Rock review, Local H at the Vic

By Rick Reger

One could characterize Local H's Saturday evening performance at the Vic Theatre a number of ways. It was a celebratory, end-of-tour homecoming for the Zion-based duo. It was a demonstration of Evel Knievel-worthy daredevil antics. And it was a ringing answer to the Kinks' decades-old musical question: "Where Have All The Good Times Gone." In a musical milieu notable for its extreme-rock aggression, indie rock artiness and singer-songwriter introspection, Local H is one of the leading proponent's of old-fashioned, hard rockin' good times. And there were good times aplenty at the Vic in a set that featured stage diving stage-diving vocalists in gorilla suits, covers of schlocky '70s rock and chest-thumping, toe-tapping riffs that never seemed to end. Although Local H received some occasional support on keyboards, guitar, bass and vocals from members of its road crew, the band essentially remains a two-man operation of singer-songwriter-guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair, a recent addition. And one could only marvel at the tidal wave of sound those two churned up.

From start to finish, veteran Chicago scene drummer St. Clair was a one-man rhythmic cyclone. Head-bobbing and hair flying, he flailed away at his kit so relentlessly that he seemed more Muppet-like than the giant Muppet doll perched atop an amplifier a few feet away.

For his part, frontman Lucas has the remarkable ability of making a two-person stage seem crowded. Possessing the raw-throated, leather-lunged pipes of Alice Cooper, the economical powerhouse riffing of Pete Townshend and the unkempt insolence of a punk rocker, Lucas has stage presence to spare and the skills to make his three-chord anthems hit like howitzer shells.

There's nothing complicated about those songs and they may not say much, but it was nearly impossible to resist their catchy, classic rock pull on Saturday night. Alternating between quasi-metallic thunderclaps such as "Rock & Roll Professionals" and "Hands on the Bible" and more melodic riff-rock gems such as "What Would You Have Me Do?," Local H had the wall-to-wall crowd on its feet and in a whirl throughout the set. Like Cheap Trick, another band from the Northern Illinois hinterland, Local H has a knack for reinvesting seemingly shopworn rock formula with a subtle showmanship and sheer exuberance.

The steamroller power and momentum of Local H's set only lost energy during an encore that started sharp but grew meandering, sloppy and long-winded. But just as things were grinding to a halt, Lucas stunned everyone by dropping his guitar, climbing up the side of the stage to an overhead opera box and then leaping from there into the balcony, where he disappeared into the crowd.

While Local H grossed a fraction of the money taken in by the movie "Spider-Man" on Saturday night, its set was an action-packed, escapist thrill ride that was every bit as riveting.