Sari Schorr/Sharee Williams
The 100 Club, London
Friday 18th January 2019
Described by many music pundits as a modern-day hybrid of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner - a red-hot Rock singer who radiates emotional intensity, who connects with and inspires her audiences - Sari Schorr certainly left a lasting impression at London's 100 Club last Friday night. Following the release of her latest album 'Never Say Never', New Yorker Schorr was playing the penultimate night of London Blues Week, co-headlining with fellow American Sharrie Williams - The Princess of Rockin' Gospel Blues - on a mouthwatering double bill.
"How Are You Doing?" Sharrie enquired following an intro from her band, the majority of which were amazingly made up from Sari's band with the exception of Sharrie's German right hand guitar man Lars Kutschke. Williams immediately let off the hand-break with the slow lane/fast lane Blues of 'Hard Drivin' Woman' - the title track of her 2004 album, her stage presence instantly infectious, as she stared down the assembled paparazzi's camera lenses, got the packed crowd to clap their hands and vocally sparred with Kutschke's guitar. Before Sharrie launched into the Funky Blues of 'I'll Take You There', she shared the fact that this was the first time she had been back in London since 2009. Well her banter was just as sparkly as her top as she cheekily enquired "Is anybody here?" as she encouraged the 100 Club punters to snap their fingers, as Bob Fridzema let his pinkies do the talking on his Hammond, complemented by Roy Martin's drum solo. "Let's hear it for the bass man" enthused Williams, as the waistcoated Mat Beable deservedly also took a bow. Sharrie's question "Is anybody in love?" received a muted response - well I suppose this is the Blues - although we suspect that the recently married Fridzema did actually raise an arm. Cue, the knock-out 'Crazy For You', another track from 'HDW', Williams' vocal more than equalling Kutschke's fret prowess.
The bombshell that Sherrie and Lars had only met up with Sari's band members for the first time earlier that afternoon, was matched by the hypnotic 'Out Of The Dark', the title track from her 2011 album. With Kutschke once gain excelling on guitar, this was an insight into Williams past struggles with crack cocaine, and given the subject matter, this was a truly commanding vocal performance, her Gospel like delivery of "Come Into The Light", "Thank God I'm Free", "Joy In The Light" and "Give The Band Some Love", totally respected by her mesmerised 100 Club congregation. Sharrie's church was now rockin' as she asked everyone to put their hands together on 'Lover By Trade' - it's message - one of struggle, the fire inside, hope, love - but not forgetting another superb Lars solo, as Williams embraced a lucky guy down the front, as everyone joined in on the "Gotta Love" chorus. Kutschke's intro on the slow burning Blues of 'The World Is In Trouble', saw Williams demanding "Give Me Some Reverb Baby", as the band duly delivered on, for mine, the stand-out of the set. What a vocal performance from Sharrie, ably assisted by her partner in crime Lars, as he launched into another cool solo. It was time to spread the love one last time as Williams declared "We Love You So Much" as she again demanded "Come On London" to join in on her final number, the Funky singalong of 'Travellin'. Not sure how Sari was to going to follow William's 'feeling good' set, but we just hoped that Sharrie would not leave it another ten years before she returns to these shores. Awesome.
Unlike Sharrie Williams - this was not the first time we had seen 2016 WRC Best Blues Rock Performance winner Sari Schorr. In fact the first time we saw Sari was just over three years ago at a showcase at London's Surya. Indeed, the last time we caught Sari was at London's Borderline last September, with her new line up of guitarist Ash Wilson and the aforementioned Fridzema, Martin and Beable. Schorr insisted that her new album be recorded live to capture the raw energy of her music. Her songs are highly crafted with vibrant lyrics that highlight just how good Sari is at invoking passion, grit, and empathy. Substituting one excellent guitarist for another, Ash's 'Shine Onish' Floyd intro saw the ever-smiling Schorr take to the stage and open with the rockin', groove laden, 'The New Revolution' from the new album, with both a powerful vocal and the first of many guitar solos from Wilson, before they went back to 'A Force Of Nature's 'Damn The Reason', with Sari clenching her fist, given its subject matter of domestic violence, although still managing to throw a few welcome Sonja Christina shapes at the same time!
The Robert Johnson tribute 'King Of Rock And Roll', had an Ash solo that no doubt dear old Bob would have been proud of, before another from the new album 'Thank You' - saw Schorr's rich, vibrant, gravely vocal as sassy and powerful as ever - both songs performed with pure adrenalised energy and fervent passion. Sari then took time out to thank Mike Vernon, producer of 'A Force Of Nature', who actually supported Schorr at The Borderline last year, before knocking out a brace from said album. 'Demolition Man', a down and gritty Blues shuffle, was again forcefully sung and written by Schorr in support of Amnesty International's resolution to decriminalise sex work, which saw an exceptional keys solo from Fridzema, with Schorr playfully squaring up to Wilson on another Ash guitar solo. Whilst the Funky groove laden Blues of 'Ain't Got No Money', Schorr's protest against the greed of Wall Street, saw yet more Wilson licks thrown in for good measure.
Fridzema's delicate solo on the first cover of the evening, Mick Ralph's 'Ready For Love', was delivered with much passionate grace and intense raw emotion by Sari and band, and was followed by another cover, a storming version of Willie Dixon's 'I Just Want To Make Love To You', which truly reflected the dynamism within the band, with the audience duly clapping along as Wilson used his sleeve on his fret before a beautiful sensuous refrain snippet of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' from the versatile Schorr. The rapturous applause continued as charismatic Sari not only heartfully added that she was so lucky to have this band, but also praised co-headliner Sheree, before playing the stand-out track for mine, from her previous album, 'Kiss Me', which harps back to Sari's love of 60's Psychedelic Rock, which saw Ash revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocked out big time - with another awesome Sari vocal - Schorr even managing to include a line about her beloved Pit Bulls - although the song is about being in love with someone who is gone. Another sincere message from Sari to focus on the positive things in life preceded the title track from her latest album, a moving cover of the sublimely beautiful late Ian McLagan's 'Never Say Never', which was followed by another track from 'NSN', the live debut of 'Turn The Radio' On', with its cool piano intro - a sad story about finding the right man at the wrong time.
Two more from 'NSN' followed, another great Schorr vocal/Wilson solo on the Heavy Rock of 'Valentina', with Sari afterwards thanking both the crowd plus taking the opportunity to remind them that the band are also supporting King King at London's Koko on Thursday 7th February! Although the stand-out of the set for mine was 'Freedom', a mid-paced Rocker, with Fridzema's dexterity embellishing some killer vocal harmonies. It was back to 'AFON' though for the encore, with Sari not only mentioning their merch stand and introducing the band, but also amusingly trying to remember where they were from! Lead Belly's 'Black Betty' - with its unique arrangement, saw the chemistry between Wilson's cajun guitar opening and solo plus Schorr's vocal delivery - ultimately resulting in a very powerful version of this classic, before finishing with the familiar clunky opening riff of 'Aunt Hazel' - based on urban slang for heroin - with both Sari and Ash letting us have it with both barrels on this rocker. Suffice to say that this force of nature just gets stronger and stronger since we first encountered it just before Christmas 2015. Never say never - just make sure you catch the band at London's Koko on Thursday 7th February or alternatively at Twickenham's Eel Pie Club exactly a month later!
AJ (photos courtesy of Richard Bolwell)
Skid Row + Backyard Babies
+ H.E.A.T. + Vega + Killit
O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London
Saturday 26th January 2019
A dark wet Saturday night in January is a good time to get out and find a nice intimate gig. So is a warm Thursday in June but I digress. January is a time of sales and bargains and tonight is a bargain indeed. Not one, not two but five class rock acts are gracing the stage at this premier London venue, the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. No town or country club this, the old art deco cinema, which holds 2300, is now a rocking venue. Great sound and excellent acoustics, it has an intimate feel yet has the exciting atmosphere of a large stadium event. And tonight's bands suit the environment on every level.
Openers KilliT take to the stage at the unfathomable hour of 5.15 pm. Most don't normally wake up until then unless the pub has a Happy Hour so the audience is somewhat sparse. Which is a shame as they are a great act. The London based five piece really hit the spot. They perfectly sum up their sound when they say “Our inspiration comes from 1980's Classic Rock – bands like Guns N’ Roses, Faith no More and Queens Of The Stone Age, all of who have a global reputation. We also appreciate 70's legends like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. However, the one thing we do not want to become is a 70's or 80's cliché. We want to be relevant to the modern world.” And they succeed. They have a raw, almost Metal sound, but the Classic Rock groove shines through. Guitars are provided by Les Paul wielding Niro Knox and PRS clad Claire Genoud whilst vocals are belted out by Gaz Twist. Their short but effective set, taken mainly from their 'Shut It Down' album is excellent - and worth a listen if you get the chance. The early birds today definitely got the worm. As old Bill Shakey put it, "And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here". And we all know he was a proper Metal head.
Up next are a six piece from the UK called Vega consisting of Nick Workman on lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, Tom Martin on bass guitar, Marcus Thurston on lead guitar, James Martin on keyboards, Mikey Kew on guitar, backing and vocals and Martin ‘Hutch' Hutchinson: drums. Taking to the stage to the unusual strains of Nana Mouskouri's 'In an English Country Garden' the lads treat us to some great Melodic Rock. Heavily influenced by the likes of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, the music is radio friendly rock that would sit well in any arena. 'Kiss Of Life', from their 2009 album of the same name, is a chugging Bon Jovi inspired delight whilst 'Last Man Standing', from their latest album 'Only Standing', is a classic arena Rock anthem. But there is a hint of Pop about them, with frontman Workman, a tall blond good looking fella, who could front a boy band. Indeed, the whole band are not averse to setting the ladies hearts a flutter, as the rapidly filling arena could attest to. Closing track \Saving Grace' is a great crowd pleaser with plenty of singing and interaction. 2019 sees the bands tenth anniversary with five albums to their name and a string of festivals both past and planned. Get down to see them when you can, but keep your ladies close or you might just lose them.
The treats keep coming as Swedish rockers H.E.A.T. take to the stage to Glenn Fry's 'The Heat Is On'. Cheesy but apt. Pogoing Punk front man Erik Grönwal is a bundle of energy and a whole lot of fun. He constantly jumps into the crowd, taking photos and dancing with the crowd. He frequently borrows phones and films himself with the crowd. Not exactly the shy type. But it remains fun. Backed by Jona Tee on keyboards, Jimmy Jay on bass, Crash (Lars Jarkell) on drums and Dave Dalone on guitars, the five piece are clearly influenced by the likes of Whitesnake and the Scorpions. With Tee's keyboards picking some strong rhythm, the Whitesnake influence is strong and the set filled with Melodic arena Rock. Indeed, on opening track 'Bastard of Society', Dalone, on an exquisite black Les Paul, duals with Tee on keys in an excellent duet. It's pleasing Melodic Rock although with an edge. It's feel good music that I could happily listen to all night. The security may not have been so keen as they were kept busy all night with Grönwal's crowd antics but it was all good natured. 'Beg, Beg, Beg', from their 2010 album 'Freedom Rock' is a real blast, especially as they add a touch of AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and Erma Franklin's 'Piece of My Heart' to the end. A great medley. Closer 'Mannequin Show' is a slower heavier vibe and 'A Shot at Redemption', from 2014's 'Tearing Down The Walls' album, is a fine way for them to sign off to the accompaniment of a happily singing crowd. These boys are definitely a treat and ones I will be looking out for again.
