The Magic of Last Licks – by Vanessa Stevens

The Magic of Last Licks – by Vanessa Stevens

The Magic of Last Licks: A Classic Rock Concert Experience. Interview with front man Bill Wilson

  • “Where else ya gonna go to see that?” Bill Wilson of Last Licks, following  guitarist Gray Fowler’s performance of Peter Frampton’s  “Do you Feel Like We Do?”
Last Licks Band

Last Licks Band

Talking to front man Bill Wilson of Last Licks, I get the impression he is down to earth, and totally into the music the band covers. LAST LICKS (from their website) is a top-shelf classic rock band based in central Connecticut. The band differentiates themselves from all other bands in the genre by pulling out the songs that are uncommonly played, yet very well known and loved. The band is talented, charismatic, and delivers a show that always leaves the audience wanting more.

Ever since founding the band in 2006, along with guitarist Gray Fowler, drummer Joe Santucci and former bassist Steve Shore, Last Licks covers classic rock songs of a few decades ago. The band accurately learns and performs covers from arena-rock bands of the day, like Queen, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Bad Company or The Who, just to name a few.

In 2008, following Steve’s unfortunate passing from a sudden bout with cancer, Last Licks disbanded then came back in 2010 after bringing on Remo Capello, formerly of Frantic City, on bass, and seasoned keyboardist Bruce MacPherson who played with Fleetwood Mac, Thunder Road and The Dana Carvey show.

I talked with Bill about the band’s history, his stage presence, and what makes him a great band leader and  performer.

From his easy, clean jokes at a live performance, “The drummer just had a birthday, he turned forty–ten.” (instead of saying fifty)  and “What is this band’s name? It’s not no, it’s not maybe… It’s Yes!” before launching into the band’s rendition of the Yes song “Roundabout.” It’s obvious Bill has a light, breezy, casual way of connecting with the audience.

Even guitar legend Peter Frampton is covered, when lead guitarist and vocalist Gray performs a hair-raising (because of its accuracy) rendition of Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do?”

Gray inserts a little humor into his act as well, but I won’t spoil the fun telling what that is.

“The stage is a very real place. You can’t hide if the act is genuine or not.” Bill says. “I’m  comfortable with who I am today, but wasn’t always. When you don’t know who you are, you’re looking for approval. Your head gets in the way of who you are on stage.”

“Basically,” Bill sums it up, “To be a good leader and performer you have to have two things:  empathy: you have to be empathetic towards what someone else is feeling, and humility. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. This levels you and keeps your ego in check. Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“Everything spoken to the crowd is off the cuff. I get a nudge sometimes after a show or a set from someone in the band saying, ‘Hey, you forgot to mention the tee shirts!”

The tee shirts are sold for the faithful fans, several of which wear theirs to each show, a basic black with white writing of the name and the band logo: a phoenix rising out of flames, designed by Gray.

Bill defined it perfectly:

“It’s an image that depicts what we are, a band that came together and then rose into something else from the loss of Steve Shore. We’ve risen from the ashes.”

Together with Steve’s family and friends, the band founded The Steve Shore Trust Fund  in 2009 in Steve’s honor originally to help with the family’s medical bills but now supports the music program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Hospital.

You can read more at the band’s site, Lastlicksonline.com

“We made a decision the second time around,” Bill continues, “to cover the tunes from classic albums, but sometimes something you wouldn’t ordinarily hear. We wanted to be different, to elevate.”

Though Bill sits in on piano for a few songs each show, without keyboards, according to Bill, Last Licks was limited. So, the band brought in Bruce to play keyboards.

Bill considers himself lucky because he says can look to the left, to the right or behind at any time and feel the inspiration, on stage, and the band itself is a well-oiled machine, off stage as well.

“They, each member, is the most important thing in this band.” Bill says. “It’s not about me or Gray, or Bruce, or Remo, or Joe.”

Gray does the website, marketing, and various graphic arts the band uses. Bassist Remo handles the merchandise sales since he’s very organized, Joe, according to Bill is the “crutch player with a Ringo personality” who is as steady a personality as he is  drummer. Every rehearsal and show is recorded by Bruce and mixed and mastered to be used in conjunction with the videos that showcase the band. There is also a three camera shoot each show to produce multi-clips and video editing for the band.

“We always wanted to be authentic to the kind of music that we love. We have a couple people following us just because we do the Elton John’s “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.”

The band continues to push themselves, having already written six originals and making plans to release CD of originals next year.

James MacPherson, Bruce’s son, just 16  years old, and already an accomplished guitarist and songwriter, co-wrote the band’s song “Phoenix Rising.” Each band member takes a turn at writing.

“We are not just trying to fit in. As artists, as musicians you have to put yourself out there. Why do certain songs work? We are trying to find the things that are missing in the music scene today, and cover them.”

Last Licks’ next show is at Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den on Thursday December 13th.   at 8:00 pm. For more dates and info, go to LastLicksOnline.com

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Vanessa Stevens is a freelance writer, songwriter and singer. For the past ten years, she’s fronted casino and wedding dance band The Happening, and loves talking with, reporting on, and sharing passionate musicians’ tips and tricks of the trade. In addition Vanessa also created The Purple Song Project, a musical project to aid survivors of abuse and trauma. She can be contacted at SingerWriterVanessa@hotmail.com

www.Happeningrocks.com

www.Facebook.com/purplesongproject

Twitter.com/vanstevens

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