Salting Earth World Tour,
Islington Assembly Halls , London
Friday 1st September 2017
What is the definition of a musician who has made it? Being in a famous band? Being part of a super group? Releasing top 20 hits? Having your own signature guitar and amp? Well LA’s Richie Kotzen has done all that and more. Richie Kotzen began playing piano at the age of five. At the age of seven, he was inspired to learn the electric guitar by the band Kiss. He joined local bands and at the age of 21, Kotzen joined Glam-Metal band Poison, co-writing and performing on the album 'Native Tongue'. In 1999, Kotzen replaced Paul Gilbert as guitarist in the mainstream Rock band Mr. Big, performing on their album 'Get Over It' and went on to form the Winery Dogs, a super group that includes such luminaries as Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan. But spanning all the aforementioned, and towering above them all, is Richie’s solo career which he describes as a mix of Rock, Blues, Jazz, Fusion, and Soul music. Citing influences as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Jason Becker (who produced his first album), Allan Holdsworth, and many other Jazz and Fusion players, he has released over 20 albums with a broad mix of genres proudly defying any pigeon hole you may try to post him into.
The current 'Salting Earth' World Tour sees Richie playing South America, Japan, Singapore, Australia and now Europe. Tonight’s feast is at The Islington’s Assembly Halls and we are lucky to have him as the gruelling schedule has taken its toll. The previous night’s gigs in Germany and Holland have required stand-in singers as a bout of the flu (the proper Man Flu variety obviously) has robbed him of his voice. What he needs is to stay nice and warm. So a night in the warmest room in the world (Gas mark 17 by my reckoning) must surely have helped? No bug could have survived that heat.
The fabulous Assembly Halls in Islington was nicely full for warm up acts Tidal Concerts and The Konincks. They obviously did a fantastic job as the aforementioned cooking levels clearly attested to. So come 9 o’clock, and the entrance of the main man, and the floor was packed. The long haired, leather clad, vest wearing Rock star look has gone to be replaced by a cleaner look. Sporting a white t-shirt with a stylish blue scarf, his shorter hair and trimmed look smacks of a young Bruce Springsteen. Along with that change is a change of amp too. Rather than playing through one of his signature Cornford amps, tonight we are treated to the beautiful tones of the Victory V40 Duchess amp. With signature Fender Telecaster in hand he launches into a set list that is immediately scattered to the four winds as the Orthomyxoviridae nasties do their worst. He’s not a healthy bunny. It’s a testament to Kotzen that he manages to complete 90 minutes of performance as he struggles with his voice, the heat and a few technical gremlins to boot.
But help is at hand. Supporting on bass, and stepping in on vocals whenever needed, is Dylan Wilson who swaps between a regular Fender bass and a funky upright electric bass. If it hadn’t been for DW, the gig would have been over before it started. And completing the trio is percussionist Mike Bennett on both drums and cajon.
Playing a collection of hits, Kotzen and Wilson swap funky rhythms and rocking riffs with amazing dexterity, speed and finesse. Kotzen is famed for his fingerstyle playing but switches between blistering licks with a pick and exquisite finger picking with a deftness of touch that is glorious. The jam moves with Kotzen onto the Wurlitzer keyboard as the revered guitarist shows his ivory tinkling roots. It’s Jazz, it’s Rock, it’s Funk, it’s Soul. His clear voice is showing the strain as he is clearly singing at a lower pitch than normal. And monitor problems aren’t helping either. But launching into the melodic 'My Rock' gives his voice a rest whilst displaying his keyboard prowess. 'Cannon Ball' brings back the funky keyboards, with a clean piano sound, that reminded me of something you might hear from Luther Vandross. Wilson is back on the upright double bass for 'High' and also takes on the singing duties to give Kotzen a break. The crowd are also happy to lend a hand.
A change of tempo again with 'I Would' sees Kotzen playing acoustic guitar and Benett on the cajon box drum – with a cajon drum solo to boot.
Not content with that Bennett launches into a regular drum solo, probably to let Kotzen cool down and recover his strength for the finale.
Kotzen returns for to play 'Fear' on his signature Fender Strat, a strong display of guitar skills which morphs again into a Jazz style jam with Wilson. And as a change of style and pace again, Julia Herzog from the Konings joins them on stage to sing 'Remember'. She has a great voice. Finishing of the set, Kotzen is back on the Telecaster for a funky finale with Wilson slapping the bass like a new born baby on 'Help Me'.
Even in his weakened state, Kotzen is back for an encore on keyboards with 'This Is Life' before switching to the trustee Strat for a final flurry of what we came to see – six string perfection. With a final wave to the audience he virtually falls off stage looking like an extra from The Walking Dead.
It was an evening of surprises on a number of levels. Not what we were expecting. We came expecting the showmanship, skills and artistic brilliance of a true craftsman. What we got was a new looking stalwart who refused to be beaten. The show must go on and it did. Not the usual polished production, but a delightful feast for the ears, in some ways all the better for the fact that it was unpredictable. We may not get that again which made it a gig to treasure. When you are a musician who has made it, you can do what you want and still please the crowd. It was a brave decision to go ahead with the gig, but I’m glad he did. Get well soon Richie.
St. Pancras Old Church, London
Thursday 14th September 2017
Last Thursday saw the opening date of singer-songwriter Dan Reed’s second UK tour in 2017, although anyone attending both tours, and unfamiliar with Dan’s work, could be forgiven for not realising it was the same artist. The first tour, in Spring, was as leader of the Dan Reed Network, an established American Rock band that, over the last 30 years, has recorded half a dozen studio albums and enthralled live audiences with heavy Funk enhanced by a gritty Rock feel. (AJ’s review of the London leg of that tour can be found at under “2017 Reviews - January to March”). However, as Dan Reed aficionados well know, Dan also records the occasional solo album, in a style that contrasts sharply with that of the Dan Reed Network. His solo work comprises primarily of simple, acoustic songs, often with a political or religious edge. He’s written many electronic tracks, normally recorded with his own vocals, but occasionally using sampled vocals from different political speakers. They also have a strong international flavour, reflecting Dan’s experiences from his time in Jerusalem, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Prague and London.
Dan’s current tour is to promote his latest solo album: ‘Confessions’, launched at Thursday’s gig and officially released the day after. For ‘Confessions’, his fourth solo album, Dan wanted to push his own comfort zone as a keyboardist and guitarist, creating something entirely from self-expression. It therefore sees him performing all the live instruments and vocals alongside programming the beats and synth parts, although there are special guest appearances by guitarists Rob Daiker, Geoff Tyson and Martin Tidmarsh, who provide the solos for ‘Smile’ and ‘The Great Divide’, while Rob Daiker also added some drum programming and mixed the album. ‘Confessions’ leaves the politics and social commentary of Dan’s earlier solo albums behind, to concentrate on journeys into, and out of, love. But not the traditional, over exploited theme of sugar coated, idealistic love: Dan’s songs explore the compassion, empathy and warmth of friends and family that unite and inspire us. The result is a beautifully composed, chilled out, Electro/Acoustic Soul album about retaining our passion for life.
Thursday’s performance was held at St. Pancras Old Church, a beautifully restored parish church half way between Camden High Street and St. Pancras station. This stunning venue has been available for concerts since 2011 and has rapidly become an established live music venue, especially for new artists and album launches. It may not have the audience capacity or massive sound systems of larger venues, but the sombre, yet colourful surroundings provided a perfect intimate and tranquil setting for Dan’s melodic, acoustic set. The church was also a particularly appropriate background for the religious themes present in several of Dan’s songs. During one of Thursday’s many anecdotal interludes, Dan mentioned his strict religious upbringing in South Dakota, where he first found his love of music singing in the school choir. His music tastes changed to less reverent themes during his teenage years when his favourite songs, which included ‘Running with the Devil’ and ‘Highway to Hell’, were not entirely compatible with his religious upbringing. More recently, during a hiatus from the music business in his 40’s, Dan spent four years in a Tibetan Monastery in northern India and then studying religions in Jerusalem. It is no wonder that many recent songs, including several sung at the St. Pancras Old Church, have religious themes such as the conflict between different religions, in ‘Jerusalem Sky’ and ‘Promised Land’, or exploring the effect of love on hate and conflict, in ‘Only Love’ and ‘Long Way to Go’.
Dan started Thursday’s set with universally known favourites ‘Fire and Rain’, ‘Feels Like Home’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. Having set the scene for the evening with his passionate vocals and precise guitar playing, Dan opened it up to requests. The audience was not slow to respond; most of them were old enough to have followed Dan since the release of his first album 30 years ago, and they all seemed familiar with Dan’s extensive back catalogue, both as an acoustic soloist and as leader of the Dan Reed Network. Highlights from the long list of requests were ‘Coming Up for Air’, about the power of love, ‘Indestructible’, about the joy and pain of love, and ‘Champion’, about changing relationships. The requests were interspersed with songs from the new album, not requested because it hadn’t been released yet, with one exception: there were repeated requests for ‘Smile’, released as a single just a month ago, but already viewed over 120,000 times on YouTube. Smile is about tuning out the noise and chaos of our daily lives, and finding solace in the simple smile of someone we share the road of life with. The audience continued to shout out requests, ever more loudly and frantically as Dan’s two hour was coming to an end. He finished with ‘Day One’, a thank-you to all his supporters, both in the audience, and working behind the scenes, and, finally, ‘Tiger in a Dress’, a Dan Reed Network song that finished the evening on a faster, rockier high.
In conclusion, Thursday evening was a combination of songs from Dan’s earlier albums, with primarily religious and political themes, and a selection from his new album exploring the effect of love on our lives. The evening demonstrated beyond doubt Dan’s ability to play quieter, more melodic songs, with the same passion and vitality he exhibits in the Dan Reed Network. As further evidence of his ability to switch seamlessly between music genres, in December Dan returns to the UK again, reunited with his Network, to support Extreme on his third UK tour of 2017. It is likely to sell out as quickly as the first two.
Crowndale Club, Camden, London
Wednesday 13th September 2017
Having recently been announced as part of a stunning Planet Rock sponsored four band 'Coming Under Heavy Fire' November UK tour headlined by Black Star Riders (plus Blues Pills and Tax The Heat), London based Rock group Dirty Thrills launched their new album, ‘Heavy Living’ last Wednesday, which was in fact released two days later. Playing the whole album in its entirety and in the right order (a reviewer's dream) at a free special launch party at The Crowndale (formerly the Purple Turtle) in Camden, London - these guys proved once again that they are well and truly on the up. We first introduced you to Louis James - lead vocals and harmonica, Jack Fawdry - guitar, backing vocals, Steve Corrigan - drums and Aaron Plows – bass, back in August 2015 plus we also saw them on the Ramblin' Man Fair Rising Stage in 2016 and also had the pleasure of recently interviewing the band at this year's Ramblin' Man Fair, following their performance on the Grooverider Stage - affirmation if needed that Dirty Thrills are going places.
By the time the band came on stage at around 9pm there was a good size following at this great little venue (our first visit there) - just across the road from the Koko and Mornington Crescent Tube. Right from the opening salvo of new single 'I'll Be With You', which smacked of Rival Sons meets Bad Company meets Soundgarden meets Led Zeppelin, it left those there, that were in any doubt, that these guys do indeed rock - an opportunity not only for the skin booted and suited Louis James to loosen his tonsils and his vocal range but also for some welcome audience handicapping participation towards its end. The first time we saw Dirty Thrills was last June supporting the dirty Groove Rock Of America's Crobot at Islington's O2 Academy and Crobot's on-stage animation and energy had seemingly rubbed off on Dirty Thrills big time - although the name of their second track 'Go Slow' was a bit misleading given the driving rock of Jack Fawdry's guitar. Up next was the Western themed groove of 'Law Man' - their first single from 'HL' - very akin to the Rival Sons modern Retro Rock that's currently all over the radio in America - Louis accordingly with tambourine in hand. The Crowndale sound system was great, although the lighting was a bit dark for the gathered WRC paparazzi! And as far as Louis' pun of "being thrilled" when he introduced their next song - there was indeed no 'Hanging Around' as the band launched into the fourth track of the same name - with no let up in both James and Fawdry's powerful delivery.
But Dirty Thrills do indeed have charisma in abundance as testified by the engine room of their manic moustachioed/scarf laden bass guitarist Aaron Plows and drummer Steve Corrigan who seemed to savour every beat, although they did it slow it down with 'Lonely Soul', originally from their acoustic EP 'Devils Wine' - transformed by Fawdry's slide guitar that built nicely and naturally, that lent itself to great guitar solo outro. The inclusion of the Heavy Blues Rock of Dirty Thrills staple 'No Resolve' (originally from their debut album and the live version on their EP 'Sweetheart Of The Slums') understandably complemented both the set and the album itself - another great vocal and guitar solo - and a riff - if ever I heard one - that deserved to have James throw the mic stand around a bit! Indeed, Louis' late father Nicky (former vocalist of The Moody Blues V) and Nicky's old mucker John Bonham would no doubt both have been proud to see Louis' Plant-ish vocal gymnastics on the short 'Interlude' - its mystical path leading to the riffing barn-stormer and Crobot territory of 'The Brave' - the connection between the two tracks more palpable live than on the CD. Most probably the stand-out of the set. Awesome.
An a cappella intro from James led to another great riff and reverb on their other single 'Rabbit Hole', but if you wanted evidence that Dirty Thrills can mix it up then the cinematic feel of 'Drunk Words' - recycled from their earlier EP 'Growing Young' - certainly nailed it. And just in case we thought that the guys were going all soft - the pace of the set was picked up once again for the final track of the album - the punchy 'Get Loose'. With the bread and butter of 'Heavy Living' out of the way - it was time for the guys to let their hair down and get the beers out - even if Louis did have a problem using his bottle opener! Anyway in an epic encore, the tambourine waving James, on more familiar territory, got the audience singalong participation going on 'Shivers', another from their 'Growing Young' EP. The last two favourites were off of their debut album - the driving Rock of 'Follow Me Home' which not only saw Fawdry helping out on backing vocals but also saw Jack jumping on top of a speaker stack, and if you wanted a dirty explosive slide guitar plus the thrill of a stand out vocal - then they saved the best to blast with 'Sigh'. Loved the beat, vocals, everything - these guys kicked ass. If you want your Dirty Thrills - then you know where to go.
Black Orchid Empire
The Anvil, Bournemouth
Thursday 21st September 2017
Having returned from seeing the mighty Foo Fighting machine this week I was really looking forward to a calmer evening when Black Orchid Empire returned to the Anvil Rock Bar in Bournemouth last night. The calm turned to excitement at meeting first hand some of the nicest and hugely talented guys in the resurging British Rock scene. Its easy to forget what musicians have to go through to get to where they want to be today but this band combines its great expertise to give its audience something they’ll never forget…. and leave wanting more.
Take to the stage and these guys transform a thunderous character change almost leaving you transfixed on what comes next. Paul Visser's voice has you going through a roller coaster of senses from clarity to gravely combining his huge talent for captivating his audience with endless energy and lead guitar riffs to blow your mind. Backed up with a huge powerhouse sound from Dave Ferguson on bass/supporting vocals and Billy “the real deal” Freedom on drums is enough to make your ears bleed as you cry for more.
Their music could leave you immediately identifiable with likes of Foos – Royal Blood – Muse – Deftones and dare I say a little Evanescence but all with Melody – Power – Beauty and Ferocity that is Black Orchid Empire. Their album 'Archetype' gives you something from all of your favourite bands and is very likely to start their road to super stardom. If you want to surprise any of your Rock friends and relatives with a little “gem” for Christmas then they may well be thanking you for giving them a BOE CD of 'Archetype'!
Don't however miss any chance of seeing BOE live in some of these very intimate venues as I can see their ticket sales going up when they come to a festival near you in the Summer. One of the best rock musical experiences you will ever have and I for one will be looking forward to seeing more of this hugely talented band.
Wrinkly The Silver Fox
The Borderline, London
Monday 25th September 2017
Finland’s leading slide guitarist Erja Lyytinen returned to London on Monday night, and on this particular occasion The Borderline, the penultimate part of her seven date UK tour. Hot on the heels of the release of Erja’s critically acclaimed album 'Stolen Hearts' which was released earlier this year, we were lucky enough to be at the album launch at London's 100 Club in April. As expected, an evening that began with a bit of a niff at this recently refurbished venue, ended with Erja smelling of roses - the gig raising the slide Goddesses bar even higher.
"Are We Good To Go? Ya!" asked Lyytinen as her band opened with the same two tracks from 'Stolen Hearts' that they previously performed at the aforementioned 100 Club gig. Cue the mystical intro to 'City Of Angels', which tells the story of of Erja's visit to the Californian metropolis - appropriately with an angelic vocal from Lyytinen plus its powerful chorus and component parts delivered perfectly. 'Lovers Novels' not only saw a text book Lyytinen slide guitar solo but also a great duet with Harri Taittonen on hammond organ. Taittonen - the only new face (think Harrison Wells meets Richard Osman) on this particular UK tour, strangely enough was the only common denominator (other than Erja) when the band performed at Finland's Ruska Blues ten days earlier.
Accordingly Erja introduced her band including Juha Verona on bass and Kai Jokiaho on drums before the predominantly key influenced 'Everything's Fine' from her 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. With a seemingly permanent smile on her face and down on bended knee - an amazing solo on her green guitar, that oozed real Blues, with a subtle hint of 'Summertime' - confirmed the fact that you can take the green Goddess out of Finland but you can't take the green Goddess out of the girl. "The next song has a lot of guitar - but you don't mind that do you?" Lyytinen teased as they launched 'Black Ocean' a more down to earth Blues track with its heavy bass line, a nice funky repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo complemented by both Erja's crystal clear vocal and more awesome organ.
The downbeat Blues burner 'Slowly Burning' with its Lyytinen a cappella "Can You Feel My Pain Now People" was another opportunity for Erja to take it out on her Fender Strat with a smooth controlled vocal delivery given the song's emotional context plus a delightful 'Parisienne Walkways' outro. Before Erja belted out the title track 'Stolen Hearts' - she fittingly paid tribute to legendary producer Chris Kimsey for his contribution to the album. Erja then managed to get some audience participation in singing "Stolen Hearts" before she once more demonstrated both her strong vocals and fret board skills with a Hendrix twist that effectively turned into a very tasty little jam.
Erja then dedicated the next song "To All The Ladies" - unsurprisingly a cover of Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’ - its pounding bass line again not only the perfect nine minute vehicle to showcase Erja's voice and slide guitar prowess but also the undoubted talent of Taittonen, Verona and Jokiaho. "Oh Yeah!" Awesome. In between superb covers of both Hendrix's 'Crosstown Traffic' and a Robert Johnson/Blind Willie McTell medley, Lyytinen not only expressed how much she was enjoying herself, but she also tipped off the punters about a future Under The Bridge gig (see below).
