Francis Dunnery's It Bites
17/1/20 & 18/1/20
Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
& Manchester Club Academy
Frank has been out playing the ‘It Bites’ catalogue with a band of musicians behind him for the last 4 years on the 3rdweekend of January. Sticking to 3 cities that have always produced good support, namely, Wolverhampton, Manchester and London. Tickets would normally sell out a couple of weeks prior to the event, but not this time around! London went 6 months in advance, Manchester 5 months and Wolverhampton 3 months! An additional date in Glasgow sold-out the day before the event.
The difference? ‘Re-branding’. Past shows had gone out as Francis Dunnery and his band playing ‘It Bites’, but now it’s “Francis Dunnery’s It Bites” and the nation has tuned in! While I would usually be at the Shepherd’s Bush Hall, West London, at the final show on the Sunday night, by the end of August the 425 capacity venue has sold-out. No mention of adding another date so I went for the Wolverhampton show on the Friday night plus another hour train journey the following day to Manchester.
The theme for this year’s show is the second studio album ‘Once Around the World’, originally cut back in 1988, and arguably the best of the three from Frank’s period with the original line-up. All the songs are covered within the two hour plus set along with a couple of ‘B’ sides from singles, and the ever popular ‘Underneath Your Pillow’, ’Calling All the Heroes’ and the closing number ‘Still Too Young To Remember’.
There is a story or two to tell from the early days, pantomime animals and the multi-talented guest slot for Peter Jones, the band’s keyboard player. The band enter the stage with Melba Moore’s ‘This Is It’ disco number dropping in the background to launch straight into ‘Kiss Like Judas’, ’Black December’ and then onto ‘Yellow Christian’. Backing Frank on second/dual guitar is young Mancunian Luke Machin, Bjorn Fryklund on drums, Pete Harwood on bass and, as previously mentioned, Mr. Jones on keys.
Personnal fave ‘The Old Man and The Angel’, ’Rose Marie’ and the extended version of ‘Midnight’, which went to Rave/House beat, that could have easily been remixed for that genre and had the crowd ‘hands in the air’ - were the highlight tracks of the evening.
To the venues. Wolverhampton’s Slade Rooms is a dark aging building holding 550 people and Friday night is a heavily male dominated audience with a couple of annoying pillars. The Manchester Club Academy on the other hand is in the Student’s Union building holding 650 punters, light in décor and nightclub style. As noted by Mr.Dunnery a greater proportion of females are present at Manchester and that Saturday feel to the atmosphere is evident. The enthusiasm was the same for both nights but the better venue, bigger stage and audience gives Manchester the edge. London needs a larger venue next year and a Saturday would make it alright!
An ‘It Bites’ convention is planned for the Summer in the West Midlands town of Oswestry and a new album is in the pipeline with the present band members.
Matt Pearce & The Mutiny
+ Savoy Brown
Tuesday 14th January 2020
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst
The New Year heralds some old time Blues down at the local venue tonight. Assuming storm whatevertheycallit doesn’t end civilisation as we know it first. But whilst the weather outside is frightful, the music inside is delightful, let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. Snuggled into the small cricket pavilion building are a hundred or so music stalwarts ready to brave whatever is thrown at them.
The small stage at one end of the building hosts the solo project of the London-based, Glasgow-born, guitarist Matt Pearce - an original member of the successful Hard Rock outfit Voodoo Six. Matt Pearce & The Mutiny are a 4 piece with Matt fronting in his black three piece suit, hat and battered Les Paul gold top. Playing through Orange amps the Blues hues have that rocky edge. Although the tracks on the new debut album draw from the full range of Matt Pearce’s influences and passions: Rock, Blues, Funk and Soul! “These songs have almost written themselves”, Matt confesses, “They are songs that have become very personal to me: As if my inner voice has suddenly become much stronger. It wasn’t as if I stumbled upon these songs by accident: on the contrary, they tracked me down. I can’t stress how uncanny the experience has been.” Still a member of the Voodoo Six, this is Matt’s chance to break away and find his Bluesier, groovier side.
