O2 Academy Brixton, London
Sunday 3rd November 2019
From Long Beach, California, USA, this is now the Rival Sons tenth year, and they are busy constantly crossing the Atlantic, touring their home country or over here in Europe. Those that are maybe unfamiliar with this act should imagine taking Led Zeppelin and Free in a collaboration, then producing for these times, where you can find the big riffs blended within a soulful (even Gospel at times) underbelly. To introduce anyone to this act, play ‘Open My Eyes’ as a taster, which indeed was duly dropped into the latter half of tonight’s show.
They arrived in Liverpool the previous night to warm up for a short UK Tour before crossing the channel for more dates on the back of this year’s ‘Feral Roots’ Album. The opener ‘End of Forever’ kicks off proceedings much to the pleasure of this enthusiastic and dare I say it “youthful” crowd (who said “Rock was dead?”). All six albums are featured in their eighteen song set from 2009’s ‘Before the Fire’, 2011’s ‘Pressure & Time’, 2012’s ‘Head Down’, 2014’s ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ and 2016’s ‘Hollow Bones’.
There is not a lot of chat from lead frontman Jay Buchanan, but without doubt he’s becoming one of the big vocalists of our time, along with guitarist Scott Holiday’s big sound who found Jay via Myspace back in 2006, who had played in a band with Bonham style drummer Michael Miley, and then hooked up with original bassist Robin Everhart to form the band. Dave Beste replaced Everhart in 2013 and keyboardist Todd Ogren joined the act in 2014.
An evenly balanced collection of songs, which included the ‘Feral Roots’ number ‘Shooting Stars’, a definitive moment in the evening. Drum solos are too many a time an excuse to exit for the bar, but on this occasion it was kept short and sweet, and was consequently well received. The bigger venues are beckoning for this band!
Hard Rock Hell 13 Day 1
Thursday 7th November 2019
13 years on and Hard Rock Hell is underway again at a new venue but with a familiar routine. So is it unlucky 13 or a bakers dozen of delight? Well tonight's opening night has been a huge disappointment as the usually slick HRH organisation have dropped the ball in a number of ways. HRH are veterans of organising large music festivals at premier holiday camps. The basics needed are large stages with good sound, plenty of bars well stocked and staffed, decent accommodation and sufficient eateries and ancillaries like WiFi etc. And probably in that order of priority. All were present in last year's North Wales venue although getting there was always an ordeal.
Getting to Great Yarmouth is infinitely easier to get to and the facilities and accommodation is as good as ever. The bars are plentiful, well stocked and amply staffed. Sadly, the stages and sound have hugely failed. The format is for two stages with stage 1 being the home for the headline acts and stage 2 for the up and coming acts. As per usual everything is on stage 1 for the opening night and immediately the problems are evident. The stage 1 is too small, badly organised and with poor sound. The stage is set at floor level due to the very low ceiling and a seated only VIP section has been put centre stage in front of all. The results are chaos. And due to the restrictions of the venue, it's difficult to see how this can be improved. With more punters and bigger acts on day 2, it will be interesting to see what happens.
So to the bands. After the brief but excellent opening ceremony performed by the absorbing Area 51 troupe, openers Liberty Lies are a last minute replacement. The Black Country band are in the style of Biffy Clyro and QOTSA with a slightly Prog tinge to a Classic Rock sound. Like all the bands, they struggled to work the room with it's peculiar set up but were full of enthusiasm and joy which transmitted to the already full auditorium. Showcasing tracks from their forthcoming album 'It's The Hope That Kills You', the 5 piece were a great way to start the day.
Next up are Killcode, the New York based 5 piece, who describe their sound as Southern infused Rock/Metal. Frontman and founding member Tom Morrissey shows more of a Rap Metal vibe, with his smart short hair and shades, than a Southern Rock Metal band. But it's a cool vibe. Their song 'Cool Kids' sums up their performance. Lots of audience interaction - "I say Kill, you say code" - and plenty of grooving from the corralled crowd. They close with a cover of Twisted Sisters 'You Can't Stop Rock And Roll', a nice touch as Dee Snider was due to headline the stage tonight but unfortunately had to cancel due to ill health.
Next up are Tequila Mockingbyrd, a much changed line up consisting of members of TM and The Amorrettes. This time the female quartet included a male bassist, but Jacinta Jaye and Josie O'Toole have been consistent members of both bands. The brand of drink themed Rock music remains although they are talking about reinventing themselves. A shame if they lose their excellent Rock and Roll vibe. Their new single sounds something like an Irish sea shanty. But the short set was still full of the feel-good Rock tracks like 'Somebody Put Something In My Drink' and closing favorite 'I Smell Rock And Roll'. Great stuff.
Act of the night were Cloven Hoof. The veteran NWOBHM 5 piece hailing from the Midlands sound exactly like what they are. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are both bands that spring to mind. Marshall amps and Gibson LTD guitars, strong wailing vocals, black leather and pentagrams. It's classic yet still fresh. Frontman George Call struts a la Dickinson/Halford in front of hugely powerful sound. It's just a shame that the arena didn't showcase either the sound or the show in it's best light. But a great set well received. Electric Mary are an Australian 5 piece with influences from Deep Purple to John Lennon. Their short set was as eclectic and entertaining.
Headline act are Reef, last minute stand ins after the late cancellation by Dee Snider. The bearded rockers were complemented with Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, notably clean shaven. The funky rockers had a more Stoner Rock feel to their set. Now into their 26th year, the funky band famous for their 1997 hit 'Place Your Hands', have evolved into a more rounded rocking act with frontman Gary Stringer and bassist Jack Bessant being the consistent factor throughout. 2018 saw them release their first new album since 2000 but the various projects in between have paid dividends. Regular festival appearances have honed their live skills since which are evident tonight. The set gets a warm reception from the appreciated audience with tracks including 'Precious Metal', 'Revalation', 'Place Your Hands' and 'Summer's In Bloom' before closing 'Yet Old'. A final encore of a cover of The Faces 'Stay With Me' closes an excellent set.
So day 1 ends with a musical flourish but a raft of vitriol on social media by some seriously upset regular punters. It's a shame because the unusually poor organisation has completely overshadowed the great acts. Let's see if the HRH team listen and act. Hopefully day 2 will see some changes.
Hard Rock Hell 13 Day 2
Friday 8th November 2019
So have the HRH generals taken note and made some changes to the stage 1 set up? The slightly delayed access to the venue suggests so, so we anticipate a new dawn as we queue in the damp morning. Sadly the HRH generals have maintained their tactical doctrine and thrown us into the same trench warfare as yesterday i.e. nothing has changed. Somewhat apt on Rememberence weekend. Still, let's crack on shall we.
Today's format is the traditional two stages affair with the headline acts on stage 1 and the newer acts on stage 2. As there is little difference in size between the two, it makes the switch between the two less obvious. Although the layout of the arenas makes transition between the two difficult. Consequently I saw very little of stage 2. So somewhat anchored in stage 1 for the day I anticipated another rerun of day 1. Openers Twister were winners of the Highway to Hell competition, set up by HRH to promote Rock and Metal bands who write their own material. Having won a 5 year worldwide record contract for 2 albums, the 4 piece from Durham get to open the main stage. Kudos to HRH - they're not all bad.
The darkened stage erupts to the sound of three drums battering away as two kettle drums accompany the full drum kit. All very tribal. The band kicks in proper to some excellent Rock licks. Frontman Stevie Stoker sports a two tone look with his white hair, Les Paul and white Marshall amps contrasting nicely with the regular black Rock ensembles. The band are Rock but make use of guitar effects, especially delay and reverb, giving them and edgy U2 vibe (sorry, terrible pun). The crowd are already quite large and yesterday's issues are still blatantly evident but Twister rise above it all and produce an excellent enthusiastic opening set. The sound in stage 1 is still remarkably variable depending on where you stand and the VIP seating at the front still causes logistical and atmospheric issues but already today feels better. Maybe it's excellent ales.
Next up is Beth Blade & The Beautiful Disaster, a Cardiff based 4 piece fronted by the eponymous power house. She has that powerful female lead vocalist thing that are making bands like Halestorm such a popular force in current Rock music. Behind Beth's strong vocals are some squealing guitar licks with some heavy fuzz added. Unless that is down to the vagaries of the stage 1 sound. With Beth also on guitar we get some excellent guitar harmonies and stand out track 'Jack and Coke' gives us a punchy Rock groove. A great sounding band that again notches up the level a little further.
When it comes to ratcheting, things go up a whole other level with the entrance of Those Damn Crows. And not only that, but they change the whole festival. The now packed arena - many of whom have come just to see them - now becomes a cauldron of excitement. The VIP bastion of good behavior becomes a sea of ebullience that washed away the issues of day 1 and makes everyone friends again. The Welsh 5 piece have been making a big impact on the live music scene with their big Rocking sound. The Les Paul through Orange amp sound has graced, and wowed, Download, Ramblin' Man and Steelhouse festivals amongst others. It's heavy but Melodic Rock in the vein of Foo Fighters, Zep and Aerosmith, all influences on the Bridgend boys. Frontman Shane Greenhall is hugely charismatic with his Welsh patois a joy between some strong vocals performances. 'I Don't Give A Damn, Say What You Want' as a song sums up their excellent set that included excellent tracks like 'Set In Stone' and 'The Fighter'. But it was closer 'Rock n Roll Ain't Dead', with a dash of 'Pinball Wizard', that summed up an excellent performance. Possible band of the weekend for me, these fellas have been the turning point. They are touring next year and I definitely will be there.
Praying Mantis hail from the NWOBHM era but are a more Melodic Prog offering. Their more restrained performance saw a slightly smaller audience enjoy the twin harmony of Les Pauls through Marshall amps, accompanying the equally joyous vocal harmonies. The Troy brothers celebrate 45 years of Rocking and their tight sound reflect this as well as covering Skynyrd's 'Simple Man', their own tracks including 'Highway', 'Letting Go' and closer 'Children Of The Earth' are well received.
I manage to navigate my way briefly to stage 2 to enjoy some of the newer acts. The stage is similar in size to stage 1, but without the infamous VIP gladiatorial pit, with an excellent atmosphere although the sound was a little fuzzy. The energetic Black Tree Vultures were performing a great set to a packed crowd. It's where I usually like to spend time, watching the up and coming talent, but today I have to make my way back to stage 1 pretty promptly if I want to watch the headline acts in a place where I can at least see or hear them. Or preferably both.
Wayward Sons are up next, and Toby Jepson's !atest vehicle. And a fast driving vehicle it is. And loud too. The volume notably cranks upwards as Sam Woods Les Paul screams into life, whilst the tall blonde fella grins like a Cheshire housewife. Sorry, Cheshire cat. After getting the sound levels sorted - it was heavy on keys - the smooth machine shifts up through the gears. Jepson is in his element, behind his Gibson hollowbody, bantering with the crowd, and singing vocals with all the assurance of a man at one with his music. When, after declaring his thirst under the hot lights, and a punter delivers him a cold beer, he jokes that it's a perk of being a Rock legend when his bandmates don't get any. But it's in all humility and all in fun. It epitomises the friendly feel good factor that permeates the now Rocking arena. With a set list that includes old and new - 'Ghost', 'Little White Lies', 'The Truth Ain't What It Used To Be' and 'Crush', with a touch of Blondie's 'Union City Blues' - it's another cracking set. The boys are touring with Steel Panther next year. That will be a gig not to miss.
