Talk about a long layoff between shows. According to drummer Carmine Appice, the last time these venerable Long Islanders played Los Angeles was 1968, opening for Jimi Hendrix at the Hollywood Bowl. Although Appice has gone on to fame as a drummer for Jeff Beck, Ozzy Osbourne and Rod Stewart (for whom he co-wrote “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”), this band may have been his greatest. And for the small crowd that gathered about the House of Blues stage, the wait to get him back behind this unit was well worth the 33-year hiatus.
The Fudge’s great contribution to rock history — the bludgeoning of R&B and rock classics by slowing them down to a crawl — made them the first heavy metal band ever — pre-Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin or Blue Cheer. Thirty-five years after the fact, these men that were musical dinosaurs as children haven’t lost an ounce of their fierce gravity.
As they plodded through their deliberately overwrought renditions of “Eleanor Rigby,” “Shotgun,” “She’s Not There” and their pair of hit singles from 1967, “Take Me for a Little While” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” one couldn’t help but wonder if the neo-operatic harmonies of latter groups like Styx weren’t totally derived from the Fudge. That, and the marvelously bombastic drumming of Appice, the father of the upside-down cymbal/double bass drum thrash-a-thon — still a wonder after all these years.
The set’s high point came with the group’s take on ‘N Sync’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart,” in which they clearly outplay and out-sing the boy band. They are not only still standing but completely rocking, and this was an amazing and enlightening surprise.