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REVIEW: Van Wilson runs with the devil at the Local 662 in St. Petersburg




Attention Hollywood casting agents: If you're looking for an actor to play the charismatic frontman of a Reagan-era hair metal band, don't cast star of stage and screen Patrick Wilson.

Go with his brother Paul instead.

Nothing against Patrick, who can definitely command a stage with his Tony-nominated tenor, and pounds a mean set of skins to boot. But on Thursday at a jam-packed Local 662 in St. Petersburg, when the three Wilson brothers (including middle brother Mark on guitar) performed a charity concert as "Van Wilson," it was unabashed ham Paul who stole the show, prowling around the stage like Jim Morrison, stripping to his waist and delivering roundhouse rock 'n' roll kicks that would make David Lee Roth proud. There is photographic proof of this after the jump.


The concert was a benefit for All Children's Hospital, and it was only the third time the Wilson brothers had performed live in concert. The first was at a 40th birthday party for Mark, an anchor for WTVT-Ch. 13 and a bona fide Van Halen freak. The second was during this year's Sunscreen Film Festival, which Paul's advertising company promotes.

This show was their most professional to date, in that there was a paying crowd, and the Local 662 is a legit venue. And you know what? They're actually pretty good. Certainly better than your average barroom cover band, at least.

(Memo to any Patrick Wilson fans who might be reading this: This is not even remotely some actor's vanity project, like Dogstar or 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. This is just three brothers who have fun playing classic rock covers, from Journey to Bon Jovi to, of course, Van Halen. They just happen to have the Golden Globe-nominated star of Watchmen and The A-Team playing drums.

If anything, the group seems to be led by Mark, the most serious musician in the bunch. He was the only Wilson who remained onstage during the entire 18-song set, finger-tapping and whammy-barring on his custom Frankenstrat and other guitars like a man posessed. He's a genuinely great guitarist (he held his own on Eddie Van Halen's signature solo, Eruption) who might be the best musician on Tampa Bay's airwaves (although we can't say that for sure -- Ferdinand Zogbaum might play a mean double bass or something). Patrick even sang one of Mark's original songs, an '80s-esque rock anthem.

Following a lovely opening set by John Kelly, Van Wilson took the stage, led by Paul for the first four songs, all Van Halen's -- You Really Got Me, Somebody Get Me a Doctor, Everybody Wants Some and the wicked Panama. He returned at the end for more Halen -- Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love, Feel Your Love Tonight, Running With the Devil (arguably my highlight of the night) and Jump.

"I'm the shy one," he kept reminding the audience throughout the set, in between removing and re-donning his shirt. Not exactly. It was when the charismatic Paul was up front, with the focused Mark on guitar and chummy Patrick on drums (plus a friend on bass), that the brothers most sounded like a real rock group. That was when it felt most like an honest-to-goodness concert.

In the middle of the set, Paul handed lead vocals off to Patrick for more vocally demanding songs like The Outfield's Your Love, Journey's Any Way You Want It and Don't Stop Believing, and Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive. All of them were much better suited to Patrick's soaring, Broadway-honed tenor. On a couple of songs, they even brought out another member of the Wilson clan, cousin Melanie Stringer, who stars as Nemo in Disney World's Finding Nemo: The Musical.

During Wanted Dead or Alive, Mark switched from an acoustic to an electric mid-song. "I don't know any half-ass bands that can pull off that switch!" Patrick said, beaming.

Indeed. When it comes to brother bands, Van Wilson may not be the next Kings of Leon, but they're a lot of fun onstage. And they managed to raise a couple of thousand bucks for a good cause, too. Here's hoping Van Wilson schedules an encore performance in 2011.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Friday, December 31, 2010 10:46am]


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