The Swedish link continues with the emergence of Sleaze Rockers Backyard Babies. Entering to the Sex Pistol's 'Frigging In The Rigging' the four piece are celebrating 30 years of rocking, although Dregen on lead guitar, Johan Blomqvist on bass and Peder Carlsson on drums were all members of the previous incarnation Tyrant. In 1989 Nicke Borg joined on lead vocals, rhythm guitar and they changed their name to Backyard Babies. So plenty of years together has made them a tight unit. They have a Punkish look and vibe about them which is reminiscent of Ginger and the Wildhearts. Or even Green Day, although perhaps slightly less Pop. Borg takes centre stage switching between a brown PRS Vela singlecut, a Red Gibson SG and a Gretsch. The songs are short and catchy. 'Dysfunctional Professional' gives us some classic Swedish sleaze whilst 'Shovin Rocks', from their latest album gives us a more Rock and Roll vibe. Dregen's solo's lift this out of the Punk and into the Rock although never over indulgent. His Gibson 335 sound is sweet as a Nötpaj. Switching to acoustic guitar, Borg and Dregen as a duet quieten things down with 'A Song For The Outcast' with Blomqvist and Carlsson returning for the melodic 'Roads'. Both are a delight. But it's back to the electrics, and the Punky vibe for 'Minus Celsius', and their best Rock track of the set 'Th1rt3en Or Nothing'. 'Abandon' is a ballad that builds to a full on sing along rocker and closer 'Brand New Hate' ends on a Punk high.
Tonight's headliners are no strangers to stadium gigs. New Jerseys Skid Row, formed in the 1980's height of hair metal, have played some of the largest stadia in the world. The current line up still boasts three of the original five line up - bassist Rachel Bolan, Guitarist Dave Sabo and guitarist Scotti Hill. But the iconic face of Skid Row was the unassuming Sebastian Bach, the six foot 2 inch blond singer with an extensive vocal range, and equally extensive range of opinions. The majority of the set comprise of tracks from the first two albums - Skid Row and Slave to the Grind - which are iconic 80's metal for those with a penchant for strong vocals. 20 years on from Bach's departure, and following a couple of different frontmen, the band are back with vocalist ZP Theart. The South African has big shoes to fill - literally - in a band that boasts such a catalogue of anthemic songs. So do those size 13 snakeskin boots fit?
Never the quiet unassuming types, Skid Row drape their stage with large US style flags and filter on to the strains of The Ramones 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. All are dressed completely in black and epitomise the Metal scene of the 80's although thankfully without the OTT hairstyles. As the entry music fades, the drums of Rob Hammersmith let rip as the band launch into the first of many classics - 'Slave To The Grind'. Fast paced and punchy, Theart shows us that he has all the skills needed to deliver. Looking like a tall Ronni James Dio, he shares RJD's vocal skills. Well he did front Dragonforce. Yes, he fills those boots and makes them his own. The crowd are here to witness, and join in with, a tour de force of 80's Metal warbling. And they got what they came for. It's a workout for the lungs and neck as headbanging, singing and rocking demand breath in equal measures. "The noose gets tighter round my throat" roars ZP. Just how I'm feeling mate. And 'Big Guns' is what you need for the second track. Lead guitarist Dave 'The Snake' Sabo rips our eardrums out with his sumptuous ESP LTD whilst fills the remnants of our hearing with his sublime Les Paul.
'Psycho Love', with another strong vocal performance by Theart, is followed by 'Sweet Little Sister'. It's all fast paced adrenalin paced Rock designed to break us. No chance. Although we are thankful for a slowing of tempo for the anthemic 'Eighteen And Life'. Not for the voice though as we attempt to split the walls of our small stadium. Thank goodness my terrible tones were lost in the throng. Pass me a beer, we're in for the long haul here. The tempo is back up again for 'Piece Of Me 'and 'Livin' on a Chain Gang' before putting the brakes on for 'Ghost', one of their best tracks from recent years - well 2003 anyway. Rachel, co writer of so many of the Skid Row classics takes to the mike for a few minutes to reminisce over 30 years in the band, before taking vocal duties in the cover of the Ramones 'Psycho Therapy'. And the audience goes mad. What is it with Skid Row and names. ZP is not an abbreviation - it is his name (they are his grandfathers initials). And Rachel is a hybrid of the bassists brother and grandfathers name. For goodness sake, i will be naming myself after my female parent at this rate.....
The goodness just keeps coming with 'Medicine Jar' from their third, and criminally underrated album 'Subhuman Race' before Sabo picks up the acoustic for the ballsy ballad 'I Remember You'. My croaking vocal chords just about give up the 'Ghost' (sorry, that was 3 songs ago) during my rendition but ZP nails it. It's one of those songs that gives me goose bumps, especially when I'm surrounded by a couple of thousand devotees ruining their larynxes with me. Hill includes a tasteful solo and a touch of banter to finish. 'Monkey Business' allows ZP to banter with the crowd before ending with the rapid fire rock 'Making A Mess'. "Sing for your supper, nobody rides for free. Eat your heart out, I'll send it C.O.D." Couldn't have put it better myself.
In true 80's Rock style, the boys exit the stage only to reappear for not one but two encores. It's a bargain night that keeps on giving. 'We Are The Damned' leads into school boy favourite 'Get The Fuck Out'. The last of my pharynx fucked off. 'Mudkicker' and 'In A Darkened Room' lead to the obvious closer 'Youth Gone Wild'. What a song. Don't know about the youth, but we went wild alright. 30 years in the business? How the hell did they last playing at that level? Practice makes perfect I suppose. Hopefully i will be back in shape with a new set of pipes before their set at Download later this year. As my ears ring and the dust settles, I realise I have been lucky enough to witness over six hours of quality Rock. I've been to shorter festivals. What a night. I certainly felt I had been on the receiving end of six of the best. Although thankfully not across my Skid Row. Tonight has been about growing older disgracefully. Thank you Forum, tonight we were B-Side ourselves.
Slave to the Grind
Sweet Little Sister
18 and Life
Piece of Me
Livin' on a Chain Gang
Psycho Therapy (Ramones cover)
I Remember You
Makin' a Mess
We Are the Damned
Get the Fuck Out
In a Darkened Room
Youth Gone Wild
Blind River + City Of Thieves
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Friday 1st February 2019
The first thing I notice is the number of women in here - how great to see the girls loving this kind of music - and the front barrier is pretty much lined with them. The last gig I went too was almost entirely populated by fat blokes in black t-shirts - I cunningly blended in by disguising myself as a fat bloke in a black t-shirt. We’re in the minority at the Empire tonight. At 7.30pm the place is already brimming with skinny young punters keen to catch all three acts. Given that all these bands are London based and this is their home crowd, expectations are high. First on stage are Blind River who amble on with - WTF? - acoustic guitars! Yes, normally these boys are armed to the teeth with proper geetars and riffs are crunchier than fresh snow, but tonight they look alarmingly like Pearl Jam on Unplugged back in ’92 - all thrashing hair and thrashing, um, acoustic guitars. Singer Harry Armstrong prowls around looking suitably wired and demented - imagine the love-child of Ted Nugent and James Hetfield - actually don’t imagine that, that’ll give you nightmares. I know this guy from his other band - End Of Level Boss - who’ve been plying their brand of head hurting Stoner-Prog-Black Metal since the 21st century was but a pup.
The band, also consisting of Chris Charles - guitars, Dan Edwards - guitars (AJ's former guitar teacher ;-), William Hughes - bass and Andrew Esson - drums, are a bit more straight ahead Rock - but there’s no tender ballads here - sample lyric: “I’m gonna tear your fucking heart out and throw it away” I can’t see their songs being covered by a soppy boy band anytime soon. Harry is evidently pleased to see so many people here for the first band. At one point he says we’re all “fucking beautiful” and he’s right. We are. I look around and see loads of smiling faces and nodding heads. This is only their second ever acoustic gig apparently, and Harry invites us to “come and see the full electric madness”. Well, I’m in. The material works surprisingly well in this format though, but all too soon the short five song set is almost over. Harry intros the last song - “this one grooves like a motherfucker”. He’s correct again - 'Can’t Sleep Sober' is the heaviest song of the set, and at the finale Harry lets forth a Ronnie Dio like scream, and lo and behold he even does the patented Dio devil digits. Happiness abounds.
Can't Sleep Sober
The next band, City Of Thieves, announce themselves offstage with a low drone and stride on to huge applause - obviously these guys are better known to this crowd, preaching to the already converted. Well, they have been around for three years now, and a bit more under their previous moniker Four Wheel Drive. C.O.T. are one of those rare beasts - the Metal power trio. Well, OK, apart from Motorhead. There’s probably some more. Anyway, they’re immediately great. The songs have a sheen of polish that reminded me of 'Load' period Metallica which is no bad thing. Indeed, on one of guitarist Ben Austwick’s Marshall speaker cabinets the word “Marshall” has been turned into “Lars”. Coincidence? Accident? You decide. Whilst Ben and drummer Will Richards look like something a child would draw if they’re asked to draw a rock star - all big hair and beards - you wouldn’t pick singer and bassist Jamie Lailey out of a police line-up of suspected Metal singers - he looks incongruously like a member of a 90’s Shoegazer band - but he sure has the pipes and the attitude to carry it off.
Some geezer in audience keeps shouting “come on Jamie!!!” - exactly what Jamie was supposed to do in response to this was unclear. The songs are pretty much all from the excellent 'Buzzed Up City' album from late last year on Italian Metal specialist label Frontiers (who also count Inglorious among their clients). Introducing 'Reality Bites' from that album, Jamie asks us to check out the video to this song, saying he’ll give you £100 if you can “tell us what the fuck was going through our heads when we made this”. If you think you know and you’d like to claim your ton then here’s the link: Good luck with that. Time for the last song and this one gets a special dedication from Jamie: “This is our home town, this is for people who saw us in every toilet and every fireplace, whatever, and we lost a few people along the way, so this is to the people who always knew we’d be stood here at some point”. With that we get the sublime 'Something Of Nothing', the best song about struggling in a band since Thunder’s glorious 'Wonder Days'. The band seem to give this one 110% welly in honour of those seen and unseen and Ben looks towards the heavens during the solo. As they leave, I had to smile at Jamie’s T-shirt which reads ARRIVE - RAISE HELL - LEAVE and that’s exactly what this band did.
