Angel played Count’s Vamp’d on Saturday, April 29, 2023, with support act Fever Dog.
The rock never stops at Count’s Vamp’d, with the venue remaining a personal favorite for fans of classic hard rock, heavy metal, and more in Sin City. Be it local, national, or international, this place has it all. In recent years, classic 70s rockers Angel have returned, announcing that they’d be playing the venue; the band has a new album out, making this a perfectly timed visit.
The opening act for the night was called Fever Dog. I’d never heard of these guys before, and assume their name probably comes from the song of the same name from the classic rock and roll movie ALMOST FAMOUS. I’m used to seeing bands walk on stage at Vamp’d wearing generic rock and roll t-shirts and the like, so these guys’ look immediately caught my eye, as they were all dressed in white suits that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the rock and roll stages of the 1970s. Ironically, their outfits were somewhat similar to those worn by Angel in the 1970s, though upon closer inspection in regular light, their outfits were actually silver. They had a unique look about them, no questions asked. But… how did they sound?
I knew I’d be in for a good night with Angel headlining this gig, but Fever Dog got this night off to a blistering start. Again, I had no familiarity with these guys whatsoever, but they looked and sounded like they could’ve just stepped out of a time machine from the 1970s onto a modern stage. Their hard rock riffs and image alike were impressive, as were the original songs that the band served up. One of the moments of the night at Vamp’d that can be an unexpected surprise is the support acts, and I don’t think that’s ever been truer than it was for this set from Fever Dog. The next time these guys come to Vamp’d, let’s hope they’re headlining! I did want to purchase a CD following the gig, but was told by the guy running their merch booth that they had sold out. After this kick-ass set of rock and roll, that doesn’t surprise me.
Angel rocked stages back in the 70s with their unique androgynous look, dressed in all white. With a sound that combined elements of rock, hard rock, pop, and a wild emphasis on keyboards unrivaled by other bands, they were in a league of their own. Unfortunately, they started in the wrong era. Ahead of their time, these guys would’ve been at home in the 1980s glam scene, but as things worked out, they were stuck in the shadow of Casablanca records bandmates KISS. But the band has reunited and retains a strong following.
The current version of Angel features two members from the classic lineup: Frank DiMino on vocals, and guitarist Punky Meadows (DiMino lives in Las Vegas and has been a regular in cover/tribute bands around the Vegas Valley for years). In recent years, both DiMino and Meadows had released solo albums, and made guest appearances on each other’s releases. This resulted in a reformation of Angel, which culminated in an album called RISEN a few years ago. Just a few weeks ago we got a brand new album from the band, ONCE UPON A TIME. The current lineup is filled out by Danny Farrow, Charlie Calv, Steve E. Ojane, and Billy Orrico. While it would’ve been nice to have more guys from the old band back together, this is a tight lineup that means business on stage and in the studio, which they’ve shown for the past several years.
This was easily one of my most anticipated shows of the year; I sadly missed Angel’s show last June since I was out of town on the night that they played. But, better late than never and all that. The group’s show started out with the intro of the vintage voice recording of the band being introduced, at which point they took the stage – dressed primarily in white of course! Mr. DiMino and company wasted no time getting down to business.
This is a tight band in good spirits from start to finish. Having musical talent is one thing, but it’s nothing if you don’t have chemistry with the guys you’re playing with. Obviously, most of the men on this stage have only been in Angel for a handful of years, but all of them play like they’ve been together or a decade plus. You can just see that these guys have a great time on stage playing off of one another. Whether we had Frank entertaining the audience with tales of a Hollywood party he and the band attended back in the days, or trying to silence Punky by telling him that his wife was in the crowd and didn’t need to hear dirty stories, these guys entertained from start to finish. Punky Meadows is one of rock’s most criminally underrated guitarists, and Frank DiMino’s signature vocal style isn’t like anyone else in rock. But the surprise MVP of the evening was none other than keyboardist Charlie Calv. Gregg Giuffria’s shoes aren’t easily filled, but this guy stepped up to the plate and nailed the task at hand with crazy keyboard skills that easily rivaled his more famous predecessor. Angel’s song don’t work without mad keyboard playing, and this guy is right where he belongs!
So, what about the setlist? The band played 16 songs total if the encore is included; this is an impressively long setlist that kept these guys on stage until about a quarter past midnight (they’d started playing around 10:30). Angel released five studio albums from 1975-1979, a live album shortly thereafter, a semi-reunion album in 1999 called IN THE BEGINNING, and their two most recent efforts. With the exception of IN THE BEGINNING (which admittedly is sort of the “odd man out” in the band’s catalogue), every album was represented with at least one track, from the hard rockers to the more pop-driven stuff. That includes gems like “Rock and Rollers,” “Bad Time,” “The Fortune,” “Don’t Leave Me Lonely,” the cover of the classic Young Rascals gem “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (which DiMino dedicated to deceased former members of that band, and of course, the ultimate encore in the form of “Tower” from the band’s first album. This was a very full setlist that covered all the bases and then some. One of the biggest surprises was the inclusion of “It’s Alright” from their most recent effort, which made for one of the set’s most powerful performances.
There were a handful of omissions from the setlist (I don’t think too many people missed the disco-tinged “20th Century Foxes” from the film FOXES in which Angel had a guest appearance), but my biggest gripe as a fan was that nothing was included from DiMino and Meadows’ solo albums from a few years back; these albums were every bit as good as anything Angel has ever released, and that’s no small feat! Just one track from each album would’ve been the icing on the cake. Not to mention it’s thanks to those albums we got the Angel reunion in the first place. Still, no one can deny the good qualities of this setlist far exceeded any minor criticisms.
Angel knows how to rock a live stage all these years later, and the current lineup gets the job done and then some. The support set from Fever Dog, likewise, was one of the best I’ve seen in the venue. Both bands are excellent, and seeing them live in concert is highly recommended. Rock fans won’t be disappointed in the performances of either.
All live photos by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine 2023. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.