Michael Angelo Batio 4/8/2017

A beautiful Spring night in Midlothian, perfect for some local rock music. I’m a staunch advocate for original material, but most musicians start off emulating their favorite artists, thus cover bands are born. Tonight TQ, Lisa and I are at Cheers (formerly Sullivan’s) on 147th St. just east of Cicero Ave. to see Jim Pape (Faith in the Fallen), Soul Patch Monkey, Dead Ringer and headliner Michael Angelo Batio (Holland, Nitro). Cheers is a good-size room, with a little re-configuring, it has promise as one of the better rock rooms in the South Suburbs. The staff is friendly and attentive; the beer garden and front patio offer some respite from the busy main room.

Jim Pape led off with a stellar display of nimble guitar work, playing some original material with the help of a backing track. I was pleasantly surprised at Jim’s blues material; a soulful electric glide with echoes of Gary Moore while remaining true to his Chicago roots. Jim got the crowd warmer with his original “Nothing to Lose”, a thunderous joy ride with sweeps worthy of Satch’s Surfing with the Alien. Although his set was short & sweet, Jim exhibited the skill and experience that adds the right touch to Faith in the Fallen. Get out and see that band as soon as you can! (4/22 Twisted Rose, Algonquin, IL)

Dead Ringer and Soul Patch Monkey played the middle sets, two bands that cover classic hard rock with style. Dead Ringer had an old Sabbath vibe, but did a fine job on covers of Smashing Pumpkins and Guns N Roses, albeit to a smattering of polite applause. Their rendition of STP’s “Wicked Garden” was the highlight of their set. Soul Patch Monkey was an unassuming trio that made a lot of noise. Their set featured some deeper classic rock, but the real treat was their version of The Doors “L.A. Woman”, which the band crushed. I’ve heard too many bands cover this song like they were at a bar mitzvah; Soul Patch knocked it down, made it their own and kicked it around the room. Best cover of the night.

Finally, the headliner made it to the stage. Michael Angelo Batio has paid his dues and his resume shines because of it. I first saw him play with Chicago’s own Holland back in the Haywires days on the SW Side. Batio has honed his chops to a fine point, bringing skill and showmanship of a genre just itching to make a comeback. Michael gave a simple tour of his past and along the way, amazed a fascinated audience with his fiery fret work. His tributes to Randy Rhodes and dedication to Dime Bag of Pantera served as a fitting display of Batio’s skills, love of the material, and deep reverence of his peers. Michael Angelo Batio is like watching a heavy metal guitar magician – you constantly find yourself thinking, “How does he DO that?!” Batio is at the top of his game and I can only hope a few fans walked away wanting to follow in the footsteps of this bona fide guitar master.

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