John Verity Band
Leos Red Lion, Gravesend
23 January 2016
It is normal for January to be a bit of a graveyard for quality gigs after the festive period but occasionally a little gem can be found and that was certainly the case at The Red Lion in Gravesend last Saturday. For those who had some money left and took a punt they were in for a treat.
John Verity was the main attraction and for those who have seen him before we knew he was not going to disappoint - but the real surprise was the local support act The Unknown. The band are made up of Ross Fagan - Vocals, Robert Hassan - Drums, Richard Hills - Bass and Reece Taylor – Guitar. What strikes you from the moment the band launch into their first song, the aptly titled ‘The Unknown’ is that this band have thought about what they want to bring to the party. They launched their first album at the venue in November again aptly entitled ‘Into the Unknown’ and it’s not long before you realise why the place was packed out that night. I can’t exactly place them in a genre but their songs are brilliantly crafted and the band are tight – add to that the excellent vocals of Ross Fagan and distinctive (George Harrison style) lead guitar and you have a quality package. These guys have amazing potential and you can catch them on Saturday February 6th at The Railway Tavern in Longfield - entrance is free so do yourself a favour and go and see what I am talking about!!
On to the main course and what can you say about JV – a quiet unassuming person when you talk to him who exudes charisma as soon as he hits the stage. When in my eyes the best sound engineer around says he has little to do because the guy is so good then you know you are witnessing a master at work.
JV doesn’t waste time talking to the crowd and gesticulating to them to clap their hands - he doesn’t need to. His set combines his own compositions mixed in with classic Blues rock numbers. The first half is not a lightweight affair as it includes heavyweight classics such as ‘Cocaine’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ mixed in with his own compositions which include one of my favourites in 'Prove Your Love'. I say first half even though there isn’t a break, but you feel the set gaining momentum with two more Verity songs ‘Nothings Changed’ and the brilliant ‘Say Why’ which envelop the classic ‘Rocky Mountain High’. With the crowd lapping up every note JV heads down the home straight with classic after classic including of course Argent’s ‘Hold Your Head Up’ and ‘Star Spangled Banner’ leading into ‘Purple Haze’ and finished off with lashings of ‘Johnny B Goode’ as an encore dessert - delicious!!!
No gimmicks, no boring speeches, just pure guitar genius!!!
The Bros. Landreth
The Garage, Highbury, London
3rd March 2016
The Bros. Landreth headlined at The Garage in Highbury, supported by folk/country singer Elliot Morris and Scouse rockers Buffalo Riot. It was hard to imagine a more diverse trio of acts - I was intrigued to see (and hear) how well they would gel.
The evening opened with Elliott Morris, a young singer/songwriter who has become a regular on the folk festival scene, playing and singing a mixture of folk and country material. Half English and half Scottish, Elliot is currently based in Lincolnshire, but was born in Swindon and grew up in Wales. These varied backgrounds help explain the variety in his music, as does the number of well known names he has already supported or worked with: Frank Turner, Big Country, Alan Thompson (John Martyn’s bass guitarist for the 20 years before his death), Ed Sheeran and Dave Swarbrick, to name but a few.
Elliott is an energetic and enthusiastic young man, who loves and believes in the quality of his music and is well known for his unorthodox style of percussive guitar. At The Garage he again demonstrated the full range of his fearsome guitar skills. These include tapping, slamming, strumming and fretting his instrument, as well as playing it in the more traditional manner. Elliott is a vocalist and entertainer as well as a wizard guitarist. His vocals are heartfelt and honest, with clever wordplay. His songs embrace the traditional and contemporary, combining folk, roots, and country. He entertains and amuses his audience with observant and wry lyrics, and some fun anecdotes. His main (only?) problem seems to be finding him on Google or YouTube. Initial searches invariably take you to 'one-L' Eliott Morris, a singer / songwriter from Memphis, or Elliott Morris, Glentoran’s goalkeeper! But keep trying; you’ll eventually be rewarded with some intricate guitar and compelling vocals.
Next up was a blistering burst of psychedelic rock from Buffalo Riot, five Scousers who have been together since 2014. The band describe their music as “Uplifting Americana 90’s Indie Rock”. There’s also an unmistakable dash of country which all leads to a fresh, uplifting sound more associated with the Mississippi delta than the Mersey! The initial eruption of sound from Buffalo Riot was in sharp contrast to the quieter songs from Elliott Morris; it certainly livened up The Garage. However, this was not just raw and raucous rock; it was also mature and accomplished. The lyrics, though occasionally lost in the pulsating guitars, were thoughtful and optimistic; the songs wild yet controlled.
Frontman Ben Singleton’s passionate vocals were vibrant and varied; with Iain Morley’s support, they generated something new in each song. With four guitars in play, the sonics were inevitably barnstorming: the bounding resonance uninhibited yet tasteful, keeping the audience totally attentive. The applause at the end of Buffalo Riot’s set was loud and long. The band seemed genuinely appreciative, as though they were not used to such admiration. If they really don’t receive a similar reception in their native Liverpool, it can only be because the audiences there have seen them so often, they’re taken for granted!
Time for the Bros. Landreth, the headlining roots-rockers from Canada. Their current tour, with 24 dates in five countries, is partly to promote their debut album 'Let it Lie', already a success back home in Canada. The band’s fan base in the UK is growing steadily, in part due to several plays on Bob Harris’s Radio 2 show. Would Bob’s praise be justified? The most noticeable feature of the Bros. Landreth’s set is its variety. The contrasting styles between their different songs don’t quite match the gap between Elliott Morris and the Buffalo Riot - but it’s not far short! On most songs vocalist and lead guitarist Joey Landreth is supported by elder brother David on bass, with additional support from drums and keyboard. When required, this support provides a swirling organ, funky bass rhythms and pounding drums but, at one point, the other musicians left Joey alone on stage to sing 'Lost in Snow', a quiet, poignant song dedicated to David’s seriously ill fiancee. When they returned, it wasn’t to pick up their instruments, but to provide a chorus for Joey’s romantic and emotional 'Greenhouse'.
The Bros. Landreth had started their set with a well known cover that immediately captured the audience’s attention, but their version of Wings 'Let 'Em In' was far from a simple copy of the original - it was steeped in a heavy swampy blues sound that Paul McCartney would never have imagined. The band moved into quieter mode, with their polished close harmonies, excellent musicianship and strong catchy melodies reminiscent of the Eagles. My favourite song of this stretch was 'Let it Lie', the title track of their album. But I much preferred the later part of the set, when the band turned the heat up a notch for the rollicking 'Runaway Train', John Hiatt's 'Alone In The Dark' and 'I am The Fool' written and originally recorded by their father Wally Landreth. This section was Country Rock at its best, enhanced by the Bluesy wail of electric guitars, the swirling organ and the blood harmonies of the brothers. The Bros. Landreth returned for a gospel influenced encore. They finished with the classic Southern anthem 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down', which had the enthusiastic audience singing, clapping and cheering along.
Overall, it made for a highly enjoyable evening with something for everybody. Even the styles I wouldn’t normally be that fond of were played with such verve, enthusiasm and originality it was impossible not to relish the atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Half Moon, Putney, London
3rd March 2016
The last time we saw Shooter was at their ‘Recyled Teenagers’ album launch – also at The Half Moon in September last year. What a cracking night that was as we witnessed the band for the first time - recycled from the ashes of 70’s rock legends Straightshooter: slightly older, slightly greyer, but still Recycled Teenagers! So it was with a heavy heart that we made our way to one of the longest running and most respected music venue's in London to see their farewell gig.
Supporting Shooter that night back in September were Southbound – a young exciting 5 piece band playing their own British Blues and Blues Style Rock. So much so that the guys walked away with our 2015 WRC ‘One’s To Watch’ award and they also played at our 2015 WRC Xmas bash supporting Albany Down. Thanks to Shooter frontman Dom O’Riley, we were able to present Southbound with their award before their set – with a canvas print of a photo taken by ‘Rock On The Ridge’ radio show host Bob Wilson at that very same gig last September.
The band from Cheshunt immediately validated their award with their unquestionable dynamic on a new groovy song with a slice of slide guitar from Elliot Stout on ‘Do You Wanna Know’. Similar to their set at our Xmas bash it tonight was more or less made up entirely of their own original material and Aaron Virciglio’s drum intro and outro nicely bookended the funkier Blues of 'Whats A Man Gotta Do'. 'Come Judgement Day' saw Stout not only excel on a guitar solo but also on vocals taking over from Tom Ford. 'Live On' and ‘Lost In The Blues’ preceded 'You Got A Hold On Me' with bass guitarist Dan Collins’ intro stepping up to the plate, complemented by the dueling guitar solos of both Stout and rythym guitarist Jordan Carter. Tom Ford’s vocals on ‘First Time Love’ proved what a charismatic frontman he is – again ably backed up with solos from Carter plus what could only be described as an ‘All Along The Watchtower’ moment from Stout. Very cool. The guys rounded off their set – as they did at The Horn in December with 'Lonely Blues', 'Rock Bottom' and the rockin' 'The Desert' - with Tom kindly thanking the WRC for their deserved award. No ‘Lover Boy Blues', no 'Book On A Shelf' nor 'Georgia Peach' but just thankful that this was not their farewell gig!
The Half Moon filled up a lot more for Shooter’s set including their good buddy and ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell - just a pity that most of them missed out on the excellent Southbound. Despite the sad circumstances, but similar to six months ago, there was a definite party mood in the room as the assembled fans and followers waited for the band to take the stage. Shooter literally opened with a ‘Hotline’ to the hearts of all those assembled - their July 2015 single from their ‘Recycled Teenagers’ album and followed it up with ‘Too Much’ also from ‘RT’ with Dr. Feelgood's 'Riot in Cell Block No. 9' sandwiched in between! In addition to vocalist/guitarist Dom O’Riley, Shooter line up with Ian 'Mutt Lang/Farmer Giles' Turner on rythym guitar, Tony 'Fru Fru' Ecclestone on bass and Mike 'Where's My Earplugs' O'Riley on drums. The guys let their hair down covering Free’s ‘Wishing Well’ before delving back to ‘RT’ with ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ and the title track - which we should really adopt at the WRC! Suppose it was no coincidence that after ‘Recyled Teenagers’ we had a Stones’ Honky Tonk Women’ cover and then back to ‘RT’ and 'Bad Experience' with it's uncomplicated foot tapping rhythm – the HM was rockin’ or was it simply that last pint of Lager I had just finished off? Who cared as ‘RT’s’ ‘Time' was mightily sandwiched in between Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ On Heavens Door’ and Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ - the latter naturally bringing a tear to the eye for the right reasons. Shooter finished off with the two big hitters from ‘RT’ the excellent single ‘Turn It Up' plus 'Straight Shooter' that was originally written in 1978. Dom’s “We'll See You Never Again - Good Night!" hit home before they launched into their covers encore of the Small Faces 'All or Nothing' and The Stones 'Brown Sugar'. There was also talk of a snow machine for their Xmas finale ‘Christmas Times A Time To Rock?’ but unfortunately another lager clouds my memory – all I know is what a swell farewell party that was! All the best guys!
St. Paddy's Day Blues
Proud Camden, London
17th March 2016
It is perhaps unusual for the organiser of a night to review it, but while Blues In Britain magazine, who were represented, may do so, I'll beat them to it!
The Proud Camden venue in The Stables Market on 17th March was the location for the first venture into a live music night by the British Blues Exhibition - www.britishbluesexhibition.co.uk. The exhibition celebrates history, but it celebrates the past to help more live Blues music be played and listened to in the present and future. So the exhibition itself hosting live music nights was a logical step to take.
'The debut event 'St Paddy's Blues' on St. Patrick's Day was built with the help of co-organisers Juliette Vix and Ornella Caponi, and much appreciated support from the Wrinkly Rockers Club, the Cambridge Rock Festival and others. It drew in music figures including Jukin' Jenn, who has her Bucket of Blues radio show; Richard Dunning, Blues DJ on Croydon Radio; photographer Paul Dubbelman; and the designer of the event poster. Musicians including Bob Hokum helped swell the audience, but what swelled the audience most of all were a beautifully dressed group of Blues dancers drawn from across London, chiefly from the 'Down & Outs' troupe, an offshoot of Swing Patrol - Their couples dancing with such style and grace and delight was a treat to the eye, especially on those occasions when they all danced at once. Brilliant.
That undoubtedly made the night more unusual and inspiring for the musicians. As organiser, manning the merch, talking to friends and answering questions and popping here and there on various missions wasn't great for lapping up the music, but it is ever a pleasure to see the Laura Holland Band, with its horn section and special vocalist in action, as they were for the first hour of the night. In the break before the next act, it was a pleasure to show off in public two items acquired by the British Blues Exhibition, but hitherto under wraps. One was one of the three used, signed harmonicas donated by exhibition supporter John Mayall, another the 50th anniversary banner of the Crawdaddy Club, where, as I mentioned, live Blues music continues in Richmond, just as it does in the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham.
The Saiichi Sugiyama band took to the stage next, and showed that their take on classic British Blues Rock, which pulls in some intriguing influences including Cream, Motown and Stevie Wonder, has a significant upbeat, danceable side, as the Down & Outs and friends continued to take to the floor. Their new album is out later this year, around the time of their September-October tour. Again, the band was fronted by a talented lady vocalist, but the last act of the night was led by a male singer.
One of British Blues very finest acts was Cream - Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. Their famous and iconic songs were co-written by Pete Brown, and Pete put the stamp of history on the night as well as producing a very fine musical performance. Belying his years, Pete sang with fire and humour, including songs from his personal musical repertoire, but fittingly closing the evening with 'White Room' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love'. Pleasingly, a member of Jack Bruce's family was present and said it was "...a fab night. I enjoyed myself in what was a fun entertaining show."
With the help of all those involved and present, the British Blues Exhibition not only celebrated history, it made some of its own. We will be back at Proud Camden on 12th May with more history to make, more top quality musical entertainment, and with a little more help from our friends. See this website and the exhibition website and Facebook page for more.
Darren Weale - Proud Wrinkly Rocker and British Blues Exhibition founder
Focus & The Earls Of Mars
The Underworld, Camden, London
21st March 2016
Can it really be just under 43 years since Focus's iconic performance at The Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, London, and a mind boggling 46 years since the release of their very first album? Well all roads led back to London last Monday night as the legendary Dutch Progressive Rock played The Underworld, Camden - a late venue switch given the Jazz Cafe's current refurbishment. A bit like trigger's broom, the heads and handles have changed over the years and I suppose it's an added bonus that the band currently has half of it's original roster from the 70's on the basis that when they reformed twenty years later at the Whitchurch Festival in 2002, the only 'original' was Thijs Van Leer on Hammond organ, flute and vocals. The story goes that Van Leer's nephew and bass guitarist Bobby Jacobs was trying to put together a Focus tribute band and had all the positions covered with the exception of - you guessed it - keyboards, flute and vocals. He turned to his uncle and - as they say the rest is history - not only was Van Leer on board but as he was part of the original broom - they were going to be the real deal and no tribute band!
The evening however kicked off with The Earls Of Mars with frontman Harry Armstrong on keys and vocals, Dan Hardingham on guitar, the upright bass of Si McCarthy and Dave Newman hidden away at the back of the stage on drums. With their set list including song titles such as 'The Astronomer Pig', 'Cornelius Itchybah' and 'The Swinger' - which was introduced by Harry as “This is a song about taking the dog for a walk” - you get the quirkiness of their Rock genre drift - sort of Summer Solstice next stop! A marmite sandwich immediately sprang to mind - and despite a few punters around me not getting it (you will be named and shamed) - I personally enjoyed TEOM and was entertained by a combination of Armstrong's eccentricity, Hardingham's head banging riffs plus the engine room of Newman and McCarthy (particularly his hypnotic upright bass). The old adage of you should try everything once certainly applies to TEOM!
There can't be many more iconic sights in Rock than seeing the leather coated heavy figure of Van Leer walking across the stage, taking his rightful position behind the wooden bulk of his well used/loved Hammond Organ. Although I must admit that I did choke on my beer when the geezer standing next to me said that Thijs needed a new one! As the sorcerer's apprentices also filed out on stage - the irony was not lost on me that just Van Leer and Jacobs remained from that memorable day in 2002 - now with Menno Gootjes on guitar plus another (sort of) 'original' - drummer Pierre Van Der Linden - who made his Focus debut on 'Moving Waves'.
They started where it all began with the opening instrumental from 'In And Out Of Focus' - Gootjes sympathetic guitar oozing every bit of emotion from this masterpiece complemented by Jacobs, Van Der Linden and of course Van Leer with his magic flute. What an opener! For the peripheral Focus fans in the audience - the hit single 'House Of The King' from 'Focus 3' got the Underworld rockin' again thanks to Van Leer's flute - although weighing in at a paltry Prog sub-standard three minutes! As for their newer stuff 'Ode To Venus' from 'Focus 9/New Skin' slowed things down again although in my book the classic from new generation Focus has to be the re-engineering of 'Brother' - Van Leer combining the vocals on the 1978 'Focus Con Proby' version with their outstanding instrumental on 'Focus 8'. An unexpected standout on the evening - bringing the synergies of four top musicians very much to the fore. However, despite Van Leer pointing out that their performance of 'Eruption' from 'Moving Waves' would be an abridged version - perhaps for those of us planning our next toilet break given the only Gents open were in the pub upstairs - we were not to be disappointed. Is there a better guitar solo knocking around than this?
Talk about 'Eruption' - this was more orgasmic as Menno masterfully pushed the shadow of Akkerman to one side. Absolutely unbelievable and without doubt the number of the night. We were on a roll now and was a bit disappointed when I misheard Thijs saying that they were going to play the whole 'Hamburger Concerto'. In fact they played two great tracks from 'HC' - 'Harem Scarem' and 'La Cathedrale De Strasbourg' - although these never normally hit the mark for me live - in fact the last time I saw 'LCDS' - Van Leer gave up with sound issues! Gootjes, however, surpassed himself with his instrumental on 'LCDS' - ding dong! Of course the two Focus tracks that every self -respecting Rock fan must know are 'Sylvia' which they blasted out brilliantly mid-set following a groovy intro plus 'Hocus Pocus'. The latter was the last in the set - opening with both a distorted Jacobs guitar and Van Der Linden drum solo - Van Leer of course introducing the band a la The Rainbow '73 - this time even adding both their merchandise manager and their sound guy! And just when we though that was it - they came back on well after 11pm with 'Focus III'. These guys certainly knew how to put in a shift! What a night! In my opinion - the "Mother Focus" of all Progressive Rock gigs!
Puddle Of Mudd, Unzucht,
The Fallen State
O2 Academy, Islington, London
27th March 2016
You could cut the apprehension with a knife as we sat in The York before Easter Sunday's Puddle Of Mudd O2 Academy Islington gig. Social media was already in overdrive following frontman Wes Scantlin's well documented problems which had predictably materialised already on this UK tour. We knew one way or the other that we were in for a memorable night and sure enough we got the ball rolling when Wrinkly The Silver Fox accidentally smashed his glass - the resultant beer wave ending up on my lap and all down my jeans. Not a good start.
No doubt a few cynics reacted to the fact that, as there were two support bands, this would compensate for Wes' stamina and perhaps an abridged POM set list. We would see. First up were young Hard Rock band The Fallen State from Devon - who to be fair had an ace pedigree - previously touring with Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm, The Treatment, Young Guns and Heavens Basement. And in their seven song set - they emphatically got the message across that they were not just there to make up the numbers. Their set list 'Hope and Revival', 'Lost Cause', 'Great Unknown', 'Sons of Avarice', 'Burn It To The Ground', 'You Want It' carried a momentum and their finale 'Sinner' (taken from their current EP 'Crown Your Shadows') nailed the fact that if you love hi-octane, groove-ridden, rock n' roll then those guys are for you. With vocalist Ben Stenning and guitarist Jon Price leading from the front, impressively supported by Dan Oke (guitar), Greg Butler (bass) and Rich Walker (drums) - make sure you catch them again at Camden Rocks on Saturday 4th June.
As a result of the paranoia surrounding Wes - we accept that we did not do our homework in advance on both support bands. So it was both a pleasant surprise and an irony - given the England game the previous night - that the next band were indeed from Germany. If you can imagine a cross between Rammstein and Avantasia - then Unzucht pretty much hit the mark. OK it would be very churlish to say that this is German manufactured Rock in it's element - but this was a first for me and I admit I found it really entertaining. Who could not fail to love lead singer Daniel Der Schulz taking Dark rock to another level with his black eye-shadow and tight leather trousers in contrast to the threatening guitar of the tattooed and bare chested Daniel De Clercq. And with a set list that included 'Unendlich', 'Todsünde 8', 'Seelenblind', 'Schwarzes Blut', 'Meine Liebe', 'Deine Zeit läuft ab', 'Kettenhund', 'Während wir ins verlieren', 'Der letzte Tanz', 'Unzucht', 'Nur die Ewigkeit' and 'Engel der Vernichtung' - not only was it a tribute to their originality but it also gave us the opportunity to thrown in the occasional "3-2" during the audience participation. Not forgetting the qualities also of both Alex Blaschke (bass) and Toby Fuhrmann (drums) - we were definitely getting value for money.
The moment of truth had arrived with tangible anxiety already spreading in the crowd in the form of unnecessary petulance. Shame that. And to be fair that seemed to be forgotten as Wesley Reid Scantlin ambled on to the O2 Academy stage. They say that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression on someone. When we first bumped into Wes in a bar in Amsterdam in 2012 - he was so cool and real pleasure to talk to. Nothing was too much as we recorded some soundbites and took a few pics with him. In fact later in our conversation Wes opened up and you could detect he had some personal issues. Four years down the line and for those that had not seen Wes before - that first impression would have been that this guy was wasted.
Therefore, it was with a mix of personal emotion that we roared when Puddle Of Mudd opened ironically with 'Drift & Die' - Scantlin now being the only 'original' as he grimaced with his delivery and appeared to hold on to his microphone stand for dear life. Despite concern for Wes' well-being - the crowd were of course ecstatic - the POM roster now completed with guitarist Matt Fuller (ex-Bow Wow Wow), drummer Dave Moreno and bassist Michael John Adams - who were for the time being bit-parts as the audience were transfixed on Scantlin as they launched into - would you believe it - 'Psycho'. The evening had become a bit like a boxing match - the crowd willing Wes on after every round and it has the desired effect as they moved on to 'Control' (don't you love the apt song titles) which as usual was entwined with Sabbath's 'War Pigs' which Wes appeared to relish. Scantlin was sort of on a roll now as he dedicated 'Nothing Left To Lose' to his old sparring partner Fred Durst - enough for us to relax for a bit and appreciate Fuller's riff on this classic from 'Life On Display'. Given 'Re-Discovered' - the only complete cover on the night was Neil Young's 'Old Man' (possibly dedicated to the WRC - but not confirmed) which had a great Fuller guitar solo and then we had a Bruce Forsyth moment introducing 'Blurry' when both Matt & Wes agreed that this was "the best crowd we've ever played for" and was dedicated "to anyone who has ever lost somebody". Did "they take it all the way" - they most certainly did - as the audience finally unshackled the chains of a possible disaster and grasped the opportunity with hands firmly held in the air!
"Thank you so fuc*ing much" praised Scantlin as he suddenly left the stage - suitcase and all! Perhaps our support band conspiracy was right after all! Oh ye of little faith as the guys gradually returned to the stage for 'Away From Me' where Wes hit the nail on the head with his introduction "this band has ruined every single fu*king relationship that I've had in my entire life". "Scream!" And the punters duly did on the opening of another 'LOF' classic. Stress levels were slightly raised again as Wes sat down in front of Dave's drum kit although morale was quickly boosted, not only when he got up, but also thanks to the welcome news of a new CD in the pipeline with Mr. Durst. The "Oooo's" in the crowd welcomed another from 'LOF' - 'Spin You Around' - although it then got even more surreal as Scantlin introduced 'Spaceship' from 'Songs in the Key of Love & Hate' - and then aborted this as he wanted a smoke! He was then enticed back on stage after his cigarette break thanks to a crowd sing-a-long of you've guessed it - 'She Hates Me' - which also saw the late introduction of a quickly assembled mosh pit which we were right in the middle of. Boys will be boys eh Wes? "She Fuc*ing Hates Me" was Wes' parting shot as he departed with suitcase in tow. Well we don't fuc*ing hate you Wes - just please get your demons sorted out mate. What a night!
SIMO, Fred Abbott, The Second Echo
The Barfly, Chalk Farm, London
7th April 2016
The crutch lying next to JD Simo on the Barfly dressing room floor was a mighty shock as we learnt during our pre-gig interview that JD had a "Dave Grohl moment" when he dislocated his knee on stage on the first leg (no pun intended) of SIMO's European tour in Paris three days earlier. The stock question of "how's the tour going so far?" met on this occasion with an incredulous answer! Anyway, White Hot Nashville Blues trio SIMO returned to London following their critically acclaimed St. Moritz Club showcase gig plus their Walter Trout support at The Forum last November. Watch out for our full SIMO interview shortly but as usual with recent London gigs we have attended - their were two support bands.
First up were The Second Echo - a London based contemporary Rock 'n' Roll band with Joe Foster on vocals & guitar, Oliver Marks on lead guitar, James McKone on bass and Ben McKone on drums. Well if Joe Bonamassa can endorse SIMO then a ringing endorsement from BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe of their single 'Sugar Mama' can only help their CV can't it - as the guys proceeded to play a raucous concoction of Rock, Blues, Funk and Americana from their recently released self-titled debut album - the stand-out track for mine being the infectious 'Redeemer '. A great start to the evening got even better with the arrival of ex-Noah & The Whale guitarist and keyboard player Fred Abbott. Following the band's split he released his solo album 'Serious Poke' in July 2015. The Rock n' Roll album, which features fellow members of Noah And The Whale and other friends - was understandably heavily featured in Fred's set - the highlights being 'How Good It Feels' and 'Adrenaline Shot'. Suffice to say both support band albums were purchased during the evening - with SIMO still to come! Excellent!
Despite limping on to the stage, lead guitarist and vocalist JD soldiered on - sitting on a chair with bass guitarist Elad Bishop showing solidarity by also sitting on another chair on the other side of the stage with drummer Adam Abrashoff completing the trio in the middle. And if you wanted immediate proof that JD's impediment wouldn't restrict his performance - the Classic 70's Rock riff of opener 'Right Now' left you in doubt that they could still rock out despite said incapacitation! 'There and Gone' despite its brevity kept up the incredible pace with another catchy rocking riff before they launched into the first track from their new album 'Let Love Show The Way' namely 'Two Timin' Woman' giving JD the opportunity to move into overdrive with some cool slide guitar plus a neat drum outro from the outstanding Abrashoff. So far the setlist was pretty much on par with what we saw at the St. Moritz - The 'Big Country' style opening riff heralding 'Long May You Sail' - in my opinion an epic from 'LLSTW' - classically extended with a mid-section JD jam. However, a new inclusion on the night was 'Becky's Last Occupation' - also from 'LLSTW' -with yet another riff to die for - with both Adam and JD giving it all in their 'rockin' chairs'! Wow!
