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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Zebra and Angel at Arcada Theatre

| March 23, 2022

Zebra at Arcada Theatre, with special guest Angel

St. Charles, IL

Friday, March 18, 2022

Review and Photos by Jeff Elbel


An otherwise wet and dreary Friday evening was enlivened for those who visited the Arcada Theatre to witness the return of ‘80s rock heroes Zebra. In the band’s 47-year career, it was only the trio’s fifth visit on record to the Chicagoland area. The band’s local appearance in 2018 was also held at the Arcada, which has become a regional haven for legacy, vintage hard rock and progressive music.

Compared to the flashy showmanship and party atmosphere of the opening set by ‘70s glam-rock veterans Angel, New Orleans’ Zebra principals Randy Jackson, Felix Hanemann, and Guy Gelso delivered the essentials. The trio walked onto the stage in basic black street attire with no fanfare. After running a line check, the players’ players presented a dazzling display of technical proficiency accompanied by songs to match.

The setlist was drawn from four studio albums released between 1983 and 2003, including favorites like “As I Said Before,” “Take Your Fingers from My Hair,” and “Tell Me What You Want” from Zebra’s gold-selling self-titled debut. Songs including IV track “Light of My Love” and the exotic rocker “Arabian Nights” revealed the band’s foundational influence to be Led Zeppelin. Other tracks, including “The La La Song” (dedicated to Buddy Guy, whose daughter was in attendance) suggested a meeting between classic Yes and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. During the latter song, the trio’s crystalline harmonies rang through the theatre before guitarist Jackson and bassist Hanemann stepped away while Gelso offered an outstanding solo with percussive precision.

1985 MTV-era single “Bears” saw Hanemann set his bass aside and move to his keyboards. The sound echoed 1980s-era Rush. Jackson played solos that would’ve tied many guitarist’s fingers into knots, in addition to singing stratospheric falsetto during songs like “Wait Until the Summer’s Gone.” He swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic 12-string guitar during the lush 3.V ballad “Time.” The same alternate tuning was used for the epic and existential “Who’s Behind the Door.” Jackson introduced the mournful “Don’t Walk Away,” saying that the song was written for a member of the band’s extended family who died by suicide. The band fielded a special request for the relentless but less-frequently performed 3.V cut “Better Not Call.”

Jackson played an improvisational quote of “House of the Rising Sun” before the trio blew the doors off with “Tell Me What You Want” to conclude the main set. By special request of Arcada Theatre promoter Ron Onesti, the band returned to perform a generous encore of Led Zeppelin favorites including “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Immigrant Song,” “Heartbreaker,” and showstopper “Kashmir,” among others.

Opening band Angel, led by founding guitarist Punky Meadows and singer Frank DiMino, got the band engaged and excited for the spectacular evening of hard rock. The six-piece group was decked in its trademark white leather, satin, fringe, and scarves. “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” and “Got Love if You Want It” from the 1978 album White Hot received a strong response. Meadows quoted Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam” and traded licks with keyboardist Charlie Calv during “Feelin’ Right.” “We Were the Wild” was featured from the sextet’s 2019 reunion effort Risen. DiMino got the crowd chanting “rock and roll!” before leading a boisterous singalong to “Rock and Rollers” from Angel’s 1975 self-titled debut album. “You guys have been great tonight,” said DiMino as a parting blessing. “You are rock and roll!”

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Category: Featured, IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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