The Underworld, Camden
Friday 6th September 2019
Bigfoot are a five piece no-nonsense Melodic Hard Rock outfit formed some five years ago in Wigan, Lancashire, who are now on their ‘Farewell Tour’. The lifespan of a pop band is usually five years, so it’s disappointing but not unusual to see them calling it a day as they hit the stage at The Underworld, Camden Town NW1 in top gear!
Sandwiched in between the manic antics, but brilliant music of StOp,sToP! and the American Rock of Jeff Scott's headliner's SOTO, complete with a guest appearance from Inglorious's Nathan James - the riffs are flying from dual guitarists Sam Millar and Mick McCullagh, with top notch vocals from Sean Seabrook along with the tight rhythm section of Matt Avery on bass and Tom Aspinall on drums.
Most of the set comes from their self-titled album from 2017, the year we last saw them at this very same venue, with the big numbers ‘Tell Me A Lie’, ’The Fear’ and ‘Uninvited’ all delivered perfectly. The mix of stomping Rock and some swirling Rock ballads has something for everyone.
The show was evidently well rehearsed with a confident performance (even when your drummer changes the set order) and there was no sign on stage of a band about to split up. Guitarist Sam Millar has already released a solo EP (review coming soon) and their last show is in Manchester at the end of the September. I would recommend catching them on one of their last five dates if this really is the end? RIP Bigfoot 2014-2019.
Enuff Z'nuff + Last Great Dreamers
The Underworld, Camden
Monday 2nd September 2019
Monday evenings are usually a glum post-work affair, so what better way to raise the spirits and head to the dark basement of a large pub for a gig at the Underworld? This is where Enuff Z'nuff come into their own. Seasoned and experienced as they are, they still know how to throw a party in the face of the jading effect of incessant touring.
Lead singer Chip Z'Nuff mentions, mid-set, the drummer, Daniel B. Hill tours with ZZ Top which is perfect for their opening numbers which have a ZZ feel. One wonders if the Z in Z'Nuff is tipping their hat to them. 'Metalheart' has the tempo of 'Gimme All your Lovin', with few chord changes it sets the tone as they power through the first four songs. 'Diamond Boy' is a glimpse of their newer material which moves along with Eddie Cochrane-like urgency. What sets them apart is their Psychedelia-infused vocals and harmonising on the latter part of their set like on 'Wheels' which serves as an anthem. Their version of Bowie's 'The Jean Genie' has a crunching guitar sound which - and blasphemy alert - tops the original in this reviewer's humble opinion.
Chip himself is an engaging large-than-life front man with a kitsch look, his hat and glasses resembling Elton John in his early seventies pomp. His constant banter with the crowd ensures the feel-good mood bubble along. He brags of his bass guitar belonging to the bassist of Cheap Trick who ran off with his ex-wife, but Chip got to keep his guitar - the better half of the exchange in his opinion! He goofs around with other members of the band: the lead guitarist Tory Stoffregen nonchalantly glugs on his bottle of beer (or more likely a large bottle of wine) whilst Chip does his fretwork and strumming for him from behind his back, whilst original co-founding guitarist, Alex Kane, goads the crowd. At one point the support act, Last Great Dreamers join the stage in the backing vocals.
The Last Great Dreamers have a very New Wave/Old Wave sound. They choose a set-list dominated by their 'Transmissions From Oblivion' album which has Brit-Pop stylings and very much in keeping with their Camden surroundings. 'Misunderstood' is their stand-out track for me and their set provides a lively, Punkish platform for the rest of the evening which turned out to be a Monday that was a remarkably happy one!
Ivan De Mello
The Quireboys + Pig Iron + Massive + Tequila Mockingbyrd
O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London
Saturday 14th September 2019
Wouldn't it be great if four of your favourite bands chose to do a gig in one of your favourite venues on a warm Summer Saturday night. And then go to that gig with your regular gigging mates and drink a few beers and just get lost in the vibe of a great night out. Well that is what is happening tonight. A quartet of quite quintessentially quality acts to leave us quivering and quaking whilst quaffing ales without qualms. Sorry - my alliteration button got stuck. Lets crack on shall we.
With four bands on the menu, we have an early start with the ever evolving Tequila Mockingbyrd first up. The current incarnation is a mix up of the original TM line up and The Amorettes who merged recently. Tonight we are also blessed with Sam Wood on lead guitar from Wayward Sons and Ben Chalker on bass standing in. And they give us a short set of Rocking goodness, a mix of Mockingbyrd and Amorette staples, which nicely warms the slowly filling arena. The sound is classic Les Paul through Marshall amps - a combination that is consistent throughout the evening - with vocalist and guitarist Gill Montgomery sporting a battered JHS Vintage Les Paul - a favourite guitar brand of mine used by headliners The Quireboys. Geek moment over. Josie O'Toole, the sole remaining member of the Tbyrds, sits behind the drum kit, head down, hair flying, defying her diminutive stature to provide a huge sonic presence. Their short set includes tracks like 'Jagerbomb' and 'Everything I Learned (I Learned From Rock And Roll)', but it's closing track 'I Smell Rock N Roll' that gets the best reaction from a swelling crowd. "Wow. Just wow." to quote them.
Tequila Mockingbyrd setlist:
Never Go Home
Enjoy the Ride
Let the Neighbours Call the Cops
(The Amorettes cover)
Somebody Put Something in My Drink
Everything I Learned (I Learned From Rock and Roll) (The Amorettes cover) Good Time I Smell Rock N Roll
Next up are Massive, the four piece Aussie Rockers, who have been 'drinkin beers and smashing ears since 2012'. Massive’s lead singer Brad Marr is anything but, although his voice surely is. The hard drinking frontman totes the filthiest white Gibson SG, which squeals with trademark Ozzy Rock pedigree, whilst emitting a quite remarkably powerful and versatile voice. On more than one occasion during the short set Marr holds an endless and perfect note that suggests the lungs in his chest possibly extend as far down as his ever moving feet. The Marr duck walk highlights that, under the power and the glory, Massive are a Rock and Roll band. With classic Rock and Roll we get classic drumstick twirling from Andrew Greentree and a novel sight of all three guitarists, including bassist Tommy Sunset, playing their guitars behind their heads. The now full auditorium lapped up the good time feel and loudly applauded the band who had driven all night from supporting Phil Campbell in Germany the previous night and were off to play the Raismes festival in France the following night.
They quote their home town as 'The tour van' on their website. Nuff said. Marr shows his drinking prowess by playing one handed whilst downing a pint with the other. As he quips when introducing the band, but mostly introducing himself, "It’s all about me". That’s not strictly true as guitarist Ben Laguda is a force to be reckoned with. And whilst his guitar isn’t a home for bubonic plague like Marr’s, both guitars are notable for having untrimmed strings sprouting out of their headstocks like a middle aged man’s ear hair. Petty, I know, but once seen, you can’t unsee it. I guess that’s because Massive are so Rock and Roll they don’t conform to the rules. Or maybe they have been so damn busy they haven’t had the time. Tracks include 'Dancefloor' which really isn’t something you dance to - you devastate a mosh pit to it. And 'Generation Riot' from their new album 'Rebuild Destroy' which has an almost Motorhead vibe to it. Closer 'Long Time Coming' is also from the new album and shows why this hard working band are becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Blood Money Blues
One by One
Long Time Coming
London's Pig Iron are a completely different cafetiere of cod. Where Massive are fun and frolics, Pig Iron are a kick in the bollocks. The four piece have an indefinitely more Doomy sound to them although with vocalist Johnny Ogle frequently playing accompaniment on harmonica, Rich Groom's thundering Les Paul riffs are given a slight Southern edge, with just a touch of Deliverance about it. Hugh Gilmour is the huge cowboy hatted bassist playing the obligatory matching Rickenbacker and Joe Smith manages to survive on the drumkit. Its a sharp contrast to Massive but enjoyable nonetheless. I have listened many times to their 'Blues + Power = Destiny' album and 'Lord Kill the Pain' from 'The Law and the Road Are One' EP is a favourite, so to hear it played live as a closer to another short set was a real treat.
