Toronto Sun (Ca), July 16, 1997

Not quite up to speed

Keanu Reeves' Dogstar good, but still needs practice

by Jane Stevenson

How many garage bands without a record label can you think of that would get to play the Guvernment, recent venue to shows by such high-profile artists as John Fogerty and Jon Bon Jovi?

In the case of Dogstar's Monday night gig at the large club, it certainly helped that movie star Keanu Reeves is the bass player.

The pop-rock trio from L.A. played their first-ever show in Reeve's childhood home at the Guvernment -- about half-full with a reported attendance of 690 although it looked more like 450 -- and their nervousness showed as they struggled through the first half of their hour-long set.

"We've got the first-time jitters," admitted lead singer-guitarist Bret Domrose, about four songs into the concert.

Clearly, a smaller venue like Lee's or the Horseshoe would have been more appropriate for the fledgling band, who have yet to find solid stage legs or reach their songwriting maturity.

But did Keanu's female cheering section, just to the right of the stage where they could hand notes and give flowers to the lanky, unshaven actor, actually care whether Dogstar could play or not?

The answer would have to be no, judging from their squeals of delight each and every time Reeves showed even the smallest sign of life.

It felt as if they were collectively watching their brother's band rehearsing in the basement just so they could get a good look at the cute bass player.

Intially, Reeves' chosen position was staring at the floor, but by the encore he was joining Domrose at his microphone or turning his back to the crowd to groove with drummer Rob Mailhouse, arguably the best musician of the bunch.

Frankly, I could take or leave Dogstar's covers of Badfinger's No Matter What and a speeded-up version of the Beatles' Ticket To Ride.

But the group as a whole came around in the second half, showing a lot more confidence and musical ability on such meatier rockers as Honesty Anyway, Nobody Home, And I Pray, from their debut full-length album, Our Little Visionary, which is being sold on the road after the band split from their label.

The good news is Dogstar is a lot better than I thought they were going to be. The bad news is they've still got a long way to go.


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