And talking of classic's - the initial pull of SIMO for me was the demo 'I'll Always Be Around' - JD's slide and Abrashoff's drumming intro enticing you in - before this standout track explodes into life. Cue another awesome JD guitar solo and you have a reason for buying 'LLSTW' on its own volition. The opener to 'LLSTW' - Elmore James' 'Stranger Blues' was a welcome addition to the set given it sets out the stall for what can you expect from 'LLSTW' with its 'Doorsy' 60's feel. The psychedelic feel of 'LLSTW' was kept up by doffing their caps to Hendrix with the storming 'I'd Rather Die In Vain' before - amazingly, for the first time in the set - they slowed things down with the cool Blues of 'What's On Your Mind' - from their 'Love Vol. 1' EP. Many would believe wrongly that it's a Blues standard and a cover - which in the past JD has performed before using Duanne Allman's Les Paul. They guys closed out their set with the same three songs from St. Moritz - but once again highlighted their versatility. The lengthy prog of 'Off at 11' again off of 'Love Vol. 1' including a great drum solo from Abrashoff, their incredible cover of 'With a Little Help From My Friends' - JD's vocals a fitting tribute to Cocker with Elad adding a pipe to his rockin' chair - and finally their encore - 'Evil' from their first self-titled album - with its Zeppish 'How Many More Times' type riff with a 'Howlin Wolf twist. Despite their current mobility issues for the rest of their European and American tour - SIMO are on a roll! If you missed them in the UK you can catch them them again at the Cornbury Festival on Friday 8th July and Ramblin' Man on Sunday 24th July. Do not miss out.
Wolfmother, Electric Citizen
The Forum, Kentish Town, London
20th April 2016
Was it really just over ten years ago, whilst thumbing through the much missed 'News Of The World', that I came across a review of Aussie Rockers Wolfmother's first album, describing their Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and AC/DC influences? Upon investigation - my very first play of 'Woman' on Youtube is still vivid to this day - as is when I first played the self-titled album all the way through. Ten years down the line and just four albums later - it's fair to say that their path has been chequered although the Wolfmother constant driving force is still there - namely vocalist/guitarist Andrew Stockdale. Following the release of their latest knock-out album 'Victorious' - the three piece - now with Ian Peres on bass & keyboards and Alex Carapetis on drums were on the last leg of their UK tour at the Forum, London - switched from The Shepherds Bush Empire because of on-going roof repair work.
We just caught the end of Ohio support band Electric Citizen before positioning ourselves centrally towards the front of the packed stalls. The static frizzy hair of Stockdale was welcomed on to the stage although the follicle challenge of Peres' beard and long hair won hands down. They launched immediately into 'Victorious' - a Wolfmother blueprint - with its stand-out riff and Stockdale's unique vocal exploring every sinue of their existence - still delivering those classic rock influences. For those punters present who had not heard the new album - 'New Moon Rising' from second album 'Cosmic Egg' got their juices running - hence the consequent mosh pit - resulting in an honourable retreat to the bar towards the side. And by the time the aforementioned 'Woman' was let loose - the Forum was rocking!
Small talk is not one of Stockdale's strong forte's - the subsequent AC/DCish quick turnaround of songs adding to the intensity of their set as they followed up with both 'Apple Tree' and the gargantuan 'White Unicorn' from their first album with another great newbie from 'V' 'The Love That You Give' sandwiched in between - but keeping up the delightful momentum. Wolfmother were not putting all their 'Cosmic Eggs' in one basket either as they dipped into their second album with 'White Feather' and 'California Queen' before dipping in to their third album 'New Crown' - which for mine had slipped under the radar due to no label support and little promotion - with the short but effective Bluesy 'How Many Times'. Well it was the 'Gypsy Caravan Tour' after all - so half way down the order we were treated to this stormer from 'V' - Peres' keys jousting with another trademark Stockdale guitar riff.
If any fuel needed adding to the mosh pit fire then Carapetis's pounding drum intro to the awesome 'Dimension' - "Oh yeah" - did the trick - Stockdale's guitar solo plus Peres' hypnotic bass line taking all of us "Into another dimension!" And if you needed any proof that the new album had more than one or two good tracks and that Wolfmother would not purely rely on their proven back catalogue to take care of the set - then the unrelenting pace of "The Simple Life' and 'City Lights' nailed this - although the acoustic intro of 'Pretty Peggy' took things down a notch - evidence of the versatility of Victorious' on songs such as 'Baronness' and the brilliant 'Best Of A Bad Situation' - which sadly weren't given an airing on the night.
Now it was time for the run-in and the big hitters from their seminal first album. The distorted feedback, bass and drum heralded 'Pyramid' complemented by Stockdale's amazing guitar, vocals and Peres' organ. And if the next track was ever deserving of the name 'Colossal' then this was it - the guitar/keyboard riff marriage made in heaven rightly sending The Forum punters into a frenzy as Wolfmother weaved their way through this classic. The unmistakeable foot stomping opening of 'Vagabond' (dedicated to Prince two days later in Cologne) was Wolfmother's first encore, Stockdale and Peres ultimately pogoing around the stage before they finished with of course 'Joker & The Thief' - where the opening fusion of guitar, organ and drums knows no bounds - the riff taking all those lucky to be present into overdrive - not for the squeamish! So good to see Stockdale back on track, not only for the great album but also for the Wolfmother faithful as well - hopefully taking them both, in the future, into another dimension!
Jeff Lynne's ELO, The Feeling
O2 Arena, London, 20th April 2016
It was one of those bright spring days when it seemed every other radio station was playing 'Mr. Blue Sky'. It certainly didn’t feel like 30 years since ELO last concert toured. But the fans at the O2 Arena on the first of a four night stay knew exactly how long it’d been. Some may even have been counting the years. And the anticipation of whether Jeff Lynne could still cut it, was palpable. In the lengthy queues and security checks, conversation naturally turned to how exactly the 68-year-old might manage the energy of those hits. The main man shuffled on around 9pm. He looked cheery, hairy and healthy – not unlike Chas from Chas & Dave, in fact. After muttering some welcomes in his affable Brummie tones, Lynne looked around to check everyone was on stage. The musicians included three keyboards (including original ELO man Richard Tandy), strings, drums, some additional guitars, and an opera singer. A series of intergalactic-themed videos – the new album is called 'Alone in the Universe' – were projected behind the stage.
The band then launched into the lesser known 'Tightrope' from 1976 album 'A New World Record', with cascading violins and cellos tumbling into a cheery rolling-piano motif. The piano juxtaposed with the back-projections made the room feel momentarily like a giant pub perched at the end of time. Next up was 'Evil Woman', a personal favourite of yours truly, with its West Coast soul-disco guitar riffs. Half way through the man in front of me turned to his wife, wide-eyed, and pronounced “My word, they really are dead good.” Of course they were. Lynne would never have allowed anything less – nor could he have written such complex-yet-easy material without a perfectionist streak a mile long. Every detail had been thought through, from the musicians in the band and sound system, to the impressive light show and arresting projections. As for the man himself, his voice, dark aviator shades, guitar - and also the Kevin Keegan hairstyle – hadn’t moved an inch in all those years. Remarkable. I felt like i had stepped into a time warp..!!
Nor had the repertoire lost any of its feel good magic. That was no surprise. After all, it’s ELO’s resurging popularity – and constant requests for live shows - that made all this happen in the first place. Once upon a time the words “cheese“ and “guilty pleasure“ would be bandied around in relation to the band. These days cheese is back on the menu and no-one feels remotely guilty. From start to finish the stalls comprised a sea of silver wrinkly heads – the demographic was decidedly mature – bobbing and gyrating. Faces were lit with Cheshire grins, and arms punched the air. A couple of new album songs – 'When I Was A Boy' about Lynne’s Birmingham boyhood and 'Ain’t Life A Drag', with its echoes of Lynne’s fellow Travelling Wilbury Roy Orbison, from the new album (first since 2001), showed they could hold their own. But it was the high-octane oldies that really got the room moving. 'All Over The World', and 'Living Thing' had a typically vibrant feel. 'Stepping Out', from the 1977 'Out of the Blue' double album, showcased the Beatles influence (it was very George Harrison), while the special effects went into overdrive with a huge rotating telephone dial up on stage for the slow swoon of 'Telephone Line'. However, it was the closing four tracks,- 'Turn To Stone', 'Don’t Bring Me Down', 'Sweet Talkin’ Woman', and of course 'Mr. Blue Sky' – that really sent shivers up the spine. Unsurprisingly, they also brought the house down.
That just left the encore – 'Roll Over Beethoven', complete with an intro of Ludwig's 5th Symphony, courtesy of the string section. The irony was, of course, that Chuck Berry’s original was all about one form of music making way for the next. Lynne, on the other hand, had just proved the enduring power of nostalgia.
It isn't every day you get to see one of the first bands you remember being into as a late teenager in the 70's, but finally after waiting about 40 years to see and hear Jeff Lynne and ELO let rip live, at last I got the chance (after missing the public concert "comeback" at Hyde Park in 2014), and as someone else once sang - "Oh what a Night!" The support band The Feeling initially seemed a strange choice but once they got started having them as support made a lot of sense and they sang and played wonderfully, and were a very worthy choice. Mostly melodic pop rock numbers from the 2006 debut hit album 'Twelve Steps and Home' with the big hit singles like 'Sewn', 'Fill My Little World' and the closing song 'I Love it When You Call' went down very well indeed... They have released 4 albums since which i need to check out, the latest one being self-titled and released in March...Well worth a listen..
But once the bearded ELO frontman and his band came on stage, that was it - the atmosphere was electric, the set magnificent, the musicianship awesome and oh, the beauty of that sound. Quite a feat in the 02. The most spot-on sound engineering I’ve heard in this cavernous venue. A man of many words Mr. Lynne is not and he leaves awkward silences apart from a few sincere thank-yous but once the music and words start flowing, the songs say it all. Punk may have been more exciting in the Seventies, but listening to these songs performed by an absolutely impeccable 13-strong band, six of whom joined together on harmonies like big audible sunbeams, it was very hard to find flaws. There was no flying saucer descending onto the stage like on the 1978 tour this time and it was a bit of a shame that poor old Horace Wimp didn't get a look in! But by only forcing two new songs on the audience, Lynne seems very content that his old ones are newly appreciated. More than that, they’re completely adored.
This current incarnation of the Electric Light Orchestra will follow Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton to play the prestigious Sunday afternoon “legends” slot on Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage this summer. Perfect!! The whole package was an utter joy and the perfect example of how a comeback can sound as lively and vibrant as three decades ago. As I wandered off home with other WRC members, as a happy fifty something, I was left wondering if we ever would see such a spectacle again. Maybe not, but as Lynne would say: “Never mind, I’ll remember you this way!"
All Over the World
When I was a Boy
Ain’t It A Drag
Can’t Get it Out of My Head
When the Night Comes
Shine a Little Love
Wild West Hero
Turn to Stone
Don’t Bring Me Down
Sweet Talkin’ Woman
Mr Blue Sky
Roll Over Beethoven(Chuck Berry cover)
Wrinkly the Silver
Jeff Lynne's ELO, The Feeling
O2 Arena, London, 20th April 2016
So: There we were on Wednesday evening, heading towards the O2, a world class venue with a totally sorted sound system, to see ELO, completing a journey that you could say started last summer when Wrinkly organised a trip to Hampton Court to see an ELO tribute band which unfortunately, thanks to the incompetence of our national rail system, we never got to see! So when Wrinkly said he had a spare ticket to see the real thing I grabbed it with both hands!"
I think at this point that I ought to fess up to the fact that whilst ELO were part of the soundtrack of my youth and I can name at least a dozen of their hits, I don’t think I ever bought one of their singles or albums and have always thought of them as a “Pop Group”, rather than a “Rock Band”; and in any case, didn’t they disband in the mid 80’s?
The answer to that question is yes; which, in its turn, raises the question of who we were actually going to see then? Well the answer to that one is that we were going to see “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, a creation dating from 2014 and in which, as is the case of many of 70’s & 80’s bands that are still touring in the 21st century, Mr Lynne is the only original member of The Electric Light Orchestra in the new line up.
That said, on to the main event! The current live line up has 13 people on stage, and is a reassuring mix of classical and modern instruments, that played a 19 tune set which included many old favourites including 'Evil Woman', 'Wild West Hero', 'Telephone Line', 'Don’t Bring Me Down', 'Sweet Talking Woman' and 'Mr. Blue Sky'. Also included, were a sprinkling of newer songs such as 'When I Was a Boy'. The old favourites had the crowd on their feet singing along, great atmosphere all round.
After a well-deserved standing ovation following the main set, the band returned to stage and to the cheers of the crowd the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth boomed over the auditorium, unfortunately the lead guitarist fluffed the opening riff, but that apart, 'Roll Over Beethoven' (my personal favourite), bought a great gig to a brilliant conclusion; more cheers and richly deserved!
So, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, would I go and see them again? Well, the answer to that is an emphatic YES and since Saturday I now have an ELO greatest hits CD in the car. I had forgotten just how good ELO are.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 28th April - 1st May 2016
Well, it was a wet one. First year I had tickets for all four days, but only made three out of four.
Thursday: rained (Jan says a torrential storm) from 11.30am until 3pm. Waded to Jazz Fest at 2pm - got there to hear one last song from Sonny Landreth, settled in for Gary Clark Jr. and the skies cleared. Tedeschi Trucks, with Jimmy Vaughn and Billy Gibbons joining, with horns and back up singers - counted over 12 people on stage - was a 2016 Jazz Fest highlight. Caught the last few songs of Elvis Costello, including 'Pump It Up', to end the day. All in all a wet but good day.
Friday: no rain, except for the version of 'Purple Rain' we caught by My Morning Jacket. The Revivalists killed it, great set list, Paul Simon was good, and the sun was out. 'Brass' by the Dirty Dozen Brass band was cool. Beautiful.
Saturday: caught the Soul Rebels, some twerking with Big Freedia and got in the Blues tent for a killer set of Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings as the heavens opened. Ran over to the Lagniappe Stage to avoid the lightning and see Andrew Duhon, and stand at the Horseshoe Bar and drink Pilsner urquells, when they postponed the Fest. Good news is my buddy Bill and I had tickets for the Axial Tilt show with Charles Neville on sax, and Donna Jean Godchaux, Rat Dog members and a few others, starting at 10pm until 3am (3 sets, one acoustic, great 'Dead' covers all around), so resting up was good, but they cancelled Stevie Wonder, Beck, Buddy Guy and Snoop Dog. Took 4 times as long as normal to get back to our hotel. So before the late night show Jan and I went to dinner at the Desire Bar in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. As I visited the restrooms, they and the lobby were packed. Something was going on. Little did we know Stevie Wonder, Trombone Shorty and friends played in the hotel bar. Missed it by dumb luck.
Sunday: got back to the hotel at 4.30am after great 'Dead' sets from Axial Tilt. Rained (torrentially) at 11am. We pulled the plug on Jazz Fest at 12, as we were soaked and it is still raining (6pm now). Heard some of the shows went on, some did not. Missed Neil Young, if he played, the BB King tribute, Bonnie Raitt and Trombone Shorty. Was sad and soaked. Did get to go over to one of the Revivalists open house (Zach the guitarist) and hang with Rob, Amanda and the other Revivalists parents in town for Jazz Fest. Not a bad day, but light on the music.
Food every day was wonderful. Peche Wednesday, Frankie and Johnny's Thursday, Herbsaint Friday, Desire Oyster bar Saturday and off to Redfish grill tonight. You come to New Orleans not only for the music but the food as well. We will hope for better weather next year but we made the best of it this year and we did get to rock, roll and eat.
O2 Arena London
Saturday 7th May 2016
As well as continuing seemingly without pause to release new material over the last 36 years, Bryan Adams has also built a considerable name for himself as a photographer, campaigner and philanthropist. But the focus was entirely on music for his gig at the 02 Arena, one of the stops on the UK leg of a European tour in support of his newest album, 'Get Up'.
Steeped unashamedly in the realms of Dad Rock, the 56-year-old Adams performed a selection of the biggest hits from his 13-album catalogue with remarkable energy, repeatedly high tailing it from one end of the stage to the other during several guitar solos. There were also a few less-well-known, fan-requested numbers and some material from his 13th and latest album, for form’s sake, all of which were politely received by the crowd. But it was clear, and he didn't do much to hide the fact, that this was a night mostly geared at the revved-up rockers in his catalogue.
Adams’s enormous oeuvre is full of songs you didn’t realise you knew all the words to. He wheeled out his much-covered 1985 power ballad 'Heaven' early in the set, and let the audience sing the entire first verse back to him without joining in. Adams sometimes couldn’t seem to believe the audience knew so many words either: “I love it when you sing, man,” he said, more than once, in a quiet voice. The hits came thick and fast such as the timeless anthemic ‘Run To You’ and even though he must have performed monster singles such as '(Everything I Do) I Do It For You' so many times that you wonder if he also sings it in his sleep, he didn’t betray the slightest hint of anything other than delight at being able to share it with a crowd yet again. He was completely at home on stage.
Jukebox fave 'Summer of ’69' was raunchier live than it is in the recorded version, accompanied by footage on video display screens that included crash zooms of inked lyrics into a naked woman’s crotch. All this is laddishness which is perhaps unbecoming in a performer who is, after all, entering his late fifties. But then, it was at least in keeping with the sentiment behind his storming performance of 1996 release '18 Till I Die'. His signature song, 'Cuts Like A Knife' sounded raw and fresh as an inspired and eager crowd sang along to fill out the familiar "nah-nah-nah" chorus much to Bryan's visual delight.
There is a theme throughout the evening and that theme is craftsmanship. His voice which still sounds like he has gargled battery acid backstage but hitting the high notes with ease, is effortless and faultless throughout, with his guitar playing equally so. And then there is the backing group led by the force of nature that is Keith Scott. The guitarist is as good as they come and Adams lets him go to town with wildly innovative and impromptu shredding solos on a number of occasions, particularly on 'It's Only Love'.
The encore encompassed a rousing cover of Eddie Cochran's 1958 rockabilly classic 'C'Mon Everybody' and Elvis's 'All Shook Up'. It was rounded out by solo acoustic versions of even more selections from his deep bag of hits: 'Straight From The Heart' (complete with his own harmonica accompaniment) and a gorgeous set-closing 'All For Love', during which Adams asked everyone in the arena to hold up their lit phones to fill the sky with thousands of tiny lights, which resembled a starlit night.
It’s an intimate end to a barn-storming fusion of songs spanning over four decades, the new songs sitting very comfortably amongst the classics, I should add. There is nothing bad to say, it’s a great evening of good old-fashioned Rock and Roll delivered with a warmth and enthusiasm that leaves everyone smiling. For those lucky enough to be in attendance, they were, for those one hundred and thirty minutes with Bryan Adams playing his old six-string, 18 ‘til they died. Mr. and Mrs. WTS have seen him quite a few times now.. It won't be the last...
Do What Ya Gotta Do
Can't Stop This Thing We Started
Don't Even Try
Run to You
Go Down Rockin'
Kids Wanna Rock
It's Only Love
You Belong to Me
Summer of '69
When You're Gone (solo acoustic)
(Everything I Do) I Do It for You
On A Day Like Today
If Ya Wanna Be Bad Ya Gotta Be Good
Here I Am
I'll Always Be Right There
Please Forgive Me
Cuts Like a Knife
18 Till I Die
The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You
Brand New Day
C'mon Everybody (Eddie Cochran cover)
All Shook Up (Elvis Presley cover)
She Knows Me (solo acoustic)
Straight From the Heart (solo acoustic)
Into The Fire (solo acoustic)
All for Love (Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting cover) (solo acoustic)
Remember (solo acoustic)
Wrinkly The Silver
Big Boy Bloater
100 Club London
Sunday 15th May 2016
Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs Roots and R&B rocked the iconic 100 Club venue in Oxford Street, London last Sunday night. On the fourth leg of their 'Luxury Hobo' UK tour, BBB&TL’s mixed it up with some great tracks – new and old. In fact - given it was the last day of the Premiership season (well almost) – to use a footballing analogy – their set was very much a case of two halves.
BBB&TL’s released their new album 'Luxury Hobo' at the end of February and with a fascination for textures and subtle narratives 'LH' sees Bloater in a tougher, deeper and more expressive mode following a bout of depression in 2013 which has led it to take a lot darker and personal tone. The brilliantly entitled 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - which opened seven consecutive songs from ‘LH’ - with BBB&TL’s 70's rock n' roll style big guitar and keys plus lyrics - which Bloater said (in a soon to be broadcast interview before the gig) that everyone could identify with! 'Robot Girlfriend’ further reinforced Bloater's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with his mean Blues guitar solo - whilst the quasi title track 'Luxury Hobo Blues' saluted the genre with its catchy neat riff.
Songwriter and Total Radio Rock presenter Bloater’s Howlin’ Wolf/Tom Waits-esque gravelly vocal delivery, coupled with his distinctive and dynamic guitar style has seen him build on the Blues foundation offering insights into rockier territories, aided and abetted with his ability to weave story-telling around barbed observations. This is typified by 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', a musical barnstormer - with its brilliant baseline, awesome keyboards from Dan Edwards, mean guitar and imaginative lyrics, which Bloater delivers perfectly in (and I had it on good authority from a BBB&TL’s virgin) a very George Thorogood-esque manner. And if you haven't seen the Vid yet then do yourself a favour and check it out on Youtube - it's hilarious – Bloater’s Lego and all.
Hand-clapping heralded the arrival of 'I Got The Feeling Someone's Watching Me' with it's tango feel rubber-stamping the musical versatility of 'Luxury Hobo' followed by the Bluesy slide guitar intro of 'The Devils Tail' again with some standout groovy piano. 'All Things Considered' proved that Bloater certainly has 'Soul' in his locker – with Matt Cowley on drums and Steve Oates on bass guitar taking it to the limit.
BBB&TL’s then went back to their self-titled debut album with ‘Every Path Has It’s Puddle’ which originally featured Imelda May – with its ‘feverish’ drum intro and its “kiss and a cuddle” reinforcing the vocal and guitar quality of Bloater’s earlier stuff - followed by the groovy ‘I Can’t Forget About You’ and a rock ‘n rolling ‘Double Whammy’ from their second album ‘The World Explained’. You’ve heard of ‘Messin With The Kid’ but ‘Messin With The Booze’ took us back to Bloater and The City Shakers – the fusion of Edwards keys and Bloater’s guitar a mighty nod to Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Classic!
It’s not actually ‘Rocket Surgery’ is it? Well actually it was as BBB<’s delved back to their first album with this fast mover plus also ‘Sweet & Brown’ – the guys getting up a full head of steam by now as – “Hallelujah” – we were welcomed to “The Church Of Big Boy Bloater” – cue the gospel interaction with the Bloater congregation. “You guys are good” being Preacher Bloater’s response. The 100 Club was now rockin’ and yes we were ‘Insanely Happy’ bopping away to this track again from ‘The World Explained’. And the day after Eurovision 2016 – even if the intro to ‘Big Fat Trap’ sounded a little bit like Abba’s ‘Ring Ring’ – Bloater went on to prove he is the “King Of Twang” on this belter from BBB&TL’s debut album.
BBB&TL’s rounded off their second half with another fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from ‘The World Explained’ before rounding off the gig and keeping up the pace of ‘Luxury Hobo with its closing track 'Not Cool Man' - with it's awesome keys, guitar and lyrics including the line "he's a nose picker" - you can't accuse those guys of not being entertaining! Very cool man! And they kept the best for last as Bloater’s distorted guitar intro meant we were closing with the foot-tapping 'LH' opener 'Devils Not Angels' and its killer Stranglers/Costello style keys, rock n' roll guitar and Bloater’s distinctive gruff but great vocals. What a great song to round off a brilliant evening. Watch out for Bloater’s Wrinklycast interview shortly - but in the meantime make sure you catch the guys before their UK tour ends. Do not miss them!
Hillbilly Moon Explosion/Dick Dyamite & The Doppelgangers
The Borderline, London
Monday 16th May 2016
You must have seen that Toyota Advert featuring Primal Scream and 'Movin On Up'? The one with the audience going wild as the band rock out on stage playing with their cellos and double bass? We're challenged to "redefine fun" and "it's time to reinvent tradition". The irony was not lost on me as Dick Dynamite strolled on to the Borderline stage last Monday with his double bass in tow - supported by his Doppelgängers - namely Loz Hawkins on guitar and Aitor 'Sleepy' Gonzales on drums. Their frenetic delivery was very much in line with their Facebook profile "sociopathic bastards from a planet on the far side of the sun. Some say they play music, the truth is much more sinister..." but the intense Phsycobilly from the half-naked DD&TD's went down well with their home town crowd as they beat the s**t out of their last CD 'Dead Man Walking'. More like waking the dead but definitely redefining fun!
The suave Hillbilly Moon Explosion released their new album ‘With Monsters and Gods’ just three days before this one-off UK gig. THME’s last single 'My Love For Evermore' has become a phenomena with dozens of fans comparing tattoos on the band’s Facebook page with the songs inspiring at least 30 cover-versions and nearly seven million of views on Youtube! A half-English 4-piece hidden away in the unlikely habitat of Switzerland, they’ve honed their craft without distraction for many years. Searching for the right sound, they’ve previously recorded in San Diego, Camden and Tooting, but for this album they went back to the local Swiss studio where they made their early Rockabilly albums, allowing more time to get it spot on!
Well HME certainly not only demonstrated the Rock in Rockabilly but also the breadth of their Rock n' Roll with the lovely Emanuela Hutter on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Duncan James on lead guitar, Sylvain Petite on drums and Oliver Baroni on slap bass and lead vocals. Going with the genre territory, I pretty much showed my age explaining to my son that the HME gladiators entered the stage to The Tornados 'Telstar' which was appropriate as they ripped through a set list of over twenty songs in front of a packed crowd given it was a Monday night. Their following was not disappointed as they mixed it up obviously with new tracks from 'Monsters & Gods' including the title track, 'Heartbreak Boogie' and 'Midnight Blues' plus their old stuff such as the title track from 'Buy, Beg Or Steal' and the punkish 'Down On Your Needs' with Hutter on rhythm guitar.
But it's not just the quality of their music, but the charisma of the band that really makes the cogs in HME infectious with James' big white Gretsch (ooh Mrs.) purring on 'El Camino', Petite's drum solo on - you've guessed it - 'Let There Be Drums' (vive la France), Londoner Baroni's vocals on 'Dead Cat Boogie' rockin' his DB accordingly and the hypnotic Emanuela doing Debbie H proud on 'Call Me'. Stand out's on the night for mine were 'Temptation' - with Hutter appropriately in her Motorhead t-shirt/tight leather trousers and its 'Pulp Fictionish' intro, "Is he really going out with him" heralded 'Johnny Are You Gay' ('If I Had a Hammer' eat your heart out), the delightful tangoesque 'Natascia', 'My Love For Evermore' where Duncan stepped up to the plate for the first time on lead vocals, and the encore - OMD's Enola Gay - the ever-smiling James returning to his day job with a great guitar instrumental. What an explosive night - proof that it's time to reinvent tradition!