The short set sees Matt play some serious Gary Moore like Blues on his trusty Gibson with keys bass and drums providing the rhythm and melody. And his Scottish lilt is evident in his strong vocals. Interlaced with judicious wah, the screaming Blues guitar is excellent. For 'Ordinary Blues' he swaps the Gold Top for an Ibanez hollowbody which gives a twangier lilt to his Cry Baby’s sobbing. Title track of the new album 'Gotta Get Home' is a slide and fingerpicking sensation that has Southern states Blues written all over it whilst new track 'Got A Thing Going On' allows Matt to show his rockier side back on the Gibson again. Closing track 'Set Me Free', played regularly on Planet Rock radio, morphs into Peter Green’s 'Oh Well', although with considerably more Funk. A tasty end to a delightful first course. Gotta Get Home? Not quite yet, we have main course to come.
In the event that the world was to witness a holocaust tonight, one surefire survivor will be tonight’s headline act Savoy Brown. Frontman Kim Simmonds formed the band in 1965 and is still rocking 55 years on. Now that’s what you call a survivor. And in that time over 60 different musicians have joined him on his journey. Although tonight he is accompanied by just two others - Pat DeSalvo on bass and Garnet Grimm on drums, both of whom have been with the band for over 10 years. But mere striplings compared to Kim.
Kim leads the band with his trusty Gibson 335 and Fender DeVille amp. Over his playing career he has played Teles Les Pauls, SG’s and Flying V’s but the hollowbody suits tonight’s Bluesier show. Held vertically in the wrinkled septuagenarians firm grasp, white locks flowing, the growl of the humbuckers match the growl of Kim’s voice. The pleasing growl of a seasoned vocalist. Opening track 'Guitar Slinger', from his 2017 album 'Witchy Feelin’ is a template for things to come - up tempo Blues guitar slinging. Whilst not flash, Kim certainly knows his licks and can still make the fretboard smoke when he wants to.
After regaling us with memories of local haunts that he used to play - memories of 1968 Chislehurst caves and the now sadly defunct Black Prince pub – he launches into an oldie – 'Train To Nowhere' allowing that 335 to really twang whilst 'Why Did You Hoo Doo Me' is an altogether dirtier Blues track taken again from the 'Witchy Feelin’ album. As is 'Livin’ On the Bayou', a slow Creole minimalist Blues track about the Louisiana swamp lands. It has a catchy slow riff which morphs into slow heavy Blues and an almost Jazz like solo. After a cover of Howling Wolf’s 'I Ain't Superstitious', we get some material from the new album 'City Night'. It’ not so much a gig as a history lesson. 'Walkin’ On Hot Stones' is an almost sleazy Rock track with a beat reminiscent of Bowie’s 'Jean Jeanie'. And some great slide too.
'I’m Tired' is a lighter hearted Kinks style track, written back in 1968 by Chris Youldon. It’s a twangy Rock guitar groover. Very '68. Psychedelic. No wonder - it has similarities to Shocking Blue’s 'Venus'. Kim now leaves the stage to allow some drum and bass (literally, not the genre) with Pat and Grimm both getting a chance to display their considerable solo skills. But Kim soon returns to launch into the slow intro to 'Slow Blues' - just Kim – incorporating all the various tones and sounds he can pull from the Gibsons pickups. As the song blossoms Kim picks up the harmonica for some delicate Blues which has the whole audience hushed. Delightful stuff. “Let’s do a boogie!” cries Kim before launching into the boogielicious 'Cobra'. We are back to toe tapping goodness and there’s even a further drum solo from Grimm. Which segways nicely into closing track 'Hellbound Train' with it’s simple metronomic beat that had me away on the footplate of a train going nowhere. The slow Blues built to a fine crescendo with the wha pedal mimicking the howling whistle. Rocking stuff.
After a brief sojourn the trio are back for a short but mighty encore with the eponymous Sayoy Brown 'Boogie' with a large dollop of 'Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On' thrown in for good measure. Rockin' Blues is alive and kicking and only 50 odd years in the making. And they said it would never last.
