Tribute bands catch a bad rap from many, and some are better than others. The high-octane women of Hell’s Belles set a new standard for what a tribute band should be. They have been America’s #1 AC/DC tribute band for over 15 years. Don’t take my word for it, Angus Young himself has hailed them as the best AC/DC tribute band he has ever seen, period. The fact that they are also an all-female act is what often catches the eye, but their stunning performances are what capture the ear and your undivided attention. Most outside of the Pacific Northwest have yet to hear of Hell’s Belles, and that is tragic, for they are one of the most explosive live acts to experience, and they pack houses wherever they go.
This past weekend, Hell’s Belles returned to The Knitting Factory in Boise, to perform a near sold-out show, something even national touring acts struggle to do these days. I have never seen them put on a poor performance, or even a weak one for that matter. They always hit the stage with a fury of infectious energy, with guitarist Adrian “Angus” Conner leading the way. This was a first chance to experience the band with Judy Cocuzza behind the drum kit, and she anchored the band with casual Phil Rudd confidence. Cocuzza’s battery mate, bassist Mandy Reed, rumbled along right in step. Lisa Brisbois delivered flawlessly as Malcom Young, and Amber Saxon (bugGiRL) continues to grow and shine in the role of Brian Johnson/Bon Scott. Her vocal inflections and embellishments truly hit the mark. As is always the case with Hell’s Belles, Adrian Conner becomes the focal point of the show, with her non-stop adrenaline and Angus Young antics; rolling around on the floor, wailing away on her Gibson SG, and goose-stepping across the stage. She becomes the embodiment of AC/DC and Angus Young, and perhaps everything we love about rock and roll. Even her sisters in the band cannot help but grin as Conner bounds about like a crazed monkey with a six-string straight-razor; her fingers igniting the fretboard. And of course, there are the tunes; classic AC/DC from all eras, faithfully performed. The band opened with “Shoot to Thrill,” and closed with “For Those About to Rock” with a runaway train of riff and roll ear candy in the middle. During “Sin City,” Conner, as she always does, gave the crowd a little salacious fun, stripping off her tie and shirt, and performing the rest of the set in her little red bra. Stand out tracks included, “Let There Be Rock,” “Hell’s Bells,” “If You Want Blood,” “Jailbreak,” “Dirty Deeds,” “Highway to Hell,” “Back in Black,” “Have a Drink on Me,” “TNT,” and “Thunderstruck.” Saxon worked the crowd like a master, and Conner kept them mesmerized. For me it was simply another excellent performance from a band that has never failed to impress me. For my friend who experienced it all for the first time, she was near speechless, and kept repeating, “These guys are awesome.” Simple, but accurate.
If you haven’t checked out Hell’s Belles yet, it is an experience worth seeking out.
Click any photo to view as a slideshow.