Black Country Communion
Eventim Apollo, London
Thursday 4th January 2018
If you needed further affirmation that Black Country Communion do indeed fill that 70's live void vacated by Led Zeppelin, then you just had to be at London's Hammersmith Apollo on Thursday night to witness their two hour set. OK - their chequered history as a result of their pinkies being in numerous musical pies doesn't see them touring very often - but when they do - you just have to savour the moment. This was the second of the Anglo-American Rock group's two exclusive UK concerts in support of the release of their latest album 'BCCIV' released in September last year - their first studio album since 2013's 'Afterglow'.
Similar to 2010, the Supergroup, comprising vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze), drummer Jason Bonham (Airrace, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner) Derek Sherinian (Dream Theatre, Alice Cooper, Billy Idol) and Blues-Rock guitarist/vocalist Joe Bonamassa, did a double header playing Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Tuesday night followed by this London gig two night's later. Indeed we were at Shepherds Bush Empire six years ago and also at London's High Voltage Festival in July 2011 - unbelievably the last time they were seen in the smoke. With two albums already under their belts, our take on that beautiful Summer's day was "BCC's strength is that their sound is fixed firmly in the mid 70s, and so their songs already sound classic. Once BCC’s original material becomes more familiar this lot will go places fast. This Supergroup is still coming to terms with being a band!!"
Fast forward six year's to what we described as "the most unlikely album release of the year". Five years after a reportedly acrimonious split, ten new songs penned by Hughes and Bonamassa, all wrapped up with producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley's magic touch and you had a barnstorming collection of tunes which we said "could easily make up the best Rock album of 2017." Cue our announcement on the day of the Wolverhampton gig that they had indeed won our 2017 WRC Best Reviewed CD award and we were consequently walking towards the Apollo with their award tucked under our arm to deservedly pass on to the band!
A dapper suited Bonamassa confounded his fashion critics as he walked on to the Apollo stage, the goatee bearded Sherinian the only one of his three amigos without shades, with Bonham donning his trademark beanie and Hughes resplendent in his Union Jack jacket. Any thoughts on Brexit were duly discarded as they re-emphasised the strength of 'BCCIV' by opening, following a snippet of the 'Big Train' drum intro, with 'Sway' - Sherinian immediately taking the spotlight, and despite the unrelenting guitar and drums of the two JB's, his underlying keyboards brought an extra depth to this rocker. Add to this, the vocals by Hughes and this full on song, again reminiscent of classic Zeppelin, was a swaggering five minutes of sheer joy. What an opener. 'Wanderlust' - another from 'BCCIV' was sandwiched in between four classics which took us back to the Summer of 2011. Firstly, Bonham's intro on the still blistering and punchy 'One Last Soul' from their debut album with Joe rocking back and forth, a number which Hughes included in his own Islington Assembly Hall set last year - Glenn then taking the opportunity to tell those assembled not to believe everything they read about BCC in the media! "It's good to be home" declared Hughes before they played the still very beautiful 'Save Me' - crafted by another awesome guitar solo from Bonamassa. Talking of Joe - you have to do a double take to remember that the still spectacular 'Song Of Yesterday', despite being written by JB, is actually a BCC release - in fact it is the only BCC song that Bonamassa has ever included in his personal set other than once performing 'The Battle For Hadrian's Wall'. Sung jointly by Bonamassa and Hughes, and complemented by Joe's outstanding guitar solo - this was utter perfection - whilst the final part of this cracking 2011 quartet was a breakneck rendition of 'The Outsider' - the crowd devouring each song as if they've never been away, with each solo greeted by a huge cheer, the choruses sung loudly and the fists raised at all the right moments.
Hughes appropriately praised the crowd as "beautiful people" before 'Wanderlust' - a classic Bonamassa song with its great pace, a highly infectious groove and a singable chorus, plus another great ascending drum and guitar combination - not to mention Sherinian's rocking keys - made this song another absolute highlight, although the jury is out as to whether Bonamassa should do the vocals on this one and not Hughes? An irony of the set was not only was this the live debut of 'BCCIV' - but would you believe it was also the live debut of their third album 'Afterglow'? The aptly named 'This Is Your Time' from 'Afterglow' - which perhaps should be renamed 'Lost In Time' - with its driving riff - finally received the airing it deserved - although this was the only track from 'Afterglow' included in their set. It was then back to two classics from 'BCC2' - Hughes explaining the background to 'Cold' - all about people we have lost - although there was nothing cold with Bonamassa's corking guitar intro which was followed by the aforementioned 'The Battle For Hadrian's Wall' with perfect vocals from Glenn and Joe equally matched by Derek's mean Hammond.
It was then three from 'IV' - firstly 'The Crow' (a possible reference to the cover of 'Afterglow'?), another storming rocker featuring guitar, drums and keys solos with a Rage Against The Machine like bass line and powerful vocals again from Hughes. Next up was their second single from the album 'Over My Head', with its instantly catchy riff and a great chorus, although this time it was Bonham's time to shine, playing with such force and precision that there's no doubt it would have made Bonham senior proud. BCC were accompanied on last of this 'IV' trilogy by Dublin legend Gerry O'Connor who played a mean fiddle and mandolin on BCCIV's epic 'The Last Song For My Resting Place, the only track on the album with Bonamassa on lead vocals, with its Celtic influence inevitably resulting in mass hand clapping - in a story all about Wallace Harvey, the band leader and violinist on the Titanic who played and perished as the ship went down.
If we needed cheering up after that sad story then cue the other JB and an awesome drum solo, before BCC closed out their impressive set with 'Man In The Middle' - BCC2's stand out driving riff ridden rocker that, if you needed reminding, showcased not what a great vocalist Hughes is, but also what a great bass guitarist Glenn is as well. And if you wanted more dirty bass, then it was inevitable I suppose that they finished with their signature tune 'Black Country' - which took us back to Glenn's set at Ramblin' Man Fair last July when he heralded the impending return of BCC by covering this fan favourite. BCC naturally obliged the ecstatic crowds shouts of "more" as they opened their encore sequence with the Zep like crunching riff of first single 'Collide' - the opener on 'BCCIV' - its statement of intent to blow away the five year old cobwebs - which they inevitably nailed with Hughes vocals soaring and wailing in equal measure, to powerhouse performances by Bonham and Bonamassa. Not to be outdone, Sherinian's contribution on an equally awesome performance of BCC2's 'Faithless' saw BCC finally round off a memorable night with a Deep Purple cover from the album 'Burn' - but not the usual title track set closer but 'Mistreated' - Hughes for good measure reminding everyone of his Purple roots as he asked Bonamassa "to talk to me Joe" which JB's guitar duly obliged on this lucky thirteen minute epic. Wow - what a way to end a gig!
Six year's since we saw them as a collective, Bonamassa is still truly the axe hero of his generation and is still the perfect foil for Hughes’ still-superb voice. Jason Bonham is still a chip off the old block on drums and Derek Sherinian still adds huge depth to the sound on Hammond organ. Six year's down the line and this Supergroup is still coming to terms with being a band given their well-documented commitments but boy-oh-boy, it still is a beautiful thing to behold. Let's pray we don't have to wait as long again for their next tour and 'BCCV'.
AJ (Photos courtesy of Christie Goodwin and Eric Duvet)
The Half Moon, Putney, London
Tuesday 16th January 2018
Last Tuesday at Putney's Half Moon in London saw the debut of 2016 WRC Best Blues Rock award winner Sari Schorr's new band line-up including Ash Wilson (guitar/vocals), Bob Fridzema (ex-King King) on keyboards, Mat Beable (ex-Stevie Nimmo Band) on bass guitar and Roy Martin (ex-Connie Lush Band/Modern English) on drums. We last saw Sari excellently supporting Walter Trout at London's Under The Bridge in October last year and little did those present that night imagine the extraordinary turn of events that would see her entire band replaced just three months later. This was the first night of a five date UK tour that finishes at The Citadel St. Helens tonight. Schorr initially gained prominence throughout the Blues world after several years of touring the US and Europe with Blues legend Joe Louis Walker and renowned guitarist Popa Chubby. Sari is described by many Blues pundits as a modern-day hybrid of Janis Joplin and Tina Turner - a red-hot Blues mama who radiates emotional intensity, connects with and inspires her audiences.
New Yorker Schorr was spotted at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis by producer Mike Vernon who ultimately produced her critically acclaimed 2016 debut album 'A Force of Nature' which delivered hard-driving Blues-Rock, influenced by the late '60's British Blues movement and mixed Blues, Rock and Soul with concrete melodies and poetic lyrics to striking effect. Still on the crest of a wave following 'AFON', to be fair, Sari's new line-up was worth a ticket alone. Indeed we had seen the impressive Wilson supporting Sari and her Engine Room at a newly refurbished Borderline just under a year ago and more recently we caught the magic keys of Fridzema when he played with Joanne Shaw Taylor at The Royal Festival Hall just a couple of months ago.
Despite it being a bitterly cold evening - there was a healthy crowd eagerly awaiting in anticipation - with support from Half Moon favourite Chris Mossop duly warming up the audience with his acoustic guitar and anecdotes. But whose idea was it to have seating down at the front of the stage? Doh! Anyway, Martin's newly monogrammed Sari Schorr drum kit shone out like a beacon as the band made their way on to the stage - unbelievably the word being that the guys had only physically all got together for the first time yesterday! They promised new songs from their all-important sophomore album and they duly delivered with their superb opener 'Revolution' - Ash easing himself in with a cool guitar solo and Schorr's awesome vocals ticking all the right boxes following a conversation I had with some Sari virgins in the bar earlier. It was then three in a row from 'AFON' - Schorr's vocal on the beautifully crafted 'Damn The Reason', featuring Fridzema's keyboards and another Wilson guitar solo - was followed by chuckles from the audience at Sari's throwaway line that the band "had only met yesterday" (which was in fact of course true) before the opening groovy rhythm guitar of Wilson on 'Cat And Mouse' which saw both Ash and Bob excelling again - and finally with Wilson's rockin' solo and Fridzema's keys on 'Demolition Man', again forcefully sung and written by Schorr.
'Ready For Lurve' another from the already underway new album, showcased the quality of the new material, indeed the strength of the musicians and the talents of the Manhattan Records production team, featuring executive producer Mike Vernon again, plus an expanded team of producer Wayne (King King) Proctor and Steve Wright, could make this something very special. Another quartet from 'AFON' was then classily dispatched. The mellow and groovy, 'Oklohoma', with its mean fusional outro jam with Fridzema's keys, another Wilson guitar solo and of course Schorr's excellent lyrical diction and then Lead Belly's 'Black Betty' - with its unique arrangement and Wilson's cajun guitar opening and Schorr's vocal delivery - ultimately resulting in a very powerful version of this classic. A big shout out at this point to Amber (who aptly described 'Black Betty' as gorgeous) and her two friends who not only danced the night away in defiance to those at the front in the cheap seats but also kept the WRC contingent entertained! 'Ordinary Life' (which is the last track on 'AFON') was a measure of Schorr's versatility, with Fridzema's beautiful keyboard intro, proving there was nothing ordinary about this ballad - the crystal clarity of Schorr's vocals all for everyone to see and hear - indeed lighters were at the ready - before the 'AFON' quintet was completed with the stand-out on the album - the melody and harmonics of 'Kiss Me' - which not only saw both Friedzema and Wilson revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocks out big time, but once again gave Sari the opportunity to sing the line about her beloved Pit Bulls!
Schorr is a great vocalist with a strong piercing sound, as she danced around the front of stage with the smiles of a woman at one with her music and her voice. It’s sometimes quiet and beautiful, sometimes powerful and strong, but always enthralling. You can imagine her conquering any music genre that she might choose – Rock, Blues, Opera, Soul. In short, a classic. She admits lately to have worked even harder on her songwriting, digging deeper and deeper into lyrics and melodies. The result is what she believe's is some of her best work to date and that was borne out on the final newbie of the evening 'Maybe I'm Fooling'. At this juncture it is opportune to praise the other new kids on the block, namely the baby faced peak capped Beable on bass plus Martin on drums - although drummer Neal Wilkinson, whose work credits include Van Morrison, James Morrison, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles and Annie Lennox, features on the album.
They duly finished the set with a holy trinity from 'AFON' - Wilson doffing his cap (if he had one) to previous Engine Room and Robert Plant guitarist Innes Sibbun, with his killer guitar on their staple cover of Led Zeppelin’s 'Rock and Roll', then the first track off the album 'Ain't Got Not Money' - Wilson's Gary Moore reminiscent style intro with New Yorker Schorr's powerful earthy vocal testing the Half Moon sound system, and finally the clunky opening riff of 'Aunt Hazel' - based on urban slang for heroin - resulted in both Bob and Ash letting us have it with both barrels on this rocker as Sari also took the opportunity to introduced her band to loud applause. "Thank you so much." "Gold bless you" said Sari genuinely to a delighted crowd - some who even got out of their seats! Despite losing her 'Engine Room', The First Lady Of The Blues new line-up (and what a lovely lady she is) is ticking over very nicely thank you - do not miss them when they tour again and keep an eye out for the release of that second album.
AJ (Photos courtesy of Eric Duvet, Richard Bolwell and Edyta Krzesak)
King King/Rhino's Revenge
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Wednesday 17th January 2018
Life is all about choices. One of which is which band do I go to see for my first review of 2018? Do I go and see the fabulous Sari Schorr at the Half Moon in Putney or do I see King King and Rhino’s Revenge at the Shepherds Bush Empire? Tough decision. Now I could make some terribly contrived play on words about "A bird in a band is worth two at the Bush" but that would be contemptible on so many levels …. so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that I opted for the latter, and a good choice it was too. A wet and blustery Wednesday night finds yours truly rocking up at the excellent Shepherd's Bush Empire, the iconic music venue, originally built in the early 1900’s as a music hall. So a pedigree venue that has pleasingly been catering for musical tastes, as originally intended, for over a century. With a capacity of about 2,000, the theatre style venue has a large standing auditorium with seated circles and boxes. It is of a size that allows both a feeling of crowding and intimacy with excellent acoustics. Tonight sees that capacity near full with stalwart Blues lovers, busy enough for a great atmosphere but with enough room to swing a zimmer or make a break for the loos. So how do opening support act Rhino’s Revenge go down with this Blues loving crowd?
Rhino’s Revenge is the touring band of Status Quo bassist’s John "Rhino" Edwards. A self-confessed revolving door of artists, Rhino describes the band as being like a low league football team, constantly utilising on-loan players. Well he has managed to get some Premier League players in his current team. The trio consists of Rhino on bass and vocals with FM’s Jim Kirkpatrick on guitar and drummist Richard Newman, who has worked with the likes of Paul Rodgers and Rory Gallagher, on percussion. The set consists of a number of Status Quo covers but is also varied enough to be described as Blues, Rock and even Punk at times. Rhino is a cheerful frontman at ease chatting with the crowd whilst having a great time playing some Quo tracks that might not make a Quo setlist but are deserving of some live airplay love. Opening track 'One Note Blues' sets the scene with a great Blues boogie getting the crowd warmed nicely. Guitarist Kirkpatrick sports a lovely blond Fender Telecaster and is the vibrant sound of the band with Rhino and Newman providing the strong rhythmic backing. The setlist meanders through whimsical tracks like 'My Name Is Stan' – a song written about Rhino’s dog – to the politically charged 'Republican'. Written 20 plus years ago about bigoted US politicians, the song resonates today all the more than the day it was penned. Although the set included a number of Quo covers, this didn’t feel like a Quo set – the songs were distinct enough to make this a Rhino Revenge gig rather than a Quo tribute band. In fact the only track that felt like a Quo track was closing song 'Two Way Traffic', a radio staple from the 2011 album 'Quid Pro Quo'. The set was entertaining and musically tight. Rhino has a good voice and is able to multitask the incredibly difficult challenge of playing bass and singing. A much more difficult feat than you might think. With a number of dates booked in the coming months, go out and see the Rhino to make sure he doesn’t become an endangered species.
Rhino’s Revenge set list:
One Note Blues
Belavista Man (Status Quo cover)
Gravy Train (Status Quo cover)
Busy Doing Nothin'
My Name Is Stan
Bad News (Status Quo cover)
Two Way Traffic (Status Quo cover)
King King are a band I have seen a number of times before and was due to see at the end of 2017 but the gig was cancelled due to voice issues for lead singer Alan Nimmo. Indeed, I reviewed their gig in November 2016 and the cherubic Mr. Nimmo was suffering with health issues then. Tonight, he took to the stage in fine form and in hale and hearty health. It’s the opening night of his new tour which he describes as being a baptism of fire playing at such a prestigious venue. But Mr. Nimmo is too modest. King King have been a rising star that have had commercial success as well as professional recognition. The Shepherd’s Bush Empire is the obvious choice for a band of this stature. And the size of the obviously devoted crowd supports this too. The four piece consists of frontman Glaswegian Nimmo swapping between his trusty ‘Fat Strat’, which gets the bulk of attention, and a very tasty Gibson Les Paul. Played through some sumptuous Budda Superdrive amp heads, this is a real quality tone rig. The humbucker on the silver Fat Strat gives the superb Blues axe that extra kick in the sporran and the Les Paul just drips warmth. The smiling Lowlander is supported by regulars Lindsay Coulson on bass and Wayne Proctor on drums and completing the line up on keys is new boy Jonny Dyke. Although Nimmo is the focus of the band with his exquisite vocals and guitars skills, Dyke provides the strong rhythm and melody to each song. Utilising a mix of organ and piano, there are hints of the band that Nimmo’s Whitesnake t-shirt proclaims.
The set is a nice choice of new tracks from the latest album 'Exile & Grace', released in October 2017, as well as some tracks that can now be considered old favourites. Although debut album 'Standing In The Shadows' was only released in 2013. Set opening track '(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin', also the opening track of the album, starts with an intro showcase of Dyke’s organ skills before developing into a full on Blues Rock track. Nimmo holds the stage – bright red tartan kilt and suede workboots sharply contrasting his black Rock t-shirt – with his beaming childlike smile warming the hearts, and making him look like a big kid in a sweet shop. His silver Strat is put through its paces with a dexterity that is intricate but not overly flashy. It's Rock Blues played the way it should be. With thanks to the audiences patience - the gig was postponed last year due to his voice issues – the band follow with 'Waking Up' from the 'King King Live' album. Another rocky Blues track, it shows that the voice is back where it should be. No signs of damage or decay here. The slower and more melodic 'You Stopped The Rain' is a thoughtful song written about his brother Stevie’s illness. Melodic, but not gloomy, it’s a heartfelt song about dealing with suffering, although with a positive lilt. It gives the big man a chance to wear his big heart on his big sleeve.
Switching to the Les Paul, Nimmo raises the environmental banner with 'Broken', a song about the damage being done to the planet. A serious subject, yet played with that ecstatic smile on his face, the song is a with a strong singalong chorus ably supported by Dykes organ sound. It’s another from the new album that looks like it will become a staple set list track. Switching back to the Strat, and keeping Dyke very much to the fore, 'Long History Of Love' from the 'Standing In The Shadows' album is a real crowd pleaser with a surprisingly strong crowd singalong. That is the benefits of having sensible sound levels - great band sound and the ability to hear the crowd. It’s a mellow Blues ballad with a great keyboard solo. Great song. 'Lose Control' and 'Rush Hour' are older songs and crowd favourites with further crowd participation. New album track 'Long Time Running' shows off Proctor's drumming skills, with hints of the Rolling Stones about the track, before Nimmo switches back to the Les Paul for 'Stranger To Love'. Unusually, he dedicates the track to a member of the audience who is celebrating their birthday. Cheaper than buying a card I suppose. It’s a slow sultry Blues track, in the Paul Rodgers style with an extensive guitar solo allowing us to experience the delightful sounds of Gibson’s premiere export. The solo dips and builds with the now famous acoustic playing (i.e. not through the amp) to a near silent audience straining to hear the sound of wire and wood echoing off of the cavernous music hall walls. The song certainly finished on a high, both musically and sonically.
Set closers saw Nimmo switch back to the Strat again for classic Rock Blues track 'Crazy' and then getting funky with 'All Your Life'. This gave the band the chance for some serious jamming to the rapturous applause of the masses. The obligatory encores saw the four heroes emerge with beaming smiles and launch into new track 'Find Your Way Home', a slow Rock type ballad that has hints of 80’s AOR stadium Rock about it before finishing up with the ever popular 'Let Love In'. As a happy band left the stage, the infectious Nimmo grin had found its way onto every face in the venue. Shepherd's Bush Empire building was completed in the King King reign. Job done. Well Done. On an evening of choices, the bands choice of tracks were a great mix of songs showcasing their multiple talents and showed that my choice of gig was a good one. What a great way to start a new year of music. Let’s hope both bands have a successful year ahead, with albums to tour and fans to amass. They are definitely worth a view, both are great bands. This wasn’t just a good gig. It was choice.
King King set list
(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin
You Stopped The Rain
Long History Of Love
Long Time Running
Stranger To Love
All Your Life
Find Your Way Home
Let Love In
Mother (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey and Edyta Krzesak)
Laurence Jones/MeMe Detroit
The Borderline, London
Tuesday 23rd January 2018
Laurence Jones certainly earned the label of “the future of the Blues” at London's Borderline last Tuesday night. The 25 year old prodigy's new album 'The Truth' is due to be released on Friday 9th March and he’s toured with Buddy Guy, Walter Trout, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the legendary Johnny Winter and many more. Over the past five years, Laurence has come into his own, and with his new album, he has now developing his own creative skin by writing and performing songs that are distinctive to his unique sound and identity plus he was recently hailed by Planet Rock Radio as one to watch. The last time we saw Laurence was as a three-piece at London's 100 Club in June 2014 - our gig review that night predicting that this boy was going places: "Sandwiched in between Stark and Grainne Duffy was Laurence Jones - it was worth a tenner just to see Laurence's set."
On the night Laurence was supported by excellent three piece Brummie Indie/Grunge outfit MeMe Detroit. We bumped into the softly spoken vocalist, guitarist and actress MeMe before the gig and by the time she had picked up her guitar and got up on stage, she had transformed into a Indie banshee with matching 'Ashes To Ashes' red face paint to boot. "Hi London - how are you doing" MeMe enquired before the band opened with 'Adelaide' with its sultry guitar driven hooks, although the contrasting less frenetic 'A Point Of You' still saw MeMe grabbing the stage with both hands. A head turning vocal and guitar riff on 'Emily' was complemented by the swagger of 'Stand Up You're Living' although one's attention could not fail to be drawn to the intensity and resultant facial expression of flame haired drummer Barney Such, particularly on their next track 'With You'. Technical gremlins for long haired bass guitarist Ross Adams gave MeMe the opportunity to divulge that Ross was feeling "like a bag of shit" and then asked those assembled "whose been in love?" before they launched into 'Roses' - for mine the stand out from the set - with its progressive mystical sound. Their final song 'Churchside Inn' was a microcosm of their set - full of energy with MeMe saying her goodbyes by jumping into the audience with her guitar in hand. Given the motor city's heritage - and although different musical genres - MeMe Detroit did the name proud tonight driving an entertaining live slice of Alt Rock down the M6.