Fuel And Alcohol
Born To Be Great
Ride It Like You Stole It
Buzzed Up City
Something Of Nothing
And so we come to the main act - the support band’s kit is removed and the Inglorious backdrop is revealed in its full glory - a stark white sheet with images of spindly trees and moody looking crows. I’ve noticed the image of the crow seems to be rather popular with bands in the past few years. Funny how these things go in cycles. The first time I saw this lot they were opening for The Winery Dogs at the Forum in London exactly three years ago and one day ago. Yes, I looked it up in my sad-bastard-gig-spreadsheet. Now here they are headlining the Empire. Well, bloody good luck to them - they deserve it. If you follow Inglorious you’ll be aware of the trouble late last year. What trouble? Oh, half the band quitting. It seems that not only are this band going to be inspired by Deep Purple’s music, it also appears that they’re going to follow in that band’s footsteps of “refreshing” the members once in a while. Oh well, it only made Purple all the more interesting. And, as we know now, it was the “Mark II” that everyone loved and remembers. But Inglorious have bounced back from that kerfuffle with aplomb - the new album sounds GREAT - and the first song of this set is the opener of that record - 'Where Are You Now?' Mid-song, vocalist Nathan James can’t help himself - “Shepherd’s Bush Fucking Empire!!!!!” Yep, that’s us, and we’re loving it.
One of the new boys is lead guitarist Danny Dela Cruz. This guy is going to end up getting a LOT of attention and deservedly so because (pardon my French) HE’S FUCKING AMAZING! Fast and fluid and fiery, he’s a perfect fit for the band. Where did Nathan find HIM? I did some research on YouTube and there’s a video of Danny in his old covers band Metalworks playing Led Zep’s 'Rock & Roll' and tearing it up at a pub called The Monarch here in London about a year ago. There’s another bloke filming him too. Guess who. Anyway, Danny looks amazing too, it’s like Prince’s little brother is up on that stage. He’s in a black crushed velvet jacket (all I can think is - aren’t you hot mate?) and chunky silver jewellery. You can’t go about wearing that kind of stuff unless you can play your bollocks off. And this kid plays his bollocks off. Yes, I said kid - for Dany Dela Cruz is all of 19 years old and he’s arrived in style. Not to be upstaged, Nathan is sporting an Ozzy style fringed shirt. Random fact - cowboys used to wear these fringes on their shirt sleeves to help the sweat evaporate and keep cool. Ozzy just had them so he had something to fling about and look bat-shit crazy. Nathan is following in those esteemed footsteps.
Three songs in and it’s time for an oldie - but “oldie” for this band means one from their first album way back in the distant and dimly remembered 2016. The song is 'High Flying Gypsy' - the one that sounds a bit like 'Kashmir' - and it sounds great with some new blood all over it. After the song Nathan introduces another one of the new chaps - bass player Vinnie Colla - who’s quite renowned in his home town of Sao Paulo in Brazil as a session man and producer. The bottom end is in safe hands then, not forgetting Inglorious original Phil Beaver on drums. We then fast forward all the way to the slightly better remembered 2017 and 'Read All About It' from the second album. Time for an intro of the second new guitarist then. It’s Dan Stevens - another alumnus of London covers band Metalworks. Blimey, this makes you think if you wanna get plucked from obscurity and be plonked into an already successful band then get your arse in Metalworks for a bit! Just when you think the acoustic stuff is done for the night and we’re settling in for a night of rawk, out come the acoustic guitars and we get the ballad 'Glory Days' from the new album. Nice.
It’s a brief respite from the testosterone tide however, as 'Warning' from the first album is wheeled out. Nathan introduces it telling us he’s played it on this stage before - when Inglorious opened for Steel Panther here about a year ago. “And now we’re headlining!!” Big cheers for that. He says it’s their biggest EVER London show, and also gives a shout out to Planet Rock for supporting them and new British Rock & Roll. Yep, beers aloft, Planet Rock, you rule. The song starts out with slow Sabbathy menace before morphing into an up-tempo Judas Priest screaming stormer. It’s like a trip around the suburbs of Birmingham all in one song. And then we get another one from the second album (there’s a pattern emerging here, huh?) with the slow-burning Blues of 'Making Me Pay' which is hard evidence that Mr. James has also been studying Mr. Paul Rodgers.
Back to the new album and Nathan is bigging it up, saying they’re chuffed to have done three albums in four years. They really wanted to do four but the label wouldn’t let them he says. WTF? Joe Bonamassa seems to do an album every two weeks and it hasn’t done him any harm. Anyway, they’re already working on the fourth one says Nathan. The song is 'Freak Show' and it’s the sort of thing you could have imagined Whitesnake doing on MTV in the eighties surrounded by scantily clad girls. Actually I think Nathan James is a more skilled singer than Coverdale, his range is amazing, more like the sadly missed Ronnie Dio. Time for a cover now, so what’s it gonna be? 'Child In Time'? 'Here I Go Again'? Nope, the band go totally left-field here and opt for Alanis Morrisette’s 'Uninvited' which you might remember from the 'City Of Angels' soundtrack. Ironic, don’t you think?
Of course, with these guys it turns into a soaring power ballad which segues into a rather wonderful Slash-esque solo from Danny. Nathan leaves the stage to let him have a proper blow-off. Actually comparing him to Slash is doing him down a bit, it’s only the Les Paul and his slight resemblance to the man which made me think of that - his playing is more in the vein of Paul Kossoff or Gary Moore. Yep, as I said, the geezer is 19 years old. Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s 21. Nathan returns to stage having lost the Ozzy fringed shirt an acquired a spangly sequined one. Oh dear. It doesn’t really work, as he looks like a badly wrapped Christmas present. “How do you follow that?” he says. “Sequins!” Okay, we’ll go with it. My eyes! He intros the next song as the title track from new album, “our heaviest song to date."
Yep, 'Ride To Nowhere' is indeed quite heavy but I wouldn’t have picked it as the heaviest thing they’ve done. But like most of the new album, it sounds more like Inglorious are carving themselves an identity of their own rather than being a pastiche of Classic Rock of the past. Same with 'Liar' which comes next. It sounds familiar, but not because it reminds you of something else, it’s because it sounds like Inglorious. After that Nathan tells us it’s been a hell of a year, on top of the dramas with the band, he’s moved to Devon, he’s lost his Grandad, and we played this next song at his funeral. That song turned out to be 'Faraway' and its lyric “I wish I had more time to waste” would have been quite poignant at a funeral. Things are beginning to wind up now and we get another oldie 'I Don’t Need Your Lovin' from the second album which is back to Whitesnake on a stick. A white stick. With a snake on it. Never mind, we’re all partying like its 1987. It’s the last song of the night says Nathan and it’s 'I Don’t Know You' which is delivered with the sort of passion that only comes when your bird is off bonking some other bloke, as happens in the song. Incidentally, if you come across the Japanese version of the 'Ride To Nowhere' album, you’ll get as a bonus that song done as rather lovely acoustic piano duo with Nathan and Heather Leone (she co-wrote it and does the backing vocals on the album version).
So Inglorious leave the stage to cheers and upheld beers, but it’s a pretty secure bet that they might just do an encore. Sure enough five minutes later we can hear some Bluesy noodling offstage and the band the band wander back minus their singer. They kick in 'Holy Water' without him. Crikey, what’s happened? Have they sacked him in the break? Nope, it turns out the spangly Christmas present is only up in the bloody balcony singing amongst the delighted punters. And second guitarist Dan Stevens finally gets a decent solo after being in the considerable shadow of the other Dan all night. Time for the last song then as Nathan returns to the stage and we wind back the time machine to song one album one for 'Until I Die'. Now I reckon THIS is their heaviest song but it’s an imprecise art picking them. At the finale Nathan falls into the front row for a bit. One of the happy ladies in the front even got a snog. So, that’s the end of Inglorious’s first show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire as the headline. Nathan claps his hands to his face and shakes his head - not quite believing what just happened. Well, I think the band have got a few more believers after tonight.
Where Are You Now?
Taking the Blame
High Flying Gypsy
Read All About It
Making Me Pay
Ride to Nowhere
I Don't Need Your Loving
I Don't Know You
Until I Die
Pete Elphick (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
The Black Heart, Camden, London
Thursday 7th February 2019
The ‘Collateral’ train drove into the back streets of Camden Town, North London, last Thursday, on the wave of Planet Rock radio playlisting their single ‘Midnight Queen’, plus a full house at The Black Heart. Planet Rock’s breakfast DJ Paul Anthony was on hand to introduce the band who ploughed into the opening numbers ‘Calm Before the Storm’ and ‘When Faith Breaks’ to get heads rocking in the crowd. Their recent ‘4 Shots’ EP, that has brought them recent acclaim, got its first airing, appropriately at song four, with the opener ‘Going With The Wind’ - in my opinion the best track off the EP. ‘Just Waiting For You’ dropped a couple of songs later, again to great applause from an appreciative audience. Three new songs ‘Promise Land’, ’Merry Go Round’ and ’Lullaby’ followed, which are set to be featured on their forthcoming album, with the former having that stand out anthem feel about it. All sounding very promising!
The encore, of course, could only be ‘Midnight Queen’, finishing off the evening with an air of euphoria-hit song, works every time! Indeed, there was good feedback from the audience for the band despite a limited amount of space on stage for them to move around, as you could see singer Angelo Tristan and guitarist Todd Winger wanted to let loose behind the solid bass of Jack Bentley-Smith and drummer Ben Atkinson. Also good sound in the venue, but just one gripe, that if you are 6ft and above, you should consider keeping to the sides allowing shorter people like me to see! That apart, a good night was had by all! Make sure you check Collateral out when they support Bad Touch at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend, Kent, on Friday 26 April, London’s Borderline on Saturday 8th May when they co-headline with Daxx & Roxanne, and Camden Rocks on Sunday 2nd June.
Geoff C. (photos courtesy of Richard Bolwell)
King King + Sari Schorr
Thursday 7th February 2019
Now Koko is a pretty legendary venue here in London, but for some reason I don’t find myself here too often (checks his gig diary), blimey, in fact it was 2011 when I was last here - for the very memorable Kenny Wayne Shepherd. I’ve seen both Sari & King King play various cupboards around the town, so it’s great to see them together in this cavernous place. Koko has been around for a staggering 119 years now and during that time it’s had SEVEN different names and played host to The Goon Show, The Clash, The Stones, The Faces, a secret Prince show and even Madonna’s first UK gig. Legend has it that AC/DC’s Bon Scott was drinking here before sadly staggering off to pop his clogs in the back of a cold car in 1980.
One of the things I love about Koko is you can go where you like to any of the four floors each of which has a bar of it’s own, unlike similar London gaffs The Forum or The Empire, where if you try that trick you’ll be arrested by the house gestapo. Tonight however the upstairs bits are all closed off (except for VIP's it seems) and it’s downstairs only. Never mind, that’s where I like to be anyway and I’ve come bright and early to get a spot right down the front. The fabulous Sari Schorr swoops onto the stage like a leather clad Valkyrie to a huge cheer, obviously these punters know exactly who she is and what to expect. Before she kicks off she gives a shout out to King King for what they’ve done to support Blues Rock not only here but around the world. Too bloody right, cheers King King.