They rounded the set off with the unusual time signature of the head banging 'Rocking Chair' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark in yer face slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal that made way for a fantastic drum and bass solo. A thoroughly enjoyable evening ended with an a capella intro from Erja on their encore 'People Get Ready' - a beautiful take on the Curtis Mayflied/The Impressions number - Lyytinen's sweet guitar solo bringing back memories of the innocence of the early Bonamassa era. Whilst 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album, it was noticeable that tonight's set list saw the more Pop than Blues of 'Silver Stones', '24 Angels' and 'Awakening' plus the funkier 'Love Laboratory' all relegated from the original album launch gig back in April. Yes this was indeed a night for the real Blues Rock connoisseur and we lapped up every second of it. Erja now returns to her native Finland for a tour but make a note in your diary for next year Friday 23rd March for "Ladies Of The Blues" at Under The Bridge featuring Erja, Kyla Brox and the Connie Lush Band.
The Royal Albert Hall, London
Tuesday 26th September 2017
If you are going to have a party, have it big. And it doesn’t get much bigger than the Royal Albert Hall. Whilst the 5,200 odd seats weren’t all taken, the Victorian concert hall was a busy place to be for the celebration of Wilko Johnson, his life (literally), his 70th birthday and the 30th anniversary of the Wilko Johnson band. The Spartan stage was minimalist in stark contrast to the grandeur of its surroundings. A drum kit, some small amps and a mic stand were forlornly huddled together in the centre of the stage that is regularly home to the great and the good of the musical world, It was a sixty’s pub or club scene backed by the grandeur of ‘Father’ Henry Willis pipe organ, once the largest in the world, looking over them like a grandfather over his grandchildren.
To celebrate his life, Wilko Johnson had invited an eclectic group to entertain a faithful following in the Pub Rock style that he has become famous for. First up, and with no suggestion of nepotism whatsoever, were Eight Round Rapid, a 4 piece Blues come Mod band containing one Johnson Junior on bass. With sharp suits and even sharper shoes, this clean cut quartet opened the proceedings with a short but fun set of Blues with twangy telecaster sixty vibes mixed with mouth harp melodies. Gone was the Royal Albert Hall and in its place was the small clubs of the 60’s replete with bouffants and Brylcream. Just needed some Lambrettas to complete the scene. It could have been Wilko himself up there 50 years ago. Probably the largest arena these lads have played, but they weren’t overawed by the occasion.
So how do you follow that? With a French one man band. Obviously. Did I mention it was an eclectic night? The minimalism ramped up a notch as the unassuming looking Benjamin Tehoval, looking more like a subway busker in his shirt of many colours than an artist at Mr. Clapton's regular residence, proceeded to entertain the crowds with a mix of Folk, Country and Blues whilst accompanying himself on guitar, mouth organ drums and high hat cymbal. He has a strong solid voice, with a touch of the Loudon Wainwrights. You can get a cream for that. He entertained with a set that got the toes tapping yet was a gentle and pleasing to the ear and mind. It was no surprise that he got a standing ovation after his farewell track, a cover of Dylans 'How Does It Feel'. He would have been there longer if he hadn’t been moved on by the stage manager. RAH has its rules you know.
So, where next? How about a bit of irreverent modern Punk poetry? Dr. John Cooper Clarke is a bit of a phenomenon these days. The once underground voice of the people (with a strong Salford lilt) has become mainstream. He’s been on The One Show for heaven’s sake! But unlike some of his Punk peers, he hasn’t toned down his act. The One Show would have been hard pressed to find a couple minutes of broadcastable material from the hours delights we heard. Self-deprecating but as cutting of the world as you would expect in a world that is in need of a snip or two, Clarke’s opening rhyme was a guest list recitation that was as amusing as it was bizarre. The fast tongued, rhyming genius them proceeded to enthral the audience with rhymes on such subjects as Questions I can’t answer, Existentialism, Hire car benefits, why he should ‘Get back on drugs you fat fuck…’, Elvis Presley, Beasley Street, I wanna be yours, Chimpanzee butlers, motorists and why he loves his wife. Did I mention eclectic… He left to a standing ovation but only after reciting his final encore, at the specific request of an audience member of his famous ‘valentine poem in reverse’ – Twat. What entertainment.
With a seamless shuffle of amps and tech, the birthday boy took to the stage in his customary black outfit with matching black and red Telecaster. Alongside Norman Watt-Roy (bass), Dylan Howe (drums), they are The Wilko Johnson band, celebrating 30 years together. Wilko is famous for many things – he was an integral part of Doctor Feelgood and Ian Dury’s Blockheads, has appeared in various acting roles in such luminary productions as Game of Thrones and Oil City Confidential, and his successful battle against terminal pancreatic cancer. But it is as a guitarist and showman that he has made his name. Hugely influential for his guitar playing style, his influence was felt in bands up and down the country, notably in the Punk movement (Joe Strummer of the Clash bought a Telecaster after seeing Wilko play). Heavily influenced by legendary guitarist Mick Green from 60's rockers Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, Wilko employs a finger-style, chop-chord strumming action that allows for chords and lead guitar to be played at the same time, giving a fluency and a distinctive sound very unlike the cleaner swat of a pick. In later years, his health issues have pushed him into new projects including 2014’s amazing collaboration with Roger Daltrey on the hit album 'Going Back Home'. The cavernous RAH seemed to shrink to an intimate club as the trio launched into a string of Wilko classics. Wilko strummed his jangly bright sounding telecaster whilst hopping around the stage in his trademark jerky strut, stabbing at the audience with the pointy end of his beloved fender then seemingly springing back under the tension of his coiled guitar cable. The supposedly recuperating septuagenarian showed no signs of either as he pranced around the stage like the teenager still inside his head. It's Rock and Roll, it's Punk, it's Blues, it's fun. He is ably assisted in that department by ex-Blockheads Watt-Roy. What a dynamo that man is. He doesn’t stop rocking for one moment during the entire set and provides the strong irresistible rhythm behind Wilko’s cutting lead. Also driven by the tight Howe on drums, the years of playing clearly show the passion these three friends have for their art. The set was a mix of Wilko’s many years in the business with track’s like 'Roxette', 'Going Back Home' and 'Paradise'. But as the set progressed it became more of a jam with friends as each song became a longer and longer with improvisation and solos from each of them. And the crowd loved it. Average ages were somewhat high and the auspicious surroundings favoured the seating position (as probably did the arthritis and lumbago) but that didn’t stop the clapping, cheering and dancing in the aisles as the set closed with the classics 'Back In The Night' and 'She Does It Right'.
A rightly demanded encore saw him return to the stage with Dr. John joining them on guitar (another of his many talents) for a birthday rendition of 'Johnny Be Good' and 'Route 66' ending the night on an appropriately Rock and Roll theme. With an emotional dedication of the night to a fellow cancer patient, Wilko left the stage to huge applause and much cheering. Hopefully to meet up again with Mr. Daltrey for another round of recording. So that’s Roger Wilko and not out then.
Mother (photos courtesy of Lawrence Harvey)
The Royal Albert Hall, London
Tuesday 26th September 2017
John Peter Wilkinson, better known as the legendary British guitar hero and founding member of the formidable Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson turned seventy in July this year. To celebrate this milestone the rather grand Royal Albert Hall in posh Kensington was booked to mark this special occasion. An ambitious choice of venue for a Pub Rock band! It is also advertised as the thirtieth anniversary of the Wilko Johnson Band, but I am almost certain it is more like thirty-five! It has been forty years since Wilko left Dr. Feelgood, going onto form the Solid Senders and then a spell with Ian Dury and The Blockheads before forming the Wilko Johnson band with bassist Norman Watt-Roy.
Despite constant gigging through the years, Wilko's resurgence into the wider public conscience began with the release of Julian Temple's brilliant documentary film 'Oil City Confidential' in 2009. The film told the fascinating story of the formation and development of Dr. Feelgood into one of the UK’s best ever R&B Punk bands. Wilko was clearly the star of the film, his eccentric charisma and eloquent delivery shining throughout. A true British institution and national treasure if ever there was one.
Devastatingly Wilko was diagnosed with what was believed to be terminal pancreatic cancer in 2012 and given only months to live! A farewell tour of theatre sized venues was announced, with all dates selling out in quick fire time. Those gigs proved how much Wilko is loved and respected by music fans old and new, people who had almost forgotten who he was came out of the woodwork in force. These gigs were very emotional and poignant, with many grown men and woman crying buckets of tears! One of the farewell concerts at KoKo in Camden, London, has been immortalized on DVD.
With his life clock ticking away and nearing its final alarm call, Wilko got to work quick sharp on his collaboration album 'Going Back Home' with The Who's Roger Daltrey, an album of Dr. Feelgood and Wilko Johnson Band songs, as well as a cover of Bob Dylan's 1965 single 'Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?'. Released on March 2014, it was Wilko's first major chart success since Dr. Feelgood's number one live album 'Stupidity' in 1976.
Miraculously after a major operation in 2013 the extremely large 3kg neuroendocrine tumour was removed from his stomach and he went on to make a full recovery and is now cancer free. The excellent and fascinating Julian Temple documentary ‘The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson’ was released in 2015 and follows Wilko’s amazing journey from being diagnosed with the cancer to his life changing operation and ultimate cure. This documentary further cements Wilko’s captivating screen presence, demonstrating his astounding knowledge of literature and Astronomy, and shines a spotlight on his uplifting positivity after his diagnosis and his subsequent miraculous recovering.
Wilko continues to tour and due to his renewed public profile he tends to play larger venues now, which in some ways is a shame as nothing beats seeing Wilko live at The 100 Club in London or the Half Moon in Putney! In recent years he has also supported bands such as The Who, Status Quo and The Stranglers. Wilko published his first autobiography, 'Looking Back at Me', co-authored with Zoe Howe in May 2012. Wilko's latest album is 'Keep It To Myself - The Best Of Wilko Johnson', which came out in February this year through Chess and Universal Records. He also released the paperback edition of his second autobiography 'Don't You Leave Me Here'. At the Q Awards on 22nd October 2014, Wilko accepted the "Icon Award". As well as constant gigging and recording, Wilko has also done a bit of acting, having starred in the first and second season of 'Game Of Thrones' as the mute executioner Ser Ilyn Payne.
Tonight at the Royal Albert Hall, Wilko was joined by long time band member, also an original Blockhead, bassist Norman Watt-Roy, and drummer Dylan Howe, also once a Blockhead and son of Steve Howe from Yes. The stage lay out and lighting was felicitous, creating an almost intimate setting in the rather spacious grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall. A good size crowd filled the majority of the just over five thousand seater hall with most of the seats in the arena and the stalls being occupied, with much less bodies visible in the circle. The overall sound was quite good despite the cavernous nature of the building. Rock bands sometimes struggle to get the sound balance right at this venue, it being better suited for staging classical music recitals.
When the lights dimmed it was straight down to business, the trusty black telecaster with red scratch plate at the ready, red springy coiled guitar lead plugged in, a quick ’Good evening’ and on with show! The band were slightly ragged at times but mostly locked in tight and steaming red hot! Wilko’s bulging wide staring eyes were fixed straight ahead, hyperactively skittering all over the stage, periodically machine gunning the audience with his guitar.
Wilko’s choppy lead/rhythm guitar playing style was inspired and emulated from that of Mick Green of The Pirates, a formidable guitarist who unfortunately died in 2010. Mick also co-wrote ‘Going Back Home’ from the 1975 Dr. Feelgood album ‘Malpractice’ with Wilko.
Wilko may not win awards for best vocalist in the world but at least his raspy voice has character and is distinctive. The set list hasn’t changed much over the years but all the greats are played, kicking off with ‘All Right’ from the 1981 album ‘Ice On The Motorway’, then straight into ‘If You Want Me, You've Got Me’ from the 1988 ‘Barbed Wire Blues’ album. The brilliant and exotic ‘Dr. Dupree’ from the 1978 ‘Solid Senders’ album was up next with some tasteful eastern style arpeggios from Wilko. A fine trio of Dr. Feelgood classics quickly followed, ‘Going Back Home’ from the 1975 ‘Malpractice’ album, ‘Roxette’ from the 1975 ‘Down By The Jetty’ album and the title track of the 1977 album ‘Sneakin' Suspicion’. A few more regularly played Wilko band songs were played in quick succession, including ‘Keep on Loving You’ and ‘Some Kind Of Hero’ from the 1998 album ‘Going Back Home’, ‘When I'm Gone’ and ‘Cairo Blues’ from the ‘Ice On The Motorway’ album before another classic Dr. Feelgood song, ‘Paradise’ from the ‘Sneakin’ Suspicion’ album. The band get to stretch out and jam in the middle of ‘Everybody's Carrying a Gun’, an awesome track from the ‘Solid Senders’ album, with Wilko indulging in some guitar heroics and extended guitar call and response workouts with Norman.
Norman Watt-Roy is definitely one of the greatest bass players ever and a great foil for Wilko. He gives it all and plays out his skin at every gig, bouncing of Wilko’s staccato guitar phrases. The bass practically leads most of the time and fills the spaces with deep Funk lines and harmonizing phrases. Norman makes the Wilko Johnson band exceptional! On the 15th of July this year Norman had a mini heart attack on stage at the Hampton Pool concert in Middlesex! The set had to be cut short! Thankfully Norman is now fighting fit and back delivering the goods!
The final stretch brought us a pair of top-notch vintage Dr. Feelgood gems, ‘Back in the Night’ from the ‘Malpractice’ album and ‘She Does It Right’ from the ‘Down By The Jetty’ album.
It felt odd sitting down at a Wilko Johnson gig, but that’s what ninety-nine percent of the audience did for the majority of the set, it’s that kind of venue! It was only by the last song of the main set that the audience atmosphere kicked into gear when one brave punter stood up half way back in the arena floor and made his way purposefully and confidently to the front urging people to stand up along the way. Gradually the front row stood up and by mid-way through ‘She Does It Right’ everybody was up on their feet and letting lose! Unfortunately the gig was over all too soon, and just as the atmosphere was elevating too! Luckily we get two encores though, Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ featuring support act John Cooper Clarke on second guitar, although I’m fairly certain the guitar was not plugged in! Then finally we get Bobby Troup’s ‘Route 66’ to finish. You can clearly see that Wilko feeds of the warmth coming from the audience as the energy intensifies.
A stellar performance from the lads, but let’s get back to smaller size gigs at venues such as The 100 Club London and the Half Moon Putney. These are the type of venues where Rock ‘n’ Roll really lives.
Steven C. Gilbert (photos courtesy of Lawrence Harvey)
Living Colour/Stone Broken
Sunday 1st October 2017
Wow - what an awesome headliner, superb support, excellent venue and cheap booze! All these factors added up to one of the best gigs we have attended this year as legendary, Grammy Award-winning Rock band Living Colour, ably supported by Black Country Hard Rockers Stone Broken, blew the proverbial bloody doors off of London's ULU, as part of their European Tour, last Sunday night. The bonus ball of the evening was Stone Broken - given this was the third time we had caught them this year. Already strong contender's for 'Best Support' or 'One's To Watch' in our 2017 WRC Awards - we originally saw them supporting Glenn Hughes at The Islington Assembly Hall in January and then from afar on the Sunday on the Ramblin' Man Fair Planet Rock Stage - which was very apt given they were voted as runners-up in the ‘Best New Band’ category of the annual Planet Rock Awards 2016. There was also an element of irony about the fact that Stone Broken were supporting Living Colour given Glenn Hughes' first tour was acrimoniously cancelled because original support band Living Colour in the end ended up supporting Alter Bridge!
And suffice to say our original assessment of the West Midlanders was unchanged as vocalist/guitarist and baseball capped Rich Moss greeted the sell-out crowd with a "How Are You Doing?". With Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals - their short set was taken from their first album 'All In Time'. Described as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses, that certainly came across in their opening number, and their very first single, 'Stay All Night' - think Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - with some great guitar work from the ever-smiling Davis and exceptional vocals from Moss - again belying his Walsall accent with a Southern Rock drawl. It literally got 'Better' - another track from 'AIT' - consolidating their huge arena Rock sound before Moss enquired "Are there any Stone Broken virgins out there?" to which the reply was very much in the minority from where we were standing. The slower intro to 'Be There' led into an inevitable huge riff - the impressive vocals of Moss and guitar work from Davis very reminiscent of Nickelback when they rock. And if you wanted proof of their growing following, Moss then dedicated the next song 'Wait For You' to Bridget and Darren who had travelled down from Nottingham! "Are you guys ready?" Moss teased as the formula remained the same with its heavy riff and few fist-punching "hey's" thrown in for good measure. "Who got the first album?'' enquired Moss - which was a cue for two new tracks from the hotly awaited second album namely 'Doesn't Matter' and 'Just A Memory' - the former one of the highlights of the set with its Grunge feel - plus a drum solo from the dynamic Haycock - leaving you in no doubt that they will not suffer second album syndrome! They rounded off their set with the heavier 'This Life', followed by the closing headbanger and second single off of 'AIT' 'Not Your Enemy'. Stone Broken continue to support Living Colour on this tour, however, the guys deservedly make the step up as they headline PlanetRockStock in November plus Winters End Festival in 2018. Do not miss them.
Living Colour is an American Rock band from New York City formed in 1984. Stylistically, the band's music is a creative fusion influenced by Heavy Metal, Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop, Country and Alternative Rock. Their lyrics range from the personal to the political, in some of the latter cases attacking Eurocentrism and racism in America. Living Colour rose to fame with their debut album Vivid in 1988 - although the band scored a number of hits, they are best remembered for their signature anthem 'Cult Of Personality' which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock performance in 1990. They were also named Best New Artist at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and won their second Grammy Award for their follow-up album 'Time's Up'. After disbanding in 1995, Living Colour reunited in late 2000. They recently released their new studio album 'Shade' on Megaforce Records and it's their first new studio album in eight years. Produced by Andre Betts, it captures the legendary, Grammy Award-winning Rock band at the height of their creative powers, still experimenting as though they were upstarts instead of seasoned veterans.