Pig Iron setlist:
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Ruler of Tomorrow
Wildcat Bird Head
Lord Kill the Pain
Guns 'N' Ammo
What can you say about The Quireboys that does them justice? A band that always features in my top ten of music choices, the lads are tonight celebrating 35 years since the release of their defining album 'A Bit Of What You Fancy'. And we are getting to hear that album in its entirety along with a number of their later classics. As they enter the stage, the screen above them crackles to life with the 80's sound track to Top Of The Pops and Yewtree-free DJ Gary Davies announcing their slot on the show that heralded their coming to the public's attention. The gypsy styled troubadours, dressed in suits and scarves, launch into the first of many favourites, 'Hey You'. The now packed audience, including the VIP elite seated upstairs, launch into the form for the evening of Rocking and singing along with gusto. After the heaviness of Pig Iron, we are back to the feel good fun factor as front man Spike takes his usual tipsy stance centre stage, sporting his trademark headscarf and buttonhole flower. He is just the same character as he was back on that BBC stage although a little older and his voice is not pushed as hard as it once was. But it still has the power or the softness as the song dictates, and is still full of the cheeky Geordie charm. There is constant good natured banter between Spike and lead guitarist Guy Griffin, as well as the rest of the band, with the audience often included. We almost felt like the 7th member of the band.
Guitarists Paul Guerin and Guy Griffin both sport those aforementioned beautiful Vintage Guitars - Guy often using a T-type when not sporting a Les Paul - whilst Dave McCluskeys drum kit is festooned with fairy lights that somehow seems so in keeping with The Quireboys vibe. With Nick Mailing on bass and Keith Weir on keys the line-up is complete. And whilst mentioning Mr. Weir, it is important to note how much his honky tonk keys contribute to the feel good Rock and Roll sound that is The Quireboys. Tonight’s sound is ok although gets a little muddy at times but with the crowd singing, and the Rocking in full swing, it doesn't detract from what is one of the best sets I have seen the boys play. Not so much from the quality of the performance, which is a given, but from the setlist. It's the entirety of their greatest album FFS! Sorry, slipped in an acronym there, must be the excitement. You know it's a top set when '7 O'clock' is played mid set.
Ordinarily I make copious notes whilst reviewing gigs but the 90 minutes just flew by as I got lost in my favourite songs so my pencil remained unlicked. Check out the set list for full details but suffice it to say it was hit after hit great songs that left my voice sounding like Spike does on a good day - Bonny Tyler and Rod Stewart's love child on Marlborough Reds. Spike’s ongoing banter with the crowd was as natural as a chat down the pub - we all raise our glasses with him on every possible occasion. Between every song, virtually. The clearly adoring fans are enraptured by what is The Quireboys firing on all cylinders and showing their very best. You could even describe it as emotional, although the bands sense of fun would never let anything get too heavy. As an encore we all get invited to a 'Sex Party' - its not just part of the VIP package - before they finish with 'Mayfair', their very first single from 1987. And a couple of confetti cannons to send us on our way. They are the canines cajones.
So five hours after entering the Forum, we all file out again, a little more tired, a little more deaf and a lot more happy. This is Rock and Roll - it says so on my Quireboys t-shirt. As I head home I try to think up some detailed explanation of how good the night was so I can put these words together. I try and think of some short sentence or saying that sums up great music, great bonhommie, great fun. Should I go to some ridiculously long alliteration with every word I can think of starting with the letter Q? Why bother, when its summed up nicely in one word. Quireboys. This IS Rock and Roll.
The Quireboys setlist:
There She Goes Again
Roses & Rings
Man on the Loose
Take Me Home
Sweet Mary Ann
I Don't Love You Anymore
Long Time Comin'
Mona Lisa Smiled
Seven Deadly Sins
Original Black Eyed Son
This Is Rock 'N' Roll
Sophie And The Giants + Novacub
The Lexington, Islington, London
Thursday 12th September 2019
A slightly last minute decision to head off to Islington’s Lexington last Thursday turned out to be a most wise choice as not only did I manage to get our own AJ into a jolly nice venue that he had not been to before, but we also heard two fabulous bands who are most definitely on the way up, demonstrated by the fact that the venue was a sell out! We made our way into the Lexington with its lofty ceilings and trendy north London crowd, grabbed our craft beers and made our way upstairs to a small but very sympathetic music venue, with the best view from the bar!
The evening was kicked off in fine style by Novacub, originating from SW London. Louise Bartle on vocals and guitar, dressed in her pale pink boiler suit oozed personality from the start. She indeed has a fine voice, which she made even more colourful by the use of a range of effects including a megaphone! She bounced around the stage, occasionally folded double with the passion put into the lyrics. And there are some catchy tunes here in an Indie Pop Punk style, although some nifty guitar work from Russell Lissack on lead guitar and Iona Thomas on bass gave a nineties dance vibe on their latest single ‘Strike’. The drums, by Tony Alda, give the track a jangly feel and the growing crowd like what they hear! The tracks ‘I Still Need It’ and ‘Wait Up’ continue into what clearly is a commercially attractive set list. Only problem I have, is that it was all over too soon! However, at the bar afterwards, we confirmed that there is more to come from Novacub, which is good news indeed!
As the last few vacant places are filled, the venue anticipates the arrival of the headliners, ‘Sophie and the Giants’. Another great discovery from my Spotify (damn or praise that AI algorithm)! SATG are at the start of their headline tour which takes them across Europe after the Lexington kick off, finishing off back in the UK in October. Interestingly, the single ‘The Light’ has been picked up by Vodafone Deutschland in their latest campaign which demonstrates the interest across the channel in the band. Enter Sophie Scott, power dressed in an open suit followed by her ‘Giants’, Toby Holmes on lead guitar, Antonia Pooles on bass and Chris Hill on drums, to a warm welcome from the expectant crowd. And we are not disappointed - Sophie has a fantastic voice that has a great depth and warmth, powerful, but not overbearing. The quality of the music is tangible. Catchy riffs, powerful tunes, enough to get the crowd quickly singing along in empathy. The band are clearly enjoying their performance, Chris on the drums is absorbed and producing endless energy. How Antonia contorts with her bass is beyond me! I asked her afterwards and she claims she uses the bass as a counterweight as she almost doubles in half backwards. Me, I’d put my back out for a month if I tried that!
Sophie is soon climbing over the stage and engaging the crowd with the singles ‘Waste My Air’ about the end of a bad relationship and ‘Bulldog’ about domestic violence, “don’t mess with the bulldog”. The change in style for ‘Monsters’ gives an eerie atmosphere and Sophie is crouching down growling at the audience! Impressive stuff, and although I think most of the crowd were sold beforehand, there is a wave of enthusiastic appreciation as the set comes to a conclusion, again just too soon!
We met up at the bar with Sophie, the band and proud parents. Originating in Guildford and having met at music college, the band moved to Sheffield to pursue their careers in the music industry, having had informal mentoring from Reverend and the Makers. Debbie Harry is Sophie’s hero and having heard Blondie live, Sophie is definitely in the same league. These guys have the talent, the passion and are such nice people too! They have the quality, so there is a high probability you could hear them as the theme music for an advert soon, or even better, pop along and see them live. You cannot help but have a jolly nice time!
