Hair Force One
On June 3rd, 2023, I was finally convinced to go see the most famous hard rock cover band in my home town, Ottawa, ON CANADA. That, in itself, is monumental considering two of my friends had their own gigs going on that night that I was considering going to. It’s still a headscratcher as to why I decided to catch this gig as I’ve become rather picky as to who I go see live these days and prefer to see bands performing original material. Nevertheless, there I was, with my buddy Al, to witness Hair Force 1 jamming at the Overflow Brewery stage.
Al had seen Hair Force 1 live twice already and told me ahead of the gig to just go and have fun and not be a critic ‘cause the band hardly took themselves too seriously. When they hit the stage, I saw what he meant. The six-piece band used every inch of the limited stage space to replicate an 80’s hair band gig, right from a smoke machine, mic stands with multi-coloured scarves, leopard print and zebra-striped tights right down to the makeup and fake hair metal wigs. But could they play? I was just about to find out.
The Hair Force 1 set launched with the Van Halen classic “Unchained” so, right away, I’d get to see if these guys could play their chops; They COULD! I was right up against the stage left and I paid particular attention to the duo showing off their hair nation era coloured Ibanez guitars and when the solo spot came up, I was impressed with the style the lead guitarist took on Eddie’s solo. I decided then and there to just exhale and let myself go with it and let Hair Force 1 be my source of entertainment for the night.
As the band segued into Cinderella’s “Shake Me”, the lead singer, Cousin Sergei, covered Tom Keifer’s voice pretty well. “Welcome to the Jungle” was next, and what stood out for me most during this GNR anthem was the middle portion where the drums are in the background to the singer screaming “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby”. Well, that drum sequence was flawless and made me pay a lot of attention to the drummer Rod Gozinya.
“Nothin’ But A Good Time” by Poison was the next number and I think some of you can appreciate that C.C. DeVille’s solos can be a bit sloppy sometimes so I was curious to see how the guitarists would tackle it. The guitarist nearest to me, Richard, played it pretty well. A double shot of Bon Jovi tunes were next on the setlist, “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Runaway”. Now, the highlight in those is the wicked keyboards played by Hugh Jorgan. Also, when the high notes in “Runaway” come up, Jon Bon Jovi himself can’t pull that off anymore, but Cousin Sergei could.
“Rock You Like A Hurricane” by the Scorpions and “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister were next and I tried like hell to not air guitar during those. The Def Leppard crowd pleaser, “Rock of Ages”, was next and that’s when I got to see the bassist Iamza Faulker play great to the beats of Rod Gozinya on drums. “Lick It Up”, by KISS was next and the other guitarist, Kraven Mohrhead, played up, in a funny way, to a fact many of us know and that the guitar solo to this track is rather easy. Two slower songs were next, “Is This Love”, by Whitesnake and “Why Can’t This Be Love” by Van (Hagar) Halen. The lights during these took our attention away from the band which was a bit cool.
When the beat picked up again with Mr. Big’s “Green Tinted Sixties Mind”, I was blown away by Kraven Mohrhead’s virtuosity on his pink Fender strat. Hugh Jorgan, on keyboards, intro’d “Here I Go Again” and later on in this Whitesnake mega-hit, both Richard and Kraven nailed the solos. The first set by Hair Force 1 ended with Autograph’s “Turn Up the Radio” and Def Leppard’s “Photograph”. By now, the crowd of 400 patrons, mostly 40 and overs, were all in and got to refill their drinks at the Overflow Brewery bar.
The second set opened with a double shot of Warrant hits like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Down Boys”. I thought they would have played “Heaven”, but that wasn’t the case. The next song Hair Force 1 tackled ended up being the one all the ladies went nuts to and that was “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, originally by Firehouse. A hair band show would not be complete without something by Motley Crue and we got a double shot of them too, starting with “Home Sweet Home”. I have to say that Cousin Sergei, on vocals, sounded better than Vince Neil on this one. “Kickstart My Heart” was the other Crue tune and guitarist Richard did a great job on the talk box.
The next song is a surefire crowd pleaser but for me, it’s been overkilled to the nth degree. I somehow managed to live through “Sweet Child O’ Mine” mostly by watching the ladies in the crowd still dancing to it like it was 1988. “Cum on Feel the Noize”, by Quiet Riot, was next and got me back to the dance. Kraven Mohrhead’s guitar leads were fun to watch in that one.
After that, Hugh Jorgan mastered the “Final Countdown”, by Europe, keyboard lead. Both guitarists nailed their parts in solos I know all too well. Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” was next and I, along with a lot of others in the crowd wondered if Rod Gozinya, on drums, would get the popular bash right? He DID!!! I have to hand it to Rod ‘cause his drumming was top-notch, especially as he began the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” drum intro.
This track was funny because Cousin Sergei forgot the words to the second verse somehow and he knew it, but laughed it off until he got to the chorus. I don’t know if many noticed that part, but I did. My favourite part of the show came next. I don’t know if “Rebel Yell”, by Billy Idol, is a song many cover bands perform but holy crap did Hair Force 1 blow me away with their version.
Hugh Jorgan on the keyboards was barely visible from my vantage point which is a shame ‘cause I would have liked to see if he had any moves as he was playing that memorable riff. Every track that came after it was gravy, such as must-have hits like “Jump”, by Van Halen, and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, by Def Leppard. The second last song however, got the biggest response of the night and it was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. If you ask me, they should have called it there because their show closer, “Crazy Train”, by Ozzy Osbourne, was a bit lacklustre.
So, when all is said and done and the band saluted the crowd the typical way, everybody seemed to have had a good time, including myself. That being said, however, I was a bit disappointed with two things: First, I was led to believe that what made Hair Force 1 the best covers band in town was their show and their stage banter. There was little of that. Furthermore, when there was dialogue between Cousin Sergei and Iamza Faulker, I could barely understand a word they were saying which is unfortunate. At least the band sounded great.
I’ll be the first to admit that I take my gigs very seriously and expect a certain degree of professionalism from those I choose to see. Letting my guard down and just having fun at this show was an accomplishment for me. Appreciating the fabulous musicianship and the band not taking themselves too seriously contributed to a very good night of sleaze rock.
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