As we head back out into the night, I am relieved to see the world is still there despite the weather’s best efforts. But then it could have ended as I was far too absorbed in the music to have noticed otherwise. It was a fine night of classic Blues and Blues Rock. This is what the Rock music of today grew from, the ration book generation of Rock and Roll that rode that 'Hellbound Train'. Is it end of the world stuff? Well ‘Armageddin it’…
Savoy Brown setlist:
Train To Nowhere
Why Did You Hoo Doo Me
Livin’ On The Bayou
I Ain’t Superstitious
Walkin’ On Hot Stones
Savoy Brown Boogie/Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On
Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
25th/26th January 2020
Nells Jazz & Blues, London
Arthur Brown is the God of Hellfire! Or so he claims at the beginning of his 1968 hit song 'Fire'! At the ripe old age of 77, he is still out there doing it! Born in Whitby on the 24thJune 1942, then moving to Leeds in time to attend school. Upon graduating from school he went onto study Law at the University of London, before dropping out and then moving to Reading University to study Philosophy. It was in Reading that Arthur formed his first band called ‘Blues and Brown’. They didn’t last very long, but Arthur was determined to continue to develop his musical experiences and so gravitated towards the bright lights of London town. Around 1965 Arthur was off to Paris, France, with the ‘The Arthur Brown Set’, featuring Fats Dean on bass, Martin Steer on guitar, Robin Short on keyboards and Christien De Vaux on drums. They were a typical R&B band of the day, playing mainly covers. What made them stand out from other acts were Arthur’s experimental flamboyant theatrical performances and his developing powerful, wide-ranging operatic voice. With his desire to grow as a performer and diversify from standard R&B, Arthur was back in London by 1966 and eagerly searching out bands to join. He was a temporary member of a London-based R&B/Soul/Ska group the Ramong Sound that would soon become the hit-making Soul group The Foundations. Not being creatively satisfied he moved on quickly to pastures new.
Brown ended up living at Mary Crampton’s Bohemian boarding house in West Kensington where he met a like-minded soul in the form of keyboard wizard Vincent Crane. Together they formed ‘The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’, being joined by drummer Drachen Theaker soon after. This is the point in time where all Arthur’s ambitions and visions would soon be realised. By the middle of 1967 they were gaining a formidable reputation as an exciting live act, being booked regularly by Joe Boyd to play the infamous UFO Club on Tottenham Court Road, London. With Arthur’s desire to present his work both visually interesting, as well as musically diverse, made him stand out as the unique and innovative performer he is. He would wear outlandish costumes, face paint and perform wild and crazy dances. His most famous trick to perform live was his flaming helmet routine that he would adorn when performing his hit song ‘Fire’. Very dramatic, quite shocking at the time and extremely dangerous! It was basically a metal colander strapped to the top of his head, containing rags soaked in methylated spirit and set alight! According to reports from the time, this stunt would go wrong regularly and Arthur would get badly burned! Arthur’s use of stage make-up and face paint was a major influence on bands such as Kiss and Alice Cooper, who would go onto great success. Arthur’s other unique and influential attribute is his wide vocal range, powerful operatic voice and his high-pitched screams. Several hugely successful Heavy Rock vocalists have sited Arthur as a primary influence including Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and Ian Gillan from Deep Purple.
The Crazy World's first single 'Devils Grip' was released in 1967 and set the tone and mood for their short but dramatic musical journey. Their eponymously titled debut album ‘The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’ was released in June 1968 and managed to reach number two in the UK charts. It is definitely an adventurous Psychedelic masterpiece! The album was originally going to be called 'Tales From the Neurotic Nights of Hieronymous Anonymous'! A bit of a mouthful! Brown, Crane and Theaker were joined by Nick Greenwood on bass and John Marshall on drums for two songs. Produced by the Who's manager Kit Lambert, and executive-produced by Pete Townshend on Track Records. Lambert along with Chris Stamp would go onto manage the band. The single ‘Fire’ reached number one in the UK charts in August 1968. Originally adapted from a song called ‘Baby You’re a Long Way Behind’ by Mike Finesilver and Peter Ker, Brown and Crane used the melody and added new words and arrangement. Due to the similarity of both songs, Finesilver and Ker were added to the writing credits for ‘Fire’. The song stands up today and is still regarded as a wild and weird Psychedelic Rock masterpiece. Arthur describes the song as ‘Psychedelic Soul music’, as he considers himself a Soul singer in a Psychedelic band.
