I make no secret that my ultimate musician’s dream is to front an acoustic Madonna cover band that includes a string quartet.
That’s not only because I’m a lifelong Madonna devotee who owns every piece of her sheet music – it’s because all well-built pop music is easy to strip down and translate into other genres, and Madge’s is some of the best-built in the business. I wish more pop was saved from the clutches of perfunctory cover bands to be played by musicians with bigger imaginations and better chops.
Case and point: last night I saw Rad Bromance, an all-male Lady Gaga via hard rock cover band.
They were exquisite.
Gaga’s chugging rhythms and minor key singles make for an easy translation to drop-D riffing, but RB went far beyond that to reconstruct each of her songs into active-rock radio behemoths, with newly conceived drum fills and wicked guitar solos, plus passages of inventive two- and three-part harmony.In their way, Rad Bromance out-Gagas Gaga. Despite her dressing up each performance with a new concept and choreography, her only major reinterpretations so far have been stripped down tunes at the piano. While stunning, they frequently sacrifice some of her most indelible hooks in favor of dramatic formatas…which is fine – Gaga is riveting enough all on her own.
Rad Bromance is all about indelible moments. They took “Telephone” from verbatim croon on the opening verse into a body moving rap/rock thrash that eclipses the original. “Edge of Glory” and “Hair” were married to the histrionic hair rock that pervades Born This Way, the exact melodies accentuated with extra harmony and guitar solos. “Love Game” didn’t lose its syncopation but was full of chest-thumping kick drum. “Alejandro” became a torch song for metal-heads. Closer “Poker Face” included one minute long unison trio tapping solo – yes, including bassist Brad Bowers.
Most impressive? Rad Bromance is a young band. Rhythm guitarist Dan Geraghty is barely legal to drive, and I’m not sure I could have bought any of them a drink. And it must be said, RB’s lead guitarist Chris Greatti is one of the better soloists I’ve ever seen live – aggressive but restrained at all the right moments. Mike Montalbano is monstrous on drums – I kept checking to see if he had a double kick (results: inconclusive).
That you can see Rad Bromance for a tenner in a bar instead of playing to a few thousand people in Vegas is mind-boggling. The quality and fidelity of their performance is incredible, and they’ll only continue to improve. If you live in the vicinity of Philadelphia and love Lady Gaga’s hooks (even if you don’t like Gaga herself) they are worth a hefty drive to see.
Lady Gaga needs to look them up and plug them into a few tracks on her next tour.
(My suggestion? Have them play on “Marry the Night,” which is practically a Pat Benatar song already, or “Government Hooker,” which screams for a transgressive pounding rock arrangement.)
PS: Catch the band on the remainder of their Monsters Balls tour – 8/11 Strousdberg PA, 8/12 Hamden CT, 8/13 Rockville Centre NY, & 9/2 Foxboro MA.