Penultimate band on stage 1 are the fabulous Gun. All dressed in black, the Glaswegian rockers are another seasoned, professional, tight and frankly just brilliant five piece. The Gizzi brothers - Dante on vocals and Jools on guitar - are just damn cool. Dante's infectious smile is picked up by the now rammed audience and his banter, in that broad Clydeside accent, is so easy on the ear. Not something you often hear said about the Glaswegian drawl. The tempo and the temperature soar as hit after hit are poured out from their forthcoming greatest hits album. Hits like 'Don't Say It's Over', 'Welcome To The Real World' and 'Steal Your Fire' showcasing over 30 years of Rocking. Another regular of the festival scene, their superb set is only marred by some VIP based altercation that sees Dante visibility upset by the unnecessary fracas. As a Glaswegian, you don't need to see your home sport on your travels. He's a man of loving life and tonight we all loved it with him. Well, most of us anyway.
Now Buckcherry, and lead singer Josh Todd especially, are a band that could clearly do with a little more love in their life. Whereas Gun exude warmth and comfort in their Rock, Buckcherry are altogether more edgy. You aren't sure what you are going to get when the LA rockers hit the stage. The opening couple of tracks see a few technical glitches including Todd's in ear monitors. The band look edgy, the crowd feel uneasy as Todd has that look of one about to throw his toys out of his perambulator. But the man is used to dealing with crap - just read his lyrics - and with the Gremlins duly dealt with, things really kick into gear. The pent up crowd now joyously release their energy in a torrent of highly colourful lyrics about predominantly drink, drugs and sex. And as the audience comes alive so does Todd. His wavering voice is discarded alongside his headscarf and leather jacket to leave the heavily tattooed singer bearing his chest and his soul. The voice gets stronger as does the set with classics like 'Lit Up', 'Too Drunk To Fuck' and 'Sorry' rubbing shoulders with newer material. The crowd love it. When it comes towards the end of the set, Josh asks what track the audience want to end with, some bright spark yells out 'Footloose', the Kenny Loggins dance track. Which the boys immediately launch into much to the delight of all who join in. Made a good job of it too, showing there is a lighter side to them. Of course what we really wanted was 'Crazy Bitch,' the non-PC sing-along we just love, which was served up with all the crowd interaction and a slice of 'Proud Mary' and 'Jungle Fever' on the side. Awesome. Add to that the band actually returned for an encore - not something they make a habit of - with their adult version of Icona Pops 'I Don't Care, I Love It'. Even more awesome. What a great end to a great night.
So day 2 ends on a high and the fears of day 1 appear to have receded. The venue still needs some work, the sound has improved but the VIP area has to go. Bet it won't though. But the HRH vibe is up and running. Roll on day 3.
Hard Rock Hell 13 Day 3
Saturday 9th November 2019
And so begins day 3, the final day of HRH 13. And let me say from the off that I am happy to eat my words, as contrary to my cynical predictions at the end of day 2, the HRH generals have listened, learned and acted. Kudos to them. At the preplanned meeting of the HRH inner sanctum, known as The Dark Circle (no magic tricks were harmed in the making of this presentation), members were given their regular chance to discuss and provide feedback. Sources tell me good things - the HRH generals listen and provide positive feedback, including some proposed additional improvements for next year over the fixes they want to make at this year's event. Knowing commander in chief Jonny, he will be good to his word.
Stage 2 opens first where we are pulverised by Pulverize. Don't say we weren't warned. The Leeds based Rap Metal band, front a male and female vocal line up who scream the Be Jesus out of us and each other. Brutal stuff that has me applauding with my hands over my ears. I wouldn't recommend you try that. Again, I would have liked to have stayed for more of stage 2 but the ability to switch between the stages is awkward so I opt for another day on stage 1. It's a shame as there are some excellent acts on stage 2. Special mention to my local outfit Stonewire who rocked the place. So to stage 1 and the changes made by the HRH team are subtle but a big improvement. The VIP area has been rejigged to provide standing at the front with the seating at the sides. Still no photo pit and I'm sure those forced to be seated weren't happy, so there is still work to do. But the atmosphere, and sound, has definitely benefited.
Openers on stage 2 are a Polish 5 piece called Chemia, who are somewhat Rock royalty in their home town of Warsaw. They have performed alongside some big names. Their name means Chemistry and is a nod to their experimental musical nature. As a result, their sound covers every aspect of Rock - Melodic, Prog, Punk and Classic. The sound is a fine mix of Les Paul and Telecaster which switches ably from Rock to Blues to Hardcore. Frontman Luke Drapala does a fine job of injecting excitement into the slightly jaded audience - did I mention the fine ales? With the new arena set up, the crowd soon come to life. It's hard not to find something you like in this varied set. Their short set ended with an anthemic 'Gotta Gotta Love Me' which is a classic live Rock song that we all joined in on.
Next up, and clearly back to the 80's Metal theme are Melbourne's Ablaze. This is not an AC/DC clone, rather a collection of every 80's Metal standard - long hair, cowboy boots, squealing guitars and whisky drinking. The latter were included if you were lucky enough to be at the front barrier as the bottle was handed around during the introduction of the band members. Both Ben Anderson and Matt Dynon sport Ibanez guitars, which even my non-guitar geek friend admired, and create some fine Van Halen sounding stuff. They are almost formulaic in their Australian hard drinking, no thinking, Rock till you drop approach to music. But that has negative connotations, which it really shouldn't - these boys are good. Not that they give a damn, they are just having a good time and are happy for you to join in. So we do. Tracks included 'No Chaser', from their 2018 first album of the same name, 'The Hard Way' and 'Pick Your Poison'. Alcohol fuelled fun all the way and the day is yet young.
And now the day takes a rather bizarre twist as the somewhat unusual Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction take to the stage. Although, to be honest, the frontman 'Zodiac Mindwarp' himself did appear to be somewhere else. His body had turned up but his mind appeared to have gone to another place, possibly assisted in some way .... What followed was a set of Psychedelic shenanigans that was really guitarist Cobalt Stargazer (I don't think that's his real name) playing some blistering licks whilst ZM's body came and went whilst muttering what I presume were lyrics.
No stranger to controversy, some of those more audible mutterings were somewhat questionable. So I left them doing a unique cover of Thin Lizzy's 'The Rocker' to fight my way to stage 2 to see the 3 piece Brighton riff rockers, The Rocket Dolls. These boys have been putting the hours in recently - I saw them at Ramblin' Man - and are due to release their third studio album shortly - thanks in no small way to their fans who crowdfunded it. We are treated to 'The Grip' and title track 'The Art Of Disconnect' as part of their set. Worth a listen, we may be seeing these guys playing bigger stages before long.
Diamond Head have seen many a large stage. Today, however, they are squeezed onto the main stage, which only just accommodates them. Another alumni of the NWOBHM academy, their honest and open Rock sound has been emulated and covered by many. Their set is another mix of old and new as classics like 'Lightning To The Nations' and 'It's Electric' rub shoulders with new tracks like 'Messenger' and 'The Belly Of The Beast' from their forthcoming album 'The Coffin Train'. But its closing classic 'Am I Evil', with its stirring intro and epic range that epitomises why Tatler and the boys are still making great music for over 40 years.
Penultimate act, and truly an icon, is German songstress and iron maiden, Doro. It is no stretch to call the blonde bombshell the queen of Heavy Metal. Dressed to seduce in classic black leather and studs, the most notable thing of Doro's look is not the glamour, the Rock outfit or the dark eye make up, it's the warm smile and total enthusiasm. We are watching an artist who really knows her game. The lyrics won't win any awards, its typical fist pumping stuff with repetition and chanting the name of the game. She exhorts the crowd to raise their fists, in her Teutonic lilt, which the gladly do. It would be like pantomime if it wasn't so Shakespearean. 'Night Of The Warlock' is a theatrical masterpiece. There are a number of Warlock tracks, Doro's 80's band including 'I Rule The Ruins', 'Burning The Witches' and 'Fight For Rock', as well as modern tracks like 'Soldier Of Metal', the closest we get to a ballad. Taken from her latest album 'Forever Warriors/Forever United', it soon turns into a headbanging frenzy. After a cover of Judas Priest's 'Breaking The Law', she closes with the chanting extravaganza 'All We Are'. But before she can exit the stage HRH, C-in-C Jonny appears to present her with the HRH Angel Of Rock award, much to the delight of everyone. She truly is an angel of Rock. So we get an added bonus of 'Warlocks East Meets West' from her as a bonus track before she is finally teased away from her fans. Its difficult who adores who most, Doro or the fans. Mutual admiration.
And so to the final act of the weekend. Michael Monroe is quite simply amazing. A quiet shy character off stage, once he hits the stage he is an explosive bundle of energy that does not stop from the first minute until the last. Looking like a cross between Keith Richards and Goldie Hawn, the blonde bombshell has a large dose of Iggy Pop in there too. And a sprinkling of Stephen Tyler. If that isn't a winning mix then nothing is. With guitarists Rich Jones and Steve Conte we get two distinct sounds that go to make up the Michael Monroe vibe. Jones sports a hollowbody through a Fender amp giving us a Rock and Roll vibe whilst Conte's white Les Paul through the Blackstar amp smacks of the Sex Pistols Steve Jones rig and Punk sound. Put them together and you have an explosive but catchy mix. Bassist Sam Yaffa has been a constant companion of Monroe from his early Hanoi Rocks days through the Demolition 23 days, so we are treated to a setlist including tracks from all previous incarnations.
Monroe just doesn't stop. Jumping, singing, dancing and grinning. And he loves a prop. When he isn't waving a fan, a baton, a light wand or a bright red top hat, he is making shapes with his mike stand, twirling it like a cheerleaders baton, and on more than the odd occasion, putting it through the unusually low ceiling. But his frenetic stage presence is most heartily felt when perching precariously on the barriers, held aloft by his adoring fans, whilst he dutifully drips sweat upon his faithful human pedestals. He grins like he is on the strongest of narcotics, although we know the fantastic Finn is clean as a wolf's whistle. And his smile is so infectious. He only stops when playing his beloved red saxophone on tracks like 'Last Train To Tokyo' or 'Harmonica'. Tracks from the new 'One Man Gang' are showcased - 'Junk Planet' being a cracking example. But for me, down the front getting plastered with perspiration, its tracks like '78' and 'Trick Of The Wrist' from his 2011 'Sensory Overdrive' album that really hit the spot. Its happy time. After a brief break we get a three song encore finishing with a Stooges classic 'I Feel Alright' and then he is gone. Like a whirlwind he has swept all in his path and left them wondering exactly what happened. Michael Monroe happened.
And so another Hard Rock Hell has reached its conclusion. Its been a tough couple of days for the HRH team, putting in long hours and working their fingers to the bone. There are things to change and issues to deal with but there is no doubt that HRH13 has been a success. And we can trust the HRH team to make things even better next year. But we have to remember all the excellence of the last three days. The staff have been amazing, security friendly and beers first rate. Accomodation is fine - no sleeping in a tent in a muddy tent for us - and most importantly, the bands have been pretty damn good. Coupled with the familiar faces, old and new, its been a friendly few days - maybe excepting out fighting VIP's. So the HRH troops will be marching back to Norfolk again next year, they have already responded to the HRH clarion call. Ugly Kid Joe, Skid Row,The Wildhearts and Phil Campbell are just some of the names confirmed which has resulted in HRH 14 having nearly sold out already. Next year, everyone will be a VIP. Very Impressed Punters. Rock on.
