Review by Shawn Perry  •  Photos by Jeff Serpa

CORONA, CA, January 11—Protocol used to dictate that a woman past the mid-century mark who still wants to rock needs to reevaluate her priorities. Fortunately, Lita Ford has never followed protocol and does whatever she wants with her priorities. The former Runaway can play, sing and tantalize an D91G7203 Lita Fordaudience better than most women half her age. Dressed in skintight black leather, she also looks the part without much effort — the tough and sensuous queen of hard rock never really went away (though she was missing in action for some years). She certainly endeared herself to the humble, fervent gathering at the M15 Concert, Bar & Grill on a balmy Inland Empire Saturday.

The show was the last of a three-night marathon for Ford and her band — Mitch Perry (guitar), Bobby Rock (drums) and Marty O’Brien (bass). On Thursday, they pretty much killed it at the Whisky, celebrating its 50th year, and welcomed special guests Cherie Currie, Slash and Glenn Hughes to the stage. Friday, it was Las Vegas with Hollywood’s own London opening. And tonight, after four (!) local bands (Xntricks, Ubi, Broken Toys and Vizionz), Ford and company turned up at 11:30 for a sizzling 75-minute set.

A little “Balls to the Wall” from Accept and a spot of “Your Wake-Up Call” (from Ford’s Stiletto album) intensified the pre-show vigil before Ford let go with an “Alright, Corona!” and kicked into her high-energy swipe at Elton John’s “The Bitch Is Back.” The song, previously released as a bonus track on the 2012 studio album, Living Like a Runaway, doubles as the title of Ford’s live album, recorded in California in 2012 and released in fall 2013 (The Bitch Is Back…Live). “The Bitch Is Back” and its swaggering message (“It’s the way that I move…The things that I do”) fit Ford to a T, and tonight’s boisterous rendition resonated profoundly with the M15 crowd.

With eight studio albums in the can, Ford had plenty of material to draw from, but five of the songs played were from her third, most successful album, 1988’s Lita. This included the lightning-fast tumbler, “Can’t Catch Me,” a song Ford co-wrote with Lemmy from Motörhead, as well as the album’s two singles, “Close My Eyes Forever” (her biggest hit, originally recorded as a duet with Ozzy Osbourne) and “Kiss Me Deadly,” the night’s finale, featuring two kids plucked from the audience. Considering the song’s lyrical content, it was at once sinister and empowering, especially to the little girl who practically had the chorus all to herself by the time it ended.

Musically, Ford and her band have developed into a tight, able-bodied unit. She and Perry, a guitar veteran who shagged power chords with Talas and MSGIMG_0211 LIta Ford back in the 80s, faced off for a blazing duel during “Relentless.” They then fell into a hypnotic groove on “Back to the Cave,” simmering with pinches of jazz and country licks before erupting into a power-driven call-and-response that spanned the fretboards and pushed the arpeggios into the danger zone. When the rhythm section wasn’t making it easy for the guitarists to explore the harmonic terrain, they grabbed a little of the spotlight for themselves, especially Rock, whose drum solo enthralled the floor while giving the other players a chance to catch their breath. “You’re a beast,” Ford remarked to Rock when she returned to launch into “Living Like A Runaway,” an autobiographical ditty that transcended the usual crash-and-burn abandonment of the earlier tunes.

Adding to the fire were Ford’s arsenal of guitars — a black B.C. Rich Warlock, a white doubleneck Warlock (a 1982 prototype), and a customized B.C. Rich Stolichnaya Vodka guitar. When she reached way back to the Runaways’ classic “Cherry Bomb,” she pulled out the black Gibson Explorer guitar she supposedly played on the original. Yeah, it would have been epic to see Cherie Currie or maybe even Joan Jett come up and join in on this one, but the faithful ate it up just the same. To sum it all up, it felt like a full-throttle assault with a fairy-tale ending. Very much a parallel to where Ford seems to be headed these days: protocol be damned.


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