New Yorker Sari’s all-English band have quite a few connections to the upcoming headliners. Bass player Mat Beable was of course in The Nimmo Brothers with King King’s front man Alan Nimmo and keys man Bob Fridezma was in the band for three years, although Bob's absent tonight and has been replaced by the equally brilliant Stevie Watts, last seen on Danny Bryant's parish. The set kicks off with 'The New Revolution' from Sari’s rather wonderful 'Never Say Never' album from last year. Wow, everything sounds nice and fat on the Koko PA, the kick drum thumps you in the chest and the mix is great. Koko hosts a lot of dance music these days and those punters quite like a bit of bass in their face. The song and Sari’s voice reminds me a lot of Melissa Etheridge, not only is there grit and passion in every word but you get the feeling that Sari has lived and breathed every moment.
Next up is 'Damn The Reason' from her first album, one of those songs with that classic Blues subject - some useless bloke being a dick. We’re not all like that, honest! This one gives guitarist Ash Wilson the opportunity to step into the spotlight for a solo. He’s a well respected Blues man in his own right so you know it’s gonna be hot - and it is. Ash’s younger brother Phil is also a Blues man - he’s usually to be seen bashing the skins for Laurence Jones. Wilson is one of the few guitarists you see who’s always got the same guitar - normally they’re chopping about every couple of songs. Well, they have to justify having all those guitars to their wives somehow. And his guitar is a beauty - a Duesenburg Starplayer in the classic white. My mate Tim who was at the gig told me a great fact - Duesenburg originally made cars in the early part of last century and were so opulent that the word “doozy” came to mean anything that was the best of it’s kind. Thanks Tim. Ash and his doozy, what a team.
'Ready For Love' is announced by Sari as a Mott The Hoople song, I must admit that’s news to me, I thought it was a Bad Company song. I hang my Rock knowledge hat in shame. Anyway, Sari’s version is fantastic, channeling both Paul Rodgers and Ian Hunter. Sari has an interesting habit of seeming to act out every lyric with her hands, grabbing some unseen energy from the air and holding to her heart in the love songs, and flinging the bad energy out in the ones about bastard men. Next up is 'King Of Rock & Roll' which Sari announces is not about Elvis, but Robert Johnson who she reckons is the original King of Rock & Roll. Agreement from the audience there. The opening lyric - “Lord knows I gotta get to Memphis before I die” could have you thinking it was about Elvis, who did indeed do exactly that. But of course Memphis is also the site of the fabled crossroads where Johnson sold his soul to the devil. There’s even a tourist attraction there claiming to be the exact spot. Then again there’s also one in Clarkesdale. Nevertheless, Elvis is still here in Sari, she gyrates around on the spot in an extremely slinky way that would been illegal to show on American TV from the waist down in a different age.
Now talking of Elvis, here’s a story I must tell you. The man who took the excellent photos that accompany this review, Mr. Bruce Biege, was in another life a sound and lighting guy in the States and one of the gigs he did was indeed Mr. Elvis Presley back in something like ‘72. As Elvis was going on Bruce said “good luck” and Elvis said nothing but winked at him. “ELVIS WINKED AT ME”. Isn’t that the best four words you’ve ever heard? If you’ve got THAT as a story you actually don’t need any other stories. You can just have that chiselled on your gravestone and die with a smile on your face. Anyway, back to the song. It’s another corker and another showcase for Sari’s ability to wring every microgram of emotion out of every word. We get another scorching solo from Ash and Doozy (they’re a double act now) and some lovely soulful organ stabs from Stevie.
I notice Sari’s drummer Roy Martin looks a bit like Stuart Copeland and is doing a rather fantastic job. What’s his background I wonder and look him up. Crikey, he’s been around, he’s worked with EVERYONE! Aretha! Bono! Jimmy Barnes! Paul Young! PJ & Duncan! Oh yes, PJ & Duncan. Bizarrely, I’m currently editing a documentary about Ant McPartlin and have been looking at PJ & Duncan all week never realising that Sari Schorr’s drummer was on those records. Small world. Sari introduces the title track from the new album 'Never Say Never' as being written by Ian McLagan. It’s about loss, triumph and believing in yourselves says Sari. Well, I guess Ian would have played in this very room when he was with the Faces so he’ll be looking down smiling. On this one she slows it down and I notice her skill at doing that fantastic Chrissie Hynde style vibrato which adds yet another element of fabulousness to her act. Sari trained as an opera singer originally and it shows - her range and technique are incredible. Ash & doozy are sounding great on this one too, channeling SRV’s song-to-his-then-girlfriend Lenny.
Sari says they decided to add this next one as Planet Rock gave it a spin - her friend took a photo of his car radio when they were playing it as evidence! But what’s this? Ash has put down the doozy and picked up a Les Paul! Sod you Wilson, I’m not re-writing that bit. The song is 'Maybe I’m Fooling' and of course it’s great, the whole set is brimming with excellent material played with world class skill. The new double act Ash & Les get to shine on the solo, and the wah-wah pedal even gets a brief workout. Perfect. Sari announces it’s the last song and intros the band - well done chaps - and gives a shout out to the promoters Gig Cartel for putting the tour together. The song is 'Valetina', another of the highlights from the 'Never Say Never' album. Not that there’s any lowlights, the album is all killer no filler - as has been this set. There’s a line in the song “Welcome the latest great pretender to the stage” Well, Sari’s no pretender, she’s the real deal and leaves the stage tonight with some happy new fans.
AC/DC’s 'Highway To Hell' is blasting out of the PA to announce the arrival of the main act - I wonder if they know the Bon Scott story - here he is magically resurrected in the same venue nearly 40 years later. Spooky. King King stride onto the stage to a huge cheer from the faithful. It’s at this point I notice that the Koko stage floor is quite shiny and Glaswegian Alan is wearing his trademark kilt. You can see where I’m going here. I’m hoping the floor’s not TOO shiny, there are some things once seen cannot be unseen. “Hello London, thanks for coming” is all he says and it’s on with the show.
We kick off with 'Broken' from 2017’s 'Exile & Grace' album which bemoans the state of the world. Well sadly, as we all know, it’s only got worse in the past two years but it’s a thoughtful and hopeful song and a great opener. Suddenly we’re back to where it all began with 'Lose Control' which announced King King to the wider world on their first album back in 2011 - they’d been plugging away for three years before that. It’s sounding superb on the big Koko PA, solid as a battleship and just as heavy. It’s Blues-Rock in the classic Rolling Stones style, in fact the song does sound a bit like 'Satisfaction' if you shut your eyes. Alan steps forward for a solo and the photographers in the pit crowd around him like ants around a piece of dropped meat.
"We’re celebrating our tenth anniversary", says Alan and announces 'Rush Hour' from what is arguably their breakthrough album 'Reaching For The Light' from 2015. The believers sing along with the power ballad unbidden from the top. Other bands have to make an effort to get the punters to sing along, not King King fans, they just do it. I remember Robbie Williams at Live 8 trying to get people to sing along and looking miffed that they weren’t doing it. Mate, we’re not here to see YOU we’re here to see FLOYD!!! We’re gonna stay here with our arms folded and NOT sing along to bloody 'ANGELS'. Not if you paid us. Alan realises there’s some old fans here tonight and welcomes them. “To the newcomers - welcome to hell!” With that we get 'Heed The Warning' another appeal for the world to get it’s shit together before it’s too late. Some thoughtful stuff going on here.
In some ways you have to wonder just why King King have been so successful, after all there’s plenty of other British Blues Rockers who’ve been knocking their heads against the coal face for years and haven’t got any further than maybe the 100 Club. Of course the songs and the playing are solid - but I reckon it’s actually a great deal to do with Alan Nimmo’s charm and humour, his goofy grin just wins you over. He’s like a big labrador doggie in a kilt, you just can’t help but love him. Alan dedicates the next song to fellow Glasgow boy Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Rory Gallagher drummer Ted McKenna who we lost last year. The song is 'Coming Home' and it’s beautiful. At the end Alan kisses the sky in tribute. We love him that little bit more now.
'Stranger To Love' is up next. Oh great, this is one of the highlights of King King’s Live album from a couple of years ago. The song was made even more fantastic, says Alan, when we played it at Wembley Arena and Joey Tempest (singer from Europe that KK were opening for) wandered on and sang it with us. “That’s when I shat myself”. When the solo comes everyone is on tenterhooks. Alan does the globally understood palms-down-patting-the-air signal which in all languages means STFU. We do and let him do his thing, because THIS is when Alan Nimmo is at his absolute best, when he slows it down to a crawl and wrenches every drop of blood from that Les Paul. He pats his chest to thank us from the heart and lets rip with a proper meaty Gary Moore-esque solo. It’s at this point in the song, drummer Wayne Proctor springs into life and shows his immense skill off - he’s all over that kit with the passion of a man who hasn’t see his wife for a month. IMHO he’s one of this country’s greatest drummers. Wayne, I’ll have my tenner now.
The Les Paul is swapped for the Strat and 'Waking Up' is served up, another slice of Blues with a spoonful of Soul. The solo comes and it’s one of those that can ONLY work on a Strat, like 'Comfortably Numb'. 'Crazy' is next and this one gives keyboard player Jonny Dyke the opportunity to do his funky Stevie Wonder impersonation on the clavinet preset - it’s all too brief though and he’s back to Hammond duties. Alan says he wrote the next one about his big brother when he was battling a “little bit” of cancer. He asks if anyone’s on FaceBook Live could they turn it on now cause I’m dedicating this one to my mother. Tracy in front of me obliges and 'You Stopped The Rain' duly goes out live. Alan gets up to sing along with the riff and we oblige. I watch the comments scroll down on Tracy’s phone from her friends - "fantastic song!” says one. Yes, Tracy’s mate Jon, you’re right. I hope Alan’s mum is enjoying it too.
After that, a bloke from the audience shouts out “I love you Alan!” and of course Alan in time honoured fashion says “I love you too” but then adds “…in the words of Kevin Bridges, "enjoy your night fella.” Nothing like being taken down a peg by a Scotsman. He says the next one is the last song and goes out to all the fathers of daughters - and it’s 'Find Your Way Home'. Is there anyone this man doesn’t love? His brother, his mother, his daughter, the world? You just want to go and give him a hug. What you don’t get on the album version of that song is the searing Gilmour-like solo that we in Koko are treated too. Wow. King King leave the stage but this crowd ain’t finding THEIR way home just yet, and neither are the band. They’re soon called back, and for the encore, says Alan, we’re gonna take you back to the first album, to the title track 'Take My Hand'. The song features the sadly hitherto underused wah-wah pedal but it’s missing the album version’s brass section and lady backup singers, but no matter, it’s a Funky storm and we’re happy. Time for some sadness now. Alan says “Some of you know this, some of you may not know this, some of you may not give a fuck. This is the last tour with Lindsay Coulson, this one’s for you pal.”
