Those in attendance at the Weidner Center on January 13th for the Femmes of Rock / Lita Ford concert were treated to an big budget, Las Vegas-style show for the price of what they would have paid to see their favorite bands back in eighties at the Brown County Arena. But here, decades later, things are different: the venue and sound are better, the lighting is better, and let’s throw in some fog, lasers, pyro and fireworks for good measure. If you missed this show, you missed out!
The show kicked off with an all-female band from the Appleton Rock School. When this group of local girls piled on the stage, it seemed as though we were in for a cute little set. Then they started playing! It was truly amazing to watch these girls, a little hesitant at first, perform each song better than the one before it. Several of the girls had amazing voices that soared above the music. Wait, did that little girl on guitar hit a classic windmill just like Pete Townshend? Those that were playing instruments looked incredibly comfortable as they nailed one song after another! By the end of their set they received a standing ovation. What a great experience for these girls, and what a treat it was to watch them.
It was a little surreal to watch these young rockers be followed by the queen of metal. Lita Ford took the stage to perform a blistering hour-long set with many of her hits over the years. Her guitar playing is as distinct as her voice, and both were in fine form. Her band was tight and they sounded great vocally as well. One non-Lita highlight was the killer drum solo by veteran drummer Bobby Rock. It was clear from the crowd reaction that they were longtime fans, singing along word for word.
Before playing the Runaways classic ‘Cherry Bomb’ she name-dropped its inclusion on the “Guardians Of The Galaxy” soundtrack, which had the younger audience members cheering. The last two songs, both from her self-titled release “Lita”, were clearly the songs everyone were waiting for. ‘Close My Eyes Forever’ sounded amazing, with guitarist Patrick Dennison doing a fine job singing Ozzy Osbourne’s lines. By the time Lita played ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ the crowd was on their feet and singing every word back to her. Her set was great, but it would have been nice to have at least one encore. After all these years, she still has it in spades.
The Femmes of Rock started with a blistering rendition/solo of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, and then set the mood for the night as they ripped into Metalica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ and Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ Each member of the Femmes is a master on the violin, but it’s clear that this show is the brainchild of founder and arranger Nina DiGregorio. Each Femme had her own style of playing and they matched each other’s energy very well. They were all over the stage, following the driving music played by their band move for move. And although it’s not advertised, they are all wonderful singers!
While I’ll go on record and say I’m not a Pink Floyd fan, their cover of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ blew my mind. It was hauntingly beautiful. Nina played her solo with so much talent and passion – it was flawless. Their covers of classic songs by the Beatles, Led Zepplin, AC/DC, ZZ Top, The Who, Queen, Kansas and Guns N’ Roses sounded so nature and alive. The selection of songs they played were well-thought-out and performed to perfection. And the production was the cherry on top of the sundae. The lights looked amazing with well-placed pyro and fireworks in all the right spots.
As they wrapped up their set, a gentleman in the audience screamed out ‘FREEBIRD’. The ladies then lit into that song like they’ve been playing it all their lives. I have to admit, at first the song seemed like an odd choice to close their concert with. But the extended jam at the end of the song was too incredible for words. Christina Rose, Chandra Meibalane, and Carissa Werner came into the crowd and wailed on their violins like there was no tomorrow! By the time the house lights came up, everyone in the audience was in awe of the Femmes of Rock. Green Bay was just Femmed! I only wish more people could have experienced it. Take my word for it, this is one band you will NOT regret seeing. Add them to your bucket list!