Michael Monroe setlist
(Navajo Joe By Ennio Morricone)
One Man Gang
Last Train to Tokyo
The Pitfalls of Being an Outsider
Not Faking It (Nazareth cover)
Ballad of the Lower East Side
Old King's Road
Black Ties and Red Tape
Motorvatin' (Hanoi Rocks song)
This Ain't No Love Song
Don't You Ever Leave Me (Hanoi Rocks song)
Malibu Beach Nightmare (Hanoi Rocks song)
Up Around the Bend (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Dead Jail Or Rock & Roll
Nothin's Alright (Demolition 23. song)
Hammersmith Palais (Demolition 23. song)
I Feel Alright (The Stooges cover)
Dee Rock - The Dublin Castle +
Brian Downey's Alive & Dangerous - The Underworld, Camden
Thursday 7th November 2019
It's Thursday night in Camden, London's very own smorgasbord of great live music venues, and we're ready to devour the musical fayre on offer tonight. Although not before we have necked a few pints in the Rock Church of the World's End pub of course, across the road from Camden Station! Time to take in our starter of the night, as we pass the iconic Jazz Cafe to our left and continue up on the right hand side to the equally iconic Dublin Castle venue. Indeed, memories of previous Camden Rocks festivals start to flood back. Unbelievably, tonight, there are five bands in its famous back room, all for a fiver. Although we are there a tad early with sound checks still being completed. Fortunately enough, the band we have come to see are on first!
Following the release of his new album 'Backroad Symphony', back in May, Nashville artist Dee Rock was indeed playing the final night of his UK tour. Rock's Lone Star roots run deep, tracing his family from the time of Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie at the Alamo, to today. Both of Dee's parents are music lovers and raised their children on a soundtrack ranging from Motown to Grand Ole Opry, with artists like BB King, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and The Allman Brothers. All of that great music has shaped Dee Rock's style and sent him down the road he's on. Rock has found success in both sides of the music industry - on stage and off - from producing artists and song writing for various record companies including Virgin, EMI and Capitol Records, to writing the soundtrack for the Warner Bros. film 'Divas'.
Sitting in the bar, patiently waiting for the sound checks to finish, the opening bars of Dee's 'Battle Scars' sees us dash to the venue door and pay our dues. The stand out track for mine from 'Backroad Symphony', and for me personally, it was worth paying the fiver to hear this on its own, even though we missed part of it. Even if it was good for us that Dee Rock was on first, the unfortunate flip side, I suppose, understandably, was the number of punters there to see them. Although those lucky enough to witness their set, immediately warmed to the USA/UK seven piece consisting of the cowboy hatted, dreadlocked and shades wearing Dee on guitar and vocals, more than ably supported by guitar, bass, keys, violin, drums and backing vocals/tambourine. The all too short set also included the Southern Rockin' 'Ripples On The Moon' from his 2010 album 'The Road Ain't Long' and the inspirational 'Southern Summer Night', the soulful 'Long Way Home' and the native American roots Rock of 'Wild Mustang', all from his latest album, plus also the heartfelt 'Other Side', which Dee poignantly dedicated to a dear friend of his. Talking to all-round nice guy Dee afterwards, the good news was that he would be returning to the UK next May. Do not miss him.
Despite, the temptation of no doubt four further fine bands, namely Subterranean Street Society + Michael Lukes + Pat And The Hats + Morning Tourist, the allure, just a stone's throw away, of legendary original Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey's Alive & Dangerous boys, who were back in town at The Underworld, was just too much, as we made our way back to whence we came. This seemingly annual convention in London, of which we had previously had the pleasure of attending all at Nell's Jazz & Blues, is it a bit like dusting down your favourite live LP and not only listening to it in all its glory but actually seeing it performed to perfection as well. Also featuring Brian Grace (best known as the guitarist for the Commitments Andrew Strong), former Low Rider members Matt Wilson (lead vocals, bass) and Phil Edgar (lead guitar), Alive & Dangerous effectively pay tribute to one of the greatest live Rock and Roll albums of all time: Thin Lizzy's 'Live and Dangerous' - plus a lot more.
The double album was actually released in June 1978, however, it was primarily recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon in November 1976 as part of the Johnny The Fox tour plus Toronto's Seneca College Fieldhouse and Philadelphia's Tower Theatre Bad Reputation gigs in October 1977, with further production in Paris, which sort of averaged it out to '77 I suppose! It was also the last Thin Lizzy album to feature guitarist Brian Robertson, who left the band shortly after its release, the conspiracy theorists singling out Robertson's displeasure at how much of the album was overdubbed, which has always been a contentious topic since its release. It's perhaps no surprise to learn that Brian Downey's much missed compadre, Phil Lynott, with the exception of Bob Seger's 'Rosalie', had a clean sweep on writing all the songs featured on the iconic 'Live and Dangerous'. However, on the richter scale, it's a pretty mean feat for a drummer to have also co-written almost half of those classic songs.
The earlier ying of seeing Dee Rock was unfortunately offset by the yang of missing most of the excellent Rebecca Downes set, although as expected, the guitar wielding Rebecca received a rapturous reception from the ardent Lizzy faithful present, no doubt adding more fans to her much deserved following. As Grace, Edgar and Wilson, entered the stage, looking every bit as though they had time travelled from the ‘70’s, they were joined by the main man Downey. Authentically ‘70’s. True to the album they set the bar mighty high as they opened with the corker - 'Jailbreak' and continued with the pure embodiment of Thin Lizzy, 'Emerald'. Wilson duly paid homage to Downey before the magical riff of 'Rosalie', sandwiched effortlessly by slower tracks 'Southbound' and 'Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In Its Spotlight)'. 'Massacre' brought back fond memories of their December 1977 Lewisham Odeon gig during their 'Bad Reputation' tour, before Wilson dedicated the slower and emotional 'Still In Love With You' (compared to the studio version on 'Nightlife') to Phil, considered by many critics to be Lynott's finest hour, Matt's soulful voice subsequently bringing the lyrics we all know and love to life, which also soared thanks to Grace and Edgar's guitar playing, feeding off each other in dual guitar harmonies with high octane solos a la Robertson and Gorham.
Once more it was an opening to make your hair stand up on end - if Brian had any - as they continued with 'She La La' plus an obligatory solo from Downey - the sorcerer behind his Natal drum kit. Although his three Irish amigos were certainly not challenged in the follicle stakes, with both the ever smiling duo of Grace and Edgar not only appearing to have been separated at birth, given their looks, but also with his big curly hair and engaging smile, Wilson certainly looks and plays the part, but he very much has his own powerful stage persona and completely owns the stage. A perfect recreation of one of Lizzy's iconic sequences, again true to the live album, saw the band segue immediately from 'Cowboy Song' into 'The Boys Are Back in Town', on the line "a cowboy's life is the life for me" - the last chord of the former was the first of the latter, although their studio versions were recorded as separate songs. Wilson then poignantly dedicated 'Waiting For An Alibi' to my hero Gary Moore, before they played the sleaze driven funky mood of 'Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed'.
Understandably, the crowd were lapping it up, screaming for more as they piled into classic after classic, like a machine gun to our ears! Rat a tat tat .... 'Don't Believe A Word', 'Warriors' and then the epic 'Are You Ready', seeing those assembled, Rocking out with their fists proudly in the air. They finished off their set with 'Suicide', although cries of "Lizzy!, Lizzy!, Lizzy!" saw them inevitably return to the stage with an encore of 'I Got To Figure It Out', 'Black Rose' plus a final singalong to 'Whiskey In The Jar'. ‘Live And Dangerous’ is an album of raw energy, freshness and passion, and indeed, it was another stunning set from Alive and Dangerous, well and truly matching it and thus keeping Lizzy’s music alive. We're all still definitely in love with you guys.
O2 Academy, Newcastle
Sunday 17th November 2019
As soon as Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown's equipment had been removed and you got to see Airbourne's hoard of Marshall amps stacked up, this was going to be loud.... very loud.... and it was. They quoted Motorhead as being the loudest band ever, but this can't have been far behind that. On the plus side, when I got home the wife was trying to say something to me and I had to try and read her lips. It was deafeningly good and Ryan O'Keeffe has to sit in the middle of these, night in night out.
What can you say about Airbourne that hasn't been said already? Probably nothing to be honest, they just continue to give and give epic performances, like they did tonight and it's not just about the music, it's becoming a full show laced with Aussie based humour, a bar on stage, Joel being the bartender, mixing the drinks, passing them around the band, pouring beers and hurling them in plastic containers into the crowd like the 'Golden Over' in the Ashes, and for one lucky lady who caught one, Howzat! Maybe it's a way of taking a breather, as they bloody earned it, but it works. Four lads making music, having a ball doing the kind of stuff some of us dream of.
The Warrnambool madmen have put on yet another master class show to the delight of the Geordies, the Makems and the Smoggie faithful. That's Newcastle, Sunderland and Teessiders to you. Blasting out relentless hit after hit with a good blend of old and only a few new. A few I was surprised to hear amongst them. You could argue that, as measure of a bands success, comes with some of the tracks that they leave out from the setlist, tracks such as 'Diamond in the Rough', 'Blackjack', Cheap Wine and Cheaper Women', 'No Way But The Hard Way', 'It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over', 'Chewin The Fat', 'Overdrive', 'Back On The Bottle' and Back In The Game'. None of which made the cut for this gig or maybe even the tour. Hopefully when they headline a festival (And they will one day, mark my words), we will be treated to a full setlist. Oh how I long for that day.
If you are wondering whether to attend this 'Boneshaker' tour, then go for it, it is 100% pure enjoyment and superb value for money. If you miss them, Download Festival has just announced them as attending in 2020. Excellent news for me as I have already booked my early bird ticket.
Full set list (I think)!! As I lost my pad.
Raise the Flag
Too Much, Too Young.
Burnout the Nitro
Girls in Black.
Bottom of the Well
Breakin' Outta Hell.
It's All for Rock 'n' Roll
Live It Up.
Stand Up for Rock 'n' Roll
Ready to Rock.
Runnin' Wild.(With an extended beer throwing session)
Tony Burgum (including photos)
StoneWire + Dead Writers
Hope & Anchor, Islington
Thursday 14th November 2019
Following their well documented rocking performance at Hard Rock Hell 13 the previous weekend, StoneWire played Islington's Hope & Anchor last Thursday night, their album launch for 'Life As We Know It' released earlier this month. With great support from Dead Writers, StoneWire draw from many wells - fusing elements of Classic Rock, Blues and Southern Rock to create a melting pot of addictive melody and biting riffs. Together, frontwoman Sky Hunter's soaring Rock vocals and gravely Blues tones and StoneWire's conscious whole-band chemistry and synergy, all give the brew a distinctive tang that has built up their fan following. Sky is complemented by Gaz Annable - guitar, Duncan Greenway - guitar, Steve Briggs - bass and Rob Glasner - drums.
Home town support band Dead Writers describe themselves as a bohemian affair between the intensity of Rock and Roll and poetic sensitivity. A blend of rawness and evocative drama, wanting their songs to have the depth and variety of book characters. No pressure then as the 5-piece, originally formed in 2017 by songwriter Paul Shine, entered the stage, alongside his fellow authors/musicians - Sebastian Harl, Agustín Molinari, Fil Faustini and Dan Borgato. Shine by name - Shine by nature, as the charismatic frontman took those of us who had already ventured downstairs early doors, through their ambitious, quirky, unique novel of early 70's style Classic Rock including new chapter 'Beautiful Mess', plus some well read material such as last year's debut single 'Medusa', its follow up ‘Echoes In The Sun’, the slower 'December', plus their powerful and catchy, recently released third single ‘She’s All The Animals’, the recording of which featured Ben Ellis (Iggy Pop/Swervedriver) on bass guitar.