Laurence Jones' band, consisting of ex-King King keyboard player Bennett Holland plus a previous ten year musical engine room partnership of Phil Wilson on drums and Greg Smith on bass, then made their way on to the Borderline stage in advance of Jones, before he joined them for the first two tracks off of the new album, one of the stand-outs 'What Would You Do' - the additional dimension of Bennett's keys immediately adding depth with Laurence throwing in his first guitar solo on the night for good measure before Holland's piano intro on 'Don't You Let Me Go'. "It's great to be back from Holland" said Jones, and despite his set list being slightly tweaked on the band's return from said tour of Switzerland and The Netherlands, Wilson and Smith's opener on Laurence's favourite track from the album - 'Gone Away' - with its palpable Stevie Ray Vaughan/Jimi Hendrix influence, saw Jones stepping back and connecting with his audience on this ballad thanks to a tremendous rockin' chord guitar solo. Two more tracks from The Truth not only completed an opening quintet from the new release but also demonstrated the strength of the spine of the new material. The powerful sounding 'Never Good Enough' with its spot on backing vocals, saw Jones and Holland not being outdone by Phil Wilson's driving drum solo, which was followed by their new single 'Give Me Your Time', Wilson opening proceedings on a track, yet another stand-out from the album, that again benefited from Holland's keys.
It was then time for Laurence to roll out some of his own favourites and fan favourites. The appropriately named title track 'Take Me High' from his 2016 album, with its trippy hammond keys intro and its cajun feel was followed by another title track 'Thunder In The Sky' from his 2012 album. On the latter, Holland's hammond intro was complemented by Jones' political observation on everyone currently feeling the Blues. "So I feel like playing the Blues" as he proceeded to blow away those Blues with one of the first numbers he ever wrote, an eleven minute monster which at one stage saw Laurence crouching on the stage, followed by his Hendrix staple, 'All Along The Watchtower', Wilson's intro leading into another unbelievable execution of a classic that I will never get tired of seeing. No prizes for guessing the response to Jones' "Are you having good time?" as we returned to another stand-out from 'The Truth' 'Can't Go On Without You' which again saw Holland's keys sparring with another Jones solo before he played the metal riff from the title track - a song, that Laurence told me in a really enjoyable interview beforehand, reflects inward personal sacrifices - such as being a musician - "Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have a different life?"
Another from 'Take Me High' - 'Live It Up' - did exactly what it said on the tin - Wilson again start proceedings before Jones easily prompted the Borderline faithful to "Get your hands in the air" which they duly did - cue mass clapping which even got Phil off of his seat. The band then played two final songs from The Truth, which demonstrated Jones' concept of crossover Blues which we spoke about in the aforementioned interview. Both 'Keeping Me Up At Night' plus another one of Jones' favourites, the ballad 'Take Me', with their distinct piano hybrid of Pop/Blues, wouldn't seem out of place - dare I say it - on an Ed Sheeran album. However, Laurence's attempt to take the Blues to the masses with driving guitar solos can only be applauded and both numbers were naturally received ecstatically. A big guitar intro heralded 'Foolin' Me' from his 2014 album 'Temptation' before Jones thanked everyone before his final track of the set and kindly dedicated 'What's It Gonna Be', the title track from his 2015 album, to a father of two in the audience who had recently lost his wife. It was a lovely touch despite the fact that Laurence had to "Schhh" someone in the audience during the intro. Have some people not got any respect? Not only does Jones have a great voice, but Holland also nailed his undoubted vocal quality to the mast on his opening piano intro to 'Take Me High's' 'I Will', before Jones sent his fans home happy with a one for the road guitar solo on 'Thinking About Tomorrow' - another from 'Take Me High'.
"That guy just keeps getting better and better!" was just one of the many compliments passed Laurence's way, as well as to his band who were awesome. A setlist comprising, in the majority, of new tracks from his yet to be released album was a bold move - but his set's balance of new stuff plus his own favourites and fan favourites hit the right chord as the 25 year old pulled it off big time. His fans, obviously now salivatating at the thought of the new release in over a month's time, can also look forward to his nationwide tour in May plus an appearance at Holland's International Blues Festival in June. Do not miss him.
AJ (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
Hammersmith Apollo, London
Friday 26th January 2018
If you are going to see a band at the ‘Hammy Odeon’, they don’t get any hammier than Steel Panther. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Steel Panther are a band that likes to parody 80’s hair Metal bands but are far too good as musicians to be considered a parody themselves. Dressed in obligatory 80’s spandex and leery outfits, their elaborately coiffured manes top an ensemble that Motley Crue must surely have patented. Their material is everything that your mother warned you about, which is what seems to make them as attractive an act to enjoy an evening out with as any other these days. Their lyrics are as base as you can get with subtlety truly consigned to the trash can (or dustbin as all correct English speaking people would say). You might think that a parody type band are just playing an act. Well these boys stay in character 24/7. With every song boasting sexual prowess, oversized genitalia and electromagnetic attraction to women (not that they would ever use such an under-demeaning phrase for the gentler sex), these four Californians walk the swagger and talk the Jagger.
Tonight sees a packed out audience of young rockers, many dressed up in homage to their hard partying American cousins. The 80’s hair Metal fancy-dress outfits have obviously sold well with many of the manly testosterone filled geezers looking prettier than their girlfriends. And more of those beautiful ladies later. Dotted amongst the youth are a few greyer hairs just as eager for an evening of irreverent schoolboy fun. As well as a few serious types who are in for a bit of a shock.
Opening act Wayward Sons are Toby Jepsons latest excellent band. The Little Angels frontman has put together a four piece of good old Rock goodness that has seen remarkable success in their short existence with airplay on Planet Rock as well as appearances at Ramblin’ Man and Hard Rock Hell.Sporting a beautiful Gibson Flying V, through a Marshall stack, Jepson launches into ‘Alive’ with all the assurance of a singer who knows his craft and knows that his material is good. ‘Alive’ is an intense zombie-filled ode to hope, peace and love taken from his new album ‘Ghost Of Yet To Come’. It’s a great song from a great album. Joining him are Sam Wood on guitar, Nic Wastell on bass, Dave Kemp on keys and Phil Martini on drums. Wood, a tall young Rocker who looks like he has been lifted from an early Rush album cover, accompanies Jepson on a Les Paul whilst taking the solo limelight.
Switching to an Ibanez hollowbody, Jepson keeps the Rock coming with new tracks like ‘Ghost’ and ‘Crush’ before dedicating \Something Wrong’ to the recently departed Fast Eddie Clark. Finishing the short set with their radio hit ‘Until The End’, the boys give it all they have, leaving Jepson’s Ibanez with all its strings broken, which he throws across stage to his beleaguered guitar tech to raise from the dead. The sound tonight is rather muddy which is a shame as the songs lose some of their bite and, at times, Jepson’s voice could be clearer. But the short set is a mastery of great British Rock and is hopefully the foundation of a larger catalogue and future headline tour. One I will want to see.
Wayward Sons setlist:
Until The End
Following the rising stars that are the Wayward Sons, and another Rock act who are going great guns, are Inglorious. Fresh from a hugely successful tour last year the five piece take to the stage to the curious intro music that is the theme tune to BBC’s Grandstand. Even more curious is how the packed audience manage to sing along to it with all the gusto of their favourite Rock track. Because it’s fun. Whereas Jepson and co are adorned in traditional denims and shirts, Inglorious get a lot more glitzy on us. Frontman Nathan James, a large long haired blond, appears in a dazzling sparkly black jacket whilst the twin guitar goodness is shared between Les Paul wielding Andreas Eriksson and Strat wearing Drew Lowe. Both are sporting similar black hats, with Lowe wearing a military style jacket that is schizophrenically festooned with sergeant’s chevrons, officer’s epaulettes and more medals than a GI Joe. That’s some military service record you have there Drew. Bassist Colin Parkinson is, on the other hand, quite soberly dressed in comparison whilst Captain Caveman on the drums (aka Phil Beaver) appears to be completely covered in hair. So I have no idea what he was wearing.
Inglorious are another talented bunch of musicians with frontman James a booming powerhouse of a voice, nimbly prancing around the stage flanked by the two behatted axemen. All five are active and energetic and a joy to watch. Despite the now slightly improved sound, the power of the Whitesnake/Zeppelin/Deep Purple inspired Rock shines through and gets the crowd jumping. “Scream for me Hammersmith” cries Nathan, so the crowd duly obliges. Opening track ‘Read All About It’, is the first of a number from the new album and a Hard Rocking, strong vocal delight that sums up their brand of Rock nicely. ‘Breakaway’ allows Drew to employ a Wah to great effect taking them into a great set that includes ‘Warning’, a slow twin guitar chug which morphs into a fast Rock with screaming vocals, and the radio friendly ‘Taking The Blame’. It’s a shorter set than their headline one (obviously), but no less powerful, it packs some punch and still showcases their considerable talent. Set closers ‘Holy Water’ sees Drew switch to a fabulous Fender Telecaster for a slower Bluesier groove whilst their radio hit ‘Until I Die’ is rightfully saved for their finale. Great stuff. I look forward to see them hitting the stage at Download later this year. They will go down a storm there just as they did tonight.
Read All About It
Change Is Coming
Taking the Blame
I Don't Need Your Loving
Until I Die
Lights go down for the headline act with a waft of peroxide pervading from the stage. The strains of Van Halen’s ‘Everybody Wants Some’ heralds the entrance of the not so shy phenomenon that is Steel Panther. And everybody wants some too. Cue the boisterous moshing, fist pumping and general bonhomie that sets the scene for the next 100 minutes of classic Hammy Odeon, hammy band fun. It’s like being transported back to the halcyon days of Poison and Ratt but in the heart of London W6’s true home of Metal rather than the LA strip. It’s hot, sweaty and with a hint of sardines. Much like Steel Panthers lyrics. Smells like sushi…
Those serious types who had enjoyed the more traditional Rock gig up until now soon made their way to the quieter parts of the theatre, assuming they hadn’t already been inadvertently propelled there by the whirling dervishes in the mosh pits. I like a mosh or two, and don’t feel I have had a good time if I haven’t left a gig with the odd bruise or two, but this one left me with a feeling of kinship with Steve Austin. Anyone got a spare $6 million? In true 80’s parody style, frontman Michael Starr struts around the stage, proclaiming his self-confessed importance to women and urging them to partake in ‘titty-cam’ which a surprising number are happy to do, usually sat atop the shoulders of their large boyfriends. No one in the audience seems to have any issue with this, especially the ladies. There were times when I didn’t know where to put my face. There were other times when I clearly did but the large boyfriends made that impossible.
Guitarist Satchel dominates stage right, proudly wielding a signature Charvel pro-mod DK guitar in luminous yellow with Bengal stripes – worth almost $150 he claims. His guitar skills are top notch, when he isn’t too busy making lascivious hand gestures or arranging carnal liaisons with anyone and everyone. Sexy Lexi Foxx takes stage left where his bass playing prowess takes second place to his hair preening duties. A hand held mirror and can of Silvikrin is never far from his grasp. And backing them up is Stix on drums, out Animaling the muppets. They are a feast for the eyes, a banquet for the ears and an advert for a large lunchbox.
Opener ‘In The Future’ sums up the nature of their material with every dive bomb, trill, drum fill and pout that the 80’s can throw at us whilst regaling us with a story of futuristic sex robots. Get the picture? ‘Eyes Of The Panther’ is a homage to ladies of the more mature years whilst ‘Goin' in the Backdoor’ is the opening track from their latest album, although clearly concerned with openings of a different variety. Interspersing these musical delights is a fair amount of banter with the crowd. Very amusing, although there were times when the talking went on just a little too long.
‘Asian Hooker’ and ‘Tomorrow Night’ are classics from the ‘Feel The Steel’ and ‘Balls Out’ albums respectively and get the gyrating masses singing along with their stage bound heroes with every expletive at full blast. There is something delightfully liberating about shouting the worst of swear words at the top of your voice, amongst likeminded idiots. Now I’m no stranger to the odd expletive, or sexual suggestion, many of which have proved to be anatomically impossible, but Steel Panther take it to whole new extremes. How anyone of a PC nature could not be offended is beyond me but the audience arrive expecting to be shocked and just lap it up. To suggest that the boys are misogynists would be doing misogyny a huge disservice but no one here, especially the women (chicks, babes, birds etc…) are complaining. This is no Presidents Club, more a lechers convention. If you are in any further doubt, check out the setlist.
But to concentrate on the gloriously purile and hugely enjoyable act that is Steel Panther, would be to undermine what excellent musicians these fellas are. You can’t put on a show like this if you haven’t got the musical skills to back it up. Each member has a history of playing in ‘real’ Rock bands and their prowess is unashamedly flaunted for our delight and delectation. Frontman Michael Starr (aka Ralph Saenz) was briefly a singer with LA Guns. axeman Satchel (aka Russ Parrish) has played alongside the likes of Sebastian Bach and Paul Gilbert. Drummer Stix Zadinia (aka Darren Leader) previously played with Parrish in a band called The Thornbirds whilst Bassist Lexi Foxx (aka Travis Haley) formed Steel Panther with Saenz having previously played with him in the previous incarnation Metal Skool.‘Wasted Too Much Time’ and ‘Poontang Boomerang’, also from the latest album, almost feel like ballads before order is restored with Satchel displaying every guitar trick (or is that cliché?) in the book during his outrageously over the top solo medley which includes classic Rock tracks like ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’, ‘Iron Man’ and the genre defining ‘Doh, A Deer……’
A regular feature of a Steel Panther show is the invite for ladies to join the stage show, usually to encourage them to share their charms with the audience. I think even the band were taken aback when the stage was subsequently filled with young girls clamouring to join the party. There must have been sixty odd girls joining in which left the lads swamped. It was an ironically fantastic display of girl power. They completely stole the bands ‘That’s When You Came In’, conducted the crowd singalong to ‘Weenie Ride’ and rocked to ‘17 Girls In A Row’ before being shepherded off of the stage by some harassed looking stage hands. (Dis)order was restored with ‘Glory Hole’ before ending the set with the anthemic ‘Death To All But Metal’. If ever there was a song that should be adopted by all Metal fans as an anthem, this is it. I would like to quote you some of the lyrics but most would be censored and the lawsuits from famous musicians would be many-fold. Go Google them.
For their encore they returned to the stage for the love ballad singalong ‘Community Property’ (“My heart belongs to you, but my cock is community property…”) – Shakespeare would be proud – before signing off with ‘Party All Night’ – something they, and we, would have been quite happy to do. But all good things must come to an end. Battered, bruised, ears ringing but smiling inanely, the crowd disperses back to reality. For a fleeting moment, we were badly behaved children, sniggering to naughty words and remembering a day when this sort of behaviour is what was expected of a rock star. But most of them are dead now. Lemmy once stated that if Motorhead moved next door to you, your lawn would die. If Steel Panther moved next door they would probably try to smoke your lawn instead. After having a chick filled party on it first. Party on dudes.
Steel Panther setlist:
Everybody Wants Some!! (Van Halen song)
In the Future
Eyes of a Panther
Goin' in the Backdoor
Wasted Too Much Time
That's When You Came In
17 Girls in a Row
Death to All but Metal
Party All Day (Fuck All Night)
Brian Downey's Alive & Dangerous
Nell's Jazz And Blues, London
Saturday 10th February 2018
Having seen Thin Lizzy many times back in the day, I was a tad apprehensive when I was given a ticket to see Brian Downey’s Alive and Dangerous performing at Nell’s Jazz & Blues bar in West London. This was their second gig at the venue and they were definitely back by popular demand. This year, 2018, marks forty years since the acclaimed ‘Live And Dangerous’ album was released and as many of the songs from the album are included in the set, as many were co-written by Brian Downey, I was well aware that I was surrounded by ardent Lizzy fans and that this was going to be a night to remember.
Recorded over several shows in ‘76/’77, including two at the then Hammersmith Odeon, which coincidentally is less than a mile from Nell’s, ‘Live And Dangerous’ set the music scene alight and became the benchmark on how a live album should be produced. ‘Live And Dangerous’ is exactly that, an album of raw energy, freshness and passion, that gives the listener the impression that they are really are at the gig LIVE.
Even before Brian Downey's Alive And Dangerous came on stage, there was an overwhelming sense of excitement. Nell’s is an intimate venue in West Kensington and wherever you stand you feel that you’re right in the thick of it. As the lights dimmed, the band, Brian Grace, Phil Edgar and Matt Wilson, looking every bit as though they had time travelled from the ‘70’s were joined by the main man, and authentically ‘70’s and one of the geniuses behind many of Thin Lizzy’s hits, Brian Downey.
From the very start of the set any apprehension I had soon evaporated as the band launched into ‘Jailbreak’, and from the moment when the first chord was struck, the crowd became even more enthused, as Matt Wilson's soulful voice brought the lyrics we all know and love to life. The band played with energy and passion and soon had the crowd screaming for more as they piled into classic after classic and yet moved effortlessly into slower tracks including 'Southbound' and 'Dancing In The Moonlight'.
The crowd lapped it up, as the mastermind behind the drums, Brian Downey; counted in the songs keeping the rhythms tight, with Wilson on bass. With his big curly hair and engaging smile Matt Wilson certainly looks the part, but he very much has his own powerful stage persona and completely owns the stage. The energy of the band went from strength to strength, 'Still In Love With You' soared with Grace and Edgar's guitar playing feeding off each other in dual guitar harmonies with high octane solos sweeping every head banger into the sleaze driven funky mood of 'Johnny The Fox'. The band didn't miss a hit, including all those well-known Lizzy songs that even a non-rocker would know, 'The Boys Are Back In Town', 'The Rocker' and 'Don't Believe A Word'.
It was a stunning set and Alive and Dangerous do an exceptional job of keeping Lizzy’s music alive. My apprehension vanquished I’m already looking forward to seeing Brian Downey's Alive And Dangerous again.
Playlist: Jailbreak, Are you Ready, Southbound, Rosalie, Dancing in the Moonlight, Massacre, Still in Love With You, Johnny the Fox meets Jimmy the Weed, Cowboy Song, The Boys are Back in Town, Warriors, Sha La La La, Don’t Believe a Word, Suicide, The Rocker, (*encore) Whisky in the Jar, Bad Reputation, Emerald.
Martin Boydon (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
The 100 Club, London
Saturday 17th February 2018
“Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
I’ve got tickets to the Godfathers
You can come too!”
How to treat your other half on Valentine's? Take her to the Godfathers Valentine’s Day Massacre gig! How could she complain? Firstly, she got to experience the atmosphere of the Chinese New Year as we wandered our way through China Town along Wardour Street up to Oxford Street and made our way through the glitz and neon lights down into the dark nether world of the iconic 100 Club. Secondly, she gets some history thrown in – the 100 Club is 75 years old with many photos of the famous acts that have performed there over the years framed on the walls.
The ‘wheels of steel’ spinning in the corner pumped out some of the sounds from years gone by with the enthusiastic DJ pumping the air in time with the Punk and New Wave sounds! And of course, the evening remembers the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 Chicago masterminded by Al Capone and celebrated ever since by the Godfathers as part of their post Punk, Alternative Rock gathering with their high energy, crunchy riffs that might help woo the special person in your life! And they more than fulfil my promise to the other half of a gig to remember. The lead singer – Peter Coyne – walks and talks like an East End gangster, completely at home in his London heartland shouting, “London belongs to me tonight!” and as he has more than a passing resemblance to the Krays, dressed in his black shirt and Dinner Jacket, no one is going to argue! The bass player could be Al Pacino and Steve Critall physically assaults his guitar in ways I have never imagined to squeeze sounds out of his instrument.
The Godfathers have been around since the mid 80’s and have turned out nine pretty decent albums in that time including ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ which always gets the crowd singing along nicely. Their most recent album, ‘Big Bad Beautiful Noise’ released last year to critical acclaim and in my view, reminds you of all the good things you liked about them in the first place, but with the modern vibe for 2018. This ‘modern’ vibe doesn’t take long for the crowd to start rocking along. For those of you who have been to the 100 Club, it does have one big draw back – a massive pillar in the middle of the stage! Mister Coyne (or Sir to his friends – well he is a gangster!) used this to some advantage - challenging each side of the audience to outdo the other in the noise stakes! Not surprisingly we were in the winning side and it wasn’t long before a mini-mosh pit broke out so we could recapture our youth for a few minutes of slam dancing! Musically, the band were fantastic and Coyne’s growling vocals brought the recordings to life. The set list covered all the band’s albums but their sound is so consistent, they could have been from the same album except for ‘Hey Ho Let’s Go’ by the Ramones as a final cover to finish the evening off. If you haven’t heard of the Godfathers before, check them out and come down next Valentine’s - it will be a date!
The Bad Flowers, Jared James Nichols, Stone Broken
Islington Assembly Hall, London
Saturday 24th February 2018
When you talk about the future of Blues Rock, then it didn't get much better than last Saturday night at Islington's Assembly Hall in London, although the distinct contrast in each bands style - made the gig even more appetising. The evening kicked off with the dirty Heavy Blues Hard Rock of the Midlands very own The Bad Flowers following last week's launch of their appropriately named new album 'Starting Gun'. The meat in the sandwich was Wisconsin-born, Los Angles based singer and guitarist, Jared James Nichols, with that distinctive 70's style of Blues Power Rock who released his latest album 'Black Magic' last October. And last, but not least, 2017 WRC 'One's To Watch' award winners Stone Broken - the clean cut Black Country Hard Rockers - deservedly headlining - who we saw at this very same venue a year ago supporting Glenn Hughes.
We first caught The Bad Flowers at the O2 Islington Academy supporting Crobot and Dirty Thrills in June 2016 - a breakthrough year as The Flowers left local venues in a wake of blood, sweat and ringing ears when they opened for Canadian rockers The Sheepdogs in Birmingham, then onward to extensive tours up and down the UK to packed venues with the very same Jared James Nichols and Scorpion Child, plus an appearance at Hard Rock Hell. ‘Starting Gun’ was recorded at Vigo Studios, near the band’s hometown of Cannock. The band chose this studio because they wanted to make a record that sounded like their roots and had the chance to work with long-time friend of the band and producer Adam Beddow, who has recently helped produce Diamond Head’s most current work. The album is a follow up to 2016's self-titled EP and shows the great progression of song writing and musicianship of the band over the past two years.
The band comprise of lead vocalist and guitarist, Tom Leighton, whose signature riffs, fuzz emotive guitar and pure vocals have distinctive sound unlike anybody else. Bassist Dale Tonks provides a deep heavy groove and tasty bass runs that underpins Karl Selickis' chest pumping drums and impeccable rhythmic feel. Not unexpectedly all seven songs in their short set were taken from 'Starting Gun' as they opened with two in a row that immediately got the Assembly Hall's undivided attention - ‘Hurricane’ - as it name implies - a typical Bad Flowers Heavy Rock track - followed by ‘Who Needs A Soul’ - another pure Rock song full of Leighton's great guitar. "How Are We Doing London?" yelled Leighton as the hairy trio kept up their Heavy Rock assault with ‘Secrets’ with its great chorus, and then surprise, surprise, continuing the Heavy Rock vibe, ‘Lions Blood’ - with its a great hook and sobered guitar solo - one track which we have wanted to see live since the album launch - which didn't disappoint - as did 'Be Your Man’ - with some great vocals from Leighton.
