The ladies are back in black
December 29, 2005
On Wednesday night at Sherpa and Yeti’s, the pinky and pointer fingers had the best seats in the house. The digits extended from raised fists that formed the eternal symbol for rock, or horns, as Hell’s Belles band members called it. Lost in the music, the audience was close to cover band enlightenment.
It wasn’t that lead guitarist Adrian Conner played most of the set in nothing but a skimpy bra and tiny, plaid schoolgirl skirt. Even lead singer Jamie Nova’s vulgar behind-the-playground gestures seemed appropriate, if not necessary. All hype aside, Hell’s Belles relied on unforgiving rock and righteous imitation to provide an true-to-rock tribute band experience.So how did five women playing the parts of six AC/DC band members transcend gender stereotypes and cover-band cliches? By shooting to thrill, and hitting AC/DC songs dead-on every time.
After three songs, the audience knew this was the real deal. Or maybe they forgot that it wasn’t. When the raspy, scratchy but still strangely sexy harmony intro to “Thunderstruck” (Thunder, na-na, na-na, na-na-na, na, Thunder…) began, everyone was turned on, even higher than the sound levels that left ears ringing into the next day. Conner, playing the part of Angus Young, nailed the rocker’s trademark gallop across the stage and kept up with his pronounced head bobs and knee rises. With her mouth open and lips curled, Conner looked like a dreadlocked James Dean at his first X-rated movie.
Nova controlled the crowd by taking on the role of vocalists Bon Scott and Brian Johnson. She perfected an Aussie accent on “Big Balls” and had the hand gestures to match. If there was any question about the meaning of the “Go Down” lyrics, Nova provided an explicit explanation with confidence. Bass guitarist Mandy Reed, aka Cliff Williams, came on strong enough to break a string in the middle of the show. Rhythm guitarist/Malcolm Young impersonator Lisa Brisbois brooded over her melodies and played off of Melodie Zapata’s Phil Rudd-esque drumming.
Even with testosterone flowing from song lyrics and male audience member’s remarks, Hell’s Belles put the ladies up front, literally. “You Shook Me All Night Long” came with an invitation to female audience members to come to the front of the stage. A handful of women were christened by the microphone, fostering a spirit of feminism in the rawest sense. Hell’s Belles walked a jagged, razor-sharp line between femininity, rock, attraction and imitation on Wednesday night. The front row, with fists in “horns” and air guitars on hand, could easily have been experiencing an actual AC/DC show.