When Bobby Jensen hurdled a barricade and bum-rushed a KISS performance in 1984, his life changed.
The then 14-year-old metalhead hopped up onstage and sprinted to KISS vocalist-guitarist Paul Stanley, who handed him a pick and embraced the star-struck teenager.
“I just saw the crowd and was blown away,” Jensen said by phone from Minneapolis. “I dropped the pick Paul gave me and I was just taken aback by the power of everything. I knew that I wanted to form a band and play songs like KISS.”
After fronting a number of original bands, Jensen joined Hairball in 2002, a hair-metal cover act that formed the prior year. Jensen, a charismatic vocalist, and his band don’t just deliver covers from their favorite recording artists, they add the visuals.
When Jensen belts out Alice Cooper songs, the guillotine is behind him and it’s in chopping mode. When KISS songs are rendered, Jensen breathes fire just like his childhood hero Gene Simmons, according to Jensen. Simmons and fellow metal legends, such as Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Rob Zombie and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, have shared the stage with Hairball at benefit shows over recent years.
“The feedback we’ve received has been great,” Jensen said. “Gene Simmons is a fan. Rob Halford spent an hour with us after a show telling us how much he loves us. It’s been amazing.”
Jensen and vocalist Kris Voxx split vocal duties. Voxx handles Queen and Journey tunes, while Jensen dishes out the rockers, such as AC/DC, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi.
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“The women love Bon Jovi,” Jensen said. “They can’t get enough of his music. I love singing his songs, but for some reason, his songs are the toughest on my voice. I love singing AC/DC songs. I think I was born to sing those tunes.”
Jensen wishes he had the opportunity to replace Brian Johnson when the AC/DC singer couldn’t tour with the veteran band in 2017.
“If they wanted it to sound like AC/DC, they should have called me,” Jensen said. “But they had (Guns N’ Roses vocalist Axl Rose) do it. I get it. Everybody knows Axl. It’s about selling tickets. They don’t know me in Oregon, so I’m out.”
But it’s not as if Jensen is waiting around for a gig. Hairball, which will perform Saturday (11/17) at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, is constantly on the road.
“I love it,” Jensen said. “I’m not married. I have no kids. I’m married to rock ’n’ roll. I take music fans back to a time when music was fun.”
It’s an ’80s onslaught when Hairball takes the stage. “I loved every bit of that era,” Jensen said.
However, he isn’t too fond of what followed. In 1991 Nirvana personally burst the hair metal bubble.
“Things changed just like that,” Winger vocalist-bassist Kip Winger said. “Things went from being really good to well, some really lean years. A lot of people were upset by it.”
Jensen was one of those who was depressed about hair-metal’s downward spiral.
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“It was the worst time of my life,” he said. “It was horrible. People needed that party in their lives. They needed to have a drink in their hand and their toes in the sand (a line from Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls”).
“They needed the fun rock ’n’ roll provides. I couldn’t handle one more song about killing yourself. That was the grunge era. But finally around the time Hairball was formed, people realized they needed fun rock ’n’ roll tunes again. That’s what we’re providing.
“We bring people back to a good-time era in which it was about having a blast all of the time,” he said. “We wouldn’t know what else to do with ourselves. We’re just a bunch of goofs who always grow our hair out and try to bring a little rock ’n’ roll into your lives so it’s not so boring.”
WHAT: Hairball with guest New Trick
WHERE: Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, 1100 Rockford Rd. SW, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (11/17)
TICKETS: $25 seated, $27 VIP on the floor; U.S. Cellular Center Box Office, Cedar Rapids Ice Arena Guest Services Office, 1-(800) 745-3000, <URL destination="http://cricearena.com/hairball.html%23top%2520or%2520Uscellularcenter.com/event/hairball-2/">Cricearena.com/hairball.html#top or Uscellularcenter.com/event/hairball-2/
</URL>BAND’S WEBSITE: Hairballonline.com