Message From America - Rick Menniti
Back again, after another long hiatus, but I have been busy busy and keep looking for that golden window for retirement (some day).
Let’s roll back to the Summer of 2014. Fairly quiet on the home front, but when July rolled around it was time for the Queen and Adam Lambert show (the Jesus Christ Superstar extravaganza with Johnny Loudon was canceled). It was definitely entertaining, rocking and a flash back to the past, as they played quite a bit of hits. I really would have called it the “Brian May” show as he rocked it pretty solid and to me, stole the show. Roger Taylor was great, as was his son who played with him. I would say Adam Lambert was no Freddie Mercury, but he did not try to be. Some of his “shtick” was a little much, but overall there were more good moments than not.
The hits flew out from “Fat Bottom Girls” to “Killer Queen” to “Tie Your Mother Down” to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and of course closing with “We will Rock You/We are the Champions”.
Check out the full setlist here that also links to some You Tube videos of the songs played at different venues.
The light show was good and Adam was flamboyant. Lots of tributes to Freddy Mercury, but the crowd, music and Brian May stole the show.
It was a classic line up of Queen songs, but they have so many, they could not cover them all.
The rest of the summer was fairly quiet but September rolled in Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks, with an opening act by some British bloke named Steve Winwood. So now I will digress a bit on Steve Windwood. This is only the third time I have seen him live-once at Sheperd’s Bush Empire in the late ‘90’s when Jim Capaldi also joined him on stage, once with Eric Clapton, both playing together and solo, and now this solo set. Steve always entertains, has great musicians, a great voice and a great playlist. In this set he took the audience through Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and of course Steve Winwood. Great set list with everything from “Gimmie Some Lovin’”, “Can’t Find My Way Home”, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”, “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, “Valerie”, “Higher Love” and classic jams.
However, having not seen Tom Petty since my childhood (yes the late ‘70’s) I was ready for some of that Florida swamp rock (though he now lives in LA). Again, he did not disappoint, hit after hit was as tight as could be and Mike Campbell is one underrated guitar player for sure.
From the Byrd’s classic “So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star” to the encore of “American Girl” the crowd was on their feet the whole time. Classics like “Into the Great Wide Open”, “Free Fallin’”, “Refugee”, “I Won’t Back Down”, and “Learning to Fly” were all played to perfection.
Check out the local review that says it all.
So my birthday came along, yes 21 again, and who was in Houston, but some bloke from the UK named Ringo Starr and his all Starr Orchestra. He played with a band I am sure you all remember, but this time he was with his all stars: Steve Lukather-Guitar (from Toto), Richard Page-Bass (from Mr. Mister), Gregg Rolie-Keyboard (from Santana), and Todd Rundgren. What a show with many songs back and forth between Ringo’s old band and plenty of Ringo hits (“It Don’t’ Come Easy”, “ Don’t Pass Me By”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Photograph”) as well as classics from Toto (“Rossana”, “Africa”, “Hold the Line”), Santana (“Black Magic Woman”, “Oye Como Va”), Mr Mister (“Kyrie Lyieson”, “Broken Wings”) and Tod Rungren (“I Saw the light”, “Bang the Drum all day”). From his old band he did include “ A Little Help with my Friends” and ended with a rousing “Give Peace a Chance”. Great show with a classic rock twist.
Next stop lead me back to San Antonio for the Dave Mason Traffic Jam tour. You don’t realize the Dave Mason legacy until you see this tour. Hits from Traffic, Bonnie and Delany, solo work, his work with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix all played tight and neat. Again, like Steve Winwood it was a walk through rock and roll history. A few of my university buddies really wanted me to join them on the East coast of the US for the tour, but I did not make it. They raved about it so when I had a chance to see it with a buddie in a 600 seat out door venue on the river in San Antonio and I am glad I jumped at it. Classic early Traffic hits like “Pearly Queen” and “Medicated Goo” as well as “Dear Mr Fantasy”, and then others such as “Only You Know and I Know”, “We Just Disagree” and of course “Feelin’ Alright” (which everyone remembers the Joe Cocker version, but Dave actually wrote it). Encore of “All Along the Watchtower” as a gift.
So the fall closed out with The Revivalists on their Texas tour. They made a stop in Houston less than a mile from my new digs, so we had a fun pre-party and gathered a crowd to go see the boys rock Houston. They never disappoint. This show’s highlights included a few Who covers, including “My Generation”, and their encore was “Baba O’Reilly”. They really rocked it and were hitting on all cylinder’s with a classic Revivalist line-up that included one of my personal favorites. “Masquerade” and the usual “Criminal”, “Not Turn Away”, “Catching Firefly’s”, “Concrete” and “Souls to Loud”. As usual would have loved more, but ready for the next show when they come through. No signs of them hitting the UK, but we’ll keep plugging at them.
Until next time……Rock on!
Albany Down/The Troy Redfern Band
The Boom Boom Club, Sutton, 17/1/15
Any last vestiges of New Year Blues were blown into the weeds as these top flight bands joined to deliver a superb gig that combined Redfern’s fiery Blues Rock with Albany Down’s fully loaded rock assault writes Nigel Foster.
Redfern, with new drummer Alex Bridge and bassist Stuart McDonald hit the stage and tore straight in to 2 straight-ahead Blues rockers, the hot and heavy It Stacks and The Other Side. Early chances for Troy to dazzle with his trademark scintillating slide work. As the set built Redfern eased the band into the slow grinding Blues of Salvation and Karma Blues, both cuts shot through with stretched distorted solos and serious string bending. The set climaxed on super covers that saw the band go down and dirty on the filthy riffs and licks of John the Revelator and Mad Man Blues before Troy hit the heights on a white hot and taut rendition of Voodoo Chile, the pedals pressed to the floor extorting distortion and reverb, a crescendo of sounds, topped off with coursing solo, hands tracing the frets with fury. Troy Redfern’s second visit to the Boom Boom and another success, these guys are welcome anytime!
Albany Down took to the stage and across the next 1 hour 45 delivered an incendiary high octane set that showcased their talent and true rock credentials. The set had something for everyone; driving hard rock, a few handpicked choice covers and totemic anthems.
Massive respect to the engine room of Donna Peters beating the skins and Billy Dedman pulsing the bass lines, these two handled the sometimes complex timing changes with aplomb and drove the band’s sound along. Scorching guitarist Paul Turley was economic in his physical movement but majorly expressive in his serious fretwork. In vocalist Paul Muir the band has a dude that is every inch the cool swaggering frontman, prowling the stage, throwing the shapes and laying down the impassioned vocals. Last night Albany Down were a rock band in full cry and when they hit the rev limiter on the hard rock numbers Turley delivered and devoured the hungry urgent riffs, Muir dug deep and extorted his voice to hit heights and plunge the depths, while Peters and Dedman stoked the engine room fires. Man Like Me a prime example, the marching drums of Peters laid on throbbing bass lines, looped Turley riffs and Muir’s aggressive vocal. You’d Better Run spat venom and menace with its lacerating riffs, booming rhythms and Muir’s threatening vocal; "You’d Better Run, You’d Better Hide, Got a Loaded Gun and a Twisted Mind."
The choice of covers was positively electrifying, a ballsy Bluesy version of the Led Zep classic Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Muir and Turley weaving together the lyric and the melody, rhythm section dictating the pace and time changes before Turley strode forward and oozed out a glorious sustained solo. A rabble rousing rocked up Johnny B Goode had the place jumping and equally impressive was a bombastic tear through Free’s All Right Now, Muir on the pace with the rasping vocal and Turley carving out the Kossof lead breaks with ease. In every aspect this was a band at the top of their game and Albany Down are the real deal but for me when they go epic and expansive this is where they really shine. The Eastern tinged fusion, beats and sounds of She’s the Light transported us to the dark Desert Plains; Turley mesmerised me as he created the atmospheric haunting sounds from the mere 6 strings of a guitar and Muir laid down a searching vocal. Then my personal favourite, the truly anthemic You Ain’t Coming Home; a tumultuous aural soundscape, built on the slow burning embers of Turley’s lead break, Peters and Dedman’s soothing rhythms and Muir’s hurting mournful lyric. As the song grew, the collective built layer upon layer of glorious sounds urging Muir to pour heart and soul in to a vocal performance of genuine emotion and feel.
If that was not sufficient, the atmosphere got denser with the two signature epics that drew proceedings to a close. The Working Man, described aptly by Muir as "a song for the people," shot through with feel and pain on the vocal, Muir’s neck veins straining at the leash as he conjured the imagery of life’s struggles and Turley embellished the feeling with two gloriously executed solos of equal passion. Then finally, South of the City, Muir and Turley opening in the harmony of hushed vocal and weaving gentle licks that by stealth opened out in to sprawling aural vista that ebbed and flowed incessantly. Muir prowling the stage delivering rasped gravel edged vocals and Turley scything the thing open with two monstrous slide driven solos. To those that say ‘rock is dead and dying’ you are simply listening to the wrong bands. Seeing this rock outfit in full flow last night the future of rock is very bright and in safe hands. Albany Down deserves wider acclaim and exposure on mainstream rock radio.
100 Club, London, 27/1/15
Aynsley Lister literally played through the pain barrier at The 100 Club on Tuesday night. Suffering from a trapped nerve in his back (which necessitated the cancellation of his Robin 2 gig last Thursday no less) and consequently drugged up to the eyeballs on painkillers, Aynsley put in a killer performance which belied the agony he's been in. Drawing mainly on tracks from his last album 'Home' - for which Lister deservedly won both 'Best Blues Song ' and 'Best Songwriter' at the 2014 British Blues Awards - his undoubted quality as a guitarist and vocalist is not only complemented by the strength of his back-catalogue e.g. 'Equilibrium' but also his band - despite another change in his line-up since we last saw them at last year's Bluesfest. A great set to end a great evening of live Blues - but no pat on the back Aynsley!
Having already heard lots of good things about Little Devils and given that our Promotions arm had already nabbed them for this year's BluesRockfest - it's fair to say that having seen Aynsley and Stark previously - my expectation of Little Devils was a tasty bit of meat in a Blues sandwich ... and I was not wrong. The powerful voice and stage presence of Yoka Qureshi would float most Blues fanatics boats but the engine room of bass guitarist Graeme Wheatley and drummer Sara Shaw plus the dexterity of lead guitarist Ray Qureshi equates to the Devils being a formidable Blues unit. As Yoka pointed out to after the set, they write all their own stuff and are curently recording a new album, which includes the track 'My Perfect Year ' which was included in their storming set. Independence Day looks even more appetising now given this performance although before then Yoka and Litle Devils are supporting her Dutch compatriot and fellow flautist Thijs Van Leer and Focus at the end of February at the Norwich and Doncaster Festival.
Set List: Little Devil, Wounded, The Ghost of your Kiss, Love Me Like A Man, A Long Time Ago, Deep Inside, Chinese Whispers, My Perfect You, Rock & Roll Shoes, No Love Lost (encore).
The first time the WRC came across Brighton based band Stark was when we were sent their EP 'Where The Grey Slates Meet' (we have to get some perks) with the single 'Circle Roads' jumping right out at you. Needless to say we had a moan at lead singer/guitarist Jamie Francis for leaving it out of their set - in fact we only recognised Ball and Chain from their second EP. To be fair though, the critical acclaim that Stark have recently received for their unique take on the Blues was clearly evident - their tightness and harmonies on new material such as Crash On The Levee, Sail The Jordan ('Video Of The Day') and Death Letter. Watch out for another perk as Stark release their new single as a free download on March 2nd from
Voice Of The Valley's
There's some definite un-Victorian rumblings being felt in this Mid-Welsh Victorian town of Llandrindod Wells. In a pub called The Ridgebourne Inn on the outskirts of the town, something is astir. Not only is it the home of the Spa Riders Motorcycle club, it also boasts a new monthly blues night hosted by Chris Rogers.
