Prior to my wedding in April of 2010, my friends Keith and Jason decided to throw a mini-batchelor party for me. It consisted of driving down to Wheeling, West Virginia to the Wheeling Island Casino for a steak dinner, some gambling and most importantly, to take in a rock show. But this just wasn’t any rock show, this was Dokken and Great White.
The Wheeling Island Showroom looked to be about a 300-400 seat ballroom, and when I say seat, I mean yes, there were seats. A little different than the stadium shows these bands enjoyed during their ’80s heyday. Our tickets were pretty much dead center, three or four rows back, kind of a perfect view.
Prior to the show, I downloaded and listened to the entire catalogs of Dokken and Great White because other than their radio singles, I just didn’t know anything about either. What I learned also turned out to be true of their live shows.
Dokken opened and were the far better band, as I learned through revisting their entire discography. The quality of the music from album to album never wained, and live they were as tight and energetic as you could hope. It wasn’t until seeing them live that I realized what strong songwriters they were, as I easily recalled most of the tunes from listening to the albums only once the week prior.
Great White, unfortunately, did not impress. Lead singer Jack Russell was apparently recovering from back surgery. He struggled to stay upright, and his vocals suffered for it. The other issue is that, while Great White had some hits, they had plenty of misses. The catalog is rife with all sorts of generic and forgettable bluesy ’80s metal. The one highlight was watching multi-instrumentalist Michael Lardie run around the stage, bouncing from keyboard to guitar to microphone – the man was a workhorse and never stopped smiling, clearly trying to make the best of what was not a stellar show.
Actually, there were two highlights – I hit a slot machine for a hundred bucks.