Next up was their first single from the album 'Thunder Child' - leaving you in no doubt why The Bad Flowers were named as one of Planet Rock’s ‘Ones To Watch’ following its release last September. With its great lyrical opening salvo, it's no surprise that it has gained heavy airplay and was described by the radio station as “pure, dynamic, riff-heavy rock ‘n’ roll delivered with passion and prowess”, and also apparently led to the band being asked to play at Planet Rock’s Christmas party in support of Blues Pills at London’s Jazz Café last November! The album closer ‘City Lights’ was also the set closer, very much a Blues Rock number in the vein of Led Zeppelin, with great vocals from all three band members - a classic Bad Flowers track - which saw Tonks playfully grab Selickis' cymbal in the outro. Make sure you catch the band before their nationwide 12 date UK tour ends at The Fleece, Bristol, on Wednesday 7th March, or alternatively you can see them at The Stone Free Festival at London’s O2 Arena on Sunday 17th June. We will be there!
We would have paid just to see The Bad Flowers alone, and the same would apply to American Blues Rock guitarist and singer Jared James Nichols. JJN had been on our radar for a long long time and we finally saw him live opening the Planet Rock Main Stage at Ramblin' Man last July and we were not disappointed. In fact, fresh from his awesome performance that day, we then returned wet and bedraggled to the media area where we had the pleasure of interviewing Jared where he told us here about 'Old Glory', his 'pick-less' electric guitar playing technique, what we could expect from his new studio album 'Black Magic' due to be released in September plus how his teeth were so white!
As expected, JJN's beast of a trio, duly delivered more hair, energy in abundance and white teeth, but more importantly, 70's Power Rock at its ultimate best. JJN mixed it up - airing amongst others the first three tracks from 'Black Magic' namely his single 'Last Chance', the Hendrix influenced riff of 'The Gun' and 'Don't Be Scared', before he teased "London don't be shy", an open invite for us all to head bang to his classic 'Baby Can You Feel It?', plus he nailed his 70's influences to the mast as he signed off a storming set with a cover of Mountain's 'Mississippi Queen'. Now this was real Rock 'n' Roll - and not only a great voice but also validation of the equation that a Les Paul = Blues Power. Similar to The Bad Flowers, make sure you catch Jared before his band's nationwide 12 date UK tour ends at The Fleece, Bristol, on Wednesday 7th March.
We first saw Stone Broken just over a year ago and suffice to say our opinion of these Black Country Hard Rockers was unchanged after further seeing them from afar on the Sunday on the Ramblin' Man Fair Planet Rock Stage in July and then supporting Living Colour as they blew the proverbial bloody doors off of London's ULU in October. With Rich Moss on vocals/guitar, Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals - and with a hotly anticipated new album 'Ain't Always Easy' imminent - this would indeed be a test as to how their new material stacked up against their stand-out first album 'All In Time'.
We needn't have worried as the spinal strength of 'AAE' was immediately evident with their debut of awesome opener 'Heartbeat Away' before it literally got 'Better' - a track from 'AIT' - both songs consolidating their huge arena Rock sound. Described as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses, their very first single from 'AIT', 'Stay All Night' - think Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - saw some great guitar work from the ever-smiling Davis and exceptional vocals from Moss - again belying his Walsall accent with a Southern Rock drawl. "How are you doing London? Make some noise!" enquired the
baseball capped/goatee bearded Moss - before they proceeded to blow away the crowd with a hard rockin' quartet from 'AAE' namely 'I Believe', 'The Only Thing I Need', 'Home' - with stand-out vocals from Moss, and finally, my particular favourite, 'Doesn't Matter, with its awesome grunge riff plus manic hand-clapping from a packed auditorium.
It wasn't all work though, as Moss interspersed the new stuff with decent banter about drinking and travelling - but the anecdote about when they played just up the road at Camden's Black Heart just four months before the aforementioned Glenn Hughes gig - really hit home how far these guys have come in such a short space of time. 'AIT's 'Let Me Go' morphed into a terrific drum solo from the dynamic Haycock, and there were even pyrotechnics thrown in to complement 'AAE's 'Let Me See It All'. It was then back to 'AIT' and the slower intro to 'Be There', which led into an inevitable huge riff - the impressive vocals of Moss and guitar work from Davis very reminiscent of Nickelback when they rock - before they wrapped up their set with their final track from 'AAE' - the loud and proud 'Worth Fighting For' - proof again, if one needed it, of the quality of their new album. Some might say their clean cut image has comparisons to "Ed Sheeran Does Heavy Rock" - so in some way it was appropriate that 'AIT's rocker 'Wait For You' was performed as an encore unplugged with great vocals by Moss, which unsurprisingly turned into a huge singalong, whilst Hard Rockin' order was restored with their closing headbanger and second single off of 'AIT' 'Not Your Enemy' - with its riff to die for. 'Ain't Always Easy' is out this Friday 2nd March - make sure you add this CD to your collection!
Robin Trower, Sari Schorr
Islington Assembly Hall, London
Tuesday 27th February 2018
After releasing perhaps his best solo album since his 40's 'Time and Emotion' last year, legendary Blues Rock guitarist and singer-songwriter, Robin Trower returned to play an exclusive UK concert at the Islington Assembly Hall in London on Tuesday night - his first UK gig since he graced the very same venue on Venues Day in October 2016. The set list was pretty much the same as sixteen months ago, but all the same, warming his fans up in style on a bitterly cold evening. Best known for his 1974 milestone album 'Bridge of Sighs', the 72 year-old was supported by the New York based Blues vocalist Sari Schorr featuring guitarist Ash Wilson and keyboardist Bob Fridzema (ex-King King). We last saw Sari, on another cold evening, also in London, at Putney's Half Moon just over a month ago when she showcased her new band plus a few of her new songs ahead of her all-important sophomore album due to be released this September. Tonight though it was Sari unplugged, without bass or drums, but more than made up for by the talented trio of Schorr, Ash and Fridzema. Wilson's familiar clunky opening riff to 'Aunt Hazel' from her critically acclaimed debut album 'A Force Of Nature' - based on urban slang for heroin - complemented by outstanding keys from Fridzema - saw Schorr unleash her strong piercing vocals on an unsuspecting crowd - "she's a bit like Beth Hart" commented the Schorr virgin next to me, before the trio followed it up with Wilson's rockin' solo and Fridzema's keys on 'Demolition Man', again from 'AFON', forcefully sung and written by Schorr.
'Ready For Love' from the aforementioned new album, was testament to the expected quality of the new material, albeit a Mott The Hoople cover which smacked of Zeppelin's 'No Quarter' - brilliantly sung by Sari. Schorr danced around the front of stage with the smiles of a woman at one with her music and her voice. It’s sometimes quiet and beautiful, sometimes powerful and strong, but always enthralling. You can imagine her conquering any music genre that she might choose – Rock, Blues, Opera, Soul. She admits lately to have worked even harder on her songwriting, digging deeper and deeper into lyrics and melodies. The result is what she believe's is some of her best work to date and that was borne out on another track from the new album 'Maybe I'm Fooling' - again with great work from Wilson. Sari's exceptional vocal on the penultimate and beautifully crafted 'Damn The Reason', featuring Fridzema's keyboards and another Wilson guitar solo - all about domestic abuse, saw them close their short set with Lead Belly's 'Black Betty' - with its unique arrangement and Wilson's cajun guitar opening and Schorr's vocal delivery - ultimately resulting in a very powerful version of this classic. Given
the strength of her musicians working on the album which includes drummer Neal Wilkinson, whose work credits include Van Morrison, James Morrison, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles and Annie Lennox, plus the talent of the Manhattan Records production team, featuring executive producer Mike Vernon again, plus an expanded team of producer Wayne (King King) Proctor and Steve Wright, September can't come soon enough!
Unlike sixteen months ago when we were up in the Gods to see Robin Trower - this time we were actually positioned down towards the front, standing to the left hand side of the stage - something which in the end actually added an up front and personal dimension to Trower's performance at this particular gig. Indeed, as per last time, Richard Watts' bass intro on 'Too Rolling Stoned' from 'Bridge Of Sighs' kickstarted their set, unleashing the smiling Trower on his first (and not his last) wah guitar solo, with its subtle hint of Hendrix, weaving around drummer Christopher Taggart's beat and Watts' vocals. This was followed by another classic from 'BOS' 'Lady Love' - although this was a first for me live with another great vocal from Watts, leaving everyone scratching their heads on how on earth does Trower get those amazing sounds out of his guitar? Step forward Robin with some cool vocals, complementing his slower awesome guitar, on 'Returned In Kind' from 'Time And Emotions' followed by more Trower vocals on 'Not Inside - Outside' from 2010's 'The Playful Heart', fleetingly punctuating another trademark guitar solo. It was then back to the very old - nearly 41 years ago to be precise - and 'Somebody Calling' from 'In City Dreams' - which still had that great groovy late '70's feel about it - think Average White Band, before it was back to the future and the fine fine Blues of 'Make Up Your Mind' from the latest album 'T&E', epitomised by Trower's enduring fish face facial expression, both songs validating the wide age range in the audience, totally lapping up the Catford legend.
Once again the spine of the set understandably returned to 'BOS', with the up-tempo slide and chops of 'Day Of The Eagle' metamorphosing into the classic opening of the title track with its unmistakeable riff - still an iconic tipping point for me - a bit like seeing Skynyrd doing 'Free Bird' live - this track is still very much Rock history. Indeed, as someone pointed out, the worst part of 'Bridge Of Sighs' is when it finishes! That very same wag also added during "Can't Turn Back The Clock' - another stand out track from 'T&E' - that he loved Trower more than his wife - and even drummer Taggart was getting excited - frequently jumping up off his stool! Robin then duly dipped into the studio follow up to 'BOS' with 'For Earth Below' and 'Confessin' Midnight' with Watts' earthy vocals and another groovy instrumental riff outro before he broke into my personal stand out of the night 'Daydream'. Taken from Trower's very first solo album post Procol Harum - 'Twice Removed From Yesterday' - I've seen Chantel McGregor cover this brilliantly many times - but to see the master in action - well yes, as we sang along - we were spellbound. And as for that Trower guitar solo - awesome.
"Thank you" said Rockin' Robin as he rounded off his set with the blistering rocker 'Little Bit Of Sympathy' complete with audience hand clapping - again from 'BOS', and despite his "Thank you very much - goodnight" - he returned to do the same two encores as he did last time out - the short but punchy guitar of 'Rise Up Like The Sun' from his 15th studio album '20th Century Blues', contrasted by slowhand Trower's delightful psychedelic Blues title track from 'For Earth Below'. Yet another night of quality not quantity. Trower's smooth-as-butter guitar licks and screaming solos have to be seen to be believed. He plays from the soul and has a vibe and a presence that is unique. This guy can play. It really is that simple. Once again an honour and a privilege Mr. Trower.
The Water Rats, London
Friday 9th March 2018
Riding high on unanimously stellar reviews in France, of both their new album and recent live shows, Parisian rockers Carousel Vertigo duly delivered their promise of “Ia hi-energy rock & roll show with 70's rock overtones” at London's The Water Rats in Kings Cross last Friday night. This short headlining tour of intimate UK venues supported last September's release of the band’s classic second album, ‘Revenge of Rock and Roll’. Consisting of three native French rockers and an American - namely Vincent Martinez - lead vocals and guitar, Jansen Press - guitar and vocals, Olivier Brossard - bass and vocals and Jimmy Montout - drums - as expected, this band did what it does best: pedal to the metal Rock and Roll!
Arriving on stage to a backing tape of 'Rocky' and announcing "Hello London - we are Carousel Vertigo ... and we play Rock and Roll" - the Parisian rockers certainly didn't pull any of their punches opening with five songs taken from 'Revenge of Rock and Roll' - testament to the quality of their new material. Brossard's harmonica intro on the rockin' 'Well, Alright' immediately saw the nucleus of the band, namely New Jersey son Jansen Press and Gibson Guitars endorsed Parisian Vincent Martinez duelling guitars go into overdrive - with an amazing Rock voice to match from Martinez. And there was 'No More Hesitatin' as they went straight into this stand-out from 'RORAR' with its killer riff and more Lizzy-like guitar harmonies, living up to their bad reputation, despite no live keys, as "the best music you haven’t heard yet but already love", before the break-neck opening concluded with the heavier and faster paced 'Get It On'. Ooh La La - as the bandana/goggled wearing Press changed his guitar and announced that "It was good to back in London again" before the beat of the diminutive but colossal Montout's drum saw everyone clapping along to the harmonies and rallying call of of 'RORAR's title track - evidence - if you needed it - that these guys play Rock and Roll with a smile on their faces - purely out of a shared love for the classic Rock music they revel in and play so well. The last song in the quintet - 'Honey Do' - with its Status Quo influence kept the joint rockin' - despite the constant chatter in the venue (please join our campaign #shutthefuckup).
The band were on fire by now and deviated from the new to the old and 'Last Call For Love' from their very first 2013 album release 'Mighty' - and then literally gave us the '3rd Degree' - another from 'Mighty' - in both instances think The Black Crowes meet The Faces - showcasing Martinez's rasping Rod-ish like vocals. 'Get To You' with its Bad Company/Free influenced riff from their very first eponymous EP released in 2009 was followed by the similar rockin' formula of 'Just Wanna Get Back' - again from their 2009 EP. And did I detect the ghost of Bon Scott in Martinez's vocal on 'Mighty Good Women' - - the cracking opening track from 'Mighty' - before it was back to 'RORAR's slower 'Don't Take It To Heart', a hometown point of view on the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November 2015 with an amazing and fitting guitar solo from Martinez. It was then back to 'Mighty' for the last two tracks of the set - the palpable Quo/ZZ Top vibe of 'Long Highway' and finally I'm A Comin' World with another awesome solid guitar riff - "Are you feeling it London" asked Press - as he introduced the 'Huggy Bear' capped Montout, before a cool bass solo saw Brossard bump his head as he jumped on to a speaker stack. Not to be outdone, Martinez's Gary Moore like facial expressions on an outstanding guitar solo was more than matched by Press's slide guitar. Cries of "We want more" were answered by a Blues power encore - B.B. eat your heart out - this was Blues driven Rock and Soul - yes the set was really that wide-ranging! If you get the chance to see Carousel Vertigo on the last date of their tour tonight at The Priory Hotel, Dover, then do it. If not then make sure you buy a copy of ‘Revenge of Rock and Roll’. Either way - you won't be disappointed!
The Half Moon, Putney, London
Tuesday 13th March 2018
Lynne Jackaman is a talented and gifted English Rock/Soul singer formerly of the band Saint Jude, who were a London-based Rock and Soul band. They released their debut album, ‘Diary Of A Soul Fiend’, in September 2010, which was produced by Chris Kimsey and featured a guest appearance from Ronnie Wood. The album is outstanding with a loose Blues/Rock vibe and deeply soulful, an absolute classic. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend a listen! Unfortunately the band disintegrated around 2013 after the untimely death of original guitarist Adam Greene in early 2012. Fortunately Lynne has returned to making music and is currently fronting Jackaman, her own band. She has recently completed recording her new album, ‘One Shot’, at the legendary FAME studios, Muscle Shoals in Alabama with Belgian producer and musician Jamie Evans. Some of the original Muscle Shoals session musicians guest on the album, including organ and piano player Spooner Oldham, keyboard player Clayton Ivey, bassist Bob Wray and guitarist Will McFarlane.
Lynne started singing professionally at around fourteen years old and during her career she has worked with bands such as The Answer on ‘Nowhere Freeway’, guested on stage with Thunder, Ginger Baker and Glenn Hughes. Ronnie Wood has also guested with Saint Jude on several occasions. Saint Jude guitarist Adam Greene was also chosen by Ronnie Wood to play in his solo band at his prestigious gig at the Ambassadors Theatre London on October 2010.
Lynne released her first solo EP, ‘No Halo’, under the Jackaman name in June 2016. It features a guest appearance from The Quireboys’ guitarist, Guy Griffin. With a voice of liquid gold and sprinklings of grit and gravel, Lynne delivers a diamond sharp sultry sincere performance, showcasing an intense vocal range and breadth with buckets of emotional depth. Some obvious vocal influences include Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Ann Peebles and Nikki Lamborn.
This gig at the famous Half Moon pub in Putney was the new album showcase, where only tracks from the album are performed. Unfortunately no previous material from Saint Jude or the debut EP are played. I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs prior to the gig, so an all new audio experience for me. Having only heard about this show a few days before, I was surprised that tickets were still available, as last month’s concert at The Islington in Angel, North London had been sold out for some time. Unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets for that gig, but fortunately I was able to get them for this one!
There seemed to be a rather low attendance at this gig, maybe the fact that it was not widely advertised or that it was a Tuesday night in Putney! The fortunate few in attendance though were rewarded with a spectacular and memorable performance. Lynne’s new band, assembled to promote the ‘One Shot’ album, included Jamie Evans on guitar, Paul Stone on drums, Tom Williams on bass, Johnny O’Neill on saxophone and Nick Etwell on trumpet. The new songs are definitely more in the Funk/Soul/Rock vain than her previous work with Saint Jude, where the direction was much more Blues/groove Rock. To be honest I miss the grit and groove of her Saint Jude material. However, the new songs are strong and provide the perfect vehicle for Lynne’s highly intense and masterful vocal skills.
The set consisted of eleven songs, opening with ‘Nobody’s Fault (But Yours)’. A confident funky struttin' start with deeply soulful vocals that get the hairs at the back of the neck standing! The set flows nicely into 'Copycat', followed by 'I'll Allow You', then 'On Your Own Now', then onto the title track 'One Shot', with beautifully controlled vocal vibrato that crackled with raw intensity, enough to melt the strongest of hearts! 'Sooner Or Later', a more riff driven track rocks hard with powerfully tight musicianship from the band and captivating vocal delivery from Lynne. 'Beautiful Loss' is an arresting ballad written about fellow Saint Jude band member Adam Greene, who sadly passed away in 2012. Delivered from the heart with captivating and engaging emotion, every word has deeply felt meaning, simply stunningly beautiful.
For the next section of the set we got 'On My Own Stage', then 'Red House Down', and finally the snarling 'Supernasty' which was delivered with panache and attitude! The horn section adding that authentic Muscle Shoals soul vibe through out the set. Returning to the stage for the exquisite 'Nothing But My Records On' to complete the evening’s musical journey. Through out the set Lynne's vocals transcended time and space, soaring to the highest reaches of the vocal register with complete control, then dipping down low and gravely with a vibrant wailing intensity only really heard from the true legendary greats of Soul music. There is definitely magic in them vocal chords! A very special evening of high quality songs and an unforgettable musical experience. Overall a very impressive body of work from Jackaman. Lynne is definitely one the country's finest Soul/Rock singers and deserves all the success she can get.
Steven C. Gilbert (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
The Borderline, London
Friday 16th March 2018
My first gig review was a Valentine’s date with the other half, this my second gig for Wrinkly Rockers, was more of a family affair heading up to London on South Eastern trains from SE London for an evening of Kentish Rock with my son and his buddies. Three bands on the roll call from the North-West part of Kent - the Medway Towns, Dartford and Bexley, headlined by Colt48 for the launch of their new EP. We found The Borderline tucked away just off Charing Cross Road on the edge of Soho, close to where the famous Astoria used to be. And what a delightful venue it is too, subterranean, but with a modern feel and craft beer! The corridor to the toilets was designed by the late Stephen Hawking and leads you to another dimension!
Once I had returned from the Blake’s 7 toilet deck, I was ready to enjoy the rocky melodies supplied by a very able four piece from Medway called I Within. The variety and richness in the vocals got the crowd warmed up nicely and I would be keen to see them on another future line up.
The second band of the evening was the energetic Benzokayn. They’ve been around since 2012 and reformed last year and have supported the likes of Crazy Town, Hed PE and Dog Eat Dog. The hairstyles were as eclectic as their music with Punky undertones mixed with old school crunchy riffs and a touch of rap along the lines of Limp Bizkit or Crazytown, all pulled together in a very enjoyable set. The band had loads of energy and enthusiasm which was pretty infectious and the members had the ability to swap instrument and vocal duties. Plus I spotted a 7 string guitar being wielded and as I struggle with a six string, it doesn’t take too much to impress me!
Then the stage was cleared for the headline act, Colt48. Cleared, because there are only two of them, lead singer/guitarist Adam Jerome and vocalist/drummer Matt Savini. However, if you closed your eyes, you would swear there were about 50 in the band, because the noise and power coming from the stage more than filled the Boderline’s PA system! To create the illusion of more band members, Adam switches from a microphone on one side of the stage to the other and by self-admission, can talk for England between songs (accompanied by Matt providing dramatic effects on the drums!).
The music is mainly Nu-Metal and Heavy Rock with powerful riffs, but with good melodies and it wasn’t long before the crowd were singing along. Not only are they headlining and selling out a major London venue, but are beginning to build a loyal fan base, and this could be the sign that Colt48 are on the way up. They supported Puddle of Mudd at the Garage last year and have opened for Crazy Town, Foxxy and Trapt. They play the songs from their new and previous EP’s, the catchy ‘Hate Hate Relationship’ and ‘The Fire’ being my favourites. The set was given a brief respite with the acoustic ‘Start Again’ which when finished, re-emphasises the power of the rest of the set list. I’ve followed Colt48 from their origins of the previous band, ‘48 Hours’, and it was great to see the previous band member Gary jump onto the stage to sing backing vocals for the encore.
I spoke to Adam after the gig and he was still buzzing with the support the band has attracted in such a short space of time. “Hey, thanks again to everyone who came out to see us, it was insane!” He went on to say, “As a result of your support, a direct positive effect is that we have the headline slot at the Black Heart at Camden Rocks which is frankly mind blowingly cool!” They will be helping close the festival on Saturday 2nd June which is a great achievement for the pair who have only been going since 2017. Their hard work and powerful riffs are propelling them forward and it is well worth checking them out. My son agrees, so that’s got to count too!
Rockin' The Blues
The Garage, London
Saturday 17th March 2018
The Mascot Label Group's very first Rockin’ The Blues European Tour, featuring the exceptional talents of Gary Hoey, Quinn Sullivan, Eric Gales and Lance Lopez came to a thunderous close on Saint Patrick's Day at London's The Garage in Highbury last Saturday night. On a day when we were promised another "Beast From The East" - we actually ended up with "The Best From The West" as each American Blues Rock artist played their own individual set before all coming together for a final marvellous jam. This was a must see opportunity to see the finest players of their generation in one place at one time and get up close and personal with them, giving the fans the chance to interact and find out what makes them tick. The Blues was calling…
It was hard to believe when we first saw guitar maestro Gary Hoey at Nell's Jazz & Blues just down the road in Kensington last June, that despite having 20 albums under his belt and having toured with a veritable Rock who's who over the years, that the Massachusetts born Hoey, who once auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, was making his London debut. Given his performance that night - after taking time off from his European tour with Beth Hart - fighting through the snow tonight to see Gary perform once again was a no brainer as the shades wearing Hoey, with AJ Pappas on bass and Matt Scurfield on drums opened Rockin' The Blues with the foot-tapping 'Bootmill Blues' from his previous 'Deja Blues' album, before they slowed things down a bit with the title track from the same 2013 album - although there was no let up in Hoey's undoubted guitar prowess with a wonderful instrumental. The catchy title track of his last album 'Dust & Bones' also showcased his much anticipated Fender Stratocaster-driven fury alongside open-D-tuned resonator guitars plugged into half-stacks - Robin Trower eat your heart out! Resplendent in his Motorhead t-shirt, Hoey shared the joy that both his wife and daughter were in the crowd before we sensed another case of deja vu with two more tracks from Deja Blues - 'Boss You Around' and 'Almost Over You' - the latter which featured Jon Butcher on the album, both effortlessly executed. And just to prove the quality of 'Dust & Bones' - the Rock n' Roll of 'Who's Your Daddy' resulted again in general uncontrollable foot tapping - with Gary poignantly dedicating the song at the end to his late father - "Love you Dad". Albert King's 'Born Under A Bad Sign' with its "If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all" was, on the contrary, lucky for all those present - thanks to Hoey's turquoise/green guitar solo - well it was St. Paddy's Day after all - before he rounded off a memorable set with a jaw-dropping cover of Focus's 'Hocus Pocus' - Hoey's awesome guitar filling in for Van Leer's iconic yodelling - my only disappointment being that Jan Akkerman actually joined Gary for this classic on stage on the Dutch leg of the tour last week! Drat! Anyway, on the night Hoey proved once again that if you love a ferocious blend of Blues and Rock music, then Gary is the man for you! Follow that fellow Massachusetts born Quinn Sullivan!