The first one happened last week with new local band 'Out of Order' kicking things off. Trundling through a set of blues covers with a few mistakes here and there, and with some original material in the pipeline, this new band had folks dancing and singing ....... I say that only because yours truly is the bass player, well, a little bit of self promotion does now harm, does it?
The main act was a Londoner, now based in Aberystwyth, who does gigs all over the country and yet this was his first 'local' gig, being only 40 miles to travel. He is Big Joe Bone and gave us a good two hour set of blues, Americana and roots tunes with a unique stomp box to keep the beat. Judging by the attendance and the vibe, it looks like this is going to go places, watch this space for further gigs and details or go to the facebook page here and here is Big Joe's facebook page where there is a list of his gigs. He's a busy fellow!
The next gig at the Ridgbourne Mid-Wales Blues club is Darren Eedens on the 28th of February. Also many thanks to Anna Lisa Coleman for the photos as I was a bit busy!
The Borderline, London, 2/2/15
Given the title of Ryan Bingham's new album 'Fear And Saturday Night' - it was certainly a case of apprehension and Monday night as we approached the sold out Borderline in London. We obviously had reservations about Academy award winner Bingham performing a solo acoustic set without his dearly departed 'Dead Horses' - who we salivated over when first saw them at Hard Rock Calling in June 2011. Not only that but the evening was further stripped back with no support although the good news was that we consequently stumbled across a nugget of a rock pub close by before getting back to The Borderline for a 9pm start!
Fresh from his previous night's gig at King Tuts in Glasgow - the Americana singer/songwriter launched into 'The Poet' - the first track of off 'Junky Star' - it's intimacy immediately palpable - the scene was set for a memorable evening. Another Dead Horses and 'Junky Star' classic followed - 'Depression' and the gig just flowed with the Hollywood in Bingham clearly evident in not only his looks (pics are here girls) but also his touching personal anecdotes that included his Grandfather and hitchhiking! But at the end of the day it was all about his delivery of a guitar and a voice to die for - perfectly illustrated on 'Hallelujah' - yet another stand out track from 'Junky Star' - which understandably charted in the US in 2010.
What about 'Fear And Saturday Night' I hear you ask? Well the smell of fear when you generally hear the introduction "This is from the new album" was not an issue - given the seamless way in which 'Broken Heart Tattoos', 'Radio' 'Top Shelf Drug' (Video Of The Day) and the title track stood up to his big hitters. Have to say though that the stand out tune of the night was the encore 'Bread And Water' and if that didn't get your juices going then there's no hope I'm afraid. Anyway Bingham proved last night what a consumate performer he is - O ye of little faith we hear you cry! And the cherry on the 2015 cake is that Ryan is returning to London in October with - wait for it - his band! Do not miss out on that - although talking of Hollywood - we're gonna need a bigger boat!
Fiddler's Elbow, Chalk Farm,
Blacktop Deluxe and Loose Moorings rode into Chalk Farm on Valentine's night with only one thing in mind and it wasn't romance!! This was their chance to show the Capital what they are all about and boy did they do that.
Loose Moorings were using this gig to launch their new album Loose Moorings II and they were in no mood to ease in gently. Ironically they opened with my favourite track off their first album - the classic 'Think I'd Be Blue' and that set the tone for their set which included all but two tracks off the new album. I could wax lyrical about so many of the songs in their set because they were all quality but I have a soft spot for the first track they sent me - namely 'Ride' which made the decision to book them very easy. Other highlights for me were 'Magpie' and a trip to the dark side with 'A Crazy Sane'. Guys we took a punt on you - you said you wouldn't let us down and you didn't - love the album and looking forward to you supporting Virgil and the Accelerators on Saturday 1st May.
Next up were Blacktop Deluxe who had made the 'short' trip from Cornwall after a gig last night!! Jet Lag didn't show however as they launched into their set which is full of road driven Blues Rock. Don't imagine though that the band are one dimensional - far from it. Mixing their own material from the superb 'Turn Up Be Nice Play Hard' album (which sums them up perfectly by the way) with classic tracks such as 'Hoochie Coochie Man', 'Crossroads' and the brilliant Led Zep classic 'When the Levee Breaks' - the set never left you with the feeling they are just filling in with certain numbers. Add in the heart wrenching tribute to guitarists who are no longer with us in 'Another Man Down' and you have the perfect mix - a quality set from a band that are very much on the up and deservedly so!! Next time these guys are in town do yourself a favour and go and see them.
Last but not least AJ and myself would like to thank both bands for all the work they put in to the evening, not only on the night, but in their efforts to promote the gig. It's a pity that, considering how far the bands had travelled, that the locals couldn't be bothered to turn out :(
The perfect foil for one another, Laurence all youthful effervescence and ebullience and Alan Nimmo, the seasoned campaigner and master of his craft.
Laurence gets better with every performance and tonight he has nudged the bar higher and when he takes to the stage now he exudes confidence, such confidence tonight that he opened the set with a couple of pile drivers from his forthcoming album. Swiftly followed by the true Blues tones of Lead Belly’s Good Morning Blues, hard edged chops abounded. If that was an impressive start what followed startled in its talent and execution. Laurence’s white hot rendition of All Along the Watchtower, thundering riffs and gigantic reverbed and distorted solo. Down a notch for the lament of Whisper in the Sky, slow-burn torn down Blues in tribute to recently deceased Uncle. Then right back on the gas for the soulful grooves of Fall From the Sky and the hard rocking Moving the House. Teaming up with bass master technician Roger Inniss and Meri Miettinen on drums and you have just about the perfect Blues trio. Cue ovation 1.
Headliners King King exploded from the traps on the hammerhead riffs of the muscular Hurricane ripped straight from the forthcoming album Reaching for the Light. By the time the band played the flashing blade funk of More Than I Can Take they were in full flight. Lindsay Coulson pulsing out swaggering bass lines, Wayne Procter pounding out the drum sequences and Bob Fridzema swirling hands on the Hammond and Piano.
Long History of Love signalled the first opportunity to draw breath for both band and crowd but not for long as Fridzema and then Nimmo weaved intricate patterns on two stunning solos. The riff ravenous Take My Hand raised the temperature a few degrees before the band slipped in to a new but instant live favourite, Stranger to Love, a slow flickering ember of a tune with a real classic Free vibe running through it. The soulful rasped Nimmo vocal laid over clipped hard licks before the main man teased out another melting solo.
And so to set closer, the stunning epic sonic soundscape of Clapton’s Old Love. Literally centred on Alan’s monumental 10 minute solo that started like rolling thunder, loud and proud chord runs then the sweet delicate sounds of a shower of single notes as Nimmo took the volume down to zero and etched dexterous patterns before the storm and volume returned to take the show to its zenith. As I watched from my position mere feet from the stage during the solo I could see in fine detail Nimmo’s right hand deftly plucking the strings with the pick and the left hand caressing and bending the strings and all the while rivulets of perspiration flowing down the body of the Fender falling to the floor, mesmeric stuff. Ovation 2. Time for a richly deserved encore and the cue for some audience participation, synchronised handclaps and a call and refrain chorus of the driving rocker More Than I Can Take. Ovation 3!
Laurence Jones and the mighty King King; that gents was a privilege to behold and sleep still feels a day away.
The Kings Of Oblivion
The Iron Horse
The Iron Horse in Sidcup is renowned in the past for its leaning towards heavy metal bands. Not any longer as was witnessed on Sunday afternoon as the Kings of Oblivion rode into town - admittedly the name does suggest links with the dark side but that couldn't be further from the truth. Set in the 60's and 70's and leaning heavily toward the psychedelic end of the music genre the band took us on a world tour of 'classics' that often left you thinking I know that song but who sang it!! Luckily lead singer Chris Lewington was there to help and you could almost hear the crowd murmur "of course"!! The great thing about this band is that they don't play the same old type of track which can often lead to you looking at your watch - sorry mobile these days - wondering when the end is coming! It's more a case of what's next and at one stage we went from the USA to Holland and then back to good old Blighty. The band don't take themselves that seriously but are more than competent in what they do and leave you with a good feeling which can't be bad - not sure about the suit though Chris :-) Look forward to working with these guys (and Jeanette of course) in the future!
Kings of Oblivion are:-
Vocals/acoustic guitar: Chris Lewington
Vocals/percussion: Jeanette Purcell
Lead guitar: Chris Firth
Rhythm guitar: Andy Linden
Bass guitar: Hamish Champ
Drums: Steve Penfold
Shake Some Action
No Matter What
Bad Moon Rising
Born To Be Wild
Wheels On Fire
In A Broken Dream
Don’t Fear The Reaper
All Day And All Of The Night
Because The Night
Get It On
Spirit In The Sky
JB - The Set-Up
Despite suffering from a chest infection, Joe Bonamassa stormed into the Hammersmith Apollo for the second of his four London gigs on Thursday night - so it was definitely a case of 'Live From Somewhere In Particular'. To be fair the jury has been out on Joe recently given the relentless JB juggernaut of new releases going hand in hand perhaps with the prohibitive cost to some of his Apollo tickets. Has Joe - and no pun intended - come to a 'Crossroads?'. We can always hark back to 2008 when we all walked out of the Shepherds Bush Empire with the biggest smiles on our faces for many a year after seeing Bonamassa for the first time - but hey things have to move on. Anyway, apologies that we told you we were meeting in The Trout. Yes it’s now called The Yardbird but we did manage to bump into ‘Dave’ and JB (not that JB) – thanks for the excellent pics John.
JB - The Hook
Things improved after that false start when we chatted to some Cornish JB fans in the bar before we ventured up to our seats in the circle. Not only were we in the Gods but we were greeted by rows of empty seats which didn’t exactly help the atmosphere despite Joe’s manufactured stage entrance. All this was forgotten as he launched straight into one of the stand-out tracks from Different Shades Of Blue - ‘Oh Beautiful’ – traditional Bonamassa as was the classic follow-up ‘Never Give All Your Heart’ from the same album. It was all change then as Joe jumped into Howlin’ Wolf’s Hidden Charms and here lies the rub. Reinventing yourself is part and parcel of the industry but perhaps this understandably sits very uncomfortably with your longstanding JB fan - particularly the risk of diluting himself with his stand out eight piece band (the writing already being on the wall at last year’s Calling Festival). It was more of the same with the horn section and keys on ‘Living On The Moon’ and ‘Trouble Town’. However, Otis Rush’s ‘Double Trouble’ was pivotal for me on the night - Reese Wynan’s keys the perfect foil for Bonamassa’s amazing guitar solo and I’m starting to see the light. Wow!
JB - The Sting
We were then back in familiar ‘Different Shades Of Blue’ territory with ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’ and ‘I Gave Up Everything for You, 'Cept the Blues’ which again showcased the tightness of the 8 piece and just when I was ready to sign up on the dotted line - wouldn’t you believe it – we were back on familiar ground with his big hitters ‘Sloe Gin’ and ‘The Ballad Of John Henry’. As for the encore – as Wrinkly will testify – I don’t remember JB encores (in-joke). What I do know is that his fan’s general indifference to the direction of Joe’s latest CD, would have certainly been allayed by this gig and they should go out and buy it. Strangely enough my favourite track off of ‘Different Shades Of Blue’ – ‘Heartache Follows Wherever I Go’ was omitted. What we witnessed tonight was the sorcerer in action with his apprentices – but despite his magic and more to the point – his magical back catalogue – I don’t think Joe will ever be able to cast a spell to satisfy everyone within a two hour setlist.