Danny Bryant + Kelvin Davies
Dingwalls, Camden, London
Friday 20th September 2019
Danny Bryant, the critically acclaimed British Blues Rock guitarist, released his eleventh studio album, 'Means of Escape' last Friday, and to support its release, Danny is now out on the road in October in the UK, which included a launch gig at London's Dingwalls in Camden on the same night night. Apart from Danny’s immense guitar playing and gravel style vocal, he’s also taken the reigns as producer for the first time at the Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, with the songs crossing the Atlantic to be mixed by Eddie Spear in Nashville (Rival Sons/U2) and mastered in London at Abbey Road by Sean Magee (Gary Moore/Rolling Stones), to help craft an album that he has been waiting his whole career to create, featuring nine tracks of blistering Blues Rock of the highest calibre. Anyway with the sad closure of The Pride - a stone's throw away from Dingwalls - plus more recently The Borderline and The Big Red - it was great to be back at one of my favourite, and one of London's most picturesque venues on a beautiful Summer's evening, opening with a great unplugged support set from Kelvin Davies. A traditional Country Blues and ragtime musician, with a British Folk vibe, the moustachioed acoustic guitarist Davies and his bearded bespectacled harmonica side-kick Gary, effortlessly transported us back in time including 'Kimbie' and 'Sick, Sad And Lonesome' in their delicate set.
The first time we saw Danny Bryant was on the big man's birthday at a very wet Ramblin' Man Fair in 2015 - Bryant immediately endearing himself to the crowded Blues tent by saying that he either had all of a sudden become very popular or it was the fact that that everyone wanted to get out of the rain! Well it was definitely a case of the former given Danny’s ‘Temperature Rising’ album, at the time, had been nominated in the British Blues Awards. Personally - one of my top three sets of that day, although the last time we caught Danny was in August last year on the Planet Rock Stage at Olympia's British Beer Festival in London, where of course we were not only there to sample the beer but also the musical fare, where Bryant's set, whether you were a fan or a virgin, was the highlight of the day.
I suppose it was no coincidence when the big man stepped on stage with his red strat and matching belt, that his opener was taken from 2016's 'Blood Money', namely 'Holding All The Cards', with Bryant's cool fret work immediately complemented by the Blues circuit legendary keys of the very talented Stevie Watts, previously of Danny's Big Band and who we had the pleasure of seeing at the aforementioned Beer Festival. This fusion of Bryant and Watts pretty much set the scene for the rest of the set as Danny welcomed the healthy audience before launching into the slower but superb 'Guntown' from 'Temperature Rising' - the stand out from that wet but memorable Maidstone tent four years ago. Cue the infamous Bryant solo grimace, thankfully not for the last time tonight. It was then time for Danny to debut a brace from 'Means Of Escape'. Whilst some of the Blues Rockers of recent years are moving to a more mainstream Rock direction, the awesome combination of Bryant and Watts were sticking to their guns, firing loud and proud on the Walter Trout influenced 'Tired Of Trying'. And talking of influences, hints of 'All Along The Watchtower' followed, in the make-up of the album's title track, which no doubt had the Blues Rock radio Police salivating in their cheap seats.
Following the pure Blues of 'On The Rocks', another from Blood Money, there was further affirmation from Danny, if you needed it, that 'Means Of Escape' was pulling in the right Blues Rock direction with 'Too Far Gone', and as Bryant peered menacingly into the crowd during an unbelievable and explosive solo, no one would dare disagree with him. Danny's heavy Blues rhythm machine continued with 'Warning Signs (In Her Eyes)' plus 'Hurting Time', both from the new album, the latter not only seeing Danny unleash the slide guitar technique he is well know for, but also some masterclass keys from Stevie. Another Bryant classic, 'Painkiller', from 2013's 'Hurricane' saw Danny's excellent vocal bookended by Watts' sumptuous keys intro and, of course, another exquisite Bryant outro. 'Take Me Higher', another Rocker from 'Temperature Rising' did exactly what it said on the tin, before Watts piano intro on 'Means Of Escape's epic awesome closing instrumental track 'Mya', delightfully gave Bryant another opportunity to excel on another guitar solo. Job accomplished and a slam dunk for experimentation by Danny's Big Band. Looking forward to that.
From a new classic to an old classic, namely Bryant's RedEye Band's 2009 debut album 'Watching You' and 'Heartbreaker'. Not only a chance for Bryant with his hunched style and gurning facials to effortlessly churn out another outstanding Blues guitar solo, but also an opportunity for Bryant to showcase and introduce the backbone of his band - namely Dave Raeburn on drums and Paul Mallatratt on bass guitar - which was well deserved. The band finished off their set with two songs from 'Means Of Escape', perhaps the song of the album, 'Nine Lives', hitting deep into riff country, and lastly, Watts' piano intro on the ballad 'Where The River Ends', think of Gary Moore territory. And to complete a memorable evening - why not an encore a cover of Booker T. And The M.G.'s 'Green Onions'? Needless to say Watts was in overdrive! The fact that, disappointingly in Danny's set, there was no 'Prisoner Of The Blues' nor anything off his last album 'Revelation', was on the other hand testament to the depth and strength of Bryant's ever-growing back-catalogue. Not only that, but we were enjoying the set so much, I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing this review! Anyway, don't just take my word for it - make sure you find a 'Means Of Escape' to catch Danny at one of his UK dates this October!
AJ (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
The Steel Woods + Austin Jenckes
+ Sam Lewis
Bush Hall, London
Thursday 5th September 2019
Americana came to Shepherds Bush in several guises tonight, with the three sets covering the spectrum from Folk through Country to Southern Rock. And hugely enjoyable it was too!
Difficulties in locating the reviewer and photographer passes meant that we listened to half of the opening set from the bar area outside the main room, but the early birds gave Sam Lewis a warm reception. The Nashville based artist performed solo, accompanied only by his own guitar, and seems to be ably continuing the tradition of folk troubadours like Townes Van Zandt and Loudon Wainwright.
Sam might have been expected to plug his most recent album – 2018’s ‘Loversity’, which was for sale at the merchandise table – but in practice only the opening ‘Everything’s Going To Be Different’ and ‘Natural Disaster’ came from that release. ‘Waiting On You’ was the title track of his sophomore album from 2015, while ‘In My Dreams’ was taken from his eponymous 2012 debut release (sometimes also known as ‘Sammy Sings Songs’).
That meant that the remaining three songs were new enough not to have been recorded yet and, of those, the closing ‘Neighbors’ wry lyrics drew more than a few appreciative chuckles from his attentive audience. Sam had performed without a setlist, but, on learning that I intended to include his set in my review, he swiftly wrote one out from memory for me; what a gent!
Setlist: Everything’s Going To Be Different; Waiting On You; The Light; Natural Disaster; In My Dreams; What Does It Mean?; Neighbors (sic).
Next up was Austin Jenckes from Duvall, Washington, who had gained some nationwide attention in the USA when he appeared on television in season 5 of “The Voice”. I’d missed his appearance at the new(ish) Pizza Express club in Holborn a few weeks previously, so I was keen to hear his set.
Austin couldn’t be accused of being over-recorded prior to this year’s ‘If You Grew Up Like I Did’, which was on sale at the gig; extensive on-line searches revealed only two previous albums in a decade (‘Coming Of Age’ in 2009 and ‘An American Story’ in 2012), both of which appear to be long deleted.
Unsurprisingly five of the set’s eight songs were taken from his latest release, which, as the title suggests, reflect some of the difficulties he faced while growing up. ‘Fat Kid reflects’ the feelings of not fitting in and yet it’s now the richness of his voice, rather than his physical stature, which is starting to make him stand out from the crowd.
Writing the achingly beautiful ‘If You’d Been Around’ and the newer ‘You Don’t Even Know Who I Am’ may have been a form of catharsis for him, following his father’s suicide, but the songs never felt maudlin. Indeed, powerful as this solo performance was (like Sam before him, Austin was accompanied only by his own guitar), the songs take on even greater life when played by a full band on the CD recordings.
