POP MUSIC REVIEW : Medals All Around at Heavy-Metal Benefit

Return with us now to those golden days of yesteryear, when metal bands were not so relentlessly packaged, videoed and multi-platinumed. Return to those days when--with a hearty "Hi yo, dude!"--headbangers took any excuse to clamber up on stage and just play .

These less rarefied days of local metal were recalled Tuesday night at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during KNAC-FM's second anniversary party, a $17.50-a-pop benefit for Find the Children (a nonprofit organization designed to help parents find their missing children).

Oh sure, there were plenty of stellar talents on hand: the complete rosters of Guns N' Roses, Great White and Armored Saint, plus various members of such bands as Cinderella, Poison, Giuffria, Autograph, Quiet Riot, Keel and Black & Blue. It was as close to a glitzfest as one could imagine a 125-dB metalthon getting.

But when the musicians got together on stage and worked out on, say, Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," the sheer pleasure of nailing down Joe Perry's riffs or wailing Steven Tyler's vocals took over. So what if things got really sloppy, out of tune and just plain noisy? It was garage heaven for the lads, and the capacity crowd, from the pit down front all the way back, ate it up.

The devoted headbangers up front were done up to the metal-style nines, with the gals wearing outrageous spike heels and scant else, while guys sported their best leathers and most hol(e)y jeans.

Though just being at the Civic--and in as intoxicated a state as possible--was the main idea for some, the audience's warmest responses were reserved for the complete bands. The fiery, no-holds-barred six-song set from Guns N' Roses--much less formal and more funky than the group's recent Pasadena concerts--drew the biggest roar, but Great White's expert but somehow inert hard-blues stylings had their proponents too.

It was one of those nights where everyone won. Remember what they were like?

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