Tom Mayhue

REVIEW: Dokken – Return to the East Live (2018 Japanese CD/DVD set)

DOKKEN – Return to the East Live (2018 Frontiers Japan CD/region 2 – DVD set)

Even the most devout Dokken fan must acknowledge that Don is not the be-all and end-all of singers.  A good singer, yes, but never in the top tier.  Now that age has taken its toll (as it always does), Don relies on the backup singing of Jeff Pilson, Mick Brown, and George Lynch to hit those high notes.  The classic Dokken lineup reunited for some shows in Japan, and even recorded a new song to go with it.  Fortunately Dokken were up to the challenge, even with the shortcomings that age creates.

Some of the audience looks too young to have known Dokken when they first rocked Japan back in the 80s, but most are die-hards.  Don himself looks cool as a cucumber, with George and Jeff on either side holding down the fort.  Most importantly it seems they had a good time.  Lynch is simply compelling to watch, as he plays impossible licks while making it look so easy.

There’s no messing around with this setlist.  All classic Dokken, all 80s, no filler.  They focused on what the fans wanted and they delivered.  The band sounded great.  Pilson’s all-important bass is given enough room in the mix to be effective.  Songs like “It’s Not Love”, “The Hunter” and especially “Alone Again” buzz with electricity.  Vocally, with great backup singers like Jeff, the band were able to pull it off.  It’s a high energy reunion show.  It’s just too bad so many people in the audience spent it on their phones.

The DVD and CD tracklists are, strangely, not in the same order.  You can hear some obvious vocal overdubs in places, most notably “Kiss of Death”.  There are some sloppy edits on the video.  Don’s lips don’t always match the words, and there are annoying graphic overlays, but it’s a good show with plenty of closeups.  Jeff Pilson is a dynamo on stage, but Wild Mick has lost nothing over the years either.  He hammers on his kit as if he’s still 25 years old!  There is little interaction between the members on stage, except for Jeff who is all over the place, including the keyboards.  Don grins like a Cheshire cat when George lays down those familiar solos.  He picks up the guitar himself for oldies like “Breakin’ the Chains”.

Both the CD and DVD portion have unique bonus content.  After the main feature, you will find 45 minutes of behind the scenes footage, directed by Don.  Shaky camera work aside, this is fascinating fly-on-the-wall stuff.  Chatterbox Don is full of energy, even when losing his fedora hat. Eagle-eyed Trailer Park Boys fans will recognise road manager Tom Mayhue, their nemesis in the Out of the Park series.  As the band pick apart the set and put it back together again, you get a real sense that they just wanted to get it right but not at the expense of fun.

You will find two exclusive bonus acoustic songs on the CD.  “Heaven Sent” (with congas) and the obscure “Will the Sun Rise” are studio re-recordings, giving both songs a fresh, mellow gleam.  That’s not the main feature, however.  For obvious reasons, the brand new song “It’s Another Day” is the centrepiece, and as such it is presented as the very first track on the disc.  While the live set is undoubtedly a very significant memento for fans, nothing really excites them like a brand new song — their first together as the classic lineup two decades.  And it’s a solid B+.  Grooving with a head of steam, “It’s Another Day” is very reminiscent of the excellent and underrated Dysfunctional album from 1995.

The Japanese bonus track this time is the early Dokken classic “Paris is Burning” live, which is also on the DVD but not the standard CD or download versions. Don’t you hate when a track is missing that is only on the DVD? Sure you do.

Jeff Pilson says that he wanted Dokken to end (if this is the end) on an up note.  “Just a really positive  exclamation point to a great career.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Out of the Park: Europe (2016)

tpb-ootp-4TRAILER PARK BOYS – Out of the Park: Europe (2016 Netflix)

It’s a whole new series, and it’s not what you expect.  When Ricky, Julian and Bubbles head off to Europe for what they think is a paid vacation, they are in for many unpleasant surprises.  Randy and Lahey may be far behind them in Canada, but in London England they are met by a different kind of adversary.  Mayhue is their guide, a Swearnet representative, and taskmaster (played by Guns N’ Roses stage manager Tom Mayhue).  The boys are going to be driving around Europe in a rock-star class tour bus, but given nothing to eat, drink, smoke, or spend.  The only way to make money is to complete special tasks or missions assigned by Swearnet.  (If you do the math, in real life Swearnet are writer/actors Robb Wells, J.P. Tremblay, and Mike Smith: the guys who play Ricky, Julian and Bubbles.  They are essentially being given missions by their real-life alter-egos.)