As a set closer we were treated to Fleetwood Mac’s timeless ‘Landslide’ (it’s hard to believe that this song pre-dates even ‘Rumours’, having first appeared in 1975); anyone who can do such justice to a song so closely associated with the great Stevie Nicks is an artist to look out for.
Like Sam, Austin also performed without a setlist, but kindly offered to write one out for me from memory; bless him!
Setlist: Bet You’d Look Good; If You’d Been Around; People Crazy; Fat Kid; American Nights; Ride Away; You Don’t Even Know Who I Am; Landslide.
Headliners The Steel Woods from Nashville are in the Southern Rock tradition, with some outlaw Country in the mix. I’ve heard them likened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, but to these ears there are more similarities to Blackberry Smoke; either way, that’s no bad thing!
The band was formed by the two guitarists, Wes Bayliss and Jason Cope (Wes also handles most of the vocals), and is rounded out by bassist Johnny Stanton and drummer Jay Tooke. Their debut album ‘Straw In The Wind’ appeared in 2017 and was followed up this year by ‘Old News’; their setlist was drawn pretty evenly from both highly recommended releases.
Whether by accident or design, the band alternated between its two albums every 20 minutes or so: four of the first five songs came from ‘Old News’, then came four from the debut, followed by four more from the later album and culminating in four from ‘Straw In The Wind’.
There were three cover versions in the latter half of the set: a nice take on J.J. Cale’s ‘Same Old Blues’ and a shorter than usual Allman Brothers tribute in ‘Whipping Post’ (perhaps a bit of a tall order for anyone to follow Gregg Allman’s iconic vocal), but the pick of them was ‘Southern Accents’ by Tom Petty. Sad to think that all three of those voices were lost to us between 2013 and 2017.
A song by song analysis of the band’s own compositions is unnecessary, as they are uniformly strong and well worthy of wider attention. If I had to pick a favourite, it might be the title track from ‘Straw In The Wind’; for anyone new to the band, a YouTube listen to that song would be a good place to start.
Sadly there was no opportunity to speak to the band members (they remained in their dressing room post-gig with representatives from their record label, although my CD was taken backstage and returned to me fully signed), but hopefully they will return to these shores soon. Catch them when you can.
Setlist: Rock That Says My Name; Wild & Blue; All Of These Years; Without You; Blind Lover; I’m Gonna Love You; Uncle Lloyd; Whatever It Means To You; Same Old Blues; Better In The Fall; Whipping Post; Old News; Compared To A Soul; Southern Accents; Straw In The Wind; Hole In The Sky; Axe; Let The Rain Come Down.
Gary Smith (photos courtesy of Tim Russell)
Collateral + Piston
+ Sons Of Liberty
The Lounge, Archway, London
Saturday 28th September 2019
I’ve always been a fan of live music so when I was invited to come down to watch three live Rock bands on a Saturday night in North London I jumped on the opportunity. When music is played live you get a clearer understanding of the musical influences, how it is portrayed by the performers, how the music is accepted by the public, and comparing the live performance with a recording you get a buzz unlike any other. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to go and experience this and I was mesmerised by the experience and inspired to write a review of this amazing evening.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the doorman and welcomed in. Prices upon entry was £5, very well priced especially for London entry into a nightclub. Even before appearing through the doors, I could hear the first band playing their song. Going through the doors we came across a partitioning wall on the right and a bar on the right. The bar was well stocked with the usual alcohol, spirits and soft drinks. Very reasonably priced, four beers came to £15 which is a fantastic price especially given the London prices I was expecting. After picking up our drinks we followed the music, past the partitioning wall into the main dancefloor. The dancefloor was busy with patrons watching Sons Of Liberty who were on a raised platform in front of the mixing desk. The sound/light engineer was positioned on the opposite side of the room to the band and to his right there was a small alcove which was selling the band merchandise which was busy with more patrons buying t-shirts, albums and other band merchandise. Atmosphere felt cosy and as if we were amongst friends with friendly staff and band members willing to talk, provided they weren’t performing!
Five-piece Sons of Liberty, consisting of two guitars, bass, drums and a baritone vocalist (not forgetting a kazoo), drew on influences of AC/DC, late Country Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Rock. It was a fantastic start to an amazing evening, with lots of Country and Western inspired musical genres all wrapped up into one. Some good synergetic moments of audience participation between with song 'Damned If You Do', being passed from singer to the audience. All band members kept the tempo and structure going with a great understanding of tempo changes. Upon chatting with a band member who was selling merchandise after the act he mentioned that they had been playing together for a long time and are friends for “far too long” (made me laugh)!! A very entertaining start before the main event.
Big Ass A
It's My Bad
Rich Man, Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
Up Shit Creek
Start It Up
Into The Great Unknown
Marvin Popcorn Sutton
Damned If You Do
If It Ain't Southern
Co-headlining five-piece Piston, consisting of two guitars, bass, drums and a baritone vocalist, were a great middle act with a good stage presence. Even though it had its moments, overall the music was fun, thrilling and engaging. With influences potentially including Red Hot Chilli Peppers/Mid-80's Rock, the drummer filled in whilst the guitars we’re changed and tuned which was good for the audience as it filled the gap and provided some fantastic entertainment. Also a guitar string broke which meant a change in guitars but didn’t affect the performance and even though there was a break whilst the instrument was being replaced, the singer, guitar and drummer played to the crowd to keep the interest going. Musically and performance wise - extremely entertaining.
One More Day
Blow It Away
Carry Us Home
Leave If You Dare
Into The Night
Final co-headliner Collateral, in contrast, are a four piece consisting of drums, electric guitar, bass guitar and a vocalist. With baritone/tenor elements, the singer had a fantastic presence about him and drew the audience in to him at the start of the performance, opening with a number that was well known to his audience and was a signal of intent from the band that they meant business. Musically, brilliant, not a foot wrong with songs moving from one to the other with few stops between numbers. Looking out onto the audience they were drawn into the music and were smiling, singing, nodding heads to the music, hands in the air with “rock” symbols. The introduction of the electro-acoustic guitar was a welcome change in timbre and mood as most of the evening was electric guitar orientated. A good repertoire with a strong following meant this band was one of the highlights of an amazing evening.
Going With The Wind
Merry Go Round
About This Boy
In It For Love
All three bands were amazing and we had a wonderful experience. Different types of Rock music blended into one fantastic evening. Thank you to the venue and the organisers who put on a great show. A special thanks to the Wrinkly Rockers Club who mentioned the event to me earlier on in the day and to all the patrons who came along to watch the event.
Courtyard Theatre Studio, London
Tuesday 1st October 2019
Following Iamthemorning's August release of their new studio album 'The Bell', to worldwide praise from media and fans alike, the Russian duo, comprising of virtuoso classical pianist Gleb Kolyadin and charismatic vocalist Marjana Semkina, not only supported its release last month touring Europe with Riverside, but also with this headline show last Tuesday at London's Courtyard Theatre Studio, plus another the following night at Maastricht's Intro In Situ in Holland. Generally described as "Chamber Prog" or "Chamber Progressive Rock", the Russian, Saint Petersburg duo, formed in 2010, their name taken from the song 'I Am the Morning' from Oceansize's debut release, 'Effloresce'. Their first release in 2012 was the curiously named '~', followed by the success of their next two studio albums for Kscope - 'Belighted', the award winning 'Lighthouse' and their most recent live studio film 'Ocean Sounds'. Iamthemorning’s dedication to writing forward-thinking and thought-provoking music has seen them create a new album of impressive depth and playability. 'The Bell' is a modern blend of Rock, Classical and Folk, making use of 19th Century song cycles - a style established by Schubert - that cohesively tells ten individual stories.