The music of The Struts, Placebo and The Manic Street Preachers also sprang to mind, given their explosive, twin layers of guitars and anthemic choruses, excellently built around and complemented by Shine's soaring vocals and occasional keys. There was even their own brave take, dedicated to "The Black Star himself", of Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust', before Shine ended their set with "one more Rock and Roll song" and proceeded to leap off the stage. This was the band's last gig of the year, but on this evidence, are fast building a reputation for themselves in the capital’s Rock music scene, due in no small part to their arresting live performances.
By the time StoneWire made their way on to the stage, the venue was rammed, albeit, reassuringly, by a very young Rock demographic. Sticking to their album launch guns, the 5-piece proceeded to reel off 'Life As We Know It' in its ten track order. A reviewers dream. Album opener 'Monkey Talk', with its awesome 'Slither'-esque riff was well received, the stage presence and powerhouse vocals of German born, and now a Lady Of Kent, Sky, immediately a major factor, and one that would be a common denominator for the rest of their set. Hunter heralded 'One For The Road' by raising her hands and clapping in the air, before the shades wearing Annable launched into another mean riff, doing a fair impersonation of Faith No More's Jim Martin not only guitar-wise, but visually as well. "Hello everybody" enthused Sky - "we're only eight tickets short of a sell-out" as she deservedly gave those gathered a thumbs up before introducing the Southern Rockin' slide of 'FTM', their very first single from the new album.
After Hunter generously thanked Dead Writers, it was time for their slow burner 'House Rules', and another gem of a riff, that saw a young lady in front of us rockin' out big time, followed by 'Hero's Journey', Sky admitting beforehand that despite not being a Prog band and having to cut this track's length back from a Progtastic nine minutes, it was still one of her favourites that "gets you right here" and accordingly we not only witnessed some side to side arm waving but also some great vocalisation from the band. The title track and third recent single from the album took things down a gear, but not without a great Gaz guitar solo, as well as on their second single, 'All That Matters', the stand out for mine so far, a headbanger personified with its "sexy mother fucker of a riff". With just three tracks from the album to go, Hunter raised her glass. "Cheers everybody" as they then belted out the slower but still rockin' 'Kick Up Some Dust', followed by 'Top Shelf Conversation' - think Nazareth meets ZZ Top - cue further understandable freaky dancing from their faithful.
The album was complete as they finished off true to their CD with 'A Step Too Far', with its 'Children Of The Revolution' sounding riff, before Sky poignantly praised her band of brothers, given the trials and tribulations of being in a Rock and Roll band. Suffice to say their last album 'When The Crow Flies' was released nearly five years ago, but there's no doubt that 'Life As We Know It' more than complements their previous material, as they ably demonstrated, showcasing the impressive engine room of baseball-capped Glasner and Edgar Broughton Band t-shirt wearing Briggs, by blasting out five nuggets from their previous release, namely 'Southern Honey', 'Favourite Bitch', the awesome, headbanging 'Walk The Line', with exceptional guitar harmonies from 'The Too Old to Die Young' attired Greenway and Annable, and finally the Black Sabbath influenced last track 'Fix You', with yet another superb Gaz solo. And if you missed out, the good news is that the five-piece return to London on Saturday 7th December at The Cavern.
AJ (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
The Royal Albert Hall, London
Monday 18th November 2019
"They started with 'Gaza', ended with 'This Strange Engine' and were fantastic for over two and a half hours. Monday night is going to be special." Praise indeed from our WRC spy at Marillion's Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, gig the previous Friday, and tonight the band played the penultimate night of their thirteen-date 'With Friends from the Orchestra' UK tour at The Royal Albert Hall, completing their tour the following night at the very same iconic London venue. With an extended line up of musicians joining Steve Rothery - electric/acoustic guitars, Pete Trewavas – bass guitar, backing vocals, Mark Kelly – keyboards, samples and effects, backing vocals, programming and Ian Mosley – drums, percussion, they played songs spanning their 14 album-career with Steve Hogarth, lead vocals, lyrics, keyboards, guitars, percussion - who we recently had the pleasure of interviewing - this year celebrating 30 years since joining Marillion. The band had also recently released an album entitled 'With Friends from the Orchestra' to accompany this tour, including the In Praise of Folly String Quartet plus Sam Morris on French horn and Emma Halnan on flute.
The aforementioned orchestral sextet duly walked on to the RAH stage to the ending strains of David Bowie's 'Heroes', before the band entered stage right and indeed powered into 'Gaza'. Although we could hear Hogarth, he was not immediately visible as he went for the more individualistic 'enter from a random arena door' approach to our immediate right. What an entrance though, as he not only grabbed his guitar on stage, but also the sold out auditorium's attention, as they joyously clapped along to this epic from their 2012 album 'Sounds That Can't Be Made', although, conversely, Rothery's exceptional guitar solo demonstrated what great sounds can be made - this opener fully deserving the standing ovation it received. "Sit down!" Hogarth joked. "It's going to be a long night!" he teased, before dedicating another from 'Sounds That Can't Be Made', to the the sixth member of the band, Michael Hunter, excluding their excellent 'friends' of course, who, as H also pointed out, were "brickin' it" when they previously joined them at another sold out RAH two years ago,hailed by the fans and critics alike as one of the best concerts in Marillion's history, which resulted in the 'All One Night' DVD released in April last year.
If the aptly named 'Power' truly epitomised Hogarth's stage presence, then 'Beyond You', taken from 1995's 'Afraid Of Sunlight' duly emphasised Trewavas' outstanding bass guitar credentials. Roars of approval welcomed the opening bars of the title track of 1989's 'Seasons End', the very first album to feature Hogarth, the frontman duly celebrating his pearl anniversary by getting behind a keyboard, complemented by the big man doing what he does best with another effortless solo, while the audience deliriously clapped along, morphing into yet another standing ovation. A bit of banter with the crowd, saw the MC for the evening, Hogarth, tell one friendly heckler to "shut up - I'm talking", before Steve thanked the sextet (violins, viola, cello, flute, french horn), whom not only added depth to the overall sound but also made a couple of sections really different and special. A particular case in point, was the wonderful intro to 'Estonia' from 1987's 'The Strange Engine', which also saw Rothery playing his double-neck guitar. And talking of delight, Hogarth introduced 'A Collection' from 1991's 'Holidays In Eden' as a "strange song" - "never wrote the words", before he took his jacket off, sat on the front of the stage and proceeded to vocally nail it. Amazing.
The man of a thousand jackets reappeared with a 'Greed Is Good' motif on his back for all four sections of 'We Are The New Kings' from 2016's 'Fear'. With Hogarth behind the keys again, it was time for me to 'Fuck Everyone And Run' as I went for a comfort break, before returning for the awesome 'Russia's Locked Doors', 'A Scary Sky' and 'Why Is Nothing Ever True?' A rousing reception saw H cup his hand to his ear, before he introduced his four compadres, in fact, make that three compadres, as he jokingly overlooked Big Steve. Be afraid, be very afraid. Cue crowd favourite 'Man Of A Thousand Faces', with Rothery on acoustic guitar, the Marillion faithful needing no encouragement to clap along on another gem from 'This Strange Engine' with its stirring chorus plus an outstanding keys solo from Kelly. Set closer 'The Space', from 'Season's End', saw one more costume change by H plus a divine string intro from their 'friends'. Another powerful vocal from Hogarth, saw him lean back on his keyboard and literally take in what was happening at this iconic venue this evening. Cue another standing ovation.
The band returned to perform encore 'Separated Out' from 2001's 'Anoraknophobia', which was additionally notable not only for the sextet upping their enjoyment by having a little 'Kashmir' (yes, that 'Kashmir') breakout moment, but also saw the smiling Rothery throwing a few moves around the stage, thanks in no small part to the audience participation and Mosley's brilliant drumming. After ignoring Hogarth's request for everybody to "just go home", Rothery was at last given his introduction by Hogarth to possibly the loudest recognition of the night. They were now rightly milkin' it as Barry Humphreys lookalike H, with a cricket bat around his neck (seriously), asked "Is anyone coming back tomorrow?", which got an expected roar. "This is our last song" got the expected jeers. "Nasty!" H responded before they launched into the title track, as expected, from 'This Strange Engine', a Prog Rock microcosm of everything that had gone before it during the set, including the atmospheric big screen, which understandably saw everyone standing up and clapping
We're sure a lot of old timers still hanker for some of the older material - and let's face it, there is some great stuff there - but to as much as even think it out loud would feel inappropriate and disrespectful, as it would be to utter the F-word. You know; the one that ends in 'ish'. And some context.. F-bloke recorded four albums during eight years with the band ... Hogarth has spent 30 years contributing to and performing 14 albums. Whilst there is an argument that there are perhaps two Marillions, the one you can still see doesn't really need the other... its got everything it needs - the same great musicians, a rich back catalogue, and in Hogarth the blessed combination of a great (and under-rated, to be honest) singer and front-man.
It was also good to see a young demographic represented tonight, but one thing that struck us was just how intense a lot of the audience were... not in a bad or aggressive way just... uber-dedicated and totally into the performance. Almost like a Rush thing where the band are so uncool that their fans compensate by being all the more ardent. It also seemed that people had travelled from far and wide for this... we heard German, Spanish, Italian, Eastern European and American accents. Perhaps some of these guys are resident; perhaps the iconic nature of the venue attracted a few people, but given the behaviour, involvement and response of the 5,272 crowd, we tend to think that the attraction was a great band that has a very real bond with its very dedicated support.
AJ and Mark C.
A Thousand Horses +
229 The Venue, London
Tuesday 19th November 2019
229 The Venue is a strange sort of place for a gig. From the outside, it looks like you are queuing to get into a central London block of flats or office unit. Hidden around the side of this innocuous looking block is a simple unadorned entranceway into an underground music lair that is both surprising and pleasing in equal measures. Launched in 2007, 229 has two venues with capacities of 620 and 160 respectively, and has hosted the likes of Kings of Leon, Paul Weller, Florence and the Machine, Biffy Clyro and Seasick Steve amongst others. Tonight’s headliners were due to play the smaller venue but had to change to the larger due to demand. So that bodes well. Let’s see what the evening brings.
The first thing that strikes you about the venue is the stage. It’s a good size stage, well lit and well furnished, but the fact that it is over 5ft higher than the audience gives it an imposing presence and, most importantly, gives everyone in the room an excellent view of the performers. Add to this good lighting and sound and you can rate this place highly. Opening act is Howard Rose, originally from the Midlands, who stands alone in the middle of the stage, dressed in black double denim, sporting an acoustic guitar. His long hair and beard mark him out as a folk style singer but this would be to diminish his range. His short set is Folk, Country, Blues and more. He quotes his influences as Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and St Vincent. Hardly pigeonhole stuff.
The venue is only half full but the crowd are a noisy bunch, so at first it is difficult to block out their incessant chatter and hear the delicious tones from both Rose and his acoustic. He sings and plays at delightfully low volume giving his voice a gentle and thoughtful feel that deserves a silent auditorium. Not that this phases him as he soldiers on to those who become engrossed in his performance. 'Hangover Song' is a slow Country style track, but the more upbeat 'Until You’re Mine' starts to raise the volume. 'Borderline' is a working man’s Country song, whilst 'The Prospector' is soulful and sad. "I'm tired of being neglected…" he sings. Well not tonight he’s not as the crowd grows and warms to his simple guitar style and thoughtful vocals. 'Thinking About You' is Rose thoughts about trying to be a better person and is another minimalist number that attracts great applause from the crowd. 'Going Down Here' is a stronger rockier number and closer 'A List Of The Things I Ain't' is probably his strongest vocal performance of the set.