Never Give All Your Heart
So, What Would I Do
Living On The Moon
I Gave Up Everything For You, ‘Cept The Blues
Look Over Yonders Wall
Don’t Burn Down That Bridge
Love Ain’t A Love Song
The Ballad of John Henry
O2 Arena, London
Just under forty one years after their iconic Charlton gig in 1974 The Who returned to South East London again on Monday night for ‘The Who Hits 50’ gig - albeit two legends down - but still firing on all cylinders. Of course the line "Hope I Die Before I Get Old" has come back to bite them on the bum over the year's - but 'Who' gives a s**t? Rumoured to be their last ever tour, it was not surprising when talking to a few young and old faces before the gig that there were a few Who virgins present. For them it must have felt like one of those compilation albums and how on earth were they going to fit fifty years into a two-hour set?
Appropriately ‘I Can’t Explain’ circa ’64 kicked things off and the banter was warming up quite nicely after a slight mess up by Roger on the intro of Substitute. But ‘Who’ cared? Following ‘The Seeker’, Daltrey also took a pop at the powers that be for doing two nights in a row! Early doors and Daltrey was in good form with no sign of the illness that made them postpone the original gig. And Townshend was err… Townshend – jaw-dropping guitar - jaw-dropping energy - jaw-dropping banter! Stick the two of them together and you have an edge unparalleled despite a combined age of 140 years!
Then it was off to the late seventies with the powerful ‘Who Are You’ – the night’s most boring stat being that this was the youngest song in the set! The classic ‘I Can See For Miles’ was sandwiched in between ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and ‘Pictures Of Lily’ before we came to the aforementioned iconic ‘My Generation’. It wasn’t chronological but the set list mix was spot on - complemented by the amazing backdrops (check out our photo gallery) plus of course Zak Starkey stepping into the size nine sticks of Keith Moon plus Pino Palladino, with credentials as long as your Bass guitar, taking over from the much missed John Entwhistle. We were then driven back to the late 60’s with ‘Magic Bus’ and before we entered the realm of concept albums – it was the delightful ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ followed by ‘Join Together’ and ‘You Better You Bet’.
When we saw The Who perform Quadrophenia in July 2013 – the impressive Simon Townshend certainly put a shift in – not only on guitar but also helping Daltrey with lead vocals. No problems with Daltrey’s vocals tonight, although Simon is still an integral part of his brother’s band as are Loren Gold, Frank Simes and John Corey on keyboards/percussion. Back to Quadrophenia, and yes I know I’m biased, but just two songs?
Anyway, Townshend’s performance of ‘I’m One’ was brilliant but Daltrey’s vocals on ‘Love, Reign, O’er Me’ brought a tear to my eye for all the right reasons. The inclusion of the less popular ‘Eminence Front’, ‘So Sad About Us’ and ‘A Quick One’ was a surprise, however this is the perfect launch pad for a bit of ‘Tommy’ and we’re on that ‘Amazing Journey’ of ‘Pinball Wizard’ (have a look at today’s VOTD where Daltrey has another bit of a mare), ‘Sparks’ and the moving ‘See Me Feel Me’. Awesome. The evening is then complete with both ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ which brings back memories of the very first time I saw The Who along with cutting edge lasers firing across The Valley.
No encore’s – but hey – these two OAP’s deserved a rest! The show was certainly not faultless but what a great time we all had. Warning: If you have never seen The Who live - then make sure you see them either at the Albert Hall tomorrow or Hyde Park in June (we will be there) - otherwise you will never forgive yourself! Just ask tonight’s virgins! AJ.
Royal Albert Hall, London
One can never be sure quite what to expect from a Van Morrison performance. Will it be the Blues Van? The Celtic soul Van? The mystic Van? More crucially, will it be the committed Van - or, as has often been the case in recent years - the perfunctory one? Or just plain old grumpy Van !! One thing that can usually be safely predicted is a self-absorption, a reluctance to acknowledge the audience on any level as befits a performer who in one of his most recent songs expressed the sentiment that "Sartre said hell was other people/I believe that most of them are". For this concert, there are two additional elements that might inform the tone of the show. First, this is part of this year’s run of Teenage Cancer Trust shows; a cause that obliges the artist to ensure they’re at their best. Secondly, this show convenient falls close to the release date of his new and 35th(!!) album, 'Duets: Reworking The Catalogue,' and there is in all likelihood an imperative to support that
As it transpires, all these things become to some degree relevant. Critically, we get an avuncular Morrison. He is hardly an unstoppable raconteur – he says very little, in fact – but his demeanour suggests he is at the very least enjoying himself. Sauntering on stage a few minutes after his band have started playing the light, jazzy grooves of 'Celtic Swing', he joins in with an expansive saxophone solo. His five piece backing band are dressed soberly in blacks and greys; Morrison himself wears a black suit, hat and sunglasses. I’m reminded to some extent of Dylan’s current touring band: another group of well-drilled musicians who are sensitive and discretely responsive to both the material and the demands of a notoriously capricious frontman. Under Morrison’s current musical director Paul Moran, they hold the line admirably. Admittedly, it’s not that difficult in the early part of the show. No sooner have the band warmed up, than Morrison introduces his new album to the audience and brings on the first of tonight’s duet partners, Clare Teal, for 'Carrying A Torch' and 'The Way Young Lovers Do'. The vibes are a little Pizza Express Jazz Club; fortunately, Morrison moves on to a persuasive version of 'Baby Please Don’t Go' before he is joined by Teenage Cancer Trust founder Roger Daltrey for 'Talk Is Cheap', which never quite lifts off. Perhaps they’re under-rehearsed, but instead of the fiery R&B thrill they’re presumably aiming for, the song feels sluggish where it should swing. It should be noted that Morrison still seemed to be both warming up his vocal chords and lubricating them continuously with copious amounts of water swigged from a pint glass.
Personally, I find this section of the show a little dull and my attention starts to wander. As he brings out fellow crooner PJ Proby for three songs, including one of Proby’s own and a cover of Sam Cooke’s 'Bring It On Home To Me', it begins to feel suspiciously like two old mates having a laugh. Morrison dwells too long here and what could passably be considered a generous act of sharing the stage with a favourite contemporary begins to feel like an indulgence. Things pick up, though, when Georgie Fame sits in for a handful of songs. This seems to change the shape of the music; the songs become looser, jazzier, fuller. The night’s brief collaboration with Fame culminates in a warm, gently swaying version of 'Centrepiece', which seems to segue into Dylan’s 'Corrina Corrina', lubricated by Morrison’s extraordinary baritone and Fame’s evocative Hammond playing. Fame is followed by Mick Hucknall, who gives a pleasingly restrained and sympathetic reading of 'Streets Of Arklow'.
By this point, I am finding it increasingly hard to guess where Morrison is going with his set. Is this a promo job for the Duets album, an opportunity to dust down some old R&B and soul covers or a leisurely trip through his capacious back catalogue? Or is it all three? And if so, is the balance of material right? But then he pulls out a final clutch of songs that showcase not only his most famous work but also mark a foray into the wild beauty of those Celtic landscapes. 'Moondance' appears as its lightest and most delicate, lifted by some nimble sax work from Morrison. 'Magic Time' continues to illustrate Morrison at his freewheeling best before we get a galloping 'Brown Eyed Girl'. For a finale, he plays magical, meandering versions of 'Into The Mystic” and “In The Garden', rich in wonderment, that transport and elevate.
Overall, I would describe this performance as workmanlike with plenty of really good music and Van in fine voice. It was however devoid of those really special moments that make the hair's stand up on the back of your neck where Van totally immerses himself in the moment and there was no interaction between Van and the audience or indeed his band which didn't help the overall atmosphere which was fairly reserved, even by Royal Albert Hall standards...First time i have sat in a box by the way.. Very nice...
Higher Than The World
Carrying a Torch w/Clare Teal
Young Lovers Do w/Clare Teal
Baby Please Don't Go/Parchman Farm/Don't Start Crying Now w/Roger Daltrey
Talk is Cheap w/Roger Daltrey
Whatever Happened to PJ Proby w/PJ Proby
Bring It On Home To Me w/PJ Proby
On With The Show w/Georgie Fame
Symphony Sid w/Georgie Fame
Centerpiece w/Georgie Fame
Days Like This
Streets of Arklow w/Mick Hucknall
Brown Eyed Girl
Into the Mystic
In The Garden
Wrinkly The Silver
Hammersmith Apollo, London
The 'Skynyrd Nation' hit London as America's most famous Southern rock band rolled into town to play the sold out third night of the European leg of their world tour after a three year hiatus from these shores. The history of Skynyrd has been well documented previously. One of the unluckiest bands ever. At the height of their fame in the 70's, three members – including talismanic frontman Ronnie van Zant – were killed in a plane crash. Since that time, several other members have also passed away and misfortune seems to have dogged the band's various members and crew for many years. Original drummer Bob Burns died in a motor accident only this month, the latest of eight Skynyrd musicians to meet a premature end. Yet, Lynyrd Skynyrd still endures, nearly fifty years after they first began.
The night started with Nashville-based South-East London power three-piece Leogun, who kicked off proceedings with a confident mix of blues-tinged rock & roll and some gnarly guitar solos. With a sound reminiscent of Jack White or Wolfmother with a bit of Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure in my view, the band were the perfect opener, and the Skynyrd crowd that arrived early were suitably impressed having probably never heard of them previously!! Highlights for me were ‘Piggy in the Middle’ and ‘Everyday’ plus two new songs ‘Magic Potion’ and ‘Beauty Queen’. They have clearly come a long way from the Red Lion in Gravesend, the Danson Park festival and two 2013 WRC Award category nominations to the Eventim Apollo. I really hope they go on to even bigger and better things....
Coming onstage to rapturous applause, following a burst of AC/DC's ‘Thunderstruck’, Lynyrd Skynyrd stood comfortably on stage. Ricky Medlocke, Mark Matejka and the only original member, Gary Rossington, all filling out that big guitar sound Lynyrd Skynyrd is famous for, the band really couldn't miss. Along with Michael Cartellone on drums, Peter Keys on keyboards (how apt!) the band engaged with the audience from the get-go, every person on stage knew their part to perfection. The late Ronnie's younger brother Johnny Van Zant is the perfect frontman, a commanding presence with a Saltire flag pinned to the front of his leather waistcoat and a small Union Jack for good measure as well and filling his older sibling's shoes brilliantly. The band plunged into their guitar-heavy rodeo rock with melodies and harmonies so tight you could bounce a penny off them. The band were a well-oiled machine, switching from heavy rock & roll to emotional ballads with ease. Throughout the show, at stage right, former Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt donned multiple hat changes that included everything from feathers to a full wolf hide in deference to original deceased bassist Leon Wilkeson. And let's not forget the sweet tones of the Honkettes, Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase on backing vocals, rounding the sound out nicely. Yes, I believe that does make nine members on stage!!
Highlights included ‘The Needle and the Spoon’, ‘Tuesday's Gone’ and ‘What's Your Name?’, the latter showing that the band can hold a tune that keeps your attention until the last note and ‘That Smell’, which Van Zant introduced with “We’ve been there, done ALL of that, and ain’t never goin’ back again!” My own personal favourite ‘Simple Man’ induced a massive singalong as usual and was dedicated to British and US troops and their families, with Van Zant adding the Union Jack flag to his mic stand as he reminded folks of the band’s continuous support of those that defend our freedom. Closing showstopper ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was outstanding, with a massive State flag unfurled behind them, the band showing they are still massively proud of their beginnings and their roots, and the crowd screamed along with every word. The band were joined on stage by good friend and tourist from last year who was Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs no less, which was met by a roar from the WRC ensemble...
