When the popular Finnish punk rock band Hanoi Rocks originally broke up in 1985, bassist Sami Yaffa went on to play with Johnny Thunders and several other bands before picking up the guitar and forming Mad Juana in 1995 with his wife, vocalist Karmen Guy. Mad Juana then was put on hold so that Yaffa could play for other musicians, including Joan Jett, Michael Monroe, Murphy’s Law, Jesse Malin and a revamped New York Dolls, among others. Mad Juana recently reformed and performed earlier this week at Bowery Electric and tonight at the R Bar.
At R Bar tonight, Mad Juana proved it was in a separate class from most any band you will ever hear live. It is a party band, fusing together a sophisticated brew of world music with elements of rock and roll, bohemian gypsy music, reggae, mariachi, flamenco and punk. Guy commanded the lead well, with soulful vocals and a dance-inducing stage presence. The band had a big Old World sound, with double percussion, double horns and an accordion to fill out the various genres. For the listener, the evening offered nothing predictable, especially not world beat covers of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.” Mad Juana was fascinating and fun.