Based in Nashville, Tennessee, A Thousand Horses is Michael Hobby (vocals), Bill Satcher (guitar), Zach Brown (guitar) and Graham DeLoach (bass). Since their debut, the band has toured extensively across the world including dates supporting artists such as Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gregg Allman and more. And their sound suitably reflects this with a Southern Rock edge to a Country sound. Entering to the strains of AC/DC’s 'Are You Ready' and Lizzy's 'Boys Are Back In Town', any fears of an evening of gingham shirts and hoedowns are quickly dispelled. Frontman Michael Hobby is a tall, well built fella in a large broad brimmed hat that makes him look the modern day cowboy whilst the rest of the band look more like hipsters. The usual fourpiece are supplemented tonight with a drummer and keyboardist/fiddle player so the stage is slightly crowded. With the stage being the height it is, Hobby towers over the audience, making his ability to connect with the whole audience that much easier. And the room has filled up nicely too.
Opening track 'First Time' allows Satcher to set the rocking level with his gold top Les Paul through Vox and Fender amps. Accompanying him on a beautiful gold SG is Zach Brown, a combination of sounds that many Hard Rock bands swear by. But the Country influence remains strong throughout. 'Trailer Trashed' is by contrast a more minimalist number, with Satcher switching to a Telecaster to bring that Country twang to a very Skynyrd like number. With drums to the fore, Hobby makes use of his considerable frame to add some strong vocals. To which he adds an acoustic guitar for 'Broken Heartland', a song that would sound good in a Springsteen set. Think blue collar Country Rock.
The boys have just finished their latest album 'Livin’ My Best Life', produced by Grammy Award winning producer Dave Cobb. 'Broken Heartland' is one track from the new album and 'Drinking Song' is another. They may not thank me for mentioning Nickelback but the slide ridden track definitely had that vibe. "Everybody loves a drinking song" claims Hobby so they follow it up with 'Tennessee Whisky' from their 2015 'Southernality' album. This is a slow Southern number with some extremely atmospheric fiddle playing that the crowd sang along to with gusto.
'Carry Me' sees Hobby lose the acoustic and Satcher reclaim the Les Paul as the rockometer rises once more. This is Southern Rock and Roll with keys, twin guitar harmonics and a fine solo from Satcher. Back to the new album and the title track brings us another acoustic guitar singalong that had me thinking of 'Copperhead Road'. It has that radio friendly feel and was well received. 'Sunday Morning', from their first album, had a strong key influence, reflecting the church where the song was written whilst 'Preaching To The Choir' has a slow groove intro into a chugging Country number that had the arms waving along. 'Define Me', another new track slowed things down with Satchers Tele dripping with vibrato. The slow groove sees Hobby give a powerful vocal performance whilst Satchers solo is short but sublime. Another new track that was well received.
'Burn Like Willie' brings the fun element back with a dirty slide and thumping bass. More rocky but it makes you want to dance though There's a short drum solo break allowing for a brief crowd chant before they launch into 'My Time's Comin'. Another slow chanting song, drum heavy with vocal echo and Tele solo. They close with 'Southernality', a Les Paul rocker with slide which encapsulates all Southern traits. Fiddle. Crowd singing. Twin guitars. Marvellous.
Returning for their encore, to raptous applause they launch into their 2015 hit 'Smoke'. With acoustic guitar and fiddle to start, I'm thinking 'Poisons Every Rose Has It's Thorn' and it soon morphs into a full crowd singalong power ballad. Raise those lighters and wave those hands. 'Every Time You Love Me' by contrast is soulful and moody whilst closer 'Travelin' Man is an upbeat crowd chanter with harmonica, machine gun drumming and plenty of guitar goodness. It morphs into staccato rocking and harmonica, dosey doh and a slow groove ending. What a way to finish.
A great nights entertainment at another fine music venue. A Thousand Horses were clearly right to switch their solitary UK date to the larger stage as a clearly devoted fanbase helped fill the lovely venue with atmosphere and joy. The band clearly enjoyed themselves too. A band of many influences, and much talent, I can see why they are adored. I'm feeling the love myself. Check them out.
Mother (photos courtesy of Rockrpix)
Eventim Apollo, London
Friday 29th November 2019
There’s an advert on/for Planet Rock where the deep rumble of ubiquitous voice-over man intones, “first there was Rock... then there was mortgage …then kids… now… there is Rock again.” Pretty bang on for a chunky slice of their listenership I’d say, and certainly applies to me.
And so I find myself, after an embarrassingly fallow gig attendance for the past couple of decades, joining the pilgrimage to the Hammersmith Apollo to see Steve Hackett for the third time in two and a bit years following the ‘Wind & Wuthering’ celebration at The London Palladium and the Hackett/Genesis extravaganza with the 41-piece Heart of England Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.
Subsequent to the release of the original ‘Genesis Revisited’ album in 1996, Hackett has honed a wonderfully winning formula of mixing the adored Genesis tracks from the era of which he was such an integral part with his solo catalogue, which in itself contains an embarrassment of riches for any one person. He’s still producing great new material too (see 2019’s ‘At the Edge of Light’ and 2017’s ‘The Night Siren’ to name but two), and the quantity of familiar older material he treats us to in his two hour shows generally enables some new material to be filtered in slowly. A perfect mix, to my mind.
We’re treated to another such exemplary two-parter this evening. Tonight, the ‘Hackett’ half of the show heavily features ‘Spectral Mornings’, Steve’s third solo album, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. The second half of the show gives us a ‘full album’ celebration which has (gloriously) become a ‘thing’ in recent years. Already childishly excited by the fact that ‘Scenes from a Memory’ and ‘Relayer’ are scheduled to receive similar treatment in early 2020, tonight we are to be spoilt with ‘Selling England By The Pound’ in its wholesome entirety.
Sadly, no Gary O’Toole behind the kit tonight, after announcing in October 2018 he was departing the band after a “horrid year” for him personally, breaking a 20 year association, starting with 2003’s ‘To Watch the Storms’ album. Your performances will be missed Gary, and you had all but made ‘Blood on the Rooftops’ your own. We wish you well, sir.
His replacement is Craig Blundell, who many will know from Frost and Steven Wilson, amongst a host of other associations. He is joined by band stalwarts Roger King (keyboards), Rob Townsend (blowy things, tappy things, vocals, and keyboards when Roger has run out of hands) and still on sojourn from The Flower Kings, Jonas Reingold on bass, 12 string, and vocal. Nad Sylvan provides lead vocal for the Genesis tracks, and they are also periodically augmented by Steve’s brother John Hackett (flute) and sister-in-law Amanda Lehman (guitar/vocals).
The band enter and I am surprised to see Nad’s familiar silhouette (we don’t normally see Nad until the Genesis half of the show), and even more surprised when the heavy keyboard intro of ‘Watcher of the Skies’ starts up. This is a turn up… it’s generally the ‘Hackett’ set first… but after this brief intro, the band launch into ‘Spectral Mornings’ opener, ‘Every Day’. The four-voice verses (Steve/Rob /Amanda) are completed by Nad, who fills the vocal gap on the performance left by the departure of Gary O’Toole. The group vocal is perfect, and Amanda also doubles and/or harmonises on some of Steve’s lead very nicely.
‘Spectral Mornings’ is only just underway, but there is immediately a small “new material diversion” with three tracks from 2019s ‘At the Edge of Light’. Amanda and Nad stay on stage to contribute to another 4-voice vocal on ‘Under the Eye of the Sun’, a mostly pacey track, which also sees Rob percussing the hell out of something and Jonas playing at least twice as many notes than must be strictly necessary. This is followed by the heavy, ponderous ‘Fallen Walls and Pedestals’ with some soloing from Steve, and ‘Beasts In Our Time’, which hides a heavy and riffy closing section behind it’s swirling verses.
None of these tracks are out of place or outclassed in the august company in which they find themselves in tonight’s setlist …enough, surely, to convince any punters who came to this show out of curiosity or for old times sake that Steve is still producing great material worthy of a new purchase.
With the exception of (the slightly odd) ‘The Ballad of the Decomposing Man’ and ‘Lost Time in Cordoba’ that are not played this evening, we then get the remainder of the first album being celebrated tonight, albeit in an order that was presumably derived for the flow of the show rather than that of the album.
The evocative ‘The Virgin and the Gypsy’ sees the entry of John Hackett, and more totally enthralling vocals with Rob, Amanda and Jonas providing the counterpoint for Steve’s lead vocal. Five tracks in and I’m already running out of superlatives. This was also a first for me in that Rob and John combined to a dual flute solo …that’s something you don’t say every day.
With its haunting opening bars, weird didgeridoo-type bit in the middle and oddly jaunty tale of a pilot’s death, I’ve always thought ‘Tigermoth’ a bit of a strange one …but tonight we only get the instrumental section at the beginning, with the tale of the pilot going to join the Decomposing Man. Possibly in Cordoba.
I don’t have the musical knowledge to be able to describe it or substantiate it but I know what I like, and to my ears some guitarists seem capable of wringing more emotion and feeling from a single note or simple phrase than others …Lifeson can do it, so can Gilmour …but even in this company, for me, Hackett is a master …the very wonderful ‘Spectral Mornings’ itself ...a relatively simple refrain, largely repeated, but so intensely loaded.
The pace was then deliberately slowed with the oriental- flavoured ‘The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere’, the comparative calm of which was then blown away by probably the heaviest composition on the album ‘Clocks’ (including an opportunity for Craig Blundell to officially introduce himself with a brief solo) which then took its place as the first half set-closer.
After a brief break, the band return to continue with the second half of the show - to perform in full the album voted as the 3rd best of all time by readers of Prog magazine …one of three Genesis albums in the top 10 (‘Foxtrot’ and ‘Lamb’ being the others), and clearly the favourite Genesis album of many - myself included).
The last time I heard ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ it was being given some seriously welly by a 48 piece band …admittedly, one of them was only waving a stick about (just joking, Mr Thachuk), but even so I was desperately hoping that it wouldn’t sound just a little …flat by comparison. Not a bit of it …after the pastoral opening, the overall “fullness” of the sound is just astounding.
‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’ provided its normal audience participation fun, but also went a bit off-piste in the middle with a bit of a Bluesy riff from Reingold & Blundell that allowed Steve to sit down for a breather for a moment or two whilst Rob stepped forward front and centre to deliver a stonking sax solo.
The magnificent ‘Firth of Fifth’ was followed by arguably one of the lesser heard pieces from the album, the romantic ballad ‘More Fool Me’ which provided a welcome breather between two giant tracks - the next being side two opener (if you’re old enough for that sort of thing) ‘The Battle of Epping Forest’.
The Hackett instrumental ‘After the Ordeal’, relatively “stripped down” compared to a lot of the epic tracks we hear tonight, provides us an opportunity to hear what the great man does best with delicate, intricate guitar work.
‘The Cinema Show’ has always been a personal favourite, and tonight’s performance only enhances this …such a fantastic rendition of a complex piece with so much going on ...the sheer depth of sound, augmented by additional bass pedals and chorus sounds, is just …sublime.
‘The Cinema Show’s closing notes gently morph into ‘The Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ reprise that is ‘Aisle of Plenty’, which completed the rendition of the album itself to rightful acclaim.
As well as what actually made the cut on the album, once the applause subsides we were treated to the rarely heard ‘Déjà Vu’. This was a track started by Peter Gabriel during the Selling England sessions, but never saw the light of day (or the dark of vinyl) until Hackett completed it and debuted it on his first Genesis Revisited album in 1996 with Paul Carrack providing the recorded vocal (whilst not on Mechanic duty for Mike).
Nudging the intensity back upwards a little to close the set was ‘A Trick of the Tail’s ‘Dance On A Volcano’, surely the post-Gabriel favourite of many …it certainly seemed so from tonight’s crowd reaction.
