GIGS GUIDE

[venue]: Average Joe's Sports Bar, 420 6th Street South
[city/province]: Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
[date/time]: 2018 June 14, Thursday, 8:00 PM
[info]: with Killer Dwarfs

L. A. Beat: Killer Dwarfs and Kick Axe keep the spirit of the '80s alive by Richard Amery

A respectable crowd got "On the Road to Rock" by reliving the '80s in Canada with an outstanding show at Average Joes, Thursday, June 14 from The Killer Dwarfs and Kick Axe, who both charted a number of heavy metal hits throughout the '80s.

Average Joes shows start on time, so I arrived about four songs into the Killer Dwarfs set, of relentlessly upbeat '80s metal. The crowd knew most of the words and was singing along.

Frontman Russ "Dwarf" Graham, belted out the Dwarfs songs like the '80s never left and bounced around the stage, and off it during guitar solos, reappearing in the middle of the audience to stand on tables to continue singing the songs without missing a beat.

He was all the more impressive, playing acoustic guitar for one slightly slower number. The Killer Dwarfs are a long lost Canadian treasure so I feel I should have recognized more of their songs. Typical to '80s metal, there were plenty of big guitar riffs, scorching solos and plenty of good vibes.

I missed "Stand Tall", which was early in the set, but was glad they saved their best known hit "Keep the Spirit Alive" for the end of their set around 9:10 p.m., but they were called back for an encore.

After what seemed like an eternally long set break, Kick Axe took the stage at just after 10 p.m.

Having been pretty much ostracized as a young teen in a small town in the '80s for admitting I liked the cheesy '80s video for Kick Axe's "On the Road To Rock", I was pleasantly surprised by Kick Axe. They saved that for near the end of an energetic set drawing heavily from the new wave of British heavy metal, nodding and thrashing their hirsute heads to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

An early highlight was "Hunger", their contribution to the Transformers movie.

Their music was built for arenas with huge shout along choruses, gang vocals and big guitars. Guitarists Larry Gillstrom, wielding a purple Gibson SG traded big riffs with Ray Harvey and even played some cool, subtle twin guitar leads.

Having forgot my earplugs for a show where I really needed them, I sadly identified with their catchy song "If it's Too Loud, You're Too Old", especially when, ears ringing, I found them buried in a side pocket after the show.

Tiny, kilted singer Daniel Nargang wore a tattered white Motorhead T-shirt and screamed his head of like the bastard child of Robert Plant and Bruce Dickinson, adopted by Rob Halford.

Kick Axe played an assortment of high octane hits like "Welcome To The Club", "Hellraiser", and "Vices". Bassist Victor Langen switched to his recognizable battle axe shaped bass for the last few songs of their set beginning with "Rockin' Daze".

They wound down the show with "On The Road To Rock" and "Heavy Metal Shuffle" before ending with a couple of metalized Fleetwood Mac covers, "The Chain" and Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi," which Nargang noted they discovered while touring with Judas Priest, who also covered it.

Kick Axe bassist Victor Langen at Average Joes. Photo by Richard Amery

Kick Axe playing Average Joes, June 14. Photo by Richard Amery