It's not everyday that a legendary band makes their way to Middletown, New York, let alone a restaurant/bar, but that's exactly what happened last night as one of the most beloved heavy rock acts of the early '70s, the mighty Cactus, headlined at Brian's Backyard BBQ, a small eatery that serves up some mean Southern styled food, plenty of cold beer, and home to regular blues and rock concerts. About 100 loyal fans packed this cozy spot, filled their stomachs with burgers, ribs, and a wide selection of beers, and were knocked on their asses by a sizzling performance from Carmine Appice, Jim McCarty, Jimmy Kunes, Randy Pratt, and Pete Bremy, as the band busted out some of their bluesy hard rock classics as well as a few newer pieces from their reunion album V from 2006. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo was on hand and brings this concert report.
As I had never been at Brian's Backyard BBQ before, I was instantly hit with the smell of deliciously roasting and smoking meats as I made my way through the parking lot and front door. Once inside and seated at our table, you could see fans all around enjoying the grub (my friend and I had already eaten, but we did peruse the menu, and if you like BBQ this looks to be the place to go to!) and enjoying a few cold ones. Opener Rickity took to the small stage just before 9:00PM and played a furious set of blues-rock featuring some killer guitar work and strong female vocals. Though many perhaps had never heard their music before, the band certainly made an impact and got the crowd in the mood for what was to come.
The legendary Cactus, minus founding member Tim Bogert, who retired from live performances a few years ago, got their set started around 10, and immediately tore into their cover of "Long Tall Sally", complete with heavy riffs from McCarty, Appice's thunderous drum fills, and the powerful vocal delivery of Kunes, who really is Cactus' secret weapon. He might not be the biggest guy out there, but the former Savoy Brown belter can sing with the best of them and has a truly mighty voice. Another early Cactus favorite followed in the form of "Swim", before the band launched into one of their heaviest pieces "One Way Or Another" from the album of the same name. McCarty's riffs and solos on this one were scorching, proving just how underrated a player he truly is. Another old favorite, "Brother Bill", took the band into bluesier, boogie territory, as did "Can't Judge a Book", which was fueled by Appice's groove laden drum work and the thick bass of new guy Bremy.
What was great about this night was how well the newer material like "Muscle and Soul" and "Electric Blue" fit right into the set. Kunes did a great job giving a little history of these newer songs, and the crowd ate it all up, each one prime examples of crunchy, heavy blues rock. Of course, the band had to play the classic "Evil" and "Parchment Farm", two perennial live favorites, which had the audience singing along and getting their boogie on with a few even breaking out the air guitar, and the encore was saved for "Rock 'n' Roll Children", another old favorite that went over quite well. Good to see Lizards member Pratt joining Cactus for a few tunes on harmonica, which was a great fit on the bluesier numbers, and we even got treated to a stellar drum solo from the always amazing Appice. After the show the band made their way back to the merch table to meet with the fans, take pictures, and sign some swag. It was a completely fun evening, and kudos to Brian Remaley for getting Cactus to come out and play for fans in the Hudson Valley. As for Cactus, they still have it folks!
1. Long Tall Sally
One Way Or Another
Can't Judge A Book
Muscle and Soul
Rock 'N Roll Children