After the obligatory couple of minutes of clapping and shouting, the band returned with enough energy to belt out the now familiar closing medley (no “mash-ups” here) of two of Steve’s heavier offerings – ‘Myopia’ (from 1984’s ‘Till We Have Faces’) and ‘Slogans’ (from 1980’s ‘Defector’) morphing into the majestic fare of ‘Los Endos’. A perfect blend of Hackett and Genesis encapsulated in eight magnificent minutes.
And that, ladies & gents, is how to close a show. And how to compose and play one from beginning to end, for that matter. Pretty difficult to pinpoint any highlights - everything and everyone was simply superb.
As mentioned, we have more full renditions of classic albums to look forward to early in the New Year, but Dream Theater and Yes are going to need to be on absolute top form to even approach (let alone meet or exceed) expectations after this show.
Oh, and earlier this week, it was announced that November 2020 sees the Hackett band trek out again …this time for ‘Seconds Out’ in its entirety and selected chunks of ‘Defector’ which, amazingly, hits its 40th anniversary.
Steve …stop it …enough, already ….I can’t cope.
Just kidding. See you next November.
Jack Broadbent/Ronnie Wood
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Thursday 21st November 2019
With four albums out to date, Jack Broadbent released his brand new record ‘Moonshine Blue’ on Friday 15th November, and consequently Jack was recently on a UK/European tour that included supporting Ronnie Wood, no less, at London's Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Thursday 21st November. The album's produced by Jack himself with Bruce Cameron, and contains a slew of musical surprises. Hailed as ’the new master of the slide guitar’ by the Montreux Jazz Festival and 'the real thang’ by the legendary Bootsy Collins, Broadbent has spent the past few years wowing audiences with his unique blend of virtuosic acoustic and slide guitar playing, as well as his poignant Folk and Blues inspired vocals. Born in rural Lincolnshire, his live shows exude warmth, humour and an energy that has electrified audiences worldwide.
"I'm Jack Broadbent" Jack politely introduced himself as he sat down on his stool - "We Know" replied a wag in the sold out crowd - no doubt comforting for Broadbent perhaps, that they had not all come to see the headlining Stones guitarist. Jack opened with a great cover of Canned Heat's 'On The Road Again', before I fought my way through the stalls to take a few photos from the pit, just in time to catch 'She Said' from the former busker's aptly named 2013 release, 'The Busking CD'. Jack had subsequently been joined by his Dad Micky on bass and vocals, for a few numbers, sitting to his right. "He's Alright Isn't He?" Broadbent Junior duly complimented his old man, which fittingly saw the Bush faithful yelling in agreement. Cue Micky's finger clicking opening plus Jack's groovy guitar intro on the aforementioned track, which duly resulted in spontaneous hand clapping from an appreciative audience.
In a delightful forty minute set, Broadbent played some outstanding slide guitar, mixing cover versions and original songs. As for the covers, Jack modestly introduced Van Morrison's 'Moondance' with "You're Not Here To See Me" plus jokingly, on Percy Mayfield's 'Hit The Road Jack', introduced it as a song he wrote for Ray Charles! Needless to say both classics received thunderous applause. Although chewing the cud in the interval, there was disappointment among some of the Broadbent faithful, given the exclusion of tracks from the new album, in particular 'Everytime I Drown' and 'Wishing Well'. Hey ho, on the plus side though, there was no doubt that Jack's set had successfully endeared himself to a predominantly Mad Lad crowd. Job done.
As for Mad Lad Ronnie, the Rolling Stones guitarist released 'Ronnie Wood With His Wild Five - Mad Lad: A Live Tribute To Chuck Berry', the week before tonight's gig through BMG. It was recorded at Wimborne’s Tivoli Theatre just over a year ago - a night that saw guest appearances from singer Imelda May and pianist Ben Waters. Tonight was the second of four UK gigs, Wood and his cast of thousands, including Waters and May again, plus Dion Egtved (bass), Dexter Hercules (drums), Antti Snellman (tenor sax), Tom Waters (alto sax) and a brace of backing singers, had already warmed up the night before, just up the road at Kingston's All Saints Church.
As expected his Wild Five set of 1 hour and 45 minutes was very similar to the night before, with Wood clearly on a mission to keep Chuck Berry's music alive, which his band duly achieved in front of an enthusiastic, international audience. With a dozen or so guests watching from the side of the stage, including his wife Sally, tracks played included 'Rock and Roll Music', 'Mad Lad', 'Memphis Tennessee' and the seasonal 'Run Rudolph Run'. No Rod (despite a couple of his backing band being present - who was spotted outside with wife Penny), nor Jagger, however, Waters superb boogie woogie piano, May plus special guest Lulu's great vocals and the 72 year-old's guitar and charisma, ensured that this indeed was a fitting classic Blues Rock 'n' Roll tribute to Charles Edward Anderson Berry.
The Water Rats, Kings Cross, London
Monday 4th November 2019
I must confess to never having been to the Water Rats in Kings Cross before and what better way than to catch up on some R ’n’ B during the London Jazz festival. Fortunately I managed to catch the last embers of Jon Amor’s bonus acoustic opener accompanied by some slick Blues work from Ash Wilson, on a track called 'Faith Reborn'.
And my goodness was my Faith restored by the sensational singing talent that is Sari Schorr. Is it just me, or does she not boast the same vocal range and power of Rock Goddess Tina Turner? I have not seen or read this comparison elsewhere but to me it seems blindingly obvious! She similarly has great self-effacing charm and keeps the audience in her spell.
'Demolition Man' certainly broke the crowd into a vibrant and soulful set. 'Maybe I’m Foolin' sparks a debate as to whether it’s “Maybe I’m Fallin’” and the Funk workout of the old standard 'I Just Wanna’ Make Love To You' finishes off the job, with Ash Wilson (yes the same guitarist from the opening) and Stevie Watts, on Keyboards, demonstrating their chops. I swear, I even recognised some 'Billie Jean' beats going on at one point.
Throw in tributes to Robert Johnson in the form of 'The King of Rock n Roll' and some wonderful chemistry between Ash and Sarri with synchronised moves and schmoozing. Cue, 'Aunt Hazel', admittedly a song about heroin, which doesn’t keep the crowd guessing, with full-on guitar solo from Ash’s face screwed up like a spent crisp packet.
A strong encore of 'Black Betty' and 'Back to LA' compelled this reviewer to subsequently put in his application for King Rat of the Grand Order of Water Rats. It was emotional.
Ivan De Mello
Royal Albert Hall, London
Tuesday 26th November 2019
Space Rock pioneers Hawkwind are celebrating fifty years of intergalactic sonic exploration! Described by founding member, and only existing original member, Dave Brock, as more of a collective of musicians that climb on board the good ship for a finite period of time, bringing with them something unique, special and interesting to the music. Formed in 1969 by guitarist, vocalist and writer Brock, guitarist Mick Slattery and bassist John Harrison, with drummer Terry Ollis joining them within a couple of months after answering an advert in Music Weekly. Two of the band’s roadies Nik Turner (Saxophone, flute, vocals and songwriter) and Michael "Dik Mik" Davies (audio generator) were asked to join in to fill out the sound, and soon after became full time members. Their first gig was at the All Saints Hall, Notting Hill, London, on 29th August 1969, under the name ‘Group X’. The event organizer Doug Smith was so impressed with them that he signed them up and got them a deal with Liberty Records. The name ‘Hawkwind’ was apparently derived from the fact that Turner had a bad habit of hawking up phlegm and releasing wind all the time! The Hawkwind sound encompasses a variety of different styles ranging from Psychedelic Rock, Hard Rock, Progressive Rock to elements of dance and smatterings of Punk Rock. The band have seen approximately forty five different members come and go over the years, with Brock being the only original and constant member. They have release about thirty-one studio albums to date and countless live albums. Not only are they celebrating fifty years of existence, but they have also just released a brand new album ‘All Aboard The Skylark’, for which critics are saying is a return to form.
Just before the band released their eponymously titled debut album in 1970, Slattery decided to leave the band to go traveling. His position was filled by guitarist Huw Lloyd–Langton, who knew Brock from his busking days in Notting Hill, West London. The debut album was produced by Dick Taylor from The Pretty Things, and although not a commercial success it is regarded as a cult classic amongst fans and peers. Before the release of their next album Lloyd-Langton quit, after a bad LSD trip at the Isle of Wight Festival led to a nervous breakdown! He would return to the band in the late 70’s. Harrison then jumped ship (Harrison sadly died of Huntington disease on the 26th May 2012) and in was bassist Thomas Crimble, albeit briefly, before Dave Anderson (Amon Duul II) joined in time to contribute to the 1971 album ‘In Search of Space’. Reaching number eighteen on the UK album charts, this album is where the band’s musical ideas and visual aspects started to gel and come together. A couple of other important notable characters entered the scene around this time including sound engineer and keyboardist Del Dettmar, underground press writer and beat poet Robert Calvert, graphic artist Barney Bubbles and science fiction writer Michael Moorcock. Calvert wrote the sleeve notes for the album in the form of a ‘Hawklog’ (space travel), with Bubbles contributing to the album's striking cover. Moorcock would go on to write lyrics and provide occasional vocals.
By 1972 Anderson and Ollis were out and in came bassist Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (The Rockin’ Vicers, Sam Gobal and future Motorhead) and drummer Simon King. A live recording of Robert Calvert’s composition ‘Silver Machine’ with Lemmy on vocals was released as a single in 1972 and reached number three in the UK charts. Their third album ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’ was released in 1972 and features, what’s now known as, the classic line-up. The subsequent tour to promote the album was recorded and released as a live album in 1973 called ‘The Space Ritual Alive’, a career defining moment and without doubt one of the finest live albums ever recorded! The Space Ritual show managed to create a full on audio-visual experience with stage prop visuals by Barney Bubbles, a Psychedelic light show by Liquid Len, and spoken word poetry by Robert Calvert which encompassed science fiction and fantasy lyrics of Starfarers in suspended animation traveling through time and space with the concept of the music of the spheres. The live show's stage presentation was also augmented by the infamous naked dancer Stacia and Miss Renee.
At the height of their success Dik Mik, Dettmar and Calvert all decided to jump ship for pastures new. Sadly Dik Mik passed away in November 2017. Simon House came in on violin and keyboards in time to contribute to the 1974 album ‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’. After the tour to promote the 1975 album ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time’, Lemmy was fired from the band due to his erratic behaviour and crazy drug habits! Surprisingly ex-Pink Fairies guitarist Paul Rudolph was brought in on bass, with Lemmy going on to team up with guitarist Larry Wallis (Rudolph's replacement in the Pink Fairies) to form Motorhead, who subsequently went on to become more successful than Hawkwind ever were or would be again! Sadly Lemmy left this world on 28th December 2015.
By summer 1975 Calvert was back in, the band changed record label and brought in new management, and their sound started to evolve to include more melodic and cleaner sounding material. The 1976 album ‘Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’ saw Calvert more prominent in the writing and vocal department. During the subsequent tour to promote this album Turner was fired for his supposed erratic playing! During the recording of their 1977 album 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ Rudolph was sacked, siting musical differences! In came bassist Adrian Shaw (Magic Muscle) to fill the void. Sadly Calvert suffered from mental health issues resulting in several tour cancellations. In 1978 Brock disbanded Hawkwind and renamed the group Hawklords, they release one album entitled ’25 Years On’. A raft of new members were drafted in for this project before Brock resurrected the Hawkwind name for the 1979 album ‘PXR5’. By 1979 Calvert was out for good. Tragically he passed away of a heart attack on 14th August 1988.