As is usual with Skynyrd, this was followed by a lengthy encore of fan-favourite and epic anthem ‘Free Bird’, which featured a flag backdrop of an American eagle, with the names of their dearly departed bandmates, friends and family from the 1977 plane crash that claimed their lives. I'd like to say there weren't many dry eyes in the house, but I couldn't see through my own emotion and noise to check. Van Zant exited the stage upon completion of vocals and the left the band to shine as the song spanned into a thirteen minute three-guitar solo full of raw tingling power which would give even the most seasoned headbanger whiplash and my air guitar was in full swing as usual!!!
One word describes this gig - phenomenal! Enough said. Was it nearly the same show as three years ago? Yes but who cares.... Will I get the chance to hear them play again and yell out "Free Bird" one more time?.. Who knows?.. If I don't as I probably won't.. then this was the perfect goodbye... God bless 'em. The Skynyrd legacy lives on!!
PIggy in the Middle
By the Reins
Workin' for MCA
I Ain't the One
Call Me the Breeze (J.J. Cale cover)
What's Your Name
Saturday Night Special
The Needle and the Spoon
I Need You
Gimme Three Steps
Sweet Home Alabama (with Mick Ralphs)
Encore: Free Bird
Wrinkly The Silver
Virgil & The Accelerators
The Red Lion, Gravesend
There was an icy wind blowing up the Thames Estuary on Friday night but once Virgil & The Accelerators breezed into town no one seemed to notice or care. VATA were back in old Blighty after a brief trip to Europe and they were determined to start the UK leg with a bang at a venue they had never previously played at.
First up were Loose Moorings who had earned the right to the support slot after an outstanding set in support to Blacktop Deluxe at the Fiddlers Elbow in Chalk Farm on Valentine’s night. LM are a very understated band and front man Roy Hudson admitted to those gathered that he "don't talk much". He doesn't have to as he commands the stage without needing any histrionics and the audience are soon with him and the band. Leading off with the excellent ‘Think I'd Be Blue’ from their debut album Loose Moorings I, the guys however soon launch into tracks from their second album - you got it - Loose Moorings II (told you they were understated). Indeed the set includes 7 tracks from what I consider to be one of the albums of the year to date. The new release is so strong that the last four tracks of the set are all from it: ‘Control’, ‘Falling Star’ and in my eyes two that are already classics in ‘Pushin My Patience’ and ‘Magpie’. An appreciative audience begged for more and venue owner Terry Lee promises a quick return this year - well deserved.
On to the main course and not only was this the first gig of their UK Tour but it was also the first outing for Vigil's new Elvis haircut and Gabriel's new drum kit. I must admit it was an impressive sight as it stood out on stage looking like one of those heavenly visions. If they sounded as good as they looked we were in for a treat. We needn't have worried especially as the sound was being looked after by sound man extraordinaire Vic Wintergreen!! VATA were in no mood to hang around as they launched straight into ‘Take Me Higher’ - the tone was set and the pace never slackened as they powered their way through the heavyweight tracks off their Radium and Army of Three albums. There appear to be many influences that the band draw on and Black Sabbath overtones come through on the excellent ‘All Night Long’. Also for me there were many occasions when Joe Bonamassa influences shone out in Virgil's guitar style especially during the intro to ‘Working Man’ - can't be a bad thing. Add to that a pinch of Bad Company in ‘88’ and you have something for everyone. They finished off with the amazing ‘Silver Giver’ as an encore - the Red Lion had been rocked to its well-established rafters.
The guys are as tight as a you know what and Virgil has you hanging on to every note he plays - I understand the band are leaning away from the Blues tag, I personally think that is a shame as for me there is a place for that genre in their set. It was their first venture to this iconic venue - I don't think it will be their last.
Tamesis Dock, London
"Thanks for braving the elements - luck of the Devils" bass guitarist Graeme Wheatley tweeted us the morning after the night before! Yes the weather was pretty crap as the WRC entourage got soaked walking along the embankment on Thursday night towards Tamesis Dock for 2014 WRC Award Winners Little Devils' album launch. The irony of the name of their new CD 'The Storm Inside' was not lost on us - but its recent critical acclaim was the carrot as we approached the Dutch Barge in torrential rain.
Needless to say the evening improved once we had a beer and Little Devil's came on stage earlier than expected at around 9pm. Another wry smile as they opened with 'Storm Warning' and despite a few sound gremlins - they professionally shrugged that off and then launched into the impressive 'Heavy Weather' (cue another wry smile) that showcased all elements of this four-piece band plus their originality with lead singer Yoka Qureshi playing both the sax and flute. The set list then correlated with the CD as they followed up with 'Wounded', 'Skin Sin', the very catchy 'Deep Inside' and 'Birth Of The Blues' - highlighting the musical (and personal) chemistry between Yoka and lead guitarist (and partner) Ray Qureshi. B.B. would have loved that one.
'A Long Time Ago' (see Vid Of The Day) introduced Graeme on vocals with Yoka complementing on flute, however, the driving force of drummer Sara Shaw as the spine of Little Devils really hit home with the ballad 'The Ghost Of Your Kiss'. Yoka's vocals were back to the fore on 'All About Love' and their single 'My Perfect You' - perhaps this was the perfect storm! The last track from 'TSI' 'Stand' was sandwiched in between Bonnie Raitt's 'Love Me Like A Man' and 'Orphans Of The Storm' from their 2009 album 'This Is How It Starts' which in hindsight was indeed prophetic given the quality of this latest release. Suffice to say those that had the pleasure of attending the gig had forgotten about the storm outside but had loved 'The Storm Inside'.
The Mentulls/The Rainbreakers
The Red Lion, Gravesend
A small but appreciative Red Lion, Gravesend, audience were treated to not one but two great performances on Friday night in the form of The Rainbreakers and The Mentulls. The Rainbreakers, a Shropshire based 4 piece, influenced by classic artists such as Free and Jimi Hendrix whilst embracing newer acts like The Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr, recently released an EP 'Blood Not Brass' to rave reviews. WRC favourites The Mentulls were midway through their Spring UK tour and this week announced details of their highly anticipated 3rd album 'Reflections', produced by King King sticks man Wayne Proctor. The usual Friday night traffic on the M25 looked like it was going to cause the night to dissolve into chaos, however by pushing back the start times by 30 minutes, everything was able to proceed smoothly. I arrived just as The Mentulls were about to soundcheck so was treated to a 'sneak peek' as to what was to come and knew that we were in for a good night. With The Rainbreakers set up and soundchecked, it was time to kick off, albeit a little later than expected.
This was my first time seeing The Rainbreakers and I must say they were a great band, playing with style and enthusiasm, their original material fitting nicely alongside covers of Free's 'Fire & Water', Gary Clark Jr's 'When My Train Pulls In' and the oft covered 'Bright Lights, Big City'. These guys are definitely on their way up and we look forward to welcoming them back on July 4th to open BluesRockFest. After a short break The Mentulls take to the stage. Although the band had only played the venue six months previously, I was surprised at the change in the band. Guitarist Andrew Pipe's confidence on stage had clearly grown, throwing shapes all over the stage whilst pulling off breakneck speed runs and solos, Jamie Pipe played bass parts and juicy fills on his Hammond organ, while Nick Coleman has matured beyond just keeping the beat and at one point in the set gives Jamie and Andrew a well deserved break in the form of a drum solo. The time that the band have spent touring and recording the new album had enabled them to flourish into a slicker, tighter unit.
Throughout the night we were treated to tracks from the forthcoming album 'Reflections' which is released in July and the previous album 'Time Flies' plus covers which included Starship Troopers (Yes), Just Got Paid (ZZ Top/Joe Bonamassa), Red House (Hendrix) and my personal favourite cover of theirs which is a medley of Philip Sayce Instrumentals. The day was one of great sadness in music in that we lost B.B. King to The Great Gig In The Sky and Andrew dedicated the beautiful 'Reflections' (Vid Of The Day taken from previous nights Maltings gig) to him. On this track in particular, Andrew demonstrates that despite his young age (18!) he is capable not only of the searing, fast solos but also of showing restraint with unbelievable tone, you can tell that he really feels what he's playing rather than just playing notes. The emotion oozes out of every note and this track received the biggest cheer of the night. It seemed like the evening had barely started, but like all good things, it had to come to an end, but luckily those who were there were able to buy pre-release copies of the album and if last nights gig is anything to go by, the album is going to be immense.
On a personal note I would like to thank Vic Wintergreen for his sound skills, Terry Lee for having a gem of a venue, John Bull for the photos and both bands for giving it their all. If you get a chance - don't fail to see either of these great bands. Keep Music Live!
O2 Arena, London
Maybe Fleetwood Mac will still be doing what they do 20 years from now. It wouldn’t surprise me. They lived through peak self-destruction, through the decades when bands were losing members left and right to the side effects of 20th century music culture, lived through the years when fame sounded a lot like a death knell. They endured more fractures in public than many people have to deal with in private. But Fleetwood Mac were lucky. They made it out. They know it, too, and they couldn’t be more grateful. Playing London on the 82nd night of their ‘On with the Show’ tour and the first night of the UK and European leg, the band returned to the stage after a 5-6 week hiatus. This is Fleetwood Mac’s first tour with Christine McVie since she quit the band in 1998 through a fear of flying and the need to restore an ancient house in Kent. She apparently got bored having missed the rush of onstage performance, and the camaraderie of touring with her band-mates officially returning in January, and her presence lent the concert the feel of a warm, comfortable family reunion with the most bohemian aunts and uncles you’ve got. As Stevie Nicks remarked "We've got our girl back" and they most certainly feel complete again. The constant ovations she received all night long proved the fans are more than a little pleased she's back...
Like folks seeing their extended family for the first time in years, Fleetwood Mac tell stories. Stevie Nicks recalled the first time she stood on the painted floor of the Velvet Underground, a clothing store in San Francisco where Janis Joplin was known to shop for her stage looks. She talked about seeing her future as a musician there and urged everyone present to stick to their dreams, a platitude, maybe, but one that took flight coming from your hippie aunt Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac keep it simple and joyful in concert. Mick Fleetwood has his monogrammed gold drum kit, and Nicks has her several changes of goth nymph looks, but they don’t act like rock stars. They played like they loved the songs more than anyone else in the room, and maybe they did. They spoke to the audience as though they were genuinely touched by our outpourings of applause. I think they were. They kicked off the night with the first thuds of Fleetwood’s bass drum and John McVie’s iconic running bass-line on ‘The Chain’, a ‘Rumours’ cut with a bass line big enough to knock you off your feet if you’re not careful and still strummed and hummed by F1 fans everywhere. They jumped right into the heart of what’s made them so vital to pop music as we understand it now. Fleetwood Mac deal in poles: their songs are heavy and quick, rousing and sad, massive and massively vulnerable, all in one. Live, they take their time, continuing with '’You Make Loving Fun’ and ‘Dreams’, much to the delight of the 20,000-strong crowd as the band’s three voices were back in sync. Christine McVie’s lovely mumsy alto is still the only known antidote to Nicks’ magnificent mystical foghorn. In between two cuts from ‘Tusk’, Lindsey Buckingham took a moment just to share his thoughts with us as they came to him. “We are a band that, I think it’s safe to say, has seen its share of ups and downs,” he said. “What makes us what we are, I think, is that we have continued to grow and evolve and to prevail through the good and the bad. You're not kidding mate!!!