Previous Trailer Park Boys offerings have come in the form of stand-up comedy shows, and of course the classic TV series that started it all.  The original series was designed as a “mockumentary” reality show, as a film crew followed around repeat offender Julian and his gang of criminals.  This new spinoff series takes inspiration from another reality TV program, the Amazing Race.

In each city (of which they visit seven), they are given specific tasks to earn specific amounts of money.  They soon learn it’s all about the fine print.  The devil is in the details in London with these deceptively simple pit stops:  Get comedian Noel Fielding’s autograph ($25), drink six complementary draught at the Swan pub and hold your piss for six hours ($25), reshoot the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road ($25, or $1000 if you can get a living Beatle in the picture), and steal the Queen’s undies from Buckingham Palace ($1000).  It quickly becomes apparent that Ricky has never even heard of the Beatles.

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Though the show is scripted, setting it on the streets of Europe does give it a “reality TV” feel similar to the Amazing Race.  Bystanders stop to take pictures of the three weird looking Canadians, often up to no good.  After London, it’s off to Berlin.  Communication becomes a problem in Germany.  Bubbles orders what he thinks is going to be a hamburger, but turns out to be an octopus burger (still delicious, according to Bubbles).  Next stop:  Copenhagen, Denmark.  Bubbles is horrified to find that one of that day’s tasks ($1000) is to step in the ring as his wresting character Green Bastard, with former heavyweight boxing champion Brian Neilson.  Only two ways to win:  Give him two shots in the nuts, or last three rounds.  Good fuckin’ luck.

The boys get arrested in Oslo, Norway.  All they had to do was give a troll a three second atomic hover wedgie ($25), “acquire” a boat and take it around the fjords ($25), and convince actor Fridtjov Såheim (from the Netflix series Lilyhammer in a cross promotion) to join them for drinks ($1000). Stockholm has its own offerings, two of which are food based: Finish the “Belly Buster Meatball Meal” at a local eatery without losing their lunch, and follow it up with a can of surströmming for dessert. According to wikipedia: “When a can of surströmming is opened, the contents release a strong and sometimes overwhelming odour. The dish is ordinarily eaten outdoors. According to a Japanese study, a newly opened can of surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world, even more so than similarly fermented fish dishes such as the Korean Hongeohoe or Japanese Kusaya.” I don’t think anything in this scene was staged.

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Being in Europe allowed the boys to meet some NHL heroes from the past. Ricky is tasked to stop one shot by Peter Forsberg (two NHL Stanley Cups) in a five shot shootout ($500). In Helsinki Finland, they are given a relatively simple task: Sing in a karaoke cab, and not talk about hockey ($25). It gets complicated when five-time Cup winner Esa Tikkanen steps into their cab.

The Trailer Park Boys had to end their tour in Amsterdam for obvious reasons. It was a lifelong dream of Ricky’s to go there, and that warrants a two-part episode to finish the season. Humiliation after humiliation, it was a long hard road to get to Amsterdam. It is a delight to see Ricky happy as a kid in a candy store when they finally arrive. Everything seems to be going well; they even run into an old friend from Canada. The final challenge enables Bubbles to play one of his own songs with 2/3rds of Crosby Stills & Nash. Steven Stills wins Best Line of the Series with the simple, “They’re Canadians. They don’t know any better.”

A second Trailer Park Boys series could have been a misstep, especially considering the ill-executed Drunk and On Drugs Happy Funtime Hour.  Instead, this year fans received both the quality-driven Season 10 of the original series, and now Out of the Park: Europe.  With double the amount of Trailer Park Boys hilarity, Netflix hit an inside-the-park home run in 2016.  It is made clear by the end that this is not the last time Ricky, Julian and Bubbles will be Out of the Park.  Where they go next, only Swearnet knows.

4.5/5 stars