In late 1979 Brock assembled a revamped line-up including Simon King, Harvey Bainbridge (Hawklords), Huw Lloyd-Langton (played on debut album) and Tim Blake (Gong), signing with Bronze Records they released the live album ‘Live Seventy Nine’. The studio album ‘Levitation’ followed in 1980 and featured Ginger Baker on drums. By 1981 it was all change again, Baker was out to be replaced by drummer Martin Griffin (Hawklords). Sadly Baker passed away on the 6th October 2019 at the age of 80. Brock and Bainbridge continued on, becoming more heavily involved with the overall musical sound the band would make over the next few years, handling all the keyboards and sequencers themselves. 1981 and 1982 saw the release of the ‘Sonic Attack’, ‘The Church of Hawkwind’ and 'Choose Your Masques’ albums. By 1984 things were evolving yet again, Griffin was out and in were a succession of drummers, before finally settling on Danny Thompson Jr. (son of bassist Danny Thompson). Also in was a very important link in the chain and probably the main reason Hawkwind continued to be relevant, successful and creative over the next twenty odd years, enter the formidable bassist Alan Davey (Gunslinger).
Turner returned briefly in 1984, before being told by Brock to leave in 1985 as he, apparently, kept honking his saxophone over everybody else's parts! Unfortunately Turner never got to contribute to the 1985 ‘The Chronicle of the Black Sword’ album. The band was in turmoil during the 1988 ‘The Xenon Codex’ album which saw Lloyd-Langton and Thompson depart soon after. Sadly LIoyd-Langton died of cancer on 6th December 2012. Another vital element in Hawkwind's continuation and creative output was the arrival of drummer Richard Chadwick (Smart Pils) in 1988. Chadwick remains Hawkwind’s drummer to this day and is one of the main reasons they are still together and making new music.
The 1990’s saw the band evolve and adapt yet again with the arrival of their first and only female vocalist, Bridget Wishart. She appeared on the 1990 studio album ‘Space Bandits’ and the live album ‘Palace Springs’ in 1991. By the end of the ‘Space Bandits’ tour Bainbridge, House and Wishart departed and the band continued as a three piece. A steady flow of new studio albums would be released throughout the rest of the nineties including ‘Electric Tepee’ (1992), ‘It Is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous’ (1993) and ‘White Zone - Released as Psychedelic Warriors’ (1995). The band made a good decision in 1995 to bring in a more prominent front man in the form of Ron Tree, a brilliant vocalist and eccentric character. He would make his mark on the next three albums, ‘Alien 4’ (1995), ‘Distant Horizons’ (1997) and ‘In Your Area’ (1999).
A reunion of sorts occurred on the 21st October 2000 at Brixton Academy in South London. Billed as ‘Hawkestra’, this event brought together about twenty past and present members of Hawkwind for one big celebration. As it turned out it was a bit of a shambles on the night! Musicians were all over the place and under rehearsed! After the event, Turner went on to form xHawkwind with some of the early members of the group. Brock was not at all happy with this arrangement and went on to sue Turner over the right to use the name! Brock won and Turner changed the name of his group to ‘Space Ritual’.
Hawkwind continued on with the core of Brock, Davey and Chadwick for the 2005 album ‘Take Me To Your Leader’. Sadly Davey decided to leave the band in 2006 to pursue other musical adventures. This was a major loss to the overall sound as Davey was an exceptional bass player, vocalist, arranger and songwriter. In came Mr. Dibs on bass, he was a roadie for the band for many years. Not as powerful a bassist or as charismatic as Davey, but he gave it his best shot and managed to contribute to the next few albums. Blake returned in 2008, being joined by Jason Stuart on keyboards and Neil Hone on guitar. Tragically Stuart died of a brain haemorrhage on 8th September 2008. The band continued to release a succession of quality albums in the form of ‘Blood of the Earth’ (2010), ‘Onward’ (2012), ‘The Machine Stops’ (2016), ‘Into the Woods’ (2017) and the new album ‘All Aboard the Skylark’ (2019). The 2018 album ‘The Road to Utopia’, a reworking of old Hawkwind classics with orchestra, is probably better best forgotten! Mr. Dibs departed in 2018 sighting ‘irreconcilable differences’ as his reason for leaving. The current line-up consists of Dave Brock - vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesisers, Richard Chadwick - drums, vocals, Niall Hone - bass, keyboards and Magnus Martin - keyboards, guitar.
So, why is Brock at 78 still doing it? I'm sure it’s not for the money! Well, the simple answer is that he still enjoys playing! And so here we are at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, London on Tuesday 26th November 2019 to witness the mighty Hawkwind do their thing! This fifteen-date tour is billed as the '50th Anniversary Tour', with the Royal Albert Hall being the final night. For this tour the band were joined by keyboard wizard and Gong legend Tim Blake. The support on all dates was from the 'Blackheart Orchestra'. Don't let the 'Orchestra' part fool you! They are basically just a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Rick Pilkington and Chrissy Mostyn. Their music is quite Proggy and atmospheric with beautiful ethereal vocals from Mostyn. They played an interesting and well received thirty-minute set.
Hawkwind hit the stage at 8.30 pm and kicked off the evenings proceedings with the Space Punk ferocity that is 'Motorway City' from the 1980 'Levitation' album. Brock is handling most of the lead vocals tonight with Magnus Martin handling lead on four songs. A spectacularly stunning laser show peppers the vast hall with shards of multi-coloured light beams. The venue wasn't sold out by any means, but there was a good turnout of loyal supporters. No dancers on stage tonight, the focus is on the band and the music.
The time came for some new material with two fine gems from the new 'All Aboard The Skylark' album, the juggernaut that is 'Flesh Fondue' galloped onward with abandon before the more laid back 'Last Man On Earth' slowed things down a bit, with Martin taking lead vocal on the latter. The former is a classic hard-driving Space Rocker which sounds just like any other great Hawkwind track from the 70’s. With repeating ascending and descending power chords, psychedelic riffing and hypnotic drumming, a winning formula that pleases the diehard fans no end! These songs are all about the extinction of the human race due to destructive human activity and the fact that aliens will eventually inhabit the earth and eat all remaining human forms!
Fourth track in was the 'The Song of the Gremlin', a Calvert poem from his 1974 solo masterpiece 'Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters'. Brock recites the poem accompanied by a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful spacey sounds! These days created on computer rather than an audio generator! The time had come to take off into deeper space with the hard driving space boogie 'Born to Go' and 'You Shouldn't Do That', originally from the 1973 'The Space Ritual Alive' album and the 1971 'In Search of Space' album, respectively. Their intense repetitive riffs and metronomic hypnotic drums put us all in a deep trance! We became one with the music, in a state of total absorption, feeling the pulsating rhythms penetrate deep into our souls. Delightful experience!
Another two tracks from the new 'All Aboard The Skylark' album came next in the form of '65 Million Years Ago' and the mellow coda 'In The Beginning'. These songs are about the beginning of a new time after an asteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago causing total extinction! Brock was experiencing a few technical glitches with his amps which was clearly distracting him. The techs didn't manage to completely sort this out until about three quarters of the way through the set! A slight change of pace and mood came next in the form of the upbeat 'Spirit of the Age' from the 1977 'Quark, Strangeness and Charm' album. A great hippie anthem had the crowd singing along in a state of bliss, with Blake enthusiastically conducting the audience from the front of the stage! Another fine track from the new album greeted us warmly in the shape of 'The Fantasy of Faldum', a lengthy Progtastic piece with sprawling oscillating soundscapes and cool far out lyrics. Martin taking lead vocal on this one, which he dedicated to his late father.
Motorhead's Phil Campbell guested on the haunting 'The Watcher', a Lemmy penned song originally from the 1972 ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’ album, also featured on the first Motorhead album. The rendition at this gig was less heavy than the original, with more keyboards to the fore and lighter airy vocals by Martin. At the previous night’s gig in Guildford, Eric Clapton guested on this one and stayed on stage for the rest of the set! Campbell stayed on for one more song, the classic 'Silver Machine'. An intoxicating anthem that has us all singing along! Lead vocal was handled by Chadwick, who did a reasonable job of it, despite having almost lost his voice due to a cold!
To keep the evening's entertainment elevating still further into the cosmos we were smacked around the ears with two quality songs from the 1975 'Warrior on the Edge of Time' album, 'Assault and Battery' and 'The Golden Void'. The sound had improved by now and everyone on stage seemed more locked in, focused and settled. The performance was sublime! Onto the last furlong of the show with Brock and Davey's 'Right to Decide' from the 1992 'Electric Tepee' album - a formidable song and mainstay of the set for many years.
For the start of the encore Blake came on and played some atmospheric Theremin over a backing track of relaxing and therapeutic bird song before the gentle acoustic strum of 'Hurry On Sundown', from the 1970 'Hawkwind' album, delighted the dedicated followers. Brock said they had to lower the key to Eb to make it easier to sing as he was losing his voice! A mass singalong ensued and a warm feeling of unity abounded! The radiating positive energy continued to elevate and our senses continued to be walloped by the arrival of the classic 'Master of the Universe' from the 1971 'In Search of Space' album. Campbell returned to the stage to jam with the band on this one. The song's hypnotic repetitive riff drove the crowd down the front into a frenzy of moshing! Blistering stuff! It is just a shame Turner isn't here tonight to perform on this one, as it is one of Turner's greatest ever songs. The evening’s entertainment drew to a close with Brock reciting a couple of verses from 'Welcome To The Future', originally featured on the 1973 'The Space Ritual Alive' album. The cheers of adoration from the crowd carried on long after the band had left the stage, and continued on even after the house lights came on! Hawkwind always manage to deliver a crowd-pleasing set and tonight's gig was no exception!
Steven C. Gilbert
Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
Tuesday 19th November 2019
“They do it down on Camber Sands…” they do it down in Folkestone. Yes, Squeeze are in town and ‘Pulling Mussels From A Shell’ is just one of many tasty dishes being served up by this much loved but somehow, criminally, critically undervalued group. They’ve had their ups and downs over the years but have continued to make excellent albums, with 2015’s ‘Cradle to the Grave’ and ‘The Knowledge’ two years later, being the latest offerings, demonstrating that the song writing talents of Messrs Difford and Tilbrook remain undiminished. Their songs have been a constant soundtrack to many over the years, the subject matter of these changing from cheeky descriptions of youthful misadventures to more reflective and wry commentary on the vicissitudes of adult life. Having seen the band play live many times over the years they never fail to surprise me with the excellence of their live performances and the collective affection that they generate in their audiences.
They’ve always had a healthy respect for their hit songs and have never indulged in the strange disdain that some acts have towards the more popular parts of their back catalogues, even when they have been promoting new material. It helps of course that they can write and perform classic 3-4-minute songs that stand on their own merits without needing 10-minute solos to paper over the cracks. The current tour was billed as presenting the “Difford & Tilbrook Songbook” and offered the chance to hear a range of songs from across their 40 plus year history, including some less familiar or rarely heard live renditions from their impressive repertoire; hence the opening tracks ‘Footprints’ from 1987’s ‘Babylon & On’ and ‘Big Beng’ from 1985’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti’. To be honest, all their songs are so melodic and well crafted that they all have an air of familiarity, even if they haven’t been top of your recent playlist. It was great to hear classic album tracks from (the night’s most heavily featured album) ‘East Side Story’ like ‘In Quintessence’ and ‘Someone Else’s Heart’, as well as ‘Mumbo Jumbo’ alongside the hits from that album (you know them I’m sure). For a superb version of ‘Slap and Tickle’ (with its succinct and timeless advice “never chew a pickle with a bit of slap and tickle”) the songwriters were left alone on the stage and Glenn Tilbrook created a wall of sound as he rocked out the propelling riff while singing (which if you’ve attempted it makes you marvel at his effortless skill in pulling this off). ‘Third Rail’ is a personal favourite with its lovely descending picked guitar figure and superb harmonies. The guitarist’s playing was sublime throughout and hearing the lyrical beauty of his solos on tracks like ‘Another Nail in My Heart’ and ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ was, as ever, a joy.
