The Graham Bonnet Band + Doomsday Outlaw
Wednesday 22nd August
The Underworld, Camden
Graham Bonnet is an English Rock singer and songwriter who has recorded and performed as a solo artist and as a member of several Hard Rock and Heavy Metal bands including Rainbow, the Michael Schenker Group, Alcatrazz, and Impellitteri. In the mid to late 60’s Bonnet was a member of several local bands that played in and around his home town of Skegness, including The Skyliners, The Blueset and the Graham Bonnet Set. He had his first hit single in 1968 as part of a duo with Trevor Gordon, The Marbles, with the song ‘Only One Woman’ which reached Number 5 in the UK Singles Chart. For most of the 1970’s Bonnet had a few shots at a solo career with the release of his debut solo album 'Graham Bonnet' in 1977 and its follow up 'No Bad Habits' in 1978. Bonnet’s major mainstream success came when he joined Rainbow in 1979 appearing on their excellent ‘Down to Earth’ album, and scoring two hit singles with the Russ Ballard song ‘Since You Been Gone’ in 1979 (this song originally appeared on Russ Ballard's 1976 album 'Winning'), and ‘All Night Long’ in 1980. Rainbow went on to headline the inaugural Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park, Castle Donington, in August 1980. This would be Bonnet's last ever appearance with Rainbow.
After leaving Rainbow Bonnet released another solo album 'Line-Up' in 1981, then he joined the Michael Schenker Group in 1982 and appeared on their ‘Assault Attack’ album before being fired from the group after a single concert, at Sheffield Polytechnic, when he drunkenly exposed himself on stage! In 1983, he co-founded Alcatrazz, with Gary Shea (bass), and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Jan Uvena (drums), and Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. The band released three studio albums, ‘No Parole from Rock N' Roll’ in 1983, ‘Disturbing the Peace’ in 1985, with guitarist Steve Vai replacing Malmsteen, and ‘Dangerous Games’ in 1986, with Danny Johnson on guitar. After the demise of Alcatrazz in 1987, Bonnet joined Chris Impellitteri's band and released the 1988 album 'Stand In Line'. Throughout the 1990’s and into the 2000’s Bonnet worked with many other bands including Forcefield, Blackthorne, The Taz Taylor Band and Elektric Zoo, as well as recording another three solo albums 'Here Comes The Night' in 1991, 'Underground' in 1997 and 'The Day I Went Mad' in 1999.
In 2015, Bonnet formed The Graham Bonnet Band, and toured the UK and Europe, playing songs from throughout his career including Alcatrazz and Rainbow. The band released a two-song E.P. titled ‘My Kingdom Come’, (the song ‘My Kingdom Come’ was written by Russ Ballard). In November 2016, The Graham Bonnet Band released their debut album, 'The Book' on Frontiers Records, quickly followed by the live album ‘Live…Here Come The Night’ also on Frontiers Records and recorded live at the Frontiers Rock Festival 2016.
In 2016, Bonnet joined Michael Schenker and fellow former MSG singers Gary Barden and Robin McAuley in 'Michael Schenker Fest', initially for a tour of Japan. The resulting CD/DVD ‘Live - Tokyo International Forum Hall A’ showed a band clearly having fun and enjoying playing together again. That momentum continued with further tours of Europe and Japan throughout 2017. In 2017, with the addition of singer Doogie White, Michael Schenker Fest recorded the album ‘Resurrection’ featuring vocal contributions from all four singers. With Bonnet’s current creativity firing on all cylinders and with his voice retaining its powerful resonance, The Graham Bonnet Band have recorded another album entitled ‘Meanwhile, Back In The Garage’, which was released in July 2018 on Frontiers Records.