‘Rumours’ (45 million copies and counting) was, as only right and proper, at the heart of this reunion. It still casts a hell of a spell even if no one – not even the three graces on backing vocalists – had the whoomph to hit the high harmonic line in ‘Second Hand News’. Not that oldies don’t have to be carbon copies. In the acoustic interlude, Buckingham led a clever if self-indulgent reinterpretation of ‘Never Going Down Again, full of slow slide vocals and delayed entrances Such is the giant shadow cast by ‘Rumours’ that Buckingham wasn’t entirely disingenuous to mention an album called ‘Tango in the Night’ and played ‘Big Love’, full of inchoate back-to-the-woods all-American yowls and intricate finger-picking guitar work and was prefaced by his now usual blurb about what the song meant then and means now. There are two Buckingham’s, the shaman and the showman. When he wasn’t sharing the fluff in his navel, he spent the night duck-walking in skinny jeans, yelping like a cowboy between some songs and stomping around like a toddler throwing a tantrum, but playing the guitar as angrily and as manically and brilliantly as ever. He reached these dramatic heights on the heavy (by Mac standards) ‘I'm So Afraid’, which saw him prowling the stage like a man possessed before unleashing a gonzo solo right out of the Ultimate Guitar Hero Playbook. On ‘Go Your Own Way’ he was sometimes letting out primal roars instead of words, played an epic guitar solo and even bent over to the front row, allowing fingers to reach up from the pit to play on his fretboard at the hit single's conclusion.
Introducing the heartfelt and classic sentimental song 'Landslide', featuring Nicks’s lovely lyrics about ageing which are now truer than ever, she paid tribute to Adele, saying, “She is a spectacular songwriter (?)”, and I told her “You're gonna be me in 40 years. You're gonna be still up there on stage doing this because of your songs, it's what will take you all that way”. We will see! At the song’s end, she wiped a finger across Buckingham’s sopping brow. There was that much love in the room!! The principal emotion for yours truly during the nearly two and half-hour performance was the joy of having keyboardist Christine McVie back in this group... She brought high harmonies and several songs, including '’Little Lies’, ‘Everywhere’ and the closing ‘Songbird’, back into the repertoire. One would never know the striking 71-year old had been away for nearly two decades. Nicks hasn’t sounded this good since the early 90’s and still twirls away in splendid black lace with her alluring voice on her songs such as ‘Rhiannon’ and the still mesmeric and haunting ‘Gold Dust Woman’ (complete with gold shawl). The silent John McVie still holds it all together with his solid booming bass-lines. In short, it’s all still magical and according to Buckingham "ready for the next chapter.’”
And then there is Mick... Drum solos can sometimes seem like an endurance test for a rock audience. It’s a rare joy to witness one wherein the drummer seems to experience as much giddy delight as Mick Fleetwood did. Still doing his Animal from the Muppets impression as well as ever, he whooped and howled, coaxing the crowd in call-and-response shouts to manic pseudo gibberish while demonstrating his singular rhythmic sensibility. This turned out to be far more entertaining than what you'd expect from an old guy hollering and hitting things. "Shit, this is a huge, massive place," he remarked towards the end. Talking of chattering, one could argue that there was a bit too much nattering with closing speeches by Nicks and Buckingham and not enough playing but I don't care about that. As far as this reviewer goes, it was an incredible gig, one of the best I have seen for a while. It was a set list of hits so great that the band can be excused if that ‘prolific new chapter’ never comes. After all, Fleetwood Mac already created a story for the ages. They should never break the chain!!
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I’m Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Wrinkly The Silver
Hats Off To Led Zeppelin
Brooklyn Bowl, London
Was it a case of 'Dazed And Confused' or a 'Whole Lotta Love' as the WRC took in 'Hats Off To Led Zeppelin' (HOTLZ) at The Brooklyn Bowl last Friday night under the umbrella of the O2 Arena, London. The advance hype was not only were they the official UK No.1 Tribute to the Gods of Rock and Roll but were also the only Tribute act in the UK officially endorsed by Marshall amplifiers and they are managed by none other than Warren Grant …. for the uninitiated, his father Peter was Led Zeppelin's manager!
Anyway it was our first visit to the Bowl for a gig and after a few beers in the Slug we walked up to the venue as the tickets said doors 8pm for a 9pm start. Must admit that as we approached the Bowl there was no evidence that a gig was taking place - and even stranger was the fact that we all marched into the venue without having to show our £11 tickets! To be fair this is probably because the main income stream for the Bowl is of course its bar and its tenpin bowling and whilst we were watching the supposed pre-gig big screen appetizer of a muted Springsteen gig with different audio being played over the top it (not a great idea) - one of the members of staff did go around checking that all the punters around the stage/bar area had tickets.
There’s no doubt that the Brooklyn Bowl is impressive but the hybrid of it being both a gig venue and a bowling alley (although the bowling stopped when the band came on) resulted in a hundred and fifty or so punters being lost in the periphery of chairs and tables – with no one being up front and personal with the band. Despite this – if you were looking for Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits performed with professionalism and passion then HOTLZ ticked all the right boxes. The guys had played the Bowl before a few months back and apparently the increase in numbers on the night reflected how well they went down last time.
The power and edge of the HOTLZ roster of Peter Eldridge (Robert Plant), Jack Tanner (Jimmy Page), Toby Drummond (John Bonham) and Kevin Oliver Jones (John Paul Jones) was further complemented by great lighting and sound and despite the lack of band/audience dynamic they countered this by doubling up on the classics such as ‘The Lemon Song’ and the underrated ‘The Ocean’. Personal highlights of the night for me were ‘Gallows Pole’ and the amazing ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ – never tire of hearing that classic - although you couldn’t round off an evening much better I suppose than with ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with a bit of ‘Dazed And Confused’ thrown into the mix if I remember rightly (blame that last beer).
Great night, great band, great venue, great beer – just hope that the place is Rockin’ a bit more when we return for Nazareth in September. Can’t wait!
Boom Boom Club, Sutton
It says much for the character, talent and versatility of a band when they can change their plans for a show at almost a moment’s notice. That was exactly what Chantel McGregor did at the Boom Boom last Friday to overcome the absence of the guest act and ensure an expectant crowd got class and value for money. The solution to the problem, Chantel taking to the stage to play an opening solo acoustic set of five songs that came as a real surprise and a veritable treat. Brave move to open with a cover of the masterful Joe Bonamassa’s 'Mountain Time' but carried off with élan, the handwork across the strings intricate and deeply melodic just how it should be. If that was all about the guitar an evocative and haunting version of Stevie Nicks’ 'Gold Dust Woman" was all about the vocal, hushed words pulled from deep inside floating out on the carpet of acoustic sounds. And then the simply beautiful delicacy of 'Home' a completely new song, my first time of hearing and one I will want to hear again and again. Chantel a study in deep emotion as the words fell from her lips, the feel etched on her features.
Now Chantel is diminutive in stature but everything else about the lady is big and bold and the plugged-in set that followed proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt, Chantel being joined by powerhouse drummer Keith McPartling and Colin Sutton the groove master on bass. I have seen Chantel a number of times now and she always entertains but it is clear there is greater maturity to her voice, her guitar playing is perhaps a little more restrained but better for it, almost teasing us leaving us wanting more from her impressive solos. Having a bunch of new songs from soon to be released second album allowed Chantel to flesh out the set list and demonstrate how far her song writing has developed since the debut. The new tunes showcased tonight combined delicacy as per 'Home' while others emitted a harder rockier sound.
Familiar territory for second set opener however, on the punchy hooky grooves of 'Caught Out' leading very neatly in to the brand new power drive of 'Burn Your Anger'. Fiery riffs slammed over a deep groove and a rasping angry vocal all setting a great pace. A step off the gas and down shift through the gears for the funky vibe of 'Like No Other', low slow rhythm section runs building the platform from some serious chops from Chantel and a soul driven vocal. An audacious cover of Robin Trower’s 'Daydream' was an absolute standout moment, a favourite of the band and crowd and tonight stretched in to a ten minute plus trippy psychedelic sonic landscape. Sutton and McPartling in step, pumping out a rhythm that rose and fell in line with Chantel’s histrionics with the guitar. Intricately weaved note runs ushered in the vocal and likewise the scintillating solo that dominated the middle section of the song. McGregor using her effects board to full effect hitting the wah wah pedal for the distortion and a number of buttons for some heavy sustain. A classic song delivered in a unique style by McGregor and co.
Delving back in to the debut album for 'I’m No Good For You' brought the show to a fitting climax, if the opening section was faithful to the original what followed tore up the template and Chantel punched out the licks and this time Sutton hit the effects pedal to thump out a grinding series of bass lines that boomed out over the crowd.
The encore was a final chance for the band to showcase more new material and 'Take Your Power' is an apt title for one that is sure to become a live staple. Deep pulsing bass lines under pumping drum fills and Chantel once more hitting the sustain and distortion on a series of dirty low down riffs and one final slash and burn solo.
An excellent show from an excellent band that is gelling together extremely well and it will be really interesting to see Chantel in a few months when the new material is really bedded in to the set. Until then this was an impressive reminder of what Chantel represents, a talent and a warm personality that is a pleasure to witness.
Wembley Arena, London
Just hours before the gig - the eager anticipation of a night to remember was already palpable in The Blue Check Bar in Empire Way, Wembley - a plethora of Thunder and ZZ Top t-shirts proudly on display - reinforcing that feel good factor. The WRC not to be outdone - were out in force as well - the ranks bolstered by Route 66's Rory Auskerry and his brother Hamish (see our picture gallery here). To say we were not disappointed with the gig would be an understatement - in fact it exceeded our expectations - the consummate professionalism of Thunder with Danny Bowes at the helm who seem to get better every time we see them - and if ZZ Top are not the consummate of cool personified - then we would like to know who is. We witnessed a blistering set from the Houston Rockers that not only ended with a (hi ho) silver lining but also literally icing on the cake as Jeff Beck guested on his 71st birthday!
Anyway after a few cheeky beers in The Blue Check we timed it perfectly as we made our way into Wembley Arena to be greeted by the sound of Thunder’s intro ‘Thunderstruck’! Perfectly positioned to the left of the stage they kicked off with ‘Dirty Love’ (what a great opener) and proceeded to reel off the ‘The Best Of Thunder 1989 – 1995’ which coincidentally is the name of their new CD due to be released on 17th July. Funny that - but no complaints from us as they blasted through their short set with their usual explosive mix of Rock such as ‘Wonder Days’ and ‘Backstreet Symphony’ plus their signature ballad ‘Love Walked In’. ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘N’ Roll’ was a classic finale but left you wanting more. And that was it. Respect to Danny and the boys - the audience were now loaded up and ready to fire on all cylinders - and even better for us, we managed to manoeuvre ourselves centrally about ten standing rows from the front! A big shout out also to the Brummie boys who stood next to us!
ZZ Top were one of the first proponents of the video promo age so the stage was set up with two giant screens either side of Frank Beard’s huge kit in the middle. But these guys proved on the night that they do not need any props other than their beards and their cheap sunglasses! To be fair their choreography is so subtle but cool and complements their unique Rock delivery. ‘Got Me Under Pressure’, Waitin’ For The Bus’ and ‘Jesus Left Chicago’ got everyone into the groove before their first big hitter of the evening - ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ - was delivered along with that shiny car and the pretty girls in the background. Loved it. Back to the choreography and Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill played matching instruments for most of the set – a battered red guitar and bass plus also, if I’m not mistaken, those guitars from Back To The Future – the only disappointment of the night being that they didn’t rotate!
‘I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide’, ‘Pincushion’ and the more recent and underrated ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ followed before their traditional deserved homage to the great guitar man himself and 'Foxy Lady' – cue background change from pretty girl to Hendrix! Another cover of Robert Petway’s 'Catfish Blues' was deliciously backed up by ‘Cheap Sunglasses’, ‘My Head’s In Mississippi’ and ‘Chartreuse’ - building up to final big hitters ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’. Seeing ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ live should be on everyone’s bucket list and before we knew it the guys were off and back on again for that special Jeff Beck encore – which brought back memories of the first time I saw that space age vid of ‘Rough Boy’ on TV. By now we were putty in their hands as this newly formed Anglo/US alliance belted out Merle Travis’ ‘Sixteen Tons’, ‘La Grange/Sloppy Drunk Jam’ and of course finally ‘Tush’. It doesn’t get much better than this!