Manic Street Preachers
Royal Albert Hall, London
Monday 16th May 2016
The Manic Street Preachers have gone back 20 years to celebrate their triple platinum selling game changing record 'Everything Must Go' that scored them their first commercial success, and the mood is one of some kind of homecoming. Gritted teeth ode to the working class 'A Design For Life' arrives straight after James Dean Bradfield plays the rest of the band onto the stage with 'Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier', rousing the crowd to their feet in an instant. Recorded after co-lyricist Richey Edwards' disappearance 21 years ago, the track is a hailstorm of working class rage and ambition; backed by archive footage of bloodied protestors. It’s as powerful now as it was then and sees the RAH – and many of boxes and stalls that climb the walls of the venue – swaying in unison, rugby shirts and feather boas alike.. And even though the night is mostly a celebration of the Manics’ second great period, the presence of their long-missing talented but tortured wordsmith is also keenly felt.
As Bradfield tears into a distorted guitar solo for the title track it’s clear the band will struggle to please everyone for the second half of the night, but they’re definitely going to do their utmost best. Powering through the centrepiece, gangly bassist Nicky Wire changes outfits (again) as the statesman like Bradfield, dressed like an accountant on a post work pub crawl these days, switches up guitars, bouncing around the stage with all the energy of a teenager, the pair are utterly irrepressible. But of course your eyes can never escape the scissor-kicking sass of Wire - not to mention his ever-sharp wit and banter. "That's the only reason I agreed to these gigs," he smiles, "I get three costume changes".
The rarely heard run-through of the mid-nineties album also reminds the audience of the other top-ten singles ‘Australia’ and ‘Kevin Carter’ .'The Girl Who Wanted To Be God' – is a lost disco-infused indie club classic and Bradfield’s acoustic 'Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky' is spine-tingling. It might be two decades old, but tonight 'Everything Must Go' in its entirety sounded youthful and exhilarating and these middle aged millionaires perform with absolute commitment. As Bradfield put it: “Call it Britpop, call it whatever the fuck you want – it was ours !!!"
Following a brief interval, the second part of the night offers the epic guitar anthems which have become their trademark with some rarities including a curveball which was a pleasing new cover of Scottish new wavers Fiction Factory’s glossy 80's one hit wonder ‘(Feels Like) Heaven’ which the crowd lap up. 'Your Love Alone' off 2007 album 'Send Away The Tigers' nods to Pink Floyd and The Who, along with their own track the barnstorming 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart', is a symbol of the band’s longevity and their talent at drawing in new fans from every generation; there are fathers and sons, mothers and daughters cheering side by side tonight. Naturally 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and its unquestionable greatness sounds all the more magnificent in a venue such as this, while the punky cheek of 'Nat West-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds' was probably never intended for the Royal Albert Hall when they debuted it in toilet venues back in 1991, but its prediction of the banking system bringing about the apocalypse sees its place more than earned...
While they decide against a rendition of their anthem supporting Wales for Euro 2016, there’s such a sporting element to the night; in the camaraderie on and off stage and the roars of the crowd as they drink in the energy the band are pouring out, entertainers as much as they are artists ("You probably bought this single from Woolworths", Wire quips ahead of 'You Stole The Sun From My Heart').
The mighty fist-clenching 'If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next' from the 1998 album 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours' is about as perfect a finale MSP could go for to close the evening, a cue for ticker tape to spread across the RAH, leaving the audience to filter back into the night knowing they had witnessed a national treasure. 20 years may have passed but ‘Everything Must Go’ is a record that has stood the test of time, by a band that will continue to do so without any problem..
Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier
A Design for Life
Everything Must Go
Small Black Flowers That Grow in the Sky
The Girl Who Wanted to Be God
Interiors (Song for Willem de Kooning)
No Surface All Feeling
Suicide Is Painless (Theme from MASH) (Acoustic)
Ocean Spray (Acoustic)
Walk Me to the Bridge
Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
You Stole the Sun From My Heart
Roses in the Hospital
Show Me the Wonder
(Feels Like) Heaven (Fiction Factory cover)
You Love Us
If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
Wrinkly The Silver
The Franklys, False Heads
& The Pacers
The Borderline, London
Thursday 26th May 2016
The evening of 26th May got off to an inauspicious start: Colin and I agreed to meet at the only pub in Oxford St, ideally situated less than 200 yards from the Borderline, but we couldn’t agree on its name. Was it the Tottenham? Or was it the Flying Horse? Or would we end up in two different pubs looking like a couple of Nobby Nomates? Well, it seems the pub used to be the Flying Horse but, several decades ago, was renamed the Tottenham - long enough ago for nobody to remember it was ever called the Flying Horse. Except Nicholsons, the owners, who last year decided to rename it again as, you’ve guessed it, the Flying Horse! All clear now? Despite the confusion, at least we ended up in the same pub and, after tarrying awhile for a few refreshing pints, we headed to the Borderline for another evening of live music.
First band on were the Pacers, a London based garage quartet, not to be confused with Pacer, a punk rock band also based in London, nor the US based Pacers, a ska band from Milwaukee! The Pacers had a distinctive sixties sound, with a strong psychedelic flavour. Most of their songs were fast and exciting, with compelling guitar riffs drawn from the likes of the Stooges, Nirvana and Pink Floyd. Typical examples were 'Hold On' and 'I’m Down', the B side of their recent single. Surprisingly, their set didn’t include the A side ('Losing Touch'), maybe because its slower, trippy sound may not have been well suited to the Borderline audience. The Pacers set provided a great start to the evening; it was a pity the audience was still building up and many latecomers missed them.
The Pacers were followed by False Heads, an alternative rock band with roots in East London. After personnel changes in 2014 and 2015 False Heads has now settled down as a three piece: Luke Griffiths (vocals and guitar), Jake Elliott (guitar) and Barney Nash (drums and vocals). Unusually, when on stage, drummer Barney Nash comes across as the most charismatic member of the band, disappearing in a blur of perpetual motion whilst also providing backing vocals in a manner that brings back memories of Keith Moon.
False Heads songs were built around uncompromising gargantuan jangly riffs. They are propulsive and energetic, with deep English melodies; their youthful imperiousness was reminiscent of early Pixies. The overall result is an alternative punk rock hybrid sound that has earned False Heads a loyal cult following, but is unlikely to break through to commercial success. One song that did show the pop sensibilities of the Buzzcocks was 'Steal and Cheat', their latest single. 'Steal and Cheat' has a slightly more upbeat garage punk vibe, with a large dose of hedonistic indie oikishness. Overall, False Heads gave us a frenetic live stage performance, boosted by their youthful determination and artistic grit.
After False Heads came the Franklys, the evening’s headliners. The Franklys bill themselves as “an all girl rock 'n' roll band based in London, 50% Swedish, 25% British, 25% American, 100% rock ’n’ roll.” The band comprises American drummer Nicole Pinto, local talent Zoe Biggs on bass and, up front, Swedish pair Jen Ahlkvist (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) with her bitter sweet and ever so edgy vocals, and Fanny Broberg (lead guitar). The overall result is an exciting explosion of raw, frenetic, sweaty energy: a solid, driving rhythm section fronted by double-barrelled screaming guitars and melodic guitar hooks, lending a rich variety to the styles and sounds that cascade off the stage.
Picking out individual songs for special mention is difficult, but 'Bad News' was a typically thunderous piece of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll, with rock hard riffs and powerful vocals, reminiscent of early Black Sabbath. 'Comedown', the band’s latest single, was a cautionary tale from the edge with a message of empowerment. The Franklys played it with an electrifying swagger and metallic crunch. 'You Go I Leave' started with a steady, rhythmic beat, soon complemented by a powerful guitar riff and strong, wailing vocals, building up to a creative crescendo. The girls were so obviously enjoying playing music they liked, how they liked it, that their attitude, enthusiasm and commitment inevitably rubbed off on the audience, who loved every minute.
Overall, the three bands all contributed to a loud, fun evening of rudimentary, raucous rock - highly enjoyable!
Pacers set list:
Part of the Scene
This time I know
Forget Everything You Know
Franklys set list:
What You Said
Some People Leave
You Go I Leave
'Big' Ian Cawthron
Lilith And The Knight, JOANovARC
& Fire Red Empress
The Borderline, London
Thursday 18th May 2016
You must have experienced it - one of those nights out where you're a bit apprehensive - but it actually turns out to be quite memorable. Cue Matt from Savage Gringo who kindly invited the WRC a fortnight ago to the Red Vixen Records launch party at London's Borderline. The evening started well at the Crobar next door to the Venue as we bumped into our (old) mates Dom O'Riley of Shooter fame and ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave 'Bucket' Colwell. After a catch up and a couple of drinks we made our way downstairs to The Borderline just in time for the first of three short sets.
First up were Lilith And The Knight, a 4 piece hailing from London with Lilith on Vocals, Adam on guitar, Tom on bass and Francesco on drums. With the captivating Lilith fronting this Hard Rock and Metal band, LATK were just out of the studio where they had just recorded their first EP, which they duly aired on the night including their cracking new debut single 'Wake Up'. Fair play to the band as their infectious antics on stage was passed on to an appreciative audience - even finding time for a cover of Guns N' Roses 'Paradise City'. A great start to proceedings.
JOANovARC - a four piece female force of nature - were the meat in the gig sandwich and were up next. Not only had the WRC seen the girls just a month earlier as the backing band at the excellent 'One Night Of Rock' - but we also found that 'Bucket' had recently booked JOANovARC at his recent wedding reception - praise indeed. You couldn't make it up! Another short set saw JoA showcase their powerful new single 'White Trash' which was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios, with producer Gil Norton (The Pixies, Foo Fighters) - due to be released on Friday 10th June. They also premiered 'Live Rock ’n’ Roll' from their forthcoming album to be released later this year plus a respectful cover of Prince's 'Purple Rain' - both of which encapsulated their undoubted live energy. Describing themelves as "Puss In Boots" - with Sam Walker on vocals, bass & rhythm guitar, Shelley Walker on lead guitar & backing vocals , Laura Ozholl on vocals, guitars & bass and Debbie Wildish on drums - JoA sure kick some arse!
"Follow that" - as the saying goes - with Fire Red Empress entering the arena - the Borderline faithful anticipating the promise of an arsenal of thunderous Hard Rock, huge Stoner Rock riffs and soaring anthems! Having just finished the recording of their debut album, FRE went for it, cramming into another short set as much as they could without resorting to any covers. The stand out track on the night being 'Black Morphine' - which incidentally was not only co-written by Diamond Head's Brian Tatler but also features a guitar solo by Tatler on the album. The set also heralded the debut of new singer Jennifer Diehl (formerly of Furykane), with brothers Paul & Carl Gethin on guitars, Ben Picken on bass and Luke Middleton on drums. Their single 'Hail The Face' typified the anthemic content of their music and before we had the chance to head-bang any more - the night was over.
What a swell launch party that was!
Olympic Park, London
Saturday 4th June 2016
AC/DC became the first band to perform a major concert at The Olympic Stadium at London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The concert, was the first major event in the stadium after the transformation works were completed. The stadium had been undergoing work since 2013 to turn it into a year-round, multi-use venue. The work included installing the largest roof of its kind in the world, a community track, innovative retractable seating, spectator and hospitality facilities and external landscaping. I looked around with one thought when us WRC members got there after a few beers in Waterloo and a bar in Westfield Stratford..... The Olympic Stadium really is rather huge and when the pre concert tape began to roll, the place was only 2/3rds full.
This was a spectacular show which featured pyrotechnics, flames, fireworks and giant cannons. The veteran rockers, who are currently being fronted by Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose in the absence of singer Brian Johnson, powered through a mammoth two hour and 10 minute set packed with hits from their back catalogue. Announcing his entrance ahead of 'Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be', Rose joked about the recent bad weather: “They told me it's cold. It's not fucking cold, it's actually kind of nice. It's a nice place to be.” The singer was no longer consigned to his throne which he had borrowed from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, after recently breaking a bone in his foot during a surprise Guns N' Roses club show in Los Angeles. Instead he wore a special boot which allowed him to move around freely and he was lively enough throughout.
Rose seemed to be in a suprisingly jovial mood, turning up eight minutes early in fact, was looking rather healthy and although not saying a lot, cracked some jokes throughout the set at one point advising the crowd ahead of 'Rock 'N' Roll Train': “You having a good time? You on the party train? Don't get hit by the party train. I've been hit by the party train and it's fucked up." For me though it wasn't all about Axl and his air raid siren vocals.. After all, as the internet had promised and despite many London fans asking for refunds when news broke in April that he would be deputising, he did in fact sound quite a lot like Brian Johnson, confidently managing to pull off big-hitters early on like 'Shoot to Thrill', 'Back in Black' and 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'. It seemed to me that he understood he wasn't the star of the show. Has he finally matured ? Not sure on that one.. Anyway I felt all the real stagecraft was provided by the consistently brilliant lead guitarist Angus Young who is the heartbeat of AC/DC, and the only survivor of the band formed with his brother Malcolm in 1973. It's ridiculous how much energy that guy has got... And as for playing a guitar-solo-with a tie that is just plain silly.... He is a joy, and if it sounds slightly uncomfortable to say that watching a sixty one year old man cavorting around in a schoolboy uniform playing guitar is something everyone should witness, nevertheless it’s a fact.
'Rock and Roll Damnation' was a welcome Powerage-era addition to the set list. 'Thunderstruck' got a particularly strong response from the crowd, 'Hells Bells' led to the first of the famous props to show, 'If You Want Blood…' was a fine reminder of the power of the band at full tilt and once the sun went down, the rapport between the remodelled band and audience really did start to come together. The whole stadium now was lit up by fans wearing flashing devil's horns, and when Young played the opening chords of 'You Shook Me All Night Long' a wave of euphoria swept through. The big screens captured the moment showing girls on shoulders, and men punching the air. There was more great stuff to come. Axl's Brian Johnson impression may have been flawed occasionally but he did a mean Bon Scott as I thought he would. 'T.N.T'was great and 'Whole Lotta Rosie' - where Axl reprised the version he used to play with Guns N' Roses - even better.
Late on, the rest of the stage blacked out, and Angus Young turned 'Let There Be Rock' into a staggering display of endurance. Dripping with sweat, the Glasgow-born guitarist writhed on the floor like a Scots salmon, playing his guitar as if his life depended on it. Mesmerising is the only word I can find to describe it.. He was everywhere, throwing himself around, duck-walking on top of the speaker cabinets and generally being Angus. Brilliant...
It wasn't really until the encore, though, that we really got what many had been waiting for. 'Highway to Hell' started with Angus appearing through a trapdoor surrounded by flames. Then Axl Rose returned to the stage. He was now fully kitted out in his trademark bandanna and kilt and proceeded to rip through the song like a man possessed. It was fantastic stuff. This wasn't like reality star Adam Lambert trying to fill the shoes of Freddie Mercury, as there is no doubt that Axl is rock royalty in his own right so this was the real thing. It was irresistible, and, young and old, the crowd lapped it up, seemingly grateful for a blast of uncomplicated escapism. Next up was 'Riff Raff', something we rarely got to enjoy with Brian Johnson, and then the big guns of the gladiatorial closing number 'For Those About To Rock'. This sounded a defiant note: Change of personnel or not.. this band ain't done yet. The rumoured Slash appearance on stage never materialised, but then AC/DC were never that kind of band.
Like an antipodean Status Quo, AC/DC have forged a decade's long career of about three chords. This is both impressive and limiting. Impressive because they have written more than a few stone cold classics within the format; limiting because many of the songs inevitably end up sounding the same.. But this was not a night for complaints or contemplation from me or any of the other 60,000 odd present... This was heavy rock at its best and Axl and AC/DC proved themselves masters of the genre. Axl Rose the team player? Truly, I’ve seen it all now….
Rock Or Bust
Shoot To Thrill
Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be
Back In Black
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock 'N' Roll Damnation
Rock 'N' Roll Train
Given The Dog A Bone
If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down In Flames
Have A Drink On Me
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway To Hell
For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
Wrinkly the Silver
Wembley Stadium, London
Sunday 5th June 2016
There’s something about a Springsteen concert that is different to any other – it doesn’t matter if it is your first time or your 100th, the expectation is there hours before The Boss hits the stage. Added to that on this occasion was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and all the ingredients were there for a festival style evening.
There’s no point in trying to convert anyone to the virtues of Springsteen they are there for all to see – regular followers know he will take to the stage with little fanfare and deliver around 4 hours of Springsteen magic. The great thing is that no two concerts are the same except for the fact it is clear that even at the age of 66 he still has boundless energy, amazing enthusiasm and a genuine love for his fans new or old. Tonight was to be no different as he engaged continuously and at close quarters with the fans who adore him. I detected that The Boss may not have been very well but did he moan about it - not once because it was the fans night out and nothing was going to spoil that.
So at 6.15pm The Boss enters the arena with no fanfare and of course no support – who needs another band – and promptly reels off 33 tracks from his immense back catalogue often without stopping to take a bow between songs – astonishing. I don’t intend giving a blow by blow description of each song - there is no need to as we all know he plays tracks from the oldest to the newest album – he has never been stuck in the past and is as current today as he ever was. I witnessed this when he sang songs from newer albums that I was not totally familiar with but the youngster's around me immediately joined in with. Added to that was the side of Springsteen we all know and love as he invited a young girl on to the stage to sing with him – the look on her face said it all and as her poster said she has school tomorrow and you can imagine what she would be talking about. The Boss then invited a new band on stage to play 'Dancing in the Dark' with him – these guys were a tad older than the young girl but they reacted like kids let loose in a candy store.
And so before you knew it, the final strains of 'Thunder Road' died over Wembley Stadium and the Boss reluctantly left the stage. He may not have played 'Born in the USA', which although a shame, shows the stature of the man as most other artists would be booed off if they didn’t play arguably their most iconic song – not this guy - he is too big for just one song.
Saturday 11th June 2016
Sunday 12th June 2016
OK it was wet, wet, wet, but Download was a first and another off of the bucket list for the WRC as we took in both Saturday and Sunday at Donnington Park last weekend. We had obviously missed Friday headliners Rammstein and by all accounts - from those who witnessed it, and those who we spoke to on the Saturday shuttle bus from Derby station to Castle Donnington - they were awesome. I suppose it doesn't get more iconic though as we passed East Midlands airport when we spotted Iron Maiden's Ed Force One on the tarmac which had actually landed earlier in the day. To be fair - even though it seemed to take an eternity to get to the festival entrance - both the transport and stewarding were well organised - although the welcoming niff of the portaloos being serviced was confirmation that we were in festival territory.
And if you needed affirmation of the vastness of Download then this was all too plain to see once you entered the site with the punters seemingly milling around like ants to the right of 'The Lemmy Stage' - way in the distance! Rival Sons were indeed playing the same said stage as we got our bearings - the straw underfoot now giving way to mud following the latest downpour. And if you were a people watcher - then this was the place to be - all shapes and sizes - tattoos and metal studs to die for - and an array of proudly worn black t-shirts that could never be bettered.
Once we had refuelled at the bar - we headed to 'The Dogtooth Stage' for Slaves - an American rock group formed in Sacremento, California - not to be confused with 2016 UK NME Award winners of the same name. In April this year, this post-hardcore band announced their break-up after their concert in Santa Cruz, California, but subsequently vocalist Jonny Craig and bassist Colin Vieira revealed they would continue as Slaves - touring the U.K. and Europe, before moving forward with new music. Appearing as a five-piece - the baseball capped Craig tore through their two albums 'Through Art We Are All Equals' and 'Routine Breathing' to an audience of both their fans and others seeking refuge from the elements - but both pleased to witness the energy of this intense set. The rain relented for a while, so we then caught part of of Megadeth's set on 'The Lemmy Stage' from afar. Veterans of 'Monster Of Rock' at Donnington in 1988 - they shredded us with Post American World' and especially 'Dystopia' - although the stand out for mine was Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson taking us back in time with 'Anarchy In The UK' with special guest Nikki Sixx. Awesome.
However, the undercard highlight of the day was purely fortuitous - and we had the rain to thank for that. It was now pissing down so we headed back to the cover of The Dogtooth - which coincided with the sound check of The Shrine from Venice Beach, California. Billed as Psychedelic Violence Rock and Rollers - if lead singer and guitarist Josh Landau's sound check anecdotes were as good as their set then we were in for a treat. With Courtland Murphy on bass and Jeff Murray on Drums, the guys smashed it with a nod to Sabbath, Lizzy and The Who from their latest album - the appropriately named 'Rare Breed' - the set ending with Landau being lifted on his back into the crowd still playing an amazing guitar solo. Mental - but we loved it. Do not miss them if you get a chance. The first time the WRC saw Black Sabbath was at the Killburn Gaumont State in London in November 1975. We were six rows from the front and our ears are still ringing! The last time we saw Sabbath was at British Summer Time in Hyde Park in 2014. Well Ozzy and the boys headlined 'The Lemmy Stage' and as it turned out, given their recent announcement of a farewell tour in January - it wasn't Black Sabbath's anticipated swan song in the end - but it was still worth the trip up the M1 to see these rock and roll hall of fame residents! As expected the big-hitters were all rolled out including 'Into The Void', 'War Pigs' and 'Iron Man' with 'Paranoid' as the encore. For those of you that rocked out in the rain - we salute you! As the rain continued to lash down on the way back to Derby - we wondered what state 'Drownload' was going to be in for Iron Maiden on the Sunday?
Well Sunday duly arrived ... and it was still raining.... With discretion being the better part of valour I headed off to Derby City Centre to buy some wellies! Unsurprisingly most of the shops had sold out of size nine's but I did manage to find a pair of size ten's - thank God - in Matalan! Shopping on a Sunday morning inevitably led to a lunchtime drink, which in turn led to a very pleasant pub crawl along the river in Derby towards the station to pick up the shuttle. Oh and did I mention it was still raining? As well as seeing Ed Force One again - the shuttle bus ride included some great banter with both Italian and North Ireland Download fans - all part of the festival tapestry. And on the subject of festival tapestry - the iconic view that greeted us on entering Drownload could only be comparable to The Somme. And it was still raining .... time to get under cover and shop for those Download souvenir's.
In fact - talking to a Download veteran in one of the shopping tents - he confirmed that these were the worst Download weather conditions he had ever experienced. Anyway, one of the bands we wanted to see - if we could get into the tent - was Saxon on 'The Maverick Stage'. We saw Saxon last year at Ramblin' Man - Wrinkly The Silver describing them as "the perfect band for an English outdoor festival!" Well we managed to get in and it was the usual mixture of brutal and melodic, kicking off with the title track from last year's new album ‘Battering Ram’. Similar to RM - all the classics such as ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ were there. As were lead singer Biff Byford, guitarist Paul Quinn and drummer Nigel Glockler - so it was with a heavy heart that we left to get a decent position on 'The Lemmy Stage' hill for headliner's Iron Maiden.
To be honest, this was the very first time that the WRC had seen Iron Maiden live and, as they say, all good things come to an end - and who better to bring the curtain down on Download 2016 than Iron Maiden! Despite the appalling weather, as expected Bruce & the boys signed off in style with a set comprising predominantly of the new - opening with both 'If Eternity Should Fail' and 'Speed Of Light' from the excellent 'The Book Of Souls' - and the old - 'Children Of The Damned', 'The Trooper' and 'Iron Maiden' (with Eddie thrown in for good measure). Dickinson also enjoyed banter with the 85,000 strong crowd - not only getting on his soapbox before 'The Book Of Souls', but also poignantly dedicating 'Tears Of A Clown' to the late Robin Williams and 'Blood Brothers' as part of the encore to the victims of the Orlando massacre the night before. 'The Number Of The Beast' and 'Wasted Years' concluded the evening before 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' sent the very wet but happy crowd home. Download - been there - done that - not sure about next year though!
The Bad Flowers, Dirty Thrills
O2 Academy, Islington, London
Thursday 23rd June 2016
Last Thursday night the WRC witnessed a brilliant night of high octane Rock at the O2 Academy, Islington - as we cast off our 'Referendum Blues' with a massive "yes" vote for headliners Crobot, on an evening which also saw very impressive support from both Dirty Thrills and The Bad Flowers. On a night of surprises - we couldn't believe that these three highly rated bands were playing the smaller of the two Academy venues upstairs. However, the intimacy of the smaller venue ultimately added to the brilliant atmosphere - ably demonstrated by openers Dirty Thrills.
Dirty Thrills have been on the WRC radar since we featured 'Hourglass' taken from their EP 'Sweetheart Of The Slums' in August last year - although this was the first we have caught them live. The promise of "unique, incendiary blend of rocked out rhythms, scorching solos and lung-busting blues laden vocals" was duly delivered by Louis James on vocals, Jack Fawdry on guitar, the mustachioed Aaron Plows on bass and Steve Corrigan on drums. In an 'in your face' half hour set, the hometown band mixed it up with tracks from both their self-titled debut album and 'SOTS' - for mine the stand-out being the classic 'No Resolve' which the guys incidentally played (along with 'The Man Who Lost His Way' and 'Feelin') on Vintage TV's Friday Night Rock Show the following evening! Now, following extensive touring, the guys are now concentrating on writing new material but will be playing The Lexington on Wednesday 20th July. Do not miss them.
Follow that - as Birmingham three-piece,The Bad Flowers, took to the Academy stage. In another half hour set - if you ever wanted the definitive power trio then these boys were it. Entering into the spirit of the last night of their mini-tour with the other two bands - the guys were indeed sporting Crobot t-shirts - nice touch. With Tom Leighton on guitar/vocals, Dale Tonks on bass/vocals and Karl Selickis on drums - the Brummies squeezed out every sinew of energy in a charismatic performance which did their Black Country Sabbath/Zeppelin heritage proud. Selickis' up and down Jack-In-The-Box drumming, Tonks' larger than life presence plus frontman Leighton's explosive delivery were never more evident than on 'Hurricane' with both 'Big Country' and 'Living The Dream' (a former WRC Vid Of The Day) - running it very close. Another great band to watch out for - and yes we literally bought the t-shirt!
The last time we saw Crobot was at The Underworld last November and they did everything it said on the tin: "blending Funk, Blues, Metal and good old-fashioned Rock 'n' Roll into a howling vortex of dirty groove Rock, specialising in endless good time Rock hooks that sound as inspired today as they would have on AOR radio in 1974!" Consequently Pennsylvania's supernatural riffers had returned to London to mesmerise fans with their dirty groove rock. As we wrote at that time - the challenge for Crobot was to be the release of their follow up album - given the success of the critically acclaimed Nuclear Blast debut album 'Something Supernatural'.