Unexpectedly, and a bonus ball throughout the evening, was the inclusion of WRC favourite Big Boy Bloater as Master Of Ceremonies. When you talk about the future of the Blues in the UK or generally, you immediately think of Laurence Jones. Sandwiched in between Hoey and Gales was the US future of the Blues, namely 18 year old (yes, seriously) child prodigy Quinn Sullivan. Unlike, Hoey, Gales and Lopez, this was the first time I had seen Quinn live - although I'd already liked what I heard - and in particular his last album 'Midnight Highway'. "Hello England" Quinn greeted the audience as his fresh faced young band opened with two cracking tracks off the aforementioned 'MH', namely 'Lifting Off' and 'Crazy Into You'. Further comparisons to Laurence Jones were inevitable, given both tracks "Crossover Blues" feel or 'Blues Rock Lite" as some might call it - with their refreshing Pop feel. My initial reaction to the opening chords of Hendrix's 'Little Wing' was that Gales would not be covering it tonight - but if you were in any doubt that this boy could nail the whole Blues spectrum, then Sullivan's awesome guitar solo on this classic proved that young Quinn was up there with the best. 'Real Thing' with its Floydish influence was a real stand-out from this short set before Sullivan paid his dues to UK Blues with a cover of Clapton's classic 'Let It Rain'. To further emphasise both the future and style of his Blues, both Sullivan's young afro-haired keyboard player and his Nathan James lookalike bass guitarist were joined on stage by James Bay guitarist Andy Cortes on 'MH's 'Going' before the mighty Quinn closed with his delightful title track from 'Midnight Highway'. We certainly witnessed the future of the Blues tonight and that guitar is in very safe hands.
Similar to Gary Hoey, we also saw guitar whirlwind Eric Gales for the first time at Nell's Jazz & Blues last June following the release of his incredible new album 'Middle of the Road'. Although 'Middle Of The Road' was Gales' fourth album released on his current label, this was indeed his fifteenth album all told, since he released his debut album at 16 as both a well documented child prodigy and a second coming of Jimi Hendrix. Similar to record label mate Hoey, it was again a surprise that someone with the pedigree of Gales, who has played with the likes of Carlos Santana, that was also his London debut that night. There's no doubting that Eric has had his demon's over the year's and he readily admits that 'MOTR' reflects where he has been personally and where he is now. "100 thousand percent roots Blues" Gales promised The Garage faithful, and his band, consisting of Cody Wright (bass), Nicky Hayes (drums) and Eric's wife LaDonna (percussion) duly delivered, opening with Walter Trout's 'Somebody Goin' Down' - who Eric dueted with on Trout's latest album 'We're All In This Together' - followed by Howling Wolf's 'Smokestack Lightening' and then 'Make It There' from his 2010 album 'Relentless'. Awesome! Groovy backing vocals then heralded Freddie KIng's 'Boogie Man' - a delightful, slower, gentler, version of his single from 'MOTR' - and an opportunity not only to appreciate Eric's evident vocal quality but another intense guitar solo that resulted in Eric's trademark baseball cap falling off! 'Boogie Man' was followed by 'Boogie Funk' - Raw Dawg once again nailing his impeccable credentials to the mast on his upside-down right-handed guitar before a perfect execution of Buddy Guy's delicious 'Baby Please Don't Leave Me' including our first real sniff of Hendrix with a snippet of 'Purple Haze'. Gales' undoubted stage presence, deservedly gave way for a moment, as the spotlight shifted to a drum and bass solo from Hayes and Wright, before his wife LaDonna took the limelight on percussion during 'Swamp'. Our second taste of Hendrix arrived with the classic 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' - which Gales proceeded to smash with some quality licks, with a bit of AC/DC's 'Back In Black' thrown in for good measure. Believe me - given Gales' passion, expression, vigour, vocal delivery and amazing (coincidental) left hand guitar playing - he is the nearest thing you will ever see to Hendrix. Eric you are the real deal!
In fact the last time we saw Eric was at Ramblin' Man Fair last July, guesting on the Planet Rock Main Stage with Supersonic Blues Machine. Cue Eric then as he reciprocated with "So London, England - it's time to bring on one of my friends!" Step forward Lance Lopez - guitarist and lead singer of the aforementioned SBM as he joined Gales' band to continue 'Rockin' The Blues' with two tracks from his own recent album 'Tell The Truth' - namely 'Mr. Lucky' - with a powerful vocal from the cowboy hatted Lopez plus the album's title track and Lance's mean ZZ Top style riff. An evening of Blues Rock at its best was complete as Quinn and Hoey joined them on stage and chipped in with a couple of awesome guitar solos during a final full jam session as they all let rip into covers of Jimi's 'Red House' plus The Alabama State Troupers 'Going Down'. To further complement an amazing gig, the meet and greet after the gig added another dimension to a perfect evening. Can't wait for Rockin' The Blues 2019!
Dan Patlansky, Mollie Marriott
The Borderline, London
Wednesday 21st March 2018
South African singer-songwriter and guitarist, Dan Patlansky, completed his current UK tour at London's sold out Borderline last Wednesday night, in support of his new studio album "Perfection Kills' which was released at the beginning of last month and was the follow up to 2016's critically acclaimed 'Introvertigo'. Brilliantly supported by Blues singer Mollie Marriott and her band, Patlansky proved once again why he was voted Best Blues Rock Performance in our 2017 WRC Awards and Dan - one of music's nice guys - and his band, were accordingly presented with their fully deserved award backstage before their set!
Of course the added bonus of the night was seeing WRC favourite Mollie Marriott and her band as support. This being her second big tour since supporting Bad Touch last November following the release of her sensational debut album 'Truth Is A Wolf', released earlier that month. In fact the only time I'd actually seen Mollie live before, was sitting on Whisperin' Bob Harris's Old Grey Whistle Test Special couch a month ago - talking about 'TIAW' and of course her Dad - Humble Pie's Steve Marriott - the first band I ever saw live. Once again, for this tour Mollie was joined by a power house three piece band consisting of Jay Bone on drums, Ryan Burnett on guitar plus the only remaining band member of the last tour - Tom Swann on bass. The band's half hour set ran along the same line's as her O2 Academy Islington performance opening with 'Nobody To Love', a new song not on 'TIAW' - a riveting and rousing heavy Funk Soul track with exhilarating vocals. All augurs well for their sophomore album then! Next up was the the beguiling and classy title track off 'TIAW', an irresistible groove with spellbinding vocals plus an exceptional guitar solo from Ryan to match.
"Are you ok?" Mollie asked, dressed in striking skin tight black PVC/leather trousers and black tasseled leather jacket. Stupid question really, before they launched into another new song, the mid-tempo, catchy and potent track 'Into Shape', which again emphasised what a unit they are and that it's not just all about Mollie - although it was difficult to take your eyes off her given her commanding stage presence with her magnetic personality and seductive enchanting elegance. Given it was their last night on tour, Mollie duly said her "thank you's" before the tantalising 'Run With The Hounds', another from 'TIAW', a song that has a delightful and satisfying melodic groove, and was executed with such sublime precision and enthusiasm. "Does anyone like Tom Petty?" Mollie then quizzed the audience. Cue 'I Should Have Known It' from The Heartbreakers 2010 album 'Mojo' played with enthusiastic verve and a gritty riff delivered with pure sass and grit. Mollie then took the opportunity of introducing her great band during the epic and dynamic 'Transformer' - a slower, atmospheric and deep song with a rousing anthemic chorus that lifted and enticed raw emotion. A scintillating and powerful vocal performance from Mollie with fiery and spirited guitar playing from Burnett. The last song of the set was the mind-blowing and arresting 'Control', not only the first single from 'TIAW', but also its first track, which saw both a gutsy rousing performance from the band and punchy soaring vocals from Mollie. Full on impassioned heavy Funk Rock at its best. Yet another incredible and stunning set from Mollie and her band who return to London's The Water Rats on Thursday 5th July. Do not miss them.
Don’t you just hate a guy that has the voice, charisma, good banter and looks, is a master of the guitar and is an all round nice bloke? A man who once opened in his homeland for Bruce Springsteen in front of 64,000 people and has just recently self produced his ninth album? However, the question on everyone's lips was could 'Perfection Kills' be the album which propells Dan Patlansky from a supporting act to a top of the bill star? In fact the last time we saw Dan was supporting Joanne Shaw Taylor at The Royal Festival Hall last November. However, it was his up front and personal headline performance at London's O2 Academy Islington last May that won him our 2017 WRC Best Blues Rock Performance award. Consequently we were expecting more of the same tonight at a sold out Borderline and Patlansky proved us not wrong as the South African proceeded to blow the bloody doors of this recently refurbished gig venue!
As the lights went down, and despite meeting them backstage earlier, it was wunderbar to see Dan's longstanding German engine room, namely keyboard player Tom Gatza, bassist Jonathan Murphy (yes he is German) and drummer Felix Dehmel return to London with Patlansky, as the Blues sensation opened with a hairs standing up on back of neck guitar intro, immediately registering the well documented influence of David Gilmour on Patlansky's songwriting skills, before 'PK's opener 'Johnny' - with its strong chorus plus both Dan's rasping vocal and a rockin' guitar solo - meant it was more Rock than Blues - telling the story of a troubled childhood, leading to the same in later life. "Thank you so much Borderline" enthused Patlansky, before the superb piano playing of Gatza brought things down a notch on 'PK's mid tempo and great sounding 'Never Long Enough' - complemented once again by Patlansky's unbelievable guitar playing - a song about how life on the road comes with the sacrifice of not having enough time with the ones we care for - Dan later poignantly mentioning his wife and two boys back home. Patlansky then sent our pulses racing on the melancholic 'Heartbeat', from previous album 'Introvertigo', which had both a thumping baseline and dark vocals, that saw Tom jumping to his feet during an awesome keyboard solo before Dan wiped the sweat from his brow and launched into another virtuoso guitar solo.
Patlansky's anecdote that the youthful Gatza would have probably been listening with his parents to the Backstreet Boys as he grew up, as opposed to Patlansky's parents listening to BB King in Dan's formative years, lead us into a cover of the great man's 'You Upset Me' before they returned to 'PF' and the mellow 'Mayday' with its slow, smooth, late night Blues feel, complete again with a building Floyd sounding guitar solo which not only showed the amazing versatility of Patlansky, but also, unfortunately highlighted the chatter going on at the back of the venue. Why not join our campaign?: #shutthefuckup 'Too Far Gone' - ironically a protest song from 'PK' about the state of our planet and what we are doing to it - saw solidarity from Gatza, rightly back on his feet again, well supported by Patlansky's fuzzy wah guitar, before Dehmel's drum intro on Introvertigo's first single and upbeat Blues of 'Stop The Messin' had Patlansky again growling out the lyrics, his vocal edginess to his Blues not only matched by his undeniable fret skills, but also his interplay with Gatza's keyboards delighting The Borderline faithful. 'PK's very first single 'Dog Day' - all about the state of the world versus state of individual lives - was next. Lyrically, not everyone's cup of tea, but you can't fault attitude, which this short track with Hendrix overtones has in abundance, with Patlansky again showing off his wah skills and the ever-smiling Dehmel providing some excellent percussive accompaniment.
Patlansky then took time out to tune his guitar, and we were glad he did, as he kept up the unabated momentum as we rocked out to the stand-out from his set, the driving Rock of 'Bring The World To Its Knees' from 2012 release ‘20 Stones’. "Are you ok with some slow Blues?" Dan enquired. Step forward ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’ a tender song interspersed with searing solos. Gilmour’s influence on Patlansky is never more apparent than on this gem – my personal favourite from ‘Introvertigo’ - and in true Floyd style built into one mother fu**er of a climax. Absolute perfection. Once again Gilmour would have been proud of him, despite more annoying chatter from the back of the audience. #shutthefuckup Dan’s previous album before 'Introvertigo' - ‘Dear Silence Thieves’ - then got a look in with the pounding, up-tempo and darn catchy ‘Backbite’ - the first single Patlansky ever released, before the band finished their set with an extended Blues jam with another nod to Hendrix and ‘My Chana’ - an opportunity for Dan to showcase his band - with solo’s from all of Patlansky’s superb German session musicians including bass guitarist Murphy - which also gave Patlansky time to show off and showboat every skill in equal measure, by unbuckling his guitar strap and playing his guitar in various positions including the chimes of Big Ben! "We're coming back in November" was the good news from Patlansky as he tuned up for their encore, the storming politically preaching single ‘Sonnova Faith’ – by all accounts the most popular track from 'Introvertigo', a final chance for Dan to air all of his licks and skills on his old worn and battered Fender Strat. A sold out Borderline were blessed tonight to witness an extremely tight four-piece who obviously enjoyed playing off each other, and whose undoubted quality saw them delightfully jamming around the structure of most songs. As for Patlansky - he has it all and is not afraid to show it. Perfection killed tonight.
The Dead Daisies, The Treatment, The Amorettes
Koko, Camden, London
Tuesday 10th April 2018
Rock is dead! Rock is dead! There is no great guitar music being made any more they say. Piffle, tosh and hogwash I say to them. Music has always been a transient art and quality will always survive. It goes in cycles with popular music being guided by the masses. If it’s good, it will be created by those who love it. It’s a bit like the way we listen to music. Vinyl, changed to 8 track, to cassette to minidisc to CD to MP3 and now back again to vinyl. And so it is with the music, it changes with the times and goes in cycles. So much of our current music is based upon, or even covers of, songs of yesteryear. Reports of Rocks death is greatly exaggerated. The life blood of Rock music these days is not the vast record sales of yesteryear. With downloadable music draining the funds from artists, they turn to live touring to make a living. It’s Rock’s ‘live-support’ system if you like. So gigs like tonight’s triumvirate of talented bands is the beating heart of today’s reviving Rock scene with the attending punters the life blood. Time to get donating.
Camden’s Koko is an old theatre style venue, dating back to 1900, with a capacity of about 1400 over three levels. It’s small enough to be intimate yet holds enough to make some noise. The crowd tonight has a considerable number of gentlemen of a certain age – let’s call them ‘Koko pops'. I apologise for that terrible pun – I am a cereal offender…. But there are also many a fine lady too. Which sums up our opening act The Amorrettes. Fine ladies indeed.
Formed in 2009, they have grown as an act and supported the likes of Wasp, Airbourne and Black Star Riders as their star has risen. Entering the stage to Slade’s ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ this trio of feminine power set out to do just that. Dressed in refreshingly understated attire for an all girl group, the Scottish three-piece let their Metallic brand of Rock do the talking rather than their image. But still managing to look amazing whilst they do so. Lead guitarist and vocalist Gill Montgomery, sporting a fine gold Vintage V100 through a Blackstar amp, produces the full front line by herself with some skill. It’s a tough ask to provide the vocals, rhythm and searing lead but she manages with great success. Would the band benefit from a second guitarist to relieve her of some of these duties? Probably, but the band have created their sound as a three piece and it’s sounding good to me. Sisters Heather McKay - bass guitar, backing vocals and Hannah McKay - drums, backing vocals - provide the rest of the huge sound that the fine sound system at Koko pumps out to a fairly packed crowd. The set is short with a great Metal Rock sound without being too flashy. You don’t have to play at a hundred miles an hour to produce good Metal. Sometimes less is more. Except when it comes to volume of course. Crank it up girls. With their most recent fourth album, 'Born to Break' just released, their catalogue of music continues to grow and with collaborations like 'Everything I Learned I Learned from Rock 'n' Roll', written by Montgomery and Ricky Warwick, it’s getting better all the time. They chose it as their closing number and a good choice too. Go check out one of their many gigs in a venue near you shortly.
The Amorettes Setlist:
Born to Break
Let the Neighbours Call the Cops
White Russian Roulette
Bull by the Horns
Everything I Learned, I Learned From Rock 'N' Roll
So what do you give an ailing Rock scene to help it recover? Well, The Treatment obviously. And it is responding well. The Cambridge five-piece have no mean pedigree of their own. They too have supported bands like Wasp and Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy and played at festivals like Sonosphere and The Steelhouse Festival. But the band of today has changed somewhat in line-up over the years. The only original members are Dhani Mansworth on drums and the diminutive Rick "Swoggle" Newman on bass. These two stalwarts have all the energy now that they had when the band formed back in 2008 and form a fine backline for the new kids on the block. You might be thinking that you are seeing double with the front line as Tagore Grey - guitar/backing vocals and Tao Grey - guitar are yet another set of siblings gracing our stage tonight. Twin Twins. How will the Daisies emulate that. Sporting matching leather jackets, long hair and distinctive chest tattoos, these young fellas provide the Rock swagger through their SG/LP style guitars. Taking to the stage to Ozzy’s ‘Runaway Train’, it’s a classic Rock sound with a strong vein of Metal running through it. New boy frontman Tom Rampton, who has had solo success as well as fronting bands like Louder Still, fits the line-up perfectly and delivers a short set that showcases his fine vocal talents. Despite the power of the music, this is a singers band. And the band have tracks to prove it. With great songs like 'The Doctor' and 'Running In The Alley With The Dogs', this is a set that you can sing along to and fist pump with equal vigour. It even gave my mate’s jacket the horn it was so good. Finishing with their anthemic 'Shake The Mountain' they gave a good account of themselves and were a real crowd pleaser. Announcing a tour in September with support from the wonderful Tequila Mockingbird, that is a gig we will definitely be attending to see this fine bunch of fellows perform a larger headlining set. I have no doubt they will be able to carry it off.
The Treatment Setlist:
Let It Begin
I Bleed Rock+Roll
Running With The Dogs
Get the Party On
Shake the Mountain
So to The Dead Daisies, a band I would describe as my favourite current group. Formed in 2013 they have been a revolving door of artists famed for playing in many a well-known band. And that door revolves on purpose. Whilst retaining founding member David Lowy on guitar, the Daisies have collected a wealth of talent and influences to produce 21st Century Rock that wouldn’t be out of place in the 80’s. Coming with that wealth of experience is a huge nod to classic tracks from years gone by. The Daisies are no strangers to covers and, whilst their set includes much of their own fine material, there is a wealth of familiar hits to please the crowd from their younger days.
Entering the stage to Rose Tattoo’s 'Rock N Roll Outlaw', the five-piece blast the crowd with the opening track 'Resurrection' from their new album 'Burn It Down', released just days before the start of this tour. It’s proper balls out Rock and a great opening track to both album and live set. Axeman Doug Aldrich sports a twin neck Gibson SG (there’s the twins I was looking for earlier - well done DD) through a Marshall JCM800. How much more Rock can you get. Lowy’s accompanying Gibson Flying V through a Friedman amp provides a full bodied rock sound that will wake the dead. Marco Mendoza, a giant of a bassist in every sense, quite rightly takes stage front instead of hiding at the back as many a shrinking violet (daisy?) is prone to doing. As an accomplished vocalist, he assists Corabi throughout the set. And behind all is the ‘new weed’ Deen Castronova, taking up the baton - or sticks in this case – as the pounding beat that keeps this bunch of Bellis together. Front Man John Corabi has been there and done that with the best, including fronting for Motley Crue for a while, and is the consummate professional, at ease with his world and phased by nothing. Just as well as following the opening track there was a short stage malfunction. Treating that like just another day in the office, Corabi entertained the crowd by ‘waxing’ about a romantic liaison the day before with Kate Beckinsale in Madame Tussaud’s well known London tourist attraction. Apparently she has some interesting qualities which will need to be verified. Kate, if you could give me a call to confirm I would be grateful. John says he forgot to take your number.
Power restored, the set proceeds with a great mix of old and new tracks, with the new album getting some rightful love. It is an excellent album and one that has not been off of my gramophone since it was released. Castronovo’s new blood seems to have infused the band with even more enthusiasm and fun which shines through both on the album but especially live. These guys are having a ball. Aldrich performs with a collection of guitars, including Les Pauls and a Telecaster style guitar, showing all the showy skills expected of a man of his calibre, although always in keeping with the song. After 'What Goes Around' he has a moment of jamming fun which included a few bars of Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love'. These guys just love their music – and that of others – and delight in playing classics whenever they can to a hugely appreciative audience. Anyone not getting down to the Zep classic must be surely dead from the hair down. Assuming they have any left. That’s not to say that their own material isn’t well received. It is. Track after track is pumped out with aplomb, including what are now classics like 'Mexico' and 'Last Time I Saw The Sun', broken only by the obligatory drum solo from Castronovo which he kept thankfully brief. Nothing against his drumming skills but drum solo’s are for the purist. I’m more purile than purist.
Also from their new album is their cover of The Rolling Stone’s 'Bitch'. What a great song to cover and again a nod to British bands who have influenced The Daisies. Their version is excellent and I am sure Keef would be delighted. After the excellent 'With You And I', Corabi takes the time to introduce the band members who all had their few minutes alone in the spotlight. Again, they chose to play a few bars of classic tracks which went down a storm. Marco recalled his Thin Lizzy days with a snippet of 'The Boys Are Back In Town' whilst Aldrich had the cajones to give us 'Smoke On The Water'. Lowy had a few bars of 'Highway To Hell' whilst Castronovo thumped the Simmons out of 'I Want To Rock And Roll All Night'. Finishing the introduction, Corabi showed that Dio’s 'Heaven And Hell' is a song that few other than Dio could carry off. Corabi did so with style. Finishing the set with 'Midnight Moses' from the underappreciated 'Revolucion' album, the band disappeared from the stage for a nanosecond before reappearing for the obligatory encore.
The Encore opened with their epic track 'Judgement Day', a proper heavy Rocking power song and ended with yet another nod to their British Rock heroes, 'Helter Skelter', which they covered on their 2014 EP 'Face I Love'. And it included a few bars of Zep’s 'Nobody’s Fault But Mine' too. Scrumptious. It was a tour de force of everything that is great about Rock music. Great musicians, great songs, expertly played and enjoyed by all. Here is proof that there is still great Rock music being made and performed, alongside great Rock from years gone by. Yes, music has become a different commodity these days, more likely to end up on a PS4 game soundtrack or an advert than being played live. But that’s how the world works. I bet when Dvorak wrote his 'New World' Symphony he didn’t expect it to be used to advertise Hovis. Accept music for what it is and love the music that you love. Rock music is still very much alive. Rock music isn’t dead, it’s just pushing up The Daisies.