Other than a very brief encounter at a wet Ramblin' Man Fair Prog Stage in July 2017, this was only the second time I had seen them live, and once again it was pissing down as I walked out of Old Street tube to find the Courtyard Theatre, apparently just a five minute walk away. After eventually finding the venue, soaking wet, I managed to buy a beer from the very friendly bar staff before venturing into the sold out venue, where it was literally standing room only, with the early arrivals cunningly grabbing the cheap seats down the front. Indeed it was sweltering, as Saint Petersburg's finest duo, promptly made their way on to the stage, accompanied by their percussionist and cello player.
Not unexpectedly, this was going to be a night very similar to their aforementioned 'Ocean Sounds' unplugged sessions, and indeed, barring 'The Bell', their set consisted mainly of that 2018 live set. One could not already help being immediately captivated by the bare footed Marjana, with her flowing red locks contrasting against her white address, as she appropriately grabbed her flower adorned mic stand for 'Scotland' (think The Pineapple Thief) from '~', with her partner in crime, Gleb behind her, not being outdone with fairy lights on his Nord keyboard! "It's nice to be back" Semkina greeted the crowd, apologising for the cancellation of their last Union Chapel gig when she couldn't get a visa, but delighted everyone with the news that she now has a residents permit! The tattooed Marjana also delighted us with the beautiful Chamber Pop of 'To Human Misery' from 'Belighted', with its glittered accompanying percussionist already inspiring a few wobbly heads in the audience to move from side to side. The fact that, as Marjana put it, that their songs are mostly about "dead girls and dying people", belied her smile at the end of '~'s masterpiece 'Touching II', her sweet vocals, complemented now by the addition of some exquisite acoustic guitar.
For the sake of German/Russian relations, Semkina dedicated the quirky 'Matches', with Kolyadin's outstanding bar room piano vibe, to Germany's Riverside fans! This was the first of three songs taken from 'Lighthouse' which won Album of the Year at the 2016 Progressive Music Awards, the others being the Mike Oldfield/Steven Wilson influenced eargasm 'Sleeping Pills' plus 'Libretto Horror' - Marjana sitting down on the stage after her Enya like vocal, admiring the band's intense tango feel outro. It was now time to debut the new album. In fact, to be precise, they played 80% of 'The Bell', beginning with the gorgeous, artful, haunting, powerful and melancholic 'Freak Show', which, understandably, was well received by the very hot, but appreciative audience. Semkina covered her eyes to see into said crowd, before her sweet vocal hit the spot on 'Sleeping Beauty', which melded into 'Blue Sea', which saw Marjana picking up her acoustic guitar for the first time, consequently dueting with her guitarist on this stunningly beautiful composition.
Almost half way through the set and we were already running out of superlatives! Tenuous link of the night was Semkina's admission that she again believed that she had made a grave mistake offending Riverside's Nuremburg fans! "Talking of graves ..." she said - cue Kolyadin's mesmerising keys on the breathtaking 'Six Feet', followed by the slightly more up-tempo 'Ghost Of A Story', further proof, if you needed it, not only of their prowess as musicians and writers/composers, but also, as Marjana again sat down on the stage, of her parallels with, dare I say it, Kate Bush, as both a vocalist and performer. The duo solely took the spotlight for 'Lillies', a track that Marjana introduced as a 'weird one", which saw her take another well deserved drinks break on the floor, as Gleb's awesome keys solo had me thinking of the much missed Emerson, Kolyadin reassuringly confirming to me that Keith was indeed one of his major influences after the show.
Semkina's bombshell "that we are all going to die" was softened by the fact she meant that we are all going to die in the end but not tonight! Cue their two final tracks from 'The Bell', that saw Marjana, picking up her acoustic guitar again on the fantastic instrumentation on the Russian vibe of 'Salute', plus the spiritual beauty of the title track, and Gleb and Marjana's delicate, delightful duet. Belissimo! At last - from dead girls and misery - to the only interactively happy song on the night - 'Belighted's '5/4' - the Iamthemorning faithful needing no prompting (think The Pineapple Thief's 'Snowdrops') as when to clap along to this gorgeous waltz of a track - with Semkina once again demonstrating her captivating theatrics. Following Marjana's inevitable merch plug, plus that she couldn't see her set list, it was back to the subject of misery and 'Chalk and Coal'. Another from the award winning 'Lighthouse' album - that originally featured Porcupine Tree's Gavin Harrison on drums and Colin Edwin on bass -this was proof that less is sometimes more given its jazzy harmonies and awesome cello.
Marjana thankfully avoided mentioning the dreaded 'B' word as she introduced the last song of the set, 'Belighted's 'K.O.S'. Similarly, despite originally being a very acoustic, little heavy, Progressive Rock track, there was no loss of depth on its powerful construction, on this incredible unplugged arrangement, as testified by the audiences rapturous applause as the band took their deserved bow, stepped behind the curtain and went out of the back door. Very showbiz and very funny. Of course they returned for two encores, to complete their ninety minute set, with both tracks taken from 'Belighted'. Apparently, there's no truth in the fact that the band are doing a residency at Disneyland's Phantom Manor, as Marjana announced that "We don't do love songs", even though 'Romance was beautiful, whilst the last "dead girl" song of the night, the raw and powerful 'Os Lunatum', built to a great climax, a microcosm truly befitting a memorable set. Despite the weather outside and the heat inside - definitely a musical evening of from Russia with love!
The Holy + Pink Milk + Warmland
The Lexington, Islington, London
Thursday 26th September 2019
Second time this month for a trip to one of my favourite small music venues - The Lexington just up from the Angel tube. The layout of the venue is good and the sound system is not bad either. Tonight is a showcase of Nordic bands promoted by Ja Ja Ja with Sweden, Finland and Iceland all represented.
The atmosphere was set by the ever-present dry ice creating a misty vista and the glowing ultra-blue lighting was dimmed to allow only enough light to occasionally reveal the shadowy figures on the stage. The figures are occasionally highlighted enough to reveal Maria on drums and vocals and Edward on guitar. Two-piece Pink Milk are from Sweden’s Gotland, a dark-wave 80’s influenced sound with the vocals reminding me of Siouxsie Sioux or Xmal Deutschland at their darkest best. There is a mournful lilt in Maria’s voice expanded with reverb, echo and delay pedals to match the swirling shimmer from the dry ice. The drums are relatively low-fi and Maria plays them standing up adding the occasional electronic drum to the kit to emphasise the 80’s influences. A glittery guitar swirls in and out with picked sequences, again heavily drenched in reverb working in empathy with the vocals. The music draws you in with the chords left ringing out and hanging in the dry ice.
I met up with them in the bar later, where they did look like they had just stepped off the set of ‘Vikings’ but that is enough of the stereotyping! The gig was really good and created a positive chilled mood for the rest of the evening.
Next, the stage fills up with considerably more musicians as ‘The Holy’ take the stage. Not one but two drummers, two guitars, a bass and a sprinkling of synths and pads across the stage. The Holy are from Helsinki and already have an EP and full album to their name, to high acclaim in their homeland. Now, anyone who has read any of my previous reviews must think I am addicted to Spotify’s music recommendations and I am incapable of finding my own new music?! Well, I actually find the ‘Discovery Weekly’ playlist a bit of chore. You have to dig through lots of trash to find a diamond, but that is exactly what I did do to find The Holy. But what a diamond! The ‘Daughter’ album is immense in every way carrying such emotion and variety within its 8 tracks. Probably my favourite album of last year, I was over the moon to see that they were playing in the UK and even had to cancel a work trip to make sure I could make the gig. So I had a little trepidation of whether the live set would meet up to my expectations.
The first track, ‘The Letter’, builds slowly with the vocal gradually combining with instruments joining him to create a crescendo toward the ‘wall of sound’ that is the band’s trademark. There is variety in their music with Henrik’s voice producing a colourful range of emotions as he sings the anthemic melodies such as ‘Land Before Time’ and ‘That Will Be The Day That I Die’. The double drumming from Mikko and Eero drives the music on and the synths and piano riffs fill the sound alongside the guitars. This is quality stuff; powerful, emotional, delivered by impassioned musicians.