The Who, Paul Weller
BST - Hyde Park, London 26/6/15
Within the last week, guitarist Pete Townshend announced that he expects The Who to end this year, 50 years after their debut single ‘I Can’t Explain’, although he added that he may well continue to work with singer Roger Daltrey under a different band name. Following the show’s final song ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, Townshend referred to the band’s anniversary and told the Mod army: “We didn’t think we’d last until the end of the week when we started. There were punch-ups every day. But then we lasted a year, and here we are. And you’ve been there for us.” When the crowd began The Who’s signature chant of “We are the Mods” Townshend said: “You’re not Mods, you’re all too old to be Mods. We are the sods.”
Before ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, which was released as a single in 1971, Townshend paid tribute to the band’s late bassist John Entwistle, who died of a heart attack in 2002, and drummer Keith Moon, who died of a drug overdose in 1978. Introducing bassist Pino Palladino, Townshend said: “Replacing John Entwistle was a hard job, as he had such a unique style. But this guy is probably the best bass player in the world today.” Introducing Zak Starkey, the former Oasis drummer who is the son of Ringo Starr, Townshend said: “You’ll have seen pictures of Keith Moon on the big screen behind us tonight. When I see them behind me, I miss him terribly. But before Keith went, he gave this guy a drum kit, so in a way Zak studied at the feet of the wanker.” Hilarious!!
The Who’s set began with the big screens displaying a pictorial essay about the band, including sections dedicated to their previous shows at Hyde Park, the story behind their trademark ‘target’ logo and a history of guitar smashing, which Townshend popularised in the 1960’s.Before opening song ‘I Can’t Explain’, Daltrey told the crowd: “You’re all a long way away, but we will fucking reach you.” Indeed, the fact that the Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time festival sold out 65,000 tickets in advance showed that The Who are still reaching as many people as ever.
Introducing 1965 single ‘The Kids Are Alright’, Daltrey initially said it was dedicated to Paul Weller, saying: “This song is for a special friend. I don’t usually do requests, but this for Paul Weller, who asked us to play it.” However, Townshend interrupted Daltrey to announce: “I thought we were playing something else.” A laughing Daltrey confirmed his mistake, saying: “I fucked that up. I write these setlists the night before a show and always forget them. That time of my life when I forget everything is sitting on the doorstep.” Townshend told Daltrey: “You’ve been saying at concerts recently that I wrote this one for you. But once you write them, they don’t belong to you anymore, they belong to everyone. And I reserve the right to sell them to car companies. Until I do, this one is for you. It’s ‘The Kids Are Alright......’”A public dressing down of the highest order showing those old legendary tensions are still there!! Personally I think it's great they have now these senior moments. Most of the audience and us Wrinklys can relate to that!! No problem with showing your age in my view...
Next song ‘Pictures Of Lily’ was actually the track Weller had requested, which Townshend revealed by saying: “Paul Weller brought back interest in the Mods and we’re honoured to be playing with him. He requested this by email. We haven’t played it for a few shows, so it’ll probably be crap.” The comments reinforce the sense that this tour, is being done for the love of the songs, and keeping the sound alive, as much as any monetary motivation.
The big screen mainly showed Pop Art-style cartoons, but black-and-white footage of The Who playing a club was displayed during 1965 single ‘My Generation’, while a message asked fans to hold up lighters during 1971 single ‘Behind Blue Eyes’. Daltrey, wearing purple-lensed sunglasses that matched his shirt, played a harmonica solo during 1971’s dramatic ‘Baba O’Riley’ (yes, I was one of the thousands of fifty and sixtysomethings singing, “It’s only teenage wasteland”!!), uniting the generations and banged two tambourines together in 1969’s ‘Sparks’. Townshend demonstrated his signature windmilling guitar style throughout the two-hour set, starting as early as the second chorus of I Can't Explain!! Daltrey brought an urgent, bluesy feel to ‘The Seeker’ while ‘Who Are You’ sounded as breathless and full of verve as ever. What I found interesting was that many fans were of an even more recent vintage. As a measure of The Who's longevity and appeal there was a smattering of Parka wearing teenagers in the audience, replete with red, white and blue target badges. "I can sense a lot of people don't know this music," said Townshend before an intense version of 1971's ‘Bargain’. "But it's a pleasure to play it to those of you that haven't heard it before.” And a lot hadn't...!! For a band with such a vast back catalogue, including two rock operas, medleys become the only option when faced with a two hour curfew. This sees Quadrophenia given a particularly select outing, with only two songs played, but Daltrey comes into his own on ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ - the vocals still outstanding. They stopped playing 12 minutes before the strict curfew which suprised me a bit as I expected time for ‘Substitute’ to be played but it wasn't to be sadly..
As the band left the stage, Daltrey said: “What a wonderful evening, what a wonderful city. I can see a lot of people have travelled from many countries to be in London tonight and we welcome you. We congregate. We don’t come to concerts, we come to fucking congregate.” It remains to be seen if we have congregated with the band for the last hometown show. Next stop was Glastonbury on the Main Stage by the way... After that Paris and the US and then whatever?? If, as Townshend has suggested, this really is the last hurrah for The Who, then this was a stirring, moving and memorable farewell to London. .
Before The Who’s show, Paul Weller, the obvious heir to The Who’s mod crown, and therefore the obvious choice of support was joined by Miles Kane to play guitar and sing on The Jam’s 1981 single ‘That’s Entertainment’, one of three Jam songs during Weller’s hour-long show along with the fast paced ‘Start!’ and closing song ‘A Town Called Malice’. which brought big cheers. Opening with his 1995 single ‘The Changingman’, Weller played five songs from current album ‘Saturns Pattern’ including new single ‘Going My Way’. He barely spoke between songs, announcing: “We’ve only got an hour, so we need to pack them all in.” But by peppering his set with cuts from new album, Weller proves his aversion to looking back - he bloody-mindedly refuses to cash in and reform his former band and is doing his late-career creative purple patch no harm whatsoever and I sort of admire him from that. But it was great to hear some Jam songs again unlike the last time I saw him at the RAH.
Kaiser Chiefs played the main stage before Weller, with singer Ricky Wilson announcing before recent one-off single ‘Falling Awake’: “We are contractually obliged to play you a new song to make some money for the management. But we think it’s quite good, so win-win.” Introducing 2004’s ‘Na Na Na Naa’, Wilson told the crowd: “We appreciate that not all of you know our songs. You’re here for one band and one band only, The Who. We’re going to make it easy. This chorus is just ‘Na na na naa.’” The band often cover The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ in concert, but not for a minute did I think they would include that in their set on this occasion. Not sure that would have gone down particularly well.. However, like all great bands, any new songs are supplemented by the classics that long-term fans really appreciate. They were all present here, ‘I Predict A Riot’, ‘Everyday I Love You Less And Less’, ‘Ruby’, and ‘Never Miss A Beat’. They're the kind of band that can have a song sound so-so in your earphones but absolutely epic live and here saw them at their very best. The Kaiser Chiefs have been staples of the UK indie rock scene since debut album Employment went to number two in the charts in 2005. A decade later and lead singer Ricky Wilson showed that he is still just as fresh, energetic and invested as he was during the bands formative years.
But these festivals aren't all about the Main Stage are they? As far as the WRC are concerned it’s about finding other hidden gems and meeting great people. And Hyde Park didn't disappoint on that score... We spent the first part of the afternoon at the Summer stage after a hearty Maccies in the Strand and a stroll past Buckingham Palace on the way to Hyde Park.. No sign of her Majesty by the way.. We came across a three piece band from Tunbridge Wells called the Standard Lamps playing good old rock and roll and they put together a nice little set including a Nina Simone cover. They handed out a free CD of one of their tracks ‘A Model World’ and I particularly liked another track called ‘Living with Mum and Dad’. These lads toured with the Who last year and will be supporting the Bluetones on their 20th anniversary tour in September. Well worth checking out their music in my view and that is not my Kentish bias coming through.
We then made our way to the Barclaycard Main stage for as it turned out our biggest surprise of the day. Many thanks to WRC member Steve Borkowski for this. He advised us to check out an American rock and blues band from California called Vintage Trouble. These four guys had been supporting AC/DC around Europe on their summer Rock or Bust world tour recently so my expectations were quite high. To say they were surpassed would be a massive understatement. A quite brilliant 30 minute live performance full of class, style, energy, mischief and outrage rolled into one. And one of the best (if not the best!) displays of crowd surfing from lead singer Ty Taylor I have ever seen (as he flew past me!!). But above all - great music. I felt knackered and exhilarated all in one and I have become a TroubleMaker now for life..
Particular favourites for me are ‘Blues Hand Me Down’ and ‘Run River Run’, the achingly world-weary ‘Nobody Told Me’, and the Chuck Berry riffed, call-and-response belter ‘Nancy Lee’. Ty Taylor has been described as a modern-day James Brown. In fact, imagine James Brown singing lead for Led Zeppelin, and you'll get an idea of Vintage Trouble's sound believe me. If you haven't seen them live then I urge you to seek out one of the best musical experiences you will ever have. They were off to Glastonbury as well where the masses would love them and the national exposure will do them no harm at all.. And then back to supporting A/C/DC in Europe and North America. It's a tough life isn’t it? I have already pre-ordered the new third album ‘1 Hopeful Road’ due out in mid-August. There is a trailer out on You Tube..You know what to do.....
Needless to say we met some great people during the afternoon and evening as usual to share our musical experiences and spread the Wrinkly word with... Honourable mentions and shout-outs go to Rob McCann and his son Kevin who we met just after Vintage Trouble. Top blokes !!. Next up its Vicky Lewis from Ipswich and her friend Julia who being the good WRC guys we are we "bodyguarded" during the Who set. It's the paternal instinct in us you know. Hope you didn't mind girls!!!. And last but not least, the delightful Adrian and Jo from NZ we got chatting to at the end.. Safe trip home guys after your stay in the UK – we hope to visit your vineyard one day! Wrinkly Rock music really does transcend the world doesn't it ???..
The Who Setlist
I Can’t Explain
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
Pictures Of Lily
I Can See For Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love Reign O’er Me
See Me Feel Me/Listening To You
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Paul Weller Setlist
From the Floorboards Up
I'm Where I Should Be
That's Entertainment (Jam song) (with Miles Kane)
Going My Way
You Do Something To Me
Start! (Jam song)
Town Called Malice (Jam song)
Kaiser Chiefs Setlist
Everyday I Love You Less and Less
Ruffians on Parade
Everything Is Average Nowadays
Never Miss a Beat
Na Na Na Na Naa
The Angry Mob
I Predict a Riot
Oh My God
Wrinkly the Silver
Royal Albert Hall, London 5/7/15
To be fair, the jury has been out as to whether such an iconic Rock concept album as The Who's 'Quadrophenia' should ever be orchestrated. An even bolder move was to have Alfie Boe stepping into Daltrey's 5.15's plus Billy Idol being the nearest rebellious thing we have now to the much missed and loved Keith Moon (or wanker as Pete Townshend lovingly put it at Hyde Park recently). But hey on the plus side we did have Townshend and the film's very own Jimmy (Phil Daniels) to even the .. ahem ... score.
The evening started in a Wetherspoon's in Victoria - the final destination being a surprise for my mate and fellow WRC member JB (no - not that JB). Anyway the secret unfolded as we approached The Royal Albert Hall when our cabbie enquired who was playing there tonight? "It's Classic Quadrophenia" to which he replied "Well don't get out of your brain then!". You couldn't make it up. Night's like this don't come around very often so JB's face was a picture as we were directed to our front row seats!