It was a case of Living Colour by name - Living Colour by nature, as the guys made their way on to the ULU stage, a mix of caps, hats, bandanas and dreadlocks - with a matching killer suit in the case of vocalist Corey Glover and a Union Jack t-shirt in the case of bass guitarist Doug Wimbish. Right from the outset the band let their music do the talking as they opened with a storming cover of Robert Johnson's 'Preaching' Blues' - their powerful delivery as a unit, including guitarist Vernon Reid and drummer Will Calhoun, every bit as colourful as their attire. "Glad you missed us - we're back!" enthused Corey Glover after their rapturous reception - as the band came back up for air with 'Wall' from their 1993 album 'Stain' with not only the ULU faithful immediately becoming vocal, but in particular Wimbish, not only setting out his stall for the night with bass intro, backing vocals and getting the max out of his bass dials on the outro, but also for his cool, explosive, psychedelic jousting with Reid, which made one question the sound system balance! Introducing 'Middle Man' from the aforementioned 'Vivid', Reid let us in on the secret that he was actually born in Paddington, before he launched into a Hard Rock guitar solo that appropriately riffed like a train and was on the right track, complemented by the driving bass of Wimbish and the unparalleled vocals of the bespectacled Glover. Man would I not only love a voice like Corey but also his teeth as well! And as for banter - there was a lot of that as well, with the earring wearing Reid being told off for riffing the Beatles' 'Day Tripper' during the introduction of 'Desperate People', again from Vivid' - cue another riff ridden guitar solo retort from Vernon.
Hand clapping and the proverbial "123" lead us into 'Stain's 'Ignorance Is Bliss' a real jam laden rocker featuring Reid's distorted guitar before a technical malfunction - so funny at the time - which saw a backing track being played at the wrong time on the intro to 'Vivid's an 'Open Letter (To A Landlord)' - Brooklyn resident Reid repeatedly emphasising that the song was a protest against the inflated property market. More light-hearted un-PC banter ensued as Glover questioned Vernon as to whether he had tourette's or that he was just having a senior moment before Corey duly launched into a powerful opening four minute vocal that saw him throw his mic stand to the floor leaving the rest of the band looking concerned! "Come On Reverend' came a cry from the crowd and sure enough Glover's congregation joined in the singing, complemented once again by another Reid guitar solo plus more of Wimbish's explosive bass - which concluded with Corey taking not only his jacket off but also his hat - exposing his pink hair! Living Colour then took time out to thank Stone Broken (who were standing in the wings) before they showcased three tracks from their new album 'Shade'. The irony was not lost on the Notorious B.I.G. cover 'Who Shot Ya' (this was the gun violence backing track mistakenly played earlier) given the carnage later that night in Las Vegas. Despite the surprising lack of many Black fans in the audience, if any track nailed the diversity of Living Colour's genre then this was it. Rap, another driving guitar solo and even a "Put your hands up" saw this East Coast Hip Hop, thanks to an awesome Calhoun drum solo, morph into 'Who's That' with another great Glover vocal, Reid guitar solo and Wimbish bass outro. Some more great banter plus a misleading laid-back intro led us into their final take on 'Shade' namely, namely 'Come On', one of the highlights of the set, not to be confused with the The Hives song of the same name, but it still had that same in yer face attitude from Glover with Reid's atonal shredding and Wimbish's sweet booming bass.
The Blues Rock of 'This Is The Life' from 'Time's Up' was dedicated by the band to one Mary Jackson, a song especially requested by Mary, who'd travelled from Houston, Texas and followed the whole tour. As Glover put it "She feeds us so we like her" and the guys certainly did Mary proud with its Beatle-ish psychedelic mystical opening with Reid visiting every sinew on his lived in, expressive face during this jamming jazz-fusion barnstormer. The Funky 'Love Rears Its Ugly Head' also from Time's Up was sandwiched in between both a Doug Wimbish bass and Will Calhoun drum solo. 'LRIUH' with its quirky time signature was Soul Funk perfection with an unbelievable groove which saw Glover conducting a sing-along resting on a balcony to the left of the stage. Priceless. As for Wimbish - the man has got to be bass/lead guitarist hybrid - don't think I've ever heard a bass guitarist produce the chords he managed tonight. Amazing. And as for Calhoun, Glover introduced it as "Not a drum solo", indeed Will ended up doing part of his "drum solo" without his drum kit with percussion at the front of the stage, duly coordinating the spontaneous hand clapping. Brilliant! Anyway, the good news was that the band managed to use the right intro backing track for the driving Rock of their anthem 'Cult Of Personality' from 'Vivid' and not only did Corey (doing a Run-D.M.C.) come to our side of the stage and shake one of our outstretched hands, but he finished off by going walk about during the performance with cries of "Jump. Jump, Jump" - which everyone obliged - Glover eventually ending up singing along with everyone at the back of the audience! And that was that - a truly memorable evening - Living Colour play Liverpool tonight and Newcastle on Saturday before embarking on a US tour. Don't leave it another four and half years guys before you come back to London! Ramblin' Man Fair 2018 anyone?
Walter Trout/Sari Schorr & The Engine Room
Under The Bridge, London
Tuesday 10th October 2017
Under The Bridge is a bit different from your average dive gig venue. Yes, it’s a dark underground cavern and yes it’s up front and personal with the bands on stage but it’s also underneath the Chelsea FC football stadium so has that Roman Abramovich whiff of plentiful cash about it. If I had Mr. Abramovitch’s spare Roubles, I would build a music venue exactly like this. It’s clean and modern (the toilets worked for a change which is always a nice touch) and has all the authenticity you would want to make it feel like it has pedigree, yet no expense has been spared with the layout, the sound and the beautiful framed pictures of legendry musicians lining the walls. With a capacity of 250 for gigs it is intimate but still has the atmosphere of larger venues.
Opening tonight’s proceedings are a group of musicians who are too good to be opening for anyone. Regular headliners themselves are Sari Schorr and her collection of artists known as The Engine Room. New Yorker Schorr came to prominence when she was spotted at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis by producer Mike Vernon who offered to produce an album with her. The debut album 'A Force of Nature' was released in 2016 featuring guitarist Innes Sibun and guest spots from Oli Brown and Walter Trout. Alongside the electric wizardry of Sibun on guitar – a wonderful vintage Gibson ES335 played though an even more wonderful 20W Friedman amp – are keyboardist Anders Olinder on Funky organ, bassist Kevin Jeffries and Kevin O'Rourke on drums.
Schorr is a great vocalist with a strong piercing sound, she dances around the front of stage with the smiles of a woman at one with her music and her voice. It’s sometimes quiet and beautiful, sometimes powerful and strong, but always enthralling. You can imagine her conquering any music genre that she might choose – Rock, Blues, Opera, Soul. In short, a classic. The short set showcased the range of her talents and included a number of her own excellent tracks. It also included the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 'Rock and Roll', with Sibun giving the iconic Mr. Page a run for his money, and the closing track 'Black Betty', Schorr’s interpretation of Ram Jam’s ebullient, rapid fire, air guitar staple. But Schorr’s version starts slow, stays slow and ends slow, with her voice powerful enough to fill the room, even whilst not using the mike. The quintet leave the stage to a rapturous applause, although they would be back shortly.
Sari Schorr setlist
Ain’t Got No Money
Where Did You Sleep Last Night
Rock ‘N’ Roll
Damn The Reason
If you are going to sing and play the Blues, you need to have been around a bit, you need to have lived. Walter Trout has been about a bit and he’s lived. And he has died a couple of times too. Four years on from his traumatic liver failure and replacement, the once prolific six string demon had to learn to walk and talk again, let alone find his way around a fretboard. But years of relearning the instrument again from scratch has returned Mr. Trout to the shoal of top guitarists in the world. His cathartic 2015 album 'Battle Scars' saw Walter put his traumas into words and music with such skill as belied his tortuous ascent from the depths of disability and despair and the man taking the stage today shows only remnants of his life altering experience.
Walter Trout has a CV that reads like a who’s who of the last 50 odd years of Rock and guitar music. Trout's career began on the Jersey coast scene of the late 1960's and early 1970's. before he relocated to Los Angeles where he became a sideman for Percy Mayfield and Deacon Jones. He also worked in the bands of John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex. He became the guitarist for Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers where he shared the stage with fellow guitarist Coco Montoya. He went on to form the Walter Trout Band where he has made an international career and loyal fanbase stretching back to the 1980’s. In 2002, he was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album, 'Hey Bo Diddley – A Tribute!' performing the song 'Road Runner' and many more guest appearances on other recordings. His latest album, 'We’re All In This Together' sees Walter look to put his recent past behind him and focus on a positive future by way of collaboration with some more musical glitterati including the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayall and Randy Bachman. And tonight’s show mixes old and new as Walter invites guests on stage to play with him some of those new collaborative tracks along with some faithful classics.
Although looking older (don’t we all…) he has regained some of the lost weight and has that twinkle in his eye that perfectly complements his mischievous sense of humour and sheer love for life. I guess you get that after a near death experience. I have been lucky enough to meet Mr. T. a number of times in the past and always found him to be a hugely positive guy. He gave me some great advice years ago as a novice six string wannabe, as well as one of his signature guitar picks which I treasure to this day, and I particularly remember how he did so with genuine interest. He cares about his fans. And they went some way to repaying him by helping with the funding of his liver replacement. Now that is real world love right there. A wondrous thing in this troubled world of ours these days.
With his trusty vintage white Strat, played through a Mesa head, Walter launches into what will be the format for the show. Down and dirty Blues, with each song containing an exquisite display of guitar artistry, extended to a 10 minute jam. No 3 minute Pop fix here thank you very much. With Slammin' Sam, Sammy Avila accompanying him on the Hammond Sk1 organ the tempo was upped from the start resulting in Walter breaking a string. Handed a replacement sunburst Strat guitar by his tech, Walter comments "I don’t remember owning this guitar?" – he is very much a one guitar/one woman man. It doesn’t stop him launching into the slow Funky Blues that is 'Saw My Mama Crying' with any less delight. His voice is as strong as ever and he delights in chatting with the audience. "I’m happy to be in London. I’m happy to be anywhere these days" he quips. And follows it up with some nasty Blues in the key of A minor with 'Cold Cold Feeling' on his repaired white Strat. This one has him calling to his bandmates "Let’s play some Blues" before launching into another 10 minute wonder that can only be described as Blues shredding. Which results in another broken string – he’s tough on that nickel.
With back up Strat again in play we get to hear the new track 'Got Nothing Left' where he is joined by Innes Sibun for some duel guitar goodness. The addition of a rhythm guitarist adds another layer to the sound, and this track had a beat that reminds me of the riff to ZZ Top’s 'Sharp Dressed Man'. Followed by the title track 'We’re All In This Together', a lovely heavy dirty Blues track, the new album is a must buy. Sibun carries off the roles of Bachman and Bonamassa respectively with fine style whilst having a ball jamming with the man. Great dual play between them with Walter fast picking, heavy bends, although no use of a whammy, it was a Monster jam. Walter again turned to Sammy for assistance playing the slower Blues of 'The Other Side Of The Pillow' with Mr. Avila providing a keyboard solo in place of the Charlie Musselwhite mouth organ parts from the record. "I always write about my life" calls Walter, "But not on this track" which laments the problems with women. Impressive to be able to fit that subject into a ten minute song…
With Sibun leaving the stage to great applause, the quartet launch into the bass heavy 'Broken Heart' before they are joined by their next guest, Steven Dale Petit, who takes the role of Kenny Wayne Shepherd on 'Gonna Hurt Like Hell'. The Les Paul wielding journeyman is another who is no stranger to collaborations with the great and the good and is happy to duel with Walter, but sadly only for a single song. He is replaced by the Force Of Nature that is Sari Schorr to sing a track from her first album 'Work No More'. Walter performed on the original track. It is proper squealing Blues guitar and powerful female vocals. Lovely stuff.
Next guest? Well he’s part of the crew. Andrew Elt is drafted to play the only acoustic part in the set as Walter takes the time to talk briefly about his illness and how his wife helped him through a terrifying ordeal. It is to her that he dedicated and wrote the track 'Please Take Me Home', the only track taken from the 'Battle Scars' album. A soulful lament, Walter is visibly moved by the end as are the audience. But tonight is about moving on, so the now composed Walter launches into a Hendrix style shredding Blues jam to introduce his band members as they individually solo into what became his classic rendition of 'Going Down'. First to take centre stage, and on his inaugural European tour, is Danny Avila on bass. Son of Sammy, he is a whirl on the four string with some fast fretting and lead lick playing. Reminded me a bit of Rob Trujillo. He’s a master in the making. Dad was rightly proud. Then drummer Michael Leasure took his turn with a drum solo that was both intricate and entertaining – a rarity in drum solo’s these days. Each took a turn with the vocals with Elt returning to provide a short burst of his own vocal talents which can only be described as awesome. Sign him up as a front man somebody. The song and set ended with a heartfelt appeal to the crowd on the need for organ doning – he wouldn’t be here today without it, before a final fingerboard flourish. He returned briefly for an encore of 'Prisoner Of A Dream' and his day was done.
As the crowds drifted away happy, I managed to get a quick word with the man himself and to chat to the band. The years of playing together, and the wealth of people they know and have played with, just oozes out of them in an assured but very humble manner. Nothing much will surprise these hardened veterans, as new boy Danny is discovering. As the man himself disappears into the night, he palms me a pick from his back pocket with a smile. Just like old times.
We’re All In This Together track listing:
“Gonna Hurt Like Hell” featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd
“Ain’t Gpin’ Back” featuring Sonny Landreth
“The Other Side of The Pillow” featuring Charlie Musselwhite
“She Listens To The Blackbird Song” featuring Mike Zito
“Mr. Davis” featuring Robben Ford
“The Sky Is Crying” featuring Warren Haynes
“Somebody Goin’ Down” featuring Eric Gales
“She Steals My Heart Away” featuring Edgar Winter
“Crash And Burn” featuring Joe Louis Walker
“Too Much To Carry” featuring John Nemeth
Wishbone Ash/Steve Hill
O2 Academy Islington, London
Thursday 19th October 2017
I knew that last quick pint with some mates in a Waterloo watering hole was a mistake as my bus crawled along towards Islington for a date with Canada's very own one man power trio Steve Hill and the Blues Rock Prog of Andy Powell's legendary Wishbone Ash. As I was just about to enter the larger downstairs venue at the O2 Academy, a journalist from Classic Rock politely stopped and asked me which Wishbone Ash camp I was in - Powell or Turner? - and was a little perplexed when I replied "neither - I'm here to see Steve Hill" as I dashed inside (after a welcome pitstop) to find that, disappointedly, I had missed Hill's opener 'Damned' - quite appropriate really, under the circumstances!
Hill, who hails from Montreal, is an overnight sensation that’s twenty years in the making - a multi-award winning guitarist and singer-songwriter who’s gearing up for world domination. He’s an ambitious and raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian and international Blues Rock scene. Now, he’s ready to break out internationally. Following the success of his JUNO nominated ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 1’, which also won "Album of The Year" at the International Blues Challenge in 2013, and JUNO Award winner ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 2’, Steve Hill first released his brand new album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ in Canada in March 2016. In January 2015, Hill was awarded four coveted Maple Blues Awards including Electric Act of the Year, Guitarist of the Year, Recording/Producer of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. Solo Recordings: Volume 2 won the 2015 JUNO Award for Blues Album of the Year.
Throughout his career, Steve has shared the stage with many of his musical heroes including Ray Charles, BB King, ZZ Top, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Jeff Beck and many others. Over the course of nine albums he's explored everything from Hard Rock, Country, and Stoner Rock to Folk music while always incorporating the essence of his first love, the Blues. Steve’s reputation as an exciting performer has provided him the opportunity to showcase his talents at some of Canada’s biggest music festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Bluesfest, Jazz Winnipeg Festival, Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Kitchener Blues Festival and more.
The one-man band Blues Rock guitar machine, recently released his new album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ in the UK on No Label Records on Friday 6th October. Despite missing the Heavy Rocker 'Damned' - his opening track on 'Volume 3' - with its palpable influence of namesake Dusty, Billy and Frank - the second number 'Go On' from 'Volume 2', was immediate proof, if needed, that one musician can sound like three, with Hill standing up whilst singing and playing guitar, with his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drum stick fused to the head of his trusty guitar, plus he gets the bass notes by feeding three of his strings through an Octaver guitar pedal that’s hooked up to a bass amp! Taken from 'Volume 1', the driving slide guitar of 'The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo' was very reminiscent of Peter Green's 'World Keep On Turning' - "Oh yeah!" - and then Hill swapped guitars for 'Never Is Such A Long Time', this time from 'Volume 2', which deservedly got a great reception from the audience - Hill responding with a heartfelt "thank you so much" - I suppose it must get pretty lonely being up there on stage on your own Steve!
Capturing the moment, Hill then thanked his UK tour team, before, surprisingly playing the last of just two heavy tracks of off 'Volume 3' - 'Dangerous' - his forthcoming kick-ass single – think King King meets Jimi Hendrix – a Blues Rocker if ever there was one, with lyrics about a personal relationship, the subject matter pretty much the backbone of the whole album. He rounded off his all too short thirty minute set with an amazing guitar solo on 'Volume 2's very apt 'Hate To See You Go' before finishing, very surprisingly, with a cover of 'Whole Lotta Love'. "Thank you very much - I love you all" he growled as he departed the stage to rapturous applause. Job well done Steve. Hill continues his 27-date UK tour with Wishbone Ash in October and November.
To be fair, the anticipation of seeing Steve Hill was more than matched by seeing Andy Powell's legendary Blues Rock Prog band Wishbone Ash. Rolling the clock back 40+ years, I will put my cards on the table and admit that they were one of the few bands that passed me by in the 70's - despite tumultuous praise from my peers. Their popular albums included 'Wishbone Ash' (1970), 'Pilgrimage' (1971), Argus (1972), 'There's The Rub' (1974), and 'New England' (1976). Noted for their extensive use of the harmony twin lead guitar format, Andy Powell along with former member Ted Turner not only were voted "Two of the Ten Most Important Guitarists in Rock History" (Traffic magazine 1989), but were also in Rolling Stones "Top 20 Guitarists of All Time". In 1972 Melody Maker described Powell and Turner as "the most interesting two guitar team since the days when Beck and Page graced The Yardbirds". No pressure then - but as it turned out they were immense with Powell on guitar and vocals, Bob Skeat on bass and backing vocals, Powell's new foil Mark Abrahams on guitar and Joe Crabtree on drums.
