Great White keeps music simple and fun


Great White

When: Monday, March 25, 8 p.m.

Where: Towson Center, Towson State University

Tickets: $18.50

Call: 481-6000

Last year, when Great White appeared on MTV's acoustic music show, "MTV Unplugged," the band made a big hit with its rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You." In fact, it was such a smash that MTV excerpted the performance and ran it in regular rotation.

All of which came as a surprise to the band, particularly since, as singer Jack Russell admits, "We'd never played the song before.

"Matter of fact, me and Mark [Kendall, the lead guitarist] were backstage rehearsing the song in the dressing room before we went on," he says, laughing. "We were rather excited that we didn't screw it up, y'know?"

Needless to say, there aren't too many big-time rock and roll bands willing to take a chance like that on national TV. Most would fret over making fools of themselves. But not Great White.

"We're not too worried about what anyone thinks of us," says Russell, over the phone from Kalamazoo, Mich. "I mean, people have been telling us we're history for years. 'Aw, you guys will never make it! You guys are washed up!'

"And then every year we keep proving them wrong."

Indeed they do. "Hooked," Great White's eighth and latest album, was a hit straight out of the box, climbing into the Billboard Top 20 in a mere two weeks. Yet as happy as the band is to be doing well, selling records has never been the band's focus.

"I try to stay away from looking at the charts too much," he says. "Great White's not a band that puts rock and roll or success into a numbers bracket." Instead, the band would rather focus on more important things -- like the music.

"The important thing to remember is that the real attraction is the music," says Russell. "Some people have lost sight of that because there are so many glam bands out there, so many visual things to distract people from the music. Our whole point in Great White is just to make honest music, and keep rock and roll simple and fun. I don't think rock and roll is something that should be taken too seriously."

That's one reason "Hooked" sticks so close to rock and roll basics. "I think people are getting more discerning in their taste," he says. "They've had enough of lipstick and hair spray bands, you know? Now it's time to get some meat and potatoes on your turntable."

Consequently, the band worked hard to capture "the feel the band gets live, the appeal of the band live," says Russell. "And so it's a more basic record, it's a little more to the point. Which I'm really happy with. I'm really happy with the record."

But not as happy as he is to be out on tour again. "It's nice to be able to get up on a stage every night and play," he says with obvious enthusiasm. "That's the most important thing to me. That interaction between band and audience is the only thing I live for. All the other hours of the day you just sit and wait."

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