Yes, founding member and bass player Lindsay Coulson, who goes all the back to the Nimmo Brothers, is leaving the band at the end of this tour. King King have their sights on the USA you see and Lindsay feels he can’t commit to the time away that would involve. The song is of course King King’s sublime cover of Clapton’s 'Old Love' - always the highlight of any of their gigs. I saw King King do it at the Half Moon (the back room of a pub) back in 2014 and there’s a point in the solo where Alan is playing SO quietly that nobody dare breathe. Then he takes it one step further and turns the guitar’s volume to zero so all you can hear are the naked strings. Surely he’s not gonna do THAT here in the enormous Koko? Wrong. He’s got the place so entranced that he does that very thing here amongst much shushing from the punters at the back. Then he takes it back to the climax and the absolutely searing solo that Clapton never did. It takes a brave man to cover Eric in the first place but to go and make it BETTER is extraordinary. Sometimes covers are like that. I was at a gig the other day and the band announced they were doing a Hendrix song, and proceeded to play 'All Along The Watchtower'. The Hendrix version is so great that it completely supplants the original in the minds of the public. In fact, these days when Dylan does 'All Along The Watchtower' live he actually does the Hendrix version! Maybe in some distant future some spotty kid will announce that he’s doing a King King song and then do 'Old Love' - oblivious to it’s actual origins. And it might well be great, but it won’t hold a candle to Alan Nimmo at Koko on the 7th of February 2019.
Pete Elphick (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
Enuff Z'nuff + Last Great Dreamers + Hellshed
Lounge 666, Camden, London
Thursday 14th February 2019
Halfway through February and I still hadn’t managed to get to any live music in 2019. This glaring omission from my recent past clearly needed to be rectified, and how better than with another visit to Camden to see three veteran Rock bands: headliners Enuff Z’Nuff ably supported by HellShed and the Last Great Dreamers. The gig was initially planned at the Underworld but, along with all other gigs planned at that venue over the last fortnight, was moved at short notice. The reasons for all these moves is unclear; there were rumours of some flooding following the downpours of early February, but no confirmation of this from the venue. Surely they’re not planning a secret refurbishment - smartening the Underworld up too much would threaten its status as an iconic dark and dingy Rock venue! Fortunately the gig wasn’t moved far, just a couple of hundred yards round the corner, to Lounge 666 in Kentish Town Road. Lounge 666 is not normally used by bands with the pedigree and following of Enuff Z’Nuff; it is much smaller than the Underworld, without a proper raised stage. The proximity of the bands definitely boosted the intimacy of their gigs: even those at the back felt part of the occasion; the front row were almost part of the band!
The evening’s live music was opened by HellShed. HellShed claim to hail from a shed in the middle of a forest near Rottenham in Suffolk, although rumour has it there’s also a strong Italian connection and their music is clearly influenced by the European Heavy Metal scene. However, the absence of drums in favour of the tambourine’s stately rhythm ensures that the heaviness never touches the sonic indulgence and sometime overbearingness of Metal, allowing these stone voiced sprites to summon their musical warnings from within and carve out their own Metallic musical identity. The band comprises three gnarled Blues musicians who call themselves Professor O.B. Scene (guitars and keyboards), Vicar Du Bruit (guitar, tambourine and support vocals) and Popa B.A.D. (lead vocals, guitar and tambourine). Their music was petroleum fuelled Blues-Rock, the kind popularised by ZZ Top, Seasick Steve and The Black Keys. It wasn’t nice, polished stadium Blues, it was down n’ dirty stuff and all-the better for it. Highlights included ‘Zombie Claw’, with its spooky, scratchy intro, gnarled guitar Blues riff and distorted lead vocals, and ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’, a straight up Blues Rock anthem.
HellShed were followed by the Last Great Dreamers, a band whose shimmering Glam style gives them a distinctly British take on power-Pop Rock. Initially formed as Silver Hearts way back in 1990, the Last Great Dreamers built a solid reputation in the mid-1990’s with formidable live performances and ‘Retrosexual’, their delicious Glam-tinged Punk debut album. Despite this early success, Last Great Dreamers struggled to make significant headway in the face of the all-pervading Britpop scene. Disillusioned, they ultimately decided to call it a day until, in 2014, original members Marc Valentine (lead vocals and guitar) and Slyder Smith (guitar and support vocals) united with a new rhythm section, Denley Slade (drums) and Steve Fielding (bass). The reformed band has toured incessantly and, over time, released three acclaimed new albums; their current tour is partly to promote the latest, ‘13th Floor Renegades’. As soon as the Last Great Dreamers entered Lounge 666’s stage, one disadvantage of the revised gig venue became apparent. Marc isn’t exactly the tallest vocalist in the world so, without a raised stage, and with the front row stood only inches away, it was difficult (impossible?) for the rest of the audience to see him, although the rise and fall of his bobbling trademark hat did make the occasional, brief appearance! No matter, far more important was that Marc’s terse, laconic vocals could be heard, easily and distinctly, as they reverberated around the small venue. The Last Great Dreamers’ set was an eclectic musical melting pot of Glam, Punk, Rock, Pop and even the odd hint of Psychedelia. Highlights included the singalong ‘White Light (Black Heart)’ and ‘Ash Tray Eyes’, an infectious melody with a set of lyrics designed to be sung out loud.
It was now time for headliner’s Enuff Z’Nuff, whose name requires an American pronunciation of the letter Z (zee, rather than the British zed). Originally formed in Chicago in 1984, Enuff Z’Nuff have released no less than 14 studio albums over the years. Their current tour is to help promote the latest, ‘Diamond Boy’. Co-founder Chip Z’Nuff (Gregory Rybarski) is now the only survivor from the original line-up. Initially bass guitarist, since 2016 he has also taken on the role of lead vocalist. In the current line-up, Chip is supported by Tory Stoffregen (lead guitar and backing vocals), Ultravox’s Tony Fennell (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backing vocals) and Dan Hill (drums). This line-up has been together and touring regularly for over two years and it shows: they form a tight knit unit of dedicated rockers who play well together and know that, above all, Rock should be fun. Lounge 666’s constricted environment limited the scope for Troy‘s trademark guitar theatricals, but it did facilitate interaction with the audience: Troy took full advantage by occasionally stepping right into the crowd, though how he found space to get through the tightly packed front rows is still beyond me! As always, Chip had entered the stage flamboyantly dressed, looking larger than life, with his big ass glasses and large cap. He leapt straight into ‘Metalheart’, a thumping number from the latest album. Two more songs from the new album followed (title track ‘Diamond Boy’ and ‘We’re All the Same’), interspersed with classics from Enuff Z’Nuff’s back catalogue. These included their two biggest hits: the power Psychedelic ballad ‘Fly High Michelle’ and the trippy ‘New Thing’. However, the audience had a wide age range and not everyone was familiar with these 80’s classics which, to be fair, were much bigger in the States than the UK. The only song everyone recognized immediately was an excellent cover of ‘The Jean Genie’.
All in all, a fabulous fun evening of varied Rock from three bands overflowing with experienced, skilled musicians. Anyone who missed it because of the clash with Valentine’s Day definitely missed out, but it was perhaps just as well that they did - the packed, intimate lounge at the revised venue couldn’t have taken many more!
Enuff Z’Nuff’s set list:
Kiss the Clown
Heaven Or Hell
In The Groove
The Jean Genie
Fly High Michelle
We’re All The Same
Dog On A Bone
Stone Broken + Those Damn Crows + Dead Man's Whiskey
O2 Academy Islington, London
Friday 22nd February 2019
2017 WRC 'One's To Watch' award winners Stone Broken spent much of 2018 gigging hard, playing non-stop in the UK, Europe and the USA in support of their current studio album 'Ain’t Always Easy', and 2019 sees the Black Country Hard Rockers continuing down the live path, headlining sixteen dates across the UK and Ireland, including London's O2 Islington Academy last Friday night, with great support from South Wales quintet Those Damn Crows and the Doomy Blues Rock of Dead Man's Whiskey.
As it so happened, the finger of fate decreed that I would end up here at the O2 Academy as opposed to Blue Oyster Cult at The Eventim Apollo! With a curfew of 10pm, it was an early 6.30pm start for Dead Man's Whiskey, so it was a good job that the five-piece lived just around the corner! Formed in London in 2016, we first saw this impressive, young, traditional Hard Rock band supporting Bigfoot at Camden's Underworld back in October 2017, followed by Ramblin' Man Fair's Rising Stage last July and then at Hard Rock Hell just three months ago. Comprising Nico Rogers (vocals), Billy Kons (lead guitar), Elliott D’Alvarez (rhythm guitar), James Titley (bass guitar) and Charlie Gray (drums), they use their youthful energy to craft a blend of modern and classic Rock with Blues tones and a paced and exciting sound. The band understandably have amassed a strong following of fans, especially in their London base, which was indeed evident by the number of DMW t-shirts on show. After congregating for a while by the side of the Academy stage, the band entered the stage to the accompaniment of their Wild West intro - namely 'The Ballad Of Jack McCall', with Nico duly entering into the spirit with his checked shirt. With Kons and D'Alvarez sporting twin Gibson Les Paul's through Marshal and Victory amps, Titley's opening bass launched 'This Fight', the first of four consecutive songs from their 2017 debut album, ‘Under the Gun’, which gave an immediate opportunity for the Black Sabbath t-shirt wearing Kons to get his first guitar solo off of his chest. Playing with an explosive, youthful vigour, complemented by the Academy's great sound and lighting, 'War Machine' was another hard hitting song that made the most of both the fist pumping Nico’s vocal range and another great sweeping guitar solo from Billy. "Stand To Attention Broken Army" drilled Rogers before introducing themselves as the "Local Act". Cue the locally slanted 'Hoe Street', another slice of their new wave of classic sounding Rock, with Jack Black lookalike Rogers playfully pointing to his imaginary watch in front of Kons, as the lead guitarist went off on another awesome solo, before, at precisely 6.45pm, Nico managed to do away with those early start cobwebs, getting the crowd rockin', as they participated in some healthy "Wooooo Ooooohs". 'Make You Proud' followed - a slower, poignant and very emotional track, dedicated to Nico's Mum during her serious illness, which was well received and respected, although boos did break out from the audience when Rogers announced that their new single from their 2019 'Under The Gun Reloaded' release would be their final song. One of two bonus tracks, in addition to the seven tracks on their 2017 release, 'Reloaded' was produced by Killit guitarist Niro Knox. "You Guys Rock" Nico praised, before jokingly admonishing "William'' for his verbal promotion of their next home town gig at The Camden Assembly. If we needed final proof, 'Racing Bullet' once again reemphasised the riff potential provided by this trio of mesmerising guitarists, as the band signed off in style, with a final Kons solo, plus the obligatory stage photo at the end, no doubt a picture including many newly acquired fans.
