In glam rock, whoever has the most outrageous costumes win, and during sunset of the psychedelic era, the United Kingdom had no shortage of musicians trying to push the limits, like David Bowie, Slade, and of course, Sweet.
Originally founded in 1968 with Brian Connolly on vocals, Steve Priest on bass, guitarist Andy Scott, and Mick Tucker on drums, Sweet would hit the big time in the 1970’s, with such hits as Fox on the Run, Teenage Rampage, The Ballroom Blitz, and their last top 10 hit before the original lead singer for a solo career, Brian Connolly, would leave the band, Love is Like Oxygen. The remaining members of the band would continue to play as a trio, before disbanding in 1981.
With Brian Connolly passing away in 1997, and Mick Tucker in 2002, Steve and Andy would continue to tour with their own versions of Sweet, with Steve being in the United States, and Andy in the UK.
On Thursday night, Steve Priest’s The Sweet played as part of the Sunset Music Fest, at Town Center Plaza, to a crowd of roughly 300. Though there was a small chance of rain in the forecast, and a merely drizzle called for, if anything, the skies would open up several times throughout the evening, before The Sweet would take the stage. In true rock and roll fashion, everyone stayed out, braving the weather, waiting to hear some of the greatest hits glam rock had produced.
The line-up for this incarnation of Sweet includes Steve Priest, of course, on bass and vocals, Stevie Stewart on the keys, drummer Richie Onori, Mitch Perry on guitar, and singer Joe Retta. When any band has a change in line-up, the new members will put their own take on the songs. Sometimes the differences are small, other times, especially with a vocalist, the differences are hard to ignore. Because of that, it would be unfair to compare the performance to that of the records, because the musicians performing, with the exception of Steve, are not the ones on the original recordings.
With only one original member of Sweet performing, it’s hard not to say that the performance was little more than that of a cover band, but with many classic bands, this is also the case (Journey, Foreigner…). When first taking the stage, it was hard not to notice that both Steve and Mitch both immediately seated themselves on stools, were they would remain for most of the evening. Joe explained there was an accident, which was why they were seated, but didn’t want to bore us with the details.
This seemed to be especially hard for Mitch, who wailed on his guitar most of the night, and seemed to restrain himself from leaping up throughout the night. Steve, on the other hand, was very calm, looking over the crowd, smiling to himself at all those who came out to hear the songs he helped create.
Joe made up for the restrained energy, though, making good use of the small stage set up in the shopping plaza, and bantering with the crowd, and other members of the band, at one point saying, “OK, this next song is-” with Steve completing the sentence, “A mess by the time we’re through with it!”
Brian Connolly’s voice is iconic, and will forever be associated with the songs of Sweet; however, Joe does perform them remarkably well. The music does retain its retro charm, but Retta infuses a modern sound, bridging the musical gap between generations. If you’re expecting to hear the soundtrack of your youth, preserved exactly as you remember, you might be a little disappointed. If, however, you want to hear some classic songs, performed well, or just need to get out of the house for a good time, you’ll hardly be disappointed with a performance by Steve Priest’s The Sweet.