Grand Slam + Sons Of Liberty
Wednesday 21 September 2022
The Underworld, Camden, London
It's a balmy September evening in the bustling NW1 mecca of all things good and righteous when it comes to rocking venues. My favourite North West venue tonight is hosting a quintet of Southern Rock supremo's in the shape of the Sons of Liberty. Hailing from the deep South West (Bristol….) the five piece embody everything Skynyrd, Hatchet and Blackfoot that you could ever want. Lets see if they are my compass tonight. Although they look like they shared a stage with those icons of the 70's and 80's, the Sons have only been around since 2018. I last saw them opening up the final day's proceedings at Hard Rock Hell last November where they made a fine impression. But new to the line up for 2022 is frontman Rob Walker bringing a touch of youth to the seasoned stetson wearers with a whole new level of vigour and enthusiasm. Just as well as tonight they are a man down with guitarist Andy Muse absent following a medical procedure - allegedly to remove his hat.
Opening to a Sparse crowd with 'Big Ass D', the aforementioned heritage is evident with rocking guitar, stomping drumbeat and shout along vocals. The growing crowd shout and stomp with them as they move from Boogie to Rock to Heavy Blues. Guitarist Fred Hale does a sterling job, wielding the obligatory Les Paul, but the set needs the twin guitars that underpins that Southern Boogie sound. 'Texas Hill Country' has an excellent rolling bassline and fine solo from Hale. There's plenty of good natured banter with the crowd but they can get serious too as the lyrics to 'Don't Hide Behind Your Weakness' show. And also shows that Walker has no weakness in his voice. But the seriousness doesn’t last long as the toes get tapping to 'Beef Jerky Boogie'. "Got any carnivores in?" asks Walker, his humour as dry as the meat snack. We clap along and applaud the sentiment.
'Fire and Gasoline' is a slower anthemic track that builds nicely although never reaches the intensity of closing track 'Ruby Starr', a homage to the Southern Rock singer of the 70's and 80's. With some superb guitar chugging from Hale, the boys line the edge of the stage with heads down no nonsense rocking, she would be proud. The short set is fine work and my compass is definitely pointing towards their next gig as I seek out some more finger clickin' goodness.
Big Ass D
Its My Bad
Rich Man PoorMan
Up Shit Creek
Texas Hill Country
Don't Hide Behind Your Weakness
Beef Jerky Boogie
Fire and Gasoline
From Southern Rock to Southern Irish Rock, Grand Slam came to fame in 1985 when Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott quit the band and formed the short lived quintet, before the iconic singer's untimely death a year later. But the band achieved a lot in that short period playing old Lizzy tracks, and newer material, and received positive reviews. Fast forward to 2016 and original keyboardist Mark Stanway reformed the band with guitarist Laurence Archer amongst others. After a number of lineup changes the band has evolved into the current four piece.
Opening track '19' has the guitar solos, harmonies and all round rocking sound that epitomises the Lizzy sound. Frontman Mike Dyer even has a hint of Lynott in his voice. Laurance Archer, an original member from 85, sporting a white flying V, noodles in a Lizzy style that exceeds that of Gorham and Downey in quality. Archer co-wrote 'Harlem' with Lynott - a song that is less guitar heavy, but still has those trademark licks. And although the origins of the sound is obvious, it has it's own distinct sound. 'Hit The Ground' is all about the chugging guitar, with a rawness which is surprisingly welcome after the intricacies of the opening tracks.
'Crime Rate' gives keyboardist Jem Davis of FM fame a chance to air his skills. Although not part of the four piece, his notable contribution to this Whitesnake inspired track is only slightly overshadowed by Dyer's awesome vocals. He's early Coverdale at his best. He may not have the flowing locks but the muscled frontman has all the charms. Eponymous track 'Grand Slam' starts with some slow Gary Moore style guitar from Archer, who toured with Mr. Moore during his stint with UFO. The song soon erupts into a bouncing rhythm although retaining that haunting Moore guitar sound. And then into some seriously hard rocking riffs. You are so enthralled with Archer's fretboard wizardry, and interplay with bass legend Rocky Newton, that you fail to realise that Dyer is notable by his absence.
'Military Man' has drummer Benjy Reid opening with a snare march before Dyer returns to the fray with another song from yesteryear that seems to fit as aptly today as it did then. A slower, thoughtful ode to the stupidity of war, it resonates in these troubled times. Notably it was also covered by Gary Moore on his album 'Run For Cover'. With a cry of "to the Queen", Dyer launches into 'Crazy'. Not sure of the link there although it does smack of something that Mr. Mercury's popular beat combo might have dreamed up.
'Dedication', on the other hand, was played by the Lizzy originals, and sounds like it was written for them. But it's another Archer/Lynott production that rightly belongs to Grand Slam. It's a dedication to many different people, in the course of the song, but is also a testament to the dedication that Archer clearly gives to his art.'Sisters Of Mercy' is a slow quiet ballad, which the crowd join in with willingly. Until it kicks into a rocking Irish jig on steroids. This feels like Lynott is singing from beyond the grave. It's a fine all round song that closes the set before the short encore break sees them take to the stage for the finale of an excellent rendition of 'Parisienne Walkways'. After all the hard rocking, the single held note that rings forever gets the loudest applause. Sort of more of the less is more… or Moore. And they close with another anthem, this time one of Lizzy's classics. Everyone's favourite cuppa, 'Rosalie', sounds as good now as it did when it was released in 1975. Even without twin guitars. What a great live song it is.
The band leave the stage to warm applause - a fine evenings entertainment. As I head South on the Northern Line to West Wickham via East Croydon, I peruse the journey I have been taken on. Two relatively new bands playing good old Rock and Roll that have taken me to the four corners of the compass. Both bands are as different as North is to South but both are heading in the right direction. Quality songs, played by fine musicians. I suggest you hitch a ride with them. It's sure to be a blast.
Gone Are The Days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpQo0m8Q_Mc
Hit the Ground
Sisters of Mercy
Don’t Believe a Word