GIGS GUIDE

[venue]: Max Bell Arena, 1001 Barlow Trail South East
[city/province]: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
[date/time]: 1984 November 1, Thursday, 8:00 PM
[info]: Vices Tour, with Helix

It was heavy-metal hit parade, Canadian style, at the Max Bell Arena Thursday night as Helix and Kick Axe thundered into town to show off their new leather duds and blow a few eardrums along the way.

These are Canuck up-and-comers, Helix's latest album having sold 100,000 copies while Kick Axe (who were playing the Body Shoppe only a few months ago) has seen its debut disc near 50,000 in sales.

In terms of Calgary show, Kick Axe got top billing since its manager also booked the concert (even though Helix, due to longevity and sales, should've been opening).

Both bands are, of course, riding the surging tide of interest in power chords, their success also buoyed by videos (especially Helix with naughty but effective mini-films).

As well, both groups go for the gusto in their aural attack, using plenty of high volume, high energy rock 'n' roll meant to send little old ladies screaming into the night and thrill pseudo-rebellious teenagers who think loud is proud.

However, while Helix and Kick Axe both employed "concussion" bombs (canned gas powder that makes a big boom) and maintained a strict allegiance to heavy metal rites (guitarists lined up in a row, long locks and leather), the bands were not even in their performances.

Helix was tighter musically, their blaring guitar lines effectively raunchy. And lead singer Brian Vollmer was a fitting figure of heavy metal athletics with his leaps, rolls and general hooting and hollering.

As for Kick Axe, the band displayed some strong harmonies but its sound was muddy and - save for an interesting duet between guitarist Raymond Harvey and drummer Brian Gillstrom, following Harvey's third-rate Jimi Hendrix imitation - its musicianship lacked focus.

As well, lead singer George Criston should can the excessive pancake makeup and his Neanderthal nerd movements to concentrate more on his strong singing.

Unfortunately, whatever virtues the two groups might have had were lost in their mindless maintaining of cliches. The need to appear like thugs on stage before their young fans, when they're no such thing in real life, is hypocritical.

As well, their need to reduce everything in song to rocking and fornicating is just downright dumb. One had to laugh when Helix's Vollmer tried to get everybody to raise their hands in the air and clap by saying "Anybody who doesn't put their hands up in the air is a faggot."

Judging from the audience's response, Vollmer underestimated the homosexual community in Calgary just as these bands underestimated the intelligence of youth in general.