Whether you were a Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Stoke City or even a Wishbone Ash fan, a backing track of 'Delilah' heralded the arrival of the band onto the Academy stage - Powell immediately asking "Are We Ready" as they opened with the more recent 'Bona Fide' the title track of their eighteenth studio album released in 2002. Their trademark duelling guitar harmonies on 'Eyes Wide Open' belied the fact that this rocking instrumental featuring Powell on his V guitar was taken from an even later album - Clan Destiny in 2006 - real testament to Ash's historical musical influences on bands such as Thin Lizzy, as was the even more recent 'Way Down South' showcasing both Abrahams and Skeat solos on this tune with its Dire Straits feel from 2014's 'Blue Horizon'. Time now for the big hitters as Powell introduced the "A" word, namely the aforementioned 'Argus'. Spontaneous hand clapping complemented Powell's opening guitar on 'The King Will Come', with Abrahams wah guitar solo getting deserved applause before Skeats bass lead into its duelling guitar/vocals finale, before the smiling James Whale lookalike Powell and Abrahams both launched into guitar solos on another 'Argus' classic 'Warrior'.
More hand clapping accompanied the medieval riff of Throw Down The Sword - again from 'Argus', before it was time to break out the chairs and chill as Powell, Abrahams and Skeat sat down for three acoustic guitar numbers. Powell thanked Crabtree's sponsor Yamaha as he introduced 'Leaf & Stream' - again from Argus - with its crystal clear sound, before Powell's Trump/Berlin anecdote went horribly wrong given that is was used to introduce the wrong song - 'Master Of Disguise' instead of 'Wings Of Desire' - cue much hilarity - needless to say that their perfect acoustic harmonies from 1980's 'Just Testing' and 1991's 'Strange Affair' respectively, more than made up for Powell's "senior moment".
The baseball capped Skeat seemed to have a permanent smile on his face as his bass solo led us into more amazing duelling instrumental guitar harmonies on 'F.U.B.B.' taken from 'There's The Rub' - its influence a track which Bob's old mucker and ex-Argent frontman John Verity would have appreciated, followed by the rocking opening of 'Standing In The Rain' - another with a Thin Lizzy feel - taken again from 'Strange Affair' - Abrahams stepping up to the plate with another cracking solo. And talking of Lizzy - substitute 'Jail Bait' for 'Jailbreak' - as the crowd joined in on the track from 'Pilgramage' singing "I'm wondering why ..." as the perpetual Powell shouted "Let me hear you say yeah yeah!" - cue mass hand clapping and Powell rightly praising those gathered "You guys are awesome!" Powell heralded the first taste of their debut album with "Yeah Phoenix man!" - a ten minute monster totally encapsulating Wishbone Ash's unique sound and genre before cries of "We want more" saw them return with two final classics from 'Argus' - namely 'Time Was' and 'Blowin' Free'. A truly awesome night all round of live music, contrasting the old and the new. Andy Powell's Wishbone Ash continue their UK tour in October and November. About time I checked out their back catalogue!
AJ (photos courtesy of Eric Duvet)
Bigfoot/Dead Man's Whiskey/Sinner Sinners
The Underworld, Camden, London
Thursday 26th October 2017
On Thursday a trio of Wrinkly Rockers headed to Camden for another evening of Hard, pulsating Rock in the intimate surroundings of the Underworld. Headliners were Bigfoot, a five-piece band based in Wigan, formed in 2014 by musicians from across the vibrant Northwest Rock scene. Bigfoot combines the powerful vocals of Antony Ellis with the dual lead guitars of Sam Millar and Mick McCullagh and a thunderous rhythm section from bassist Matt Avery and drummer Tom Aspinall. The result is classic Melodic Hard Rock, with a Metal edge for heaviness, underpinned by a strong hint of latent Blues and Southern Rock groove. Bigfoot soon built themselves a loyal grassroots following in their home territory, which they have been gradually extending by regular touring and appearances at several festivals including Hard Rock Hell, Breakout and Bloodstock. Their growing reputation, and the success of two self-released EPs, led to a multi album deal with Frontiers Music earlier this year and the release of their first full-length album, the self-titled ‘Bigfoot’, this month. The current tour is to promote the new album as well as enhancing the band’s reputation for uplifting, in your face live performances.
Bigfoot were supported by Sinner Sinners and Dead Man’s Whiskey. Openers Sinner Sinners are a hardcore Punk band, formed in 2009 around husband and wife team Steve and Sam Thill. Initially based in France, Sinner Sinners relocated to Los Angeles in 2010, where they have been proving that their niche genre is still very much alive and kicking with their wild and blistering live performances and the release of three full-length albums. The latest of these, “Optimism Disorder’, is not afraid to address social issues affecting the band: ‘Last Drop’s’ raw lyrics are about battling alcoholism; other songs explore the notion of aging into adult responsibility, uncertainty and often regret. But, on stage, the band makes no concessions to their songs’ serious subject matter: their live music is simple but aggressive, dark but upbeat and, above all, fast and thunderous - they seem to take the view that the best way to face their issues is to scream about them into an audience of swinging fists. Sinner Sinners’ set was true to their Punk Rock roots with their final song, ‘Imitate’, continuing to echo round the Underworld long after the band had left the stage!
Next up were Dead Man’s Whiskey, a traditional Hard Rock band formed in London in 2016, comprising Nico Rogers (vocals), Billy Kons (lead guitar), Elliott D’Alvarez (rhythm guitar), James Titley (bass guitar) and Charlie Gray (drums). All in their 20’s, Dead Man’s Whiskey use their youthful energy to craft a blend of modern and classic Rock with Blues tones and a paced and exciting sound. Their debut album, ‘Under the Gun’, released earlier this year, is a selection of hard hitting, original songs that make full use of both Nico’s vocal range, from gravely Blues to Soulful longing, and the riff potential provided by a trio of mesmerising guitarists. However, there is only one way to fully experience the full force of Dead Man’s Whiskey and that’s at one of their live shows. The sheer power and excitement of these shows have amassed a strong following of fans, especially in their London base, which was evident as the Underworld filled up in readiness for their appearance. The fans were not disappointed: Thursday’s set was a mixture of covers (of everything from Black Stone Cherry to Seal) and songs from ‘Under the Gun’, all played with an explosive, youthful vigour. My personal favourite was ‘Rooster Crows’, a Bluesy Rock number with a memorable chorus line, and Nico’s strong voice clearly audible over the roaring guitar riffs.
Unfortunately, when Dead Man’s Whiskey’s set finished, some of their local fans left, leaving a slightly smaller audience for the arrival of Bigfoot. It was their loss: the missing fans would surely have appreciated Bigfoot, playing the same musical genre, with a similar five man line-up, to their local heroes, but with the added benefit of greater musical experience, plus the charisma and swagger of Antony Ellis up front. Bigfoot’s set started with the compelling dual guitar riffs of ‘Tell me a Lie’ followed by the stand out vocals in ‘Eat Your Words’ - setting the scene for an evening of full-on, well-honed Hard Rock that would have roused any sluggish mid-afternoon crowd, never mind an audience already pulsating from a couple of excellent support bands. The set continued with commanding vocals, a twin guitar attack that meshed fierce staccato rhythms and lightning lead guitar lines, and a stomping beat. The tempo and volume eased slightly for ‘Free Falling’, a tribute to Tom Petty, but soon accelerated again, particularly in the breathtaking ‘Bitch Killer’, with its enduring vocals and express guitar duets. As is often the case, Bigfoot saved the best till last: their set finished with the first single taken from their album, ‘The Fear’, a dark and frantic song about how the fear in our heads can take over our lives. ‘The Fear’ mixes heavy in your face Rock guitar with searing melodic anthems and big, uplifting vocals – a fitting finale to a compelling set and an awesome evening of complementary Rock music.
Tell Me a Lie
Eat Your Words
Prisoner of War
I Dare You
The Iron Maidens
O2 Academy, Islington, London
Sunday 29th October 2017
It was a cold dark night on a Halloween weekend and the streets of Angel, Islington were filled with devils, demons and various decomposing corpses. And that was just inside the venue. Because tonight we are here at the O2 Academy Islington to watch the excellent Iron Maidens, complete with assorted versions of Eddie. An oh-so appropriate band for the occasion. For those of you not familiar with the band (yet, I expect you will be…) Iron Maidens are an LA based all-female tribute act to one of the biggest Rock bands on the planet. It’s no small feat to carry off a good tribute act, let alone one that is at the top of their game and still currently touring. And if said tribute act are also endorsed by the band and have been known to have played with various members of the band, you start to get a picture of how good this lot are. More of that later….
The line-up is Kirsten “Bruce Chickinson” Rosenberg on vocals, Linda “Nikki McBURRain” McDonald on drums, Courtney “Adriana Smith” Cox and Nikki “Davina Murray” Stringfield on guitar and Wanda "Steph Harris" Ortiz on bass. Whereas the originals are all gentlemen of near bus pass vintage, our heroes of tonight are neither. Yet they manage to visually display enough similarity that is expected of a tribute act. The outfits are broadly similar, although they provide a far more eye pleasing rendition of spandex strides than do the originals, along with touches like West Ham sweat bands, bass stickers and replica Steve Harris shorts. Thankfully Linda bore no physical resemblance to Mr. McBrain (sorry Nicko….)
But where the Maidens excel is in their rendition of a string of Iron Maiden classics. Near note perfect, the twin guitars of Courtney Cox and Nikki Stringfield really catch the sound. Courtney plays a signature Schecter Nikki Stringfield A-6 FR S guitar through a Mesa Rectifier whilst Nicki plays a Caparison through Peavey Valveking. Sandwiched between the two is little powerhouse Wanda Ortiz providing a thumping bass that, at this venue at least, was almost overpowering. And keeping the groove together at the back on a drum kit of no small size is Linda McDonald, arms just a blur.
Front and centre, and leading the line is Kirsten Rosenberg. An animal rights advocate, she is also a devoted Iron Maiden advocate too. Aside from Bruce Dickinson, Rosenberg's musical influences include Geoff Tate, Ann Wilson, Doro Pesch, Robin Zander and Pat Benatar, as well as Karen Carpenter, Barbra Streisand and Christina Aguilera. That’s quite a mix. Now Bruce is renowned for the quality and range of his voice. He has an estimated vocal range of 4.25 octaves (B1-F5(-B5), started out as standard tenor, a singing voice between baritone and alto or countertenor, the highest of the ordinary adult male range, but eventually his voice lowered into lower tenor. So what better way to replicate that range than with a woman’s voice of both power and clarity, backed by the passion for his music. You would struggle to find a fella to do so. The only thing she failed to do tonight was land a jumbo jet on stage. Come on Kirsten, get that in the set.
So the Quintet burst onto the stage to the rather surprising intro music of UFO’s 'Doctor Doctor'. Even more surprising was that there was no support band to warm the crowd. That may have been why the initial look of the crowd was of extras from Michael Jackson’s 'Thriller' video. I suppose it was Halloween but there was more life in between the roadies toes than amongst the audience. That soon changed when the opening bars of 'Aces High' were sounded. The audience awoke as necromancer Rosenberg exhorts them to "Scream for me London" to the meticulous rendition of the 'Powerslave' classic. And scream they did with pleasure. Many of the now enlivened crowd were sporting tour t-shirts from the May 2017’s 'Book of Souls' tour so were a tough audience to please. But I heard no dissenting voice. Added to that the fact that this was a tour of Maidens greatest hits in a small venue and you wonder if this may be the way to go in the future. There are O2 gigs and there are O2 gigs…
So the hits kept coming. 'Infinite Dreams' from the '7th Son' album followed and then 'Wasted Years' from the 'Somewhere In Time' album. It was here that we got our first visit from Eddie, upholding the Halloween theme with his 'Somewhere In Time' psycho cyborg look. I’m not sure what animatronics these guys use but Eddie almost looked human in the way that he moved… Giving Rosenberg a break (not that she needed it) the band launch into the instrumental 'Losfer Words (Big Orra)' from the 'Powerslave' Album, probably one of the best driving tunes around. If you don’t mind being nicked for speeding. And back into the fray sporting a redcoat and waving a Union flag comes Rosenberg for a powerful rendition of The Trooper from the 'Piece Of Mind' album. We are getting the full gamut of top Maiden tunes tonight. The crowd erupt for this one as the LA Femmes get the chance to wave the flag in its home town. As they declare, they are so honoured to be playing London, the home of Iron Maiden. We’re honoured to have you.
'Flash Of The Blade' from 'Powerslave' and 'Can I Play With Madness' from '7th Son' are despatched with near note perfect precision – a huge feat of skill when you realise how many notes we are talking about here. 'The Dance of Death' album was given some love when they played a superb rendition of 'Montseur'. A much underrated album, Rosenberg assigns us all homework to go and revisit the album whenever we can. Yes Miss. I might chance detention. Sigh. Now you can only follow that with 'Number of the Beast'. So that’s what they did. Rosenberg donned suitable studded wrist bands to accessorise her booming vocals for a huge crowd favourite. I was so wrapped up in the singing that I almost failed to spot a poor bedraggled old gentleman who seemed to have got lost and wandered onto the stage. My mistake, it was the Devil from the album cover who had appeared. He pointed at me in what looked like an accusing glance for not respecting my elders before shambling off stage left. Must be a mind reader. Scary stuff.
Slowing the tempo down the Maidens launched into the atmospheric 'Children of the Damned' from same album, showcasing Rosenbergs great voice and gaining huge applause before taking things back to the beginning with 'Purgatory' from the 'Killers' album. You could really feel how raw that sounded as a track and how polished latter tracks felt in comparison. Rosenberg promises us a real treat later (is that trick or treat material? My mum warned me about accepting sweets from strangers) before announcing that they will play a song that Iron Maiden have never played live. Surprisingly this turned out to be 'Alexander the Great' from the 'Somewhere In Time' album. Hate to mention this, but I saw them play this when they toured the 'Somewhere in Time' album in November 1986 (I would only have been 1 year old at the time…. Ahem). They still made a fine job of it though and the audience participation showed that everyone else thought so too. And audience participation was the name of the game as Rosenberg led a standard Bruce Dickinson crowd clapathon to 'Running Free' from their original eponymous album. Clichéd? Maybe. Fun? Definitely. And to close out the set is my personal favourite, and apparently every other Maiden fans favourite 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' from their be(a)st selling 'Beast' Album. Those who had been in attendance at the May 2017 shows had missed out on their classic track due to an ongoing lawsuit so it was doubly enjoyable to hear the best track of the night. The band left the stage to a huge applause and obvious chant for more.
The obligatory encore ensued. I expect that they did so because Iron Maiden do encores so a good tribute act should do so too. And it was here that we learned of our special treat. Yes, lets welcome to the stage a former member of Iron Maiden to perform with them. Will it be Bruce? Or Steve? Or maybe Nicko will batter the tubs? Oh, it’s Paul DiAnno….. Wheeled onto stage (literally, he’s convalescing from an arthritic leg condition) the once frontman joined the band in a final rendition of 'Wrathchild' and Iron Maiden in his own East End style. As Eddie makes a final zombified appearance DiAnno proclaims ‘You never told me my wife was coming’. Class. Our special Treat came to an end and the Maidens exit stage left to huge applause. As tribute bands go, these are the best. And a tribute to the best live rock band on the planet. Do yourself a favour. If you like a bit of Maiden, go see what all the fuss is about for yourself.
So we had zombies, devils, demons and cyborgs. A scary night. Although nothing was as scary as the bar prices. And it was an obvious night for 'Fear Of The Dark' but I guess there is only so much you can do in an hour and a half. So what did you do on your Halloween Sunday evening? Get dressed up in a costume, painted a smile on your face and went out knocking on old ladies doors, extorting their last Worthers Original out of them? I went to see the Iron Maidens do their thing and my smile was real.
Mother (Photos courtesy of Trevor Reynolds)
The Bedford, Balham, London
Sunday 29th October 2017
Last Sunday saw Balham's Bedford Pub in London as the Prog capital of the world for Progtoberfest 2 - an all afternoon/evening extravaganza of Progressive Rock bands, namely headliners The Gift who performed at Ramblin' Man Fair earlier this year plus support from The Far Meadow, Habu, The Rube Goldberg Machine and current WRC favourites IT, following the release of their recent album 'We're In This All Together'. The event was organised by The Gift's very own charismatic frontman Mike Morton and was also hosted by full of beans Rock Comic and our mate Pete K Mally. On our very first visit to this imposing venue - a short walk from Balham railway station - we arrived late (thanks to TFL) and after buying a pint we navigated our way through the pub's labyrinth to find the function room. With its ghoulish Halloween decorations, it certainly is a striking venue spread over two levels - and despite deserving a better turnout it was still certainly atmospheric as we initially caught most of Habu's set. Since forming in Ipswich in 2012, they have opened for international artists, Uli Jon Roth and Deborah Bonham, shared billing with Magnum, Landmarq and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and have become well established in the UK Prog scene. Habu are a frenetic three-piece led Mark King style by Alex Body on bass, vocals, keyboards, with Andy Clarke (guitar, vocals) and Alex Dunbar (drums). We missed both 'Vigil' from their first album 'To The Stars' and their single 'Dead Weight' from their second album 'Infinite' but caught the end of 'Eat The Sun!' - also from 'Infinite'. If we needed immediate affirmation that those assembled were enjoying the set - Body's question "does my bass sound distorted to you guys?" was greeted with a unanimous "it sounds good to us" from those of us in the cheap seats. Some might think a three-piece Prog band is a bit of a contradiction but Body's use of his Hammond more than made up for the lack of numbers complemented by Clarke's weaving guitar solos and Dunbar's drumming. Two new songs were included in their set, namely 'Wireless' and 'These Walls' - the latter - a history lesson from Body, written about James The First - well this was Progtoberfest after all! And from the past to the future - 'Android Warriors' taken from 'To The Stars' - the band's take on us all becoming cyborg's in this social media age - Alex embarrassingly pointing me out as I was typing notes into my i-phone! The guys finished their impressive set with the title track of 'Infinite' - not before the mood had been slightly deflated with Body's news that The Bedford would no longer be hosting Prog music.
