Puddle Of Mudd + Unzucht + The Fallen State
Sunday 27th March 2016
O2 Academy, Islington, London
You could cut the apprehension with a knife as we sat in The York before Easter Sunday's Puddle Of Mudd O2 Academy Islington gig. Social media was already in overdrive following frontman Wes Scantlin's well documented problems which had predictably materialised already on this UK tour. We knew one way or the other that we were in for a memorable night and sure enough we got the ball rolling when Wrinkly The Silver Fox accidentally smashed his glass - the resultant beer wave ending up on my lap and all down my jeans. Not a good start.
No doubt a few cynics reacted to the fact that, as there were two support bands, this would compensate for Wes' stamina and perhaps an abridged POM set list. We would see. First up were young Hard Rock band The Fallen State from Devon - who to be fair had an ace pedigree - previously touring with Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm, The Treatment, Young Guns and Heavens Basement. And in their seven song set - they emphatically got the message across that they were not just there to make up the numbers. Their set list 'Hope and Revival', 'Lost Cause', 'Great Unknown', 'Sons of Avarice', 'Burn It To The Ground', 'You Want It' carried a momentum and their finale 'Sinner' (taken from their current EP 'Crown Your Shadows') nailed the fact that if you love hi-octane, groove-ridden, rock n' roll then those guys are for you. With vocalist Ben Stenning and guitarist Jon Price leading from the front, impressively supported by Dan Oke (guitar), Greg Butler (bass) and Rich Walker (drums) - make sure you catch them again at Camden Rocks on Saturday 4th June.
As a result of the paranoia surrounding Wes - we accept that we did not do our homework in advance on both support bands. So it was both a pleasant surprise and an irony - given the England game the previous night - that the next band were indeed from Germany. If you can imagine a cross between Rammstein and Avantasia - then Unzucht pretty much hit the mark. OK it would be very churlish to say that this is German manufactured Rock in it's element - but this was a first for me and I admit I found it really entertaining. Who could not fail to love lead singer Daniel Der Schulz taking Dark rock to another level with his black eye-shadow and tight leather trousers in contrast to the threatening guitar of the tattooed and bare chested Daniel De Clercq. And with a set list that included 'Unendlich', 'Todsünde 8', 'Seelenblind', 'Schwarzes Blut', 'Meine Liebe', 'Deine Zeit läuft ab', 'Kettenhund', 'Während wir ins verlieren', 'Der letzte Tanz', 'Unzucht', 'Nur die Ewigkeit' and 'Engel der Vernichtung' - not only was it a tribute to their originality but it also gave us the opportunity to thrown in the occasional "3-2" during the audience participation. Not forgetting the qualities also of both Alex Blaschke (bass) and Toby Fuhrmann (drums) - we were definitely getting value for money.
The moment of truth had arrived with tangible anxiety already spreading in the crowd in the form of unnecessary petulance. Shame that. And to be fair that seemed to be forgotten as Wesley Reid Scantlin ambled on to the O2 Academy stage. They say that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression on someone. When we first bumped into Wes in a bar in Amsterdam in 2012 - he was so cool and real pleasure to talk to. Nothing was too much as we recorded some soundbites and took a few pics with him. In fact later in our conversation Wes opened up and you could detect he had some personal issues. Four years down the line and for those that had not seen Wes before - that first impression would have been that this guy was wasted.
Therefore, it was with a mix of personal emotion that we roared when Puddle Of Mudd opened ironically with 'Drift & Die' - Scantlin now being the only 'original' as he grimaced with his delivery and appeared to hold on to his microphone stand for dear life. Despite concern for Wes' well-being - the crowd were of course ecstatic - the POM roster now completed with guitarist Matt Fuller (ex-Bow Wow Wow), drummer Dave Moreno and bassist Michael John Adams - who were for the time being bit-parts as the audience were transfixed on Scantlin as they launched into - would you believe it - 'Psycho'. The evening had become a bit like a boxing match - the crowd willing Wes on after every round and it has the desired effect as they moved on to 'Control' (don't you love the apt song titles) which as usual was entwined with Sabbath's 'War Pigs' which Wes appeared to relish. Scantlin was sort of on a roll now as he dedicated 'Nothing Left To Lose' to his old sparring partner Fred Durst - enough for us to relax for a bit and appreciate Fuller's riff on this classic from 'Life On Display'. Given 'Re-Discovered' - the only complete cover on the night was Neil Young's 'Old Man' (possibly dedicated to the WRC - but not confirmed) which had a great Fuller guitar solo and then we had a Bruce Forsyth moment introducing 'Blurry' when both Matt & Wes agreed that this was "the best crowd we've ever played for" and was dedicated "to anyone who has ever lost somebody". Did "they take it all the way" - they most certainly did - as the audience finally unshackled the chains of a possible disaster and grasped the opportunity with hands firmly held in the air!
"Thank you so fuc*ing much" praised Scantlin as he suddenly left the stage - suitcase and all! Perhaps our support band conspiracy was right after all! Oh ye of little faith as the guys gradually returned to the stage for 'Away From Me' where Wes hit the nail on the head with his introduction "this band has ruined every single fu*king relationship that I've had in my entire life". "Scream!" And the punters duly did on the opening of another 'LOF' classic. Stress levels were slightly raised again as Wes sat down in front of Dave's drum kit although morale was quickly boosted, not only when he got up, but also thanks to the welcome news of a new CD in the pipeline with Mr. Durst. The "Oooo's" in the crowd welcomed another from 'LOF' - 'Spin You Around' - although it then got even more surreal as Scantlin introduced 'Spaceship' from 'Songs in the Key of Love & Hate' - and then aborted this as he wanted a smoke! He was then enticed back on stage after his cigarette break thanks to a crowd sing-a-long of you've guessed it - 'She Hates Me' - which also saw the late introduction of a quickly assembled mosh pit which we were right in the middle of. Boys will be boys eh Wes? "She Fuc*ing Hates Me" was Wes' parting shot as he departed with suitcase in tow. Well we don't fuc*ing hate you Wes - just please get your demons sorted out mate. What a night!