, much to my parents' chagrin), in the car, in my sandbox, and everywhere else. I also remember being excited that I could finally try out for the school choir because I was now in the third grade. I waited in line at the "audition" and when it was my turn the vocal music teacher played the first few bars of the national anthem and told me to sing. So I did. Her response? "Oh my God, that was absolutely AWFUL. But sure, you can be in the choir anyway." (She rolled her eyes for effect too.) I was crushed. I didn't sing a note in the choir that year. I stood there and did my best Milli Vanili impression for every performance. I also stopped singing everywhere else - in my room, the car, my sandbox...everywhere. I was 8. I still don't sing, not even background vocals in my band. (For the record, that teacher is one of the reasons I became a teacher myself: no child should have to feel the way I did, and in my class, I do my best to make sure they don't.) To me, the fact that Cherie Currie has attempted a comeback into such a cut throat industry shows the strength of character required to be an artist. How can you not respect that? It's so rock'n'roll: going out on tour without record label support.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a profound soft spot for The Runaways. Those girls DID change the history of rock'n'roll. It took decades for their influence to be felt, but if you look around today, you see several female-fronted bands that are evidence of that influence. Naturally, when I saw tour dates announced on Cherie Currie's Facebook page, I was excited. When she added a Toronto date, I was ecstatic. Maybe I'd get my chance to meet the last Runaway in my puzzle before the year's end after all. I bought a ticket and braved some frigid November weather and took a spot in front of the stage.

There are always haters. People who insist that Cherie is trying to capitalize on some sort of legacy that has passed her by. I saw her perform at Lee's Palace in Toronto, and I can say this: to all the naysayers out there, Cherie Currie put her heart and soul into her performance that night, and when I shut my eyes to the first few bars of "Cherry Bomb", I was transplanted back to an era I missed the first time around because I wasn't even born yet. Her voice was, well, Cherie Currie. Her band played their hearts out and the show was great. Sometimes you go see someone you're a big fan of and it's a letdown. Maybe they sound out of tune, or they make you think they should have stayed retired from the industry. But this was not the case that night at Lee's Palace. Cherie paid tribute to some 70's babies (hey, that's me!) by playing "Dragging the Line", and she paid homage to her own idol, David Bowie, by playing "Rebel Rebel". She injected some Runaways favorites into the show but also included some of her new songs that have yet to be released. She was visibly moved to tears at one point in the show, and thanked the fans profusely. She also stopped in the middle of "Cherry Bomb" and asked the band to start the song again. Both versions sounded great and she elicited audience participation that is often missing from the "young" rock bands of the current era. The showmanship that you see on bootleg copies of Runaways performances was evident on that cold Toronto night.




After the show, Cherie stayed to sign each and every autograph and take photos with fans, until everyone got one of each. I was first in line and I got to say "thank you" in person, and even though Cherie had responded to my message I had written to her months earlier, meeting her felt like I had come full circle in 2013. I handed her my "Live in Japan" album, and she signed it for me. And there it was, her signature on the same LP as Lita Ford's. An image frozen in time from 1977, but that has more social significance today than ever before. She posed for a picture with me, we chatted briefly, and I said goodbye, promising that our paths would probably cross again in the future. Cherie is a class act and a sweetheart. Who else would stay for two and half hours to talk to fans after putting on a full rock show?

As I drove home that night, I was left with a sense that the rock'n'roll angels have looked after Cherie Currie in the past, and that somehow, someway, they'll look after her now too, as she does her best to battle the forces of the music industry to release an album that has been years in the making. She's got a new Christmas single that reunites her with Lita Ford, titled "Rock This Christmas Down". You can download it on iTunes and give your Christmas party the edge that it probably so desperately needs. You can also order a limited edition signed photo that includes both Lita's and Cherie's signature from Lita Ford's online store. Cherie played what may be her last show for a while, a few days ago in California, where she started her tour - the very same venue in fact - at Brick by Brick.

Thank you Cherry Bomb. Your resilience and sincere appreciation for your fans reminds me why I'm proud to say that rock'n'roll is what saved my life too. If you ever get the chance to see Cherie Currie in concert, do yourself a favor and check her out. If you were a Runaways fan in the 1970's you'll be transported back to that magical time, and if you're a new fan, you'll get a chance to witness what real showmanship is. Cherie Currie's is a story of resilience, re-birth, and refusal to be kept down. That's what rock'n'roll is all about.
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