Henrik switches between guitar and keyboards, with Laura on bass with occasional use of synths and Pyry on guitar. All together they make a fantastic sound and blow away any doubts I had about the quality of the band I found hiding at the bottom of my Spotify playlist!
I caught them briefly at the end of the gig and they head off to Iceland for a festival next week. With their second album already recorded, next year will see them launching and supporting that work. I for one cannot wait, as the only problem with this set, was it was just too short! Hopefully they will be back - and this time with even more songs to blow me away with!
Warmland are from Reykjavik, Iceland, taking the stage in uniformed black shirts against a backdrop of electro-static visuals. The studio line up of Arnar and Hrafn met whilst touring China and mix Pop, Prog and Techno influences. They also have a strong live sound with melodic piano giving a ‘Keane’ style absorbing performance.
Not a bad evening’s entertainment from the Nordic music promoters Ja Ja Ja who arrange a monthly club night at the Lexington and FluxBau in Berlin. Well worth dropping in if you get the chance, I think I might!
Matt Pearce & The Mutiny
+ Trident Waters
Thursday 26th September 2019
Thunder may have been playing in Islington’s Garage’s basement club downstairs, but there was lightning upstairs at the Grace, in the form of Matt Pearce and the Mutiny.
Pearce who previously played and toured with the Hard Rockers Voodoo Six (Glasgow head-bangers) has decided to branch out with his own group and what is most surprising is how Funk-laden their sound is. Whether by design or destiny this quartet have taken on the mantle of cheering us up in these over-political times, retaining a heavy underfelt which revealed Steely Dan and Average White Band influences and fitted in perfectly with the Glitterball graveyard of Grace. His guitar playing is superb and probably informed his to decision to front his own band. The playing demands to take centre-stage and he certainly has the chops when it comes to fluid intricate fingering to slide guitar, you name it this guy can do it with panache. His vocals are clean and complementary and imbues the sound with a molten quality; there is no harshness or grit here.
Wisely the support vocalist Daliah Sheerington dials her voice down and harmonised beautifully when she could easily have over-powered the arrangements and he even employed a saxophonist to ensure the edge is taken of any heavy playing. The opening number 'Scarecrowing' was a thick groove which energised the crowd and had them head nodding in-beat. 'Like a hammer' and the organ-enhanced 'Gotta Get home' with slide-guitar - the title of the album that this set draws on - were slices of pure Louisiana Swamp Funk. However, it is the bitter-sweet 'Set me Free' that has the makings of a classic and utilised the band to its maximum - gaining appreciative applause from the audience at its conclusion. The pace went up and notch towards the end of the set and the drummer started to show what he was made of.
From where we stand now the Seventies is often viewed as the dank poorly clothed death mask of a de-Industrialising Britain. With Glitter-tinted spectacles though the heavy grooves of such as Zeppelin cheered up many a three-day week. So support for the evening was supplied by Trident Waters, who had managed to perfectly distil the 70's Hard Rock sound of Free, and their lead singer/guitarist entertained the front-row with acrobatic displays of guitar playing behind his head. He mentioned to the crowd the band had just recently returned from California, and by all accounts, they definitely brought back the sunshine rays with them.
Ivan De Mello
Doomsday Outlaw +
Daxx & Roxane
The Black Heart, Camden, London
Saturday 5th October 2019
Taking a break from putting the finishing touches to their new album, 2018 WRC Best Support Band award winners Doomsday Outlaw have been hitting the road lately to give a deafening farewell to some old tunes and break in some new bangers, including a penultimate tour gig at London's The Black Heart in Camden last Saturday night. The band were co-headlining with Daxx & Roxane, a ticking time bomb of raw Rock 'n’ Roll power and crushing heavy riffs, who have also been on our WRC radar for some time. A stone's throw away from where we saw Doomsday Outlaw support The Graham Bonnet Band on a beautiful Summer's evening in August last year, the Autumnal weather we were experiencing tonight, as we made our way to the venue, was in stark contrast. Yes, it was pissing down!
Doomsday Outlaw won the toss to go on first, a bit later than originally scheduled, but with a reasonable turn out to welcome the five piece full-bore Heavy Blues-tinged Rock band, featuring Phil Poole (lead vocals), Stephen Broughton (guitar), Indy (bass and backing vocals), John Ironfoot Willis (drums) and guitarist Alez D'Elia, who joined the band after we last saw them, replacing Gavin Mills. Based on both last year's Underworld gig and their well received 'Hard Times' album, we were expecting heavy groove and neck-snapping hooks, and that's exactly what we got. Indeed they are a tight, well-honed band that deliver monumental chunky riffs and groove-laden tunes, with a nod towards Zeppelin, Trapeze and Black Stone Cherry.
As expected, the majority of the ten song setlist was similar to when they supported Graham Bonnet, but by no means was that a bad thing! Indeed, they actually opened with three new tracks. 'Little Things' not only reconnected us with the exceptional vocals of flowery shirted Poole, but also introduced new guitar powerhouse D'Elia with a solo and his AC/DCish outro. "We doing alright?" Poole enquired before they launched into 'On My Way', and we were already lovin' it, just as much as this smiling Derbyshire quintet were. Rock ballad 'The End' was given the fitting guitar solo it deserved, before we were back on familiar Outlaw territory with 'Bring It On Home' from the aforementioned 'Hard Times', which not only saw the possessed Poole chucking his mic around but also saw our WRC photographer throwing a few shapes down the front. Praise indeed. Poole introduced the next "little ditty" - 'Tale Of A Broken Man' from their 2016 debut album 'Suffer More' - jokingly touching upon his previous marital status - before opening with an a cappella - its awesome riff complemented by some neat pedal work from D'Elia and great bass guitar from Indy.
"Camden how are you doing?" asked Poole, as they went straight into 'Fallback', another from 'Suffer More', with some excellent wah-wah guitar thrown in for good measure by the waistcoated D'Elia. Another new track 'Walk The Line' was poignantly dedicated by Poole to his son, and no doubt his son would have been proud if had he'd been there! It was then back to the title track from their last album, which brought back great memories of last year's Underworld gig, with its Zep like riff, which again had everyone's hands in the air clapping. Their penultimate song of the set, 'All That I Have', was also their first ever track, which saw Poole climb up on to a speaker stack, as D'Elia's whale like guitar tones ended with another outstanding riff backed up by their blistering engine room including the outstanding Willis. 'Suffer More's 'Bring You Pain' did exactly the opposite with its The Who vibe and the synchronised Status Quo choreography of both the excellent baseball capped Broughton and D'Elia, bringing the set to a memorable end. Once again, the band's performance was flawless, engaging and it connected with the audience at every opportunity. "Come and see us again" Poole shouted as they left the stage. We most certainly will!
Daxx & Roxane are a kick-ass four-piece Rock ’n’ Roll band originating from Switzerland, now based in London. With Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and AC/DC as their key influences, they line up with Simon Golaz - rhythm guitar, Cédric Pfister - vocals/bass, Luca Senaldi - drums and Cal Wymann - lead guitar. Indeed, their new single 'Interstellar' features a keyboard solo from Deep Purple's Don Airey no less, but unfortunately there was no Don, no keyboards and no 'Interstellar' in their set - although by the end it was Daxx & Roxane who had blown us away like a super nova! Anyway, anyone who has visited to The Black Heart will know that the venue is upstairs and that the bar is downstairs!
