Touring in support of yet another release of not-quite-all-new material, the band returns to town Sunday, sharing the bill with Ratt, for which Poison opened on one of its first national arena jaunts way back in 1987. If that combination doesn't take you to hair-metal heaven, L.A. Guns plays the following night.
Those who haven't been keeping up should be warned that the L.A. Guns playing here is actually one of two groups performing under that name. The other one is officially named L.A. Guns Hollywood but frequently refers to itself as just L.A. Guns. Both groups tour, which confuses matters. All you need to know is that guitarist and founding member Tracii Guns, the person after whom L.A. Guns and Guns N' Roses were named, now leads the faction that plays here Monday. Guns originally left camp to play with Nikki Sixx in Brides of Destruction. Longtime bandmates Phil Lewis and Steve Riley have carried on without him with a guy named — get this — Stacey Blades.
"I Wanna Be Your Man by L.A. Guns:
Purists — if there is such a thing when it comes to this style of music — might balk at watching a lineup that boasts only one original member. On the other hand, the classic-era material is some of the grittiest stuff the hair crowd ever turned out. Lewis, Guns and company were never averse to giving audiences a mouthful of the Sunset Strip's street-level filth. They made a career out of wallowing in the toilet bowl of Hollywood's drug-addled mentality. Just take a look at how the original members have aged.
Lewis' assertion that L.A. Guns was always more "experimental and punk" than its peers seems a bit rich against Guns' simpler description of his work as "straight-up, dirty-ass rock and roll." That's certainly how the fans like it, and Guns will surely look more dirty-assed than Ratt and Poison. L.A. Guns never reached the same heights of popularity as either of those bands, so there's some survivor appeal in seeing the group in 2007. That Guns is still here is the result of scrapping and hanging in there by his nails.
By contrast, arena refugees such as Ratt and Poison seem as though they're trying to relive long-faded dreams. Of course, that's part of what keeps the fans coming back. As their own dreams fade, they can turn to the music to spritz the air with the mist of youth, even if what they get is as synthetic as hairspray. Tracii Guns may be living in the past, but at least he's still around to light a little fire under your dirty ass.