Judging from the sound of Steelheart's first hit, "Never Let You Go," it would be easy to believe that the quintet's debut album is full of soft ballads.
"Some people come to the show thinking we're Journey or something like that," said bassist and songwriter Jimmy Ward, whose band plays at Hammerjacks tonight. "Boy, are they in for a surprise."
Warning: Don't let those sappy lyrics and lilting harmonies from the band's big hit fool you. Steelheart, a quintet from Norwalk, Conn., is all about mainstream rock 'n' roll.
Though the band's album has been in stores for nearly a year, it wasn't until two months ago that "Never Let You Go" garnered the airplay needed to get the band on a major tour.
But even that turned sour rather quickly.
"We were out with Great White and Bulletboys, and the tour was supposed to last three months," said Ward.
But instead, after a show at the Towson Center in late March and a handful of others, poor ticket sales caused the tour to fold.
"We were disappointed but it has all worked out for the best because now we're headlining clubs with our own shows," Ward said. "This way we get to do 90 minutes instead of 30 or 40."
Although the band encountered a sluggish start in the United States last year, the album's sales managed to take off in Japan.
The album's other ballad, "She's Gone," went to No. 1 on the Japanese pop charts, the album itself is gold and the band played 5,000-seat venues on its first tour in the fall.
"It just shows how hard it is to break an album in the U.S.," Ward said. "There's so much competition. It's the toughest market in the world.
" But it's a totally different vibe playing in Japan," Ward said. " The fans are outside the hotel 24 hours a day. They want a lot of aotographs and they are incredibly polite.It's a big ego boost."
The band will release its second U.S. single next week with a song called " Everybody Loves Eileen."
* The concert calendar . . .
Hammerjacks also welcomes The Alarm (tomorrow), Screaming Trees (May 12) and Tommy Conwell (May 25).
The Capital Centre hosts The Scorpions, Great White and Trixter (May 10) and Guns 'n' Roses (June 19).
Max's On Broadway has Blue Rodeo (tonight), Hawkwind (Sunday), An Emotional Fish (May 8), Scott Henderson and Carl Filipiak (May 15), Commander Cody (May 19), Dave Mason (May 23) and The Monks Of Doom (May 30).
The Merriweather Post Pavilion season opens May 24 with Styx.Individual tickets are now on sale for that show, Poison,Slaughter and Bulletboys( June 1) and Julio Iglesias(June 3).
Pier Six has added three shows to its summer calender:Patti LaBelle(Aug.3),Linda Ronstadt with Los Camperos de Nati Cano ( Aug.30) and Kathy Mattea and Restless Heart ( Sept 27). For more information about Pier Six, call 625-1400