Six-string queen Lita Ford has had quite a tumultuous few years since resurfacing from her long dropout in the Caicos and Turks Islands near the Bahamas. Upon her re-entry into the music world, Ford has been torched for her quirky collaborative album with ex-husband Jim Gillette, "Wicked Wonderland", and then she's weathered the storms of disunion from Gillette and their sons. Still taking her lumps last year from some naysayers after releasing the more return-to-form "Living Like a Runaway", Lita Ford appears to be taking steps on a healing path that finds herself allied with former RUNAWAYS cohort Cherie Currie for a charity Christmas single, "Rock This Christmas Down". Reportedly Ford and Currie have a couple other songs to present in the near future. Fun when you consider the two were never considered very close back in the day.
In the meantime, Lita's released "The Bitch is Back Live", a spirited if knocked-back performance given October of 2012 at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills (or for all intents and purposes, her one-time turf, Los Angeles), California. Tossing out an hour-long set to what comes off as an intimate crowd, "The Bitch is Back Live" is a pretty cool, knuckle-down concert with just enough theatrics to restore Lita's verve that many argue vanished with 1991's "Dangerous Curves" album.
As might be expected from someone plowing through her recent ruts and trying to reconnect with a bewildered and suspicious audience, two-thirds of the songs from this set are grabbed from "Living Like a Runaway" and her self-titled commercial breakout from 1988. Opening with a chunky cover of Elton John's "The Bitch is Back", Lita Ford plus second guitarist Mitch Perry, bassist Marty O'Brien and drummer Scott Coogan are in apparent warm-up mode here, ditto for "Hungry" from the "Stiletto" album. However, once Lita hits her gnarly solo during "Hungry", everything starts falling into line, growing louder towards the end of the song as Lita rips all asses within audible reach of her famous B.C. Rich Warlock.
It's when the band starts tackling the new songs, "Relentless", "Devil in My Head" and the Bryan Adams-esque mini-autobiography "Living Like a Runaway" where Lita and the band really click. Lita's vocals seethe with bravado on the spit-laden "Relentless" and her frets take a pretty good pummeling. Throughout the set, Lita's solos are tasty yet punctuated in most spots and after a traceable shakiness on those first two songs, she catches stride in the midst of performing her current tracks.
The band delivers a stripped down, tougher version of "Back to the Cave" from "Lita", devoid of the recorded version's synths, but also tempering its primary thumping groove. Instead, Lita's band keeps things dialed back, even cautionary, on the verses, setting up for one of Lita's best solos in the set. In some ways, this "Back to the Cave" feels like a rehearsal jam, but it allows Lita to heave and pant her vocals with confidence and then to later slip into a second solo segment in duet with Mitch Perry.
Then Lita introduces "Can't Catch Me" (one of the fastest and heaviest songs in her repertoire) by briefly talking about her tryst with Lemmy Kilmister where she shacked up with him for three days and came up with the MOTÖRHEAD-driven song. Delivered in this set, Lita and her band once again keep things on the freer side, letting Scott Coogan hammer down the song with glee before skidding into the lumbering and guitar-jerked breakdown.
Going to back to her early solo roots with "Out for Blood" and "Dancing on the Edge", Lita lets the riffs ride and here the band fills things up nicely to recreate that old stall humping L.A. power rock drive that give these songs bite. Both yield the biggest payouts of the set and after all Lita's sifted through lately, it's nice hearing her cut loose while keeping things tight on these adrenalized songs. She peels off her solo for "Dancing on the Edge" like it was 1984 again before carrying that momentum and chopping through the bitter and ugly "Hate" from "Living Like a Runaway".
No surprise, Lita closes her set with the staple hits "Close My Eyes Forever" and "Kiss Me Deadly". "Close My Eyes Forever" is mostly kept to a whispering guitar melody and hi hat tap before the rest of the band joins in where expected. The party anthem "Kiss Me Deadly" is practically naked, shorn down to its basic grooves, but Lita, Mitch Perry and Marty O'Brien nail the core melody lines as Lita goofs with her audience beforehand and keeps them playing along to the happy-go-lucky end of her set. The finale is stretched out for kicks and while not altogether congruous, it's evident Lita and her current posse had a lot of fun in this set, which is perhaps all that she needs at this critical junction in her life.
If "The Bitch is Back Live" had been released back in the late Eighties at the height of Lita's popularity, no doubt she'd have been crucified for it. Thankfully for her, in 2013, it serves lesser purpose from the do-or-die standpoint of unit sales. "The Bitch is Back Live" would be a lot more notable as a video release, but nonetheless, it's a simple rock 'n roll set offering no pretenses and minimum flash but a lotta heart. God bless ya, Lita.