Due to Theaker's erratic time keeping and bitter attitude towards the band, he was fired in late 1968, to be replaced by drummer Carl Palmer, later of Atomic Rooster and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The root of Theaker's unhappiness stemmed from the fact that his drumming was not used on the first single 'Devil's Grip', the producer was not happy with Theaker's time keeping! Jon Hiseman was eventually drafted in for the job. Also, his drumming was deemed unusable on two tracks for the album, John Marshall being drafted in for 'I Put a Spell On You' and 'Child of My Kingdom'. Both Crane and Palmer left in June 1969 to form Atomic Rooster. In late 1969 Arthur assembled a new bunch of musicians and recorded the ‘Strangelands’ album. Deemed too weird and un-commercial by the record company, it was initially shelved, eventually seeing the light of day in 1988.
Brown being a forward thinking spiritual seeker, picked himself up and moved on in search of a new band to create new and interesting sounds with. In 1970 he formed ‘Kingdom Come’ with guitarist Andy Dalby. Their first album ‘Galactic Zoo Dossier’, released in 1971 featured Julian Paul Brown (synthesizer), Michael "Goodge" Harris (keyboards), Desmond Fisher (bass) and Martin "Slim" Steer (drums). Unfortunately the band didn’t remain stable for very long, by 1972 Julian Paul Brown and Desmond Fisher quit. Phil Curtis joined on bass in time for the release of the second album ‘Kingdom Come’. Martin Steer quit in late 1972, just before the release of the third and last album ‘Journey’. He was replaced by a drum machine! Apparently the first drum machine to be used on a Rock album. Michael Harris quit in 1973 to be replaced by keyboard and synthesizer player Victor Peraino. Kingdom Come live shows were a multi-media experience with innovative use of special effects, dramatic costumes and colourful theatrics. The band appeared at the 1971 Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England, and featured in the Glastonbury Fayre film. Sadly the band had run its course by the end of 1973.
Brown released several solo albums over the latter half of the 70’s, including 'Dance' in 1975, 'Chisholm in My Bosom' in 1977 and 'Faster Than the Speed of Light' (with Vincent Crane) in 1980. Brown also made several guest appearances, including on Robert Calvert's 1974 album 'Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters'. In 1975, he appeared in the Who's Rock opera movie ‘Tommy’ as "The Priest". Later that year he contributed vocals to the song 'The Tell-Tale Heart' on the Poe-based concept album 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination' by the Alan Parsons Project. In 1979 and 1980, he collaborated with German electronic musician Klaus Schulze.
For most of the 80’s Brown lived in Austin, Texas, where his wife came from, and obtained a master's degree in counselling. While there he also started a painting and decorating business with the Mothers Of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black, with whom he also released an album in 1988 called 'Brown, Black & Blue'. Returning to England in 1996 he began to resurrect his musical career in the UK, making several guest appearances on other artistes albums including Bruce Dickinson's 'The Chemical Wedding' album, Kula Shaker's 'Mystical Machine Gun' single and The Pretty Things 1998 Abbey Road live performance of their 'S.F. Sorrow' album. He would go onto reprise his role of Narrator with the Pretty Things live at the Royal Festival Hall, London in 2001. Around 1997 Brown formed an acoustic band with Stan Adler (cello and bass) and Malcolm Mortimore (percussion) and produced the album 'Tantric Lover' in 2000. By 2003 Adler and Mortimore were out and in was Rick Patten (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Nick Pynn. Patten didn't stay long and was soon replaced by guitarist Chris Bryant, they went on to record the 2003 album 'Vampire Suite' and the 2007 album 'The Voice of Love'. In 2001 and 2002, Brown made several guest appearances with Hawkwind, subsequently touring with them as a guest vocalist. He also provided vocals on two of the tracks on Hawkwind's 2005 album 'Take Me to Your Leader'.
