Quiet Riot – Live at the U.S. Festival 1983 (2012)

As an 11-year-old kid in 1983, I would have given just about anything to see this show. I’ve already shared that Quiet Riot’s 1983 album Metal Health was the beginning of my journey into heavy metal — and for a few years there, in my mind, they were the kings. Sadly, that was a bit before my concert-going days, and I don’t believe I could have found any sort of acceptable chaperone for my parents who would have agreed to sit through a Quiet Riot show, no matter how much it meant to me.

So it was 16 years later before I got a chance to see the reunited version of the band, and they still put on a hell of a show. But this set at the U.S. Festival in 1983, well, it’s going to be tough to beat. I’m happy that I at least get to experience it in some form.

When the band took the stage for Heavy Metal Day at the U.S. Festival on May 29, 1983, Metal Health had been out for a few months and had yet to reach its full potential. Their cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” hadn’t become a metal anthem yet, and the record was yet to become the first metal album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts. It did that in November, knocking The Police’s Synchronicity out of that spot. I’m guessing that this monster crowd in San Bernardino, Calif., was the biggest the band had ever played in front of, and it shows in the performance on the DVD portion.

The band is tight and sounds great. Bass guru Rudy Sarzo is doing his thing, pounding on the body of his bass and playing notes over the top of the fretboard, the antic made famous by the “Cum on Feel the Noize” video. Frankie Banali is shaking the stage as he pounds away at the drums, and guitarist Carlos Cavazo, the quiet man of the act, even gets his shots – particularly late in the set when he breaks into the shred instrumental “Battle Axe.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Almost everyone has those few songs that just make you feel good every time you hear them. Slade’s 1984 classic “Run Runaway” is one of those songs for me.]

But it’s late frontman Kevin DuBrow who is the star here as he prances around in his rainbow-colored spandex. He feeds off the huge audience and shows a manic energy, racing back and forth around the stage, copping poses and making goofy faces at the crowd. For the 40 minutes or so running time of this show, he’s a rock star in the truest form of the word. The concert also caused me to reevaluate where I rank DuBrow as a singer. The notes that he hits on some of the songs — particularly the performance on “Let’s Get Crazy,” the highlight of the show — are amazing. There are a few bum notes here and there, as there will be with any undoctored live recording, but for the vast majority of the show, he’s spot on and sounding great.

And that big crowd? Well, they respond, too. Despite the fact that Quiet Riot hadn’t quite reached the pinnacle of their popularity and they were going on ahead of big names like Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Van Halen, there’s definitely a large contingent there to see the Noize boys. It’s pretty cool when they crank out those first power chords of “Metal Health” as the show’s finale to see fists all over the crowd pumping in rhythm.

About the only grumble I have with the CD or DVD is the absence of “Thunderbird” in the set list. I’d much rather hear it than opener “Danger Zone,” which was at the time unreleased and the weakest performance of the show. I doubt, though, that the band knew at the time what their tribute to their original guitarist Randy Rhoads would come to mean to metal fans.

It’s clear from this performance why Quiet Riot was poised to explode and why they became the first metal band to top the charts. This show is full of energy, power and great songs. Unfortunately, the band would implode just a few years later and not be able to get this group of musicians back together until the late 1990s, when they were pretty much a nostalgia act and it was too late to reach the full potential of what we see here.

Still, it’s an incredible performance, and I’m thankful to Shout! Factory that they’ve given this old headbanger a chance to experience it. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the series brings.

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.