If we needed a lift after that bombshell - what better current Prog band to step up to the plate than IT. Beginning life as a Psychedelic Multi-Media group, Harrow-based artists IT (pronounced 'it') is a band with a colossal sound that shakes the bones and with a barrage of images that feeds the mind. The sound fuses the classic melodies of Prog Rock’s past with a passion and intensity usually only found in Punk or Metal bands. Politics, religion, war and sexuality all come under the band’s lens for critical examination. Lyrics are intelligent, challenging and - occasionally - darkly humorous. They released their long awaited fifth album ‘We’re All In This Together’ in March 2017 to critical acclaim with writer/producer Nick Jackson on vocals and guitar, co- writer/producer Andy Rowberry on lead guitar and backing vocals, James Hawkins on bass, Will Chism on Drums and Ryan McCaffrey on keyboards. Hawkins bass intro on opener 'Power' - also the opener on 'WAITT' - saw the bespectacled black 'straightjacketed' presence of Jackson take control of proceedings - the band immediately making a musical statement of intent as well as a political one. Their excellent single 'The Working Man' - cue Jackson's political flag waving - although based on the drive to accumulate possessions and the wastefulness that often follows, was beautifully counterbalanced by the delivery of a couple of guitar solos from Rowberry. Two years ago the band released their next number ‘Last Chance’ for the charity CD compilation ‘Voices for Hospices’, which featured – amongst others - a brand new track from Steve Hackett. A protest against what's happening to our NHS - I'm sure Mr. Hackett would not have protested about another stand out solo from Mr. Rowberry - with Nick getting us Proggers to join in on the chorus - "together". By this time Harrison Wells lookalike Jackson had removed his the aforementioned straightjacket revealing a 'God' t-shirt before he introduced the next song - "It's a mover" - and he wasn't wrong as he smashed his percussion about on 'Gamble The Dream' - reinforcing their unique sound with its welcome Floydish tinge. If I was to pick my favourite from 'WAITT' it would be a close contest. A longer set would see the twelve minute 'The Path Of Least Resistance' as a classic finale, however, they did thankfully include the superb 'Voices' which not only encapsulates what IT is all about including outstanding keyboards from McCaffrey plus the driving engine room of Hawkins and Chism, but it also features a George Galloway speech about Iraq which according to Nick, George did in one studio take. A great way to challenge/change our political beliefs George! The Floyd influence on both the intro and outro of new single 'House', sandwiched the apt Halloween chorus of "Like a ghost in this house" before the guys rounded off their take from 'WAITT' with another cracker 'Revolution', with its heavy riff and 'Timewarpish' chorus. Brilliant. And in one of those - 'you couldn't make it up moments' - their finale was taken from their previous 'Departure' album, namely the driving 'God Is Dead' - just as two of our friends arrived - one of which was a Catholic priest who had just returned from Sunday Mass! All I can say is that the Gods are currently with IT. What a set.
At this point we have to hold our hands up and admit at this juncture, given our new arrivals, we unfortunately missed The Rube Goldberg Machine's set - OK we admit it, we went for a beer and a curry. But we did return in time to catch The Far Meadow's sound check just before a very funny short stand up set from Rock Comic Pete K Mally. Watch out for Pete's new 2018 Live 'n' Loud show in Bristol, Epsom, Manchester, London and Nottingham - all about the passion for the hairspray, Jack Daniels, flying Vs and yes.. Bon Jovi! Anyway, upon losing our vantage point downstairs, we repositioned ourselves upstairs overlooking the stage to the right. Next up were The Far Meadow, a five-piece Symphonic Progressive Rock band from London. Since recording previous album 'Where Joys Abound', they have been performing with a changed line-up, fronted by vocalist Marguerita Alexandrou, with virtuoso Brazilian guitarist Denis Warren, Keith Buckman on bass guitar, Eliot Minn on keys and Paul Bringloe on drums . Their new album 'Given the Impossible' was released on Bad Elephant Music at the end of last year. with distinct influences of Gabriel's Genesis, TFM opened with 'Travelogue' - a new track to be released on their new album again on the Bad Elephant label early next year. With Marguerita flitting off an off the stage during instrumental interludes - a theme throughout a great set - the next three songs were from the aforementioned 'Given The Impossible' - namely 'A Gentle Warrior' - a delightful fusion of Alexandriou's vocal and Minn's keyboards complemented by some great fret work from Warren, Minn's beautiful piano instrumental on the Emerson sounding 'Letterboxing' and then the superb much heavier and climatic 'Dinosaurs'. Alexandriou then courteously gave us a name check for the band members, in particular Buckman as it was his birthday, before they launched into another track from their up and coming album called 'Blank Canvas' - pucker Prog - one for the Prog police to look forward to. We had a false start for 'Himilaya Flashmob' - announced as the last song of their set - except it wasn't. In fact there were two final tracks from 'GTI' - 'Flashmob' the stand out for mine of their set - meandering Prog at its epic best with its ELP/Focus twist - so much so that I bought 'GTI' after their set - enough said! In fact TFM closed their dynamic set with 'The Seamless Shirt' with it's ELP style keys intro before it morphed in and out of - naturally - 'Scarborough Fair' - a microcosm of why we love this genre. The good news is that TFM are playing Prog for Peace with Konchordat and The Room at The Iron Horse, 122 Station Road ,Sidcup DA15 7AB this Saturday 11th November at 4pm. Tickets are £12 Advance or £15 on the Door (020 8302 8217). Do not miss them.
Also on the bill next Saturday are The Gift. It is eleven years since ‘Awake And Dreaming’ was launched into an unsuspecting Prog scene. The Gift’s debut album was created by a line-up which disbanded almost as soon as it formed. For frontman Mike Morton in particular, this was profoundly frustrating, as he always had a vision for a full, concept-driven live show. In 2010, Mike joined forces with David Lloyd, and together they created The Gift’s second album, ‘Land Of Shadows’ in 2014. 'Why The Sea Is Salt' was released in 2016 and the current members of the band are Morton: vocals, flute and acoustic guitar, Lloyd: lead and rhythm guitar, Leroy James: guitar, Stefan Dickers: bass, Gabriele Baldocci: keyboards and Neil Hayman: drums and percussion. Unfortunately, we missed the guys on the at Ramblin' Man Fair Prog In The Park stage earlier this year and indeed their very own charismatic frontman Mike had organised today's Progtoberfest 2. In fact their two openers were the same as 'Ramblin Man' namely 'Quickening Pulse' (from 'Awake And Dreaming') and 'Sweepers Of Dreams', on the latter the face painted Morton paying tribute to Zal Cleminson on this SAHB sounding track from 'Why The Sea Is Salt'. A combination of 'The Carpeted Corridors and Rooftops Revisited' (again from 'Awake And Dreaming') preceded Baldocci's piano intro on their epic masterpiece and naturally a Progtastic twelve minute 'The Willows' (think 'Supper's Ready') from 'Land of Shadows'. The contrasting acoustic gentility of 'The Tallest Tree' (another from 'Why The Sea Is Salt') not only showcased Morton's voice but also a song sung from the heart plus a beautiful guitar solo from Lloyd. Indeed, the next four songs were also from 'WTSIS' as we entered Genesis/Floyd prop territory when Morton, who was now wearing a mask, proceeded to scoff from a bowl during 'Feeding Time/Jackdaw-Magpie' - very captivating, with its enduring Porcupine Tree style riff. Next we were all 'At Sea' - with its 'Quadrophonia' style intro, followed by the 'Ondine Song' - all about a Sea Goddess - and then finally, 'Tuesday's Child' - Morton demanding that everyone should stand up as he and Baldocci swapped musical responsibilities. The poppy wearing Morton insisted that those assembled "Raise your hands - even those in the Gods" before they launched into the apt Pop sound of 'Too Many Hands' from 'Land Of Shadows' before he asked "Are you sitting comfortably as he introduced their final number written about the Iraq invasion namely Parts 9 to 12 from 2006's 'Awake & Dreaming'. "Buckle up" he warned as we were propelled into fifteen minutes of vintage The Gift - with tangible influences of Genesis, Camel and Tangent. Awesome. Unfortunately there was no time for their encore 'Land Of Shadows' 'Walk Into The Water' but hey, at the end of the day this was a wonderful day of live Prog music. Congratulations to everyone who organised Progtoberfest 2 and here's to Progtoberfest 3 - wherever that may be!
L. A. Guns/Stone Trigger/
Burnt Out Wreck,
The Underworld, Camden, London
Thursday 2nd November 2017
Now I'm not one for pre-event hype or the sales pitch for a bands latest album but when I read the promo for L.A. Guns latest incarnation it piqued my interest. As a guitar nerd I'm a big fan of Tracii Guns. He's a guitarist's guitarist with a strong following on various social media (facesnapapp thingy) as well as being an integral part of the whole LA rock scene from the 80's. He and I were also born but a few weeks apart so are of the same vintage. But I'm also the most cynical being on the planet so when I read the following press release I had my usual 'Yeah right ....' moment:
"As the revival of the classic 80’s hard rock and heavy metal scene continues unabated in the 21st century, one reunion has long been top of the wishlist of many a fan: the combination of Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis under the L.A. Guns banner. Now, what once seemed like a distant memory with no hope of return has finally come about and those supporters of the band have been amply rewarded for keeping their fingers crossed and hopes up.
L.A. Guns never looked like pretty poster boys, unlike many of their peers, but rather the sort of band that you would be terrified of bumping into in a dark alley. Yet, despite having songs to back up that image, they could also write powerful ballads (such as ’The Ballad Of Jayne’) that displayed serious songwriting chops. Those chops are on show again on ‘The Missing Peace’, the band’s brand new album and arguably one of the most vital releases in their catalogue.
The story of how we got from the powerful early years of L.A. Guns to here has been well documented already. What is important to know is that the driving force behind all the band's classic songs, Tracii and Phil, are back in a major way. As inspired and excited as when they first started out, but now with the benefit of years of wisdom and experience behind them,
‘The Missing Peace’ will please fans of not only their classic albums (the self-titled debut, ‘Cocked And Loaded’ and ‘Hollywood Vampires’) but also their heralded comeback releases (‘Man In The Moon’ and ‘Waking The Dead’). In fact, the new record feels like the next logical step after ‘Waking The Dead’ and sees the duo newly invigorated with this diverse set of crowd pleasing dynamic sleaze rockers and epic, slower songs."
They have a point. Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis are the integral ingredients of what was one of the best bands of their time. So to see them back together again did get my cynical pulse moving. They performed two gigs at London's excellent and intimate Underworld with the Thursday night that I attended being a greatest hits evening with the Saturday evening being a night to promote their new album. Sandwiched between the two nights was a not insubstantial trip to Bradford. What was the tour manager thinking? Anyhow.
Thursday saw a my favourite venue open their doors to sadly too few people for the opening act Burnt Out Wreck. Fronted by Gary Moat, once drummer of Heavy Pettin', the skin jockey is now displaying his vocal talents whilst leaving the snare smashing to Paul Carnevale who does a fine job. Squashed at the front of the stage, between the backline and the stage edge, the five piece play some classic Rock music. Twin guitars - a Gibson Flying V and a Washburn through Marshall JCM800's - of Adrian Dunn and Miles Goodman create that great squealing Marshall growl fronted by the voice of Moat that is a mix of Biff Byford, Bon Scott and Noddy Holder. Does that give you and idea of how classic they sounded? And let's not forget bassist Alex Carmichael adding a strong bass line with added mirrored shades. Bass always sounds better with sunglasses. Their short set was well received and I look forward to seeing them again at the Hard Rock Hell festival.
Burnt Out Wreck Setlist
She's A Dirty Love
Pullin' It Out
She's The One
Burnt Out Wreck
The crowd swelled further as the evening wore on, and the Worlds End pub above us started to empty, to the benefit of our second band, Dublin's Stone Trigger. Unleashed from the confines of a cramped stage, this 5 piece were allowed free reign over the whole stage - about 2ft more than before but it all helps when you are a band that likes to be active on stage. Formed in 2011, Stone Trigger are heavily influenced by bands of the L.A. Guns 80's era. Entering to the soundtrack from 80's film Terminator, the four piece seemed to produce a larger sound from the larger stage. Front Man and vocalist Tommy Rockit could have been a young Axl Rose - Tracii's one time bandmate who went on to form a quite well known band. Rockit has the voice and the front man skills to entertain. And they have that sleaze sound too. Contrastingly clean cut guitarist Andii Andrews plays a beautiful Les Paul Traditional through the Marshall JCM800. Initially I was impressed that his lead playing was both restrained and tasteful. But then I was even more impressed with his ability to shred when the band went all Anthrax on me. Word up to bassist Peter Jordan and drummer Moyano El Buffalo as well. They had a great time with a warming crowd, one of whom presented Rockit with a gift wrapped bottle half way through the set. It's nice to be appreciated. The set was short but exciting and included a cover of Backstreet Boys 'Larger Than Life' and ended with their new single 'Edge Of Insanity'. Good rocking.
Stone Trigger Setlist
Children Of The Night
Rattle Your Bones
I Declare War
Gotta Get It On
Show Your Hands
Larger Than Life
Edge Of Insanity
Lights down and up fader with Ozzy's 'Diary of a Madman' to herald the entrance of the main event. The pre-event hype got it right, there is a real sense of excitement amongst the crowd as the Tracii and Phil combo take to the stage to relive a set of mostly classic tracks from their back catalogue of Rock excellence. As the 80's track reached it's triumphal conclusion, with Randy Rhoads exquisite guitar tones ringing in our ears, one guitar genius gave way to another as Da Man took to the stage with his four compadres. Sporting an unusual Chubtone GT350, plugged into the ubiquitous Marshall JCM800, Guns was the only member of the band not sporting leather and studs. He still looked the mutts nuts though. Tracii takes stage left whilst Phil moves to centre stage, quite rightly, announcing to the bouncing crowd how it's good to be back, it's good to be home - he's a Londoner you know. But as LA as the rest of them. And the chemistry between the two of them is back at it's best. They really play well off each other and enjoy themselves immensely. The band launches into opener 'No Mercy', from their inaugural album 'Cocked and Loaded'. Which pretty much sums them up. It's raunchy sleazy cock Rock that's loaded with power and riffage. I love it.
Backing Guns is Michael Grant on what looked like a Zemaitis A24MF through a Marshall JCM900, a shredders amp if ever there was one. Grant has all of the required swagger and all the chops too. Both Guns and Grant also appeared to be using Friedman pedals to boost their sound. On bass is 'the missing Ramone' Johnny Martin, with legs as far apart as is humanly possible, knackers dusting the stage. He's one of those bassists who doesn't take front of stage yet always catches your eye. The Underworld's stage isn't he most spacious, so you are hardly likely to lose him, but with the front of stage trio hogging the limelight, he still manages to be a giant amongst men. Not bad at playing bass either. And back of stage driving the band is clubbist Shane Fitzgibbon from Guns prior band Gunzo. Together, the five piece managed to notch the volume up yet further leaving the ears ringing for days. In a small low ceilinged sweat pit like the Underworld, you would expect, and want, nothing less.
Having shown us 'No Mercy', the hits started coming. 'Electric Gypsy' gave Guns a chance to show why his guitar skills are so revered using every tap, slide, pick and technique you could ask for whilst classics like 'Hollywood Tease' and 'Over The Edge' added interesting nuances including use of a bow a la Jimmy Page. Great stuff. The audience were in raptures, singing along to some real classic Rock anthems. The audience were an interestingly broad church of ages. Not the sole domain of 50 somethings, there were many of younger, and older vintage (in their 80's?), singing with equal enthusiasm. Lewis was having a ball with them. Guns needed no encouragement but revelled in the adulation of the crowd whilst Lewis really did look like he had come home. Grant, resplendent in classic sleaze peaked cap, controlled stage right and more than held his own in the popularity stakes. He even took centre stage when Guns and Lewis left him to front and sing the unusual choice of his cover of Prince's 'Purple Rain', a staple amongst many bands sets following the unfortunately premature death of the 80's star. It was an interesting cover though well received by the majority. A real singalong for all the family.
Hit followed hit with a couple of newer tracks getting a show, including 'The Flood's The Fault Of The Rain' which is a future classic. 'Malaria' gave Guns the chance to show some subtler skills although he also chose to use a Theramin - a sound altering device of a bizarre nature which seems to enthral guitarists like Guns and Joe Bonamassa. Doesn't work for me. What did work for me was Guns launching into AC/DC's 'Hells Bells' riff into his classic 'Never Enough'. That's like having Ben and Jerry's with Haagen Daz. Tasty. Which led to the 'Jelly Jam' - Guns excuse to indulge himself, and the crowd, in a jam of assorted riffs and solo's that left all with a satisfied feel. What's better than watching the master at work?
The gig drew towards closure with the epic 'Ballad of Jayne', complete with microphone failure that was handled with all the experienced indifference that you would expect from consummate professional Lewis, before Lewis ex-bandmate, and Rock legend Bernie Torme joined them for closing track, and every set must have, 'Rip and Tear'. Torme handled his Strat with great skill. There was a lot of love up on that stage, matched by the adoring audience happy to see their heroes back together and as good as ever.
So did the band live up to the hype? No. They exceeded it. In an era where we have bands from the 80's reforming or disintegrating, the hype rarely reflects reality. Many of those bands just can't do it any more. Voices have gone, drug fuelled lifestyles have taken their toll. But not with the Guns. They are still firing on all cylinders and hitting the bull. If you can impress an old cynic like me you must be doing something right. Must be an 80's thing.
LA Guns Setlist
Over The Edge
Bitch Is Back
The Flood's The Fault Of The Rain
One More Reason
Kiss My Love Goodbye
Don't Look At Me That Way
Hells Bells Intro to Never Enough
The Ballad of Jayne
Rip and Tear
Michael Schenker Fest/Departed
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Thursday 2nd November 2017
With his trademark Gibson Flying V electric guitar, beanie hat and shades - celebrated German Rock guitarist Michael Schenker kicked off his UK tour at the London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire last Thursday night. With great support from UK Rock band Departed, the Michael Schenker Fest project, or shredder fest as some might call it, reunited the original Michael/McAuley Schenker Group vocalists Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley, plus MSG musicians Steve Mann (guitar, keys), Chris Glen (bass) and Ted McKenna (drums). Nicknamed the "Blonde Bomber", the sixty-two year old first rose to fame as an early member of Scorpions then achieved fame in the mid-1970s as the lead guitar player for UFO. Since leaving UFO in 1978, he has been leading the Michael Schenker Group in various incarnations plus more recently Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock. He has rejoined UFO three times, producing an album each time and is the younger brother of Rudolf Schenker who is still a guitarist with Scorpions. His career has had many ups and downs, partly due to a long history of alcoholism and personal problems but despite all this, Schenker continues to perform and record. He has been called "a legendary figure in the history of Metal guitar.