On the 12thMarch 2005 Brown reunited with the surviving members of Kingdom Come for a one-off concert at The Astoria in London. Brown played three sets that night, an acoustic set with Chris Bryant and Nick Pynn, a Kingdom Come reunion set and an electric 'Crazy World' set with the band Instant Flight, who would later go on to tour with Brown. The flaming helmet trick rarely gets an outing at gigs these days due to Health & Safety regulations and venue logistics, but at the Astoria it was worn by Arthur during 'Fire'! Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden was the DJ for the evening, playing some of his favourite records between sets. This show won Brown the 'Showman of the Year' award from Classic Rock magazine. The concert was filmed, but sadly remains unreleased.
With a new steady line-up of the 'Crazy World', made up of members of the band Instant Flight, Brown toured the UK extensively, playing to packed-out venues including well received sets at the Glastonbury Festival in 2010 and the second High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park, London in 2011. This gig was recorded and released (on vinyl only) as 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown Live at High Voltage'. In 2012, Brown and Rick Patten released 'The Magic Hat' alongside a comic of the same title by Matt Howarth. In 2013, as the result of a successful pledge campaign on PledgeMusic, Brown released the album 'Zim Zam Zim'. In June 2019 Brown joined Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy as guest vocalist on "The Royal Affair Tour". In between all this activity Brown managed to record a brand new Crazy World of Arthur Brown album entitled 'Gypsy Voodoo', co-written and produced by Mike Morgan.
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown recently played two nights at Nells Jazz & Blues club in West Kensington, London. The first night sold out several months in advance and so a second night was added due to phenomenal demand. The second night was billed as the launch party for the new 'Gypsy Voodoo' album. Interestingly it was just a few streets away, at 14 Perham Road, where Arthur formed the Crazy World with Vincent Crane back in 1967. The support on the first night was from the sensational Rebecca Downes Band. A Midlands based Blues Rock band featuring Rebecca Downes on guitar and vocals, Steve Birkett on guitar, Vincent John Yarrington on bass, Nigel Darvil on keyboards and Neil Ablard of drums. Their blistering set included a selection of songs from their new album 'More Sinner Than Saint' including 'Take Me Higher', 'Wave Them Goodbye', 'Hurts', 'More Sinner Than Saint' and 'Big Sky', and a couple from their 2016 album 'Believe', including the title track and 'Sailing On A Pool Of Tears'. They also played a storming version of Zeppelin's 'Rock 'n' Roll'! Rebecca is a powerhouse vocalist with an impressive range and control. The band were smokin' hot, super tight and grooved with style and grace!
Brown stated that this would be an all-new presentation of his 'Crazy World', including new theatrical visuals, elaborate costumes and a new line-up of musicians. The band now features Sam Walker on drums, Jim Mortimore on bass/keyboards, Dan Smith on guitar/keyboards, and dancer Angel Fallon aka Angel Flame. Arthur was on top form, fully energized and totally owning the stage with his mesmerising performance. A truly spectacular show full of weird and wonderful moments! A tantalizing audio/visual trip with seductive lighting effects, enchanting stage projections, elaborate costumes, wild face-paint, strange headgear and scary masks! What a crazy world indeed! Angel Fallon provided some stellar choreography to accompany Arthur during several songs in the set. She has the ability to be able tell a story with her graceful and expressive dance moves. An exceptionally talented choreographer! Brown's singing voice has still got an impressive range, from a low howling snarling rumble to a full on screeching falsetto which he delivers with immense power and gusto! His extraordinary woad face paint was bewitching and demonic, with his variety of elaborate stage costumes and wild headgear being quite strikingly strange, completely eccentric, altogether avant-garde, totally over the top and utterly outlandish, but also quite beautiful and captivating!
The band sounded well rehearsed and executed the songs with unbridled passion and vigour! The set kicked off in style with some far-out Psychedelic exploration in the form of 'Bubbles' and 'Phoenix Rising', before the entire side one of the 1968 ‘The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’ album was played, including the songs 'Nightmare', 'Fire Poem', 'Fire', 'Come and Buy', 'Time' and 'Confusion'. Arthur was clearly enjoying himself, leaping, whirling and thrashing all over the stage whilst belting out the lyrics with the zeal and zest of a man half his age! Tall in stature and slim of build and quite obviously fit as a fiddle! The enticing 'Sunrise' from the 1971 Kingdom Come album ‘Galactic Zoo Dossier’ greeted us next. A cosmic and haunting performance with intense magisterial vocals from the Brown!