As we made our way back upstairs after replenishing our glasses, we could hear that they had begun their set. Upon opening the door, the joint was already rockin' to the aptly named title track from their 2017 debut album 'Ticket To Rock' followed by 'Girl Next Door' from the same album, with Pfister already demonstrating his powerful vocal range, think Monster Truck frontman Jon Harvey. From the old and another example of Zep's influence, to the new, and 'Strange Women', with its Stones vibe chorus, proof, if you needed it, that there was nothing neutral about these guys. "Make some noise!" Pfister insisted on another new track 'Get To It', its great riff not only deserving the animated handclapping accompaniment from a generous audience but also accentuating the venue's quality sound. There was also nothing cheesy about their slower melodic 'Lust & Love', again from their debut album, which showcased Wymann's Gilmour sounding guitar work, complemented by some neat harmonica from Golaz.
The band were on a roll, as they played their first single from their upcoming second album, the kick ass Rush sounding 'Someone I Love', followed by the more Indie sounding 'Leaving For Tomorrow', another from their debut album. And talking of Rush, the mellow Rock n' Roll Quo sounding 'Sugar Rush' saw the jazz loving and bandana wearing Senaldi joyously thumping his tubs, but interestingly enough, not a cowbell to be seen! "You all know this one" Pfister teased, very reminiscent of Jack Black, as it was School Of Rock time with a cool cover of Stevie's 'Superstition', before Holy Communion during 'What Was' from 'Ticket To Rock', Pfister asking "Do you like free drinks" as his flock lined up to sample the bottle on offer from Golaz at the front of the stage. Brilliant.
Duly lubricated, another cover, the Stones 'Jumpin Jack Flash' was another slam dunk for those present, Pfister subsequently enquiring "Are we having a good time?" as he counted in eins,zwai, drei, into 'Good Vibes', the penultimate track of the set and from the debut album, his question duly answered by those boppin' away down the front, with Golaz joining in the fun playing his guitar behind his back. Pfister's offer of "One more song?" was immediately snatched from his grasp as the inevitable mosh pit formed for 'Wrong Side' - the boys from Montreaux finishing off their outstanding set sounding more like Montrose! Make sure you don't miss both these bands as they play the final leg of their tour at Bannermans Bar in Edinburgh, this Friday 18th October. As for Daxx & Roxane, you can catch them again at The Unicorn Camden Live on Thursday 5th December - the rumour of a cover of 'Space Station No. 5' is just too good to miss!
Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin' Stones + Gorilla Riot + Piston
O2 Academy Islington, London
Friday 11th October 2019
Well this is quite an inventive format for a series of gigs, Roadstars consists of three bands taking it in turns to headline a different venue on alternate nights culminating in Hannah Wicklund + Steppin' Stones topping the bill at London Islington's 02 Academy upstairs room.
Hard Rockers Gorilla Riot take to the stage, and the big surprise is when lead singer Arj sings his first few bars of 'Kerosene Clown': somehow by some strange osmosis his growly baritone belies the fact that this group hails from Manchester and not the States. This allows for a convincing take on the Blues of the Deep-South with a heavier edge. Moving on to 'Bad Son' with its piercing guitar intro, a track that could easily be passed off as anything by Chris Cornell/Eddie Vedder, and this is where the vocal similarities struck. They signed off with 'Dirty' a rabble-rousing number that set the stage for what was to come next.
Actually originating from South Carolina, Hannah Wicklund and the Steppin' Stones brought the house down. It's difficult not to get carried away about band leader Hannah Wicklund’s spell-binding guitar and powerful voice which manages to invoke the spirit of Hendrix and Joplin, which has been well-documented elsewhere. Everything from the flowing tousled red hair to the extensive use of wah-wah pedal recalls that period and suggests that she was ripped straight out of Woodstock.
The frightening aspect is that she is only 22 years old but her accomplished playing lends itself to the fact that she has been playing to live audiences since the age of 13. This recent UK tour comes on the back of the release of the band’s eponymous album (she actually released two albums previously but does recognise them as official) and one hopes that this power trio is the line-up she settles on.
Despite the sixties/seventies influences she finds time to write lyrics about pitfalls of social media in the revealing title of the number 'Shadowboxes and Porcelain Faces' - the latest single from the album. There follows some heart-wrenching soulful songs but the high-point for me and what would seem the most crowd-anticipated 'Bomb through the Breeze'. The screaming-squelching monster of a track blew the room away and showcased the band and its potent best.
I must admit that I have not heard the album yet, and would be interested to hear if this explosive display translates to disc. An act that will surely be eagerly followed, I just hope they avoid the trappings of fame - or worst still sanitised pop - and continue on this Bluesy-vein.
Ivan De Mello
The Underworld, Camden, London
Tuesday 15th October 2019
Chicago's JD Simo stopped off at London's The Underworld in Camden last Tuesday night, the penultimate night of his European tour, duly showing off not only his guitar and vocal abilities, but also the incredible rhythm section of drummer and ex-Simo bro Adam Abrashoff and bassist Andraleia Buch. We were already well acquainted with the Nashville-based singer-guitarist, formerly of Simo, their albums ‘Let Love Show The Way’ (2016) and ‘Rise & Shine’ (2017), deservedly met with huge praise, although it seems light years away from when we first saw JD with his guitar case, fighting his way through the cramped crowd at the St. Moritz Club in Soho in November 2015. In fact the last time we saw JD was this March at London's Royal Festival Hall when he did a solo set as special guest to Tommy Emmanuel.
His debut solo album, ‘Off At 11’, released also in March, is a Psychedelic, free-flowing, dynamic kaleidoscope of sound, energy and vibe that incorporates elements of Acid Rock, traditional Blues, Folk, Soul and free form Jazz around JD’s improvisational skills. Influences expectedly not only include Hendrix and Peter Green but also more diverse influences such as Captain Beefheart, Miles Davis, The Allman Brothers and Lightning Hopkins. The recording of this electric tour de force of eight musically dense songs took place over a three day period in the Summer of 2018 with no edits and no other studio trickery, plus also featured bassist Luke Easterling filling in between ex-Simo bandmate Elad Shapiro and Andraleia. With no support tonight, we also had the pleasure of an extended interview and chat with JD before the gig, where amongst other things we discussed former band Simo, JD's knee, his European and forthcoming US tour, being away from home, recording 'Off At 11' and his next album, his band, pipe smoking, Duck Dunn, Tommy Emmanuel, The Royal Festival Hall, Cindy Walker, The Grateful Dead, Holiday's and Guitar Clinics!
Without trying, JD immediately endeared himself to a generous crowd (including Connor Selby, no less), thanks to a technical malfunction, as he broke the Underworld ice by telling his well greased engine room to "hold on - no point pretending" before the gremlin was well and truly sorted on the Lenny Kravitz sounding opener 'People Say', from Simo's aforementioned 'Rise & Shine', JD pretty much setting out his guitar solo stall for the rest of the set with his familiar grimace going hand in glove (or should that be foot), with his cry baby pedal, before the slide Blues of Slim Harpo's 'I Got Love If You Want It' from 'Off At 11', with the Ludwig fronting Abrashoff very much picking up his impressive sticks from when we last saw him performing with Simo at the O2 Academy Islington in December 2016. The Soul Man t-shirt wearing JD thanked the crowd for their applause, before launching into the, yet to be released, short, but ever so groovy 'One Of Those Days', think The Isley Brothers, with Simo cooly demonstrating his upper octaves. From Soul Man to 'Soul Of A Man', a Blind Willie Johnson cover, which saw red wonder woman Andraleia going through her platform boot paces on bass guitar, complemented not only by a great vocal by JD, but also some exceptional psychedelic/wah wah guitar to boot.
