Made in Milan
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Release Date: March 23, 2018
Recorded April 30, 2017 at the Frontiers Rock Festival, Made in Milan documents a then freshly-reunited Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns leading their (finally and thankfully!) unified versions of L.A. Guns through a rip-roaring, rough-and-tumble set of crowd-pleasers and deeper cuts for the diehards. It’s a monument to the undeniable chemistry between the vocalist and the guitarist; they wasted an awful lot of time sniping and grousing over the past decade-plus, and from the powerful racket they conjured and captured that spring evening, it seems like they’re doing their damnedest to make up for lost time.
The set is largely front-loaded with hits from the band’s self-titled debut, with an absolutely ferocious version of “No Mercy” segueing into a tight, muscular run through “Electric Gypsy;” “Sex Action” closes with a taste of “Paint It Black,” and “One More Reason” does a more-than-admirable job closing the near-thirty year gap since its initial recording (on the DVD/Blu-Ray version of this package, there’s also a performance of “Bitch is Back”). Made in Milan covers the full range of the Lewis/Guns eras, from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires (a lean and mean “Kiss My Love Goodbye” and a version of “Over the Edge” that swaps out the original intro for a bowed guitar solo) to the then-forthcoming The Missing Peace (a blazing snort through “Speed”), even finding room for the solid metal pounder “Killing Machine” from 1994’s seemingly snakebitten effort Vicious Circle and the Maiden-gone-glam gallop “Don’t Look At Me That Way” from 2002’s Waking the Dead (which, prior to this reunion, had been Guns’ swan song with the band). And of course, the big hits from their breakout album Cocked and Loaded close out the show: “Never Enough,” with its monster riffing and pop-perfect chorus; a country-tinged singalong take on “The Ballad of Jayne;” and the set-closing “Rip and Tear,” which starts out at full-speed and takes off on a “Paradise City”-style speedup into oblivion.
The band is obviously well-rehearsed, whip-tight and solid throughout; drummer Shane Fitzgibbon lays down a firm foundation, flashy without being overbearing, and his rhythm section counterpart Johnny Martin fills the bottom end with a bass tone like amplified buffalo farts (and I mean that in the best way possible). Phil Lewis is in fine voice here, more than holding his own vocally in comparison with most of his contemporaries (and also doing a great job of filling out a snakeskin suit and not looking ridiculous). But make no mistake, Made in Milan is a showcase for the talent and ability of one Tracii Guns. Too often overlooked among the era’s guitarists, Guns is on fire here from the word go, shredding soulfully across all fourteen tracks. He may look like Eddie Vedder’s ne’er-do-well biker brother these days, but he rips like a Sunset Strip Jeff Beck.
The sound here is pretty raw, and there are a couple of bum notes here and there, but that helps to add to the overall live feel. My only real quibbles are backing vocals that edge a little too close to nu-metal shouts for my liking, and the fact that they didn’t play “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Other than that, Made in Milan is a prime example of a band playing with focus and intensity, with hunger and fire. L.A. Guns was always a little rougher, a little rockier than most of their late-80’s Headbanger’s Ball brethren; Made in Milan is proof-positive they still are.