Reassuringly the Crobot roster was the same with Brandon Yeagley (vocals/harmonica), Chris Bishop (guitar), the manic Jake Figueroa (bass) and brother Paul Figueroa (drums) - and to be fair we did have a welcome sniff of some of their new material at The Underworld. The new album ‘Welcome To Fat City’ is due out on Friday 23rd September and accordingly the kicked off with 'Plague', 'Easy Money' (with Yeagley's trademark harmonica) and the storming 'Hold On For Dear Life' (which we heard before at The Underworld) - all from the new album - the initial excitement and anticipation palpable among those present. And for those yearning for a bit of 'SS' - well it doesn't get much better than these three consecutive belters - 'The Skull of Geronimo', seeing the awesome 'Wizards' live for the first time plus 'Chupacabra'.
The venue lended itself perfectly to the interaction between the band and the punters - with the mighty Bishop delighting his army of fans by pointing to them and occasionally high-fiving! The recently released new single 'Not For Sale' with it's reminiscent opening 'Lizzy' riff - re-enforced the undoubted quality of the forthcoming 'WTFC' before they went for another classic from 'SS' - La Mano De Lucifer - Bishop's haunting guitar intro leading us down the garden path to more on stage horseplay complemented by compulsory head-banging! The title track 'WTFC' showcased the tightness of the band - highlighting the extraordinary bass and drums of the brothers Figuueroa. If there is a frontman with better vocals or stage presence than Yeagley - then I have yet to see him - simply hypnotic - weaving and rocking his mic stand back and forth - cue his harmonica intro on 'The Necromancer'.
There was one more from 'SS' - 'Fly On The Wall' - before we were in the home run with four more new - but outstanding tracks from 'WTFC' - 'Blood On The Snow', 'Serpent Shepherd' (wow!) , 'Play Cool' and 'Moment Of Truth' - can't wait for 23rd September! They finished off with two from 'SS' - 'The Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer' and the encore 'Night Of The Sacrifice'. Once again you could not knock the energy and passion of Crobot's performance which was complemented by two superb support bands. Needless to say Friday morning's OMG factor was not only restricted to the UK's EU Referendum Brexit result!
The Cavern Club, Liverpool
Monday 27th June 2016
I think most JB fans will remember their first “encounter” with THE man and the WRC certainly do! Cast your mind back to February 2008 at the Shepherds Bush Empire – we were only there because someone suggested this guy we had never heard of was as good if not better than Gary Moore!! – How dare they; we were there to disprove that possibility but we failed miserably and the rest is history!
Just over 8 years on and we were back to watch the man in an even smaller, but iconic venue, the Cavern Club. The difference being that since then JB’s stock has risen beyond belief and just about anyone worth their salt has shared the stage with him – yes there have being bumps along that road with quibbles about ticket pricing and I confess to wondering where he was going musically a couple of years back, but this was the night we could once again get up close and personal as JB played tribute to the British guitarists who were and still are his influences namely Beck, Clapton and Page!
It may have been hot and sweaty in the Cavern and the sound may have started out a bit on the dodgy side but no-one cared – from the moment JB hit the stage 350 people were in for two hours of classic “Brit” guitar!! with a tight quality band which for this tour consists of of Anton Fig (drums) and Mike Rhodes (bass), Russ Irwin (guitar and JB’s neighbour) and ex Stevie Ray Vaughan band keysman Reese Wynans, How a newly put together band can be as tight as these guys so quickly is beyond me but tight they are.
It was almost irrelevant what material JB chose to play, because the jaws of the punters, most of whom had seen him many times, continued to drop in awe. For the record the set opened with Beck's 'Bolero/Rice Pudding' followed by Clapton’s 'Mainline Florida' and Zeps 'Boogie with Stu' – all three greats covered in the first three songs – nice!! That effectively set the tone as it should – the set did what it said on the tin and the crowd loved it. Highlights for me were 'Spanish Boots' – 'SWALBR' (where JB introduced us to a little beauty of a guitar) – 'Tea for One' which JB covered on his 'You and Me' album and is one I wish he would play on his “normal” tours (any chance JB?) – 'Pretending' and 'Blues of Desperation'. Of course the night wouldn’t be complete without a tribute to the Beatles and 'Taxman' duly achieved that.
So ended a gig that I can honestly say I was privileged to attend – at my age there are many tales of iconic gigs that I have attended over the years and this one is right up there with them and the night will be retold many times over the years to come.
This is what Joe Bonamassa is all about – no frills and in your face – pure genius - long may he reign!!
Greenwich Music Time, London
Thursday 7th July 2016
Unlike some WRC members - we can't pretend that we were at London's Borderline in 2006, nor Poole's Mr. Kyps or Tooting's Jack Beards Blues in 2005 to see some American Blues Rock guitarist named Joe Bonamassa. Although to be fair, we were at Shepherd's Bush Empire for that wow moment in February 2008 and consequently went to see Joe again at Liverpool's Carling Academy in July that same year. Eight year's down the line and many gigs later, including The Royal Albert Hall, we returned to Liverpool and its iconic Cavern Club to have the privilege of seeing JB at an exclusive gig 10 days ago and now we were off to see him at Greenwich Music Time (pics: John Bull) at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. Although obviously lacking the intimacy of The Cavern - the venue was stunning - set appropriately within British history - even the sun was shining with a stage on the banks of the River Thames.
Following critical acclaim and huge crowds at both The Isle of Wight and Glastonbury Festivals (and an exclusive performance on the BBC), Joanne Shaw Taylor has previous supporting history with JB - the first time we saw her being at The Shepherds Bush Empire at the tail end of 2010 when Joe was playing in Black Country Communion. Now heading over to tour the US before returning to the UK in the autumn, The Queen Of British Blues has added some extra dates due to public demand following the release of her fifth studio album ‘Wild’ (out on Friday 30th September). Opening with 'Mud Honey' from her last album the 'Dirty Truth', it was followed by the distinctive opening riff of 'Outlaw Angel', which heralded this rockin' bluesy stand-out track from 'DT'. The slower 'Tried Tested & True' brought back memories of when we last saw JST at The Jazz Cafe last year - a poignant and personal song performed right from the heart. A power trio engine room of Tom Godlington on bass and Oliver Perry on drums saw a smiling JST 'Jump That Train' from 'Diamonds In The Dirt' which took us back to that BCC gig - followed by the title track - affirmation of why we jumped on board with JST in 2010. The groove of 'Watch 'em Burn' from her debut album 'White Sugar' showcased JST's blistering guitar style and appropriately 'Going Home' from the same album rounded off her 45 impressive minute set. No new stuff from 'Wild' but no doubt Joanne had recruited many more JB fans as she did with us just under six years ago!
Ten days earlier, Joe Bonamassa joined a host of named legends as he received his brick in The Cavern ‘Wall of Fame’ ahead of his Cavern gig - a thank you to his British fans for the support they have shown him through his career as launched his series of British Blues Explosion concert's, which pay homage to some of his musical inspirations including Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, the latter two who already also feature in the Cavern’s ‘Wall of Fame’! GMT, in front of 5,000 people, was the penultimate of his five special concerts - an artist who no doubt epitomises the music business cliche of reinventing yourself given his last three offerings of 'Driving Towards The Daylight', 'Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks', 'Blues Of Desparation' and now his latest salute to British Blues! Not unsurprisingly, JB's setlist was pretty much the same as The Cavern - although he did throw in a penultimate Zep cover 'Black Winter/Django' and of course an encore of 'Sloe Gin' instead of The Beatles 'Taxman' for obvious reasons. Also, in addition to his salute to the British Holy Trinity - BC&P - Bonamassa duly covered some John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers - namely 'Double Crossing Time' and 'Little Girl' but for mine it was so refreshing to hear a couple of Zep classic's that could be considered nowadays as being off the beaten track - such as 'Boogie With Stu' and 'Tea For One/I Can't Quit You Baby'. And on the subject of reinvention - JB's new band consisting of Anton Fig (drums), Mike Rhodes (bass), Russ Irwin (guitar) and ex Stevie Ray Vaughan keysman Reese Wynans were a dream. And what can you say about the main man himself that has not been said already? How about a two hour masterclass from a guitarist, vocalist and very modest performer still at the very top of his game? Awesome! Go Joe!
Bulls Head, Barnes, London
Monday 18th July 2016
A beautiful Summer's evening setting of The Bulls Head by the Thames in Barnes, London, welcomed Toronto based Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Chris Antonik last Monday. Halfway through his debut UK tour, an intimate setting contrasted with Chris's appearance at The Upton Blues Festival at the weekend, with his band consisting of Ben Fisher (guitar), Mark Wotherspoon (drums) and Guenther Kapelle (bass). A rising star of the vibrant Canadian Blues scene, his self-titled debut album was nominated for Best New Artist in 2011 at Canada's Maple Blues Awards and in 2013, his critically acclaimed second album 'Better For You' reached number 1 in the Canadian Blues FM Radio charts.
Focussing understandably on the undoubted strength of both the US and Canadian Blues market, good UK music press coverage in the last couple of years - had forced Antonik's hand to test the muddy waters, and hopefully take advantage of, the growing, receptive UK Blues Rock scene - despite the financial reality of touring as an independent artist. Indeed Blues In Britain's John Mitchell and his wife, who were in the audience, were accommodating Chris on this tour. Delving into 'Roll With It' and 'More To Give' from his debut album for openers, Chris then threw in his first cover of the evening - Charles Segar and Willie Broonzy's standard 'Key To The Highway' followed by the first of his songs from his second album 'Better For You' - 'Come From A Good Place'. 'King Of Infidelity' - again from his debut album - rubber-stamped his blend of innovative, thoughtful songwriting with stunning Blues guitar work - written at the time of Antonik's transformation from a club guitarist to a songwriter - allowing his creative juices to acknowledge the influences of Dylan, Cale and compatriot Cohen.
Following Robert Johnson's 'Stones In My Passway', the first new song 'Slip In The Rain' from his forthcoming album, due for release in around April 2017 - took feeding off fellow guitarist Ben Fisher to another level. Believe it or not Ben from Essex hooked up with Chris on Myspace in 2010 exchanging song riffs and lyrics which led not only to a number of songs being written for 'BFY' but also for the said new album. The undoubted power of the internet and the shift in the music industry was very apparent as the guitars of both Antonik and Fisher sweetly jousted - despite the fact that this tour was only the second time they had met in person. You couldn't make it up. Another off the new album 'New Religion' was sandwiched in between two covers - another Blues standard - Jimmy Cox's 'Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out' plus Antonik's readily admitted main British Blues influence - Clapton (and Bobby Whitlock's) Derek & The Dominoes 'Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad' which ended the first set.
Antonik kept up the heat as he opened the second set with 'I Know' another from the new album. "Classy" was how one punter summed up Chris on the night - and despite one of that said intimate crowd suggesting that Chris remove his jacket because of the temperature - Antonik maintained his standards - not only refusing to remove said jacket - but also blasting out two crackers from 'BFY' namely 'Shake Me Down' and 'Long Way To Go'. Billy Myles' 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman' preceded 'Forgiveness Is Free' - the irony - as Antonik admitted before the gig - that despite the excitement and ambition of his new album with it's keyboards, string section and horns - this tour, with its financial constraints has actually been inspiring with Ben's extra guitar adding a new layer and direction to the band. No 'Tell Me What You Need' (a track that Paul Jones recently played on his Radio 2 show) nor 'Nothing I Can Do' (they ran out of time) from 'BFY' - although there was time for the title track which gave a deserved solo opportunity for both Wotherspoon (also from Essex) and Kapelle (also from Toronto and tour driver) to show their value. All in all a great set and all round nice guy. Antonik's promise of going "outside the lines" on his new album, possibly incorporating Prog Rock, Folk, Jazz, funky drumbeats and different recording techniques - should make things very interesting - particularly on tonight's evidence.
Ramblin’ Man Fair 2016, Day 1:
Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent
Saturday 23rd July 2016
The weekend I’d been eagerly awaiting for months finally arrived; the forecast was perfect; the line-up awesome - what could possibly go wrong? Well, the M25 for a start, at a standstill before and after the Lakeside Retail Park - who the hell wants to go shopping on a day as glorious as Saturday?! But that was allowed for - you have to expect some delays on the M25. What I hadn’t anticipated was the 40-50 minute queue for wristbands at Mote Park!! As a result I missed most of the opening set from Leogun. Though not entirely, fortunately the Rising Stage was close to the entrance and Tommy Smith’s soulful vocals and hard-edge guitar riffs were clearly audible to the snaking queue on the far side of the perimeter fence! Much appreciated they were too! However, sound quality was inevitably diminished with distance, and Leogun’s engaging stage presence completely lost. I hope the Fair’s organisers can ensure such excessive queuing is avoided in future.
After just catching the end of Leogun’s set, I headed to the Planet Rock Stage to see Inglorious, one of the youngest and freshest rock bands at this year’s Fair. Their pulsating rock, which focused on tracks from their recently released, self titled debut album, set the main stage’s tone for the day. My personal favourites were the hard, pounding ‘Warning’, and ‘Holy Water’, a singalong well known to many in the audience. It was obvious the band have already built a sizeable fan base - it is not difficult to see why. For more information on Inglorious, don’t miss the WRC’s soon-to-be-posted coverage of their interview with our very own AJ and WTS, held soon after their Ramblin’ Man Fair set.
Next up was my first visit to the Prog in the Park Stage to see supergroup Frost. My initial impression was that they were a little confused - a full set of Hawaiian T-shirts is not what you expect from a band called Frost. As for lead singer/guitarist John Mitchell’s bare feet - surely he wasn’t going to regale us with Sandie Shaw impressions?! Fortunately not: the audience was treated to a varied set of contemporary progressive rock, primarily loud and fast, but finishing with the slightly slower, less experimental ‘Black Light Machine’. My only disappointment was that Frost’s set was so short: like all the early bands, they were only allocated 30 minutes and had to finish just as their set seemed about to take off!
Purson took to the Prog Stage while a few WRC members were enjoying much needed refreshments in the nearby bar tent. It made a change to hear a female voice: rock continues to be a predominantly male preserve and Rosalie Cunningham, Purson’s lead singer and guitarist, was virtually the only female on any of the Fair’s four stages all weekend! Named after one of demonology’s Kings of Hell, Purson have described their sound as “vaudeville carny psych”. From the distant bar tent it sounded like typical psychedelic rock - powerful, definitely enjoyable, but fairly straightforward. It was only when I advanced closer to the stage that I really heard the subtleties in their music and began to appreciate how Purson are infusing the psychedelic tradition with a creepy yet uplifting edge. The eroticism and magic in Rosalind’s vocals is fundamental to Purson’s progressive sound, but Sam Shove’s keyboards and George Hudson’s guitar also play a key part. The next time I see them I’ll be up front, beer in hand, before the set starts.
Straight after Pursor, I’d hoped to see Whiskey Myers on the Outlaw Country Stage but, by the time I arrived, the tent housing the stage was bulging, with crowded semicircles outside every entrance. There was little choice but to pay another visit to the real ale tent on my way back to Planet Rock, where Ginger Wildheart played a typical set of melodic hard rock. The crowd loved it, both the old favourites they knew well (was anybody not singing along to ‘Sonic Shake’?) and more recent songs (‘That’s a Nasty Habit You’ve Got There’ went down particularly well, as did ‘Ostracide’, penned in 2015).
6pm was time for the Zombies, a band originally formed, as they kept reminding us, over 50 years ago. This puts the members well into their 70’s, though none of them actually mentioned that! Only two of the original Zombies remain, but they are the key two: Colin Blunstone (lead vocals) and Rod Argent (keyboard and vocals). Apart from the obligatory couple of songs from their latest album, the set consisted of well-known songs not only from the Zombie’s history but also from the solo spells of Colin (‘I Don’t Believe In Miracles’) and Rod (‘Hold Your Head Up’). At 71 Colin’s voice is inevitably past its best and occasionally faded, but it mattered not - the songs were so well known the singing crowd was often drowning out his vocals anyway. In any case, Rod’s keyboard playing, always critical to the Zombies’ success, has hardly faltered; it was particularly impressive on ‘Time of the Season’. Of all the bands playing on Saturday, I probably enjoyed the Zombies’ set most, possibly because I knew virtually all the songs - but that’s just giving my age away!!
The most difficult choice of the day was at 7.30, when I wanted to be in three places at once: to see Thin Lizzy, Uriah Heep and White Buffalo. I decided to start at the Prog in the Park Stage, to find that, from the original Uriah Heep line-up, only lead guitarist Mick Box had survived. Not that that bothered the wildly enthusiastic crowd who were right behind the band, echoing the chorus on new numbers (‘One Minute’) and old (‘Stealin’) alike. But, for me, it was time to catch the end of Thin Lizzy. I arrived at the Planet Rock Stage just in time to see ex-member Midge Ure joining them for ‘The Cowboy Song’ and ‘The Boys are Back in Town’. By the time Midge departed, there was only time for one more song, a rousing finale of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’.
Saturday’s headliners on the Prog Stage were Family, the 60’s festival favourites. Lead singer Roger Chapman is now 74, but his vocals have held up amazingly well, retaining their unique gritty, soulful sound. His varied vocal capabilities were exploited to the full on ‘How-Hi-the-Li’, starting as a mournful wail before using changes in pace and pitch to build up to a rousing crescendo. That was followed by ‘Hey Mr Policeman’, a more upbeat song with grainy vocals. Despite their variety, Roger’s vocals remain crystal clear - you can pick up every word. Not that you really need to - the sentences they form are typical prog rock lyrics - invariably meaningless! Roger seemed justifiably disappointed at Family’s comparatively small opening crowd, and he became visibly annoyed when Whitesnake’s set started. Not only did the noise from the distant Planet Rock Stage compete with Family’s more intricate, less deafening sound, but some of their already sparse audience gradually drifted away to watch Whitesnake. Family left the stage after an hour; rumour had it they were meant to play for another 30 minutes, but refused to continue with the continuous disruption from the other stage in the background.
In comparison with some of the day’s earlier bands, Whitesnake are relatively new - they’ve only been going 38 years! Even so, David Coverdale is the only remnant from the original line-up. I reached the Planet Rock Stage as Whitesnake were embarking on a series of long guitar and drum solos. These were typical Whitesnake, giving all the musicians every opportunity to demonstrate the full range of their abilities and proficiency. However, the solos could have been better spread out across the set; enjoyable as they were, you could almost feel the audience’s relief as the band moved on to its final few songs which, with one acoustic exception, were all hard rock numbers with powerful vocals and aggressive riffs. The crowd loved it, swaying, bouncing and clapping away to the beat, and singing along at every opportunity. Whitesnake’s set closed with ‘Still of the Night’, a fitting finale not just to their own set, but to an incredible day of breathtaking live music.
Ramblin’ Man Fair 2016, Day 2:
Mote Park, Maidstone, Kent
Sunday 24th July 2016
Day two of the Ramblin’ Man Fair began with some of the WRC RM festival posse making the trek to Mote Park from nearby Bearsted where they had been lodging to recover from Day One ! Many thanks to WRC members John and Tricia Bull for their marvellous hospitality and we were very well fed and watered !!! Special shout out to John for rescuing us the night before after we were stranded outside Mote Park having gone out the wrong entrance and then finding two hopes of getting a taxi, which were no and Bob!!
So after a very pleasant Sunday morning stroll back to the Park and no long queues for wristbands unlike the start of day one, we were ready for the lunchtime start after of course a pit stop at the Beer Tent. We did attempt to get some VIP passes but were told no go as all sold out. Damn !! Anyway, first band up to kick things off were local lads Wicked Stone on the newly added Rising Stage, which is the fourth stage at the Festival. Wicked Stone are a 5 piece Hard Rock/Southern Metal band. Bringing amp blistering riffs, hard hitting grooves and spine tingling vocals, they were the perfect band to kick off the ritual of head banging and air guitar thrashing mayhem. I was really impressed with them. This was a band that took its opportunity having only been announced 3 weeks beforehand and absolutely nailed it. I understand they have not been together very long and I freely admit I had not heard of them and my only musical association with Wicked Stone up until that moment was Slash's song of the same name !! If you like Guns n’ Roses, Skid Row, heavier Whitesnake and Motley Crue then you will love these guys !! They played a track called ‘Ain't No Rest’ which was excellent and also ‘Another Round’ which could also be found on a 2 track freebie CD which in a very smart PR move was presented to fans (including us!) afterwards...They started off Sunday very well and I shall be monitoring their progress very closely from now on...
Armed with a new CD and chuffed to bits over discovering a new band, we decided to loiter around the Rising Stage which was clearly the place to view the UK's best up-and coming artists, and next up was Will Wilde. Brighton native Will Wilde picked up his first harmonica at the age of 16 and is weaned on the likes of Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Buddy Guy, Wilde grew up steeped in traditional Chicago Blues, yet his focus as an artist remains resolutely on the future. What I liked about Wilde was the fact that he fuses his obvious passion for Blues with his love of Rock. He takes what's authentic and powerful about the music he grew up loving and introduces the raw energy of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Free and Deep Purple without losing the heart and conviction of the Blues. I felt there was a bit of Canned Heat in there as well so I was particularly overjoyed when he did an excellent job covering ‘On The Road Again’ with his band which included Victoria Smith, who is one of the UK's top female bassists.. Another artist I need to keep an eye on...
Unfortunately having overstayed my time slot at the Rising Stage but with good reason, I only got up to the Main Stage to catch the last couple of songs from Australia via London Bues Rock and roll band The Graveltones who were opening up proceedings there. They are two Aussie musicians who formed the band in London in 2011 where they are still currently based. Despite the fact they have played over 250 gigs I had never seen them.. I need to get out more!!. Judging by the crowd reaction, I did catch their most famous song " ‘Forget About The Trouble’ which was pretty catchy and went down well... Another for the notebook.
It was then time to take advantage of our weekend press passes again and conduct our second band interview of the weekend following Inglorious on Day 1. This time it was with front man Scott Sharp of The Illustr8tors, the band formerly known as Blackwolf. Personally I think that the name Illustr8ors makes you sound like a rap collective, but there you go. They were performing on the Rising Stage later in the afternoon so we were granted a quick 5 minute chat beforehand. Scott explained this was basically a band relaunch so they face interesting times ahead. And judging by what a few of us heard later it might be quite a challenge so let's just wish them the best of luck...
After further refreshment to the vocal chords which included more Ramblin’ Man Ale (for me anyway!) it was time to head into the Blues Stage Tent for the first time over the weekend to see the US blues rock power trio that are better known as SIMO. Now at this point I will confess my sins and admit I that I was a SIMO "virgin" much to the chagrin of the my WRC colleagues (AJ in particular!) who have been encouraging me to see them for a while. Well this was my moment... Heralding from Chicago, front man J D Simo has been playing guitar since he was five years old and has been a working artist since his early teens. The level of class on offer here is well known. When Joe Bonamassa played his show at the tiny venue in which he’d played his first UK show ten years before, he chose Simo as the support act. So my expectations were pretty high as anyone Bonamassa approved is alright by me! To say I was blown away would be an understatement.. Yes I expected the JB level of guitar playing (well nearly!) but I did not expect a voice like Joe Cocker.. I was totally mesmerized.. The songs, although new to me, seemed to take a life of their own on stage with some monstrous jams.. And if that wasn't enough the cover of Cocker and the Beatles original ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ virtually blew the top of the Blues Tent right off! Simply fecking brilliant.. JD isn't a raconteur and at one point apologized for not saying much saying that "dialogue was through the songs." Too bloody right! The Blues Rock market is crowded right now as people look to the past for their future inspiration, but there’s a way to get your music heard above the rest. Be so good you can’t be ignored. And if talent counts for anything, then in ten years time, it’s the Nashville based Simo that are set for arenas. They are to soon to complete 3 European tours since inception and the latest album ‘Let Love Show The Way’ has received great critical acclaim... Onwards and upwards surely if there is any justice.....
It was now the time of day where the dilemmas were setting amongst the WRC group given the diverse nature of the bands playing and an attempt was made by a few to see Scottish blues rockers King King who followed SIMO on the Blues Stage but sheer volume of numbers and too late an arrival made this an impossibility so I guess we will have to wait and catch them in London at the end of November... Oh well... Can't win them all...
Me personally I had returned to the Main Stage to catch Northern Ireland's finest rock band that go by the name of The Answer, who I first saw supporting the mighty AC/DC at Wembley Stadium on their Black Ice Tour way back in 2009 which was still the most worldwide exposure the band has received to date. So therefore I was interested to see how much they had progressed if at all as I still tend to think of them as part of a new generation of bands, They are now celebrating ten years of their debut album ‘Rise’ which put them on the map. However even now, five albums in, it still stands above their other work, and it is easy to forget that a decade ago it was quite unusual to see young acts digging back into the roots of Blues-influenced Classic Rock, whereas now such bands are ten a penny.
‘Rise’ made up two thirds of the set here with songs like ‘Under the Sky’ still very strong indeed. However their set was closed by a taster of two songs being written for their next album ‘Solus’ due out in October. These were a complete departure with ‘Thief Of Light’ having a very experimental feel, and the title track was also a complex and not very immediate piece of work, but the type of song that makes sense after listening all the way through. Perhaps this was an indication that The Answer feel their tried and trusted straight Blues-Rock based approach has run its course and are embarking on an ambitious change of direction. I thought they were good but not amazing and I think they are a bit of a crossroads at the moment.. Will be interesting to see which way they go from here..
The next port of call for me was back to the Blues Stage to see a band I was very curious to see because I had heard a lot of good vibes about beforehand.. They were the Somerset Blues rockers Tax the Heat whose eagerly-anticipated debut album ‘Fed to the Lions’ was finally released in March 2016. It came with the news that band had signed with Nuclear Blast (home to Black Star Riders, Crobot and Blues Pills), who released the record
accordingly. Tax The Heat’s influences very clearly lie in the British Rock ‘n’ Blues scene of the late Sixties, as well as the Stoner and Alt-Rock vibes of three decades later, as their sound runs the gamut from The Kinks and Cream through to the White Stripes, Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They have supported Aerosmith, Thunder and Black Star Riders so have a big following already. This four-piece, attired in collared shirts, smart waistcoats and ties, do offer something a little different. Led by Jack Veale on vocals and guitar, their oeuvre was a stripped back hard rock sound with shades of classic R & B whipped up by some dynamic arrangements and great layered harmonies. And after a ropey start with some sound issues affecting the first couple of songs they hit their stride and the rest of the set was excellent with really good songs like ‘Animals’ and ‘Heavy Heart’ and ‘Some Sympathy’ sounded sharp and gritty. Later came an eye-opening cover of the Yardbirds track ‘Lost Woman’ that boasted a funky guitar makeover and some insane drumming. Jack Taylor’s simple kit was set up close to the front of the stage and, uncharacteristically in guitar driven Rock, he was the star of the show. Taylor pummeled the life out of his tubs and almost knocked them over. During this virtuoso display, the rest of the band gathered round and ensured the spotlight remained firmly on the young skinsman .I confidently predict big things for these guys. They have marked themselves out as a quality band with their own take on where they want to be.....
