Rip-roaring Kix bombards harbor with classy rock

July 10, 1993|By J. Doug Gill | J. Doug Gill,Contributing writer

In what seems to be turning into an annual summer event, Hagerstown's party that never stops -- also known as Kix -- came back to Baltimore to show the local hard-rock fans once again how it's done.

Kix has been kicking out the power chords for better than a decade now, and it definitely shows.

Over the years, this home-grown five-piece has excelled at running primitive, three-chord metal headlong into crude come-ons and sexual innuendo.

In lesser hands, such antics add up to the kind of faceless bands permeating MTV and rock-radio. Kix's undiluted style never reflects corporate blandness, and that in itself is no small accomplishment.

In other words: In spite of the simplistic hard-rock genre in which they work, this Kix band has matured into fine musicians and even better showmen.

Although I longed for the snarling guitar licks of the recently discharged Brian Forsythe, the musical muscle flexed can still show a generation of pretenders how to let it rip with accuracy and velocity.

The group's live sound -- cannonball drumming, fat rhythms and louder-than-loud guitars -- is overwhelming. Even in the wide-open spaces of the Pier Six Pavilion, it was easy to hear this hard-rock engine firing on all cylinders.

Over the course of the amply rabble-rousing set, lead singer Steve Whiteman proved that he is one of the most underrated front men in rock 'n' roll. Energetic and animated, Whiteman's stage antics and throat-tearing screech held up remarkably well in spite of the sweltering Baltimore night.

From the tank battle crunch of "Hot Wire" to the blues-rock bash of "Blow My Fuse" right on through the foundation-shaking "Cold Blood," the Kix crew unleashed the kind of bombardment this harbor hasn't seen since the British provoked a local songwriter named Key.

The million-selling ballad, "Don't Close Your Eyes," allowed the sweat-drenched audience a brief respite. Still, in keeping with the turbocharged pace of the rest of the set, "Eyes" grew dangerously rowdy just as Whiteman growled the last lyric.

High points came more or less on a regular basis. New guitarist Jimi Koviloff shot off some sparks of his own, rocketing a feverish opening riff of "She Dropped Me the Bomb."

There was a similar manic energy to the rest of the band's performance. The rhythm section fired off sharp, solid beats, heavy as granite and as multilayered as sedimentary rock.

Behind this fervent wall of hormone-enraging noise is a world-class hard-rock band. Kix may never be tagged as the future of rock 'n' roll, but these hometown party boys sure know how to celebrate its present.

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