First up though were Devon-based 4-piece Rock and Roll band Departed - originally formed in 2014 when their chief songwriters, lead singer Mark Pascall (former lead singer and bass guitarist for Empire of Fools) and Ben Brookland (former lead guitarist for The Treatment), began writing together. The current line-up, which includes Howie Spring (bass) and Connor Spring (drums), became permanent in March 2016. The band recently released their critically acclaimed self-titled debut mini album and over the last 18 months or so have travelled thousands of miles supporting the likes of Status Quo, Big Country, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, Chuck Mosley (Faith No More), and the Graham Bonnet Band, and have also played many festivals including Hard Rock Hell. They opened with five tracks from their aforementioned debut mini album, firstly the fast paced 'Superstitious with its Montrose style riff courtesy of Brookland before Pascall shouted inevitably "Are you with us London?" as he discarded his fedora and bravely tried at this very early stage to get the crowd clapping with a "Wooh, wooh wooh" along to 'Don't Follow Me'. It worked, as the band kept up the momentum with their mix of Hard and Classic Rock with 'All I Want' with a great vocal and guitar solo from Pascall and Brookland respectively. The riff of 'Dreaming' epitomised what these guys were all about - powerful lead vocals, soaring guitars and a thundering rhythm section before it was time to "hold on to your heart" as Pascall misleadingly grabbed his acoustic guitar for the intro of 'Pretty Little Thing' - more a case of "hold on to your hats" as this stormer took off to its inevitable concluson. And talking of stormer's - 'Steal Your Crown' - their debut track (but not on the mini album) - with its hook and melody kept the flag well and truly flying for this new generation of Rock bands paving the way for British Rock. "Are you having a good time?" yelled Pascall as they launched into three dynamic newbies 'Soul Shaker', 'Come On' and 'All The Way' - with no let up in their energy meeting melody and Rock meeting Roll. Pascall even found time to promote two of their December gigs - Plant Rockstock on Sunday 3rd and The Underworld on Friday 15th - the latter with Mason Hill. Do not miss that! "Are you going to sing?" the frontman teased as they rounded off an incredible support set with a great cover of Queen's 'Tie Your Mother Down' with Spring drumming standing up and finally, "Are You Ready" - yes it was 'Are You Ready', with its Rainbow influence, in my opinion the stand out from their mini album. "We are Departed" they shouted as they left the stage - yes, but we look forward to seeing you guys again at The Underworld in December!
So the scene was set for Schenker as we sat on the first level with a great view to the left hand side of the stage. This was indeed the first time I had seen Michael, although I was at High Voltage when he performed at London's High Voltage in 2011 - it was just one of those annoying clashes that meant I was at another stage! The opening salvo to Schenker's set for mine - was totally unexpected. An intro tape recording of Schenker singing Yin and Yang - a bonus track off his 2015 Temple Of Rock's CD 'Spirit On A Mission' - was surreal enough - but another bonus track from that same album 'Searching For Freedom' saw Schenker open proceedings in a entirely different mode to what I was expecting - with its Floydish jaw-dropping overtones - it was a joy to behold - painting this "nailed-on shredder" in a totally different light! "Hello London" said Schenker and after introducing his band, and with an intimidating bank of Marshall speakers behind him, Schenker enquired "Are You Ready?" Immediately, the Michael Schenker Group instrumental 'Into The Arena' set the scene, Schenker limbering up like a gladiator with his Flying V before he thanked the auditorium and welcomed the hat and poppy wearing Gary Barden to loosen his vocal chords on five consecutive MSG tracks, the first of which was the Rainbowish 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' followed by 'Victim Of Illusion' and 'Cry For The Nations. Yes Barden in theory was the frontman belting out the numbers in fine style, but Schenker was well and truly taking centre stage with his own personal guitar fest and an endless round of guitar solos. Who said that German's don't have a sense of humour as Schenker introduced his next MSG track as "This is a song about someone". Cue 'Attack Of The Mad Axeman' followed by the 'Killer On The Loose' Lizzy sounding riff of 'Armed And Ready' - even though I thought Halloween was last Tuesday? At this juncture Barden left the stage to allow Schenker to prowl around the stage to play the only Scorpions number on the night - the instrumental 'Coast To Coast'.
Former Rainbow, and, of course, MSG vocalist Graham Bonnet, then joined the band for the next three MSG tracks starting with 'Desert Song'. Despite Bonnet's shades and his 'Jersey Boys' looking outfit, it was Chris Glen who caught the eye, this was a real bass guitarist with attitude. So when the PA malfunctioned towards the end of 'Desert Song' and you couldn't hear Bonnet's mic - Glen was the ideal candidate to send round to sort the sound crew out. By the way - there was no truth in the rumour that the double pint of beer that dropped from the first floor on to the punters below before Schenker's started (I kid you not - even though it was a plastic glass) - caused this short circuit. After the problem was eventually rectified - it was strength in numbers as both Barden and Robin McAuley (McAuley Schenker Group) joined the unfortunate Bonnet on stage for 'Dancer' - although Schenker once again was shredding personified. Barden and McAuley left Bonnet to it on 'Assault Attack' before the final Michael Schenker Group track of the night, Mann's organ intro heralding the instrumental 'Captain Nemo'. We were now into McAuley Schenker Group territory - with four songs, naturally featuring Robin on vocals. To a lot of MSG fans - rightly or wrongly - Irishman McAuley is the preferred MSG vocalist. McAuley opened with 'No Time For Losers' another Schenker shred fest, before Schenker's frenetic intro and awesome riff on 'Save Yourself' saw a lot of balding heads bobbing up and down below. However, it was on 'Bad Boys' that I see where the MSG faithful are coming from - a great vocal from McAuley although Rob just avoided falling flat on his face as he tripped on stage. The final song and driving rock riff of 'Love Is Not A Game' was the highlight for me though of the McAuley Schenker Group quartet - McAuley's request to the crowd to "Make some noise" gratefully accepted. So we've heard Temple Of Rock, Scorpions and MSG - who were we missing? How about a bit of UFO to finish with? Yes please! Well McAuley had the honour of vocals on their classic 'Rock Bottom' with Schenker once again going into overdrive as he duelled with Steve Mann as the delirious Schenker faithful sang along. Trepidation filled the arena re: an encore given the sound gremlins earlier. We needn't have worried as the guys returned to the stage and played no less than four UFO songs in their encore. The Gary Mooreish opening to another classic 'Doctor Doctor' saw Barden, Bonnet and McAuley (sounds like a solicitors) return to the stage - their vocals complemented by the singalong from the ecstatic audience. It was party time now as 'Shoot Shoot' saw Schenker high-fiveing with the crowd at the side of the stage and if that was not enough, London-born 'Son Of Shred' Tyson Schenker joined his Father on stage for 'Natural Thing'. By now it was getting late so 'Lights Out' seemed an appropriate and fitting way to end a fab evening with Schenker, his band and his three amigos sending his faithful into the Shepherd's Bush night to try and catch their last trains home - but it was well and truly worth it!
AJ (pictures courtesy of Eric Duvet and Paul Rodgers)
Hard Rock Hell 11
Pwllheli, North Wales
Thursday 9th - Saturday 11th November 2017
On a cold Thursday morning in November, it was time take the annual pilgrimage to the North West coast of Wales for the Rock fest that is Hard Rock Hell. In its eleventh year, the festival has evolved from humble beginnings to become a staple fixture in the Rock calendar. And where there was once one HRH, the franchise now boast half a dozen or so spin off events specific to genres of Rock – AOR, Sleaze etc. And eleven years in, the HRH community has become family, with strong friendships being formed across the events. All good then? Well yes but there are some downsides. First and foremost has always been the location. Pwlheli is only easy to get to if you are a Gwynedd sheep. The rail links are hardly local, so driving is the only practical option. And that took the best part of nine and a half hours. Secondly, the increase in the numbers of HRH events, and the fact that the faithful family members pre-book the next year’s event before the line-up is announced has lead to arguably a reduction in the standard of the line-up. So it was with some trepidation that we (finally) entered the hallowed gates of Hafan Y Mor caravan site.
The format over the years hasn’t changed much. A short, single stage, themed opening Thursday night with a handful of young bands and a smaller costumed crowd out to reacquaint themselves with each other, and the local brews. All very low key. First change to this year’s event was the introduction of an awards ceremony on the Wednesday night. Heaviest drinker may be added to next year’s list of awards if this year’s was anything to go by….
This year’s Thursday night theme was ‘The Knights of the Dark Order’. Very few people donned fancy dress this year so it must be a very exclusive order. One of the reasons may have been that the normally low key line up was probably the best line up of the three nights. Which may also explain why it was considerably busier than normal and on the larger stage 1.
Openers Ryders Creed from the Midlands set the scene for what was to be another eclectic weekend of Rock and Roll from around the world. If I were to have a festival I would choose Ryders Creed as the perfect band to get the heads nodding and the toes tapping as they launched into their 45 minute set of Stoner come Classic Rock. Followed closely by California’s Idlewar with their Doomy Sludge Metal, the festival was setting itself a high bar to maintain. Idlewar’s CD was subsequently purchased. New Yorkers Killcode blasted the masses with their excellent Southern style Rock (from Northerners…?) followed by Aussie stalwarts Black Aces. Fresh from touring with fellow Aussies Tequila Mockingbyrd, the young four-piece will inevitably be likened to AC/DC. Not surprising as they cite them as an influence and is evident in their sound. Nothing wrong with that. So if you want to see a young enthusiastic irreverent AC/DC in a small and intimate venue, go check them out. Penultimate band of the night are Toby Jepson’s new crew called the Wayward Sons. Having been, for me, the notable band of the Ramblin’ Man festival in July (there were a number of bands who played both festivals), I was keen to see them play a larger stage. And they made a fine fist of it. The Wayward Sons have had an amazing year so it was good to see them well received.
The final act of the opening night for me was going to go one of two ways – either really well or really badly. Dee Snider, once frontman for Twisted Sister (who headlined HRH 1 all those years ago) is hardly a shrinking violet. In the States, the New Yorker is known as much as a personality as a singer. What were we going to get? A showman or a show off? We got a showman, and what a showman he is. The 62 year old looks as ripped as a 21 year old gym bunny but with the stage skills of a man who has been entertaining for 40 years. Although struggling with a heavy cold, so sounding huskier than usual, Dee absolutely kicked bottom. The crowd instantly warmed to him and were mesmerised by his singing and amused by his banter. Hugely entertaining, he had everyone in the palm of his hand. When playing new material he playfully requested we don’t all take that opportunity to slope off for a beer - save that for the drum solo he quipped. No one was going anywhere. New tracks were as well received as old favourites from the Sister back catalogue. But it was the openness of his emotions that resonated so much. Having flown in that day from the States when on the Monday his mother was taken seriously ill, and his friend’s son tragically took his own life the previous night, Dee was an emotional man who was so visibly moved by the love and support showed by the fans. Rock and Roll is how he deals with it and he dealt it to us in spades. What an act, what a night.
So how was Friday going to follow that? Back to the regular format of a two stage venue (both indoors thankfully) with a twelve hour day of flitting between stages to see different bands, by way of the various bars. As always, many hours are spent trying to organise the logistics of seeing the must see bands, but this year the list was pretty small. So wandering from one venue to another became the modus operandi of the weekend.
Those Damn Crows opened the smaller stage two and set the scene perfectly for the acts on that stage throughout the day. Young Rock bands with new ideas and new energy. If anyone tells you that Rock is dead, tell them to get off their arses and go and see some of these bands. It’s live and kicking butt. As the day progressed, yours truly would spend more time in stage 2 than stage one as the bands were extremely entertaining. In no specific order, Kingbreaker, Fire Red Empress, Blind River and Chasing Dragons all got added to the list of see again bands. And that’s not to say that the others aren’t worth a second look.
The main stage 1 saw a more eclectic line up with openers Goldray bring their own fragrant brand of flower power to the not so fragrant masses. What is it about large quantities of beer drinking, fast food eating Rock fans that causes such offense to the Nasal Fossa? Beats me but pass another Guinness. Syteria, featuring Girlschools Jackie Chambers, brought some all lady loving to the masses with good old Metal for mothers (and daughters) before the duo that are The Graveltones brought their London based Heavy Blues to play. Jimmy O plays guitar and provides the vocals whilst man mountain Mikey Sorbello provides the ‘Drums and Noises’. A fantastic groove for a two-piece, and with the tightest drumming you will ever see.
Probably the find of the festival for me were German rockers The New Roses. Fronted by Aragorn from Lord of the Rings (aka Timmy Rough) the quartet has been extensively touring Europe including as guest of my current favourite band The Dead Daisies. If only The Dead Daisies would come to HRH…. And The New Roses are definitely of that sound. Great Rock.
It was about this time that the main stage started to get exceedingly crowded. Whilst always well attended, the venue has been able to cater for the numbers. This year, it looks like the usually smooth running HRH machine has had a few hiccups with its organisation and it became clear that numbers were up beyond comfortable levels. Tyketto, took to the stage to keep everyone Forever Young with their brand of New York Melodic Rock and catered amply for a crowd singalong to be followed by Californians Y&T. By this time the sardines were struggling for fin room although the temperature was baking them nicely. With limited ingress/egress to the venue the security struggled to maintain a steady flow of punters so were obliged to close the venue to traffic. A problem if you felt the desire to visit stage 2. Or were an Airbourne fan on the outside. By the time headliners Airbourne hit the stage for their 2 hour blast of high octane mayhem, the situation got silly with the ever raucous crowd in danger of crushing itself. Social media the following morning was awash with comments to that effect. Come on HRH, sort it out. Nevertheless Airbourne put on their usual great show and the fans left with ringing ears and sore throats to head back to their caravans and a well deserved pot noodle.
One of the notable things with HRH is how the bands seem to get better as the weekend progresses. This year that was less so, although still of a high calibre. Saturday’s line up was similar to Fridays with a Stage 2 line up of younger enthusiastic talent showcasing their wares, whilst stage 1 catered for the established acts. Stage two provided some great bands including Western Sand (with cowbell), the hairy Bad Touch, Black Whiskey and Wicked Stone being the stand out acts that I will seek out again. Tax the Heat had the honour of closing out stage 2, and indeed the festival, as their set started as the stage 1 closed. Again, it was a night where stage 2 got my interest.
On stage 1 openers Buffalo Summer brought some Zeppelin style Rock to the (hung over) masses as the lads from South Wales strutted their stuff. And they looked like they felt they were at home too. Next up were Toseland who get better every time I see them. Front man James Toseland is a good looking ex World Superbike champion, who can sing and play keyboards as well as being a thoroughly nice chap. Makes me sick… They played a great Rock set including their hit ‘We’ll stop at nothing’ which was used as the official anthem for this years special Olympics team GB. Toning it down after Toseland were Finnish Proggers The Von Hertzen Brothers. Sandwiching their radio friendly Rock set was an opening and closing number from their new album ‘War is Over’. A dramatic and epic album, it gave the three brothers the chance to air their more spiritual side and was well received. Attendance numbers were starting to soar again as were those temperatures. The crowd were getting basted and wasted in equal measures.
Scottish veterans Gun took to the stage with a set that really got the crowd going. As age does to you, they started slow but soon enough, when the creaking limbs got moving, they showed those young whippersnappers how it’s done. They are just the sort of band this festival needs. More. Following Gun were Lynch Mob, formed by ex Dokken guitarist George Lynch. At least I think they were there as frontman Oni Logan repeatedly stated his pleasure at being at Hellfest. I think the Argentinian could be forgiven for mistaking the windswept November Welsh coast for the French summer Metalfest. So similar after all…
Penultimate band of the night were Glastonbury’s own Reef. Perhaps more Britpop than Rock they nevertheless entertained the crowd and got them jumping with great songs like ‘Place Your Hands’ and ‘Precious Metal’. And amazing to watch too. Go Google barefooted giant bassist Jack Bessant. You should have a Jack Bessant in every band. Headliners, and stage 1 closers were Black Star Riders. Another band that has gone from strength to strength, they are slowly shaking off the Thin Lizzy ties and really shining with their own material. Of course you have to have the odd Lizzy track with the likes of Scott Gorham, Damon Johnson and Robbie Crane in the band - the obligatory Whisky in the Jar (o) - but their own catalogue of material is easily strong enough to stand up by itself. Frontman Ricky Warwick is just tre cool and a perfect frontman. This could be his finest hour, this could be his Shangri La, if only they can keep it together they will find their way. A great band to finish the evening.
Heading home we mused over the weekends entertainment and line up issues. As ever, although not strong on paper, the line up still managed to please with act of the weekend going to Dee Snider and new band for me being The New Roses. Although Thursday night for me was the strongest night, the rest of the weekend was still an enjoyable tour de force of rock music. With HRH 2018 selling out fast, did we want to commit to all this again next year? Would the line up be worth travelling a lifetime to see? With the announcement of Saxon, Girlschool and The Dead Daisies as next year’s headliners, our wallets were thinned accordingly and places booked. It’s a great all round weekend, whatever the names, and if the Dead Daisies will be there, so will I. I wonder who else will be added to the line up? And what other great new bands we will discover? Regardless, we will still be there to see the familiar HRH faces. It is family after all.
Mother (pictures courtesy of John Bull)
Joanne Shaw Taylor/
Royal Festival Hall
Wednesday 15th November 2017
When is a gig not a gig? When it's at the Royal Festival Hall. Built in the 1950's, the RFH nestles on the trendy Southbank area of London and is the home to The London Philharmonic orchestra and host to a wide variety of arts. What was once a modern design is now both looking dated and space age in equal measures. It's wide main concert hall seats 2,500 in relatively plush surroundings with the main seating flanked by obliquely situated boxes, including a large Royal box, facing the stage. So as the crowd were delicately ushered to their seats it felt rather more like a performance of the Royal Variety show than a gig. As the lights go down Keyboard player Tom Gatza, bassist Jonathan Murphy and drummer Felix Dehmel take to the spartan stage to herald the entrance of South African blues sensation Dan Patlansky. The nattily dressed 36 year old from Johannesburg soon showed why he is touring with the likes of Joe Satriani. Sporting a fancy weskit and jacket, Dan is clearly aware of his surroundings. The stage lighting is minimalist but very effective and, although somewhat dated, the venue can boast an excellent sound system and sound engineers. The sound was clear, well balanced and at good levels. So nothing like most gigs.