By this time the WRC gang were split all over the place with AJ taking in Dirty Thrills on the Rising Stage who are releasing their self titled debut album in November.. He informed me it was top notch as he returned triumphantly with a drumstick thrown at him... He and the few of the other WRC prog "experts" (Big Ian, and Wrinkly the Biker and Rob in the Grandstand seats - get them!!) took in the Finnish Prog Rockers the Von Hertzen Brothers who I gather were very loud and very good... Meanwhile I had wandered out of the Blues tent to catch the last vibes of classic 70's inspired rockers Cats In Space on the Rising Stage.. Cats In Space are a newish band who have a serious love of all things 1970′s soft Rock/power pop. You can tell this from the band’s various members who are from bands with a Seventies link like the Sweet, where bassist Jeff Brown spent some years in the 90′s in the Andy Scott version.. Maybe too cheesy for some and they threw in a Slade cover ‘How Does It Feel’ for good measure.. If you like music from the aforementioned artists and others like Pilot, City Boy and Supertramp - you’ll be in seventh heaven. The debut album ‘Too Many Gods’ may be worth a listen...
After a refuel of chips (made a change from chicken and ham pie the day before!) and a quick meeting and handshake with ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave "Bucket" Colwell (no really it was him!) it was decision time between Airbourne on the Main Stage or Hawkwind on the Prog Stage.. I was in a minority of one but plumped for the Aussie hard rock band as i had never seen them before.. (shame on me!). Only saw the latter half of the set but first thing that struck me was the size of their following which was impressive. Formed in late 2003 by the O'Keefe brothers and soon joined by rhythm guitarist David Roads, their debut album ‘Running Wild’ arrived in 2007 and contributed to half the set. It's a fact that the band are more popular in Europe than their homeland where obviously AC/DC rule the roost in crunchy rock which unfortunately is a problem. Airbourne certainly raised the energy levels though with crowd pleasers such as ‘Live It Up’, ‘Running Wild’ and new song ‘Breakin Outta Hell’ from the album of the same name to be released in September. Joel O'Keefe's bashing of cheap cans of lager on his head, his regular rig climb up and down and crowd invasion during ‘Girls In Black’ went down well too. It would be easy to be cynical about Airbourne. Yes it is unashamedly gruff and primal Rock'n'Roll, but it is the ageless and tireless uniformity of the band's approach that makes this an honest and brazen delight. Huge, macho riffs collide with gleefully lobotomised tales of booze, chicks and the noble art of kicking ass always come with a giant, instantly memorable chorus attached. Let there be more rock, basically. Perfect festival performers...!
The stage timings allowed me to pop up to the Prog stage to catch the last part of the set from surviving space rockers Hawkwind who not so much as rambled but astral planed themselves though their brand of trance like Prog fare with classic encore song ‘Silver Machine’ still fired up with enough gas in its tank to keep the festival crowd buzzing.. Hawkwind’s most famous ex-member the late Lemmy Kilmister (of Motorhead fame of course) often stated that the reason why he was thrown out of the band was because the drugs he was taking weren’t compatible to the drugs the rest of the band were taking at the time, which gives you an idea what an interesting bunch Hawkwind are and why they were oblivious to the many influences that swept the UK over the decades – or maybe it is just the vision of lone founder member Dave Brock that keeps on pushing boundaries. When you watch them on stage you can’t help but like them and their stage show would fit a one-man tent just as much as a stadium or arena or festival and from what I heard of the new album it sounded absolutely stunning and vocalist Mr. Dibs sings and narrates it well. Although this year’s motto is: ‘The machine stops’ – I don’t think it will anytime soon!!!
Now I was on the final lap and trundled back to the Main Stage to catch the main part of sub-headliners and festival favourites Thunder. Down the years Thunder have inspired devotion in their fans like few before them. Perhaps it’s because they never had that one huge crossover hit, or maybe because they resisted the temptation to throw all their energies into trying to breakthrough in America, but Thunder have retained a uniquely British tone to them, while so many other UK-born longhaired rockers spent a little too long chasing the almighty dollar. This just meant that their fans just held them even more dear and Thunder themselves have developed an innate understanding and connection with their audience and in turn their audience have remained utterly devoted to them. Therefore Thunder have continued to thrive, particularly as a live draw, simply because they are an utterly dependable act who continue to stick to traditional Hard Rock values regardless of the increasingly rapid evolution of an ever more alienating music industry.
It has always been blindingly obvious to me that Danny Bowes has been and continues to be one of the finest Hard Rock vocalists, and his phenomenal ability to play to/control the crowd is something that is only achieved through endless gigging and decades of experience. Primary songwriter Luke Morley riffs away with the confidence of a man who has utter faith in his band mates and is just out there to enjoy himself these days, and as one fellow writer briefed me before Thunder hit the stage, it’s only when you experience Thunder live that you realize what a stand-out drummer Gary James is. As established as they are, Thunder do not forget that the songs are the core of their performance, so for an hour or so Thunder lead their audience on a journey through their bulging songbook of Hard Rock tunes, with crowd favorites like ‘Backstreet Symphony’, ‘Love Walked In’ and ‘Low Life in High Places’, delivered with a reassuring lack of theatrical distractions, Thunder close their rabidly well received set the only way they could. ‘Dirty Love’ is the closest they ever came to a global hit, and has subsequently become the song that they are most closely associated with and tonight it is performed with the assistance of the whole of the Main Stage crowd … bellowing the "Na-Na-Na- Na" chorus with Bowes perfecting his role of ringmaster!! Yes, Thunder have steadfastly stuck to Hard Rock values throughout their career, because that’s exactly what their audience want them to do. While there were more globally successful long haired rockers and those who had bigger hit singles, or iconic studio albums that sold in eye-watering numbers, there really have been few better live Hard Rock bands than Thunder.
So with the sun beginning to set and the need for more alcohol, the WRC group decision was made to trek up to the Prog Stage area for the final time and from the safety of the Beer Tent observe the first part of Prog veterans Procul Harum's headline set.. All the trademark features you would expect from Procol are present: the double keyboards with the delicious interplay between Hammond organ and piano, the steady authoritative bass lines, the majestic tunes and, of course, Gary Brooker’s commanding vocals. If some Rock vocalists make life hard for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery in their early 20’s that gets more and more difficult to pull off as they hit their 70’s, then Gary Brooker chose wisely. Brooker’s
cool and melancholic vocals are as strong tonight as they were in 1967, when the band first hit the charts with ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.
While I love the unique sound of Procol Harum I must confess to only never ever having owned a Procol Harum album ! So after taking us on a stunning journey as dusk arrived through the likes of opener ‘Shine on Brightly’, ‘Pandora's Box’, ‘Conquistador, A Salty Dog’ and ‘Homburg’ there was just one song left. Finally the band hit on the familiar chords of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, one of the most recognizable, most majestic and surely one of the most beautiful songs of the late 60’s. A powerful end to a magnificent performance.. For me they must now rank alongside Pink Floyd in the great British Progressive Rock pantheon. And at the end of day two of the festival just the perfect band to chill out (and drink to!) So good that we stayed longer than we intended to.. (well I was only going to stay for 30 minutes!!).
Fortunately there is still time for us to catch the end of one last band, and the honour of closing the event goes to Kentucky's Blackstone Cherry who have literally flown over for the day just to play this show. Still criminally small in their own country, they have been taken to heart by Hard Rock fans in the UK and now have two successful arena tours under their belts. They have also twice headlined the second stage over at Download. Tonight though they are the headline act on the Main Stage and it's obvious the meaning this has to the band. Unfortunately they suffer from some bad luck and a lot of their gear hasn't arrived in time for the show including their backdrop, meaning it's a pretty bare stage that they are performing on. This doesn't mean much however because for both the band and their passionate fans it's all about the music.The main set is closed with crowd favourites 'In My Dreams', 'White Trash Millionaire' and 'Blame It On The Boom Boom' smashed out in bombastic fashion, before the band return and close out Ramblin' Man Fair 2016 with appropriately 'The Rambler', 'Lonely Train' and a quick run through of 'Ace Of Spades' in honour of Lemmy which was a stroke of genius..From what I heard(and I will be seeing them again in London in December I promise!) this was the perfect set to close a great weekend of music which has celebrated the past and looked to the future.
So the merry WRC band still standing finally dragged themselves away from Mote Park for another year and predictably got lost trying to get back to Bearsted for the night only to be rescued thank God on the Ashford Road by a friendly cabbie. Same time, same place next year? Why the devil not! See you on the 29th and 30th July 2017 then Ramblers for number 3. Can't wait.. ..!!!
Wrinkly The Silver
Cargo, Shoreditch, London,
Wednesday 17th August 2016
They didn't arrive on the Cargo, Shoreditch, stage until 10.45pm - and their set list only consisted of six songs but Tribal Pop band Natives - appropriately from The New Forest - were well worth waiting around for! The band were celebrating the recent release of their single ‘Stop The Rain’ which is taken from their forthcoming second album - heavily influenced by the band’s recent trip to Morocco, which inspired their huge sound.
In association with 1883 Magazine and Radio X, the band opened with previous single (and their first release in two years) 'Chasing Lions' - immediate affirmation of their distinctive sound (think Lion King) complemented by stand out backing harmonies. Sandwiched in between the impressively catchy 'Stop The Rain' at the end were four new tracks: 'Passion', 'Pray', 'War Paint' and 'Animals' - all of which went down well with the Cargo punters. The four-piece band consists of Andy White (drums and percussion), Greg Day (bass), Jack Fairbrother (guitar, keyboards) and Jim Thomas (vocals) - their tribal theme also giving the guys the opportunity to play various percussion - despite their short set. Natives return to London on Thursday 8th September at Dingwalls supporting MOTHXR.
Eel Pie Club, Twickenham,
Thursday 25th August 2016
The last time we caught Slim Chance was at London's Borderline in January 2014 - a fantastic set which actually won them our 'Best Acoustic' 2014 WRC Award! Slim Chance has its origin in the early seventies, formed by the legendary and brilliant songwriter, the late Ronnie Lane, who had been a mainstay of both the Small Faces and The Faces before he went on to pursue his unique musical vision with Slim Chance. Turn the clock back a further 38 years (ouch) and we also saw them of course with Ronnie at Olympia's Great British Music Festival along with the esteemed company of The Pretty Things, Nazareth, Charlie, Be Bop Deluxe and some band called Bad Company! Impressive eh?
Well we took in Slim Chance at Twickenham's famous Eel Pie Club last Thursday night - the line-up now featuring original members, Charlie Hart (accordion, fiddle, keyboards and vocals), Steve Simpson (guitar, mandolin, fiddle and vocals) and Steve Bingham (bass and vocals). The evening was complemented by an insightful and delightful chat with Charlie before the gig about the memorable past and indeed the future before we made our way upstairs, got our £2 WRC members discount and then saw excellent acoustic guitar support from Peter Hammerton (minus his mucker Rod Lynton) - which had to be seen to be believed - his set ranging from Stevie Wonder to The Beatles. An excellent start to a hot and sticky evening.
We were then privileged to witness a wonderful rootsy, folk-rock mix of Slim Chance originals, Ronnie's own numbers (including the Faces) plus a few tracks off of Slim Chance's latest CD 'On The Move' with the band roster completed by drummer Brendan O'Neill (ex-Rory Gallagher), Geraint Watkins (keyboards and vocals) and Billy Nicholls (acoustic guitar and vocals) who indeed worked in the past with not only Ronnie but also Steve Marriott and John Paul Jones!
"Well Hello - How Are You?" sang Simpson as they opened with Lane's 'Last Orders Please' taken from The Faces 'A Nod Is As Good As A Wink' - and despite missing Slim Chance's original clarinet - the emphatic answer from the audience was a definite "we'll have more of that thank you very much". Lane's collaboration with Pete Townshend on the album 'Rough Mix' led to Watkins hypnotic keys and vocals on 'Rats Tales' alias 'Cat Melody' and again despite no saxophone - Hart's accordion more than made up for this on a song co-written by Lane and Kit Lambert - the irony being that whilst working on this album Ronnie discovered that he had Multiple Sclerosis. Bingham's new track 'Fishing Line' from 'On The Move' kept the momentum going with its catchy chorus keeping the Slim Chance flag flying before Geraint's opening keys on 'You're So Right' - from Lane's very own album 'See Me' - saw vested interest from Charlie's accordion given he originally recorded the album with some guy called Eric Clapton. Whatever happened to him? Watkins and Hart's own composition 'Ragtime' - again from 'On The Move' - did exactly what it said on the tin - albeit with that subtle Slim Chance twist of a banjo and a fiddle followed by another from 'OTM' - Steve's 'Two Steps Away From Love' - again rock n' roll with that unique Slim Chance feel. A cover of Wilmer Watts & His Lonely Eagles 'Duncan And Brady' is also featured on 'OTM' - this upbeat take on the night showcasing once more Hart's accordion expertise.
Who remembers Gallagher & Lyle? Well 'Tell Everyone' taken from Lane's very first Sim Chance album 'Anymore For Anymore' not only included G&L but Steve Bingham as well - although Simpson duly stepped up to the plate on both vocals and a guitar solo which also saw Hart chip in with some extra mean keys. Charlie's accordion intro on 'See Me's' 'Kuschty Rye' with Nicholls vocals and Simpson's mandolin - paid their respect to a song poignantly written by Ronnie and his wife - before Steve (also on vocals) and Charlie's duelling fiddles on 'Anniversary' (yee haa!) was as equally poignant given that they both had actually recorded the track with Ronnie on Slim Chance's second album! 'The Poacher' always takes me back to the early days of Capital Radio when I first heard it and I still love it - not only was it on 'AFA' but it also on 'OTM' - and despite more subtle duelling fiddles - Bingham duly took the honours with his opening bass and vocals - testimony to the fact that he originally recorded it! Geraint's influence on Slim Chance was well and truly demonstrated with two more tracks from 'OTM' - 'J'ai Besoin De Toi' which he co-wrote (more duelling fiddles) and 'Hey Hey, Ho Ho' a 1987 cover - the mixed rock 'n' roll, cajun, country and R&B sound from one of his previous bands - Balham Alligators!
Not unsurprisingly we then literally had 'One For The Road' - the title track from their third album - with Billy's vocals plus the expected enthusiasm of Simpson (mandolin) and Hart (accordion) - given they originally recorded it - ensuring that it turned into the obligatory audience singalong. Marvellous. And talking of singalong's, what better way to follow that up than 'How Come' - co-written by Ronnie Lane and Kevin Westlake, and recorded by Lane as his first single in 1973 after he left The Faces - with it's distinctive Faces mandolin sound courtesy of Simpson with Nicholls on vocals. The beautiful 'Debris' (again from 'ANIAGAAW') slowed things down. Watkins vocals and keys matched by solos from Hart (also keyboards) and Simpson (guitar) - a touching tribute for a song written by Ronnie for his father. Two more Faces songs penned by Lane rounded off the set - another from 'ANIAGAAW' - 'You're So Rude' - originally sung by Ronnie but with vocals from Steve - with Charlie's accordion now in overdrive plus another blistering guitar solo from Steve - and the title track of The Faces last album 'Ooh La La' - which according to Ian McLagan, "was Ronnie Lane's album" with Simpson on vocals and mandolin plus a keys solo from Watkins which McLagan would no doubt have savoured. A cracking encore of Louis Prima's 'Buona Sera Signorina' a tango that rocked which belied its sixty years vintage was the last opportunity for the boys to excel with Geraint on keys/vocals plus final solos from Charlie (fiddle) and Steve (guitar).
Talking to Charlie after the show he said "I thought the lads gave it their all as usual so its a band I'm proud to be part of." Just goes to show Charlie that class is permanent. No doubt Ronnie would be proud of you all mate.
The Underworld, Camden,
Saturday 27th August 2016
Norwegian Progressive Metallers Circus Maximus began the second leg of their 'Havoc' tour at London's Underworld last Saturday. The first leg ended in Madrid in March which coincided with the release of their fourth album 'Havoc'. Since 2005 the band line-up has been vocalist Michael Eriksen, brothers Mats Haugen (guitars) and Truls Haugen (drums), bassist Glen Cato Møllen and keyboardist Lasse Finbråten. Sandwiched in between the last five months has a been the succesful crowdfunding of a special DVD filmed at Rockefeller Music Hall in their home town of Oslo. Our evening started interviewing both Mats and Lasse around the corner before the gig. Unfortunately, this meant we missed first support band Looking For Droids (sorry guys) but we did catch the excellent complementary support of Memoreve and Gabriel - check out both these bands if you get a chance.
The Vikings entered the Underworld arena to the accompaniment of 'Forging' which in turn led into the awesome welcoming Metal riff of 'Namaste' - also Circus Maximus's album 'Nine' released in June 2012. Punters fists were already raised punching the air - "hey! hey! hey!" they shouted as Michael Eriksen's versatile vocals (imagine Europe meets Rammstein) and Lasse Finbråten's keyboard solo were both immediate evidence of the depth of the band serving up its Prog Metal menu. What an opener. 'A Darkened Mind' from their second album 'Isolate' served up another gargantuan opening riff with more "hey! hey! heying!" from an already absorbed audience - the presence of the Haugen brothers drumming and lead guitar this time making this a family affair. The opening track from their very first album 'Sin' with its Eastern sound - was affirmation following our interview with Mats and Lasse beforehand of the influence of Zeppelin - as expected weaving its way between Eriksen's crystal clear lyrics, Mats guitar solo and appropriately, for the heavier sequences, some more "hey, hey, hey" devil horn finger salutes.
'Havoc' emphasised the driving force of bass guitarist Møllen - who was literally massive in presence all night. And despite in some eyes the latest album being seen as a swing more towards Metal than Prog - this particular track kicked arse! And just to readdress the balance we were then taken back to title track '1st Chapter' and 'Glory' - a progtastic combination of the longest running songs from their very first album from May 2005 - honestly refreshing - and testament to their earlier incarnation and influences when they formed in 2000 gaining much credit for their versions of technically challenging tracks by top bands such as Dream Theater and Symphony X. Awesome. The question "Are you ready for love?" heralded 'Arrival Of Love' it's all-round 80's sound - with it's superb keys, guitar, vocals and harmonies - belying the fact that it was part of Isolate - recorded in August 2007. Mollen's bass opened the atmospheric newbie from 'Havoc' - 'Highest Bitter' - again with an Eastern edge - with Eriksen again excelling on vocals - one of the stand-out numbers of the night. And before we could catch our breath - the opening strains of the anthemic 'Architect Of Fortune' from 'Nine' rubbed our proverbial Prog noses in it - so perfectly constructed - with Eriksen conducting the Underworld faithful in a singalong - Haugen's guitar solo and the band's haunting close out providing the highlight of the night. Follow that!
Well Circus Maximus did their best with 'Abyss' from 'Isolate' and to be fair after a bit more "hey! hey! heying!" this really took off with some outstanding solos from guitarist Haugen and the keys of Finbråten 'Alive' from the 1st Chapter again reemphasised the earlier melodic side of their strong back-catalogue whilst, similarly, despite the imposing intro to 'Ultimate Sacrifice' from 'Isolate' - this was further evidence of Circus Maximus 'lite' - although there was still time of course for a few more "hey hey hey's" from the floor. The opening 'whale' guitar of the beautiful 'Chivalry' - the third track on the night from 'Havoc' - reaffirmed in my opinion how the guys have got the balance right - a wonderful powerful Prog fusion of great vocals, guitar, keys and drumming - I rest my case. The killer opening riff from 'Game Of Life' from 'Nine' brought proceedings to an end although there was still time for the obligatory Viking "hey, hey, hey'" and a final knock-out guitar solo from Haugen. Given this was the second leg of their 'Havoc' tour, I suppose it would be a bit churlish to say that I expected more than the three tracks aired - for example the fantastic 'Loved Ones' or 'Remember' - but given there were four bands on the roster and Circus Maximus's undoubted strength in depth - it's fair to say that this setlist delivered the quality of this band in abundance. If you love Prog/Metal or if you love Prog or Metal then make sure you either buy 'Havoc' or see Circus Maximus. You will not be disappointed.
Tooting Tram & Social,
Friday 2nd September 2016
On Friday, lured by the promise of an evening of live Blues/Rock, I made the long trek from Hertfordshire to the Tooting Tram and Social. You won’t be surprised to hear that the TT&S is a converted tramshed, which is conveniently located 200 yards from Tooting Broadway station. I arrived just in time for the support band, 485C - surely the only band to be named after a colour code (Red, since you ask, the same shade as postboxes, McDonalds and the Russian communist flag!). 485C played their first gig four months ago, but are already achieving public awareness in the London area. Their debut single, ‘She’ll Lie’, only released in August, has already featured on Steve Lamacq’s BBC Radio 6 Music Show. 485C’s set focused on traditional, basic Rock, infused with the intensity of youth. Normally played with three guitarists, their music had a loud pounding beat which demanded attention, even more so when vocalist Adam occasionally added a fourth guitar and their volume reached thunderous proportions.
After a short break, 485C were followed by headliners Cortes, a three piece, London based band with an international flavour: Andy Cortes (Vocals and guitar) is from London, but his family is from Columbia; Sam Davies (bass) is from Barnstaple; Marijus (drums) is from Vilnius in Lithuania. The band members first met during 2012, in the vibrant London underworld of jam sessions and dark sweaty gigs. They soon joined forces to form Cortes, but it was not until late 2013 that they felt ready to take their music to the stage in London’s competitive and challenging music scene. Cortes soon made an impact: in 2014 an early demo version of ‘Facing My Fear’ was posted on-line, where it was picked up by Zane Lowe, leading to airplay on BBC Radio 1.
In 2016, Cortes have continued to enhance their reputation. In May they released ‘Close To Nowhere’, their critically acclaimed debut single, which was playlisted by Radio 1 and led to Cortes’ appearance at the station’s Big Weekend Festival in Devon. It was followed last month by their second single ‘Towers’, their first release on their new record label, the independent Ignition 45s.
Cortes’s set at the TT&S was a blistering arrangement of Indie Rock tunes, each song as slick and secure as the next. Andy’s unmistakable voice was superb, ranging from dirty, gritty rock vocals, to a more soothing soulful twang, adding to the band’s unique sound. Andy’s vocals were well complemented by Sam’s groove laden bass lines and Marijus’s explosive drumming. The band has a togetherness born out of its four years experience as a single unit, but has lost none of its early enthusiasm and excitement. Their set started with a couple of explosive rock numbers that demanded everybody’s attention, and soon had the audience tapping along to the beat. They then showed their softer, more sensitive side by performing latest single ‘Towers’, with its powerful guitar and authentic Blues twang, which also made the most of Andy’s smooth yet sharp vocals. The raw energy of ‘Surrender’ raised the pace again, setting the scene for the accelerating rhythm and passionate vocals of ‘Close To Nowhere’. This song’s repetitive guitar and drum riff were cleverly used to build up to the explosive chorus, a fitting finale for Cortes’s set: as it finished the roaring applause was inevitable. Cortes’s dark, edgy sound is ideally suited to the club and pub live music scene. My only complaint was the short length of their set: just under half an hour. The TT&S have surely got the balance badly wrong when less than an hour’s live music is followed by a four hour DJ set!!
Sari Schorr & The Engine Room,
The Half Moon, Putney, London,
Monday 5th September 2016
Following their gig at the legendary Paradiso Amsterdam on Saturday, Sari Schorr & The Engine Room stopped off at the equally iconic Half Moon, Putney in London last Monday night on their 'A Force Of Nature' tour. In fact this show was the official album launch party for their critically acclaimed debut album released last Friday! The guys are on a roll at the moment with Sari not only on the cover of this month's Blues In Britain magazine, but also valuable promotion in this month's Classic Rock. When you talk about "keeping music live" - is there a better venue than The Half Moon for mixing with the band and the fans before, during and after a gig? Within moments of walking through the doors of the bar and ordering our first drink of the night - we were already chinwagging with Engine Room guitarist Innes Sibun and a couple of Sari fans from Switzerland (yes really) - and before we knew it we had missed support band Lucas & King (apologies ladies).
Anyway, the 60 minute meat in the sandwich was indeed Sari Schorr & The Engine Room who deliver hard-driving Blues-Rock, influenced by the late '60's British Blues movement and mixes Blues, Rock and Soul with concrete melodies and poetic lyrics to striking effect. The album was produced by the legendary Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Blues Breakers and David Bowie) who was there on the night plus the album also features Walter Trout, Innes Sibun and Oli Brown - although the Engine Room Half Moon roster was Innes on guitar, Kevin Jefferies on bass, Anders Olinder on keys and Kevin O'Rourke on drums. And despite it being the proverbial Monday night graveyard shift - there was a healthy Half Moon crowd eagerly awaiting in anticipation.
They began appropriately with the first track off the album 'Ain't Got Not Money' - Sibun's Gary Moore reminiscent style intro on New Yorker Schorr's protest against the greed of Wall Street, with her powerful earthy vocal already letting The Thames siders know what was in store. A memory from their Surya Showcase gig last December was Sibun's rockin' solo and Olinder's keys on 'Demolition Man' - again forcefully sung and written by Schorr in support of Amnesty International's resolution to decriminalise sex work. The opening groovy rhythm guitar of Innes on 'Cat And Mouse' belies its underlying message of past emotional abuse in the music industry, which saw both Sibun and Olinder excelling again. Schorr's recent performance at Carnegie Hall's Lead Belly Fest resulted in her tribute to the main man with a great cover of 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night' - appropriate to those of us who were wondering what the train's would be like after the gig. And you can take the man out of Zeppelin but you can't take Zeppelin out of the man - or to be precise, Sibun's time with Robert Plant - with their barnstorming cover of 'Rock And Roll' - Innes going for it hammer and tongs - Jimmy eat your heart out mate! The mellower 'Oklohoma' was introduced by Sari - although this correspondent's embarrassing "yes" was wrongfully construed by Sari that I actually had been there - the story being that a last minute change of plan ends up with her gigging with Joe Louis Walker ... hence 'Oklohoma'. Another groovy number - that as predicted built into one mean fusional outro jam with Anders' keys, another Sibun guitar solo (Oli Brown was on the album) plus Schorr's excellent lyrical diction. Superb.
'Letting Go', with its big finish, understandably lacked Vernon's big production - although Sibun's solo was vindication as to why Mike hand-picked Innes for the Engine Room backbone - their paths originally crossing when Vernon produced Sibun's 'Blues Explosion' album in the early '90's. Complemented by excellent vocals by Sari and keys from Anders - it was co-written by both Schorr and guitarist Quique Bonal's for Bonal's late wife Natalie. The stand-out on the album, however, harps back to Sari's love of 60's Psychedelic Rock. It also harped back to a conversation earlier in the bar with Innes and how this song was a favourite with a certain WRC member. Consequently Sari dedicated it to her! We're not worthy! Needless to say the melody and harmonics of 'Kiss Me' saw Sibun (again with Brown on the album) revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocks out big time - Schorr even managing to include a line about her beloved Pit Bulls - although the song is about being in love with someone who is gone. It was then back to Lead Belly and the classic 'Black Betty' - it's unique arrangement and in particular it's cajun guitar opening - lean heavily methinks again on the influence of Sibun's time with Robert Plant in 1993. Innes' guitar and Sari's undeniable enthusiasm and attitude delivering a classic from within a classic.
