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Appetite for Destruction plays Club Fever

Observer Scene | Monday, November 7, 2005

The hype was raging on Friday. No, not about the football game – the hot ticket was the student band everyone is talking about. Everyone, that is, who’s into classic rock.

Appetite for Destruction are four Notre Dame students with decades of musical experience between them. Friday’s show at Club Fever, however, represented a new level for them. The stars, it appears, were aligned for a great show that night.

More than a thousand pairs of ears packed Club Fever on Friday night as Appetite took the stage and pounded through a truly monumental set – the show wasn’t over until after two in the morning – of material from rock’s golden years.

Appetite’s stock in trade is Guns ‘n’ Roses, but they were not shy about branching out, including the Beatles, the Boss and the Stones on the set list. When the band did branch out to non-Guns ‘n’ Roses music, they still tended to stick to songs that the band originally covered. “We’re basically singing a cover of a cover … but the fans dig it,” drummer Brendan Collins said.

Collins and keyboardist/guitarist Matt Marnocha are the heart of the group. The two have been playing together basically forever – “since 7th grade” said Collins. They decided to form Appetite for Destruction after the breakup of their last project, The Flux, due to the graduation of half the band.

Neither Marnocha nor Collins, however, has the voice to cover Axl, so they turned to junior Will McAuliffe to provide vocals. His raspy baritone shifts into high gear once the music starts, belting out lyrics in an unapologetic shriek. It’s not a falsetto because it’s not nearly pretty enough. It’s not quite a scream and not quite a hundred-odd-decibel whine. What it does closely approximate is the anguished cries emanating from Chris Campbell’s bass.

The foursome mixed perennial crowd favorites like “You Could Be Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Cold November Rain” and the obligatory and always-satisfying “Paradise City” with offerings for the diehards with GnR’s whole discography filling their iPods. These hard-hitting songs included “It’s So Easy” and “Don’t Cry” and ballads like “I Need You” or “My Michelle.” Most of the softer material, however, was furnished by the Beatles, especially Appetite’s versions of “Lonely Hearts Club.” “If you don’t know this song, just leave. Leave America,” McAuliffe said.

On that ultimate sixties ballad, “Hey Jude,” though, he couldn’t quite summon a lyrical sound or smooth the rasp. Axl might have slapped him -though the question remains whether it would be on the back or upside the head.

Old and young, the crowd matched the band in intensity. The floor was packed, the galleries impassable – an achievement doubly notable for the fact that Club Fever is a 21-and-up venue. “As a band, we were all extremely happy,” said Collins, who also said that the crowd “definitely” carried the band forward with their energy.

It surely didn’t hurt that White Sox star Jermaine Dye was in attendance Friday night, coming off his MVP performance in the World Series. Dye, whose girlfriend attended high school with Collins and Marnocha, met the band after the show and “had some very nice things to say about the show. He had a really great time,” Collins said.

Despite some technical mishaps throughout the show, including consistent feedback on several speakers, and McAuliffe’s less-than-commanding visual presence (his most spontaneous moment came when a female fan who’d partaken a bit too heavily jumped onstage to kiss him – he dedicated the next song to her) the performance represents a resounding success for Appetite for Destruction.

The next step for the band seems natural for a cover band. “Original material,” Collins said, “The thought was to use the Guns ‘n’ Roses thing as a vehicle.” The band hopes to continue to play shows as often as possible, incorporating their own songs as they are written and perfected. To answer questions about whether the band would stay together for the end of the year Collins said, “We’ll see what happens.”

Fans of Appetite for Destruction will certainly await the band’s next performance, whether it includes covers, new material or something entirely unexpected.