Despite Townshend's brief to in-demand orchestrator Rachel Fuller of "no extra notes" - Fuller (Townshend's other half by the way) was quoted as saying the orchestration was "easy" - testament no doubt to an emotional rollercoaster of a score fitting hand in glove with a classical orchestra. And as soon as conductor Robert Ziegler raised his baton in front of the The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra with 'I Am The Sea' the musical waves drew the audience - Mod or Classical - in as one like an enchanting mermaid. Alfie Boe's voice on 'The Real Me' - although obviously different from Daltrey's - is as powerful as Roger's in his heyday with a physique to match. TRPO's mesmerising performance of the moving title track 'Quadrophenia' contrasted with the adolescent angst of 'Cut My Hair' not only saw the introduction of the snarling Billy Idol but Boe also delivered the stand-out line "My Old Man Is Really Alright".
Rapturous applause as 'President' Pete Townshend appeared with deserved screams from the audience for vocals with Alfie on 'The Punk & The Godfather' along with the amazing London Oriana Choir. Careful Pete - you might re-invent yourself mate - although it's back to the day job as he grabbed his guitar, sat on a stall and played one of only two 'Quadrophenia' songs showcased on the recent 'Who Hits 50' tour - 'I'm One' with Boe on vocals. To be fair to Phil Daniels, he just didn't turn up to be a zoot suited face for the evening. His duet with Alfie on both 'The Dirty Jobs' (with the LOC) and 'Helpless Dancer' hit the mark - the latter rightly not being subject to the PC brigade - although did we detect the crowd gasp with the lines "... just like the lesbians and queers .." and ".. you get beaten up by blacks ...." although we did wince a bit for one of the excellent RAH stewards sitting directly in front of us! Boe's 'Is It In My Head'' lead into the schizo emotional rollercoaster that is 'I've Had Enough' with Idol confronting Boe "You missed out on new dances" - Alfie's retort hitting THAT note on 'Love Reign 'O'er Me' before the interval - Wow - the bar is calling!
After a delightful chat over a couple of beers with two Italian Who fans - Francesco and his wife from Rome - JB and I returned to our seats for more of the same! Boe immediately got us back on track with '5.15' - thanks in no small part to the marvellous TRPO and LOC. Boe and Idol continued their verbal jousting on the 'Sea And The Sand' - both guys were literally rockin' albeit with the odd occasional glance at their autocues - but who was complaining? Townshend returned now standing with his acoustic guitar as Alfie delivered 'Drowned' again with the accompaniment of the superb choir. And talking of delivery - we come to the one - the only - 'Bell Boy'. Was Moon turning in his grave? To be fair - Billy has previous with 'Tommy' and both he and Alfie did him and of course Daltrey proud "carrying the bloody baggage out!"
Turning from one iconic song to another - the testosterone fueled 'Doctor Jimmy' - where Boe succeeded in getting al the guys present to proudly puff their chests out with the killer line: "I'm going back soon. Home to get that baboon. Who cut up my eye. Tore up my Levis!" Legend. Classical decorum returned though with the beautiful instrumental 'The Rock' before the climax of 'Love Reign O'er Me' - Boe again hitting that note which Roger sadly did not do at Hyde Park. Must admit the encore of 'The Real Me' was a bit of a mash up with Ziegler resplendent in his Parka and Fuller receiving a well deserved bouquet. However, it was apparent at this stage that the pressure was off Daniels, Idol, Townshend and Boe - and who cared if they missed their cue - after all this was Rock 'n Roll - or was it? A great night was completed as we met up with a couple of Who fans in the pub afterwards - respect to the two Tony's from Guernsey! Anyway this night was all about legacy - an iconic masterpiece that deserves to be remembered long after Pete & Roger have hung up their Parka's - whatever the genre!
The Orchard Theatre, Dartford 22/7/15
I wasn't sure what to expect when AJ kindly bribed me with a free ticket to this gig at the Orchard. I am not a massive fan of tribute bands although we have had some very good ones at the last few Wrinklystock’s I must admit.. The Beatlez, Bon Giovi and of course the brilliant Bohemians from last year's gig spring to mind.. Then of course I suddenly remembered that Purple Zeppelin had run away with the WRC tribute band award in 2012. So I thought they would be pretty good..And I wasn't wrong in the slightest..
This ambitious outfit of one band taking both roles is the brainchild of guitarist Mark Dawson. A dedicated fan of classic rock and a fine musician himself, Mark and his fellow band members recreate the music they love with great care and dedication. And they feel rewarded when audiences, equally familiar with the sounds of the Seventies, respond with cheers and applause. Maybe not quite up the ovation Zeppelin received in their last appearance at their one-off reunion at the 02 Arena in December 2007, but the locals were pretty damned impressed at a pretty much full The Orchard Theatre.
In their first incarnation as Deep Purple, the band launched into 'Highway Star' a Purple favourite sparked by furious drumming from Alex wearing an Ian Paice style headscarf. The Blackmore inspired lead guitar work from Mark and Gillan-esque vocals from John Barnett were equally convincing. I also thought the witty banter from John was very entertaining throughout with Mark desperate to play a bit of Blackmore's Night on his lute at various points with his moody Ritchie face on....Most amusing... John's description of former Purple lead singer David Coverdale as the "Dick Emery of Rock" will live with me forever!!! The boys seemed very happy to be back in their home county for sure...
For Purple Mk II fans, this is as close as you can get to the Blackmore era.. The band - though hugely talented - are self-effacing thanking the audience for taking the trouble to attend. All the Purple favourites were there of course 'Strange Kind Of Woman', ‘Black Night', Hush’, ‘Child in Time’, ‘Woman from Tokyo’ and of course ‘Smoke on The Water’.
Wrinkly The Silver (Dave Lock)
To put my WRC cards well and truly on the table - the Zeppelin part of Purple Zeppelin was the bit I was looking forward to most - but hey after the Purple set, PZ had set the bar extremely high. A change of garb set the scene with Alex’s headscarf now the mandatory Bonham bowler hat and Mark in the trademark Page combination of Rose Jacket/Dragon Pants plus double-neck guitar. But as well being keen followers of fashion the guys also followed their Purple set with a mean opening rendition of ‘Celebration Day’ of off LZ3 - given more prominence in recent years as the film title of their last gig in 2007 just up the road at the O2 Arena. John’s wail and Mark’s repeating staccato riff kept us again in LZ3 territory with ‘Immigrant Song’ whilst regressing back to LZ2, the iconic aggressive opening riff of 'Heartbreaker' was more than complemented by Mike’s bass playing power chords. Most possibly the best side of an LP ever made (showing my age here) - yes the second track of side two of ‘Physical Graffiti’ - ‘Trampled Underfoot’ - followed, and hit the mark despite the absence of JPJ’s keys, as did another PG track ‘The Wanton Song’ although not one of that holy trinity.
Alex then took a well-deserved break as the guys gathered right at the front of the stage for a mesmerising acoustic rendition of ‘Going To California’. You could hear a pin drop – and an opportunity for Mike to come to the fore showcasing his mandolin expertise. We were now finally in LZ4 territory but not before we dipped back into ‘Physical Graffiti' with the second of the holy trinity and the classic ‘Kashmir’ which allowed the banter to continue as John took a pop at the X-Factor and One Direction for obvious reasons! Now it was bow time – yes ‘How Many More Times’ from their very first album with its classic cool intro gave Mark the opportunity to strut his stuff in an illuminated bow solo! And just to prove that they were taking things seriously, Alex then had a strop over some technical problems - cue ‘Dazed and Confused’ – with John in his element in this Plant signature track from LZ1. Iconic. It was back to LZ2 next with ‘Ramble On’ before an abridged ‘Stairway’ (of course from LZ4) as it was appropriately named on the playlist.
I suppose it goes with the territory that given Zeppelin’s strength in back-catalogue that medley’s will have to suffice with PZ – particularly as they have to cover Purple’s discography as well! The PG combination of ‘The Rover’ and ‘Sick Again’ failed to complete the holy trinity i.e. no ‘Houses Of The Holy’ but again fair play to the guys for keeping off the tried and tested beaten track as both tracks sounded as fresh as they did in ‘75. Must dig that album out again! And finally sandwiched in between the classic ‘Whole Lotta Love’ from LZ2 was ‘Achilles Last Stand’ the only track covered off of ‘Presence’ but a staple on Zep’s tours in the 70’s. Anyway, this was the third time I had seen PZ but the first time I had seen them in a theatre where the atmosphere was a lot more intimate, giving the band an opportunity to build a relationship with the seated audience and to get everyone involved (and singing!). The case was proven as the Orchard crowd demanded more and they were duly blown away with an encore of ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ and the ultimate LZ4 double-header of Black Dog (see John’s selfie stick here) and Rock and Roll with a brilliant Cozy Powell slant from Alex. On this evidence – two giants of Rock for the price of one - long live Rock and Roll!
Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza 8/8/15
I rose early in anticipation of a 150 mile drive to Glastonbury for its annual Extravaganza. No, I wasn’t six weeks too late - I may have been known to miss the start of an event, occasionally by an hour, maybe even two - but never by six weeks!! The Extravaganza is held in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey, right in the heart of the town - not at a remote farm six or seven miles away! The Extravaganza helps raise funds to maintain what remains of the Abbey, a National Trust property. The event is supported by Michael Eavis, who provides ticket holders with free camping, together with a shuttle service to the campsite alongside Glastonbury Tor, just over a mile away.
Helped by the clear blue skies, glorious sunshine and temperatures in the upper 20’s, the Abbey grounds provided an awesome setting. There was ample room for several thousand people well away from the Abbey ruins; they just had to find a viewpoint unobstructed by trees and, even more important, not too close to the lake which looked down on the stage from the right.
The atmosphere was remarkably relaxed for a music festival. Virtually everyone was seated - on several thousand folding chairs! Many groups even had picnic tables, laden down with far more food and drink than they needed - unusually these days, there was no restriction on bringing your own food and alcohol.
Even more unusual, on arrival I decided that, after several hours walking and sunbathing in sweltering temperatures on the Tor, to avoid dehydration, I really ought to drink something non-alcoholic before entering the beer tent! Not a decision I’d always be able to keep to, but helped on Saturday by the long, snaking queue to the beer tent and the empty counter at the adjacent coffee & cake stall! Even better, later in the evening the combination of high temperatures, alcohol already consumed and wrinkly audience led to easily the longest queue for coffee I’ve ever seen - which I had to keep cutting across on my way to the near-empty beer tent! And very pleasant beer it was too. Initially disappointed not to find my local favourite (Wadworth 6X, brewed just over the county boundary in Wiltshire), I soon developed a taste for the Otter beers, brewed just over the other county boundary, in Devon. They could do with a more imaginative marketing department though - when both beers on offer are bitters and real ales surely they can come up with two names more descriptive, and less confusing, than ‘Bitter’ and ‘Ale’.
Anyway, enough frivolity, what about the music - this is meant to be a music review after all! The first news was that illness had forced star support act Joan Armatrading to pull out that very morning. Most of the audience were mightily disappointed to hear this but, not being a massive fan of romantic ballads, I wasn’t too upset - she might be replaced by some local hard rockers readily available at short notice. This wishful thinking soon proved to be just that; the Drystones were indeed local, but a folk duo who, at 19, must have been the youngest people at the Extravaganza - apart from a few kids on their Dads’ shoulders and the odd teenager, probably there under duress!
The Drystones, comprising Alex Garden on violin and Ford Collier on guitar, flute & whistle, were not in the slightest fazed by the huge audience, despite their youth and minimal preparation time - they’d only been booked six hours ago! They had already played at several 2015 festivals, including the Larmer Tree, and another June event, on a farm near Glastonbury! Their set was almost entirely instrumental, a mixture of gypsy-style tunes and Celtic jigs, but exceptionally lively and spirited - rousing many spectators out of their folding chairs to dance on the spot! Their obvious enthusiasm and energy rubbed off on the audience, including me. I hadn’t realised there was still so much scope for re-inventing traditional music - I doubt I would have enjoyed Joan Armatrading more!