No let up on Schorr's vocal nor subject matter on 'Damn The Reason' - this time based on domestic violence - its contradiction being that it's beautifully crafted with Olinder's keyboards and another trademark Sibun guitar solo. The clunky opening riff of 'Aunt Hazel' - based on urban slang for heroin (Schorr doesn't pull her punches when songwriting) - resulted in both Sari and Innes letting us have it both barrels with this rocker. The irony of the evening was that if you were to have walked into the gig for the final number 'Ordinary Life (which is also the last track on the album) you could have been forgiven for getting the wrong end of the stick with its genre. However, it's a measure of Schorr's versality, with her roots originally in Jazz - and perhaps sometimes overpowering vocals (she was once compared to a hybrid between Tina Turner and Janis Joplin) - she's had to learn to hold back to get the guts of the Blues. Anders Olinders' beautiful keyboard intro took Sari into another dimension. There's certainly nothing ordinary about this ballad - the crystal clarity of Schorr's vocals all for everyone to see and hear. A beautiful end to an awesome set. A special mention literally for the 'Engine Room' of Jefferies and O'Rourke plus with Sari, Innes and Anders in such excellent form off the stage as well as on it - there was still time to chat and of course buy the CD. An awesome evening - just make sure you the buy the CD and catch them on tour!
The John Verity Band,
The Onyx Bar, Inamo, London
Thursday 8th September 2016
Following a riotous meeting with Colin & AJ at the Joe Bonamassa gig at The Cavern in Liverpool last month, I was looking forward to attending this invitation only gig in this classy venue in Covent Garden. Being a John Verity virgin, I really had no idea what to expect of the evening other than being unceasingly ribbed by the Wrinklies in their inimitable manner. Of course they didn’t disappoint me on that front. Only knowing Argent hits ‘Hold your Head Up’ and ‘God Gave Roll & Roll To You’ I was intrigued to know how the evening would roll.
The venue is tucked away in a small backstreet off Long Acre in Covent Garden and is an upmarket restaurant with a small basement bar. I arrived early and found John busily loading in his gear to the venue with the help of his band and his wife. This clearly was going to be a gig from a seasoned, working musician not afraid to roll his sleeves up for his art.
Unassuming in appearance with a shock of flowing grey locks and a bauble of an earring, giving some indication of his Rock and Roll roots, John set himself up with his Gibson J45 Custom Goldtop with Fishman Rare Earth pickup played through an Aura Imaging system and his bandmates Russell Rodford sitting on his bass amp with his Fender Precision Bass on his knee and Liam Gray on a mini drum kit consisting of a bass and snare drum and a couple of cymbals completing the set up.
Opening with Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Help Me’, the power of this trio became immediately apparent. I was surprised to see that the bass drum was miked in such a small venue, but the power of the driving bass drum gave the set a real boost, with Liam making the most of his paired down kit at every opportunity. Russell provided the menacing bass swagger required for this dark old tune. John’s virtuosity on the guitar with soaring solos interspersing the mesmeric twelve bar loops reminded everyone that he has most certainly paid his dues to the Blues.
The roll call of Blues standards continued with the Otis Rush classic ‘Double Trouble’, with John getting the crowd engaged with his metronomic foot stomping to this classic Blues number. Keeping the tempo up with Tommy Tucker’s ‘Hi-Heel Sneakers’, John then gave us a JVB number ‘Prove Your Love’, a lament on love and relationships followed by Etta James’ ‘The Blues is my Business’. The first set continued with a fantastic take on JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ with the riff played with chunky full chords and the lyrics sung with real passion and soul. It was now it became apparent that John’s voice was every bit as great as his guitar playing. Reminiscent of early Stan Webb in its almost operatic quality, John has certainly retained the ability to hold a tune. The first set drew to a close with Muddy Water’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, Wilson Pickett’s ‘634-5789’, The Zombies ‘Time of the Season’ going into the break with a rousing version of Freddie King’s ‘Going Down’.
During the break, we indulged in Japanese tapas and lots of Kirin beer. This really is a very agreeable venue for an up close and personal gig. Looking around the room, the atmosphere was relaxed and convivial with a mix of musicians including ex-Bad Company guitarist Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell and ex-Zombies bass guitarist Chris White with JV fans making up the demographic including the ever present Mark Leveson adding to the colour of the evening.
Set two kicked off with Buddy Guy’s ‘Never Gonna Change’ a classic 12 bar blues in E with John’s band members Russell and Liam really looking as though they were enjoying the evening, both singing along with John whilst keeping the groove rolling. Into ‘Hallelujah’, the Ray Charles classic, we were reminded of Eddie Cochran’s brilliant version of this infectious rocking number and we were well and truly into the realms of John’s Rock and Roll upbringing. ‘Say Why’, from JVB’s 2007 album followed and then into a cracking version of Screamin’ Jay’s ‘Put a Spell on You’, which again gave John the platform to air his awesome vocal ability. If this one didn’t make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, then nothing would. You couldn’t help but sing along, feeling you were really part of this memorable evening.
John introduced the title track to his new album ‘My Religion’, his take of a life in music and living together in peace and harmony without the need for a deity to follow. This was followed by another Sonny Boy Williamson song ‘Bring It on Home’ which got some of the crowd on their feet dancing and showing their appreciation for the band. The Willie Dixon penned ‘Spoonful’ continued the dancing vibe and again animated the band into a driving, mesmeric groove that the crowd lapped up.
Coming up the home straight, John’s many years of live touring shone through with a rousing finale including ‘Crossroads’, ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ where he invited all of us old enough to remember the dance to join in. Of course, I am too young to remember such things. Into Steve Stills ‘Love the One You’re With’ and the crowd continued to strut their stuff on the dance floor. Keeping the excitement rolling to the end, the lads finished with ‘Route 66’ in true Rock and Roll style and knowing they were going to be expected to give us all more. When the roaring appreciation had died down to a deafening din, the boys obliged with a stonking version of ‘Johnny B Goode’ leaving us all gagging for more and wishing the evening would continue into the wee small hours.
This truly was an amazing evening, in a really classy venue where we all felt like VIPs at a very special show. Thanks to Colin & AJ for the invitation, John, Russell and Liam for the music and of course, John’s wife Carole for manning the Merch stand. Let’s hope this becomes a regular venue for gigs as I have a feeling it will become very popular.
Burlesque & Blues Revue,
The Proud, Camden, London
Thursday 15th September 2016
Gorgeousness and excitement were to the fore as Proud Camden put on the first Burlesque and Blues Revue, presented by the British Blues Exhibition with the help of the Wrinkly Rockers Club on 15th September 2016.
Just how would four music acts and the seven ladies of burlesque combine? There was already a theoretical affinity between the separate artforms, rooted in the music having heavy innuendo in its roots (and ever since) and burlesque being an assertive celebration of femininity any of the gutsy early Blues ladies would have admired. A third artform - literature - was also represented in the shape of a copy of Richard Wall's entertaining new Blues-soaked novel, Fat Man Blues, which spent the night on the stage, close to the action.
However, what stood out on the night was the grace and timing with which the movements of the performers complemented songs old and new. Sinuous, often elegant, at times cheeky, as the ladies took away various layers of clothing (but never to completion), their movements on and off stage clearly inspired the musical acts to give of their best. Ironically, one of the most memorable moments came in a brief interlude of recorded music between sets, as Helene De Joie let rip a ferocious sequence of moves to a personal favourite, Led Zepellin's 'Whole Lotta Love'. Robert Plant would have been proud to see it.
Similarly, Andy Twyman's 'You Ain't Fat' has surely never had such a witty, visual accompaniment, courtesy of Cerise Mae. Peter Donegan's classy mainly originals set was crowned by a breathless, rousing rendition of his father's favourite 'Rock Island Line', a perfect fit for a night intentionally harking back to the earliest days of British Blues including, this time, their Skiffle roots.
Nor were the burlesque performers - including the spectacular feathers and costumes of Baby Boo, Blondie Valentine, Coco Nobel, Constance Peach and Scarletta Fire, the only ones to get a wiggle on. Bob from The Great West Groove, when not leading his highly John Lee Hooker-esque band of boogie experts, showed some unexpected hip action alongside the burlesque ladies when they were encouraging audience involvement.
The debonair duo Auld Man's Baccie, in a rare welcome venture into London, showed why they should be back as soon as possible, grooving away with verve and panache. Their take on AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' was an inspired choice and a fine example of what a cultured row two acoustic Blues musicians can make.
Burlesque and Blues? Now there's a combination with a future.
Born Healer, BluesRockFest,
Leo's Red Lion, Gravesend
Saturday 24th September 2016
We first caught London Blues Rock band Born Healer last year at London's iconic 100 Club supporting The Rainbreakers (who played BluesRockFest last year) and the legendary Corky Laing of Mountain fame. Rising in early 2015 out of the phoenix of the now defunct but well respected Bare Bones Boogie Band - namely Helen Turner (vocals), Iain Black (guitar) and Andy Jones (drums) - they were joined by bass guitarist Marek Funkas. Anyway, their 100 Club gig was a blast - so when this particular reviewer was asked to propose a band for this year's BluesRockfest - without hesitation I recommended Born Healer as they were fresh to the Blues circuit and deserved a crack at an established festival. Not only that, but this year they had also released their critically acclaimed first album 'Til The Dawn'.
No pressure then as they kicked off our fourth BluesRockFest at 3pm at Leo's Red Lion, Gravesend, with already a sizeable crowd in attendance. As expected their forty minute setlist would draw completely on their new album as they opened with the titfer wearing Funkas' cool bassline on
'River' and immediately the Red Lion punters were, ahem, hooked. 'Trust Yourself' with Turner's 'Joplinesque' groovy, gravelly voice and tangible stage presence, was a great foot stomping romp with a great riff from Black. Taj Mahal's 'Leaving Trunk' grooved and rocked in true 60's/70's style whilst 'Brand New Day' emphasised the tightness of a band excelling in all the right places. Black's intro on the album title track took things down tempo with some intricate guitar work combined with Turner's hypnotic captivating voice that saw the appreciative crowd hanging of off every word. Classy.
Jones' opening drums heralded 'Pressure Valve', the first song on the album, again with great guitar work from Black accompanied by haunting vocals from Turner - critical comparisons to an early Elkie Brooks totally understandable. However, after the hard paced rocker 'Healing Hand' with excellent vocal jousting harmonies between Black and Turner - they saved their best for last - with Zep's 'Since I've Been Loving You' - which was awesome. Turner's diction and delivery was spellbinding as was Black's guitar homage to JP. Dedicated to a certain Zoe - I don't think she was alone in the audience when she paid tribute to the fact that this was the best cover of 'SIBLY' she had ever heard! Amazing. Given the strength of the BluesRockFest undercard, it would be perhaps churlish to point out that a number of punters thought that they deserved to be higher up the order - and given my recommendation - I would be no doubt be accused of bias. One thing's for certain - guys you did us proud with a quality set that set the benchmark for a day to remember.
Diamond Head, New Device & KilliT
O2 Academy Islington, London
Sunday 9th October 2016
On Sunday the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement returned to the O2 Academy in Islington. Headliners Diamond Head will need no introduction to WRC members: recognised as one of the original NWOBHM bands back in the 1970’s, they soon gained a formidable reputation for their thunderous and energetic festival performances. Diamond Head remained an underground band, never achieving the record sales that their live shows warranted, but many NWOBHM bands who did achieve greater chart success, notably Metallica and Megadeath, were quick to name Diamond Head as a vital early influence.
Not surprisingly for a band first formed in 1976, Diamond Head has experienced several personnel changes over the years. Indeed, only one member of the original line-up survives: lead guitarist Brian Tatler. However, drummer Karl Wilcox is a virtual original member: before he joined the band he was an avid fan, attending every performance he could get to, invariably in the front row! When he eventually took over the drums, in 1991, he probably knew the songs better than the rest of the line-up! Abbz (Andy Abberley) joined in 2006 and has more than proved himself as a worthwhile addition to the band, which, initially, didn’t have a specialist rhythm guitarist. Current vocalist Rasmus Bom Anderson only joined the band a couple of years ago, but his vocal style and range is a near perfect match for the music. His charisma and energy are also fully consistent with the band’s original ethos, supposedly more so than that of his predecessor (Nick Hart, who joined in 2004) but, as I never saw Nick perform, I cannot vouch for that personally. Diamond Head’s latest recruit, bass player Dean Ashton, has only been with the band a couple of months but has already merged seamlessly with the other members: on tonight’s performance you’d think he’d been there for years!
The evening started with a thunderous set from London-based New Device. With the volume turned up to deafening levels, New Device delivered a set of authentic hard rock that brought the Academy to life, screaming for more. More came in the form of KilliT, also London-based but with an international flavour: its members hail from Argentina, Israel, Hungary and the UK. Gaz Twist delivers solid, powerful vocals, which are supported by a potent yet melodic rhythm section. KilliT’s set was full of anthemic, classic Rock with catchy choruses that were bound to go down well in a live setting.
New Device and KilliT had set the scene well: the audience was now raring for Diamond Head, even cheering wildly when band members came on stage briefly for sound checks. When they finally appeared they did not disappoint, delivering a set of classic Rock full of blistering riffs, compelling choruses and energetic vocals. The set comprised of 16 songs lasting a full 90 minutes with hardly a break, often flowing straight into the next song without even allowing time for the audience to show its appreciation of the previous one!
The set opened in traditional NWOBHM style with ‘Borrowed Time’ and continued in the same vein, maintaining the recognizable Diamond Head sound despite the new musicians in the line-up. Diehards in the audience knew, and bounced along to, every song, but as soon as the well known ‘Helpless’ started the whole audience joined in. ‘Helpless’ was followed by ‘All the Reasons You Live’, slightly slower with a pronounced beat, and ‘In the Heat of the Night’ which proved Diamond Head do have a quieter side, at least for the first thirty seconds or so! ‘Knight of the Swords’, a less well known number from 1984, was also a little quieter, but sung with no less passion. The second half of the set focused on earlier, well known songs and the audience responded enthusiastically, joining or echoing Rasmus for the chorus lines of ‘To Heaven from Hell’, ‘The Prince’ and ‘Shoot Out The Lights’. Audience participation peaked on ‘Am I Evil?’, though it did seem a tad incongruous for several hundred mature, respectable men (and a few women) to be repeatedly screaming “Am I evil? Yes I am”! But, hell, I was one of them - it was that kind of evening!
Diamond Head’s current tour is timed to promote their latest album, ‘Diamond Head’, the band’s seventh studio album, but first for ten years. Their set included five songs from the new album. For many bands this would have given their audience a chance to relax, or visit the bar, while waiting for the next familiar number. This was definitely not so for Diamond Head: although tinged with a modern rock feel, the new songs fitted seamlessly into the rest of the set, holding onto the recognizable sound that is unmistakeably Diamond Head. One of them, ‘Shout at the Devil’ was even saved for the encore. It had a pronounced riff and memorable chorus line: despite its unfamiliarity, the audience were soon clapping and singing along. However my favourite of the five was ‘Diamonds’, with a great introduction and superb riffs. As the song’s chorus says, “Diamonds are forever” and, if they continue to maintain the standard of this evening’s performance, so are Diamond Head!
Robin Trower, Stevie Nimmo Trio
Islington Assembly Halls, London
Tuesday 18th October 2016
Given it was officially Venues Day 2016 - it seemed very appropriate last Tuesday that we were at the Islington Assembly Hall to see legendary Blues Rock guitarist and singer-songwriter, Robin Trower (pictures by Paul Clampin), best known for his 1974 milestone album 'Bridge of Sighs'. It was Robin's penultimate gig on his current UK tour and his special guest was The Steve Nimmo Trio. Trower's latest album, 'Where You Are Going To', was released in the UK earlier this year by Manhaton Records.
Of course, the added bonus of the evening was the opportunity to see the Stevie Nimmo Trio once again following their triumph when they headlined the WRC BluesRockFest in Gravesend recently. Nimmo opened with the familiar intro of ‘Roll the Dice Again' from his latest album 'Sky Won't Fall' with its gut wrenching riffs before dipping into his said same album for the powerful driving "Bonamassaesque" 'Still Hungry' - immediately making his mark on Trower's faithful, the majority no doubt, who were seeing Stevie for the first time. Nimmo then covered David Grissom's Storyville classic 'Good Day For The Blues' - with its country Rock feel more than complemented by Stevie's stand-out guitar solo. And just to rubber stamp his versatility we were then back to "SWF' with the 70’s disco funk of 'Change' and yet another brilliant solo. The slower ‘Running Back To You’ - again from 'SWF' - relates to a relationship so many of us have known - which had a wonderful Bluesy feel about it - showcasing Nimmo's vocals as well his guitar. Stevie finished off his set with the upbeat and boppy 'Lovin' Might Do Us Good' - another from 'SWF' - in some eyes a strange choice to finish their short set - but with Craig Bacon on drums and Mat Beable on bass in Nimmo's engine room - the trio did not fail to impress again.
And if many of the Islington Assembly Halls punters had never seen Stevie before - there was at least one in the audience that had never seen Robin live before ... me. Being a Trower virgin among the rest of his WRC following was slightly daunting but added an extra dimension to proceedings and - needless to say - I certainly was not disappointed! No messing about as they dipped straight into the aforementioned 'BOS' - Richard Watts' bass intro on 'Too Rolling Stoned' kickstarting Trower's guitar as his first (and not his last) solo weaved around drummer Christopher Taggart's beat and Watts' vocals. And if his psychedelic Blues tones on 'See My Life' from 'Roots And Branches' did not give you a feeling of parallel's with Hendrix then I'm not sure what would - again another guitar journey that had you hanging off every twist and turn with Watt's vocal delivery the perfect foil. 'Not Inside - Outside' from 2010's 'The Playful Heart' had a hard act to follow - although another awesome guitar solo was punctuated fleetingly by Trower on vocals as was the whole of the title track from new album 'Where Are You Going To' - which proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with his set list so far.
From the new to the old - in fact 39 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 - although the spine of the set understandably turned back 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 - an iconic tipping point for me - a bit like seeing Skynyrd doing 'Free Bird' live - this was indeed Rock history. Follow that - and again it was another track from 'The Playful Heart' - 'The Turning' - which turned into a thing of a beauty - Trower might not sing or perhaps have great stage rapport - but this 71 year old sure knows how to make his guitar sing. Trower then dipped into the studio follow up to 'BOS' with 'For Earth Below' and 'Confessin' Midnight' with Watts' earthy vocals and another groovy instrumental 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 rom Yesterday' - I've seen Chantel McGregor cover this brilliantly many times - but to see the master in action - well yes, we were spellbound. Awesome. Rockin' Robin rounded off his set with the blistering and well received 'Little Bit Of Sympathy' - again from 'BOS' before returning to do two encores - the short but punchy guitar of 'Rise Up Like The Sun' from his 15th studio album '20th Century Blues' contrasted with the delightfully slower paced psychedelic Blues title track from 'For Earth Below'. And that was that - a shortish set seeing an early finish - but hey this was definitely a case of quality not quantity. An honour and a privilege Mr. Trower.
Nickelback, Monster Truck
O2 Arena, London
Thursday 20th October 2016
Nickleback have spent the best part of their career fending off critical disdain. The multi-platinum, million-selling Canadian rockers have dealt with bad reviews, snide remarks and being the butt-end of many a joke, but eight albums in and one sell-out world tour after another, it’s clear that frontman Chad Kroeger and his bandmates are bulletproof. They are in no way cool. They look like a bunch of middle-aged men on their way to the bowling alley Their songs are cheesier than a Parisian fromagerie! And a brilliantly sharp big screen is the best thing about a one-dimensional stage show.. But there seems to be a similar sense of backs-to-the-wall loyalty present in their fans too; the massed ranks of those in attendance sported t-shirts from tours spanning years prior. You can imagine they too must come in for some stick from so-called ‘proper’ music fans for their taste. They even divide opinion amongst the WRC members themselves! Any sense that Nickelback and their supporters are derided at every turn isn’t present at the 02 Arena in London. The four-piece are an interesting live proposition. They mesh high-octane classic rock – surprisingly heavy in parts – with no shortage of crowd interaction and a feel good atmosphere that fills the cavernous venue with positive vibes.
Kicking off the night were fellow-Canadian southern rock band Monster Truck. who brought a very 70’s swagger to the stage along with a lot of noise to boot!! AJ told me they were good and he wasn't wrong!! These guys are coming off the release of their second album ‘Sittin' Heavy’ from the start of the year, and made it clear in their short set that they are one to keep an eye on. Shirt off guitarist Jeremy Widerman was riffing like mad and running all over the place and their stoner rock went down well with the massed ranks who grew in numbers during the set. Bluesy riffs, catchy melodies, upbeat tunes and amp-heavy offerings from their debut album ‘Furiosity’ made for a great start to the night, capturing everyone’s attention and creating further hype for what was to come. They looked right at home on the 02 Arena stage I must say. ‘Old Train’ had plenty of woah woahs and bringing Ryan Peake out early for the guitar solo in ‘For The People’ was a great touch and ‘For The Sun’ showed a slower Bluesy feel to the material.. An excellent support slot and I for one will check them out next time round. AJ has converted me....!!!
Within a few minutes, the lights went out as the crowd erupted with excitement for Nickelback’s arrival. Wasting no time, the Canadian rockers launched into ‘Edge Of A Revolution’, a single from their latest album, ‘No Fixed Address’ and backed by video screens showing images of war, protest and political unrest. Instantly, it was clear that everyone in the room were about to witness a seriously good show.....
As the first song came to an end, the band would show off just how much fun they have performing on stage, as their between-song-banter is second to none. Frontman Chad Kroeger jokes with the crowd like few others can, and how they’re able to stand on stage and sing “silly” songs with titles like ‘Something In Your Mouth’, which they’d go on to perform next. Kroeger is something of a motormouth when it comes to his patter between songs. You largely suspect he loves the sound of his own voice, but as the frontman of one of the bigger bands in the world, you probably would need a sizeable ego to pull you through it .. or a couple of Jaegerbombs, courtesy of the suited-and-booted booze supplier/ tour manager Bradley which he and the band indulged in. . In short, he makes being a rockstar look like fun, rather than a full-time job like some of Nickelback's peers, and the girls on the front row are loving every second of The Chad. Not bad for a man once voted the ugliest man in rock!!!
Following a blistering performance of the fan-favourite tune ‘Animals’, Nickelback took their first trip down memory lane with an older track. Before performing ‘Too Bad’, Kroeger made it clear he wanted people on the floor to jump in time to the chorus, as it looks “badass”. Of course, the crowd complied as they lovingly sang along to one of the band’s bigger hits of the last decade. Unfortunately, this led to a lull in the set. The vast majority of songs that followed were ballads or primarily downbeat and, while they were mostly hits, it did kill a bit of the buzz that was alive in the seated area of the venue. The band even inexplicably opted to perform their more upbeat songs in a “metal jam” that would consist of sections from ‘Flat On The Floor’, ‘Woke Up This Morning’ and ‘Fight For All The Wrong Reasons’, all of which lasted maybe two minutes. There was also a most recent cover of Don Henley's ‘Dirty Laundry’. At one point in the show, Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake moved to the front of the stage equipped with acoustic guitars to perform a cover of Big Wreck’s ‘Mistake’, which, while beautiful, is a song most Nickelback fans would only be familiar with if they knew the original or were die-hard enough to have followed Nickelback’s previous live CD releases, further killing the atmosphere a little bit more. Luckily for Nickelback, songs like ‘Photograph’, ‘When We Stand Together’ and ‘Lullaby’ kept the crowd singing along and entertained for the most part.
The audience was truly woken up again when the fun and anthemic ‘Rockstar’ was performed, featuring a special guest from the front row of the crowd called Ian, Ryan Samson and a mass singalong from everyone else., After sending him back into the sea of people, the band would perform ‘Gotta Be Somebody’, before closing their main set with their most successful hit to date – ‘How You Remind Me’. This is a true treat to witness live, being one of those songs that nearly everybody in the world with access to music knows of, there wasn’t a silent body in the building. After waving themselves off stage, Nickelback would return for a 2-song encore set, opening it with a surprising cover of Foo Fighters’ legendary track ‘Everlong’. Ryan Peake would promote himself to lead vocals for this one, and truly amazed the crowd with his vocal prowess that may have otherwise gone unappreciated. Going out with a bang is something these men have always known how to do well, and last night was no different as they finished the concert with an incredible rendition of the monumental ‘Burn It To The Ground’. This was a wonderful way to send everyone home buzzing with joy after having just barked the chorus’ demanding “HEY” back at the stage. I would have to take people's word for this as the WRC had left for the tube by then praying that the Jubilee Line was back working again after the controlled explosion at North Greenwich during the afternoon!!
Nickelback have proved time and time again that they are experts at putting on a top quality rock show, and this latest gig further sent that point home. Chad & Co. are a pleasure to witness on stage as they clearly enjoy what they do and don’t hide that fact during their on-stage banter between each other. Despite slowing the set down quite a bit following the first three songs, this is a night that Nickelback fans will fondly remember for a long time. That's if you like them in the first place of course.. A proper Marmite band... I have always liked Marmite so no problems for me
therefore I personally find it hard not to like them.. A sort of cross between Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi if you ask me....And a lesson in perfectly assured showmanship that's for sure...
1. Edge Of A Revolution
2. Something in Your Mouth
4. Too Bad
5. Far Away
9. Figured You Out
10. If Today Was Your Last Day
11. Mistake (Big Wreck cover)
12. Dirty Laundry(Don Henley cover)
13. Flat on the Floor/Fight for All the Wrong Reasons / Because of You (Instrumental Medley)
14. Woke Up This Morning
15. When We Stand Together
16. What Are You Waiting For?
17. Rockstar (with Ryan Samson and fan Ian)
18. This Afternoon
19. Gotta Be Somebody
20. How You Remind Me
21. Everlong (Foo Fighters Cover- Ryan Peake - lead vocals)
22. Burn It To The Ground
Wrinkly the Silver
An Evening For Jack
Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Tuesday 25th October 2016
Last Tuesday night's 'An Evening For Jack' at the newly reopened Shepherds Bush Empire, marked the two year anniversary of the late Cream bassist's passing in 2014, aged 71. Curated by Bob Harris plus Cream collaborator Pete Brown, and organised by Jack Bruce’s son Malcolm, it commemorated his extraordinary career, walking through the major aspects of Jack's musical life, from the early days touring with bands like the Graham Bond Organisation, through to Cream and beyond. All proceeds raised went to Nordoff Robbins and Jack’s favourite local charity, East Anglian Children’s Hospices.