Opening track 'Sonova Faith' gives Patlansky a chance to air all of his licks and skills on his battered old Fender Strat. What appears to have been a beautiful sunburst colour is now worn beyond recognition. No doubt on the list of some guitar relicer somewhere. One thing that becomes apparent from the start is that the tracks are less faithful recitals of the album tracks and more a chance for the quartet to jam around the structure of a song. So it also becomes clear that the four are extremely tight and obviously enjoy playing off of each other. 'Stop The Messin' has Patlansky growling out the lyrics in his raspy, almost nasty voice. I say almost because it's not nasty, it's enjoyable, giving the vocal edginess to his Blues to match is fret skills. The interplay with the keyboards is exciting and it's clearly a more commercially minded track that pleases the audience. Not that you could tell as the audience sit in their regal splendour absorbing the performance with all the English reticence that you would imagine from such a high brow location. Whereas 'Stop The Messin' is an upbeat Blues, 'Heartbeat' brings the tone down to a more melancholic level with more virtuoso guitar and dark vocals. The new album 'Perfection Kills' is released in February 2018 and we are treated to a preview of the opening track 'Dog Day'. This does appear to be a recital of the track, rather than a lengthy jam, with Patlansky showing off his wah skills and Dehmel providing some excellent percussive accompaniment. It's a short song with Hendrix overtones that makes me eager to hear the rest of the album. 'Still Wanna Be Your Man' slows things down again with a tender song interspersed with searing solos and a voice that had me thinking of Alice Cooper. Not quite sure why but there you go. Closing track, and extended glorified jam is 'My Chana' which gives Patlansky to show off and showboat in equal measures. Jamming with his band the South African shows off every skill with guitar played in various positions. This guy has it all and is not afraid to show it. The set ends with a round of applause form the crowd and a rush to the ice cream sellers lining the aisles during the intermission. You don't get that down at The Underworld.
Dan Patlansky setlist
Stop The Messin'
Still Wanna Be Your Man
As the intermission bell rings and the lights go down the audience take their seats for the main event, we wonder what we are going to get. I'm no stranger to a Joanne Shaw Taylor set but the Black Country sensation had to cancel her previous Bristol show due to ill health. That fact that she was here at all was a result but how would she sound. For those that do not know of her (shame on you) JST is another of our country's young Blues geniuses with a sultry, almost husky voice. Tonight, it had extra huskiness but lost none of it's strength or delight. Taking to the stage, to the sound of ZZ Top's 'Jesus Left Chicago', in her usual back attire, with her silky soft long blond hair falling around her shoulders, the usual red shoes were tonight replaced by more sparkly silver boots. A nod to our regal surroundings I suppose.
With her trusty blond Telecaster plugged into an array of Fender Amps, Joanne greets her loyal following, apologises for the state of her voice before launching into a superb rendition of her 'Dyin' To Know' track from the 'Wild' album. This is one of the tracks she performed so well on that Jules Holland show last year. Joanne is a well known devotee of Stevie Ray Vaughan which is reflected in her powerful Rock Blues. In earlier days, at less imposing venues, JST was know to have played the odd SRV or Hendix cover. These days, with six albums behind her, she has plenty of her own fine material to be entertaining the crowds. Supporting Joanne on stage are regulars Oliver Perry on drums and the iconic Luigi Casanova, replete with dreadlocks, on bass. With the addition of keyboards, JST's back line provide a fuller sound to compliment her exquisite guitar skills. Watching Joanne lose herself in the beauty of the music, with her face contorting as rapidly as the strings on her trusty Fender, you are drawn into the rapture of her world. How can you not enjoy watching someone enjoying themselves as much as he evidently does.
'Nothing To Lose', also from the latest 'Wild' album, is a heartfelt lament of a love lost which Joanne salves with some electric guitar playing with a warm keyboard side order. Switching to a beautiful Les Paul, the sniffing JST unleashes the third track from the 'Wild' album - 'No Reason To Stay'. There are few finer sights than an unleashed JST with a Les Paul. Easy tiger, remember where you are. The Les Paul remains too for 'Jump That Train' from the 'Diamonds In The Dirt' album, whose, title track follows thereafter. With a proper heavy Blues riff it has a funky lilt to it which Italian icon Casanova provides his own lesson in love. The excellent sound quality again shows itself as the Gibson provides a beautiful melodic chime to counter the almost soft husky vocals. And with the sultry 'Tried Tested And True' to follow we really are getting the full (royal) family of tracks. All interspersed with regular sips of honey and lemon to keep the voice going. It sounds fine to me.
When I first saw Joanne play at my local small club, The Beaverwood Club, it was to see a young artist learning her trade by touring the pubs and clubs up and down the country. With her parents in tow as support and management, she toured her debut album 2008 album 'White Sugar'. As well as being impressed by her guitar skills, and exquisite covers, I was also impressed with her own material. But the one song that caught my interest was her cover of The Hoax's 'Bones'. What was a staple track for years has fallen out of circulation in recent years so it was the highlight of the night for me when my favourite track was included. It's a bouncy track with a great groove to it and is a fine showcase for another JST trip around the fretboard. I'm a happy man. I quietly applaud to ensure that i don't spoil the regal ambience. I don't want to get carted off to The Tower for a short back and sides.
And this wasn't to be the only cover, as the set progressed we get a continual honours list of Blues excellence from her back catalogue as well as a cover of Johnny Mathis 'Wild Is The Wind' which she dedicates to one of her recently departed heroes David Bowie who recorded it for his 1976 album 'Station To Station'. Although a faithful rendition, this version went from a lament to end in a full blown Blues jam. If you like Blues, you will love this. Set closer is rockin' Blues track 'Tied And Bound' from the 'Almost Always Never' album. A tired and weary JST signs off with a flourish to an audience who politely request more. Although struggling she duly obliges with the regular closer 'Going Home'. Back on her trusty Telecaster she wrings the last of her energy, and every last note from her considerable repertoire of skills to the finally clapping accompaniment of the audience. With a final goodbye, and an acknowledgement to how far she has come from such humble beginnings (The Beaverwood Club gets a mention), she melts into the background to rest an recuperate before her next performance at Birmingham's Symphony Hall.
As we exit the red carpeted halls, with the assistance of the finely honed ushers, via some excellent bars, we are left to muse the evening. Great music, great entertainment in a different type of venue. In these days of live music where the Joe Bonammasa's of this world think it acceptable to charge exorbitant prices, JST invites us to share in the love of her superb Blues in a high brow establishment for under thirty quid. Having played pubs, clubs, rock venues and iconic stages, you can forgive the girl for trying something different. For me, whilst I loved the performance, and enjoyed the music immensely, it wasn't a gig. It didn't have that feel if intimacy and excitement that you get from small clubs, or even some of the larger venues. It did feel like a stage performance watched from afar. Although the Royal Box was unoccupied tonight, the Royal Festival Hall was pretty full, and although no members of the Royal family had dropped in to groove, our very own Queen of Blues very much commanded the stage. We are amused.
Dyin' to Know
Nothing to Lose
No Reason to Stay
Jump That Train
Diamonds in the Dirt
Tried, Tested & True
(The Hoax cover)
Time Has Come
You Should Stay, I Should Go
Just Another Word
Wanna Be My Lover
Wild Is The Wind
(Johnny Mathis cover) (Dedicated to David Bowie)
Tied And Bound
Brian Downey's Alive And Dangerous
Nells Jazz & Blues, London
Saturday 25th November 2017
Brian Downey, known to millions of Rock fans as the original drummer of Thin Lizzy performed the second of two rare and sold out concerts at Nells Jazz & Blues in London last Saturday night. As it said on the tin, his new band Alive And Dangerous, featuring Brian Grace (best known as the guitarist for the Commitments Andrew Strong), former Low Rider members Matt Wilson (lead vocals, bass) and Phil Edgar (lead guitar) were to cover one of the greatest live Rock and Roll albums of all time: Thin Lizzy's 'Live and Dangerous' - the question on every Lizzy fans lips assembled tonight was would they do it justice? Downey's band were celebrating the 40th Anniversary of 'Live and Dangerous' - although not trying to be Mr. Picky, the double album was actually released in June 1978, however, it was primarily recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon in November 1976 as part of the Johnny The Fox tour plus Toronto's Seneca College Fieldhouse and Philadelphia's Tower Theatre Bad Reputation gigs in October 1977, with further production in Paris, which sort of averaged it out to '77 I suppose! It was also the last Thin Lizzy album to feature guitarist Brian Robertson, who left the band shortly after its release, the conspiracy theorists singling out Robertson's displeasure at how much of the album was overdubbed, which has always been a contentious topic since its release.
Anyway, from the past to the present - and to prove Rock 'n' Roll is still alive and kickin' - and an added bonus of the evening was the news that Stockport's very own sons Federal Charm were support. This was the third time we had seen Federal Charm, previously in 2015 supporting Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Jazz Cafe and a year ago at Islington's O2 Academy with Simo and Aaron Keylock as part of Plant Rock Roadstars. Looking a lot more hairier than last time, again theses guys did not disappoint with their own musical setlist which featured 'Master Plan', 'Choke', 'Get Through', 'Guess What', 'Death Rattle', 'Silhouette', 'Gotta Give It Up' and 'Concrete Creature'. In a touch of class, they not only thanked Brian Downey for the honour of supporting him, but they also paid tribute to another legend - Tom Petty - with a classic cover of 'I Should Have Known It'. Known for their immense Blues Rock sound with a huge nod to Zeppelin and a twist of Free - these guys have the lot: stage presence, ability, belief and a catalogue of songs that back all of that up. Make sure you check them out if they're gigging your way.
It's perhaps no surprise to learn that Brian Downey's much missed compadre, Phil Lynott, with the exception of Bob Seger's 'Rosalie', had a clean sweep on writing all the songs featured on the iconic 'Live and Dangerous'. However, on the richter scale, it's a pretty mean feat for a drummer to have also co-written almost half of those classic songs. True to the album they set the bar mighty high as they opened with the corker - 'Jailbreak' - and boy were the assembled Lizzy fans ready as they continued to Rock out with fists proudly in the air to 'Are You Ready' - promoted up the order - but the four hundred strong crowd didn't give a damn. It was an opening salvo to make your hair stand up on end - if Brian had any - although his three Irish amigos were certainly not challenged in the follicle stakes nor indeed musically as they immediately demonstrated why they had been hand picked by the legendary tub thumper. They then went back to the original running order with the harmonic 'Southbound' - ironically recorded for the live album from the Tower Theatre soundcheck - before Wilson duly paid homage to Downey before they launched into 'Rosalie'. Awesome stuff. And in my mind's eye, I can still recall the classic silhouette of Lynott during 'Dancing In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In Its Spotlight)' at The Lewisham Odeon in December 1977, during the aforementioned Bad Reputation tour - not one of my all time Lizzy favourites - but this immediately brought back great memories as did 'Massacre' - again identical to the running order that night and also so great to hear a track that has been relegated from the mainstream Black Star Riders and Lizzy Tribute set lists.
Although considered by many critics to be Lynott's finest hour - 'Still In Love With You' - a slower and more emotional track compared to the studio version on 'Nightlife' - has its roots well and truly nailed in another Lizzy era - namely Gary Moore. Suffice to say both Phil and Gary would have been applauding from upon high as Grace nailed Robertson's 'LAD' guitar solo to the mast. 'Johnny The Fox' was followed by a perfect recreation of one of Lizzy's iconic sequences, again true to the live album, as the band segued immediately from 'Cowboy Song' into 'The Boys Are Back in Town', on the line "a cowboy's life is the life for me" - the last chord of the former was the first of the latter, although their studio versions were recorded as separate songs. Other than the occasional bit of Irish banter from the suitably Afro-mopped Wilson - it was Downey's night - but his band mates well and truly let their musical instruments do all the talking as proven on 'Warriors' and 'She La La'. Wilson's vocals and bass were spot on, and as for those unique Lizzy duelling guitar harmonies, substitute Grace and the guitar swapping Edgar for Robertson and Scott Gorham - both respectively and respectfully. However there is no substitute for Downey's drumming, the sorcerer behind his emerald green drum kit with his apprentices performing that Lizzy magic in front of him.
By this time, the hits were coming like a machine gun to our ears! Rat a tat tat .... 'Don't Believe A Word', 'Suicide' and to finish off the set 'The Rocker'. In fact they omitted 'LAD's 'Baby Drives Me Crazy' (Huey Lewis would not be happy) and overall the set list was in a different order to the album - but hey they more than made up for it with an encore of Nightlife's 'Angel From The Coast/Its Only Money', plus two tracks that surprisingly are not on 'LAD' - a certain 'Whiskey In The Jar' and 'Bad Reputation'. They duly finished with, from the Iive album, and the pure embodiment of Thin Lizzy, 'Emerald'. Superb. It was a storming set and Alive And Dangerous did an exceptional job of keeping Lizzy's music alive, right from the moment they came onto the stage, to the moment they left, with their high energy and unerring first class delivery. However, you wouldn't expect anything less from Downey, who has a proud musical legacy to behold and who no doubt wants to ensure it flourishes for another forty years! And at the end, with deserved applause ringing around Nells, did I catch the ghosts of Lynott and Moore out of the corner of my eye, bowing alongside Downey, Grace, Wilson and Edgar? Think we're all still in love with you guys.
AJ (photos courtesy of Andras Paul)
Mollie Marriott/Bad Touch
O2 Academy Islington, London
Sunday 26th November 2017
I was slightly dazed & confused and almost certain that I must have entered the wrong venue, as upon entering the Islington Academy I was greeted by the sound of a Rapper rapping incessantly on the stage! The door man convinced me that this was the correct venue to see Bad Touch and Mollie Marriott! Well that was a relief as I was a bit tired and frazzled having just spent the last five hours at the annual Kinks Fan Club gathering at The Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, where ex-members of The Kinks come together for a massive celebration of Kink's music. As an added bonus we got a special appearance by none other than Ray Davies himself, but that's another story!
So what’s with this Rapper dude!? Turns out they were the support to the support! I believe they are called The Strangers, a north London Rock/Rap Fusion band. Usually I hate any type of Rap music, but funnily enough I didn't totally hate what these guys were doing. The songs were quite strong, the band were reasonably tight and the Rapper dude had a cheeky cockney geezer charm about him.
The main reason for attending this gig was to witness, once again, the phenomenal Mollie Marriott live. This being her first big tour upon the release of her sensational debut album 'Truth Is A Wolf', released on 3rd November 2017. For an in-depth and detailed appraisal of the album check out my CD review published on the Wrinkly Rockers Club website in August 2017.
For this tour Mollie is joined by a power house three piece band consisting of CJ Evans on drums, Tom Swann on bass and Johnson Jay on guitar. No backing singers or visible keyboards on stage, although it does sound like there is someone playing some keys at the side of the stage, or it could be a tape? This was very much a full on Heavy Rock romp through nine songs, with the set coming in at around thirty minutes or so. Mollie's enigmatic stage presence is captivating, alluring, sensual and sassy with a priceless voice like liquid gold to match. Dressed in striking skin tight leopard print PVC/leather trousers (I’m sure Rod Stewart would approve!) and black tasseled leather jacket, Mollie has the audience in rapture from the off, commanding the stage with her magnetic personality and seductive enchanting elegance. Our attention is grabbed and gripped as the first notes ring out. Mollie's powerfully honed Blues/Soul Rock voice sends the shivers and we are hooked!
There appeared to be a sizable gaggle of professional looking photographers down the front capturing Mollie's every move through the whole of her set. I prefer to enjoy the show, be in the moment and concentrate on the music, rather than worry about getting a good photo shot. The tantalizing 'Run With The Hounds', taken from Mollie's debut album, opens the set and is executed with sublime precision and enthusiasm. This song has a delightful and satisfying melodic groove, a great set opener. Next up was the title track of the new album, the beguiling and classy 'Truth Is A Wolf', an irresistible groove with spellbinding vocals. 'Nobody To Love' is a new song which is not on the debut album and is a first for me. A riveting and rousing heavy Funk Soul track with exhilarating vocals. Fourth song in was the emotionally charged 'Broken', one of my favourites from the debut album. Tonight it was played much heavier and with more gusto than I have heard it played before. Mollie's vocals escalated the intensity to another level, a highly intoxicating and enthralling song. After 'Broken' came another new song, which I can't remember the title of, possibly 'Shame'? A mid-tempo, catchy and potent track. The mesmerizing 'King Of Hearts' was thrilling and invigorating, an astounding heavy bass line fixed the groove with slamming and slicing guitar adding weight to the riff.
Mollie then asked the audience 'Does anyone like Tom Petty?' The answer is, of course, a resounding yes! The question was, which song was she going to do? Surprisingly, it was a lesser known song from Tom Petty's 2010 album 'Mojo' called 'I Should Have Known It'. Played with enthusiastic verve and delivered with pure sass and grit. A special mention must go to Johnson Jay’s awesome energetic guitar solo. Nice one Mollie and band! The epic and dynamic 'Transformer' motors in next, another of my favourites from the debut album. This is an atmospheric and deep song with a rousing anthemic chorus that lifts and entices raw emotion, a scintillating and powerful vocal performance from Mollie with fiery and spirited guitar playing from Johnson Jay. The last song of the set was the mind-blowing and arresting 'Control', the first single released from the album and first track on the album. A gutsy rousing performance from the band with punchy soaring vocals from Mollie. Full on impassioned heavy Funk Rock at its best. Overall an incredible and stunning set from Mollie and her band.
To be honest I didn't know much about Bad Touch prior to this gig and had only heard a couple of tracks previously. The Norwich five piece band consists of Stevie Westwood – Vocals, Rob Glendinning – Lead Guitar, Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings – Guitar / Vocals, Michael Bailey – Bass and George Drewry – Drums / Vocals. Formed in 2010 when the band members were still in college, they recorded their first EP in 2012 and in 2015 they recorded their debut album ‘Half Way Home’. In July 2016, the band recorded their second album ‘Truth Be Told’. Since forming the band have supported many big names including The Answer, Snakecharmer, Jared James Nichols, Broken Witt Rebels, Kentucky Headhunters, as well as appearing at high profile festivals including this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair. Their Southern Blues Rock sound has influences ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Black Crowes, Thunder and Free. This gig in Islington is part of their first headline tour.
The instant and obvious star of the show is the charismatic vocalist, Stevie Westwood, with his coiffured moustache, hippy flowery shirt and gravely Blues/Soul voice. He definitely stands out in a crowd, an individual with decadent Rock star swagger. Without a doubt the one in charge, commanding the stage with confidence, he rises to the challenge with aplomb. This is good time Rock 'n' Roll played with passion and conviction.
Their set included a balanced mixture of fast rockers and slower numbers, with six tracks from their last album, 'Truth Be Told', including ‘Heartbreaker, Soulshaker’, ‘My Mother Told Me’, ‘Take Your Time’, ‘Outlaw’, ‘The Mountain’ and ‘99%’. Three tracks from the debut album, 'Half Way Home', including ‘Good On Me’, ‘Wise Water’ and ‘Sweet Little Secret’, ‘Down’ from the 2013 EP, and a new song 'I Belong'. The encore included the frisky down and dirty Funk Soul duet with Mollie Marriott on their magnificent cover of Ike Turner's 'Baby Get It On', which was originally released in 1975 on Tina Turner's second solo album 'Acid Queen'. The set concluded with Bad Touch's most successful single so far '99%', a 100% rocker! Overall an enjoyable and entertaining gig. Definitely a band worthy of further investigation.