Proceedings slowed down a notch with the delectable and beautiful ballad 'The Voice Of Love', the title track from the 2007 album. 'Touched By All' from the 2013 album 'Zim Zam Zim', seduced us with its charm before 'Time Captives' was unleashed to transport us in outer space! Originally on the 1973 Kingdom Come 'Journey' album, this song is a trance inducing, hypnotizing slice of Space Rock that sent shock waves through our brains and throbbing in our ears! The performance was executed and delivered with skilful aplomb and electric precision. An uplifting and out of this world mind-blowing performance! The mood then took a slight twist and turn, with 'The Unknown' from the 'Zim Zam Zim' album, a sort of Bossa-Nova type song with some stunning and elegant dancing from Angel Fallon. Onto the final furlong with 'Devil's Grip', the first 'Crazy World' single released in 1967. An effervescent and sparkling performance! The last song of the set was 'Gypsy Voodoo', the title track from the new album. A brilliant slice of Heavy Rock with a ripping guitar riff and rousing chorus.
The second night saw Brown and band do two sets, the first set being the main theatrical performance we witnessed on the first night, and the second set being a more loose Blues/Soul jam session with special guests Phil May and Dick Taylor from the Pretty Things! May and Taylor opened the second set with a couple of acoustic Blues songs, 'I Can't Be Satisfied' and 'Come On In My Kitchen', before Brown and band came on and played several songs that were not played on the first night, including 'I Put A Spell On You', 'That's How Strong My Love Is', 'Eyesight To The Blind', 'Didn't It Rain’, 'Sinner Man', 'Muscle Of Love', 'Hoochie Coochie Man' and also a few other songs that they did play on the first night such as 'Devil's Grip' and 'Gypsy Voodoo'. Both May and Taylor joined them together and separately throughout the set. May was in good spirits and seemed to be really enjoying himself. Taylor weaved his Psychedelic guitar magic, playing some superb and blinding solos. The 'Crazy World' band were also having a blast, digging down and jamming hard. A triumphant conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable two-night stint with The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown!
Steven C. Gilbert
Never The Bride
Saturday 8th February 2020
The Green Note, Camden, London
This was the third time I’ve seen Never The Bride live, having only discovered them over the last few years, and their stomping performance at the 2018 Ealing Blues Festival was a highlight, arguably stealing the best show of that weekend.
So, heading up on the Northern Line to Camden Town, I slip into the Rock famous pit stop of the ‘World’s End’ to grab a quick beer and large doses of Iron Maiden. This may not be the ideal for an intimate show that the Green Note venue provides, but it is traditional! A three-minute walk West to enter the Green Note, just past the Dublin Castle on the right, takes you into a cosy cellar brickwork room, and as it’s a sell-out tonight, you have to arrive early for seating.
The stage is probably best suited for two is party - four is a crowd, where Nikki and Catherine opt for the latter to provide an electric show. Drummer Fergus Gerrand is squeezed into the left-hand and guitarist Maxime Obadia seated right. Fergus has quite a CV touring with the likes of Duran Duran, Bryan Adams, Robert Plant to name a few, along with recording with Madonna, Sting and Peter Gabriel. Frenchman Maxime played in the James Morrison band, but is also a pianist and record producer in his own right.
The show is split into two sets the first based on their early releases ‘Betty’, ’2 into 1’ and the Bond themed ‘Living Tree’ covered by the one and only Shirley Bassey! Nikki often gets the Janis Joplin comparisons, helped along more so by covering ‘Mercedes Benz’ and ‘Piece Of My Heart’ with a dramatic heart touching rendition of ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. The only song off their current album, ‘For Better For Worse’, is ‘Web Of A Stranger’ airing mid-set.