"The words 'going places' do not even begin to describe the future of this great band." Praise indeed, given this was part of our Those Damn Crows review when they supported Federal Charm plus the then named The Bad Flowers on their co-headline tour at London's The Borderline in September last year. Two weeks earlier to that gig, they were even further down the graveyard shift, as we saw them supporting The Quireboys, Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics and H.E.A.T. So it was good to see that the South Wales quintet were further up the pecking order tonight, even though their set would not be much more than the criminally short thirty minute slot we had witnessed previously. With one of the best debut albums released well over two years ago and re-released last September, the self professed Rock 'N' Roll band have certainly put in the road-work, and once again, a bit like Dead Man's Whiskey, with so many TDC t-shirts in the crowd, it was obviously apparent who many fellow Rockers had come here to see. Given the early start, the Academy had now filled out , as Those Damn Crows took to the stage. "Whats up London" cried frontman Shane Greenhall, as he immediately jumped up on to a speaker stack, the Bridgend band opening again, as they did at The Borderline, with the head bangin' mean riff of 'Don't Give A Damn'. There was no time to draw breath as they morphed into 'Long Time Dead', the energy of the band, consisting of the baseball capped guitarist Ian 'Shiner' Thomas', bassist Lloyd Wood (who continually gave the middle finger throughout their set), guitarist David Winchurch and drummer Ronnie Huxford, rubbing off on the Academy faithful, as Shane demanded "London, Get Your Hands Up" and we duly obliged. "What's Up London - Do You Love Rock 'N Roll?" teased Greenhall, with no let up in their sonic blast as they reeled off two fan favourites - 'Someone Someday' with a delightful snippet of 'Pinball Wizard' that saw everyone clapping along, and then after more Greenhall encouragement - "Make Some Fuckin' Noise" - it was time for the first ever track they released - 'Fear Of The Broken' - with another outstanding vocal from said Shane. From one song that Greenhall suggested should be on Planet Rock - to one that was a Planet Rock favourite. Indeed 'Behind These Walls' was followed by former single 'Blink Of An Eye' - the latter seeing everyone's hands in the air, clapping and singing as Wood, Winchurch and Thomas congregated at the front of the stage. No disrespect to The Borderline, but the O2 Academy was a much better fit for the dynamic of Those Damn Crows, as evidenced by my pick of their set - 'Breakaway' - with it's great driving riff, very reminiscent of Creed. Despite more boos this time from the TDC faithful, as yet another set came to a premature end - they finished as usual with the fist pumping anthemic ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Dead!’ - a microcosm of their set. "Do You Want Rock 'N' Roll? Let'g Go Ape Shit" said Greenhall as he ended up in the crowd singing along withtheir "Woooh Wooooh's". "Who Says Rock 'N' Rolls Dead?" London Fuckin' Outstanding! Best Yet!" Couldn't agree more Shane. Once again, it's a privilege to see young Rock bands such as this with new ideas and new energy. If anyone tells you that Rock is dead, tell them to get off their arses and go and see Those Damn Crows. They're flying and kicking butt.
We first caught Stone Broken supporting Glenn Hughes at The Islington Assembly Hall in January 2017, shortly after they were voted as runners-up in the ‘Best New Band’ category of the annual Planet Rock Awards 2016. After further seeing them from afar on the Sunday on the Ramblin' Man Fair Planet Rock Stage in July and then supporting Living Colour as they blew the proverbial bloody doors off of London's ULU in October, the band, consequently, and most deservedly, walked away with our 2017 WRC 'One's To Watch' award. The rising Stars, hailing from Walsall in the West Midlands, could easily be from Birmingham AL. The four piece, With Rich Moss on vocals/guitar, Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals, are the clean cut, current favourite of radio friendly Rockers everywhere, although that doesn't make them bland or insipid. Regulars on the radio, there's a reason why they get so much airplay. They're damn good. In fact the last time we saw them, was on London's Indigo O2 stage in June last year as part of the Stone Free Festival, just three months after the release of their latest album 'Ain't Always Easy'.
The headliner's were welcomed on to the stage with both a huge cheer from a rammed Academy plus an intro tape of 'I'm Coming Home', in healthy acknowledgement to their recent sojourns overseas. They describe themselves as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses and that certainly came across in their opening number, and their very first single, 'Stay All Night' - for mine think Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - with some great guitar work from the smiling Davis and Moss belying his Walsall accent. This was followed by another from their stand-out first album 'All In Time', and a particular favourite of mine, 'Doesn't Matter, with its awesome grunge riff and a Scantlinesque vocal from Rich plus the mandatory standing on stack speakers and the resultant manic hand-clapping from a packed auditorium. The spinal strength of their latest album was immediately evident with the awesome 'Heartbeat Away', with a great punishing riff, driven by Haycock, complemented by the venue's smoking pyrotechnics, plus another great vocal from the baseball capped//goatee bearded Moss demanding "Make Some Noise", the Broken Army once more duly obliging by clapping along. It literally then got 'Better', consolidating their huge arena Rock sound with some delightful guitar harmonies, much to the pleasure of those clapping around me, before a great guitar outro led into 'Let Me Go' - another awesome heavy riff track from 'AIT'. "Make Some Noise London" was greeted with big cheers. "How Are You Doing Tonight?" as Rich reminisced about when they played a sold out Camden's Black Heart just four months before the aforementioned Glenn Hughes gig. That really hit home how far these guys have come in such a short space of time. Cue the slower and poignant 'Home' from 'AAE' - in respect of their current 'Home' tour - with another outstanding vocal from Moss.
Moss then told the story behind the video of their brand new remixed version of their Hard Rockin' single ‘The Only Thing I Need’ - taken from 'AAE'. The track has been given a fresh arrangement by renowned UK engineer/producer Adrian Hall, and when asked where about's in America this major production was filmed, he answered "Kidderminster"! Well you can take the boy out of Kidderminster, but you can't ....... And on the subject of anecdotes, during 'The Only Thing I Need', Those Damn Crows bass guitarist Lloyd Wood brushed past me, but thankfully gave me a firm handshake instead of a middle finger! What was this though? A keyboard was set up in the middle of the stage, and egged on by Robyn in the background, Rich proceeded to land the knock out punch of the night - 'Anyone' from 'AIT'. Moss's keys added another string to the Stone Broken bow, not forgetting his great vocal on this great track. Think Aynsley Lister meets The Exies (please check them both out). Delightful. Follow that! Well testament to 'AAE' the band completed their set with five more tracks from their latest album. Two Hard Rockers, 'I Believe' with a great Davis guitar solo and the Rock 'N' Roll riff of 'Let Me See It All' were split by a short drum solo from Haycock behind her Natal drumkit festooned with an Animal muppet - which Robyn most certainly isn't! An almost impossible feat when it comes to drum solos!
Frontman Moss, brandishing a beautiful Les Paul, lead the band in some memorable Rock songs, such as 'Just A Memory' with its memorable opening riff, fully deserving of some hand clapping and of a bit of speaker stack jumping. Assisted by the Mars Attacks t-shirt wearing Davis on a humbucker packed Fender, there was an almost brutal Metal edge to the Hard Rock sound such as on 'Follow Me' with its thumping Haycock intro. How could that be bland? "Here We Go - Get Those Hands Up!" demanded Rich for the final time, on the loud and proud 'Worth Fighting For' - proof again, if one needed it, of the quality of their latest album. "Thank You So Much" praised Moss as the band left the stage, only of course for them to return. "We can't play a headline show without playing this song" added Rich. Indeed, some might say their clean cut image has comparisons to "Ed Sheeran Does Heavy Rock" - so in some way it was appropriate that 'AIT's rocker 'Wait For You' was initially performed as an encore on acoustic guitar by Moss with his great vocals, which then unsurprisingly turned into a huge singalong, as the rest of the band eventually joined in. Finally, full Hard Rockin' order was restored with their glorious closing headbanger and second single off of 'AIT' 'Not Your Enemy' - with its riff to die for and some final stack climbing. Demanding that we "Give It Up For The Support Bands", they left the stage to rapturous applause before taking the obligatory photo of the jubilant crowd. A set stuffed with recognisable riffs and singable lyrics - there was not a filler in sight. These guys never fail to deliver. All in all, not only a brilliant night of Rock from three young dynamic bands, but just as importantly, performed also to a young demographic who thankfully don't operate solely in the world called 'The Brits'. Sod Blue Oyster Cult - so pleased to witness tonight that Rock music is in such safe hands.
AJ (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
Kris Barras Band + Buffalo Summer + Jack J Hutchinson
The Garage, London
Saturday 23rd February 2019
The Garage in North London has an interesting history, it was originally built as one of the Temperance Billiard Halls - an organisation devoted to tempting young men away from booze using the power of billiards. In the sixties it was the hangout for The Highbury Mob who formed a good part of The Mods that you may have heard about in Quadrophenia. Well, tonight it’s not Mods but Rockers and temperance has gone out the window in favour of beer as we’re determined to have a night of Blues and booze. Now if you live in London and you go to gigs there’s no avoiding Jack J Hutchinson - he’s the hardest working Blues-man here. It seems every single day he’s either playing a gig or at one. He’s a permanent fixture at the Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues bar and he’s been grafting around doing support slots for some years now. The 600 capacity Garage is is certainly the biggest stage I’ve seen him on and he’s here tonight with his rather excellent power trio featuring Luke Lazarus Michaelides on bass and “The Beast From Brazil” - Felipe Amorim behind the kit. Love the new hat Jack BTW. The set tonight is mostly from Jack’s last solo album 'Paint No Fiction' from a couple of years ago. Amazingly it’s his 11th release counting singles and EP's. Not bad for 36 eh? He makes Joe Bonamassa look like a slacker. I say “solo album” as Jack is also a member of RHR - a triple guitar three headed beast comprised of Jack, Troy Redfern and Mike Ross who dropped the rather excellent 'Mahogany Drift' album on us and toured to support it last year. Hopefully we’ll see more action from them later this year. Meanwhile tonight Jack opens with 'Hip Slickin' and - wow! - he’s sounding the best I’ve ever heard him on this nice big PA. "How the fuck are you London?" He says to his adopted home town. We’re great, thanks Jack - and so are you. 'Written In Stone' is next which ups the Rock factor a notch or too - and Laz has adopted a mean scowl like a dog that’s just seen a postman. These guys are sounding enormous tonight. We’re treated to a couple of new songs - 'Lucky Man' and 'Piece Of Mind' from Jack’s forthcoming album - yet more skilful Southern-Rock soaked Bluesy wonderfulness. Before the smiles fades from those two we get a fantastic cover of Peter Green’s 'Oh Well' - I know what you’re thinking - every bugger does that one - but this band’s version is something special. Jack’s solo at the end is a break-neck shred-fest that old Peter never even dreamed of. The set’s rounded off with two more originals - 'Deal With The Devil' and 'Rattlesnake Woman' both of which make the Black Crowes sound like pussies. Maybe it’s because it’s a home crowd but I reckon Jack has pulled some extra magic out of the ether tonight - his vocals are stronger, his solos are fluid and fantastic and the band is as tight as The Highbury Mob were when the cops came. Maybe that’s what you get for doing a zillion gigs - you just get better and better. It worked for The Beatles in Hamburg - they were quite good after gigging 7 days a week for 2 years. Before they pop off, Jack wants a shot of the audience - he says he’s been taking shots of Kris’s audience on every this tour and pretending they’re HIS audience. Well Jack, quite a lot us are here to see YOU just as equally as the headline so it’s a pleasure to hold the beer up and be counted.
