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Pearl Handled Revolver + Viper Soup Complex

Thursday 3rd August 2023

Fiddler's Elbow, Camden, London

It had been a while since I had last been up to Camden's Fiddlers Elbow (before lockdown), but it was well worth the trip. This was an evening of Prog Rock featuring the Maltese band Viper Soup Complex who were more than ably supporting the powerhouse that is Pearl Handled Revolver.

So let me start with Malta's Viper Soup Complex. Having been stymied on the last attempt at a tour by the beast that was Covid, they had finally got the chance to tour again and it was a very vibed up band that took to the stage, having kept us waiting outside for a while for their sound-check. So, by the time we were let in, they were basically waiting for us on stage.

But they didn't seem that flustered and straight from the off, vocalist Annemarie Spiteri was the focus of their performance, using costumes and props more associated with early Peter Gabriel, than anything else, but I say "Well done" as it was very appropriate for their material, all the same.

Starting with 'The Warped Logic Of Doctor Pain', it was clear that this Maltese outfit meant business. Ms Spiteri continued to lead the show from the front. 'Morse Code' followed on, before the grandiose 'Turquoise On Mars' took pride of place in the set. 'Good Man', 'Tetrahedron Paradise' and the suitably impressive, 'The Well And The Labyrinth' (great song titles!) followed, before the band closed their set with the song 'Stellar'.

Their playing was impressive and the band were obviously on form with bassist Michael Spiteri and drummer Melchior Busuttil holding down the bottom end, with guitarist Glenn Sultana doing all the fiddly bits. The only let down was necessary use of pre-recorded keyboard parts and the occasional guitar solo, due I presume, to the absence of their keyboard player, but well done Malta: Impressive!

Now on to the main act of the evening: Pearl Handled Revolver', a band whom I have seen just a few times before. This time they were out promoting their forthcoming album, 'Psychedelic Attic', (more of a new mixes/remastered album) and well worth it for doing so. Congratulations to band member Simon Rinaldo's son Lucas for a job well done!

Kicking off with the dark 'Women Made A Man Out Of Me', this set the stage for what was to come (apart from the fact that the sound guy forgot that this is primarily a keyboard based band, which I had to point out to him and to please turn the keyboards up, which he gladly did), complemented by Lee Vernon's harmonica playing and gritty vocals.

'The Switch' was quickly followed by 'Into The Blue' with its powerful keyboard licks, from the 1996 album 'If The Devil Cast His Net'. Once again, this was classic Prog, if you will. Then 'Siren' kicked in, and by now the band were in the 'pocket' and playing out of their socks! 'Gilding The Lily' provided more of Simon's keyboard licks to whet our appetite, before the powerful 'Absenthe In Adelaide' took it's place, a track I remember from earlier gigs, as Lee's powerful vocals set the mood before Andy Paris's guitar licks kick in and Simon's Hammond slowly takes over. It was a little too short for my liking, but hey...

'Rabbit Hole' was next up, featured on the album 'Psychedelic Attic'. This was a new one for me, but very powerful all the same. This was followed by the title track from the album 'If The Devil Cast His Net'. On this one, you could almost hear Jon Lord/early Deep Purple. I should point out that I used work for the engineer who mixed those early Purple albums and I know he would have approved!

'Belly Of The Whale' was followed by 'Help Me Down From The Trees', which is included on the remastered album 'Psychedelic Attic', before their classic 'Peace By Piece', from the album 'Two', closed the show. This was a bit more guitar driven than some of the other songs, but it hardly suffered from that!

This evening of Prog Rock was finished off with an encore of 'You Got It Wrong', a song that apparently they hadn't played in years. Wonderful!

A special mention goes out to Andy Paris on guitar and Chris Thatcher on drums, alongside their newest member, Lucas Rinaldo on both bass and second guitar, who was excellent and somewhat freed up Simon Rinaldo from his usual bassline duties and allowed him to focus on the keys. Well done to the whole band for an evening of some of the best Prog Rock in a long time! More please!

Tim Russell

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