In the testosterone-heavy rock climate of the 1980’s, women performers who held sex appeal for metal-loving youngsters were few on the ground. It was therefore unsurprising that the petite Canadian rocker Lee Aaron’s picture in Kerrang’s ‘Ladykillers’ feature must have featured on many a bedroom wall. Over the years she went for a more refined look and style, and then disappeared from view entirely to do things as diverse as raising a family and making jazz records.
Eyebrows were raised at news of a comeback last year, but her return to English soil with a new band at the Rockingham Festival was spectacularly good, and led to this European tour with a couple of UK dates, this one – admittedly on a Sunday in mid-summer - resulting in another disappointing attendance at the Underworld.
There were two home grown support acts, rather a mismatch on the bill as both were peddling the metal Lee Aaron left behind after about 1984. With an early start I only caught the last couple of songs from Neverworld, who were followed by Neuronspoiler who delivered an enthusiastic performance, notably wild haired guitarist David Del Cid with his foot on the monitors and pulling some very entertaining shapes.
Singer JR Vox (sic) can certainly hit the high notes though with the exception of ‘Invincible Man’ the individual songs didn’t make much impact on me on first hearing. Maybe some time with their forthcoming album ‘Second Sight’ will address that.
Lee Aaron bounded on stage in silvery leather jacket, swiftly discarded to reveal a Ramones T-shirt, and black skirt, jumping up and down youthfully to new song ‘Tomboy’, which drew comparisons to fellow Canucks Avril Lavigne or Alanis Morrissette. It was followed by a couple from the ‘Body Rock’ album as she covered every inch of the stage during ‘Hands On’ followed by a respectable cover of ‘Rock Candy’.
The years have been kind to her and she is a charismatic personality who knows how she is regarded by her audience and delights in having the upper hand, teasing them, especially for being so male-dominated, and disarming some would-be front row stalkers with a caustic wit.
Both the title track from her recent comeback ‘Fire And Gasoline’ and an as yet unreleased song ‘Diamond Baby’ were solid blues rockers that were a perfect current fit for her vocal style, while another new song in ‘I’m A Woman’ was more a traditional blues pastiche.
In between, the classic keyboard/guitar intro and hook-filled chorus to ‘Powerline’ was a reminder of the more AOR direction she went in as the eighties progressed, though I was disappointed when mid-guitar solo it ran medley style into ‘Lady Of The Darkest Night’.
All eras of her career – other than the jazz age! – were covered, including ‘Baby Go Round’ which I had never heard before, and a sassy, almost Aerosmith-like duo from 1991’s ‘Some Girls Do’ in the title track and ‘Sex With Love’, while ‘Whatcha Do To My Body’ was in a similar fun vein.
Jaws dropped however when she mentioned they had just recorded a seventies song written by Ritchie Blackmore and David Coverdale and covered ‘Mistreated ’- however the gamble paid off handsomely with a great version really showing how Lee’s always powerful voice has developed a richer bluesiness over the years.
She conveyed just as much emotion in one of the great lost power ballads in ‘Barely Holding On’, before the inevitable closer in her old theme tune ‘Metal Queen’, going right back to her earlier sound and with bassist Dave Reiner singing the ‘rocks your soul’ pay off line.
The solitary encore also harked back to earlier days, ‘Hot To Be Rocked’ another fist puncher with some simple but memorable riffing from Sean Kelly who had been pulling some great poses all night tilting his guitar skywards.
I never expected to see Lee Aaron return to the rock world looking and sounding so vibrant. With a near hour and a half set spanning all career bases, and suggesting she is fully comfortable with a bluesier yet still rocky new direction, this gig was a triumph on every level to confound the cynics.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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