Written In Stone
Peace Of Mind
Deal With The Devil
Next up is Welsh Blues-Rockers Buffalo Summer who I must admit to being a virgin too. What are they like? I ask of AJ The Wrinkly One. “A bit Zeppelin-y” is the reply. Well, that’s a good thing in my book. On they come and singer Andrew Hunt has certainly got the Robert Plant hair - even if it is the wrong colour. Plus he’s sporting the wispy beard that Percy had in Zep’s early days. But the band’s sound is a lot more thick and treacle-heavy than Zep ever managed - in fact I reckon they’ve been listening to their Dad’s old records of fellow Welsh-men Budgie for inspiration. The sound is HUGE for a four-piece - I kept looking around looking for the second guitarist - but Jonny Williams is getting that Iommi-level mega-crunch all on his own. Well, with a bit of help from Darren King on bass and Gareth Hunt (Andrew’s little brother) wrecking that poor drum kit. The band’s multiple influences are summed up by Darren’s Motorhead t-shirt and backwards baseball cap. One foot in the “classic” camp and another looking to the greats of Grunge in the 90's. A case in point is 'Make You Mine' - the best song about losing your heart to a gorgeous woman since Free’s 'Alright Now'. Then it’s 'Priscilla' which is introduced as a “Country track” Really? It’s another song about heart-breaking totty - but it’s about as country as Alice In Chains. 'Rolls On Through' is introduced as “the first song we ever wrote” Well, good first effort guys, it’s a corker and it’s where “they’re a bit Zeppelin-y” comes absolutely true. The audience is nodding it’s collective head in approval as the band basically morph before your eyes into Page, Plant, Bonham & Jones. But these guys are no mere copyists, they’re just standing on the shoulders of giants and having a bloody good look around. The band have two albums out, their self-titled debut from 2013 and 'Second Sun' from 2016. Their website says they’ve got a new album out “in 2017” so it seems they’ve stalled somewhat. Do them a favour and go and buy the first two - they’re bloody great and deserve a crack at another one.
Truth From Fable
Make You Mine
Rolls On Through
Down To The River
So, the Kris Barras Band stride onto the stage looking as fit and mean as four young panthers on a hunt to catch a zebra. They look like the kind of guys that would make you worry for your safety if you saw them striding toward you on a dark night - particularly Kris himself who’s got arms like tree trunks. Kris’s mic stand is an extraordinary thing made out a bike chain and cogs - somebody here likes his bikes. I reckon there’ll be some testosterone coursing about on that stage tonight. I’m right. 'Rock ’n’ Roll Running Through My Veins' hits us square in the face like a shovel and we’re off. Now, the supports were great but this band is on another level entirely. Bass player Elliott Blackler is striding around the stage doing that crouching-down-thing a-la Robert Trujillo, just trying to get that four or five inches lower that a low thing. AJ The Wrinkly One leans over and tells that keyboards man Josiah J Manning is on Martin Barre’s album. I’m impressed. As if it were possible to be more impressed. Drummer Will Beavis has a pretty extraordinary 25 year long CV as well including a recent stint with Suzi Quatro. Ahh, I’ve still got a soft spot for her. Song two and it’s guitar swap time already and the trusty PRS comes out for a while. The song is 'Kick Me Down' which kicks off the new album 'The Divine And Dirty'. On this Elliott and Josiah get to show off their close harmony skills. Sounding great guys. Song three 'Stitch Me Up' and on this one Josiah is adding some tasty Bill Payne style piano. No overplaying for this guy - it’s just exactly what the song needs and no more. Kris announces the new one as “not the most grammatically correct song but the words are nice and easy.” Ah it’s a singalong then. 'I Don't Owe Nobody Nothing' is the song and it’s a good ol’ dirty slide stomper. The audience duly gets their opportunity to raggedly sing along on the chorus and Kris soars above us on the solo.
Next up is a brand new song 'What You See Is What You Get' and for this Kris grabs his lovely dark green Gibson 335. Nope, it’s not the Britney Spears song, it’s another slice of Southern Rock pie. The next one is indeed a cover and Britney is overlooked for something by “a band called Led Zeppelin” says Kris. Er, yes, I dimly remember my Dad talking about Zeppelins come to think of it - I thought he was just talking about the war again. The song is 'Rock & Roll' and of course it’s brilliant - this band give it a new lick of polish that the original never had - Josiah’s piano bit on this is WAY better than the original. I’m sorry - is that sacrilege to say that? Kris puts his own stamp on the solo too and we get to sing along on the lonely-lonely-lonely-time bit. Happiness. There’s a great video of Kris & the band doing this song in the studio on Planet Rock’s website complete with some lovely ladies on backing vocals so check that out. When we’ve all recovered from that we get 'Heart On Your Sleeve' which opened Kris’s second album 'Lucky 13'. It’s another rollicking slide number and Joe gets a solo on this one. Kris’s vocal on this reminds me of Bryan Adams more than anything and I can’t but think the Americans will eat all these songs up like they were half price burgers. During the solo Kris has switched to a battered Tele. Oh, it’s gonna get real dirty now. Sure enough Kris goes all Keef on us and it all very Stones-y for a bit as AJ would say. "Make some noise for Joe!" says Kris at the end and we oblige. Yep, we agree, he’s great. Mmm, I wonder if he’ll be playing at Martin Barre’s gig later this year? Watch this space.
Time for a cover now and it’s something even more unlikely than Britney. Remember the Will Smith sit-com Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air in the early 90's? Remember the theme song? Yeah, that. As a stomping Robert Johnson-esque slide guitar Blues song. WTF? It’s the most astonishing transformation of a song since Joe Cocker did a 'A Little Help From My Friends'. There’s a great clip on YouTube of Kris playing it on custom cigar-box guitar. That’s not here tonight but it sounds awesome on the Tele. Next up is 'Propane'. It’s a bit of a ballad this one, but this being Kris Barras it does of course feature a meaty guitar solo section that Rocks like a bastard. Will gets a VERY brief drum solo spot before we’re treated to ANOTHER new song 'Light It Up'. Kris is sounding very Eddie Van Halen on this one and even asks us to sing along - brave for a new song - but I reckon I can remember 3 words - I haven’t had THAT many beers yet. And blow me down we get yet another new one with 'Vegas Son' - lots of rolling dice and taking chances going on here. This upcoming album is gonna be one to look forward to later this year. That £15 is burning a hole in my pocket already.
Ah, and now, the Les Paul is back on and the time has come for what has quickly become the absolute highlight of the Kris Barras Band set - it’s the sublime 'Watching Over Me'. As soon as the sombre piano intro starts the place erupts into cheers. Anybody would think from this reaction that’s it’s a cherished oldie but no - it’s the LAST track on Kris’s LAST album from LAST year! Kris tells the story of how, inspired by his dad, he started playing guitars at nine. We lost him, he says, a short time ago to cancer and this is for him. The guitar intro starts and there’s no hiding the inspiration for THIS one - the late, great and lamented Gary Moore. You can tell the proper Kris fans love this one too, the phones are out and if they could the lighters would be out too. They’re right, it’s the song of the night and it’s the solo of the night. You can imagine Kris’s dad having a beer (or possibly a Guinness?) with Gary upstairs and saying “that’s my boy down there!” Even grumpy old Gary would give a grin. Eyes are dabbed and it’s on with 'Wrong Place, Wrong Time'. The Tele is back on and the tempo is back up for an SRV style shuffle. Joe’s Hammond is in for a proper thrashing and Elliott gets a bass solo for about a minute - no indulgent noodling or toilet break opportunities here. There’s the Purple style call-and-response-keys-and-guitar but again it’s brief - nothing’s going to get in the way of this tightly honed set.
Kris gives a “massive thanks for supporting live music” and says it’s 11 months to the day they had the album launch party upstairs to a tiny audience. My mate Tim was there and confirms that indeed it was a great gig if poorly attended. Kris also reveals the KBB has been voted best new band in the Planet Rock Awards - well deserved too. So how has this transformation happened? Well, it was a bloody clever move of Kris to step into the role of frontman last year for the Supersonic Blues Machine. Their gig last year at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire featured Billy Gibbons and all those 4,000 eyeballs who were there to see him do a brief guest slot were exposed to Kris tearing it up for the whole show. A lot of new fans were made that night and indeed that whole tour and they’re here to stay. Kris announces the “last song” (we know already he’s not getting away with that) as 'Hail Mary'. Now this one has turned into a proper hit for Kris, it’s had an astonishing quarter of a million plays on Spotify and the vid has had 71k on YouTube. Kris is sounding a LOT like Joe Walsh on this track, again the Yanks would love this. The crowd is encouraged to do “one last sing-a-long” and we oblige and say our Hail Marys. And it’s only Saturday! Then - OMG! - the solo, Kris pulls EVERY trick out of the bag, behind the head, the teeth, the lot, wow. And wow again. The band are off but there’s hardly enough time to catch your breath before they’re back. It’s like a military operation this. The green 335 is back but I suspect we’re not going to get a Larry Carlton cover. 'Lovers Or Losers' is the encore and it’s another one of those dirty slide beasts that Kris seems to able pump out like sweat from a lesser man. The KKB are off into the night and it’s time for the usual unseemly fight between the die-hards for a set list. Well what was an amazing triple bill of astonishingly well played music of exactly the sort you DON’T see on the X Factor. So get your asses out people and see these guys whenever they’re playing, buy their CD's and t-shirts and shake their hands and wish them good luck. They can’t do it without you.
Rock ’n’ Roll Running Through My Veins
Kick Me Down
Stitch Me Up
I Don't Owe Nobody Nothing
What You See Is What You Get
Rock And Roll
Heart on Your Sleeve
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Light It Up
Watching Over Me
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Lovers Or Losers
Pete Elphick (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
Ariel Posen + Katy Hurt
The Borderline, London
Sunday 24th February 2019
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Now I wish I could write like that. Sadly, my grasp of the English language is somewhat more limited but not to the extent that I can’t garner that we are in changing times, both for better and for worse. Luckily, tonight’s entertainment is provided by two artists whose linguistic skills have provided us with a couple of excellent albums of new material, pleasing both audibly and lyricaly. And in one of London’s best intimate subterranean venues, The Borderline, in the heart of London’s Soho district, opposite the iconic home of guitar sellers, Denmark Street. Where better to find great guitar playing.