In March this year, we had the pleasure of seeing the fourth member of Cream, Pete Brown, perform at a British Blues Exhibition gig at The Proud in Camden. In fact we enjoyed it so much that two weeks later we went to see Pete again at the intimate setting of The Troubador in London's Old Brompton Road - another excellent set which also featured Malcolm Bruce. Consequently buying tickets for 'An Evening Of Jack' - with its advertised array of legendary musicians paying their tributes - was a no brainer - although with the 'special guests' rumour mill in overdrive - it only added to our anticipation - just like kids in the proverbial chocolate factory.
Whispering Bob Harris returned to his '70's BBC stomping ground by introducing Eddie Reader who sang 'My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose' followed by Paul Young with Clem Clempson on guitar and Corky Laing on drums on 'Born Under A Bad Sign'. The first big hitter of the evening was 'White Room' with Terry Reid on vocals, supported by Chris Spedding, Mo Foster and of course Mick Taylor playing that classic guitar solo on his Les Paul. Jack's granddaughter Maya Sage was also on backing vocals - who also later sang later 'Out Into The Fields' accompanied by Gary Moore's son Jack! If there was ever a song that epitomised the roots of both Brown and Bruce it has to be 'Politician'. Pete's passion and delivery in a red fiery shirt left you in no doubt of his political persuasion - a song centred around the '60's Profumo scandal - this time performed with Neil Murray on bass and Bernie Marsden on guitar. Superb.
Our surprise in seeing Corky Laing offset the disappointment of no Billy Cobham - however, the sudden appearance of WRC favourite and Inglorious vocalist Nathan James was not only one of the highlight's of the evening but an opportunity for Nathan to get the recognition he deserves. Well he certainly did that with 'Spoonful' joined by a certain Steve Hackett slightly hidden behind an enormous lectern plus David Sancious and also on 'Without A Word' with Ronnie Leahy on keys. Understandably, with a cast of thousands (well not quite) - the turnaround was slow which resulted in no interval. Anyway, you've guessed it - during my comfort break I could hear the strains of 'Theme From An Imaginary Western' - and quickly returned to my seat to enjoy this classic with Brown on vocals, Taylor and Clempson on guitar and Laing on drums.
A bit like 'Trigger's Broom' - I never actually saw Cream - but have now successfully seen the component parts over the last eleven years. I first saw Jack in June 2005 perform Cream with Gary Husband (who also performed tonight) and the late great Gary Moore at London's Astoria in a tribute to one of Britain’s most colourful and innovative musicians Dick Heckstall Smith. Six years later I saw Eric Clapton join Joe Bonamassa on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. And I hoped to complete the holy trinity when I attended Ramblin' Man in Maidstone in July earlier this year but unfortunately Ginger was unwell. So step forward on to the Shepherd's Bush Empire stage Mr. Baker - who six month's after his heart operation - hasn't fully recovered. In perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening Ginger told the story of the 1962 Cambridge University May Ball as he and Dick Heckstall Smith were approached by a scruffy little bugger (Jack) who persisted that he wanted to sit and play. Anyway, to suss Jack out, Dick and Ginger played a ballad with numerous chord changes and subsequently adopted wee Jack who moved from Glasgow to London to play in Johnny Parker's Band. Baker concluded "I'm still here, but Jack isn't, which is very sad - we played some great music together" - then Ginger - despite his health problems - proceeded to play a two minute drum solo with his percussionist pal Abbass from Ghana. Amazing.
Vocalist Maggie Reilly performed both 'Rope Ladder To The Moon' and 'Ships In The Night - although the honour of singing 'Sunshine Of Your Love' went to another member of the Scottish Mafia, Lulu - with fittingly Malcolm Bruce on bass and Pete Brown banging his tambourine in the background. Other performers on a marvellous evening included Aruba Red (Jack's daughter), Trevor Horn, Jeff Berlin, Dennis Chambers,Tramper Price, Emma Wilson, Jasmine Rodgers (Paul's daughter), Freyja Pibworth , Ollie, Calum Ingram, Jack's nephew Nico Bruce, Guy Pratt, Norman Beaker, Will John and Judd Lander. Suffice to say that on this evidence Jack's legacy is in safe hands!
Half Moon, Putney, London
Thursday 3rd November 2016
At the iconic London venue that is the Half Moon, Putney, a sold out show with an enthusiastic crowd welcomes Terry and his band on stage. After his usual tentative opening, he soon gets locked into the groove.
All the staples of a Terry show are present and correct; 'Seed Of Memory', 'To Be Treated Right', 'Without Expression', 'Raging Storm' and of course, 'Rich Kid Blues' interspersed with anecdotes of adventures on the road with various luminaries, Keith Richards being one (whom he caught up with recently at “Oldchella”) and a smuttering of covers, 'Time Slips Away' (Willie Nelson), 'Bend In The River' (Marty Robbins) and a fabulous version of 'Don’t Worry Baby' (Beach Boys).
The four piece band (bass, drums, percussion and pedal steel) are excellent. Jennifer Maidman (bass) has a languid, fluid but funky style that is the glue that holds it all together and offers a solid foundation for Terry’s unique guitar technique. The sublime BJ Cole who offers straight ahead country pedal steel guitar or otherworldly sounds depending on the vibe needed is worth the price of admission alone. If you haven’t witnessed the majesty that is Terry Reid, it is one for your bucket list.
O2 Arena London
Saturday 29th October 2016
The Seventies supergroup phenomenon reached its evolutionary zenith with Bad Company. The band began in 1973 as an extra-curricular alliance between members of Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson. They were even managed by Led Zeppelin’s notoriously hard-charging Svengali Peter Grant, ensuring every Classic Rock box was ticked. Truly, “peak supergroup” had been achieved. With so many big personalities, their sound was predictably supersized, hits such as ‘Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘Honey Child’ stacking one Bluesy, mane-shaking cliché upon another. Their song titles, meanwhile, seemed ripped from a Rock parody – they included ‘Good Lovin’ Gone Bad’, ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’, and, this being the era when musicians wrote non-ironic odes to themselves, ‘Bad Company’.
Forty-three years later, Bad Company remained joyously larger than life as they finished their Swan Song tour at the 02 Arena in London, a lap of honour named after the Led Zeppelin boutique label to which they were originally signed. Riffs were piled high, greying mullets flailed under the strobe lights, a video screen projected images of lightning storms and swirling fires. With his carefully-maintained stubble and ever-present tambourine, singer Paul Rodgers (also of Free and a one-time guest vocalist with post-Freddie Mercury Queen) embraced the part of heritage Rock elder statesman. Rodgers brought the requisite mix of casual magnetism and puffed-up showmanship and has always been blessed with the most soulful voice in Hard Rock but it seems almost inconceivable that it's still a strong and emotive as ever at the age of 66. Tradition has it that decades on the road take their toll on the best of voices but Rodgers appears not to have got that memo..Still featuring three original members including Rodgers himself, drummer Simon Kirke and guitarist Mick Ralphs is something of a rarity for a band with such a long heritage. They may be older but they have lost none of that magic that gave them huge hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
Opening song, ‘Live For The Music’ could be the bands clarion call and with music like this how could they fail. Big hit, ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ came early in the set and highlighted the strength in depth of their back catalogue and ensured the crowd was warmed up early and on their feet right from the start. Mick Ralphs is dressed more like a championship darts player than a Rock guitarist of superb pedigree, he doesn’t stray too far from his spot on the stage, but when given the opportunity to let fly, the tone he gets on his (mainly Gibson) guitars is one to cherish live. Originally in Mott the Hoople, Ralphs continues to deliver solo after solo of sheer greatness on stage and backed by Rodgers vocals it defines everything great about ‘70’s British Blues.....
Bad Company have so many better songs in their set besides the radio hits and ‘Electricland’ showed that with its moody verse and truly soaring chorus that highlighted Rodger’s effortless vocal range to perfection as he played piano from the back of the stage. This was spine-tingling stuff. ‘Burnin’ Sky’ showed the darker side of the band as the atmospherics were enhanced by some effective projections onto the huge video screens. There was no mid set lull to be seen with the following ‘Run With The Pack’ and the band also shone with their version of Mott the Hoople's ‘Ready For Love’ keeping the tempo running. It wasn’t all old songs though, the newly written ‘Troubleshooter’ was a surprise inclusion in the set. It may be new but the hallmarks of classic Bad Company were engrained in its very fabric from the glorious Rodgers vocal to the great harmonies of Ralphs and second guitarist, former Heart man Howard Leese. Again the videos added to the ambience as startling photos of The Somme, Tiananmen Square and the flag raising at Iwo Jima flashed across the screens. The closest to a plaintive moment was my personal favourite ‘Shooting Star’, their lament for icons who lived fast and died young, which was accompanied by sepia images of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Freddie Mercury, Paul Kossoff and Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott.
The final four songs brought the arena to their feet for a rocking climax to the show – ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll Fantasy’ were mass crowd singalongs, the former giving Ralphs and Leese the opportunity to meet mid-stage and swap solos side by side. ‘Bad Company’ found Rodgers back on the piano, the iconic BadCo logo lit up blue above of him as cannons fired dry ice fired into the air. There were some dissenting voices questioning why the set couldn't have been longer or perhaps the crowd were just being greedy. One suspects Ralphs may not tour with the band again (he didn’t appear with them in the USA in early summer this year) and it could be that an hour and twenty minutes, including encores, was all that he could sustain. If so, it was a fitting farewell, poignantly played out on the backdrop slideshow to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy’ of pictures from the hedonistic days in the 1970′s when bands like Bad Company were more than mere mortals.
Earlier, support was proved by RSO - former Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and his partner in music and life Orianthi (previously guitarist for Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper) - with a 60-minute set which took in proper Jovi classics like ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ and ‘Livin' On a Prayer’, as well as covers of U2's ‘When Love Comes To Town’ and a bizarre choice of Sonny and Cher's ‘I Got You Babe’ (this is one seriously loved-up couple) Sambora and Cher were an item in the ‘80’s - with a seemingly uncomfortable Orianthi sharing vocals so it was all a bit strange to put it mildly. After what felt like an age between songs, the band got proceedings back on track with an emotionally charged version of ’Stranger in this Town’, with some top drawer Bluesy guitar playing reminding one and all of Sambora's status as one of the greatest living guitar-slingers and in my view he was always the best singer In Bon Jovi! With the finale of ‘Living on a Prayer’ - Sambora introduced Steven Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen and E Street and "Sopranos" fame, onstage as a special guest. But no-one could have predicted the self-indulgent car crash that followed. With a somewhat surprised Van Zandt being invited to sing a verse of the song, which clearly had not been rehearsed, he bravely stumbled through his guest spot with good grace and humour. However, this could not mask some of the more rougher traits of the performance I am afraid. Special mention must made of Orianthi who stole the show with her professionalism and virtuosity, especially during the sets rustier moments. By the time RSO return next year, with an album of new material, one can expect some of the basic of kinks of the 02 Arena performance to be fully ironed out.
So with RSO present beforehand, Bad Company were in good company. And in great form as well. Age is only a number but if this super-talented troupe do go on to celebrate their 45th – or even 50th – anniversary then don’t be surprised. Billed as previously mentioned as the Swan Song Tour, this classy quintet (including Leese and Todd Ronning) didn’t look like a band ready to call time on a phenomenal career. The WRC bloody hope not as we may never see their like again...
1. Live for the Music
2. Gone, Gone, Gone
3. Feel Like Makin' Love
5. Burnin' Sky
6. Run With the Pack
7. Ready for Love (Mott the Hoople cover)
8. Crazy Circles
10. Movin' On
11. Shooting Star
12. Can't Get Enough
13. Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy
14. Bad Company
1. When Love Comes to Town (U2 cover)
2. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man (Willie Dixon cover)
3. Heaven in This Hell (Orianthi song)
4. Midnight Rider (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (Snippet)
5. Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi cover)
6. How Do You Sleep? (Orianthi song)
7. Lay Your Hands on Me (Bon Jovi cover)
8. I Got You Babe (Sonny & Cher cover)
9. Stranger in This Town (Richie Sambora song)
10. Livin' on a Prayer (Bon Jovi cover) (with Little Steven)
Wrinkly The Silver
Sunday 6th November 2016
What is it about multi-national rockers Blues Pills and the British weather? We first saw the up and coming Swedish Psychedelic, Blues and Hard Rockers in the rain at Ramblin' Man Fair in July 2015. Last Sunday night we caught them again as part of their current European tour - and it was still pissing down as we left for London's Koko! The tour followed their Nuclear Blast label release this year of their much anticipated second album 'Lady in Gold', produced by Don Alsterberg, which went straight to #1 in the German album charts in its first week of sale. Would the band featuring Zack Anderson (bass), vocalist Elin Larsson, André Kvarnström (drums), guitarist Dorian Sorriaux plus new member Rickard Nygren (organ/guitar) - transport us once again back to the halcyon ‘70’s? Truly international support from Slovenia's Slay Train and the Sabbath-style riff of Germany's Kadavar - certainly warmed the Koko punters up - although I wonder how many in the audience knew that this tour was a co-headliner and indeed that Blues Pills label mates Kadavar were touring in support of their critically acclaimed last album 'Berlin' which charted at #18 in the German album charts upon its release in August 2015?
Nygren's keyboard intro on 'Lady In Gold' - the first and title track from their new CD - not only demonstrated a natural progression and welcome addition to Blues Pills arsenal, but also threw in an ingredient of soul as well as an immediate opportunity for Sorriaux to get in some early guitar chops and for Elin to demonstrate her vocal power and range. Despite the fact that the PA went down for about a minute on the second track from 'LIG' 'Little Boy Preacher' - Blues Pills prayers were answered as they manfully soldiered on thanks to Sorriaux's penetrating guitar riff and Kvarnström pounding drumming. Kvarnström's drum intro heralded the third track from the new album 'Bad Talkers' which showcased the rapport of Larsson's soulful voice and the 70's feel of Sorriaux's guitar, before melting into a fourth straight track from their new album - the groovy and upbeat 'Won't Go Back' - further reaffirming Blues Pills confidence in their new release. Former single 'Black Smoke' took us back to that wet July day last year - taken from their self titled debut album - the appeal of Sorriaux's weaving guitar still as hypnotising tonight as it was then.
And if you wanted proof of the influence of Hendrix then 'Bliss' - the title track from their very first EP was testament to the fact that these guys can mix Psychadelic Blues with the best. The slower and Bluesy 'Little Sun' - from their first album was followed by the Tony Joe White cover 'Elements And Things' - a staple at Blues Pills gigs - so much so that the clamour for it to be included on an album was duly recognised on 'LIG'. And you could see why as Sorriaux's distorted guitar went into riff/solo overdrive, complemented by Larrson's delivery plus the engine room of Anderson's bass and Kvarnström's drumming. The stand out for me on the night. Back to 'LIG' and the funky 'You Gotta Try' got everyone jumping as well as Elin - and talking of, ahem, 'High Class Woman' - this first track and single from their first album - with its drum/bass beat intro - never fails to entice you in to a classic which is the epitome of Blues Pills - with both Larrson and Sorriaux in their respective element's. And sure enough they finished this great set with two more from their first album - the pacey but groovy 'Ain't No Change' and 'Devil Man' with its trademark Bluesy acapella intro from Larrson before the track launched into another Sorriaux guitarfest. And as for their encore - and just to drive home the undoubted versatility of Blues Pills - Elin's piano solo on 'I Felt A Change' saw them at their most sensitive - you could hear the proverbial pin drop - whilst another from 'LIG' - 'Rejection' - was a total contrast harking back to the glorious psychedelia of their early EP's, before they finished with the beautiful 'Gone So Long' and its mesmeric drumbeat - again from 'LIG'. Similar to Ramblin' Man - the crowd had forgotten about the crap weather and wanted more! It's fair to say that based on tonight's excellent set - and the fact that Blues Pills only omitted one track from 'Lady In Gold' - this was most definitely not a case of second album syndrome! Blues Pills finish their European Tour at home in Malmo, Sweden, on Saturday 3rd December.
Hard Rock Hell X
Pwllheli, North Wales
Thursday 10th November - Saturday 12th November 2016
The idea of hosting a Rock festival on the inaccessible Welsh Northwest coast in November is, quite frankly, a ridiculous idea. But that is exactly what the team at Hard Rock Hell has been doing successfully for the last 10 years. This year’s anniversary event sold out its 6500 tickets almost before the last one was over. A hardy breed of rockers you might think? Not at all. The holiday camp hosting the event provides two large inside venues with well-stocked and staffed bars as well as smaller venues, assorted concessionaries and comfortable heated and dry accommodation. A far cry from Knebworth 1985 or this year’s Download.
The three-day festival opened on Thursday evening with what was once a party night for the HRH regulars to meet up and swap stories. Now it is a full blown main stage extravaganza complete with an opening ceremony from the talented Area 51 show troupe performing a burlesque King Kong tribute to the strained sounds of a Metallica filled soundtrack. Yes, you did read that correctly. The opening act was Wales own trio Texas Flood who set the standard for the weekend blasting out their ‘balls to the wall rock and roll’ getting heads nodding, toes tapping and smiles all round. Scotland’s rock trio the Amorettes showed why you wouldn’t mess with these feisty ladies followed by England’s 1970’s slightly more melodic Praying Mantis. Completing the United Kingdom representation was Ireland’s Sweet Savage, once the domain of Dio and Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell. Said Mr. Campbell then took to the stage to dazzle a rapturous audience with Last in Line. Along with fellow Dio member Vinnie Appice, Last in Line belted out classic Dio tracks, as well as a couple of their own tracks, to the accompaniment of a vocal crowd. You might think that fronting a band in place of the mighty Ronnie James Dio would be a daunting prospect but singer Andrew Freeman carried it off with just the right balance of deference and swagger and no lack of singing skills. A great set.
How do you top that? Clear the stage and place 4 Hillbilly’s with nothing but an acoustic guitar, an acoustic bass, a mandolin and a banjo. Add dungarees, alcohol and long beards and you have Hayseed Dixie. Anyone not familiar with the band looked somewhat perplexed as the boys launched into their unique high octane Bluegrass Rock. Those of us in the know watched as those perplexed looks turned into huge grins as they played a string of covers including ‘War Pigs’, ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as well as their own “romantic ballad” ‘Poop in a Jar’. Even the normally taciturn security were grinning and tapping their toes. The set was played at blistering speed with great skill and had the audience dancing all the way back to their nice warm beds. Via the bars of course.
Friday saw the event in full swing with 21 bands playing through the day across both stages. Opening act on the main stage was Mason Hill rocking the hung over faithful with no consideration for headaches. And the faithful didn’t mind a bit. Great energy and great sounds meant many new to the band took note to check them out next time they venture south of the Scottish border. Continuing the international feel, and the rocking, was Israel’s Chase the Ace and America’s Warrior Soul. Flitting between the two stages, and the bar handily en-route, we were treated to bands both old and new, with a diversity that stayed within the comfort zone of the knowledgeable and open-minded audience. Previous years had seen some acts clear the room as their genre of music had failed to please, but this year the acts only led to the most difficult of decisions being which of the two stages most demanded ones attention. On the second stage some special mentions must go out to some of the newer acts that impressed, and kept many from venturing into the main stage. The Last Vegas mixed punk, glam and sleaze in fine proportions. Dorje, the touring band of Internet sensation Rob Chapman and his highly talented band, played a thunderous set with awesome guitar work. And final act Vintage Caravan, Icelandic veterans of the HRH stage, finished the night with some aplomb.
Stage one saw the “headline acts” take the stage although that moniker raises some debate. The Treatment (who have toured with the likes of Kiss, Motley Crue and Slash), Ricky Warwick and the Fighting Hearts and Graham Bonnet of Rainbow fame all did their finest work. Headliner’s of the night were Ugly Kid Joe. Anyone who thinks that their hit ‘Cats in the Cradle’ is representative of their sound is much mistaken. They rock. If you haven’t seen them before, make a note to do so. HRH were treated to them accompanied with the Area 51 dancers, which added just a nice touch of salaciousness. Closing the night were 80’s rock goddesses Vixen. These ladies look and sound as good as they ever did despite every technical hiccup the stage could throw at them. Professional to the core.
Saturday, the final day, followed the same format. Again, the standard of acts on stage two was extremely high. Special mention must go to Melbourne’s brilliantly named Tequila Mockingbird, another all girl act who really hit the spot. Lead singer Estelle Artois has one of those powerful yet beautiful voices that keeps you mesmerised and the band seem to effortlessly avoid the often “trying too hard to be metal” style that some all-girl bands have - yet still sound as heavy as you like. Finishing the night on stage two were Black Aces who signed off the second stage with an excellent performance befitting of the weekends stage two acts.
Stage One opened an eclectic day of music with Leicester’s finest, SKAM. Simple, no nonsense rock, just what the doctor ordered. Last minute additions to the bill Soil played next and, for me, were the find of the festival. Frontman Ryan McCombs, flanked by the behemoths Tim King (bass) and Adam Zadel (guitar), entertained the crowd with the most amusing banter between fiery vocals. Another of those bands that are on the list to revisit.
Australia’s Cherry Grind followed, then Blues legend Bernie Marsden lowered the tempo with his usual fluid fretwork satisfying the mellow need. And the obligatory Whitesnake tracks with the compulsory crowd accompaniment. Of note, Bernie was one of the few acts on the main stage who was able to get a good sound. Many of the acts struggled through the day - more of that shortly. Aussie rockers Massive cranked the tempo back up before another last minute addition Hey Hello took to the stage. Described as a “Power Pop Band” formed by Ginger Wildheart, Hey Hello certainly raised some eyebrows. The somewhat erratic pendulum of styles then swung in the opposite direction with the arrival of Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. The Motorhead guitarist and his boys treated the audience to their covers of some well-known Rock and, more importantly, a number of Motorhead classics. And in a fitting tribute to the much lamented Lemmy, played a version of his Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’ that brought the granite faced axeman as close to an emotion as you are likely to get. As the mighty Motorhead are no more, Phil and his boys are the closest you are going to get.
The style pendulum took another swing with the introduction of Living Colour with their Jazz/Funk/Rock fusion and then Ginger was back on stage again. Those hoping for a collection of Wildhearts classics were disappointed although what was effectively a non-stop 30 minute jam by his collection of 9 musicians was both impressive and entertaining. “Headliners” of the night were eighties metal band Ratt who played a number of tracks from their bestselling 1985 album ‘Invasion of your Privacy’. Unfortunately, their usually melodic dual guitar riffs were let down by poor sound. I think it fair to say that both they and the fans were disappointed with their set. Closing out the night, and the festival, were Southern Rock legends Molly Hatchet. Somewhat curiously they were minus one guitarist, which meant their usual twin guitar boogie sound was restricted to the single guitar of Bobby Ingram. But he played it with style and they closed the night with a string of classics finishing, obviously, with ‘Boogie No More’.
As the crowd dispersed to empty the beer pumps for the final time, they were left to reflect on the end of another successful HRH. Good music, good friends, good beer and a well organised HRH machine quietly working in the background working on HRH 11. Already on the bill are Airbourne, Y&T and Gun. I’ve got my tickets. Best you get yours soon.
The Borderline, London
Monday 7th November
If you have any interest in guitars, you have probably heard of Rob Chapman (aka ‘The Monkey Lord’) who has become an internet sensation. His videos on that well know site for your tubes, of both his own and Andertons music shop in Guildford, have tens of thousands of views and hundreds of thousands of subscribers, offering both online tuition and in-depth review of equipment. Oh, and he owns his own named brand guitar company too.
But ‘Chappers’ main passion is fronting the band Dorje. Formed around 2012, the band consists of Gutarist (Ra)Bea ‘Afro’ Massaad, bassist Dave Hollingworth, drummer Ben Minal and vocalist and guitarist Chappers. Bea, Dave and Ben were all friends who moved south to attend the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, Surrey. It was a chance meeting with Rob Chapman in Guildford that lead to the band forming around a strong love of bands like Incubus with the aim of making their own style of powerful rock music. A skilled group of artists, they have all become icons in their own right. Check out the website
Fast forward to Monday 7th November 2016 in the small but intimate Borderline Club in London’s busy Soho area and you will find the writer, along with a packed audience, eagerly awaiting the first night of Dorje’s sold out tour, with dates in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham and a slot at the Hard Rock Hell festival in Wales. Having seen them in September play as last minute openers at the Camden Underworld to a sparse crowd, it was great to see an appreciative audience pack the small venue to the low slung rafters.
Supporting act were the excellent Nine Miles South with their brand of Bluesy Rock. It was good to see the crowd warm to the band as they gave a great show of why they will be headlining the Borderline someday soon themselves. Once Nine Miles South had finished their set, the clearly excited crowd vented a huge cheer and rapturous applause with the appearance of Bea and Ben. And that was just for the setup of their rigs.
15 minutes later the band appeared, this time for real, to the again tumultuous applause of the clearly faithful masses. Looking slightly bemused by the reception the boys looked more like a group of friends on stage for a jam than a band on a tour. No gimmicks, no snappy dressing, just four guys with instruments. And boy do these guys know how to play them. It also becomes obvious that they have applied their not inconsiderable skills to the writing and production of their own style of songs.
A Hard Rock sound that is progressive, with unusual timings, interesting chord changes and both soulful and djent sounds, this is a band that will make you sing and mosh in equal measure. As Chappers launches into tracks for their newly released ‘Centred and One’ EP, you can tell that he has worked hard training his voice to keep the power and melodic range but also temper it to last the course of the tour. The smiles on the bands faces as the crowd warms to the new material only grow larger as the small, but perfectly formed faithful do their best to form a mosh pit wall of death within the confines of the Borderlines bijou arena.
With anthemic favourites ‘Catalyst’ and ‘Aeromancy’ the air guitar solo’s were in full flow as Bea showed why his lead guitar playing is adored by so many. I only wish vocalist Chappers would spend more time accompanying him as the dual sounds of their Chapman guitars is truly electric. With Dave’s bass busy in the background – another of those bass players who are more adept with four strings than I ever will be with six – and Ben beating out some frantic yet absorbing rhythms, the tour de force was over far too quickly. But they left the stage looking like they had had a damn good time - I know we did. Luckily, the band are back in the studio writing the follow up to their latest release so hopefully we can expect more from them in the early part of 2017.
Dorje are one of those bands you discover once in a blue moon that make you sit up and take notice. Check out their website , check out their video’s and new EP. But most of all, check them out live at a small venue near you soon. Before they move inevitably onto the larger venues. Oh, and in case you were wondering, a Dorje is a Buddhist ritual object, often used with a bell, where the Dorje represents the male and the bell the female. Very Tantric!
Centred & One
Flower of Life
The Answer/Dead Daisies
Electric Ballroom, London
Wednesday 23rd November
The Electric Ballroom in Camden is one of those great venues that are both intimate yet big enough to swing a considerable sized feline, and with excellent acoustics that leave you with pleasantly humming ears rather than shredded tympanic membranes.