The Graham Bonnet Band are back on an extensive fourteen date UK tour this summer promoting their new album ‘Meanwhile, Back In The Garage’, including this gig at The Underworld in Camden, North. This is the third time I have seen the Graham Bonnet Band live and each time they have had a different guitarist with them! Any guitarist in this band has massive shoes to fill as they must be able tackle the fret work of some of the greatest guitar players of all time, namely Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker and Yngwie Malmsteen. On this tour that job goes to Kurt James (Dr Mastermind, Steeler). He definitely has the confidence and ability, but I feel he needs a few more gigs under his belt with this band to tighten things up. It did appear to me that he meandered slightly off course occasionally! Their last guitarist Joey Tafolla was a much more fluid player and gelled well with the band. The current line-up also includes the beautiful and elegant Beth-Ami Heavenstone (Bootleg, Hardly Dangerous) on bass, Jimmy Waldo (Alcatrazz) on Keyboards and Mark Benquechea on drums.
I arrived at the venue just in time to catch the last three songs by the support band Doomsday Outlaw. A five piece Blues-tinged Rock band from Derbyshire, featuring Phil Poole (lead vocals), Stephen Broughton (guitar), Gavin Mills (guitar), Indy (bass and backing vocals) and John Ironfoot Willis (drums). They are a tight, well-honed band that deliver monumental chunky riffs and groove-laden tunes, with a nod towards Zeppelin, Trapeze and Black Stone Cherry. The band's performance was flawless, engaging and connecting with the audience at every opportunity. I believe the full set list included the songs 'Over And Over', 'Tale Of A Broken Man', 'Bring It On Home', 'Hard Times', 'All That I Have' and 'Bring Your Pain'. I am fairly certain these guys are destined for great things.
The Graham Bonnet Band kicked off their set with a great Alcatrazz song 'Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live' from their 1983 album 'No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll'. A few sound issues distracted Bonnet from time to time during the early part of the set, but all seemed to be back on track with the down and dirty Rainbow anthem 'All Night Long' from their 1979 album 'Down to Earth'. The brilliant 'Night Games', from Bonnet's 1981 album 'Line-Up', stormed through with almighty gusto! Bonnet is still in good voice and manages to reach all the high notes. A newer song, 'California Air' from the 2016 album 'The Book' is a cracker of a song! Nice groove with great hooks.
Another couple of Alcatrazz songs from the 'No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll' album were up next, the catchy melodic 'Island In The Sun' and the harder 'Jet To Jet', satisfied the senses. The slower 'Rock You To The Ground', a Michael Schenker Group track from the 1982 album ‘Assault Attack’, rolled along with ease, quickly followed by the anthemic Impellitteri title track from the 1988 album 'Stand In Line'. Yet another Acatrazz song form the 'No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll' album, 'Starcarr Lane' rocked! A rare airing of the Impellitteri song 'Goodnight and Goodbye', from the 1988 album 'Stand In Line', smashed it before the monumental Michael Schenker Group track 'Desert Song', from the 1982 album ‘Assault Attack’, thundered through with force! Powerful solid drumming from Benquechea and steadfast bass playing from Heavenstone, anchored the performance.
Another fine track from 'The Book' album, 'Into The Night', punched good weight! Then we got a Kurt James guitar solo where he was allowed to indulge in some clever fret noodling, including the Hendrix trick of playing the guitar behind one’s head and with one’s teeth, before 'Long Island Tea', the first and only song to be aired from the new album, ‘Meanwhile, Back In The Garage’. It is a good track, but the album has several better songs on it, some tasty keys from Waldo though. The epic and enthralling Michael Schenker Group track ‘Assault Attack’, from the 'Assault Attack' album, rattled on like a steam train! 'Mirror Lies', a track from the 2015 Graham Bonnet Band EP 'My Kingdom Come' was another rare live outing. Onto the final stretch and the one we were all waiting for, the Rainbow classic 'Since You Been Gone' from the 'Down to Earth' album, was thrilling and had everyone rocking and singing along! The set drew to close with another Rainbow epic, 'Lost In Hollywood', also from the 'Down to Earth' album. Save the best for last, that’s the way to do it! A very enjoyable gig was had by one and all!
Steven C. Gilbert