The Dead Daisies Setlist:
Make Some Noise
Song And A Prayer
Dead And Gone
What Goes Around
Last Time I Saw The Sun
Burn It Down
All The Same
Bitch (Rolling Stones cover)
With You And I
Long Way To Go
Devil Out Of Time
Sonny Landreth, Soul Immigrants 229 The Venue, London
Sunday 15th April 2018
Following on from the release of his latest double album 'Recorded Live in Lafayette' - his first live album in over 12 years - and the Grammy nominee’s back-to-back Blues Music Awards for Best Guitarist and Best Blues Album for 'Bound by the Blues' - virtuoso slide guitarist and bandleader Sonny Landreth played a rare concert at London's 229 The Venue in Great Portland Street on Sunday night. Last June, after a dozen acclaimed albums, the King of Slydeco decided the time was right for a career-spanning double-live album on Provogue, a 16-song opus that included the most extensive set ever recorded by Landreth, as the singer and songwriter’s work stretched and twisted across 93 minutes of full-band acoustic and electric bottleneck lightning. Rescheduled from last September, and with great support from Soul Immigrants, Landreth has collaborated with the very top names in guitar over the years: Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Eric Johnson, Derek Trucks - the list goes on. The noted slideman cut his musical teeth in The Red Hot Louisiana Band of Zydeco King Clifton Chenier, and Landreth has since recorded and toured with artists ranging from John Mayall to John Hiatt.
Opening for a legend is always going to be a hard ask. So step forward Soul Immigrants, a three-piece band from just down the road in Brixton. Well you well and truly couldn't fault vocalist, left-handed lead guitarist and Johnny Depp lookalike Emrys Baird for his energy and charisma as he pranced around the stage, his fedora and shades as cool as their brand of funky Blues. With the equally dapper Al Gibson on bass/keyboards and Davide Bouet on drums, their short six track set got the 229 grooving, even managing to concoct a singalong to 'There Is No Way Out' from their current EP, plus a cover of Stephen Stills 'Love The One You're With', a snippet of The Beatles 'Get Back' but unfortunately no 'Cut The Cake'. Great fun - so follow that Sonny!
"How are you folks doing?" Sonny politely enquired as his three-piece band were warmly welcomed on to the 229 stage by a packed and expectant crowd. Indeed, anyone expecting Slydeco unplugged were totally blown away with the hard rockin' riff of opening instrumental 'Z Rider' - Landreth immediately caressing his guitar in a way which proceeded to mesmerise us all for the rest of his set. "Well that was fun" added Landreth, before they tore into the classic 'Walking The Blues', not only an opportunity for Robert Johnson to meet ZZ Top, but also for a cool Blues vocal by Sonny plus some great stick work from Landreth's flat capped drummer. Sonny's amazing guitar solo on the slow Blues of another classic - Elmore James' 'It Hurts Me Too' - had everyone scratching their heads on how on earth did bass guitarist Dave Ramsden manage to keep up with that, before, in contrast, Landreth then promised to "Whip us up into a frenzy" with 'Milky Way Home' - another rockin' instrumental that smacked of Satriani.
There was no let up in the slide onslaught with the Blues of 'Cherry Ball' before Landreth toasted the crowd by raising his mug and taking a sip - was it moonshine the crowd muttered? - before dedicating the slower Blues instrumental of 'Firebird' as a tribute to his old mucker Jonny Winter. The aptly named 'Blues Attack' with stand-out guitar and vocals from Sonny was followed by 'World Away' - Landreth toasting and raising his mug once more as well as apologising in advance for its depressing content - well it is the Blues Sonny! He needn't have apologised, his jaw-dropping technique where he frets notes and plays chords and chord fragments by fretting behind the slide while he plays, was no more evident on this mesmerising nugget, with a great vocal from Landreth thrown in for good measure.
It was then time for "Blues of the happy department" as Sonny described it - and indeed one of Landreth's favourite songs, the evergreen 'Key To The Highway', which received the unplugged treatment on 'Recorded Live In Lafayette', but tonight was duly dispatched electronically by the King of Slydeco, with another great vocal and with his slide as usual on his little finger, so that his other fingers had more room to fret behind the slide. "You'll doing alright?" asked Sonny as he not only trotted out the standard sales pitch about not wanting to carry all his CD's back though airport security, but also thanked his Mascot Label Group for their support before his big opening and equally big vocal on 'All About You'.
Landreth's 30th birthday dedication to fan Adam before 'Hell At Home' (another track that got the unplugged treatment on 'Recorded Live in Lafayette'), emphasised the fact that the 229 was not completely full of silver sliders tonight, as Sonny's strong Zydeco influences came to the fore, proving there was indeed still rythym down by the bayou. "Now we've got that one out of our system - here's one for all the ladies in the house!" enticed Landreth. Sonny's right-hand technique, which involves tapping, slapping, and picking strings, using all of the fingers on his right hand was never more evident than on these two final instrumentals in his set, namely 'Brave New Girl' which morphed into 'Native Stepson'. Wearing a special thumb pick/flat pick hybrid on his thumb so that he can bear down on a pick while simultaneously using his finger-style technique for slide, these two tracks rocked, the former reminiscent of Akkerman's early days and the later of Lizzy. The inevitable encore saw us "going way on down the swamp" with 'Bayou Teche' - a marvellous nine minute microcosm of what had gone before. Eric Clapton once said that Landreth was one of the most advanced guitarists in the world and one of the most under-appreciated. Well we were priveleged to witness the Master of Slydeco tonight, and boy was he appreciated. Long Live The King!
AJ (photos courtesy of Tim Russell)
The Half Moon, Putney, London
Friday 13th April 2018
Rhino’s Revenge are essentially a vehicle for Status Quo bass player John "Rhino" Edward’s solo output, a relatively fluid line up of musicians that come together during breaks in Rhino’s hectic touring and recording commitments with Quo. He has been part of Status Quo’s dynamic rhythm section for a staggering thirty two years, appearing on sixteen studio albums and countless live releases. Rhino is a formidable bass player and is one of the pivotal driving forces behind the bands continuing creativity and popularity in the twenty first century. Being an integral part of the backbone of Quo has helped the band continue to release quality work, being co-writer of some of Quo's greatest songs including: ‘The Oriental’, ‘Creepin' Up On You’ and ‘Heavy Traffic’ from the 2002 album ‘Heavy Traffic’, ‘Belavista Man’ from the 2005 album ‘The Party Ain’t Over Yet’, ‘Gravy Train’ and 'Bad News' from the 2007 album ‘In Search Of The Fourth Chord’, also, ‘Two Way Traffic’ and ‘Dust to Gold’ from the 2011 album ‘Quid Pro Quo’.
Rhino started his musical career in 1973 in a covers band called ‘The Sunday Band’ and also in the band ‘Rococo’, who released a single ‘Ultrastar/Wildfire’ on Decca Deram in 1973. Over the proceeding years he has worked with many diverse artists such as Peter Green, appearing on his 1980 album ‘Little Dreamer’, the Climax Blues Band from 1983-1985, Judie Tzuke from 1980-1985, appearing in her live band and on five studio albums, Dexys Midnight Runners from 1982-1985, appearing on one studio album. Rhino was also a member of Kim Wilde’s 80’s touring band. During his tenure with Judie Tzuke's backing band he was given the nickname "Rhino" for apparently being so clumsy!
The first Rhino’s Revenge album, simply titled ‘Rhino’s Revenge’ was released on Eagle Records in 2000, the follow up ‘Rhino’s Revenge II’ was released on Cargo Records in 2015, fifteen years after the debut. This 2018 tour is billed as the ‘Save The Rhino’ tour, interestingly the band will be donating a portion of the profits from the tour to Save the Rhino International. The current line-up features Rhino’s son, Freddie Edwards on guitar (Freddie has worked with Status Quo on and off for the last four years, having stood in for Rick Parfitt when he could no longer play live due to ill health, and then again after Rick passed away. Freddie is currently in the band ‘Flawes’), Jim Kirkpatrick also on guitar, (Jim’s other day job, since 2008, is with the band FM, appearing on five of their albums), and finally Richard Newman on drums, (Richard is widely respected in the music business as one of the UK's most accomplished Rock drummers, he is also the son of legendary drummer Tony Newman. Richard has worked with many big names including Steve Marriott, Alvin Lee, Rory Gallagher, Jim Capaldi, Bernie Marsden, Joe Brown, Sam Brown and Nikki Lamborn’s band Never The Bride).
Kicking of the set with full on energetic drive and a determination to rock the house came the bone rattling ‘One Note Blues’, an up-beat rocker that set the scene and got us all in the mood. This song can be found on the ‘Rhino’s Revenge II’ album. ‘Secretary’, also from the ‘Rhino’s Revenge II’ album, stormed in next with total conviction and purpose. This song is constructed using almost exactly the same riff and rhythm as Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, with its relentless rampant pounding down beat and energetic Punk snarl. An absolute quality track! The Status Quo classic ‘Belavista Man’ rattled up next, a tasty Bluesy shuffle played with real spark and flair. This track was co-written with Rick Parfitt, and can be found on the 2005 album ‘The Party Ain’t Over Yet'. Following on from this was the hard driving ‘Republican’, a classic heads down Quo style boogie with catchy guitar phrasing. Next up, the fiery ‘Jungle Love’, was played with rampant abandon! A strong classic Rock track complete with high pitched ‘woo woo’ refrain! Both of these tracks are on the first Rhino’s Revenge album.
The turbo charged boogie of ‘Gravy Train’ steamed in with its infectious heavy riff and intense shuffle, reminiscent of early 1970’s style Quo. Written solely by Rhino and originally from the 2007 Status Quo album ‘In Search Of The Fourth Chord’. Definitely the highlight of the set. ‘Spacemaker’ is a fairly mid-tempo stomp with a nice angular groove, originally found on the first Rhino’s Revenge album. The brilliant ‘Two Way Traffic’ motored in with hard driving precision, co-written with Francis Rossi and found on the last great Quo album of original material, ‘Quid Pro Quo’, released in 2011. ‘Mine All Mine’ is a slower tempo song that gives the headbanger's a rest! However, it does insight some gentle crowd swaying! ‘The Stranger One’ is another mid-tempo track with some nice guitar phrasing, a bit of a plodder though. Both these tracks can be found on the first Rhino’s Revenge album.
A rare live airing of ‘Lucinda’ peps things up a bit, an excellent B-side from Status Quo's 2004 single ‘You’ll Come ‘Round’. A fast paced heavy stomper of a track, which was co-written with Rick Parfitt. ‘Busy Doing Nothin' thunders in with its bone rattling riff and locked in groove. Cool funky bass playing from Rhino. A top quality song from the ‘Rhino’s Revenge II’ album.
The exceptional ‘Bad News’ raised the roof! A monumental rocker and huge crowd pleaser. Another worthy Quo classic written solely by Rhino from the ‘In Search Of The Fourth Chord’ album. This was also Rhino’s first lead vocal on a Quo album. The Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band cover ‘Old Time Rock & Roll’ was rattled through with passion and vigour. Leading seamlessly on to the quirky and amusing ‘My Name Is Stan’, a fast tempo Rock epic that gets everyone singing along to its anthemic chorus. “My name is Stan, I am the man, top dog you understand, I lick my balls because I can, don’t mess with Stan the man”. Profound lyrics if ever there was! This quality track is from the ‘Rhino’s Revenge II’ album.
The blazing ‘Jam Side Down’ rolled up next, a catchy melodic song with an infectious guitar phrase. Another crowd favourite that has the faithful singing along and jumping around! This song was a Status Quo single that reached number seventeen in the UK Official Chart in 2002, it can be found on one of the best Status Quo albums of the twenty-first century, ‘Heavy Traffic’. The last song of the set was a pounding cover of Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’. A triumphant conclusion to a hugely enjoyable gig with a massive party atmosphere.
Steven C. Gilbert
G3 - Joe Satriani, John Petrucci,
Uli Jon Roth
Hammersmith Apollo, London
Wednesday 25th April 2018
Hot on the heels of world-renowned guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani releasing his 16th solo album 'What Happens Next' at the beginning of this year, Satriani revived his G3 Tour entity in the middle of March, with the tour ending this Monday in Birmingham. Playing shows in many European countries, including the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland and more, Satriani landed at London's Hammersmith Apollo on Wednesday night with Dream Theater's John Petrucci and the former Scorpions guitarist guitarist Uli Jon Roth - each guitarist performing their own set which was followed by a brilliant G3 jam at the end of the show. The last time we saw Satriani was also in London, with Chickenfoot at Brixton Academy way back in January 2012, so our sense of expectation was naturally heightened as we sat waiting in our seats with Sammy Hagar's Montrose classic 'Rock Candy' blasting out from the Apollo PA.
Step forward German guitarist Uli Jon Roth, best know as Scorpions lead guitarist and one of the earliest contributors to the Neoclassical Metal genre - although the 63 year old's official tenure with Germany's famous Rock son's actually ended forty years ago. With his trademark (blue) bandana and his white moustache, Roth had strength in numbers with his six piece set up, opening with the Proggy instrumental 'Sky Overture' - an immediate opportunity to showcase one of his transcendental "Sky" guitars, all of which contain extra frets. "Good evening London" - Roth welcomed the crowd - using that well know German expression of "stating the bleedin' obvious" that they were in for a guitarfest tonight. And the signs were certainly good given the quality sound, lighting and backdrop of a big screen - even Roth's long hair was blowing and flowing as they launched into the driving Scorpions Rock and vocal harmonies of 'Sun In My Hand'. Uli Jon dedicated Scorpion's 'We'll Burn The Sky' from 'Taken By Force' to his younger brother and fellow guitarist Zeno who tragically died just over two months ago - its poignancy not only hitting home because of Zeno's photo projected on the big screen, but also the fact that Uli's girlfriend Monika Dannemann had written the lyrics in conjunction with Rudolf Schenker and that indeed Monika took her own life in 1996. That live, almost tangible, organ reverb that we love so much heralded Roth's 'Scorpions Revisited' improvisation 'Rainbow Dream Prelude' before this intro gave way to traditional Michael Schenker Scorpions fare, namely, 'Fly To The Rainbow', Roth needing no excuse for this solo guitar shredfest - a cacophony of sound bouncing and drilling all around the auditorium. Uli rounded off his storming set with the heavy and mystical Scorpions feel of 'The Sails Of Charon' - with a great vocal and yet another outstanding guitar solo. This was already becoming a night of why play just one guitar note when you can play ten. Follow that John Petrucci.
We first saw Dream Theater on the main stage at High Voltage in London's beautiful Victoria Park in July 2011. Our critical opinion that night being "If technical Progressive Metal is your thing then this lot are the genre leaders. If, however, you desire a party band to bring High Voltage to its natural conclusion then the US act are wholly unsuitable. File under opinion divided." Fast forward just under six years later to London's Hammersmith Apollo and our opinion hadn't changed: "The prowess of guitarist John Petrucci shone through again and again ..... This was Prog Metal at its finest and was as good as this author has seen them". Well you can take the boy out of Dream Theatre but you can't take the Tech Metal out of the boy as Petrucci's power trio opened up with a Prog instrumental version of the recent Wonder Woman theme tune 'Wrath Of The Amazons', Petrucci pumping his fist in the air before the heavy bass line of 'Jaws Of Life' from his solo album 'Suspended Animation' - with its to die for solo guitar ending. Wow. "Hello London" - the black bearded Petrucci greeted the crowd - "This is the Metal part of G3!" And he hammered home the point with some unbelievable fret work on 'The Happy Song' which did exactly what it said on the tin making the audience feel like they were on 'Cloud Ten'. The heavy riff of 'Damage Control' - which Petrucci recently admitted he struggles to play live (although it didn't show) - highlighted his awesome engine room, namely some neat sticks work from his Boston Dream Theater mucker and the baseball capped Mike Mangini plus a pounding bass guitar solo from Floridian Dave LaRue. Petrucci finished off his frenetic six song set (well this was Prog after all) with his arm raised in the air for the unreleased 'Glassy Eyed Zombies' and 'Glasgow Kiss', another from 'Suspended Animation' - although the latter was more of an Irish head butt with its Lizzy twang - which, credit to Petrucci, even managed to get a few Proggers present out of their comfy chairs. Now you cannot say much fairer than that!
Since its debut in 1996, Satriani's G3 tour has featured the worlds greatest guitarists (everyone from Steve Vai and Eric Johnson to Steve Lukather and Robert Fripp) and has become a consistent concert hall sell-out attraction in the U.S., South America, Europe, Australia and Japan. This year's G3 US tour finished at the end of February before G3 hit mainland Europe in March in Moscow with Roth replacing Def Leppard lead guitarist Phil Collen on this European leg. The cool shades wearing Satriani made his way on to the Apollo stage fronting his four-piece, opening with the first two tracks off his latest, instrumentally electrifying album, the aptly named 'Energy' - a dynamic opening track full of Rock from start to finish, followed by 'Catbot', more of a drum based track, slowing down mid-track to show-off Joe’s undoubted guitar talent. With an iconic Marshall stack behind him, Satriani enticed the crowd on 'Satch Boogie', from his hairier 1987 album 'Surfing With The Alien', with Joe playing up to the crowd, effortlessly strumming his guitar with his pick in his mouth before the obligatory playing with his teeth. Just to prove there was no lasting damage, Satriani welcomed his Apollo faithful. "It's so good to be here", and then proceeded to introduce his band, namely the keys and extra guitar of the hatted Mike Keneally, Bryan Beller on bass guitar and new Pennsylvanian guy Joe Travers on drums.
Coincidentally the album also features Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/Black Country Communion) and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), the latter reuniting with Satriani for the first time since their work in the supergroup Chickenfoot. So no pressure then as they launched into 'Cherry Blossoms', a single from the album, full of changing tempos - think Rock ballad meets Focus Prog instrumental - once again complemented by yet another amazing Joe guitar solo. However, it was the the majestic crunching Highlands riff of 'Thunder High On The Mountain' that got the Apollo clapping, with its thumping Hard Rock intro, eventually bowing down to a slower more melodic sound from Joe’s shiny red guitar - the stand out so far. Needless to say, another from the new album 'Super Funky Badass' passed the trades description act with flying colours, as Keneally stepped up to the plate proving that he could play a mean guitar as he dueted with Satriani. Amazing. That was the final song from 'What Happens Next' as Joe decreed "It's time for a little time travel" and a return to 'Surfing With The Alien' with what can only be described as the psychedelia of 'Circles'. However, the delicacy and tenderness of 'Surfing With The Alien's classic 'Always With Me, Always With You', showed, just in case anyone was in any doubt, that Satriani does have a softer underbelly. Yes this man has it all. In contrast, Satriani saved his best for last with his Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy Award winning 'Summer Song' from 1992's 'The Extremist', where Joe quite simply made his guitar sing.
"Put your hands together and make some noise" demanded Satriani as he welcomed back Roth and Petrucci back on stage for the G3 jam. "We're gonna play a little Deep Purple for you" as vocalist Niklas Turmann joined them on stage for 'Highway Star'! It was three for the price of one as Satriani, Petrucci and Roth proceeded to blow away a holy trinity of guitar classics that also included Hendrix's 'All Along The Watchtower' (with Roth on vocals) and Zep's "Immigrant Song" (with Turmann back on vocals). And that was that. Indeed, our review of 'What Happens Next' concluded that it was a great instrumental album played by great musicians. Well, what actually happened next was that we were privileged to witness G3 - not only a great excuse for a self-indulgent shredfest, but also a brilliant showcase featuring a plethora of awesome musicians. G3 certainly reached its summit tonight.
AJ (photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
Danny Bryant/Steve Hill
O2 Academy Islington 2, London
Wednesday 9th May 2018
Danny Bryant recently released his highly anticipated new studio album 'Revelation', his fourth studio album to be produced by Richard Hammerton, following in the footsteps of 2015's 'Blood Money' and 2014's 'Temperature Rising', and the new album is one of Danny's most personal and emotional albums of his career. Last Wednesday night Bryant stopped off on his UK tour at London's Islington Academy 2 with special guest - Canadian one man power trio Steve Hill. Hill returned to the scene of his triumph last October (well it was actually downstairs to be precise) supporting Wishbone Ash. As we reported that night, Hill, who hails from Montreal, is an overnight sensation that’s twenty years in the making - a multi-award winning guitarist and singer-songwriter who’s gearing up for world domination. He’s an ambitious and raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian and international Blues Rock scene. Now, he’s ready to break out internationally.
Throughout his career, Steve has shared the stage with many of his musical heroes including Ray Charles, BB King, ZZ Top, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Jeff Beck and many others. Over the course of his many albums he's explored everything from Hard Rock, Country, and Stoner Rock to Folk music while always incorporating the essence of his first love, the Blues. Last year, the one-man band Blues Rock guitar machine, released his album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ in the UK on No Label Records and just two days after this latest London gig he released 'The One Man Blues Rock Band' which was recorded live at La Chapelle, Quebec, a month after the aforementioned Wishbone Ash support slot.
Not unsurprisingly his short 45 minute set list was mainly taken from 'TOMBRB' - but more surprisingly was the initial abject turnout as Hill made his way on to the stage, given his outstanding performance on his last visit here. Opening with the aptly named outright rocker 'Rhythm All Over', Hill's obligatory greeting "How are you doing London?" was delivered as a roadie carried out some running repairs to Steve's hi-hat, an opportunity for Hill to reminisce about that Wishbone Ash gig last year. His second number 'Go On' from 'Volume 2', was immediate proof, if needed, that one musician can sound like three, with Hill standing up whilst singing and playing guitar, with his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drum stick fused to the head of his trusty guitar, plus he gets the bass notes by feeding three of his strings through an Octaver guitar pedal that’s hooked up to a bass amp! "I'm number four in Germany right now", Hill enthused, as we assumed he was talking about their Blues Rock charts as opposed to representing the national football team! Cue the heavy rocker 'Damned' - his opening track on 'Volume 3' - with its palpable influence of namesake Dusty, Billy and Frank, before Steve announced he was coming back in November and then slowed things with 'The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo', his spangly guitar proceeding to build this Cajun influenced number into a powerful Rock jam - Hill's amazing driving slide guitar solo very reminiscent of Peter Green's 'World Keep On Turning'.
His incessant driving Blues Rock continued to blow away a growing gathering, as Steve mixed it up with favourites such as 'The Collector' - which saw a great Hill vocal, contrasted by the amazing sound he managed to get out of his slide guitar on the Blues classic 'Rollin & Tumblin'. Hill's stock social media plug including Tinder got the usual chuckle as he introduced 'Dangerous' his kick-ass single from 'Volume 3' - think King King meets Jimi Hendrix – a Blues Rocker if ever there was one, with lyrics about a personal relationship, the subject matter pretty much the backbone of that whole album. On second thoughts, perhaps the mention of Tinder was appropriate? Steve finished with another classic cover - 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' - not only wringing every sinew out of his guitar but also in his facial expressions as well. "You guys have been awesome" Hill praised the spellbound crowd. Wow - and we still had Danny Bryant to come! Steve Hill continues his UK tour supporting Danny Bryant, finishing at The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds on Friday 1st June. If you do miss him (shame on you), then do the next best thing and do yourself a favour by buying 'The One Man Blues Rock Band' a live album that captures all the energy of his live show.
