Shooting Star & Vince Neil: New Year's Eve in Kansas City!

Shooting Star & Vince Neil
Ameristar Casino

Kansas City, MO
New Year’s Eve 2014

By Jeb Wright

Classic Rock rocked the year away in Kansas City as local heroes Shooting Star opened for Motley Crue’s front man, Vince Neil, and his solo band. 

First up was Shooting Star.  Led by founding member Van McLain, the band showed Kansas City what it already knew, and that the rest of the world should know… and that is that SS is one hell of a rock band! 

Stripped down to a four-piece band, Shooting Star still manages to recreate all the sounds needed to reproduce all of their biggest hits.  The band now consists of McLain, original drummer Steve Thomas, longtime keyboardist Dennis Laffoon and newcomer-vocalist Todd Pettygrove. 

The band opened with the McLain penned 9/11 tribute tune “Let’s Roll” before blasting out all of their classic songs.  They rocked the house with a set list that included their best known hit “Last Chance” as well as the emotional “Flesh and Blood,” the rocking “Hang On For Your Life” and the poignant “Hollywood.”  “Touch Me Tonight,” an MTV favorite back in the day, was received well, but it was the rocking “Tonight” that really brought the house down.  For fans of the band’s sophomore effort, Hang On For Your Life, six tunes were performed including the aforementioned “Flesh and Blood,” “Hollywood” and the title track, joined by “Are You Ready,” “Breakout” and “You’ve Got Love.”

CRR was on the scene for lead vocalist Todd Pettygrove’s debut performance at The Moondance Jam in Minnesota.  Now with several more shows under his belt, he is more comfortable in his role as the SS front man.  He is an imposing figure physically and can hold his own vocally… and he is also fun to watch on stage. 

On this night Todd won the coveted Spinal Tap Mini Stonehenge Award of the evening for his fiddling about with a disco ball on several songs.  The ball, smaller than one that actually would hang from a dance floor ceiling, was on some sort of pedestal and Todd kept holding it up in the air in an attempt for the light to hit the ball and then dazzle the audience with its blinding light show.  It never quite happened.  Try as he might, the ball never caught the spotlight, thus there was never any dazzle or pizzazz from his many attempts.  Perhaps he can make the pedestal into a hat and wear it on his head and then go to the light!  You know, just a thought…

All kidding aside, Pettygrove is a fun addition to the band and adds personality to the performance.  When he sings the high notes on “Hollywood” he shows he’s got what it takes to be in a big time rock band.  To his left the entire time, and sharing vocals with him, as well as knocking out several killer riffs and solos is Shooting Star’s leader Van McLain.  This guy has so much talent—both in his playing and compositional skills.  He plays with passion and heart, and despite knowing his songs never got as big as they should have, he gives his ‘all’ to the Shooting Star Maniacs that are still coming out to see him nearly three decades down the line. 

Dennis Laffoon takes on keyboard duties with one hand, bass duties with the other and plays some violin parts on the keys as the band no longer has a violin player.  McLain also recreates violin solos on his guitar. 

The band, like corporate America, has to do more with less and each player steps up to the challenges of the evening.  Drummer Steve Thomas provides the pounding and he does it with ease.  He is the unsung hero of Shooting Star, holding it all together while never show-boating his skills… and he has skills as witnessed on the song “You’ve Got Love.”  Thomas was all smiles as he bashed and beat his way through the tune.  At the end of the day, Shooting Star put on a strong performance and left the stage triumphantly. 

After a short break Vince Neil, vocalist for Motley Crue, took the stage.  His backing band is the band Slaughter minus singer Mark Slaughter.  They were fine.  They play well, although they were too loud for the room, making hearing the music harder, as all the audience really heard was noise.  The drunken ones didn’t care.  They also were very forgiving of Neil’s performance.  Maybe Vince bought them all that booze?

Vince is a prime example of someone who is getting more than they deserve out of life.  To be honest, his vocals were very rough.  His stage presence was forced and he just didn’t do much for anyone who was not ‘blottoed’. 

Hey, who am I to complain?  I didn’t pay for my ticket and I am sure Vince won’t care what I think.  The members of Motley Crue are rock icons, and as long as people keep paying to see Vince, then I am sure he will crank it up and give it to them. 

As a guy who is writing this review, however, I too need to be honest.  Vince was subpar on this occasion. I may be willing to give him another chance, but tonight it was clear we were not witnessing anything close to earth shattering.  Better luck next time, Vince.  At least you got the countdown to the New Year right—truth is I assume you got it right as this writer was long gone by the time 2015 rolled into town. 

Despite any warts, this was a fun show and a good time.  Vince has the history and the songs to put butts in the seats, or in this case, fans on their feet singing along with him to some huge hits.  On this night, however, the hometown heroes, Shooting Star, were the better band.

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