Bad Touch + Broken Witt Rebels
Saturday 8th April
The Borderline, London
On a beautiful sunny evening in London, it seemed a bit of a shame to delve down into The Borderline's newly refurbished basement last Saturday night. However, the musical fayre served up by both 2016 WRC Award nominees Bad Touch and Broken Witt Rebels, more than made that decision the right one. A sell out crowd, including Jack J Hutchinson and Geoff Carne, witnessed the final gig of their Planet Rock Roadstar's double headliner tour with, on this occasion, Bad Touch on first followed by Broken Witt Rebels.The first time we saw Bad Touch was last December at The Dome in Tufnell Park - for the launch of their new album 'Truth Be Told'. The new album saw the five-piece rock band from Norfolk celebrating Classic Rock with Southern boogie influences, supported with heavy guitar riffs and an iron-clad, tight rhythm section including Michael Bailey on bass guitar and Daniel Seekings on guitars/backing vocals, in the great tradition of Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin. Tonight was also going to be the first time we would see 20-year-old guitar virtuoso Harry Slater as Bad Touch's new lead guitarist - Hairy replaced original guitarist Rob Glendinning and it was Rob who had actually suggested Slater as his successor.
They opened their set with their jeans song 'Good On Me' from their first album 'Half Way Home' - its 70's rockin' style swagger a perfect fit to get the Borderline faithful straight into the groove. And what better song title for a band with Zep influences than 'Heartbreaker Soulshaker' - all about being a free spirit - a much funkier track with some awesome guitar work from clean cut, bespectacled, Slater, which was followed by another from 'Truth Be Told' - all about love unrequited - albeit not as heavy as the previous two but nevertheless another powerful vocal performance from the hatted/moustachioed Stevie Westwood that well and truly got 'Under My Skin'. It was back then to a trilogy from 'HWH' - dipping into the foot stompin' singalong 'Wise Water' featuring Slater's slide guitar and Westwood's tambourine, the riff ridden 'Sweet Little Secret' complemented by its obligatory singalong and finally 'Words I Never Said' - with its delightful opening guitar solo where we saw Classic Rock at its undoubted head-banging best.
The final half of the set turned out to be wall to wall 'TBT' as Westwood cried out "London town let me hear you" and we were literally 'Waiting For This'. One of the stand out's, if not the stand out track from 'TBT' - with its heavy guitar riffs, cool drumming from George Drewry and outstanding vocals - it was duly nailed with a roar of approval from the crowd plus an enormous nod to Zep. Step forward the excellent 'Outlaw',with it's blistering guitar intro/outro plus Westwood's superb delivery of its Western lyrics - this is definitely Bad Touch's very own 'Wanted Dead Or Alive'! Their only cover on the night was curiously Otis Redding's 'Hard To Handle'. "Pretty little thing, let me light your candle, cause mama I'm sure hard to handle, now" the Borderline sang before Westwood halted proceedings for some more audience participation on 'My Mother Told Me' - its '70's Quo style intro morphing into some serious Rock reminiscent of Bad Company.
'Take Your Time' slowed things down - its message being don't be hasty - take a deep breath and a step back - a track which again showcased Westwood's vocal range and dexterity - complemented by Slater's gentle guitar. Another '70's' intro - and it's their catchy single '99%' - originally remixed for radio by the legendary Rolling Stones engineer and co-producer, Chris Kimsey - which incidentally initially attracted me to the band - rocked out as usual with some cool harmonies! And unsurprisingly the crowd roared for more - Westwood demanding "See you in the love man'' as the audience waved their arms to the mystic opening of 'The Mountain' - more boundary-stretching from Bad Touch in this beautifully crafted track which is not only heavy in its genre but also its message about the sustainability of our planet and our collective responsibility with pollution. And just when you thought it was all over - the buggers teased us with a bit of 'Moby Dick' before they left us to rapturous applause. Think the social media comment "Arrived early for Broken Witt Rebels to walk into this!!!!!!!!!! wow fabulous what a vibe thank you" nicely sums up Bad Touch's awesome set. Simply try and follow that BWR!
Despite being another up and coming band who the WRC originally showcased in our 'Introducing ....' feature in September 2015 - this was the first time I had personally seen Broken Witt Rebels live, although other WRC correspondents had favourably seen them last year supporting King King in November at the Islington Assembly Halls and headlining The Proud in Camden in October. The Brummie quartet, with their popular brand of Blues Rock, with a hint of Kings of Leon about them, looked both young and trendy, as they made their way onto The Borderline stage. With a line up of
Danny Core - vocals, Luke Davis - bass/backing vocals, James Tranter - lead guitar/backing vocals and James Dudley - drums, BWR started their set with their lead single from their latest 2016 'Georgia Pine' EP - the groovy 'Low' - the Rebels faithful immediately joining in on its chorus with a "low, low, low, wooooooooooh" - leaving us in doubt what a tight unit musically BWR are. I must admit that I had to do a double take when Core grabbed a guitar for the title track of their 2014 release 'Howlin', as not only his stance, but more importantly, the incredible texture of his voice, is so reminiscent of Nashville's JD Simo - as they knocked out this number in true Blues Rock Power style. 'Hurricane' was preceded by 'Snake Eyes' which served up more of the rockin' same with its strong bassline riff, whilst Danny's brilliant a capella opening to 'Turn Me On' had him asking early doors "How are we doing over here?" - the answer being very nicely thank you as his powerful voice tore into this Blues gem. Wow.
Thankfully, The Borderline's recent opening night sound and lighting teething problems had been addressed. Another heavy riff belter 'Getawayman' from 'Georgia Pine', was followed by the tambourine punching Core on 'God Knows' - another vocal stormer from Danny with yet another stand out Blues Rock guitar solo from Tranter. 'Bang Bang' - and we had another a capella intro from Core on this Blues Rocker before Danny demanded "London make some noise" and duly the crowd joined in on the chorus "Oh yeah, oh no, oh yeah, oh no". It was then back to 'Howlin' and 'Bottom Off The Hill' which saw Dudley's mid-segment pounding drum not only resulting in spontaneous hand clapping by those assembled, but also a minimal 'Hey Joe' cover. One noticeable thing about Broken Witt Rebels set was that nearly all their tracks clocked in at under four minutes and there were no elongated Blues Rock jams which you tend to associate with this genre. Perhaps it was a timing thing and the softer title track from 'Georgia Pine' followed suit - once again Core enticing the crowd into a mid-section singalong of "Stay with me tonight" before special guest Stevie Westwood from Bad Touch joined the guys on stage for their penultimate and more up tempo number 'Guns' - another track from "GP' - as the guys rocked out with more audience hand clapping and Westwood even shouting "Up the rebels!" - well I'm sure it wasn't "Up the Villa!" Core's final question: "Do you want to see one more" was greeted with a unanimous "yes" as they rounded off a truly memorable set with an encore of the slower 'Shake Me Down' from Howlin' - a last chance to savour both Core's outstanding voice and a band that are currently on a roll. Broken Witt Rebels return to London Dingwalls on Saturday 3rd June as part of Camden Rocks. Do not miss them.