Steven C. Gilbert (photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
The Underworld, Camden, London
Saturday 2nd December 2017
IKindred spirits Lionheart and Airrace continued their pre-Xmas co-headlining tour stopping off at London's Underworld in Camden last Saturday night. From the moment we walked into The World's End Pub and chatted to guitarist Dennis Stratton and drummer Clive Edwards from Lionheart and then met vocalist Adam Payne and keyboard player Linda Kelsey Foster from Airrace after the show - it was well and truly an amazing night of pure traditional AOR/NWOBHM. Although an added bonus of the evening, as we made our way down to the Underworld's depths, was the inclusion of support band V1. Billed as a classic Rock band, born out of Iron Maiden in 1978 by Dennis Willcock and Terry Wapram, reformed in 2016 with bass guitarist Dwight Wharton and now with the very recent addition of Jamie Carter guitar and Fabio Bizzi drums - our decision to vacate the World's End upstairs early doors was well and truly vindicated. Frontman and vocalist Willcock, with his starry suit and shades, was a larger than life character in more than ways than one, that you could not fail to warm to. Their setlist was completely taken from their 2017 album release 'Armageddon'End Of The Beginning', although Dennis's shades obviously didn't help on their opener 'V1' as Dennis jumped on Wharton's pedal and took him out of the number! 'Taking You Higher' had a great riff courtesy of the very talented Wapram and despite the time pressure and its consequent impact on banter/intros, those lucky enough to witness their set took V1 to their hearts as they reeled out 'Ready For Action', 'Lights', 'Devil Devil', 'Don't Cause A Scene' and finally the graffiti story of 'Croydon Boys' with great guitar harmonies from Carter and Wapram. Try and check out V1 live plus their album 'Armageddon' - you won't be disappointed.
One of the UK’s pioneering AOR bands, Airrace are best known in Hard Rock circles for being the band that saw the musical debut of drummer Jason Bonham (whatever happened to him?). The band was the brainchild of former More guitarist Laurie Mansworth and following their acclaimed 1984
release of their debut album, ’Shaft Of Light’, Airrace supported Rock titans such as Queen, AC/DC and Meat Loaf (whatever happened to them?). However, they had crash-landed by the Summer of 1985 and it took a 25th anniversary reissue of the album to reunite the group (with a slightly amended line-up), and they eventually issued a second album, ‘Back To The Start’, via Frontiers Music srl in 2011. The Italian Rock powerhouse label recently announced the re-signing of the band for a new album to be released in 2018 - their line-up for this 'Mini Tour' being Adam Payne (Serpentine), Mansworth, Rocky Newton doubling up on bass for both Airrace and Lionheart (clever fella), Linda Kelsey Foster and Dhani Mansworth (from The Treatment and more importantly Laurie's son) - drums.
Well if you wanted pure uplifting 80's AOR Melodic Rock then The Underworld was definitely the place to be on Saturday. Airrace quite rightly gorged on 'Shaft Of Light' throughout their set, the use of the word 'acclaimed' to describe this nugget, never being more appropriate, as they opened with 'Caught In The Game' - Payne's "Oooohhhh yeah", combined with its sublime organ/guitar riff, sounded as fresh as ever before Mansworth Senior let loose for his first and definitely not his last guitar solo of the evening. The heavy riff of 'Not Really Me' demonstrated the tightness of the band before they fast forwarded thirty three years to the present and their new single 'Eyes Like Ice' - its Dokkenish feel with their trademark guitar/keyboard fusion giving their assembled fans that warm feeling like the band never had actually been away. Two more from 'SOL' followed - a great opening vocal from Payne on 'Didn't Want To Lose Ya' led to another great guitar solo from the scarf wearing Laurie, before they launched into their very first single 'I Don't Care' - classic Rock at its best with its Van Halen edge. The second new song of the night 'Come With Us' showcased charismatic frontman Payne's powerhouse vocals, before Mansworth Senior dedicated the next song, 'Promise To Call', to an Airrace fan named Tim. Just hope that Tim was there to witness the fantastic execution of this melodic AOR classic. 'One Step Ahead' - another with a very 80's Van Halenish feel - was the only track played from 'Back To The Start', whilst the third and last track on the night from the new album, the aptly named 'Men From The Boys', had that classic Airrace riff but with a heavier edge, as Payne got the crowd to participate with a bit of a singalong and some handclapping. The penultimate track from 'SOL' - 'First One Over The Line' - was a tribute to the glorious '80's with a fantastic Rock vocal from Payne, the tightness of the band never more evident, thanks in main to the engine room of the energetic Newton and Mansworth Junior. The ever smiling Kelsey Foster, with her red fedora and her similarly coloured feather boa draped across her keyboards, played the beautiful intro to their Survivor sounding epic 'Brief Encounter' before Payne rounded off proceedings on this final track from 'SOL' with another cracking vocal. An awesome set that not only had those present salivating at the prospect of the release of their new album next year, but also those present checking out the release of that amazing and very underrated album thirty three years ago. A must for this year's Christmas stocking!
As it happens, Airrace's Laurie Mansworth toured with Lionheart's Dennis Stratton, Rocky Newton and Steve Mann back in the 80's. In fact Lionheart was formed in 1980 and were hailed as the first supergroup of the new wave of British Heavy Metal, but split up in 1986 and reformed in 2016, consisting of guitarist Stratton (Iron Maiden), guitarist Mann and Newton (Michael Schenker Group), drummer Clive Edwards (UFO) and vocalist Lee Small (Shy). The last time we actually saw Dennis was drinking Trooper with an army of Maiden fans at The Pilot Inn before their gig at London's O2 Arena at the end of May, so it was no surprise when we bumped into Stratton drinking guinness with his troops in The World's End before the gig! After a false start they opened with Stratton's boppy 'Give Me The Light' from their 1999 'Unearthed - Raiders of the Lost Archives' album - just one of a 30 strong song collection of Lionheart demos - before Edwards drum intro launched the Hard AOR title track of their 1984 debut album 'Hot Tonight' - think The Darkness 33 years later - the combination of both Stratton and Mann's V guitar nailing this rockin' Lionheart favourite. From the old to the new and their third and last album 'Second Nature' and 'Prisoner', with its duelling Lizzy like guitar harmonies, plus keys from Mann, which many consider to be the album's best track. Lionheart, once described as a Heavy Metal version of Toto, then reverted back to the familiar opening riff of 'Towers Of Silver' from 'HT', which definitively kept the momentum of this 80's love in going, before they launched into their kick ass first single from 'HT' - the powerful and emotional 'Die For Love' with its soaring vocals, sharp guitars, crystal bass, drums and keyboards, again demonstrating the true tightness of this band. An excellent cover of Michael Schenker Group's 'Anytime' - written by Mann himself (with Robin McAuley) - again with outstanding duelling guitar harmonies - was followed by two new tracks from 'Second Nature' - 'Angels With Dirty Faces and '30 Years' - before cockney geezer Stratton joked with Wolverhampton born Small that we needed some sort of translation given his Black Country introduction to their cover of 'Don't Pay The Ferryman'! Dennis needn't have worried, as there was certainly no loss in translation on the band's take on this Chris De Burgh hit - which is also covered on the new album. Two tracks from 'Unearthed' - now recycled on 'Second Nature' - namely 'Hearbeat Radio' and the aptly named 'Lionheart', rounded off another awesome - yet short set. As the band took a deserved bow, Stratton apologised for the early finish, pointing out to those present that they had to make way for a disco! How time's have changed - although thanks to bands like V1, Airrace and Lionheart - at least 80's AOR/NWOBHM is still very much alive and kicking arse!
O2 Academy, Islington, London
Wednesday 6th December 2017
ILast Wednesday night, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement returned to London's O2 Academy in Islington. Headliners Diamond Head, recognised as one of the original NWOBHM bands back in the 1970’s, soon gained a formidable reputation for their thunderous and energetic festival performances. However, they 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 Megadeth, were quick to name Diamond Head as a vital early influence. Now in their third era - which has now lasted 17 years - only one member of the original line-up survives: legendary lead guitarist Brian Tatler.
The bombshell from all-round nice guy Brian, in our pre-gig interview, that the band would not be playing tonight 'All The Reason You Live', nor would they be doing a Montrose cover, didn't detract in the end from their powerful NWOBHM set! Seriously our ears are still ringing, despite them being reduced to a four-piece on the night, due to the absence of rhythm guitarist Andy 'Abbz' Abberley Anyway, Tatler, vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, drummer and previous avid fan Karl Wilcox plus latest recruit Dean Ashton on bass guitar (who replaced Eddie Moohan last year) blew the bloody roof off the Academy in a lucky thirteen song set plus an encore. In fact, their tour last year was timed to promote their latest album, ‘Diamond Head’, the band’s seventh studio album, but the first for ten years and they carried on where they left off last year, delivering a set of classic Rock full of blistering riffs, compelling choruses and energetic vocals.
In fact they literally did carry on where they left off at the Academy last year, opening with their encore 'Shout At The Devil' - one of the stand out's from their last album. With its pronounced riff and memorable chorus line the Diamond Head faithful were already clapping and singing along. "Good evening London" bellowed John Hartson lookalike Andersen (I wouldn't like to argue with Rasmus either) as they went from the new to the old and the title track from their 1982 and second album 'Borrowed Time' with Born Andersen whipping up the crowd with a few "hey hey hey's" (who would argue with him). Despite the ten year wait for 'Diamond Head', the modern Rock feel to the new album felt like the guys had never been away. The disappointment of the exclusion of 'All The Reasons You Live' was more than made up for by 'Bones' with its great riff and vocal from Born Andersen, the track fitting seamlessly into Diamond Head's NWOBHM back catalogue. Indeed, talking of fitting in, Born Anderson's joined the band only a few years ago, but his vocal style and range is a near perfect match for their music and his charisma and energy on the night well and truly kept the Diamond Head flag flying.
What about the legend that is Tatler though? Well there's no doubting his enthusiasm as he hi-fived us down the front on the title track of two consecutive numbers from their 1980 debut album 'Lightening To The Nations', followed by 'The Prince', which demonstrated the early influence of Punk on Tatler's music - with the audience once again joining in or echoing Born Andersen on the chorus lines as they did with a few "wooooooaaaaah's" on the quieter, more sedate opening to 'The Heat Of The Night', another from 'Borrowed Time', before Tatler duly ratchet it up a gear with another awesome heavy guitar solo, although Rasmus was on the money for singling out Wilcox for praise at the end, for his unerring drumming. Born Andersen then joked that he was having difficulty in reading their set list - which was written in red, although, rather aptly, next up was 'Set My Soul On Fire' - another diamond from their last album before he then asked everyone to put their hands in the air for live music and their support bands, namely Cairo Son and Dead Man's Whiskey. Unfortunately we missed both support bands (that's another story) - which was a real shame as we were well impressed with Dead Man's Whiskey, when we saw them supporting Bigfoot at The Underworld in late October.
Tatler's V-guitar went into overdrive on 'Lightening To The Nations' 'Shoot Out The Lights' - and the nearest we got to a Montrose cover (who they covered in ‘Evil Live’ - which was re-released earlier this year) was another gem from the same album, the driving Montrose influenced Rock of 'Sweet And Innocent' - Born Andersen's opening 'Yeah yeah" so reminiscent of Hagar with Ashton's great bass work something that Bill Church would no doubt have been proud of. Maintaining the recognisable Diamond Head sound was 'Diamonds' another from their latest album, with its great introduction and superb riff, which certainly had the roadie (think Bobby from Sons Of Anarchy) rockin' out big time towards the back of the stage, before they launched into 'Lightening To The Nations' 'It's Electric' - Tatler's guitar solo completely justifying the song's title. I suppose it was inevitable following both Wilcox's drum and Ashton's bass intro to another track from 'Lightening To The Nations' - the frenetic 'Helpless' - that saw the arrival of the mosh pit before proceedings morphed into mass fist pumping as Karl's snare led us down the path of the Metallica covering and Sabbath sounding riff of 'Am I Evil?' (also the title of of Tatler's recently re-released autobiography) again from 'Lightening To The Nations'. "Am I Evil?", "Yes I Am!” the crowd yelled before the band returned for an encore with "one for all the ladies" - not surprisingly 'Sucking My Love' - which no doubt the Rock chicks in the audience lapped up - a monster nine minute track with a whole lotta love, Diamond Head duly rounding off a memorable high voltage set with a few more "hey heys" plus a final Tatler guitar masterclass for good measure.
Watch out for Diamond Head's tour with Saxon in early 2018 plus the release of a new album, which they have been working on in the studio this year in between touring. Also watch out for our audio interview with Brian Tatler coming soon. With bands like Diamond Head still at the forefront of the NWOBHM movement, further proof like Lionheart the previous Saturday night At The Underworld, that the genre is well and truly alive and still kicking arse.
Dan Reed Network/Extreme
Brixton Academy, London
Wednesday 20th December 2017
On Wednesday I paid yet another visit to Brixton Academy, this time to see the final show in the UK tour by Extreme and the Dan Reed Network. The two bands are perfect bedfellows; both are American bands formed in the mid-1980’s; both were at the forefront of the Funk Rock revolution in the early 1990’s and both sold several million albums, but were best known for their explosive live performances. After their early success peaked, both bands broke up in the late 1990’s, but they later reformed, not just, as is so often the case, for a single money-spinning tour, but for the long-term, with numerous tours over several years, bolstered by new material. Could the reformed bands revive the enthusiasm and excitement of their famed eclectic and innovative performances of the past? And which band has weathered the last 30 years better? There was only one way to find out!
We arrived in Brixton unusually early, nearly an hour before the Dan Reed Network was due on stage, but there was already a massive queue stretching around the corner and snaking along the full length of the O2 Academy. The Network was billed as the support band, but these fans obviously knew they were no ordinary support band and didn’t want to miss a minute of their opening set. Fortunately for us, our WRC tickets required entry via the Stage Door, giving us immediate entry and plenty of time for a couple of warm up drinks before the action started. Better still, the choice of drinks was not restricted to fizzy lager and cider: bottles of Hobgoblin were readily available, not quite as good as draught Hobgoblin maybe (you have to go to the Wychwood Music Festival, sponsored by Hobgoblin’s brewery for that) but a distinct improvement on the beers offered at most live music venues!
Despite its 33 year existence, and reformation, the current Dan Reed Network line-up features four of the original five band members: Brion James (lead guitar and support vocals), Melvin Brannan (bass) and Dan Pred (drums) as well as figurehead Dan Reed. The only newcomer is Rob Daiker (keyboard). As they entered the stage, and launched into opener ‘Cruise Together’, it was soon obvious how much they all enjoy being there, none more so than Dan Reed himself. Despite his time in a Buddhist monastery and his solo, acoustic tours, he remains a natural Rock star, exemplified by his tormented vocals, continual bounding across the stage, Trump bashing interludes, dad-dancing movements and seemingly perpetual motion. Ably supported by the rest of the band, notably guitarist Brion James, dreadlocks flailing as he nails every solo, Dan captivated the audience with a succession of Network classics, including ‘Baby Now I’ and the slightly slower ‘Rainbow Child’. These were followed by ‘Champion’, the only song in this evening’s set from the Network’s latest album ‘Fight Another Day’, which is built around a slow, steady riff and Melvin Brannon’s rattling bass. It was then back to the classics, the set finishing with ‘Ritual’ and ‘Get to You’, a couple of full-on, dynamic Funk-Metal monsters. After 33 years on stage, you’d think Dan would be ready to start taking it easy; quite the opposite: despite touring the UK three times in 2017 (twice with the Network, once solo) he assured the adoring fans in Brixton that he’d be back for another tour early in 2018.
After missing Extreme, tonight’s headliners, at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair, I was grateful for the opportunity to see them live at Brixton. Despite several comings and goings over the years, the current Extreme line-up features three of the four original members: vocalist Gary Cherone (who also fronted Van Halen 1998-9), lead guitarist Nuno Bettercourt (Rihanna’s tour guitarist for several years) and bassist Pat Badger. The only newcomer is drummer Kevin Figueinedo. Although best known for their monster power ballads and Funk Metal, Extreme have crossed many musical barriers over the years, infusing elements of Hard Rock Glam in the early 1990’s and, more recently, experimenting with alternative Metal styles. Wednesday’s set combined all these genres: high energy musical showmanship built on a solid base of Hard Rock riffs, experimental funk and alternative sounds. With only one song recorded in the current millennium, Extreme’s set is, like the Dan Reed Network’s, essentially a nostalgia show, comprising a series of well known classics and greatest hits from their early years. This may imply a bunch of old men wearily plodding through historical successes. Far from it: Extreme burst onto stage with youthful vigour for their explosive opener, ‘It’s a Monster’, from their best selling ‘Pornograffiti’ album. Gary poses and struts all over the stage; Nuno produces mind-blowing guitar riffs, apparently with ease, backed up by Pat’s gut-punching bass. The overall result is a set of dance-friendly Pop, emotional ballads, heavy jams and several songs so well known that the audience drowns out Gary’s vocals. ‘Kid Ego’ took us back to, ‘Extreme’, their debut album; ‘Play With Me’ featured an epic drum duet with Nuno using a stand alone kit alongside Kevin’s main kit. Back on his guitar, Nuno’s solos were as incredible as ever; he took centre stage on several occasions, but most notably during ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee’. The songs sounding as fresh as they did 20 or 30 years ago. As the end of their two hour set approached, Extreme launched into the frantic ‘Decadence Dance’, followed by an exquisite rendering of ‘More than Words’, the intense, passionate ‘Peacemaker Die and a crowning cover of ‘We are the Champions’.
To sum up, an awesome evening of Funk Rock from two bands who have managed to maintain their enthusiasm, vigour, athleticism and, above all, musical abilities into their 50’s. Their music, from an inventive, exciting era, has proved durable and memorable, leading to an adrenaline fuelled evening of soaring melodies, infectious grooves and a party atmosphere. The second coming of both bands provides perfect examples of audiences keeping the faith and bands rediscovering their mojo. Long may they, and their loyal followers, prosper.
Dan Reed Network set list:
Under My Skin
Forgot to Make Her Mine
Baby Now I
Make it Easy
Get to You
Extreme set list:
It’s a Monster
Li’l Jack Horny
Get the Funk Out
Rest in Peace
Play With Me
Am I Ever Gonna Change
Take Us Alive
Stop the World
Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee
He-Man Woman Hater
More Than Words
We are the Champions
Christmas Time Again
Big Ian (Photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)