Concert Review: Pat Travers Band, Live at RockBar Theatre, San Jose, Ca.

SAN JOSE, CA - A lot has changed between now and the last time I saw the Pat Travers Band in 1978. By the looks of the audience at the RockBar in San Jose, Pat Travers has accumulated a wiser, more refined and mature audience with enough unheeding animation to walk into a venue like the RockBar, on a Friday night and brave an evening of what is certain to be a night of loud music!

Review by Camden Barbour * Photos courtesy of Pat Travers Band

The RockBar is a converted card club with a large stage on one end of the room and a spacious lounge with various seating options on the other end. The two areas are separated by a colonnade which unfortunately blocks some of the view of the stage from the lounge areas. The place features a separate bar called, the Vodka Bar and another bar area in the corner of the main lounge.

Pat Travers is a well seasoned journeyman guitar player/song writer from Canada who is recognized by Billboard Magazine as having the Top 20 album of 1980, Crash and Burn which features the classic rock radio hit, “Snorting Whiskey.” He has written or made famous tons... or kilograms, depending on which side of the US/Canadian border you survey, of radio friendly songs.... Who doesn’t know what to say when he sings, "Boom Boom?" (Editor's Note: "Out go the lights!")

Waiting through three opening bands and a brief sound check on the stage monitors, the Pat Travers Band first hit the stage around 10:45 pm. Pat walked directly to the left side of the stage, to his Marshall half-stack, plugged in his dark green PRS guitar and he and the band got right to work with “Rock-n-Roll Susie,” “Life in London” and “Crash and Burn.” He didn’t look up much... he simply seemed like a man there to kick your ass!

The opening number, the aforementioned “Rock-n-Roll Susie,” works as an audience grabber and a sound check song... the vocals were low at first, but dialed in quickly. It was exciting to hear the guitars and drums start with a thunderous roar and it was even more exciting to see this legend a mere 10 feet away from me and to watch him steadily work his craft.

If the first song was for the band to get their bearings, the second song - one of my favorites in “Life In London” - was for the audience. It rocked, swayed and flowed like a Mac truck speeding through a subway tube.

Pat Travers proves his clear direction for his hybrid of Blues/Funk/Punk Rock/Metal music in this song. I think “Life in London” is a stunning example of "tuff stuff" guitar music. Along with his band of well rehearsed, professional musicians and their amplified toys, who prove they know a little something about entertainment too.

The band played the familiar and bluesy, “Crash and Burn” and then turned in a sparkling cover of the Ray Charles gem “I Got News For You." Pat’s voice is the perfect growl... he delivers the emotion of the song as the rough-and-the-smooth notes escape through his effortless sneer.

The classic “Black Betty” got the crowd cheering and pumping their fists along with the call and response. This standard featured a more direct rock-and-roll riff with the hard beat driven by drummer Sandy Gennaro.

It was in the first verse of “Heat In the Street” that Pat stopped singing for a moment. I thought he had forgotten the words...maybe. Pat made his way to the drum riser and stood for a moment looking a little confused or upset, the band played on until Pat signaled to cut the music.

Pat unplugged the lead of his guitar at the amplifier and walked towards, then leaned into his bass player, Rodney O’Quinn. Mr. O’Quinn cradled and supported his boss, apparently listening to Pat whisper.

He went to the center microphone and let us know that Mr. Travers needed a short break. The two walked off stage individually, followed by the other guitar player, Kirk McKim. Sandy Gennaro took the opportunity to fill in with a drum solo.

In a short time the whole band came back out. Pat told us briefly he was just dehydrated and on a vigorous schedule and that he was fine. The band then did a beautiful version of the Travers favorite “Stevie,” before taking an official 10 minute intermission.

Mr. Gennaro also took the opportunity to tell two quick jokes at the center stage microphone, before walking away with his towel to the dressing rooms. The crowd laughed and cheered and then mingled quietly.

For the second set Pat played slide guitar and I could see every finger smudge on the thick red lacquer finish of the guitar. The band played “Statesboro Blues” and then one of the most interesting versions of the classic “Red House” I have ever heard. Thankfully Pat doesn’t try to imitate Hendrix but makes the song his own by playing slide and in a different arrangement.

The final songs, “Snorting Whiskey” and “Boom Boom," may have been a bit rushed but you couldn't blame them, as it had become a long evening for everyone involved. However, the band did come back for an encore and Pat thanked the audience for "hanging in there with him."

Opening acts included the three-piece blues band Michael Cosyn Group, followed by the five-piece, 70's covers of The Butlers and then Points North, a three-piece progressive rock outfit. The RockBar Theatre is located at 360 Saratoga Ave., San Jose, CA

Editor's Note: Camden's first SRO submission seems a fitting one, for not only has Camden experienced "past and present" memories with the Pat Travers Band, so has this music fan. My past memory was seeing the Pat Travers Band (his original trio) open up for Aerosmith in 1983, and my present memory is interviewing Mr. Travers two years ago, for the book I am currently writing about the late-great Ben Orr of The Cars. Pat was briefly in a band with Mr. Orr in 1999 called "Big People."