Simo then changed his guitar, exclaiming "we love it, yeah, baby Blues" - cue more grimacing from JD and more boots jumpin' from Andraleia on 'Temptation', another from 'Off At 11', before the brilliant, new, riff ridden fire of 'Higher Plane', with another great vocal from Simo, simultaneously putting his pedal to the metal and making his cry bay squeal on its manic outro. And talking of fire, proceedings were literally getting hotter, as the sweat from JD was dripping on to the stage, so why not turn up the heat with a brilliant take on Isaac Hayes' funky 'Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic', with the remarkable Simo managing to sweep the guitar spectrum with sounds ranging from Jan Akkerman to The Who. Amazing. Call me romantic (and old), but the slower, beautifully constructed and refreshing 70's sounding 'I Want To Love' from 'Rise & Shine', always takes me back to plucking up enough courage to ask for that last dance at the Disco! JD's Stylistics style falsetto, underpinned by some more great slide guitar, was definitely keeping the Blues alive.
Simo then aired two more new songs, the Rock of 'Love', a microcosm of his set with an awesome guitar solo/vocal followed by another guitar change, and despite the slower Blues vibe of 'Late At Night', this saw the band rocking out all over the stage. To be honest, it's still great to hear the ghost of Simo, and in particular, an epic twelve minute version of 'Long May You Sail', one of only two tracks played tonight from their outstanding 'Let Love Show The Way' album, and an opportunity for the equally talented Buch and Abrashoff to duly show off their solo wares. And if you have never seen JD perform 'With A Little Help From My Friends', then you are definitely missing a trick. Suffice to say that Simo always does John and Paul so proud, particularly when he hits Cocker's famous note squarely on the chin. Just gets you every time. And to finish off, it was indeed lucky thirteen when the band returned for their encore, with the explosive Psychedelic Mountain sounding 'I'd Rather Die In Vain', another jewel in the crown from 'Let Love Show The Way', with some extraordinary slide and morse code fret work from JD to complete a memorable evening. JD now returns to the States for an Autumn/Fall tour - make sure you check out his new album when it's released at the end of this year.
Hollis Brown + Fukushima Dolphin
O2 Academy 2, Islington, London
Monday 30th September 2019
It’s not that often that you get a pleasant surprise, although, given Mascot records excellent roster of artists it shouldn’t have been that surprising to find out on investigation that Hollis Brown are that rarest of breeds, a band that, while flying the flag for classic Rock ‘N’ Roll, write memorable, sophisticated songs that don’t bludgeon you into submission but seduce you with their honest craftmanship. Having soaked up their music in advance, their live appearance at the smaller of the two O2 Academy venues in Islington was eagerly anticipated. The band, from Queens in NYC, more than lived up to expectations, delivering a set that spanned their output since forming in 2013, as well as featuring selections from their recent excellent release ‘Ozone Park’.
Opening with the slow building ‘Wait for me Virginia’ (from 2015’s ‘3 Shots’ - another excellent album) , beginning with an acoustic strummed intro with subdued drums and bass, before the chunky guitar chords and simple melody lines from lead guitarist Jonathan Bonilla joined in, and built up to the strong repeated chorus and a fierce solo from the bearded guitarist, who gave it plenty at the front of the stage and played beautifully all night. This would have made for some lovely action photos had he not strayed into a gloomy part of the stage (not difficult to do as this venue likes to keep its lighting bill down to a minimum).
The scene was set for a great night and ‘Stubborn’ and ‘She Don’t Love Me Now’ from the new album followed, both epitomising what this band have in bucketloads: melodic songs with great hooks. What makes them stand out from many of their peers is a front man in founder member Mike Montali who has considerable stage presence, as well as a distinctive and powerful voice. A strong focal point all night, super cool in shades (which certainly weren’t there to stop being blinded by the stage lighting!) he delivered each song with a gutsy commitment as the band played with an energy that deserved, and should have been enjoyed, by a much larger audience.
Song after song followed, none outstaying their welcome; each an exercise in concise, skilful song writing and arranging. Stand out songs for me were the Bo Diddley beat of ‘Rain Dance’, the swampy Blues of ‘Hey Baby’, the classic 70’s Rock swagger of aptly titled ‘Rock & Roll’ and the funky groove of ‘Go For It’ with its infectious chorus of “If you want it all, you’ve got to go for it”. I definitely wanted it all, and more. The last encore was another minor classic from this superb band’s back catalogue, ‘John Wayne’ which started slowly before going crazy on the huge middle section, and again to close the song. Great dynamics from a band that you should make sure you catch next time they come over, which hopefully will be very soon.
Honourable mention should be given to opening act Fukushima Dolphin, a drum and guitar duo from Brighton that featured the really interesting and enjoyable acoustic guitar work of Josh Dolphin (a name which, fishily, sounds made up), who, with the aid of a variety of effects pedals and opening tuning created a highly melodic ambient groove that somehow combined elements of Leo Kottke, early Robert Smith and John Martyn into a unique stew of his own (check out above the fantastic YouTube video of them busking on Brighton Pier while a couple of mature newly-weds dance to their distinctive take on ‘White Wedding’). They made a great support for Hollis Brown and would be well worth investigating.
Subterania, London W10
Saturday 26th October 2019
It’s Saturday night in London Town and the band The Cult have slipped in an intimate gig at the Subterania prior to their Hammersmith show on their 30th anniversary tour of the ‘Sonic Temple’ album.
The soon sweaty and 600 strong-crowd were jumping at the front on the Cult’s arrival to stage, taking us back in time. A few numbers outside the ‘Sonic Temple’ list were introduced as a break from their current routine, while the main songs such as ‘Fire Woman’, ’Edie’ and ‘New York City’ were included. A short speech by Ian Astbury at reaching his lowest ebb after being hospitalised in New York back in 2009, gave credit to his long-time music partner Billy Duffy as one of those who pulled him through and to the crowd he never expected to be playing to at this time, on a good as sold out UK tour.
No doubting the outfit now working with Astbury and Duffy, with Aussie Grant Fitzpatrick on bass, Americans John Tempesta on drums and Damon Fox on keyboards providing a solid platform for The Cult’s live operation.
No personnal fave in the form of ‘Little Devil’ for moi, but they did close with ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ when some of the 40-50 year old audience were crowd surfing. Shall we say “Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll” and beer!
Goodbye June + Wolf Jaw
Colours, Hoxton, London
Tuesday 29th October 2019
Colours, formerly known as Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, is an apt name if stage lighting is anything to go by tonight’s performances that were accompanied by a veritable kaleidoscope of hues.
Goodbye June are a family-affair formed by three cousins in the wake of the tragic death of the lead guitarist’s Tyler Baker’s brother who passed away in the month of June. There is no mistaking their Nashville roots from their bourbon-soaked sound to their Country music-inspired leather with tassels attire. But this isn’t sentimental Country, this is music with a harder edge and Loudon Milbourn high-octane vocal style could compete with Axl Rose when it comes to scale and pitch.
'Anyway The Wind Blows' starts off in a slow-burning manner and then segues into an extended medley taking in 'Bad Things', 'Be Yourself' and 'Lonely Beautiful People', which has mood changes from slide to a soaring Gilmour-esque guitar with reverb, expertly handled by Tyler Baker, accompanied by wistful harmonising and whistling which epitomises the band. 'Good Side' is obviously a crowd favourite, whereas 'Daisy' is a Folksy number which signals a different direction and a sign of things to come. This is a group at its most compelling when leaving the Hard-Rock clichés behind and start blending the genres.
Wolf Jaw is a band that means business, especially when (as our resident photographer points out) the bass player, Dale Tonks, has an amp the size of a refrigerator. Showcasing their latest album 'The Heart Won’t Listen' their heavy, Doomy Rock style invokes Black Sabbath and it is no surprise that they cover 'War Pigs' without any discernible change in mood. The set wouldn’t be complete without some serious shredding from lead guitar/vocalist Tom Leighton. It was good to speak to the lead singer after the gig at the merch table and receive a good recommendation in the singer/songwriter Heather Leoni - one to watch out for folks!
Ivan De Mello