Soothing our way into the evening was Lynne Jackaman, once the voice of the sadly too short lived Saint Jude and now weaving a blossoming solo career. For our delectation she performed an acoustic set which perfectly highlighted her strong yet beautiful voice. And she’s a beautiful woman too. An all to brief set was closed with her acoustic rendition of Blind Faiths ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ leaving a roomful of wistful gents of a certain age wishing they weren’t old enough to be her father.
Co-headliners for the night were the Dead Daisies. A supergroup of international proportions, these boys are good, old school loud rock. If Steel Panther are the humorous parody of 80’s hair metal grown up, these boys are the serious contenders. Everything you wanted those now decrepit acts to be but can sadly no longer do. But the Dead Daisies have aged well - really well. Who wants to see reformed acts who can’t quite do what they used to do when the Dead Daisies do it better now? Frontman John Corabi, once of Motley Crue and singer on their eponymous album which contains my favourite Motley Crue track – ‘Smoke The Sky’, showed his considerable pedigree and charisma to lead what has been a revolving door of who’s who in the rock glitterati. The current line-up includes guitarists Doug Aldrich and David Lowy who bring twin Gibson goodness through Marshall and Friedman stacks. Marco Mendoza struts in true bass player style with gum mastication at critical levels and a throbbing bass line. Oo er Mrs! Brian Tichy, resplendent in shirt and tie, as all discerning drummists are sporting these days, wins the prize for most drumsticks lofted – and dropped – in one sitting. If he didn’t mean to do so, sign him up for the England first eleven for the next test match. Another rainforest will have to be erased to replenish his stocks.
Their set was a mixture of their own tracks such as the radio friendly 'Lock and Load' as well as a string of covers such as The Who’s ‘Join Together With The Band’, Judas Priests ‘Living After Midnight’ and a rocked up version of ‘Helter Skelter’. I would have been happy for them to go on all night – they rocked the room with the same energy and vigour that they showed 25 years ago. I don’t know what they are on, but can I have some please?
Enter The Answer. Co-headliners, but not quite the same intensity as the Dead Daisies. I would have put The Answer on first personally, but what do I know. Their latest album ‘Solas’ is a departure from their pub grown Irish rock with a darker more folky feel to it. So their set was a mixture of the classic Answer sing along songs with newer more thoughtful melodies. Paul Mahon’s guitar wizardry on classics like ‘Spectacular’ and ‘Come Follow Me’ were interspersed newer tracks including ‘Battle Cry’, his mandolin playing on ‘In This Land’ and the frankly odd ‘Being Begotten’ with lead singer Cormac Neeson accompanying on Bazouki. You can’t blame the band for trying something different. Track of the night for me was their classic 'Nowhere Freeway' which heralded the reappearance of Lynne Jackaman to provide a fulsome pair. Lynne and Cormac I mean…
Cormac once again engaged the fans in his time honoured manner by conducting the sing along from the middle of crowd. It’s always good to meet your heroes, even better to sing with them. The final song saw Cormac re-join the crowd and then make his way to the t-shirt stand to sell his wares before he had finished singing. Judging by the applause and the masses following him, I guess he did a roaring trade.
The Underworld, Camden, London
Sunday 27th November
On Sunday evening, I headed to the Underworld in Camden to see headliners Eden’s Curse supported by Evolve and C.O.P. UK, in the final date of their Cardinal tour. All three bands categorise their music as “Melodic Metal”, an established sub-genre that, to me, has always sounded somewhat paradoxical: I never think of melody as one of Metal’s defining characteristics. Could tonight’s bands justify this apparently contradictory label - there was only one way to find out ….
The evening got off to an inauspicious start when I arrived at the World’s End pub, where I’d agreed to meet Geoff, my fellow reviewer, for a pre-gig pint. As I walked towards the door, sober as the day I was born, the bouncer stepped across my path saying “Sorry, mate, you’ve had enough already”. Despite my wrinkly age, being accused of drunkenness, when totally sober, was a completely new experience. I was utterly gobsmacked, and flummoxed as to how to prove no alcohol had passed my lips since the previous evening, although I certainly had a go. Fortunately, Geoff arrived at this point and, although the bouncer eventually relented, there were plenty of more welcoming pubs in Camden. So no real harm done, unlike after the gig when, knowing that trains to Cuffley had been reduced to only one per hour because of engineering works, I arrived at Finsbury Park in good time for the 23:34 - only to be told it had been cancelled. Finsbury Park station is not a pleasant place to be for well over an hour around midnight, as I’d already found out after a similar experience the night before. It seems the lack of concern for customers long shown by Govia’s Southern Train franchise has now spread to their Thameslink and Great Northern franchise. The success of London’s evening and night economy is dependent on reliable transport: it seems to me the sooner TfL takes over the Govia franchises the better!
Anyway, that’s more than enough about my pre and post-gig trials and tribulations; I was in Camden for an evening of quality live music, which would hopefully more than make up for a couple of inconveniences. The live music opened with Evolve, a Swiss Progressive Metal band based in Montreux (definitely not to be confused with the Evolve from over the pond, a Christian Rock band from America’s bible belt!). Evolve’s music has a sombre edge, reflecting on time, power and life; its experimental nature helping them win the prestigious Dennis Ward Rock & Metal Song competition for 2015. Sunday’s set was characterised by intricate yet aggressive guitar playing and thunderous drums: the perfect introduction to the evening ahead.
Next on were C.O.P. UK, as in Crimes Of Passion, the abbreviated version presumably being introduced to avoid confusion (maybe even legal action) with similarly named bands in Australia, America and elsewhere. C.O.P. UK evolved from the industrial heartland of Sheffield. Formed in 2005, they have recently released their third album, ‘No Place for Heaven’. This evening’s well polished set is a testament to their insatiable appetite for touring, honed to perfection on club stages across Europe. C.O.P. UK’s illuminating stage presence is largely due to their experienced vocalist Dale Radcliffe, a prime candidate for membership of the WRC! Dale’s vocals are supplemented by atmospheric guitar riffs (with some occasional hardcore showing off), and a talented powerhouse of bass, drums and keys. C.O.P. UK’s own songs that demand particular attention include ‘Love is to Die For’ and ‘Catch me if you Can’, both full of harmonic vocals and lots of juicy guitar riffs. The band finish their set with an uplifting version of Journey’s classic ‘Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)’, which had the whole audience bouncing and singing along.
It was now time for headliners Eden’s Curse, a multinational Metal band whose members hail from Germany, Serbia, Finland and Scotland. Their current tour has been to promote ‘Cardinal’, their fifth album, released just a couple of months ago. Reviewers of the album agree it represents a return to the earwormy anthems of Eden Curse’s Melodic Metal roots and a step back from the radio rock of its predecessor, ‘Symphony of Sin’. This evening’s set list includes six songs from the new album, seamlessly interspersed with a dozen favourites from their back catalogue. Right from the start, Eden’s Curse successfully engage with the crowd, and vocalist Nikola Mijic does a great job at keeping it that way. His smooth, versatile voice maintains the audience’s admiration, handling Power Metal equally as well as mainstream Melodic Rock. The instrumental support is equally versatile, Thorsten Koehe on guitar and Paul Logue on bass provide trademark Eden’s Curse melodies, hooks and riffs. Newcomers John Clelland (drums) and Christian Pulkkinen (keys) have fitted in perfectly: you’d think they’d been with the band since its inception. My highlights from the first hour of the set, all from the new album, were ‘Prophets of Doom’, a grandiose power pomp with a memorable chorus, the balladesque ‘Find My Way’ and ‘Unconditional’, a duet featuring guest vocalist Helen Hurd. Eden’s Curse seem to use a different guest female vocalist at every venue, implying this was Helen’s first live performance of the song, after limited rehearsal time. You wouldn’t have known it; her silky movement and angelic tones definitely gave the band that extra wow factor. ‘Jericho’s long instrumental middle gave the musicians the opportunity to show how accomplished they really were: they didn’t disappoint. However, Eden’s Curse saved their very best for their encore. Audience participation got well underway with the well-known ‘Symphony of Sin’ but, when Evolve and C.O.P. UK joined Eden’s Curse on stage for a cover of ‘Highway to Hell’, the volume reached a new level, shaking The Underworld to its foundations. Which only left one song, ‘Angels & Demons’, another powerful duet with Helen Hurd, a truly fitting finale that nearly brought the house down.
So, overall, an awesome evening, even with my pre- and post-gig inconveniences. As for that apparent contradiction, all three bands demonstrated the range of Metal music and played songs with obvious melodies. Eden’s Curse were particularly good at this, helped by slick song writing, their technical guitar work and the wide, rich vocal range of Nicola Mijic offset on a couple of songs by the angelic tones of Helen Hurd.
London's O2 Arena, Greenwich
Thursday 24th November
The pre-gig research described openers Like a Storm as "a Hard Rock band from Auckland, New Zealand, best known for combining heavy baritone guitar riffs and Hard Rock songs with didgeridoo." Yep, that pretty much covers it. The short set was not as Sabbathesque as I was expecting but had a heaviness that was warmly applauded by the sparse arriving audience. And the didgeridoo, stolen from it’s native Australia, seemed to be more of a gimmick than adding anything notable to their sound. Personally, I would suggest they didgeridon’t. They are good enough without it.
Second act up were Gojira, a brutal French Heavy Metal band with screaming vocals. Reminded me of my French vocab lessons - tough school. The now more populous crowd warmed to the self-deprecating gallic charmers who played a solid set. It’s good to see our friends from across the channel have something to listen to other than Edith Piaf and Charles Hasnovoice (kids, ask your grandparents). Kirk Hammett certainly seems to approve of them.
Last of the support acts was radio friendly Volbeat. For me, they are one of those bands just don’t click. ‘Lola Montez’, their biggest hit, sounded just like the record when played live which is testament to the bands performance skills. But then a number of their tracks sounded like ‘Lola Montez' to me. The Danish smorgasbord of songs was a collection of tracks that had influences from Metal, Punk, Rockabilly and Reggae (probably). With a Metal version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ – not your usual mosh out track – and a guest appearance from Johnny from Napalm Death on ‘Evelyn’, there was something for everyone.
Lights down, here comes the main event. The O2 in Greenwich is one of those arena’s that bands either fill with wondrous sound or get lost in it’s cavernous, vertigo inducing ether. Guess which one applies here? Many well-known names have tried and failed but Alter Bridge are one of those bands whose catalogue of Power Rock is meant for the big venues. Lead singer and sinfully underrated guitarist Myles Kennedy has a voice that would seek out every corner of the venue, and beyond, even without the huge sound system. His vocals with Slash has helped to make him a household name and grace the top 5 list of Rock warblers on any self-respecting poll.
Lead guitarist Mark Tremonti is God. Or whatever deity is your choice in these multi-faithed days. Clapton was hailed as God in the sixties. Hendrix made Clapton sit up and listen. Mark Tremonti is, for me, a guitarist's guitarist who can claim that mantle. Animated, but not extrovertly showy, Mark Tremonti has all the chops, all the licks, and all of the taste and style to put him up on a pedestal with the best. He really makes those birds on his PRS sing. Scott Phillips beat the bejesus out of his DW’s with no thought spared for his Zildjians either. And Brian Marshall bossed his bass to complete the foursome. Check out his bass breakdown in ‘Cry Of Achilles’.
With their latest album ‘The Last Hero’ filling an iPod near you, it was no surprise that they opened with a new track ‘The Writing On The Wall’. What followed was a blissful set from the previous four albums plus new tracks like ‘The Last Hero’ and ‘Crows On A Wire’ thrilling the packed throng. Myles acoustic solo track ‘Watch Over You’ was beautiful and bought a respected reverence and Mark Tremonti singing lead vocals on ‘Waters Rising’ was a treat. But Alter Bridge are about the power and the technical brilliance of tracks like ‘Addicted To Pain’ and ‘Isolation’ that required a couple of local power stations to up their game. One of those nights when you truly get lost in the music. At least the sore pain in my constantly banging head was relieved, but at the expense of my vocal chords, when anthemic song ‘Blackbird’ moistened every eye in the house. Album of the year, 2007 for me. Rapture. And the already moist eyes were further moved when the bountiful Tremonti presented his gorgeous guitar to one lucky punter in the front row. That will be one treasured memento of what was a treasure trove of a gig. It was a truly religious experience. Mr Tremonti, I worship you.
The Writing On The Wall
Come To Life
Addicted To Pain
Ghost Of Days Gone By
Cry Of Achilles
The Other Side
Farther Than The Sun
Ties That Bind
Crows On A Wire
Watch Over You
Open Your Eyes
Show Me A Leader
Electric Ballroom, Camden
Tuesday 29th November
In their early days, Airbourne were a band often taken for an Australian AC/DC tribute act. Now roughly ten years into the game, they have really broken out of that perception, and become known in their own right, with some banging tracks that have made the band a must-see. With the release of their fourth studio album, ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’, Airbourne have made yet another step into the limelight on their own merit. There was something in the air at the Electric Ballroom on the last night of their UK tour, a real sense that we were about to see something special.
However, before Airbourne and starting off the WRC evening (after a few beers in the local The World's End of course !) were US rockers Crobot, a band I must admit I knew very little about despite AJ telling me how good they were and the WRC interviewing the band ahead of the gig, So I really wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. These Pennsylvanian rockers seem to thrive in the UK on levels they haven’t quite reached elsewhere. It’s a familiar story with the same happening for the likes of Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge and Avenged Sevenfold, us Brits seem to have taken them under our wing and given them a pep talk of “we know what you’re capable of, even if the rest of the world doesn’t”.
They opened their set with the seemingly reliable ‘Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer’ from debut album ‘Something Supernatural’ and immediately lead singer Brendon Yeagley was on form. His signature 70’s “free spirit” style unchanged from previous UK shows I gather and the microphone stand taking a beating. He is certainly one of the shining lights amongst the new breed of frontmen currently treading the boards .His elasticated legs made him seem ten feet tall! From here six of the next ten songs were from the new album ‘Welcome To Fat City’ and it was great to see the band knocking out over half of a new album and the crowd lapping it up. They weren’t as raucous as they would be for Airbourne, but Crobot aren’t a balls out Rock band. Crobot put the funk right up their crowds from what I have heard and that was certainly the case here. ‘Play It Cool’, ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Nowhere To Hide’ all take a spot on the setlist and show how far the band have progressed, sounding fresher and bigger than the debut album tracks. Crobot have all the potential in the world and it almost certainly won’t be long until they’re back. Make sure you’re in the room when they’re next here. I certainly will be!
Finally, we came to the moment everyone had been waiting for, as the lights went down and the Terminator 2 theme comes in, building up nicely to Airbourne hitting the stage like the alcohol fueled tornado that they are. I caught Airbourne at the Ramblin’ Man Fair this summer and witnessed how they performed on a big stage. My initial judgment was that they – especially lead singer Joel O’Keeffe – were nutters! I wondered if they’d tone it down when playing inside, but not a chance. Joel appeared on stage, shirtless of course. It was obvious we were in for a rocking night. They bound on to stage like an excited puppy that’s happy to be home. Similar to Crobot, Airbourne have a big, big following in the UK and immediately guitar-wielding frontman Joel has the whole room clapping along to the bass drum with hair and beer flying. They flew straight into ‘Ready to Rock’, and the crowd lived up to it as they greeted the band with a deafening roar and a heaving mosh pit of course! My mosh pit days are over but AJ took up the challenge on the WRC's behalf like the trooper he is..Good lad!
After two more songs,’Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast’ and ‘Chewing the Fat’, both of which were fantastic and showed the band were firing on all cylinders, and sounding amazing, followed by the first playing live of ‘Hellfire’ for two years, we then got to the first track from their new album with the song ‘Rivalry’, and with the way the crowd were singing along, you would never have guessed it was a new track. Then, after revisiting their first album with ‘Girls in Black’, and Joel deciding to spend some time in the crowd - which as always went down very well – we were treated to new song ‘It’s All For Rock and Roll’. The band explained that without the late Motorhead front-man Lemmy they might not be where they are now, so this one was for him. “Cheers Lem” was answered by an almighty cheer, and there was something about the lines, “all around the world he left his mark, and his ghost still haunts the stage” that makes you think Airbourne certainly aren’t wrong, and that Lemmy would be proud of them. The song itself certainly does sound similar to Motorhead in places again it’s another song that gets the crowd going.
Airbourne continued with a fan favourite in ‘Down On You’ before giving us the outstanding title track of the new album ‘Breakin’ Outta Hell’, followed by ‘Diamond In The Rough’ from the first album again, both of which sounded fantastic, with the band hitting every note and really coming together perfectly on their new tracks, where they didn’t put a foot wrong all night. After an encore which consisted of ‘Livin’ It Up’ and the crowds-favourite game of ‘who wants a beer from Joel?’ the band finished up with what else but ‘Running Wild’, which began with drummer Ryan O'Keefe cranking up a World War II air raid siren and one final reminder that "as long as you’re alive and we’re alive", ROCK AND ROLL WILL NEVER DIE! Thank God for that!
Airbourne proved why they are still a one of the very best live bands around with such energy and stage presence to them and a back catalogue of songs that everyone loves. On top of that the new songs went down really well and the band themselves sound really tight and slick. Joel is a good a front man as ever there was one - he knows what’s expected of him and he delivers every time. Airbourne have a set of fans that just can’t get enough of them. Which is where my only gripe of the evening comes from. The Aussie’s seem to be playing less tracks now after four albums than they did a few years ago after just a couple. 14 tracks were played including the two track encore and the set lasted little over an hour. For a band with the catalogue AIrbourne have, I was expecting a bit more to be honest. Still, what we did get rocked hard and the band were in fine form. This gig could have been longer but it couldn’t have been louder. And for Airbourne that’s the ultimate compliment in my book,
So, they came, they rocked, the drank and they left. Another strong Airbourne tour has torn London a new one and left it wondering just what the hell happened. It’s easy for a band to start to plateau, but there doesn’t seem to be any worries about that happening around here. There are many, many bands who make more cerebral music. Many acts who pepper their trademark tunes with opaque lyrics and meandering solos. And many musicians who would mock Airbourne’s simplistic "AC/DC's riffs meet Def Leppard's choruses" formula. But few come close to matching Melbourne’s finest in terms of energy, attitude and addictive positivity. Most – if not all – of what you see at an Airbourne show has been done before. The riffs have been rearranged and the words might have changed but this is, in essence, a throwback to when Bon Scott and Angus Young injected the X-Factor into DIY rock. And as a result it’s one of the most reassuring live shows you’ll see all year. No way but the highway? I think you’ll find there’s the Airbourne way and it freaking rocks! Long may it continue...
1. Main Title from "Terminator 2" (Brad Fiedel song)
2. Ready to Rock
3. Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
4. Chewin' the Fat
7. Girls in Black
8. It's All For Rock N' Roll
9. Down on You
10. Breakin' Outta Hell
11. Diamond in the Rough
12. No Way but the Hard Way
13. Stand Up for Rock 'n' Roll
14. Live It Up
15. Runnin' Wild
1. The Legend of the Spaceborne Killer
2. Easy Money
3. Skull of Geronimo
4. Right Between the Eyes
6. The Necromancer
7. Plague of the Mammoths
8. Play It Cool
9. Moment of Truth
10. Nowhere to Hide
11. Welcome to Fat City
Wrinkly the Silver
Islington Assembly Halls
Tuesday 29th November
The Assembly Halls in Islington remind me of school assembly, funnily enough. The typical school stage and parquet flooring brought back visions of hymn practice and exams. Thankfully, this venue also has a bar, a sound engineers pit and a circle balcony so any fears of detention were quickly allayed.
Our support act for the night was none other than Broken Witt Rebels. Looking both young and trendy, they fitted perfectly with the venue with their popular brand of Blues Rock, with a hint of Kings of Leon about them. The Brummie quartet are in the middle of a UK tour, both as support for King King and Joanne Shaw Taylor, and as headliners in their own right. I can see why.
This was a gig that may not have happened. King King’s Alan Nimmo has been suffering problems with his voice which led to the postponement of a couple of shows until early 2017. Following work with a vocal coach to build strength and stamina to aid his recovery, Alan took to the stage with some trepidation. He needn’t have worried. His voice may not have had it’s full power, but it was plenty strong enough.
Looking like a baby faced Geoff Capes, with his tartan kilt, work boots, and fat Strat held in hand like some medieval axe, he could have been a terrifying vision from the battle of Bannockburn. Instead, he merely slayed the Sassenach with his killer licks. Ably supported by Lindsay Coulson on bass, Wayne Proctor on drums and the amazing Dutchman Bob Fridzema on Hammond Organ and keyboards, Mr Nimmo and crew showed why they are no strangers to awards in the world of Blues. In footballing terms ‘he’s got a good touch for a big man’ with intricate fretboard skills and digital dexterity to shame the shredders but with the feel and flavour demanded of such soulful music. Here is a man playing from his heart, openly displayed for all to see, showcased wonderfully with his dedication to his convalescing mother of ‘You Stopped the Rain’.
The set had it’s problems – Lindsay’s bass decided to misbehave during ‘More Than I Can Take’ and Alan struggled to keep his voice together for the full set – but he still produced a more orotund output than many fully healthy throats can manage. But overall, a loving audience were again treated to the best Blues in town. High gain soloing, smooth rhythms, intricate ivory tinkling on the Hammond Organ and full on power showers – we got the lot. But the cherry on the proverbial Glaswegian cake was the cover of Frankie Millers ‘Jealousy. An oft covered song, played on a Les Paul with no amplification at all. Just our happy host, soloing to a completely silent assembly hall, all ears straining to pick up the last acoustic vibrations of wire and wood. No pins were dropped.
Plaudits and awards are often given, theirs are truly deserved. King King were Ace Ace.
Wait On Time (The Fabulous Thunderbirds cover)
A Long History of Love
More Than I Can Take
You Stopped The Rain
Jealousy (Frankie Miller cover)
Stranger To Love
Let Love In
Mother (pics courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
Black Stone Cherry
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Monday 5th December
Returning to Britain for the first time since headlining The Ramblin’ Man Fair back in July (see WRC review five months below!), Southern American Hard Rock band Black Stone Cherry are now bringing their ‘Experience Kentucky’ tour to 14 venues across the UK, before heading to Europe for a further 26 shows in 15 different countries. On Monday 6th December I headed out to west London to catch the tour at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
For many bands, their sound doesn’t necessarily reflect or represent where they are from geographically. Not so with Black Stone Cherry, whose Southern Rock roots have shined through ever since the band was formed in 2001. Their recently released fifth album ‘Kentucky’ preserves those roots, and not just in its title. It was recorded in the same studio as their self-titled debut album, just a stone’s throw away from their homes in Glasgow - no, not that Glasgow - Glasgow, Kentucky, of course. A key factor in maintaining both the band’s recognizable sound, and its cohesiveness, is that the line-up has remained the same throughout its 15 years existence - quite an achievement in itself in these days of rolling personnel changes. Black Stone Cherry is, and always has been, Chris Robertson on lead vocals and lead guitar, Ben Wells providing rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Jon Lawhon bass and backing vocals, with even more backing vocals from drummer John Fred Young.
As its name implies, the current ‘Experience Kentucky’ tour is partly to promote ‘Kentucky’, the band’s critically acclaimed latest album. Released in the UK in April, ‘Kentucky’ follows the path of Black Stone Cherry’s previous albums, with plenty of Hard Rocking, Southern-fried songs, heavy riffs and memorable choruses. Not that these solid and successful foundations preclude progression and experimentation, far from it: Black Stone Cherry introduce brass on a couple of ‘Kentucky”s songs; the album also has occasional female backing vocals and, on the quieter, emotional ‘The Rambler’, added fiddle gives a Country flavour. The album’s songwriting demonstrates how Black Stone Cherry have matured, but they are still able to turn it loose and rock as hard as they always have. It’s an effective balance, and ‘Kentucky’ is a diverse and impactful album.
One of the problems bands have when touring to promote a new album, is deciding their set’s balance between established favourites, which the fans know and invariably prefer, and new songs, which the band hopes will become the established favourites of the future. In their ‘Experience Kentucky’ tour Black Stone Cherry ease this problem by dispensing with a support band, filling the slot with a fabulous acoustic set of their own, and then returning after a short break to deliver a traditional, full length electric set. The two sets include a total of 26 songs, enabling the band to fit in six songs from the new album, plus three covers, and still have room for more old favourites than normal. This two set approach has other advantages: the audience gets an extra hour of the band they’ve come to see, the venue is packed an hour earlier (presumably boosting bar takings) and the band has more opportunity to demonstrate its versatility. Maybe it will catch on.
Most unlike previous Black Stone Cherry tours, the stage for the opening acoustic set had a homely, personal feel, with the band members sitting on stools on Persian rugs in an unplugged setting. The set opened with ‘In our Dreams’ from the new album; this set the tone with its jangling acoustics and the soft-play wristy drumming of John Fred Young. A strumming war then ensued between Chris and Ben on fan favourite ‘Hell & High Water’ and a singalong between band and fans on ‘The Rambler’, another song from the new album, with beautiful guitar lines and bass interplay by Jon. However, the undoubted highlight in the acoustic set was the poignant ‘Things My Father Said’. It is now two years since Chris’s grandfather died, but the song’s raw, cracked emotion, enhanced by the audience’s sea of waving mobiles, was as strong as ever. Overall, the acoustic set demonstrated that Black Stone Cherry’s songs don’t necessarily need amps and electric for their power and intensity. It also enabled the deep Country and Bluegrass roots of the band’s Rock music to shine through: we may have been a million miles from Kentucky but on Monday Shepherd’s Bush became an extension of the Bluegrass state.
Starter over, it was time for the main course: Black Stone Cherry at their loud, bright and electric best. The homely feel was ripped out of the stage, which was laid bare, leaving ample space for Ben’s leaping acrobatics as he bounced and strode from one side of the stage to the other. The band hit the stage as they meant to continue, in full Rock and Roll mode, firing up the crowd and raising the temperature in the auditorium. From the very start of the electric set, opened with the barnstorming but rarely played ‘Devil’s Queen’, the band embarked on a frenzied mixture of riffs and melodies, storming through show-stoppng cuts from their five classic rock albums. After a crunching version of George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’ the pace accelerated still further for the singalongs ‘Soulcreek’ and ‘White Trash Millionaire’. New songs ‘Darkest Secret’ and ‘Shakin' My Cage’ were real crowd pleasers, allowing no let up in the brutal rock riffs. A cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘Built for Comfort’ included a mid section jam with guitar solos, allowing Ben and Jon to demonstrate what accomplished guitarists they are. Three songs later, a drum solo let John Fred take control of the stage with an electric performance that gave the rest of the band a breather before returning for the evening’s compelling close. This comprised ‘Shakin’ My Cage’, another new song, and a couple of well known anthems, ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’ and ‘Lonely Train’, before a rousing cover of ‘Voodoo Child’ ended the evening on yet another high.
With the same line-up for 15 years, Black Stone Cherry’s chemistry should be impeccable and it is: their interplay seems effortless and they obviously derive real enjoyment from playing together. Miraculously, they have maintained both their initial enthusiasm and the flavour of the American South that gives their rock a unique edge. Long may it continue.