Opening act tonight is London born Country singer Katy Hurt. Although born in the UK, she moved to Long Island, New York, when she was two and steeped herself in Americana. Now back in the UK she has brought her love of Nashville Country music, and all American blonde good looks, with her to delight the home crowd. Her set is a delightful mix of Country songs with thoughtful lyrics that show her talents as a wordsmith. “I loved words”, she says. “My dad speaks three languages and my mum speaks five. I call myself a word nerd, I find it interesting and as a songwriter, I find having different languages and accents can actually change the way that you write."
Accompanied by Gab Zsapka on acoustic/backing vocals, Katy launches into a familiar Nashville sound (dare I say Dolly-esque?) with the soulful slow ballad 'Falling Apart'. Her voice is almost stereotypically Country with soft velvetiness but the power when needed. Zsapka provides the only accompaniment - no bass or drums needed - which highlights the quality of the songs and the voice. The bearded, hatted guitarist is the only band Kate needs as he plays rhythm, licks and solos. Second song 'Drink' sees Kate also join in on acoustic guitar for a more up tempo feel, with the tempo further increased for 'Sleeping Next To You' with Zsapka providing dual vocals for a little light harmony.
Katy takes time out to chat about the next track which she wrote at The Borderline when she was last in town. The song is 'Natchez', named after a town in Mississippi. "Somewhere down in Natchez, I'll be striking matches, And lighting up every single letter you sent my way" she sings in her beautiful creamy voice. Ironic, as, unbeknownst to our songstress, the town suffered a newsworthy fire back in the 40’s. Well she’s setting London on fire tonight. Apparently inspired by a Clint Eastwood movie, 'Revved Up' gets raunchier with a few finger clicks and clapping thrown in. The video she made for this song sees her head off into the desert in her Dad’s jeep. Which she promptly trashed. Sorry Dad.
'See Ya Later' is a song about a boy - every female Country singer has one - whilst the radio friendly 'Unfinished Business' is a gentle single guitar ballad, and the title track of Katy’s latest EP. The punchier, dual vocal, 'The World Ain't Waiting On Me' allows the crowd to sing-along with the chorus whilst closing track 'Fire' is a great Blues track with amazing Blues picking from Zsapka and strong vocals from Katy finishing on a long strong held note that took your breath away. It was a fine performance from two very talented musicians.
Ariel Posen is a man of many parts. He first reached public notice as part of The Brothers Landreth line up although the young Canadian has spent most of his life surrounded by music as he followed his musician parents on the road, picking up music and guitar playing skills and, most notably, exquisite tone. He came to my attention as a guest presenter on the Andertons TV YouTube channel, alongside co-presenter ‘Danish Pete’ Honore. Both are extremely talented guitarists but Posen is notable for the beautiful tone that he naturally evokes from whatever instrument he is given to showcase. But although I consider him a guitarist, it is as a songwriter that he is making his name. "The guitar is the tool to get the music out" he says. "Always serve the song first. Otherwise you are just playing an instrument." He’s not wrong although Posen’s guitar playing is entertaining enough to stand on its own.
So after many years playing and writing, Posen has finally released his own album of songs called 'How Long', and a great album it is. Citing influences such as The Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer, the album is quite an eclectic mix of styles that defy anyone trying to put him into a pigeonhole. I will leave that to the male pigeons. Taking to the stage, the tall slim perfectly coiffured Canadian, looking cool in a light denim shirt and dark jeans, is joined by Davie Ryan on drums and Eoin Walsh on bass. Tonight’s rig sees Ariel play a light green Collings Soco Deluxe with a tortoiseshell pickguard, with what look like Filtertronic style humbuckers, and a white Mule custom ‘Strat’ style guitar while his amps are a Two Rock traditional clean, a Two Rock classic reverb and a Victory V40 Deluxe. And a pedal board with infinite options, including ‘The Dane’ a pedal designed by his Andertons co-presenter. Am I being geeky enough for you?
Opening track 'Try', also the opening track of his new album, is a smooth John Mayer style track with harmonic backing vocals from Ryan and Walsh. To start with the vocals are slightly muddy but the sound engineer soon sorts that out and I was too mesmerised by the sweet guitar to mind. Second track 'Sistermamalover' is a Lenny Kravitz cover that has a slow groove and the ever present slide in the dirtier Blues solo. Both tracks are played on the white Mule whose humbucker pickups give the dirtier sounds a lush growl. Switching to the Collins, Posen launches into the slow chugging 'I’m Gone' which was destined to be on the new album but, criminally, isn’t. Ordinarily a quiet ballad, the live version has quite a broken guitar sound and Ariel makes good use of his multitude of effects to give a fuller ambient sound. It’s the song that sticks in my head for days. Did I mention the tone? Sorry Ariel, I know it’s about the song but what a tone. And to be fair to Ariel, every song is the right balance between vocals, instruments and tone. He really does serve the song – nothing is too overpowering.
According to Mr P, we are now entering the sad song segment. He would argue that he album is full of them. I find them uplifting personally. Staying with the green machine, the dirt is turned up for 'Things That I've Said'. Starting almost acoustically, the song builds to slide filled rocking guitar, again with backing vocals. A fine toe tapper for something supposedly sad. Although I guess slide has a sad lilt to it however it’s played. 'How Long' on the other hand starts as a slow vocal lament. No drums or bass to lighten the mood. This allows Posen’s clear vocals to shine briefly before the song builds into an almost Country/Pop song with beautiful slide guitar picking, dripping in reverb and delay. Slow the solo may be, but it has the touch and feel that makes a solo absorbing without the need to play any more notes than necessary. Less is more. Upping the tempo somewhat, with a cover of Billy Preston’s song 'Nothing From Nothing', we change the style from Country to near Jazz. This gives Eoin Walsh the chance to shine with some impressive Jazz bass both soloing, and trading licks and lines with Ariel’s Mule. Now I’m no Jazz fan but it’s such a groove (man!). The two trade licks for what becomes a five minute Jazz jam. To quote Baloo "I’m gone man, solid gone."
Not to be out done, Davie Ryan on drums, who has provided the solid beat that underlines everything, shows how he can handle even the most unusual timings on 'Nobody Else'. The slow crooner has a very slow, interesting timing that skips a beat. About lost love, the song is interesting with a key change, minimalist drum beat and slide solo that had me thinking 'Deliverance'. Ariel takes time out to explain how songwriting works in the modern world. 'I’ll Be Finding You' was co-written with a friend in New Zealand over Skype. Time differences certainly add a whole new level of complexity to the process. With a funky beat and dual vocals it got the crowd moving. 'Get You Back', also on the new album, is sultry and almost tortuously soulful. With a steady drumbeat and another minimalist solo with lots of echo/reverb/fuzz, I would have to concede that this is a sad sounding song. But in a haunting, compelling way. The simple solo becomes more and more intricate and the song finishes with strong dual vocals. To lighten the mood, Ariel admits that one happy song found its way onto the new album. 'Can't Stop Thinking About You' is still sultry but with a more up tempo beat that does allow a little sunshine into your life, and a little slide into your solo. Short but sweet, it is an obvious radio track. 'Better Late Than Never' is a sloooowwwww song that is likely to be the accompaniment to many a Valentine’s nights foray. Smoochie. Hello ladies. Closing track, and debut single is 'Fade', a funkier slide Blues that again is an all-round great song – well balanced and annoyingly catchy.
Disappearing briefly before returning for an encore, Posen dedicates his final song to his wife who, when talking him into moving to Ireland, opened him up to a whole new range of music. Including John Martyn who has had a huge influence on his music and songwriting. So how better to end a great night of music than with his cover of 'Angeline'. With an Irish lilt and slow almost ethereal slide guitar, it was a ten minute master class of tone. So what the Dickens was that opening paragraph all about? Well, I enjoyed Mr. P. so much that, two days later, I took myself off to the marvellous Tuesday Night Music Club, in the heart of Surrey’s Coulsdon, to see his Tuesday night performance. Twas indeed a Tale of Two Cities. I have a soft spot for the TNMC as it is a local venue that I have frequented for a number of different reasons, and is also indirectly responsible for my ‘journalistic’ life. But don’t hold that against it. Unexpectedly, Katy Hurt and Gaz showed up for an impromptu four song set before Ariel set the Surrey faithful alight with his excellent set. Same set, same quality. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing twice.
There aren’t many artists I would see twice on the same tour but the Winnipeg/Long Island experience caught my interest and captured my soul. A broad range of music, and charming songs that hit home across the spectrum. Whilst my bag is usually Rock, Metal and Blues, tonight I discovered my softer side. Time to order some Viagra then. From Winnipeg to London, we had everything before us, It was the best of times.
Sistamamalover (Lenny Kravitz cover)
Things that I've said
Nothing from nothing (Billy Prseton cover)
I'll be finding you
Get you back
Can't stop thinking about you
Better late than never
Angeline (John Martyn cover)
Mother (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
Notting Hill Arts Club, London
Thursday 28th February 2019
Those of you who ever saw Saint Jude back in the day (the “day” being sadly very short - 2010 to 2012), you’ll remember their extraordinary front woman Lynne Jackaman. How that HUGE voice comes out of that TINY woman is one of the wonders of the 21st century. She’s been trying to get a solo career off the ground since the end of Saint Jude due to death of guitarist Adam Green in 2012. There’s been the occasional gig and occasional EP since then, but her real push has been a crowd-funded Soul album recorded in none other than Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals in deepest Alabama. Having soaked the Aretha and Etta James vibes out of the bricks and got them down into digits, the album’s post production has been a work in progress for a year or so now. But despite it’s non appearance in a physical form, this the third time I’ve seen Lynne and her band perform it in it’s entirety in London in the space of that year. And as you’ve probably guessed by now it’s fantastic. There’s echoes of Saint Jude of course but there’s also a solid core of sixties Southern Soul and material with huge emotional heft. UK based guitarist of note Jamie Evans was instrumental (pardon the pun) in getting the album together, having co-written, arranged and produced it.
He’s here tonight along with a band that includes Tom Williams on bass and King King’s Wayne Proctor on drums. Blimey he gets around - this is the fourth different band I’ve seen him with in the space of about 10 weeks! One song - ‘Beautiful Loss’ - is a lovely tribute to lost friend Adam Green and is performed with just Lynne and Jamie - as are several songs tonight - but the majority of the set is full on and Funky with brass section Johnny O’Neill & Nick Etwell parping away giving extra welly away at the back. If you’re curious to hear these songs, Lynne has released an ‘Unplugged’ set performed at London’s Palladium last year on a support slot with just Jamie on acoustic. Sadly it’s poorly recorded - it sounds like an audience bootleg - but at least it gives an outing to some of the songs while the album is in gestation. But I have the feeling that 2019 is the year that Lynne will at last come back with a huge bang with an album that will get her a LOT of attention.
Nobody’s Fault (But Yours)
I’ll Allow You
On Your Own Now
Sooner Or Later
On My Own Stage
Pete Elphick (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)