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 afforementioned album ‘Temperature Rising’ had been nominated in the British Blues Awards and it was one of those songs - ‘Guntown’ that stood out in an impressive set. Personally - one of my top three sets of that day, although the last time we caught Danny was guesting with Bernie Marsden this January at London's 100 Club. What a night that was! Thankfully Bryant was well enough to play in London tonight, following the postponement of his Bllston gig because of flu two night's earlier.
"Let's have a round of applause for Steve Hill" Danny greeted a more packed Academy - just a shame I suppose they weren't there earlier - as his band counted in and opened with some classic Blues - Bryant's cool fret work on his very apt blue guitar complemented by Dave Raeburn on drums and the very talented Stevie Watts from Danny's Big Band replacing the aforementioned Hammerton on keys. To further emphasise 'Revelation's intensity. his guitar ballad 'Isolate' - as one would expect - all about feeling disconnected from the ones you love and the world around you, saw a great vocal and explosive guitar solo from Bryant, fully reflecting the spontaneous vibe of the track which apparently was done in one take on the album. Watts' keys carried the verse on 'Sister Decline' - all about temptation and addiction - before Bryant's hypnotic guitar riff kicked in - and despite the loss of the brass section from the album - where an old Blues shuffle and contemporary Rock deliciously collide - the energy created by his four-piece more than made up for it to become another live favourite.
Watts' church organ intro prepared us for Bryant's Hendrix sermon of the day - Danny's guitar solo on 'Little Wing' leading his Academy flock to the promised land before one of my all time Bryant favourites - the rockin' 'Prisoner Of The Blues' - saw Stevie assist Danny in throwing of his shackles as he made his blue guitar sing like a jailbird. Bass guitarist Alex Phillips (who we also saw support Danny so admirably in that Ramblin' Man tent three years ago) and Dave Raeburn then left the stage for Bryant's acoustic version and cover of John Mellencamp's Rock song 'Someday The Rains Will Fall'. Initial amusement, given that Danny had thanked the crowd for coming along on a Tuesday when in fact it was a Wednesday, subsided thanks to a passionate vocal from Bryant with the trusty Watts' keys adding depth to the 2007 'Freedom's Road' track. In 2017 Danny toured Europe with a specially assembled nine-piece Big Band featuring keys and a four-piece brass section no less. His next song 'Truth Or Dare' - a real rockin' Blues number - is the one track on 'Revelation' that features his full touring Big Band line-up, and while it truly captures the energy of those live performances, Bryant's four-piece take, particularly Stevie Watts great keys solo, didn't diminish the fact that this track was Blues at its best.
"Are we having fun tonight?" Bryant teased as he proceeded to round off his awesome set, his hunched style and gurning facials effortlessly churning out outstanding Blues guitar solo after outstanding Blues guitar solo and quality vocal after quality vocal, particularly on 'Heartbreaker' as red Strat guitar slinger Danny peered menacingly into a delighted crowd. But as the big man modestly pointed out - it was not all about him, as he showcased his extraordinarily talented three amigos with their own personal solos towards the end of the set. "Thank you and goodnight" said Bryant as he departed the stage before returning for one final slice of driving Blues Rock as an encore. In a recent interview, Bryant opened up on how it's been a difficult year, losing his father and dealing with anxiety and depression. Although, given Bryant's well publicised demons, Danny's set was packed with passion and energy - an impressive display of Danny's Blues/Rock prowess as both a singer and guitarist. You can still catch Danny on his UK tour until Sunday 17th June which also includes a few Big Band shows.
The Roundhouse, London
Friday 18th May 2018
Metallers Machine Head have been knocking around for a few years now, originally forming back in 1991. The current line up comprises original frontman Robb Flynn, long time drummer Dave McClain, guitarist Phil Demmel and bassist Jared MacEachern. Hailing from Oakland CA, the frantic foursome epitomise what old school Metallers should look and sound like. All dressed in cut down work shirts over tattoos and ripped jeans, and sporting a hirsute look reminiscent of the barbarian hordes that battered down the establishment that was Rome, our modern day music warlords are just as aggressive as their warrior predecessors. Wielding their Jackson and ESP guitars like the axes they represent, they batter the world, and their adoring audience, in a manner that can be best described as controlled brutality. And even that control can sometimes slip. At two preceding gigs in the UK, the gig had to be stopped due to injury to a moshing maniac. But that is why Machine ‘Fucking’ Head continue to maintain such a cult, and ever growing, following. Machine Head is about brutality. Subtlety is not a much used word with this lot who use the stage as their platform to purge their demons and try to right the wrongs they see in this world. It is their salve, their therapy, their Catharsis.
'Catharsis' is also the 9th and latest album release in a career of a band who wears their collective hearts on their studded sleeves. Never shy to put into words subjects many an artist will shy away from, Machine Head do so with such vitriol and passion, with every expletive emphasised to the max. Not for sensationalism, only for the correct effect. When they scream ‘ "Fuck the world", as the opening line to their new album opener 'Volatile', you can be sure that we all sing it with them with as much anger and angst as they do. Because this is catharsis for all. A packed auditorium of alcohol induced Metal heads scream along to the lyrics whilst battling each other in an effort to release their demons and come out the other side purified of their cares, for just a night at least. To quote Rob Flynn, posting on social media after one recent injury to a member of the MFH faithful:
"Machine Head shows are rough, we know it. Part of the fun of being at our shows is the rowdy, drunken, nature of it all, circle pits, jumping, releasing negative energy in a positive way. Hell, surviving a Machine Head pit is part of the danger and fun of our concert experience. I myself can't tell you how many "war wounds" I walked out the pit with when I was young, and I'm proud of every one of 'em. Busted nose, chipped teeth, broken rib at a Slayer show in 1991... they were all lived-to-tell-about-it-moments... some bizarre rite-of-passage young men put themselves through."
The stage, at the somewhat inappropriately sophisticated venue that is the Roundhouse, is suitably spartan compared to some of the overblown set ups that some of the larger bands hide in front of. There is no hiding from these fellas though. With clever use of lighting and smoke, the required level of atmosphere is achieved with minimal fuss, because Machine ‘Fucking’ Head is a band that really is a machine. Eschewing a support act, this machine of full on power Metal take to the stage for 3 hours of non-stop, in your face, torque. And I do mean torque in its literal sense of ‘a force acting on an object which causes that object to rotate’. Because that’s what MFH do to the crowd. It’s a night for the moshers in the whirling vortex of the mosh pit.
Ordinarily I would wholeheartedly approve of bands like MFH championing the cause of up and coming bands by introducing them as support artists. But the selfish part of me revels in the chance to see the main act play for three hours with a set that not only includes an ample helping of the new tracks from their brilliant new album, but also gives us loads of the classic tracks that brought us here tonight in the first place.
Entering the stage to the sounds of Ozzy’s 'Diary Of A Madman', the opening track 'Imperium' is one such classic followed by said 'Catharsis' opener 'Volatile', complete with its opening battle cry. And it’s a cracker too. All MFH albums have that formula that includes guttural screaming vocals with brutal chugging riffs and emotive lyrics. Chuck in some high octane guitar work, machine gun drumming and epic songs and you have the formula that is the success that is Machine Head. And it’s a formula that doesn’t get stale. Because they are the vital components that go to make up great Metal. But also included within that maelstrom of power is a melodic edge that lifts the tracks from aggressive noise to become memorable tracks that get the blood pumping and the head smashing. This is Metal but it is also music.
The mosh pit is always the place to be as Flynn exhorts the masses to form the biggest circle possible within the confines of the circular venue and lets them fly with warlike abandon as he launches into another power classic like the warrior kings of old unleashing their barbarian hordes on the world. This is war. There is blood spilled and casualties are taken, but there are honours earned and the thrill of victory as you survive to fight another day. Flynn is a modern day Vercingetorix uniting his worldwide tribes into a cohesive unit that is the Metal family. "Machine Fucking Head, Machine Fucking Head" is the battle cry of the fist pumping barbarians.
The stamina of all is put to the test as classic tracks like 'Ten Ton Hammer', 'Davidian' and 'The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears' are intermingled with new tracks like 'Kaleidoscope' and 'Beyond The Pale'. Even so called ‘slower songs’ like 'Descend the Shades of Night' are as full fat as any, hardly allowing the pack to gather breath. The three hours are as intense as you can get but sadly fly by far too quickly. It’s also a night good enough for two encores, ending with the anthemic 'Halo' from 'The Blackening' album. Flynn, a consummate front man, constantly marshals his troops and instils that feeling of family that is so common amongst Metal fans everywhere. It is a night of triumph and good feeling despite the anger and frustration voiced and the blood that has been drawn.
Thankfully there are few casualties tonight as the battered and bruised, walking wounded faithful exit the plush auditorium past the bemused ushers who are more used to witnessing Vivaldi than Vercingetorix. Don’t worry though, it all happens again here tomorrow. Just mop up the spilt blood and restock the bar before we get here please. The machine that is MFH drives ever onwards regardless of what this world tries to do to stop it. And I’m firmly on board. You can keep your sanitised radio friendly music. You can keep your lovey-dovey lyrics. I’m on this caravan of catharsis and no-one is getting in its way. All aboard. It’s a rock and roller coaster of a ride where you perch precariously between sanity and madness. As Flynn sings "Cause that's what happens when you balance life on a triple beam."
Machine Head Setlist
Now We Die
The Blood, the Sweat, the Tears
Clenching the Fists of Dissent
From This Day
Ten Ton Hammer
Is There Anybody Out There?
Beyond the Pale
Killers & Kings
Descend the Shades of Night
Exhale the Vile
Aesthetics of Hate
Mother (photos courtesy of Rob Cook)
Nine Below Zero Tour,
The Concorde 2, Brighton 5th May, Chinnery's, Southend 11th May and 229 The Venue, London 18th May
Nine Below Zero are a Blues/R&B/Rock band, formed in South London in 1977 by guitarist and lead vocalist Dennis Greaves. For the first two years they were known as “Stan's Blues Band" before changing their name to “Nine Below Zero”, after the Sonny Boy Williamson song, in 1979. The original line-up included harmonica player Mark Feltham, bassist Peter Clark and drummer Kenny Bradley. They built up a local following in and around South London pubs and clubs including the ‘Apples & Pears’ and ‘Thomas A’ Beckett’ on the Old Kent Road. It was there they were spotted in 1979 by Mickey Modern who signed them up to A&M Records. Drummer Kenny Bradley was replaced by Mickey ‘Stix’ Burkey and in 1980 they released the seminal ‘Live At The Marquee’ album. A formidable live album that captures the raw energy and electric atmosphere of the gig perfectly. Definitely in my top ten live albums of all time!
By the end of 1980 they had moved from selling out the Marquee to selling out the Hammersmith Odeon. In 1981 their first studio album ‘Don't Point Your Finger’, produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, was released and climbed to number 56 on the UK Albums Chart. Not long after the release of the album, bass player Peter Clark left and was replaced with Brian Bethell. During this time the band went on to support high profile bands such as The Kinks and The Who. They also made appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test and the South Bank show. In 1982 they appeared on ‘The Young Ones’ comedy show performing the track ‘Eleven + Eleven’ before releasing the ‘Third Degree’ album, which reached number 38 on the UK Albums Chart. The album's iconic image was taken by David Bailey.
In 1982 the band split, Dennis Greaves went on to form ‘The Truth’ with Mick Lister. The musical direction moved away from the Blues Rock to a more Mod/New Wave sound. They had two top forty hit singles in 1983, appearing on Top Of The Pops several times. In 1990 Nine Below Zero got back together for a sell-out 10th Anniversary Concert at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town, London. Along with Greaves and Feltham were bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Brendan O'Neill (both ex-Rory Gallagher's band). Feltham left again in 1992 only to return in 2001. Harmonica duties during 1992-1995 were handled by Alan Glen and then 1995-2001 by Billy Boy Miskimmin. In 1994 the band had the prestigious honour of being invited by Eric Clapton to support him over twelve nights at the Royal Albert Hall.
Nine Below Zero formed their own record company ZED Records in 1997, releasing the ‘Refrigerator’ album in 2000. In 2012 Brian Bethell, from the 1982 ‘Third Degree’ era, re-joined replacing Gerry McAvoy. Then in 2014, Mickey ‘Stix’ Burkey from the 1980 ‘Live At The Marquee’ era re-joined replacing Brendan O’Neil, thus completing the classic ‘Third Degree’ era line-up. The band went on to celebrate their 35th Anniversary with a UK tour with the classic ‘Third Degree’ line-up to rave reviews. In 2016 saw the first appearance of the Nine Below Zero ‘Big Band’ with the release of the ‘13 Shades Of Blue’ album. Brian Bethell left in 2016 to be replaced by Ben Willis, Mickey Burke stayed on to become a permanent member.
Over the band’s career they have played alongside The Who, The Kinks, Chuck Berry, Brian May, Eric Clapton, Ray Davies, The Stranglers, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Bruce Foxton, Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson, Squeeze, Jools Holland & Glenn Tilbrook. This current ‘Big Band’ line-up consists of Dennis Greaves (guitar/vocals), Mark Feltham (harmonica/vocals), Mickey Burkey (drums), Ben Willis (bass), Charlie Austen (vocals), Andrew Noble (keyboards), Chris Rand (saxophone) and Paul Jordanous (Trumpet). The 2018 tour is billed as the ‘Live At The Marquee’ tour, which is a celebration of the release of the iconic debut album, and is being played by an eight-piece band for the first time.
I attended three gigs on this tour, The Concorde 2 in Brighton on 5th May, Chinnery's in Southend on 11th May and 229 The Venue in London on 18th May. The set list appeared to get noticeably shorter as the tour progressed, perhaps due to set refining and/or venue curfews. The first five songs of the set are absolute Blues/R&B classics, ‘Tore Down’ (Freddie King cover), ‘Homework’ (Otis Rush cover), ‘I Can't Help Myself’ (Four Tops cover), ‘Hoochie Coochie Coo’ (Hank Ballard cover) and ‘Can I Get a Witness’ (Marvin Gaye cover), and were given the full on Nine Below Zero special treatment! In other words speeded up and attacked with vigour and vitality! All five feature on the ‘Live At The Marquee’ album and were bang on the money and set the bar high for the rest of the set! These guys are the real deal, playing live is in their blood and it shows. The band are totally locked in and nailing the grooves. Dennis is a natural born leader who oozes charisma by the bucket loads, he is also an extremely talented guitar player to boot! Every song is delivered with fervent dedication, total passion and relentless panache!
The set then slowed down slightly with ‘Don't Play That Song (You Lied)’, which featured Charlie Austen on vocals. A good performance from Charlie, and a slight departure from the Nine Below Zero norm. Another nice slow Blues song next, ‘You're Still My Woman’, featured Mark Feltham on vocals. Both these songs are on the 2016 album ‘13 Shades Of Blue’. Usually the harmonica is the driving force behind ‘Ridin' on the L & N’ (Lionel Hampton cover), but on this tour the horn section and keyboards get in on the action. The harmonica does get a look in though and is skilfully played with nimble dexterity by the legendary Mark Feltham. The song was also played at a slightly slower pace on this tour, perhaps to allow more room for the keyboards and horns to embellish. However, it is still a full on slice of boogie magic! Mickey Burke’s drumming swings like a pendulum, his chops fully restored after being out of the music business for almost thirty years!
Another slight departure from the usual Nine Below Zero sound came ‘Ter-Wit Ter-Woo’, with Charlie Austen taking the lead vocals once again. This track is on the 2011 album ‘The Co-Operative’, a collaborative album with Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze. Following on from this, at the Brighton gig only, was the barn storming ‘Don’t Point Your Finger At The Guitar Man’, an awesome hard hitting classic Nine Below Zero track from the 1981 album ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’. The pace then slowed right down on ‘Stormy Monday’ (T-Bone Walker cover), with Mark taking the lead vocal on this classic Blues gem. Dennis's guitar solos got to take flight and soared to new heights!
Proceedings then revved up a few more notches and slammed into top gear with the superb ‘Got My Mojo Workin'’ (Muddy Waters cover), a whopping great high energy R&B song from the ‘Live At The Marquee’ album. Much audience participation taking place with call and response vocals in action, a great crowd pleaser and everyone’s happy! ‘Soft Touch’ was played in Brighton but not Southend or London, which was a shame as this is a first-class melodic Heavy Rocker from the brilliant 1992 album ‘Off The Hook’. Sublime guitar playing from Dennis and rock steady drumming from Mickey. ‘Rockin' Robin’ (Bobby Day cover) is a quirky fun little song that has the audience eating out of Dennis's hands. ‘Woolly Bully’ (Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs cover) steamed ahead with potent force. Both tracks are featured on the ‘Live At The Marquee’ album.
Also performed in Brighton but sadly not in London was ‘Three Times Enough’, a gritty Punk offering from the 1981 album ‘Don’t Point Your Finger’, played with bullish vibrancy and lashings of snarl and bite! In London we got ‘Stop Your Nagging’, which is a fast paced chunk of Punk Blues Rock! ‘Twenty Yards Behind’ (Dr. Feelgood cover) was written by and dedicated to the legendary Wilko Johnson, a jittery galloping Ska style song, top notch stuff! ‘Watch Yourself’ (Little Walter cover) was delivered with assured strutting posturing and sauve sophistication. One of my favourite Nine Below Zero covers sees the set draw to a close, ‘Pack Fair And Square’ (Big Walter & His Thunderbirds cover) also featured on the ‘Live At The Marquee’ album, drives forward at full throttle! A hard hitting, no nonsense, heads down boogie rock out!
The encore featured the anthemic and Punky ‘Eleven + Eleven', an excellent track from the 1982 album ‘Third Degree’. The playing was as tight as a nut and thundered along with commanding determination. Also played in Southend, as part of the encore, was the incredible 'Checking On My Baby' (Junior Wells cover) and the beautiful ballad, 'Why Don't You Try Me Tonight' (Ry Cooder cover). Nine Below Zero continue to deliver quality shows and their musicianship never fails to impress. The expanded eight-piece line-up added new dimensions to the sound and over-all presentation of the material. A hugely enjoyable tour, long may they run!
Steven C. Gilbert
Slow Readers Club, October Drift
Islington Assembly Hall, London Friday 25th May
Remember the days when bands were bands and not something created through a TV so-called talent show? Well fear ye not, there is still hope! There are still bands out there who know how to play their instruments to create melodies you can hum to on the way to work. Bands that can still break into the top 20 album chart without Simon Cowell’s marketing machine pumping out synthetic Pop to the masses. Last Friday night at the Islington Assembly Rooms produced a very fine example of such bands. The Slow Readers Club were performing the penultimate show of a 14 venue national tour to support their new top 20 album ‘Build A Tower’, the third studio album from the Manchester 4 piece. Achieving a top 20 album is no mean feat. Little radio play, no major record label - the band’s success is built on a passionate fan base and smart use of social media to promote their wares.
Of course it helps that the product itself is rather very good! Their sound is driven by lead singer Aaron Starkie whose voice ranges from the deep baritone of the Editors to highs not dissimilar to Jimmy Sommerville (with the band coming on stage to ‘I Feel Love’ quite appropriate). The guitars of Kurtis Starkie generate depth through the use of picked, hand muted arpeggios creating a somewhat 80's Rock feel, but definitely with a 21st century ambience. Throw in some solid bass lines from Jim Ryan (a school teacher by trade), a steady beat from David Whitworth on drums topped off by some background synths to set the mood and you have the makings of an album of ‘earworms’. Probably no surprise that the band were nurtured in the creative atmosphere of Manchester and got their big break in 2016 supporting James on their tour, partly after performing an acoustic version of ‘I saw a ghost’ in the Manchester Central Library. It is a spine tingling song and the acoustics in the library are amazing, well worth checking out on YouTube.
The Islington show was kicked off by another band with some influences from another age. October Drift come from Taunton in Somerset and if energy and hard work create success, then these guys deserve it! They bounced around the stage and physically attack their instruments to produce a wall of sound. Kiran Roy, the lead singer was soon bare-chested covered in sweat as he belts out their adrenaline driven sound, from every part of the stage and from various locations in the audience! The band have been relentlessly touring the UK and Europe supporting acts such as the Editors as well as the SRC. They play Camden Rocks this weekend (The Hawley Arms at 5.15pm) with their own headline tour later this year. They are busy setting up their own recording studio so expect more energy exploding out of speakers near you soon.
Fans of the SRC are almost evangelical in their support of the band, placing the new album in more prominent positions on the shelves in HMV, encouraging friends and relatives to listen to the music and in an almost football crowd way, chanting ‘Readers, Readers’ to encourage the band onto the stage. Aaron thanks the crowd and asks how many are seeing them for the first time – and it is no real surprise that the newbies are in the minority! The set is opened with the opening track from the new album – 'Lunatic' and the crowd are soon bouncing along, some swaying, some more energetically. Something pretty close to a ‘mosh pit’ soon forms with arms waving and eventually bodies raised onto shoulders to get closer to the band. And this admiration is clearly appreciated by the performers with selfies taken by both groups to be posted on the Facebook page later (over 25,000 likes now and the band frequently participate in the group chat). The set list continues with a mix of songs from all three albums, but the biggest buzz of the night goes to the new track ‘On The TV’ which has a very catchy jangly melody and has the crowd singing along, so much so, that crowd power continues the song after the band had finished, with the band relenting and joining back in for another refrain!
Deciding not to bother with actually leaving the stage for the pantomime of being demanded back for an encore, as that is, and I quote "bollocks!" The band just carry on playing which goes down well with the crowd. The last song is ‘Distant Memory’ which seems quite appropriate in the Edwardian setting of Islington Town Hall in all its historic splendour. For me though, the best thing the Slow Readers achieve, however, is through their music, to take you back into your own thoughts – where music means something very personal and creates individual memories. And that hasn’t happened to me since the time when bands were bands!
Camden Rocks Festival, London Saturday 2nd June
Well the big day duly arrived - and once again it didn't disappoint. Yes the Camden Rocks Festival literally Rocked as over two hundred bands played over 21 venues from Mornington Crescent to Chalk Farm via Camden on Saturday. Indeed it was hot and crowded as queues greeted me exiting Camden Underground station - although the welcome sight of a WRC t-shirt outside The Underworld was the perfect excuse to have my first pint of the day with Phil C. and his better half Sandra in The Camden Eye before things got underway at midday. In fact this was already a microcosm of the rest of the day - hot, crowded, drinking and great conversation - now just bring on the bands!
As it turned out, a consensus of opinion concluded that we actually saw the best band of the day, first at The Underworld, at midday! The last time we saw London based Rock group Dirty Thrills was last September at a special launch party for their latest album, ‘Heavy Living’ just down the road at The Crowndale (formerly the Purple Turtle) - where these guys proved once again that they are well and truly on the up. Indeed, we first saw Louis James - lead vocals and harmonica, Jack Fawdry - guitar, backing vocals, Steve Corrigan - drums and Aaron Plows – bass, back in August 2015 plus we also saw them on the Ramblin' Man Fair Rising Stage in 2016, and in 2017 they returned to Ramblin' Man on the Grooverider Stage - affirmation if needed that Dirty Thrills were going places.