Chris Difford, aside from providing the lyrics that really set the band apart from any of their contemporaries onwards, with the exception perhaps of Elvis Costello, provided the low harmony that underpins most of the songs and took the lead role memorably on ‘Cool for Cats’, which raised the temperature of the packed Leas Cliff Hall even further (I’ve never seen the venue so jammed with happy people). It’s not exactly the Everly Brothers but the octave harmonies between the two are part of the unique sound of the band. Song after song flashed past, 24 gems, building up to a storming version of ‘Take Me I’m Yours’, which the band has turned into a rocking tour de force of ensemble full tilt mayhem. I’m sure most fans like myself could have selected another set list completely, such is the quality of their songbook.
An extended version of ‘Black Coffee in Bed’ closed the show and left the enthusiastic audience in an emotionally charged and satisfied state. This band just get better as time goes on. Long may they continue.
Sweet + The Novatines
Islington Assembly Hall, London
Wednesday 18th December 2019
Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the city
The people were partying, though the weather was shitty
The Guinness was drunk, plus Bushmills and beer
In the hopes that a good gig would bring us some cheer.
Clement Clarke Moore doesn’t have much to fear there does he? Anyway, it is the week before Christmas and what better way to enjoy the festive season than with some classic live music, very appropriate for the time of year, in one of London’s best live venues. The Grade II listed building is very reminiscent of an old school assembly hall with art deco features and a stage flanked with large red velvet curtains. Memories of old school disco’s come to mind. But with a modern sound system and plentiful bars. And like tonight’s music, is a great combination of old and new.
The new boys in town are the appropriately named Novatines, a young four piece from Bath comprising of Jamie Beale, Tom Cory, Callum Moloney and Tom Turner. It’s no accident that they are here as Sweet’s Andy Scott produced their debut album. Vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Beale fronts the band sporting a retro looking red Charvel played through a Fender amp whilst Cory sports a Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall. So retro Rock then. Callum takes drums and Tom bass, and a lovely looking Flying V bass it is too. And thoughtfully Tom has wrapped his bass amp up in Christmas wrapping paper. How festive. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts, beards and flowing locks, the boys could be 70’s throwbacks or 2017 hipsters. Either way they nail that Zeppelin Grunge mix with rocking guitar, harmonies, and an intent to party. Tracks include 'Joy Ride' - dedicated to their van which broke down on the way to the venue - 'Hate, Love', their first single and 'Never Enough', a slow Rock track full of attitude. Their new single, 'Come Alive', is an upbeat radio friendly rocker whilst closer 'Silver Screen' is a slow starter that smoulders into life as a hot rocker. A good set from an up and coming band that is doing the touring circuit and getting the attention of both Classic Rock magazine's ‘High Hopes’ feature and Planet Rock magazines.
So on to the other end of the spectrum. If you are of a certain age, you will have danced to this lot at school discos and office parties over five different decades. Hailing from that unflatteringly named Glam Rock era, headliners Sweet are a band of the 70’s who are more well known for glitter and spandex than for the quality Rock music that they created. Which is a shame because bands like Slade and Sweet produced some of the best iconic Rock yet will be remembered more for their Pop hits.
The current line-up is a five piece. I say current because over 50 years the band has seen many line-up changes. As well as founding member Andy Scott on guitar and vocals, there is Bruce Bisland on drums, Pete Lincoln on bass and vocals, Tony OʼHora on guitar, keys and vocals and new boy Paul Manzi on lead vocals. I say new boy, the ex-Cats In Space and Arena frontman has been around a while and has an ongoing role in Frontm3n but has been depping as lead vocalist for the Sweet 2019 tour. Bruce has been playing with the Sweet since 1991, and Pete has been a regular member since 2006 although he is a jobbing musician, composer and frontman for 70’s pop band Sailor. Tony joined in 2003 but it’s the equally white haired Scott that keeps the Sweet name alive. His long white hair is real – "do you think I would buy a wig that looks like this?" he quips – as is his less than svelte figure. But what do you expect of a septuagenarian? Sporting a Strat through a Marshal amp, the power of the guitar riff shines. Andy has had a lot of practice making some simplistic guitar riffs sound remarkably sophisticated. This isn’t cerebral music theory; this is simple but hugely engaging three chord fun. Entering the stage to 'Still Got The Rock', the band launch into one of their many chart songs, 'Action'. Andy and Tony swap riffs and create harmonies whilst Paul shows what a good choice he was to fill the shoes of previous Sweet vocalists - Brian Connolly and Paul Day. And Pete Lincoln too. Before taking the bass, Pete was vocalist with Sweet and he does a fine job of lead vocals on 'New York Groove' which nicely morphs into the Alicia Keys cover of 'New York'. Talented bunch these fellas.
The notch goes up a little further with the raucous 'Hell Raiser', which has the crowd dancing and singing like they did all those years ago. It’s another of those classic Sweet tracks that is instantly recognisable and outrageously catchy. 'Burn On The Flame' gives Tony a chance to show off his guitar skills on his exquisite custom made Nemesis guitar twinning with Andy’s Strat for some fine guitar harmonies. But it’s the singalong Pop rock like 'The Sixteens', 'Wig Wam Bam' and 'Little Willy' that really captures the festive feel-good factor. I’m back in the seventies again with my flares and my acrylic jumpers… It’s one of those sets that you sing along to every song. The lyrics aren’t going to win any literary prizes but who cares? "Wig-wam bam sham-a-lam, Wam bam bam sham-a-lam". Very profound. They don’t write them like that anymore.
There’s the sixties style Rock and Roll that is 'Peppermint Twist' and 80’s style Metal with 'Set Me Free' which could be a Judas Priest or Iron Maiden cover. The crowd chanter 'Teenage Rampage' (We want The Sweet, We want The Sweet…) and of course 'Love Is Like Oxygen', the late seventies pop classic - all keyboard and falsettos - which includes an excellent section of ELP’s 'Fanfare For The Common Man' ably played by O’Hara. What a treat. Signing off with 'Fox On The Run' they return for the mightiest of encores and staples of every partygoers repertoire - 'Blockbuster' and 'The Ballroom Blitz'. 'Blockbuster' was the Sweet’s only UK number 1 but is probably eclipsed by the Blitz, the finest air guitar track in the land, as the track of the night. The crowd dance and roar - the zimmers get a real battering. As the final chords of the Blitz die away, Scott takes a pair of scissors to the strings of his Strat as an almost symbolic end to a great show. Many an event are opened by a pair of scissors cutting a ribbon. Not many end that way.
So what do we say about tonight. One end of the age spectrum to the other. Openers Novatines bring youth and energy and new music. Headliners Sweet bring skills, experience and a damn fine back catalogue of tunes that have serenaded a part of our lives from yesteryear. You can’t make memories like these. You live a Sweet gig rather than experience it. It’s a nostalgic euphoria. Man of the night is Andy Scott, the architect of much of the Sweet back catalogue. Resplendent in his long white hair, and jovial midriff, he reminds me of a certain gentleman seen around this time of year. And, in the words of CC Moore, he leaves us with a festive fairwell:
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
The Sweet setlist:
Intro (Still Got The Rock)
New York Groove (Hello cover) (included New York (Alicia Keys cover))
Burn on the Flame
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist (Joey Dee & The Starliters cover)
Turn It Down
Set Me Free
Love Is Like Oxygen / Fanfare for the Common Man
Fox on the Run
The Ballroom Blitz
Dan Reed Network + FM + Gun
O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Wednesday 11th December 2019
Three Bands, Three Decades, Three Classic Albums - we are going to party like it’s 1989! Earlier this month, London's O2 Shepherds Bush Empire celebrated some of the best Rock music from the 80's - Gun playing 'Taking On The World', FM doing 'Tough It Out' and Dan Reed Network finishing off with 'Slam'. A 10-date national tour, this suggested rather excellent value for money and a bit of an early Christmas present to myself! But this wasn’t starter, main and pudding, this was much more three roast turkey and stuffing dinners, so to fit all this fine dining into one evening, we kick straight off at 7pm. That’s barely enough time to change into my leather jacket after work and grab a quick pint before the dry ice and the opening chords of Gun and ‘Better Days’!
The Scottish five-piece hit the stage with the iconic Gun logo behind them and we are transported back to the 80's for an evening of Classic Rock. The venue may not be completely sold out but enough Christmas shoppers have been drawn away from Westfield to make the place feel comfortably full. We work our way through the album list with ‘Inside Out’, ‘Shame On You’ and ‘Something To Believe In’ shaking the dust off my adolescent memories! Their Scottish roots are emphasised with the Celtic scarf wrapped around the guitarist's neck and we rock through the album and some famous extras such as their version of Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ which was one of Gun’s most popular live numbers making the Top Ten in 1994. The finale is ‘Steal Your Fire’ another classic and it feels all over too soon, but there is only a short break with just enough time to grab another beer and change the back drop for FM to keep the rockin’ vibe going.
Formed in London in 1984, FM have rocked with some of the best Rock bands in history. The line up has had some minor changes over time, but with Steve Overland on guitar and vocals, brother Chris Overland on lead guitar/backing vocals, Merv Goldsworthy on bass and Pete Jupp on drums (dressed in a rather ‘Wedding Singer' style waistcoat!) the core sound is still there. Jem Davis on keyboards is dramatically dressed in leather lace up trousers and leather tank top, rocks away at the back in dramatic form occasionally coming to the front with a ‘keytar’ to chug along with the rest of the band. Rather silver haired these days, FM still can push out a big sound and as they open with ‘Tough It Out’ we are transported back to the heyday of the British Soft Metal scene. FM can chug with the best! With the harmonies and keyboards supporting excellent vocals and two guitars, the FM sound is easy to roll with and they play tracks from their first to latest album. This gig is top value!
And yet there is more, as ‘I Belong to the Night’ is still fading away, the back drop changes once again to herald the arrival of Dan Reed Network. DRN are a WRC favourite, with Dan himself deservedly winning our Best Unplugged award in 2017. Indeed, we even found out after the gig, when we met up with our hero, that Dan has our award hanging up in his studio! Dan himself comes out onto the stage and kicks off the last third of the show with a short solo before the band join him and start the funky Rock riffs that are their signature. My gig notes run thin here as not only was I too busy rockin’ out with Dan and Co, but I bump into my old buddy and neighbour who lent me my first Dan Reed CD 30 years ago! Perhaps not that a big coincidence, but neither of us knew the other was coming!
So a bit of a different kind of reunion caps off a great night with ‘Tiger in Dress’, ‘Under My Skin’, ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ - to mention just a few. Melvin Brannon never ceases to amaze with the sounds he manages to produce from his bass as he funks it up! Brion James with his distinctive braids crunches out the riffs, with Dan Pred on drums keeping the beat going. Rob Daiker on keyboards insists afterwards that he really is a guitarist, but we think he does a pretty good job tickling the ivories too. Reed as ever, bounces around the stage with boundless energy and ends the night and keeps it non-binary with his girl/boy quip on ‘Come Back Baby’! Eventually we are transported back to 2019 with security ushering us out to the cold December air, but we sneak back round to the foyer to catch up and grab some selfies with the Dan and the band. Only just enough time to make the last train home from London Bridge, but what great value, three for the price of one! A great way to top off my Wrinkly Rockin’ Year with my three course Christmas Rockin’ Dinner!