It was pretty clear that the haze surrounding the stage arrived via smoke machine, but it appeared ominous anyway, considering the setting was a benefit concert for Ty Longley, the late guitarist of Great White. The band is at the center of the controversy surrounding the West Warwick, Rhode Island, club fire on February 20th that left ninety-nine dead and many injured.
Held at the Key Club, a 400-capacity venue in Los Angeles, last night's concert featured the first public performance by any Great White members since the tragedy; it also served as the forum to announce Great White's upcoming benefit tour for the fire victims.
Great White's lawyer/spokesman Ed McPherson couldn't confirm whether the tour would feature a replacement for Longley. "I don't think it's been discussed," he said. But McPherson stated that it is being planned as a multi-band bill, most likely including Great White's Eighties hair-metal peers Warrant and L.A. Guns, spanning over fifty-five dates, with all of Great White's profits going to charity.
The nearly sold-out Key Club event featured seven bands -- Samantha 7 (a side project from Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille), XYZ, 5 Cent Shine, Gravy, Maestro Alex Gregory (featuring Nick of Megadeth), and the Christy Baerle Band -- many of whom featured Longley at one time.
The show's most anticipated moment, however, was the rumored Great White reunion, which turned out instead to be a chair-bound, one-song set from Great White singer Jack Russell and guitarist Mark Kendall. Introducing "Mother's Eyes," a somber ballad of loss from Great White's 1994 album Sail Away, an overcome Russell paused frequently, tears running down his face.
"Words could never express the pain and sorrow of losing our guitarist, Ty Longley, and ninety-eight of our other Great White family members," said Russell. "It's been very hard on us, needless to say. If this has taught me anything, it's taught me how fragile life is. We're going on a benefit tour this summer to help families of this tragedy, and this is just the beginning of the help that these people are going to get from Great White. This night is for the people we've lost, not Great White."