We actually saw Louis and Aaron descending into The Underworld with their gear half an hour before they were due on - so it wasn't much of a surprise given the day's quick sound check turnarounds that James had a few microphone issues early doors - although he did seem a bit more concerned about having a 'Lenny Kravitz moment' with his tight leather trousers. They needn't have worried as half way through their half an hour set, not only were the packed sweaty crowd already singing along happily with James but it was also an opportunity, given the driving intensity of his guitar, for Fawdry to go bare-chested. But Dirty Thrills do indeed have charisma in abundance as testified by the engine room of Corrigan who seemed to savour every beat and the manic moustachioed/scarf Plows - his style very much reminiscent of Andy Fraser. Praise indeed. In true London style it was all a bit of a knees-up, the on-stage animation, energy and dirty Groove Rock Of America's Crobot, who Dirty Thrills supported when we first saw them at Islington's O2 Academy, leaving an indelible legacy. A set obviously mainly taken from 'Heavy Living', also included a cover of 'Foxy Lady' - although the stand-out for mine was Louis' Plant-ish vocal gymnastics on the short 'Interlude' - its mystical path leading to the riffing barn-stormer 'The Brave' - the connection between the two tracks more palpable live than on the CD. Awesome. And If you want some more short Dirty Thrills then do not miss them on The Orange Amps Stage at The Stone Free Festival on Saturday 16th June at 2.30pm.
Talking of Stone Free, the next band on our itinerary at The Dublin Castle were a band that we saw at Stone Free last year - Aussie rockers Tequila Mockingbyrd. In fact, after that set we also managed to interview new singer/guitarist Louisa Baker, new bassist Jacinta Jaye and original drummer Josie O'Toole - who was understandably the spokesperson for band. Looking forward to reacquainting with the girls - imagine our disappointment when spotted the understandable queue to see them. A bit like football I suppose, tactics are all very good down on paper but can you put them into practice? Hence an early change in our itinerary to move on to see Doomsday Outlaw at The Good Mixer - unbeknown to us at that stage - itinerary changes would become the order of the day! Strangely enough both Dirty Thrills and Doomsday Outlaw feature on a free 'New Breed' Sampler CD produced by their record label Frontiers Music. Doomsday Outlaw is a ten-legged Hard Rock, Blues tinged juggernaut based in darkest Derbyshire. The good news was that we bumped into our mate Gary Levermore from Frontiers in the Good Mixer - the bad news being that we could not count their ten legs as it was packed out and we had to settle to listening to their set from afar! To be fair, coupling huge riffs and killer grooves with soaring, soulful vocals, Doomsday Outlaw duly delivered their distinctive sound to the Hard Rock faithful present - either side of the bar - drawing on 'Hard Times’, their new album released last month - including 'Fallback' which is also on that sampler. Indeed the guys commented after their set that they "had an absolute blast" and the good news is that with a ton of live gigs locked in, including a string of Summer festival appearances, that we should literally be able to see the guys in the not too distant future.
As we said - it was becoming a day of sacrifices. Colt 48 were next on our agenda at The Electric Ballroom - just over two months since we reviewed the duo at The Borderline. Lead singer/guitarist Adam Jerome and vocalist/drummer Matt Saviniheir Nu-Metal Heavy Rock sound with powerful riffs and good melodies coming across loud and clear, as it does on their latest EP 'II'. Anyway, we said in our Camden Rocks countdown "Do not miss them", however, due to time constraints, we decided to sacrifice them in order to see the celebrated British Industrial Alternative Rock quartet Sulpher at The Black Heart, albeit via a swift pint at the Spread Eagle. Decisions, decisions. Fronted by former Marylin Manson/Gary Numan/The Prodigy guitarist Rob Holliday, their new album ‘No One Will Ever Know’ is due to be released in late August through Oblivion/SPV. Since reforming in 2016 with drummer, programmer and fellow founder member Steve Monti, guitarist Andy Spillane and dreadlocked bassist Davey Bennet, they have clearly dusted off and modernised their unmistakable signature sound, melding massive doses of Rock, Metal, a little electronica and neo-psychedelic shoegaze elements. Slam dunk winners of the best tats on display at Camden Rocks, their atmospheric set included seven songs, 'One Of Us' , 'Unknown', Follow You Down', 'Used', their excellent and very first single from the album 'Take A Long Hard Look', 'Scarred' and 'Spray' - the title track from their 2002 album, testimony to the time when they were voted ‘Best British Heavy Metal Band’ in Metal Hammer. Holliday (think Daryl out of 'The Walking Dead') is the perfect frontman for their brand of passionate, unconstrained anger that morphs into melancholy toughness that meets a Metallic dirtiness, although Rob did show his lighter side by lobbing some merchandise into the crowd and shouting "nice catch!" Don't forget to watch out for their new album plus Sulpher are also playing the Amplified Festival in Cheltenham on Sunday 8th July.
Unfortunately for Rock On The Ridge favourites At The Sun, we decided to miss out on the five-piece Heavy Rock band at The Dev (although we would be spending a lot of time there later) and given that we had missed out on the delectable Tequila Mockingbyrd earlier, we though we would head towards Camden Lock and Dingwalls to see the Revolt Rock of The SoapGirls who recently released their new album 'Societys Rejects' which comes highly recommended by our mate Matt Reynolds. Would they fulfil Matt's recommendation of their perfect balance of attitude, swagger and raw rasping vocals, full of straight up rock’roll songs - tons of energy, flashes of anger and serrated guitar-driven angst. Nothing can stop The SoapGirls inevitable rise to the top? Well unfortunately no - as Dingwalls was hot, heaving and full to the brim. Time for us to take evasive action as we headed towards the bar and stumbled across Dame Jean's sound check at Dingwalls Canalside next door. Now this really is the stuff that festivals are legendary for - by pure chance you end up in a venue with a band that you haven't planned to see and come away thinking - they were good. Cue Indie band Dame Jean, as frontman Sammy Crocker proceeded to perform rattling three-minute rock songs, whilst his bandmates lay slick foundations and rocksteady riffs. This was good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll including their recent single 'Wasted Love'. A really refreshing addition to our Camden Rocks experience, and despite them being surprisingly quiet on social media, we do know that the guys are aiming to bring out an EP relatively soon. A big thank you also to Isaac Watson for letting us have some photos from Dame Jean's set.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Phil C. was taking in an acoustic set by British Folk Punk group The Men They Couldn't Hang at the Gabeto - which took me back to the time I saw them play the Bexley Festival in Danson Park in the 1990's - can anyone remember that? Anyway, it was now half way through proceedings and time for a well overdue food refuel which again meant we sacrificed The Electric Ballroom and The Professionals - formed from the ashes of the Sex Pistols, namely Steve Jones, and who had recently released their new studio album 'What In The World', to critical acclaim - in fact Vive Le Rock made it their album of the year. Doh! Following our grub pitstop it was time to wander across the road back to The Dublin Castle for sensational British Hard Rock quintet 10 Gauge, who are unmistakeably seeking to continue the broad-shouldered and durable sound of the late 1980's and early 1990's. Based on the outskirts of North London, the band consisting of Rob Jewson - vocals, TJ - lead guitar, Kieran Best - rhythm guitar, Gareth Dearing - bass and Neil Felgate - drums are poised to unleash their slick and heavy-set debut EP 'Rain's ’Comin', due for public release on Monday 18th June and the guys duly dipped into that in their short but explosive set including their cool Rock ballad 'Hand You're Dealt' - think Black Stone Cherry meets Alter Bridge. Make a note that 10 Gauge are playing The Great British Guitar Festival at Leos Red Lion, Gravesend on Saturday 7th July.
Whilst Phil C. was watching Blood Red Shoes at The Electric Ballroom, an alternative Rock duo from Brighton, consisting of Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell, we decided to stay at The Dublin Castle and catch a piece of Greyhaven UK in advance of walking down to see Hollowstar at The Dev at 7. It was all swings and roundabouts again as this meant we would sacrifice two heavyweights - Massive Wagons at The Camden Assembly and Raveneye at Dingwalls. Hey ho. Featuring Sam Paterson - vocals, Alex Hills - guitar, Adam Sutherland - guitar, Jack Hudson - bass/vocals and Connor Tate- drums, Greyhaven UK are an alternative/modern Rock band and they recently released their EP 'Breathe'. Unfortunately we missed the end of their energetic set but you can catch the guys again at London's 229 The Venue on Tuesday 24th July.
We wanted to see Cambridgeshire-based Rock band Hollowstar on the back of their recently released new single 'All I Gotta Say' and it was easy to see during their set how they take inspiration from Blackstone Cherry, Thunder and Slash; influences that are evident in the music they create. "Has anyone seen us before?" enquired singer/bassist Joe Bonson, as a fair few Dev hands shot up into the air. During the set, which included the aforementioned single, Joe poignantly dedicated one of the tracks to his friend Kyle - with guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett plus drummer Jack Bonson subsequently doing their friend proud. Hollowstar have also unveiled a slew of tour dates throughout the country, joining the Graham Bonnet Band for four shows in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Louth and Newcastle as part of his UK and Ireland 2018 tour from 9th-12th August. The lads will also be making an appearance at the Wildfire Festival on Sunday 24th June, before joining Dan Reed Network and King King at the Cambridge Rock Festival, running from 26th-29th July.
At this time Phil C. was enjoying a bit of Melodic Blues, Folk and Grunge acoustic !therapy from Wicked Splinters at The Brewdog, whilst we were up for something a bit more heavier - step forward Black Orchid Empire at The Dublin Castle. A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to attend their Album Listening Party for their new CD 'YUGEN' at London's The Ship in Soho in advance of its official release date the following Friday, before the band headed off on tour to support Black Map in Germany! Not only did we talk to the band: Paul Visser (guitar/vocals), Dave Ferguson (bass) and Billy Freedom (drums), but we also had the pleasure of meeting up with BOE fans Kevin and Dianne. Needless to say they were both there at The Dublin Castle and they had also seen the very impressive Massive Wagons earlier. As expected Black Orchid Empire's set was mainly drawn from 'YUGEN' but they did include the awesome 'Riff Of Death' from their previous album which resulted in a bit of moshing (despite my bruised rib) - well we had been drinking since midday after all! It didn't quite shade Dirty Thrills but it was an awesome set that dissolved into yet another beer and more conversation in The Dublin Castle bar afterwards.
By now our proposed itinerary was in tatters. Plans to see Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors at The Camden Assembly, British Sea Power at Dingwalls or Black Map at The Monarch were abandoned as we headed off to The Dev for the final time, if not just for the music but also for the craic of their friendly regulars. Suffice to say that as we walked in, raw Metallic Hardcore outfit, Confessions Of A Traitor frontman, Steven MacConville, was standing on the bar, rockin' the joint! They duly passed the rock baton on to Yorkshire's very own 'As Sirens Fall' - their style of aggressive Pop bringing a brilliant day to a fitting end Despite the heat and the crowds, Camden Rocks Festival 2018 was a great laugh with great bands and great people. Let's give it 10 out of 10 not only for its organisation but also for the number of bands we managed to see in the same number of hours! Methinks we need to set a more realistic itinerary next year!
Hampton Court Palace Festival,
Tuesday 12th June
With the necessary style for such a prestigious setting, Joe Bonamassa’s 8-piece band enter onto the stage, which commands one complete side of the historic courtyard, to great applause and come together to launch into 'All Aboard' as an introduction to their set. Joe saunters in to join them giving the audience a teasing taster of his legendary guitar playing using this veracious track as an excellent warm up for the band, instruments, mood and audience. The majestic setting of the impressive Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII's favourite royal residence, creates a suitable arena for Joe to share his love of classic Blues to what was initially a rather refined and well behaved foot tapping audience of over 2,000 dedicated fans.
Wearing his traditional black suit, crisp white shirt and sunglasses Joe was primarily engrossed in faultless delivery of his tracks using the near replication of his March 2018 set list for his supporters at the beginning of this Palace concert. His interaction with the audience was very minimal to start as he focussed his concentration on the absorbed preciseness of his play, this being reflected in his pained movement and facial expressions which at times gave the impression of it being a torturous affair for him rather than one of enjoyment! His guitar play was like a fierce and blatantly transparent battle for superiority between man and his machine as to who was in command but with Bonamassa’s thorough and absolute movements victory was soon claimed to be his.
It took until the fourth track on his set list and embarking on one of his own new slow Bluesy songs, ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’, from his forthcoming September studio album, for Joe at last to find solace in his performance. Finally you could see the Blues wash away any anxiety and concern in him as he poured himself, along with the saxophonist and the rest of his entourage, into the entrancing, haunting guitar riffs and soulful structure of this song. From here on, touched by this and at one with their favoured Blues performer, the audience was led towards accepting the unrestricted freedom of their musical pleasure by embracing the concert with a more passionate approach.
His set travelled through previously performed, successful recordings and each artist in the band, after a personal and familiar introduction by Bonamassa himself, relished audience focus and applause. An initially shy young Blues guitarist, Kirk Fletcher, was invited onto stage and challenged in a guitar ‘gunfire stand-off’ with Bonamassa, which raged between the two of them in a display of matched musical fury and attack that built to a thunderous crescendo. “Too loud, too many notes!” joked Bonamassa. ‘Slow Train’ was an excellent follow-up to this with all instruments beating a tempo that conjured visions of the approaching freight train chugging along lonely dusty tracks with calming light play on the backdrop of the stage and rhythm leading into an incredible guitar finish. A bit of a tantalising twisting tune followed and tried to encourage everyone to their feet, but it took Joe’s direct command to make this so.
Although it was difficult to distinguish lyrics at the start of the concert, the clarity and understanding of the tracks improved as the performance went on, Joe’s strength seemed only to increase with him giving a crystal clear still powerful delivery by the final numbers completing a gruelling one and three quarter hour set. The crowd, of course not including those rude enough to walk out just before the end of his performance, were rewarded with ‘Sloe Gin’ which is always a favourite and Joe spoke with familiarity and at length saying how he had so enjoyed playing in such a grand setting and to such a receptive crowd.
The seven-piece band that performed excellent support for Bonamassa are Reese Wynans on keyboards, Anton Fig on drums, Michael Rhoades on bass, Lee Thornburg on trumpet and Paulie Cerra on sax with two joyful backing singers belting out their strong accompaniment throughout constantly riding the rhythm in their steps, percussion instruments and attitudes.
Di Foxy (photo courtesy of Laurence Harvey).
Stone Free Festival - Day One,
O2 Arena, London
Saturday 16th June
Festivals are many and varied these days with everything from one to five days, in fields, arenas or even whole communities. You have something for everyone. Muddy fields with hundreds of thousands of people or small intimate venues with just a handful of faithful fans. The Stone Free festival, now in its third year, boasts the prodigious O2 Arena as its home so you would imagine it is a large cavernous venue with large headline acts. Well it is. But it also boasts smaller intimate venues like the Indigo O2 which holds about 1500 people and, just for this festival, the small outside Orange Amps stage, catering for a couple of hundred.
Saturday is the first of two days and is an unashamedly Rock orientated day. Openers on the bijou Orange stage are Nitroville, a 5 piece hailing from East London. Being the Orange stage, all the bands are playing through Orange amps but, thanks to the excellent sound engineering of Vision, the sound of each band is clear and individually distinct. Fronted by a powerhouse vocalist, Nitroville open the days proceedings in fine style. Telecaster and Les Paul guitars provide a strong front line that matches vocalist Tola Lamont with a busy bass backline. And the smallest drumkit ever seen on stage. The short set is warmly received by the growing crowd, gathering under a beautiful Summer sky. It doesn't have to rain at every festival you know. One of the issues at festivals can be the potential clashes of bands. Stone Free does an impressive job of timing bands to have a minimum of time spent shuffling between stages. The Orange and Indigo stages swapped time slots with a smoothness and both finished (just) before the first act opened in the main arena. Well done to the organisers.
Staying at the Orange stage we were treated to what were arguably the best band of the day. Bold words for only the second act but London bass Killit really hit the spot. To call them London based would be unfair to their international make up. Israeli guitarist Niro Knox plays some seriously dirty Rock and Blues on a seriously dirty Les Paul. Someone lend him a wet wipe. And accompanying him on a beautiful PRS is the equally beautiful Swiss Claire Genoud. Fronted by vocalist Gaz Twist, clearly the result of a wild night involving Bruce Dickinson and Scott Weiland, the five piece play some excellent Rock Metal. Knox is an Israeli Slash who could have done with a bigger stage. Great rocking band who I will seek out again. Ones to watch.
Changing stage to the Indigo finds the more unusual duet that is The Picturebooks. The Teutonic twosome create some huge sounds with just percussion and a semi acoustic guitar. And the large sound system in the excellent Indigo venue. It's one of those venues that I go to almost regardless of who is playing. The right size, good acoustics and a large bar. And frontman Fryn Claus Grabke had his dad doing sound desk duties tonight. Bet that saved a few bob. Their clever Rock Blues set was a joy to behold, being both innovative and interesting. Dare I say, an ideal festival band.
Staying in the Indigo we were treated to the phenomenon that is Triggerfinger. A Belgian three piece, dressed in some snappy duds, you would be forgiven for thinking they were at the wrong venue. Until they hit the first chord that is. With a bassist (Paul Van Bruystegem) who looked like a bouncer, and a drummer (Mario Goosens) who was clearly Boris Johnson taking a day off from ruining the country, they looked like an 80's Pop band as frontman Ruben Block wears the sort of suit that would make ABC's Martin Fry green with envy. Or swirly red and gold in this case. Playing a single pick-up Gibson SG through a Vox amp, Block gets some quite cutting Metal tones to accompany the almost Stoner Rock tracks. Not what I was expecting. Almost quirky, I can only describe them as - well, Belgian. But as moreish as chips with mayonnaise, they were another hugely entertaining act. The incredibly minimalist 'My Baby's Got A Gun' showed how powerful a few notes can be. As was the brutal solo that followed. Finishing with Iggy Pop's 'Funtime', they left the audience with smiles on their faces.
Back to the Orange stage for the Dirty Thrills who played us some dirty Blues. The 4 piece were a slick act with the look of Gypsies and street dandies adorned with a multitude of scarves and devilish looks. An Ibanez hollowbody is the axe of choice for guitarist Jack Fawdry whilst frontman Louis James, son of Moody Blues V singer Nicky James, provides the lungpower with added swagger. Fawdry wastes no time removing his shirt to perform his rocking Blues skills whilst jumping around like an excited schoolboy. He even perched himself on the somewhat small Orange amp at one stage. Dangerous stuff. James accompanies with harmonica to a thumping bass line. We get to sing-along to a medley of tracks, including Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady' to finish an all too short set.
The bands come thick and fast now as we head back to the Indigo to see the rising Stars that are Stone Broken. Hailing from Walsall in the West Midlands, they could easily be from Birmingham AL. The four piece are the current favourite of radio friendly Rockers everywhere although that doesn't make them bland or insipid. Au contraire. Frontman Rich Moss, brandishing a beautiful Les Paul, leads the band in some memorable Rock songs. Regulars on the radio, the short set is stuffed with recognisable riffs and singable lyrics. There's a reason why they get so much airplay. They're damn good. Assisted by guitarist Chris Davis on a humbucker packed Fender, there is an almost brutal Metal edge to the Hard Rock sound. How could that be bland. Female drummer Robyn Haycock hides behind drumkit festooned with an Animal muppet - she is neither - and is pleasingly given a short drum solo which she makes interesting. An almost impossible feat when it comes to drum solos. Again, the Stone Free festival delivers the goods.
Closing the Orange stage, and vying for band of the day are Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics. The former Heaven's Basement front man has created his own band although the set contained a number of Heaven's Basement tracks. No complaints from me, I love Heaven's Basement. But this is a new animal. Aaron's sister Laurie wields a mean Fender Telecaster whilst Tom McCarthy assists with a stunning Gordon Smith Les Paul style white guitar. The short set includes a number of tracks from their delightfully named 'The Man With Stars On His Knees' album sprinkled with the aforementioned Heaven's Basement tracks - including a firm favourite, 'Fire Fire'. Aaron is known as a huge Freddie Mercury fan and the album includes a number of tracks with Queen like harmonies. Today saw a rawer approach with hard guitars and hard singing. After handing out a couple of freebie beers to members of the audience (I was lucky enough to receive one - it has in no way influenced this review.....) Aaron proceeds to draw the crowd closer into a compact mass to enable to surf his way onto their shoulders before finishing the song with a headstand whilst still perched precariously on the crowds shoulders. The rakishly thin warbler, all boots and braces, has never been known to be shy.
So back to the Indigo to see the closing act on that stage that is the brutally pleasing assault on the ears that is Orange Goblin. Not sure where the band got there name from - lead singer Ben Ward looks more like a huge black orc than an orange goblin. Maybe the (relatively) diminutive axeman Joe Hoare is the inspiration. Whilst Ward prowls the centre of the stage like the scary Tolkeinesque beast, commanding and getting the attention from the rapturous audience, the real power behind the sound is the Gibson SG Marshall amp combo of Hoare. It's real basic Hard Metal power. Their t-shirts say it all. Hoare sports a possibly ironic Kiss t-shirt, Ward drapes himself in an Entombed shirt. It was a finale of filth with some chugging rhythms and powerful wah filled leads. The band have been together as a foursome since 1995 and are as tight as a crabs bum. The crowd includes a number of Goblin faithful who delighted in bringing an unlikely Stone Free wall of death to the mix at the instigation of the man on the mike. I wouldn't disobey him. All done with great humour and fun and ended what was a fantastic set of bands and, in some ways, the festival part of the day.
What makes Stone Free different is the switch from a festival feel when the smaller stages close to a regular gig night when the main stage opens for the nights final three acts. The headliners. Hmmm, lets say big names. Openers Buckcherry are another firm favourite of yours truly but found themselves in the cavernous O2 Arena playing to a virtually empty crowd. Partly because the fantastic Orange Goblin slightly over ran although probably because the fans took the opportunity to take advantage of the many and varied eating and drinking establishments. Which was a shame because the mercurial band were on form tonight with frontman Josh Todd showing more gusto than previous gigs I have seen recently. Whilst it is good to see a great band like Buckcherry getting an outing on a large stage, i love them best in a hot sweaty club environment where you get up close and personal. They did their best, and played their hearts out with classics like 'Sorry" and 'Broken Glass', but were victims of scheduling. I would liked to have seen them play the Indigo instead.
Penultimate band of the night were Dave Mustaine's Megadeath - the ego has landed. Clearly a crowd puller, the original Thrash Metallers played to a considerably fuller arena with their brand of guitar virtuosity. It was a great set although Megadeath have always been a vehicle for Mustaine to showcase his talents whilst the band appear to be there as extras. Add into the mix the regular haranguing of the world for all it's ills and you get the Dave Mustaine show. It's great Rock, don't get me wrong, and the crowd loves it, although they were thanked for it by some personal abusing of individuals in the audience by the man himself. Not sure if it was meant in jest or not. It's difficult to tell with Mr M. The set included some classic Megadeath tracks including my favourite 'Symphony of Destruction'. They do write some bleedin' good songs.
Closers and headliners are the mighty Scorpions. One of those bands that have been around for so long that they are deemed Classic Rock although I still think of them as newer Metal. A great choice as headliners, the set includes more singalong favourites than you can shake a tail stinging arachnid at. With the recent addition of Mikkey Dee on drums we were also treated to a cover of Motorhead's 'Overkill' as well as an exquisite drum solo. It was 90 plus minutes of Classic Rock in the truest sense although Rudi Schenker and Matthias Jabs wielding their guitars with full Heavy Metal gusto and frontman Klaus Meine easily switching between bellowing Rock and romantic ballads. It was a great show and a fine way to finish off what was an excellent first day. Takeaway from day one were Killit and Aaron Buchanan. I love it when you find great new talent. What will day two hold?
