|Marco Mendoza - Belfast, Spring and Airbrake - 23rd April 2012|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Friday, 04 May 2012 04:30|
There is no doubting Marco Mendoza's pedigree - a career that stretches back more than 20 years and has included stints with the likes of Bill Ward, Ted Nugent, Blue Murder, Whitesnake and, most latterly, Thin Lizzy. Add in a solo album that features luminaries such as Richie Kotzen and Neal Schon and his reputation is hard to argue with. So, with all this in mind, it was probably a safe assumption to expect a night of hard-rockin' action when the man hit the UK for a run of solo dates to (somewhat belatedly) promote that aforementioned (2007 released) solo album, 'Live For Tomorrow'. Well, you know what they say about assuming things...
Local heroes Pay*ola get the night off to a raucous start, building the audience up nicely with a set drawing heavily (understandably) from their forthcoming new EP, 'Hope And Design', with frontman Phil in typically high energy form (even trying to take a bite out of his mic stand to curb his own enthusiasm - that'll be another visit to the dentist, lad).
The house lights dim as Mendoza's band, drummer Pino Liberti and guitarist Favio Cerrone, take up their positions, before the man himself saunters on stage and kicks proceedings off - more with a whimper than a bang, it must be admitted from the outset, with 'Let The Sun Shine', a mid-paced stroller. In an interview with this very site (something you can read here) the bassist said that he views intimate shows such as this more as a conversation between himself and the audience, and he certainly likes to chat, as tonight he spends as much time talking about life in Los Angeles as pumping out funky bass.
Indeed, 'funk' is a fair summation of what the bassist delivers throughout his 75 minute set, with the likes of 'Lettin' Go', 'Not For Me' and especially the failed singalong of 'Your Touch' starting off promisingly enough but soon disappearing into meandering, second rate James Brown/Prince infused jams, characterised (and ruined) by Mendoza's constant echo-filled yelps and squeals, which very quickly become extremely irritating on the ears.
When he sticks to pure rock, such as on the mid-tempo album title track or the bluesy 'Still In Me', the results are pedestrian, while his cover of Thin Lizzy's 'Chinatown', whilst faithful and respectful, is ultimately mediocre. Yes, the musicianship is stunning and Mendoza is an obvious master of his craft, also when Cerrone is given the opportunity to let rip, such as on 'Chinatown' and 'In My Face', he proves to be a competent and confident player. But the constant, nagging question is "so what?" Something which is reinforced by the encore of James Brown's 'I Feel Good', which is in fact anything but, except for a nifty bluesy solo from Signor Cerrone.
Despite it being the last night of a solo tour which had kicked off in Rome almost a fortnight earlier (and having to fly out to Amsterdam first thing the next morning to hook up with his Lizzy compadres), Mendoza was in good form and clearly enjoying himself (despite the small turnout) - smiling throughout, and charming, engaging and humorous in his frequent interactions with the crowd, and staying behind signing autographs (including one which is now indelibly tattooed on a certain 18-year old's forearm!) and posing for photographs. It's just a pity the music did not match up to his massive personality.
Marco Mendoza returns to the UK with Thin Lizzy in May, with headline shows in Leamington Spa (15th) and Guildford (16th) before a run of dates supporting Guns N' Roses, starting in Dublin (yes, we know that's in Ireland) on the 17th and finishing with two nights at London's O2 Arena (May 31 and June 1). After a string of European festival dates throughout July, they then play Carlisle (Sands Centre) on August 17 and the Belsonic festival in Belfast on August 18, and finish the year with nine dates starting in Bournemouth on Novemb3er 29 and finishing in Nottingham on December 9. See http://www.thinlizzyband.com/tour.cfm for full tour dates and ticket details.