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Luke Morley + Hillbilly Vegas

31st January 2024

O2 Academy Islington, London

Starting with the 'new' band, to most of us, this Oklahoma based six piece band: 'Hillbilly Vegas', who are label-mates with Luke Morley, kicking off the evening, after a lot of hanging-around, with the track 'Mason Jars and Moonlight'.

They set their stall out early. This is Southern Rock through and through! Ploughing on, we dived straight into 'Steady At The Wheel' followed by 'High Time For A Good Time', all continuing in that well smoked, southern flavour, in no uncertain terms! We even dipped into a little Frankie Miller (whom I have actually recorded and a lovely bloke he was too!) with 'Down The Honky Tonk'! A very nice tribute to one of the best British Blues vocalists! Class.

Some more tunes on the theme of guns before the anthemic 'Shake It Like A Hillbilly' brought it down to basics: Good old-fashioned Southern Boogie. Closing out the set: 'Hell To Pay' seemed to be the perfect way to end proceedings. A great way to start the evening and something that I'll get to resample later next week when they headline London's The Cavern in Raynes Park on Thursday 8th February.

And so, on to the main event: Thunder's Luke Morley. Now in fairness, I have known Luke since recording the first 'Terraplane' album, back in 1986, when they were at Trident Studios and I had just started. Together with Danny Bowles, they had just got signed and were on their first album! So we go back a bit. But then I have another admission, that I have barely followed their career since... and though we bump into each other from time-to-time, I really know very little about Luke's career. Let's find out.

So I find myself at the final date of his latest solo tour, promoting his current offering: 'Songs From The Blue Room'. I Wanna See The Light' kicked things off in style, fittingly, with the album opener. 'Damage' followed, with Luke strutting his guitar around, the Rock star that he is and why not? 'Killed By Cobain' followed with an interesting blend of Pop and Grunge, along with a nod to 10CC in the middle 8.

'This World' took things back a bit and felt good for it. 'Errol Flynn' took things down a notch with a touch of Country flavour in there. It went down a storm! The laid back 'Quiet Life' was very much what I call: a 'songwriters song', but none the worse for it. Keeping things retro, 'First Day' with it's build-up to a rather classy guitar solo, yet I found it yet another 'songwriters song'. The very next tune: 'I'm The One You Want', seemed to get the groove back into Luke's strut, but instantly we drop into a more reflective mood with the ballad 'Nobody Cares'. There is almost a French feel to this one until we move to an 'Irish' jig-like feel with 'Lying To Myself'.

'Watching The Sun Go Down' picks up the pace again with this little rocker. But then came to what everyone seemed to be there for: 'A Better Man', with full audience participation, and participate they did! What a way to end the evening! A great show. But we hadn't finished yet. For the encore we were treated to 'Go With The Flow', which was warmly appreciated, before the classic Kinks track 'Lola' rounded the night off to a very satisfied crowd! Did Luke pull it off? Yes I think it's fair to say so. And the band, they were class, with Dean Howard at the helm (more stories to tell...).

Has Luke made me a convert? Yes, I think he probably has. Only time will tell.

Tim Russell

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