Part two opens with Catherine taking over the vocals and slipping on her 12-string guitar for ‘Mind How You Go’, which leads to a more up to date second half. Track of the night for me is the excellently titled ‘Don’t Trudge Mud In The House Of Love’ with it’s dirty Blues/Rock groove followed by ‘Young & Old’, ’The Girls Are Back In Town’ (No, not a Thin Lizzy spin), ’Loser’, Led Zep’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ’Tiger Bay’ and ‘Life On Mars?’ for the encore. Entertainment accomplished and the crowd left thoroughly appreciative with what they’d experienced and a shot of Nikki’s tequila.
Personal favourite ‘Everywhere’ which I’d assumed was a standard set lister was not present, but songs can be requested to the band in advance via their Facebook site or their website and also go to
Thursday 30th January 2020
The Black Heart, Camden, London
Have you heard the one about the Scottish, Welsh and English band playing on the same bill... well that was the line-up this evening at the Black Heart. Glaswegians, Anchor Lane took this opportunity to launch their much-lauded new album 'Casino', a name chosen because they gave up their jobs to risk going "All in" and recording this debut.
Opening with an ominous, broody track similar in feel to a Black Rebel Motorcycle club tune, 'Dead Run' is about addiction, and set in motion an extremely fast-paced shorter set, a bit like listening to the opening four tracks of the Foo Fighters 'One by One' album. This is a band that just doesn't do slow-tempo.
Their guitar sound reminded me of Rage against the Machine married to the vocal influence of Soundgarden. Even the failed attempts of lead guitarist Lawerence O'Brien to play with his teeth (not realising he has unplugged his guitar in the process) with no sound coming out failed to quell the enthusiasm!
They concluded with 'Fame Shame' a song about the present vapid obsession with Reality TV and social media, touching on the same themes as 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' but will need to watch themselves because performances like these may see them having a brush with the fame.
Ivan De Mello
Saturday 8th February 2020
Hammersmith Apollo, London
This was one of those gigs that was eagerly anticipated and, boy, Beth Hart and her super tight band did not disappoint. There are very few performers that wear their heart on their sleeve quite as openly as this captivating singer, which created on this evening an atmosphere of intimacy that is rare, especially in a big old theatre like the Apollo. After Kris Barras had put in a solid performance, opening up again for the singer, as he had done on her last tour, playing as an acoustic duo with his keyboard player Josiah Manning switching to guitar, the lights dimmed and while the band strolled out on stage the star of the show made her way through the audience from the back of the stalls, singing ‘There in Your Heart’ unaccompanied, with breaks to hug audience members and generally create an inclusive vibe.
Dressed in a full-length white dress the lady then proceeded to deliver a fantastic set that while, naturally showcasing numbers from her superb recent album ‘War In my Mind’, included a selection from across her impressive back catalogue. As well as being an excellent singer, with a powerful voice that, while often given full range, never descended into the sort of screeching wail that is used by lesser vocalists as a proxy for genuine emotion. Her songs all have a story to tell, many of them introduced with a short explanation of their genesis. The lyrical content was also coupled with gorgeous melodies that were sung alternately from centre stage or from stage right, sat at the piano, which she played with a real freedom of expression.
For a four-piece band, often a three-piece when Beth moved away from the piano, the ensemble created a huge sound. Jon Nichols, changing guitar virtually every song, and favouring the low-slung guitar look, was especially impressive, providing a range of restrained accompaniment as well as unleashing strong, controlled solos when required, never overpowering the overall sound. Tom Lilly on bass and Bill Ransom on drums were rock solid and tighter than a pair of skinny jeans on chubby legs; the tightness of the band was displayed when the singer launched into the introduction to the title track of the current album, realised it was too fast, stopped and went straight into a slower pace in the space of two beats, with the rest of the band locked in without the slightest pause; seamless.
There were no slack moments and too many highlights to list them all but ‘Sister Dear’, also from the latest release was especially lovely. The haunting piano intro’ to ‘Baddest Blues’ from ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ and it’s build up to a tempestuous chorus was also memorable. Prior to a solo encore of one her signature cover versions (Tom Wait’s ‘Chocolate Jesus’ had featured earlier in the set), Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Go Blind‘, the band had gathered together on chairs at the front of the stage to play some slightly different arrangements of four songs, including the excellent ‘Spanish Lullabies; and ‘Baby Shot Me Down’, which were all performed with aplomb. This was a great night of really entertaining and enjoyable music.