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Rock Star Supernova; Reality show rockers leave the TV studio and hit the road.

Byline: Scott McLennan

Guitar player Gilby Clarke notes right up front that "TV" is a dirty word in rock 'n' roll circles. Real rock comes from clubs and basement shows, places where the music gets banged into shape in front of small, devoted audiences, then sometimes catches on with a whole lot more people if the musicians get it just right, or at least right enough.

But when television provided the platform for the ex-Guns N' Roses ax man to join forces with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and former Metallica bass player Jason Newsted, Clarke jumped at the opportunity, which came via the CBS series "Rock Star."

"You gotta trust us. We're representing rock 'n' roll as best we can," Clarke said.

"Rock Star" is an amped-up version of "American Idol," whereby contestants sing for a shot to join an established band. In its first season, "Rock Star" found J.D. Fortune to front the remaining members of INXS. This year, 15 finalists fought for the slot to sing with Clarke, Lee and Newsted in a band originally called Supernova, but changed to Rock Star Supernova when a pre-existing California punk act with that moniker won a court injunction against the superstars.

Supernova's charter members are all buddies, well-known to each other via California's hard-rock scene. Clarke said the plan is for Supernova to carry on as a band even as any hoopla generated by the TV show dies down.

Canadian Lukas Rossi bested the field in the TV show's conclusion aired in September. Since then, Rossi worked on the debut Rock Star Supernova album, produced by Butch Walker, and prepared for a national concert tour that began on New Year's Eve in Las Vegas and makes its way to the DCU Center in Worcester on Sunday. For the road show, ex-Black Crowes bass player Johnny Colt is subbing for Newsted, who injured his shoulder prior to the tour's launch.

Clarke admitted that opening night of the tour had its glitches, but nothing that threatened a Supernova implosion.

"This whole thing is hardest for Lukas. We've all done this before. But Lukas is our communicator between us and the audience, and it will take him some time to refine that role," Clarke said.

Rossi proved himself a quick study on Supernova's self-titled debut album released by Epic Records. Clarke said that he, Newsted and Lee were working on the album as the television series was in progress, thus Supernova had no idea who would be singing the stuff being written and recorded.

Thus, the Supernova album bears a pretty broad birth. Given the band's pedigree, Supernova produced something not entirely generic and even gets points for including a song called "Be Yourself (And 5 Other Cliches)," which sort of openly owns up to the fact that this is music written as marketable product and not exactly the byproduct of naturally formed musical chemistry. Rossi did have time to record a version of his original song "Headspin," which he performed on the TV competition.

"Lukas got to contribute, but not as much as he should of. That's just the way this thing worked," Clarke said. "At first we figured this was dumb, trying to make a record before we knew who the singer was. But I suppose that when John Paul Jones came up with the `Black Dog' riff, the rest (of Led Zeppelin) knew what to do."

Clarke said that the Supernova tour is featuring material from the album as well as some encore performances of material that helped advance Rossi through the TV show's judging process, which involved both popular vote and pro recommendations. So expect the vocally pliable Rossi to belt out The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" and The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony." Traces of the TV show will also be present in the concert's opening act Dilana, who came in second to Rossi.

Clarke said the band did not want to distract from Supernova's intent on being a real band. To that end, Supernova won't be playing hits by Motley Crue, Metallica, or Guns N" Roses. But if early reviews are any indication, Supernova is conjuring all the bacchanalian debauchery one could hope for from members of Crue and GN'R.

Clarke said there are drawbacks to having a band spring fully formed from the head of the TV god. For one thing, every misstep of the sort new bands typically get to make in a small club becomes available for viewing by an audience numbering in the millions.

But overall, Clarke said that he and Lee have agreed that they wish they had this sort of opportunity early in their respective careers.

And to the charge that the vets in Supernova are only in it for the money, Clarke responded, "I'm a musician first and foremost. No one is going to remember how much money I made. They are going to remember what songs I played on and what music I made. Tommy Lee is an incredible musician. Same goes for Jason. This was my opportunity to work with them."

Rock Star Supernova

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: The DCU Center, 50 Foster St., Worcester

How much: $46.25 and $36.25


CUTLINE: Members of the band Rock Star Supernova (from left): Jason Newsted, Lukas Rossi, Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke.

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Title Annotation:TIME OUT
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 25, 2007
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