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
Is There Anybody There?
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy's Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Follow Your Heart / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind Of Change
Tease Me Please Me
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo Mikkey Dee
Big City Nights
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane
Stone Free Festival - Day Two,
O2 Arena, London
Sunday 17th June
So day two followed the form of day one, with the same festival/gig split, although the emphasis today was more towards Prog as the headliners later will show. But the day started again with a choice of the Orange Amps and Indigo stages with a range of sumptuous delights to enjoy. Being a Sunday, and Father's Day, the North Greenwich peninsula was busier than ever with visitors enjoying the varied local attractions mingling with the festival goers. Being outside, the Orange stage attracted a number of day trippers looking to see what all the fuss was about, and some of whom seemed to really enjoy the show. Says something about the quality of the acts that they can entertain an audience which contained a number of non-musos. Or maybe they were just trying to avoid being dragged around the shops. Or they preferred the excellent choices of beer on offer.
Anyhow, openers on the Orange stage are StoneWire, a five piece seeped in Blues, Rock and Country vibes. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Sky Hunter, the short set showcases a mix of riffy Rock and melodic Bluesy sounds that delights the small but growing audience. Again, they are another band who would have no trouble filling the Indigo - both audibly and literally - and are sure to be at a venue near you soon. If you like your Zeppelin, give them a listen.
Following on are what can best be described as the explosion that is Vambo. The Epsom four-piece have exploded onto the scene with airplay on Planet Rock and shows both home and abroad. Indeed, following the set, the band are off to Hungary to do a couple of shows in the homeland of guitarist Pete Lance. Vambo are a great young band influenced by the Rock bands of the seventies. Lance's searing guitar goodness - a Les Paul through a fantastic Kemper modelling amp - are pure rocky filth and goodness and he show some considerable skills up and down the fretboard. Vocalist Jack Stiles, taking his looks and styling from 70's legend Roy Wood of Wizard, has an extremely powerful voice. Their closing track - a copy of Deep Purple's 'Burn' - showcases what final vocal talents he has. You don't cover such iconic Rock tracks like that lightly and he nailed it. I would have been happy just to have seen that but their short set was full of their own excellent material, including 'Fast Car' and their new single 'Why, Why, Why' which is getting some considerable radio airplay. With bassist James Scott completing the DM booted front of stage and drummer Steve Price driving the whole ensemble from behind the kit, they are an excellent addition to the festival and, probably the best band of the two stages today. Yes, they are that good. Another of my must see again bands.
Next up on the Orange stage are Fire Red Empress, another up and coming band that radio stations are showing an interest in. Fronted by the delightful Jennifer Diehl, wearing a black floppy hat, dark glasses and shawl, she looks like a grieving girl next door. But when she sings, it's all happiness in the world. The five-piece play chunky sludgy Stoner Rock with the Gethin brothers guitars providing the growling backline to Diehl's cutting voice. She reminded me a little of Geddy Lee's Anthem in her pitch and tone but was versatile enough to go from low and powerful to haunting and screamy. An absorbing band.
Off to the Indigo stage to catch the tail end of Ginger Wildheart's acoustic set. Ginger is a man of many acts, fronting the rocking Wildhearts but also championing a circus of assorted talents. Today sees him at his most stripped down with just an accompanying acoustic guitarist, percussionist and female co-vocalist. Watching him at ease on stage is like watching a street troubadour entertain with jokes and singalongs. His closing track 'Geordie In Wonderland' aptly describes the dreadlocked Ginger's show. Again, another excellent choice of act for this wonderful festival.
Staying at the Indigo stage, we are treated by the appearance of Tyketto, the five-piece Rock band from New York. Fronted by former Waysted singer Danny Vaughan, they are another extremely professional act entertaining the crowd with what was, by their standards, a far more funky set than you would expect. As Vaughan quips during one of the funkier jams between bassist Chris Childs and guitarist Chris Green, "This has turned into a Barry White medley!" Vaughan is another hugely entertaining front man and the band seem to just be the most relaxed people having a good time playing what they love. Which pervades to the growing audience, Finishing with their anthemic 'Forever Young' the crowd warmly applaud them off the stage before rushing to see the closing act on the Orange stage, The Bad Flowers.
I say rushing, most are happy to stop for beers along the way, but still ensure the Black Country trio get a lot of love. Frontman and guitarist Tom Leighton provides the front line alone whilst bassist Dale Tonks, complete with Monster Truck t-shirt, takes centre stage, albeit a small one, showing that bassists need love too. Making up the naughty blooms is drummer Karl Selickis doing a fine job of keeping the two frontmen in their rhythmic place. As a trio, they work damn hard, with Leighton's Les Paul and wah pedal getting some mileage and Tonks bass solo showing a commendable work ethic. With tracks like 'Thunder Child' in their repertoire, they show they are a force to be reckoned with. Showing an emotional thanks to the audience for the support they have received the set closes the excellent Orange stage for the day and the festival. The Bad Flowers - a great bunch.
Back to the Indigo for the final act on that stage - the iconic guitarists guitarist, Richie Kotzen. I think it sums up how appreciated Mr. K. is by other musicians that, standing next to me in the Indigo were Joanne Shaw Taylor and bassist Luigi Cassanova. Just hours before her own performance in the arena, JST took the time to see a master at work. Because a master he is. Or maestro. Although not classical, Kotzen has reinvented himself a number of times so that it is hard to pigeonhole him in any one genre. The once Glam Hair Metal guitarist of Poison enters the stage wearing a floppy broad brimmed hat and loose casual shirt more akin to Bill and Ben than Bret and CC. Because the man is comfortable in himself and his abilities. Playing his signature Telecaster through his signature Victory amp, Kotzen takes us through every guitar trick and nuance, utilising assorted effects and pedals, but always with the music as the focus, not the performance. And for pure guitar skills he is breath-taking. Stand out track for me was 'Love Is Blind'. It was a great way to end what was the 'festival' part of the day and had the adoring audience calling for more.
And so to the O2 Arena and the start of the 'gig' part of the day. This is where the Prog part of the day kicked in with the atmospheric Anathema playing to a completely seated arena. Is this some indication as to the age of the audience that they are expecting? Anathema are not an anathema to me but are a more experimental young Progressive Rock band with symphonic qualities that contrasted sharply with the bands we had seen during the day. I say young, they have been around since the early 90's but it's all relative. The Liverpudlian five-piece produced some extensive electronic Rock consisting of assorted keys, double drums and exquisite guitars. With female vocalist Lee Douglas providing the focus, the Cavanagh siblings concentrated on producing some epic Progressive Rock music but with a more modern slant than the following acts. With influences from past members who have played with, the likes of Cradle of Filth and My Dying Bride, they have a unique slant on Prog that is refreshing. They were certainly appreciated by the admittedly older audience.
Following Anathema, and in no way proof at all, is the aforementioned Joanne Shaw Taylor. A rocking Blues guitarist, influenced heavily by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix, Prog she is not. She does however Rock. Those who know my words will know that i have seen JST many times and cannot rate her highly enough. Opening up with her trusty blond Telecaster with 'Dyin' To Know', the trusty blond launches into a fine set. Only a few years ago JST was doing the rounds of the pubs and clubs, but you would think she had been playing arenas all her life. Having toured with the likes of Joe Bonamassa, she is no stranger to larger venues - I saw her recently at The Royal Festival Hall. One of the things i love to see when watching the Black Country lass is her beaming smile as she loses herself in the power of her own brand of Blues Rock. She is a genius guitarist who has learned much from her love of SRV and Mr. Kotzen. With newer tracks like 'Dyin To Know' and 'Wrecking Ball' mixed with classics like 'Diamonds In The Dirt', the all too short set was excellent. Switching between the Tele and the Les Paul (such a beautiful combination to behold) the audience had a Prog free 45 minutes of spectacular Blues guitar and soulful singing. Closing with the ever present classic 'Going Home' she signed of in style. But I wasn't going anywhere just yet.
Now everyone has a guilty pleasure and Supertramp are mine. Although they are a pleasure that I am in no way guilty of. Just don't tell my Rock mates. The arguably Prog band have had a number of radio hits of many years that have graced many a pop station. Roger Hodgson, vocalist and all round musician from the band, treated us tonight to what was a near note perfect rendition of their greatest hits. Hodgson, dressed in a crisp white suit is the consummate humble gentleman who still has an astonishingly good voice. Backed by a collection of extremely talented backing musicians, Hodgson absolutely enthralled with a set that truly blew me away. Switching between instruments he sang 'Take The Long Way Home' (keyboard), 'School' (guitar), 'Breakfast in America' (keys), 'Hiding In My Shell' (keys), 'Logical Song' (keys), 'Lord Is It Mine' (piano), 'Dreamer' (keys), 'Fools Overture' (piano), 'Give A Little Bit' (12 string acoustic) and 'It's Raining Again' (keys). And all the way through his voice was as it had been all those years ago. I contrast to the power of previous acts, the music was almost a lullaby in comparison but had me singing loudly along to every track. Guilty pleasure? Nobody should feel guilty at experiencing such pleasure. Mr Hodgson I salute you, and I will be first in the queue when tickets go on sale for his shows at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2019.
Closing and headline act, and the most Progressive of Prog bands are the mighty Yes. And this time it includes the trio of Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin and Jon Anderson. Celebrating 50 years of Yes, the three musicians, who represent the purist Prog years of the seventies and the 'mainstream' 80's incarnation presented an affirmation of their finest tracks. Anderson, holding centre stage still has a phenomenal voice. So specific to the Yes sound, his voice carried across the cavernous arena and carried the faithful to years gone by and memories half remembered. Wakeman, adorned in his trademark cloak, stood in the middle of a round of keyboards tinkling the ivories with his trademark grumpy old git look. But he certainly was enjoying himself. And Rabin cavorted around getting some iconic sounds out of his heavily decorated Strat. With supporting musicians including the happiest drummer in the world - who wouldn't smile like that getting the chance to play such gloriously intricate drum tracks - the three headliners showed what craftsmen they are. Each made their way into the audience who delighted in being up close and personal with their heroes. With a spectacular lighting show the performance was a visual and audio delight. The crowd delighted in what was a masterpiece of Progressive music. A great way to end a great festival.
As the crowds drift away into a warm Summer's night, I am left to reflect what has been another great day at a great festival. Act of the day for me has to be Roger Hodgson for sheer enjoyment although JST and Richie Kotzen could have easily been contenders. For a relatively new festival Stone Free really have got the mix right. Great sounds, great location, I urge you to go next year. Greenwich is famous as being the home of the Greenwich meridian - the centre of the world in time terms if you like. This weekend, it has been the centre of my music world.
I've Seen All Good People
And You and I
Rhythm of Love
I Am Waiting
Heart of the Sunrise
Owner of a Lonely Heart (with 'Sunshine of Your Love' by Cream snippet)
The Kris Barras Band,
The Borderline, London
Wednesday 20th June
Tonight is a Wednesday in London Town, along with Monday and Tuesday it's classed as a school night which can be tough getting your average gig goer off their sofa! Not tonight though as I take the downward steps to the cellar venue of the 'Borderline' off Tottenham Court Road and find Friday night has arrived early. The Americians have a quote "Guys like riffs and Gals like relationships" - well in a normal Rock male dominated audience this is not applying tonight because we're looking at a 60-40 male to female ratio.
The attraction: The Kris Barras Band playing from their two albums 'Lucky 13' and their recent release 'The Devine and Dirty' from which the opener 'Wrong Place,Wrong Time' locks us in followed by 'Can't Help Me Now' from the previous album stepping up the gears to "Riff Heaven". A couple of cover versions are included in the set tonight, the first of which is the Gary Moore track 'Stormy Monday'. As Kris states, Gary was a big influence on himself and you can hear this especially in his own song 'Watching Over Me' dedicated to his father who he lost to cancer. His father also played bass in his band, and if he had dropped in tonight it sounded like Gary had dropped in also to add to the heartfelt solo that we all witnessed.
The band are a tight unit with the rhythm section of Will Beavis (thirteen years service) on drums and Elliott Blackler on bass. On keyboards we find Josiah J. Manning who brings the variety to the band among the guitar base of the band, but who is also the band's producer. Kris brings the gravel-style Bluesy Rock vocal along the lines of Sheffield's Joe Cocker and a mean dirty guitar played with precision. Back to the set, the train rolls on with two songs from the latest album 'Propane' and the catchy 'Hail Mary', the latter of which everyone joins in (if you're going to get your crowd to sing, make it an easy lyric). 'Heart On Your Sleeve' brings out some Country influences as they cross genres with the Blues and Southern Rock influences in their catalogue.
The following abbreviation: "NWOCRAB" (New Wave Of Classic Rock And Blues) has been touted about the scene for a while now, the pioneers being King King with the likes of Bad Touch and The Bad Flowers, to name but a few, along with The Kris Barras Band fighting the cause! The second cover is Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower' which ends the set with a good excuse to guitar solo the hell out of it and he did to our enjoyment. A couple of encore numbers 'Rock Running Through My Veins' and 'Further Up the Road' Rock and Roll us to the end, back up the stairs to find it's Wednesday again. We'll catch the band again at Ramblin' Man Fair in the Blues Tent on Sunday 1st July!
Ramblin' Man Fair - Day 1
Mote Park, Maidstone
Saturday 30th June 2018
The Ramblin' Man festival, held in the beautiful lakeland park of Mote Park in Maidstone, is now in its fourth year. The Ramblin' Man festival has evolved over its short lifespan with tweaks being made each year to fine tune it to the organiser's requirements. In the inaugural year, the headline act was Greg Allman - hence the festival's name – and has since seen such rock luminaries as Scorpions, Black Stone Cherry, Airbourne, Extreme, Saxon and ZZ Top headlining - not bad for such a blossoming festival. But this year’s acts weren’t such an obvious draw for me. Had the Ramblin' Man peaked too early? Had he strayed away from the beaten track? Let’s see.
The format this year is for a two day event spread across three stages, although there is the option of attending a small Friday night event held at the adjacent leisure centre. The ethos behind the organisation appears to be to provide a varied range of music with each of the three stages boasting a theme, albeit with some licence. Today’s three stages are the Classic Rock Rising Stage - a showcase for new talent, the Outlaw Country Stage - showing Country/Blues and the Planet Rock Main Stage, hosted by Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony, where the headline acts appear. The timings of the three stages were fairly well coordinated with minimal clashes and each of the stages being close enough to each other to easily move between without impinging on each other’s sound. Scattered around the stages are numerous food outlets and beer tents – this is also a beer and food festival folks (winner!) – as well as numerous trade stands. Anyone want to buy a motorcycle? Put this all in beautiful parkland with ample room to chill and add some of the hottest weather of the year (29 degrees of unbroken sunshine) and you have the recipe for a fabulous weekend of rocking rapture. Oh, and as you may know, I’m a guitar nerd so be prepared for lots of guitar references. Apologies, but it was a guitar nerd’s paradise.
First up on the Outlaw Country stage are Thomas Wynn and The Believers. The Floridian sports a cowboy look with fancy weskit and hat and wields his six (string) shooter (a Gibson SG) through the ubiquitous Marshall amp to produce some glorious swampy Blues Rock with just a hint of Gospel. Accompanying him on vocals is his sister Olivia whilst supporting bass, keys, harmonica/acoustic guitar/vocals and drums provide a really full sound that gets proceedings underway in fine style. With a heavy keyboard influence, and raw guitar sound, this is more Boot Hill than Oklahoma. Great start Ramblin Man.
Over on the Classic Rock Rising Stage are Dead Man’s Whiskey, a 5 piece from London. Sporting twin Gibson Les Paul's through Marshal and Victory amps (sorry – I did warn you…) this young band provided some classic rocking sounds with just a hint of Whitesnake. Sporting a NWOCR t-shirt (new wave of classic rock in case you were wondering) lead singer Nico Rogers did exactly what it said on his shirt - produced a new wave of some classic sounding Rock. Stand out track for me was ‘War Machine’, with a great sweeping guitar solo, from their new album ‘Under Gun’.
And so to the main stage where Scottish rockers Gun treated us to what must now be considered classics of their considerable back catalogue including ‘Don’t Say It’s Over’, 'Better Days’, ‘Steal Your Fire’ and their cover of ‘Word Up’. Lead singer Dante Gizzi, sporting classic shades and a white denim jacket, stood proud front and centre, flanked by guitarists Giuliano Gizzi (a black Yamaha) and Tommy Gentry (a red Les Paul) owning the stage and the audience. A great festival band, there’s nothing to dislike about Gun with tracks that are unlikely to offend anyone with a modicum of musicality, and plenty to please the singers, dancers and fist pumpers. With new material (‘Take Me Down’) from their recently released album ‘Favourite Pleasures’ the short set was finished with the U2 like ‘Shame On You’ topped off with their cover of the Beastie Boys ‘You Gotta Fight For Your Right, To Paaaarrrttttaaaayyyy!’. Excellent stuff.
Back to the Rising Stage and for me, possibly the find of the festival. Gorrilla Riot are a 5 piece bundle of excitement from Manchester reminiscent of early GnR although with a strong vein of Blues flowing through them. With three guitars (steady Mother! – two Les Paul's and an SG) they make a big sound and frontman Arjun Bhishma made a big impact on the clearly supportive audience. The set went from hard rocking to groove Rock with hypnotic beats. Lead guitarist Liam Henry on the SG produced some fine work without being overbearing. Again we have proof that young guitar Rock is alive and flourishing. Their recent single ‘Bad Son’ got some critical acclaim in the music press and their latest single ‘ Down The Road’, a Country Blues lament from their new EP ‘American Honey’ is likely to follow suit. I will look to check them out again next time they are in town.
Back at the main stage and we are treated to another turn of musical direction with Punk Metal stalwarts Therapy. 30 years on and the attitude doesn’t change as Ulsterman Andy Cairns (playing a lovely black SG through a Marshall JCM…sigh) opens with their cover of Joy Divisions ‘Isolation’ supported by bassist and fellow Ulsterman Michael McKeegan whilst Derby’s Neil Cooper celebrated his birthday by providing the driving drumbeat. With the lilt of a ‘Liam Neeson accent’ Mr. Cairns and friends entertained the crowd including the singalong of ‘Neil, Neil, drum like a mother something-or-other’ and a tribute to the recently departed Vinnie from Pantera.
The festival really went into full gear as we switched between stages. On the Rising stage Brighton’s Rocket Dolls initially disappointed when we discovered they were 3 fellas but the smiles soon returned when we heard their grunge influenced brand of Rock. Nikki Smash on lead (a Strat in case you were wondering) and vocals fronts with Joe Constable on bass and Benji Knopfler on drums. Lots of riff heavy rocking for all to enjoy. Another band that has been rightfully getting the attention of the media.
Over on the Outlaw stage, Skinny Molly show their Skynyrd pedigree, Southern, swampy Rock credentials with a very well received set. Frontman Mike Estes (ex Skynyrd and Blackfoot) sports a Les Paul Junior and uses it to good effect to crank out some awesome Rock sounds including ‘If You Don’t Care’ and ‘When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Fishin’ but it was the closing cover of ‘Freebird’ that got the crowd jumping. A great festival song in the sunshine.
A quick trip back to the Rising stage for a brief stint with Welsh duet Henry’s Funeral Shoe. The brothers Clifford could best be described as a younger Seasick Steve on speed. Very entertaining and an ideal festival band. Guitarist and vocalist Aled made great use of the slide on his Strat whilst Brennig kept the thumping beat.
Back to the main stage and The Cadillac Three. What a band. And what a collection of guitars – a new pair on virtually every song (swoon….). Nashville's greatest advert (the name is emblazoned everywhere including on frontman Jaren Johnston’s arm) are another success story who have graced the Download stage amongst others. To quote Johnstone "There are heavy bands, and there are country bands. Us – we’re both". It’s Country Rock alright with dirty slide and a Tennessee mojo that the fans lap up. Opening track ‘Tennessee’ says it all and is followed by hits including ‘Peace, Love and Dixie’ and ‘Tennessee Mojo’ (are you getting the theme yet?) before ending with ‘The South’. Not a damn Yankee in sight neither. I have always liked this lot but they have gone up a good few notches in my estimation following their great set.
Back to the Outlaw stage for a thrilling acoustic set from Myles Kennedy, surely the coup of the festival for the organisers. The Alter Bridge/Slash frontman is achieving even more success, if that’s possible , with his latest solo album 'Year of the Tiger', and treated us to a selection of tracks including the title track, a cover of Alter Bridge’s ‘Cry Of Achilles’ and an amazing acoustic cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’. He’s an incredible vocal talent but an even more amazing guitar talent. A fact that is all too often overlooked. Kennedy is just a natural talent and a natural performer.
On to the main stage and what was the performance of the day, and probably the festival. The phenomenon that is Steel Panther. I love this band. Puerile, base, childish - all the things I aspire to be. The Californian ‘parody’ band of the 80’s are so in character that they are all too believable. With every 80’s hair metal cliché on display, the four piece entertain the crowd in a way nobody else did, or would dare to do. Their total irreverence of other people was only eclipsed by their irreverence for themselves although all nicely packaged in a narcissistic front that sees more primping and preening than an LA prom night rest room. Visually stunning, these fellas are also audibly impressive as their image is supported by superb musical talent. The irreverence included a ‘tribute’ to Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen by Sticks (Zadinia) and we were treated to an impromptu stage visit from a tottering gibbering Ozzy Osbourne who looked remarkably similar to the notably absent vocalist Michael Starr. With (sexy) Lexxi Foxx on bass and hairspray, and Satchel on lead guitar, the West Coast smutmeisters entertained all but the most miserable so-and-so’s with crowd participation set to maximum. Poor Holly, the girl who was sat centre stage with a large inflatable cock to play with whilst Starr sang ‘Community Property’ was only eclipsed by the mass ‘stage invasion’ of every woman of legal age. Plus a couple who probably weren’t. Ending with their anthemic ‘Death To All But Metal’ the LA Glam Metallers left the stage to a huge applause and left many a happy festival goer singing lyrics that their mum wouldn’t have approved of. Again, another fantastic festival band.
And so to the headline act, Mott the Hoople were formed over 50 years ago. In that time they have been seen as Rock, Glam and even Country-Hippie. This latest reincarnation sees iconic frontman Ian Hunter reunited with Morgan Fisher on keys and Ariel Bender on guitar. Entering the stage to the strains of ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’, Hunter, on acoustic guitar, and the band launch into a set of classic Mott the Hoople tracks as well as a collection of tributes and medleys from artists that have contributed to, or influenced their music. Whilst as different as you can get from the preceding Steel Panther, they still bought an air of fun to the stage and to the audience. Well received and well presented, they were a fine way to end the Ramblin' day. With more glorious sunshine forecast, bring on tomorrow.
Mott The Hoople Setlist
American Pie / Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ’n’ Roy (England)
Roll Away the Stone
Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground cover)
Walking With a Mountain
All the Way From Memphis
Medley: Jerkin' Crocus/One of the Boys
Medley: Rock'n'Roll Queen/Crash Street Kidds/Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/Violence
All The Young Dudes
Mother (Photos courtesy of John Bull of RockrPix)