Next on were The Shires, a country music duo comprising Chrissie Rhodes, vocals, and Ben Earle, guitar and vocals. They’re based near me in St .Albans but, as Ben was quick to point out on Saturday, he was raised in nearby Wells. They’ve had a successful year: their debut album is currently in the charts; they were in Nashville for club and radio performances in May and they played the Acoustic Stage at that other local event in June.
Early on, The Shires didn’t endear themselves to me by playing a Fleetwood Mac cover. That could have been awesome if they’d followed Haim’s example and chosen a song from Fleetwood Mac’s early Peter Green years, especially if they’d covered it half as well as Haim covered ‘Oh Well’. But no, they chose ‘Dream’ from the insipid Green-less years - it did nothing for me at all! From that point the set could only get better - and it did! ‘Friday Night’ was a gentle country rocker about getting drunk that we could all relate to, and the lively momentum was enhanced with a song demonstrating the powerful side of Chrissie’s voice: ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, my personal favourite. ‘Made in England’ slowed the tempo down, but was a good sing-along that had most of us joining in - not sure they should include it at any Scottish gigs though!!
Finally, it was Ray Davies’ turn, playing an extended set of nearly two hours to help make up for no Joan Armatrading. Ray had a full supporting band, but no other Kinks - and he ruled out any prospect of a reunion because “we wouldn’t want to do another Who”. However, even if the band wasn’t pure Kinks, the songs were. ‘Sunny Afternoon’ had the whole crowd standing, singing and dancing - I did vaguely wonder where those thousands of folding chairs had got to, but didn’t know, and didn’t really care. It must be said that Ray’s voice is past its best - he his in his 70s for Chrissake!! Not that it mattered one jot - the musical support was perfect and the audience didn’t need to hear the words - they knew them all already. In fact at times Ray just stopped singing, giving his vocal chords a rest and letting the crowd get on with it.
‘Where have All the Good Times Gone’ was followed by ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, with a deafening crowd echo of “oh yes he is”, ‘Dead End Street’, the mellower ‘Days’ and livening up again for ‘Tired of Waiting’. Ray did threaten to play a few songs from his new album, but then remembered he hadn’t written them yet - so had to fall back on more Kinks favourites!! Despite numerous requests throughout the evening, ‘Lola’ was saved for the encore, along with ‘Waterloo Sunset’, still sung with feeling after all those decades, and a fitting finale of ‘You Really Got Me’. Musically that was it. There was still a spectacular fireworks display to come - and then hoping I could find the right tent - assuming I could even find the right campsite! I did!
The Brothers Landreth
The Borderline, London 25/8/15
Canadian roots-rockers The Brothers Landreth played their European debut show at the intimate Borderline in London on Tuesday night. This special show followed the release of their acclaimed 11-song debut 'Let It Lie' - so much so that it actually won this years Junos Roots & Traditional Album award. The band's sound on the album is anchored by the bluesy wail of electric guitars, the swell of B3 organ, and the blood harmonies of brothers Joey and David Landreth that has since drawn comparisons to The Band, The Allman Brothers and Jackson Browne.
As we made our way down the Borderline stairs we just caught the end of first support The Honey Ants - the hush of the packed audience testimony to them hanging off every note from the guitar and vocal duo – a half hour set well received. The final support - Wildwood Kin - lapped up every minute of their set -and although their enjoyment was infectious - the crowd also appreciated the spot-on harmonies and musicianship from this guitar, mandolin and drum all-girl trio.
Despite being behind schedule, a speedy turnaround saw the main event hit the stage a little later than planned – although we did notice the absence of a B3 organ! The Brothers Landreth lined-up with Joey on guitar and vocals, brother Dave on bass, Ryan ‘Rhino’ Voth on drums and Ariel Posen on guitar. Unusually, the guys opened with a cover – although it was apparent that all throughout the set the guys were pinching themselves that were not only playing London (the obligatory “Hello London” of course) but also it was in front of a crowd (cue the playing to just the Canadian barman anecdote). Anyway, there take on Wings’ ‘Let ‘em In’ was inspirational – not only to get the UK on their side but immediately gave us a taste of Joey’s slide, Ariel’s discontinued JHS Klon plus the band’s awesome harmonies.
We were then into ‘LIL’ territory with the groovy and foot-tappin’ ‘Tappin’ On The Glass’ and just to prove they could mix it up ‘I Am The Fool’ with its neat Country riff (originally written by Landreth Senior no less) cemented the strength of ‘LIL’ after just two tracks. The groove of ‘Made Up Mind’ was followed by the album’s title track (see Vid Of The Day), Joey preferring live electric to acoustic on the album – although still the same result – perfect. A couple more covers were thrown in for good measure: Lyle Lovett’s ‘If I Had A Boat’ and John Hiatt’s ‘Alone In The Dark’ – the former an enchanting acoustic/harmony gathering – the latter nailed – again despite no keys. Rhino and Dave were the archetypal spine of the band - with Rhino chipping in with a bit of banter whilst Dave proved later in the set that his brother was not the only one with great vocals!
Joey and Ariel’s boogie-woogie guitars heralded ‘Runaway Train’ as we continued down the ‘LIL’ track slowing down at ‘Nothin’, then all-change with the hand-clapping audience participation of the Staple Singers ‘Tell Him What You Want – Jesus On The Mainline’ and then back on track and finishing with the album stand-out ‘Our Love’ – and again despite no keys - the foundation of the song was built for the classic guitar solo from Posen - although the Prog in me maintains it ends too early! The guys were on a roll and the encore began slowly with the delightful ‘Greenhouse’, continued with ‘Where Were We’ and despite their ‘roots’ being from Winnipeg - ‘Dixie’ I suppose was never more appropriate to round off a memorable evening! Our thanks to Matt from Savage Gringo for the invite, apparently the guys will be announcing further UK shows for October shortly. Do not miss them.
Brooklyn Bowl, London 2/9/15
The first time we saw Nazareth was at The Great British Music Festival at Olympia in London! It was a 3 day event and for £3.50 each day you could see some of the best bands of all time. Our overriding memories of the day were seeing Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance who had just formed after the split of The Faces (still going strong and well worth seeing) and then Nazareth lifting the roof off the place so much so that Bad Company took to the stage and just said "follow that!" Just under forty years down the line we saw them again on Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Bowl in the O2 Arena, London.
At their peak, they were huge, selling vast quantities of albums and hit singles, pulling in enormous crowds to their shows all over the world. Like all the best bands, Nazareth came from humble roots. They formed in Dunfermline, Scotland, and played the Scottish clubs throughout the 1960’s in their original incarnation as The Shadettes. The name change to Nazareth came in 1970 and in 1971 the band moved to London to start what was to become a long and illustrious recording career. 2015 sees them back on the road featuring new singer Carl Sentance (ex-Geezer Butler Band and Krokus), standing proudly alongside founder member Pete Agnew (bass) and long time band members Jimmy Murrison (guitar) and Lee Agnew (drums).
Support band The Darker My Horizon warmed up a decent crowd and after a couple of false technical starts Nazareth launched into 'Silver Dollar Forger' - the geezer immediately in front of us pulling out his air guitar to Murrison's riff from 'Rampant'! What an opener! All eyes were on Carl though - how on earth could anyone step into the shoes of Dan McCafferty? The answer just like Mercury and Queen is that you can't - but Sentance's great vocals and Agnew's driving bass on 'Miss Misery' were an early 'Hair Of The Dog' for any doubters present given that the Naz components have changed over time a bit like Trigger's broom! 'Razamanaz' was another indicator that Naz were in the groove - and as a compliment to the Brooklyn Bowl - it was like seeing one of your favourite bands in a pub (ask Wrinkly about Thin Lizzy at The Greyhound, Croydon in '76!).
Joni Mitchell's 'This Flight Tonight' was the first Nazareth single I ever bought and Agnew's bass was as tight as ever on this Rock classic. An honour to witness it. Murrison's Zep type riff on 'One Set Of Bones' from 'Rock 'N' Roll Telephone' was literally a classic head-banger as my air guitar mate managed to crack heads with me! No offence taken although Sentance slowed things down with 'Dream On' although they upped a gear with the Bluesy Pop of 'Holiday'. The mid-set recess continued with 'Turn On Your Receiver' from 'Loud 'n' Proud' - always thought that one sounded a bit like 'Last Train To Clarksville'! Back to the big hitters and 'Bad Bad Boy' which seemed quite appropriate for the Naz faithful gathered down the front although all too old to call it a 'mosh pit' methinks! The Crazy Horses cover 'Beggars Day' was followed by the brilliant 'Changin' Times' - Jimmy's riff reminiscent of his Zep namesake and similarly Carl stepping up to the plate - Dan and indeed Plant would give Sentance a slap on the back for his vocals on this one.
And if that wasn't good enough - those looking forward to a 'Hair Of The Dog' on both the night and in the morning weren't disappointed. "Son Of A Bitch!" I suppose the title track from '77 album 'Expect No Mercy' was an unusual track to end with but we knew they were coming back. Cue two covers: Bonnie Dobson's 'Morning Dew' with it's tight instrumental opening plus probably their best known number - The Everly Brothers 'Love Hurts' - not one of my all time favourites but another Rock classic. Naz finished with 'Broken Down Angel' - a good old fashioned singalong ensured that the Bowl punters went home happy. Wasn't too worried about no 'My White Bicycle' but guys how could you leave out 'Woke Up This Morning' one of the greatest slide/guitar riffs ever! Top marks to the whole band who appeared to enjoy it as much we did - particularly Sentance who not only eased into McCafferty's shoes but also created a great rapport with the crowd - even to the extent of unfurling their Belgian and French flags on stage ahead of the Bad Bad Boys forthcoming European tour!
Hackney Empire, London 8/9/15
Thirty-three years ago, foundational progressive rock group King Crimson played in Oxford, Guildford, Cromer, Dunstable and Poole. You would have to go back to 1972 to find the band performing in cities such as Cardiff, Brighton and Birmingham. Now, almost unbelievably and following a highly acclaimed US tour in 2014, King Crimson have now re-emerged for their first U.K. tour since 1982 and first performance in London for 15 years. Just before the start various members of the band made a recorded announcement, asking the audience to not use mobile phones, i-pads or recording devices, and to experience the evening using our eyes and ears. In short, this is usual KC practice! A short time later they took the stage, all looking very smart and dapper, kudos to Bill Rieflin who played a powerful set at his drum kit without removing his jacket… that’s rock ‘n’ roll the KC way folks!
Following a complete volte-face having retired from music in 2012, band leader and motive force Robert Fripp has now assembled a 7-man line-up (the largest ensemble in the band's history) that flips the traditional rock band on its head with three drummers acting as the frontline, two guitars, bass and saxophone/flute at the back and this is certainly an event worthy of a mention. He sat at a stool with his guitar wearing a dark two-piece suit and tie, deceptively mild in appearance. The 69-year-old is the only original member of King Crimson, survivor of a turbulent history of fallings-out and hiatuses since they were formed in 1968. The latest line-up is the eighth version of the band. It withstands comparison to its famously inventive predecessors. For the record, eighteen musicians and three lyricists have passed through the ranks, although the tenure of certain members has sometimes extended for decades.
The three drum kits at the front of the stage were occupied by Bill Rieflin, Pat Mastelotto and Porcupine Tree stickman Gavin Harrison. Behind them, raised on a platform, were Mel Collins (who has played with The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton) on sax, clarinet and flute, Tony Levin (who has played with John Lennon, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel) on bass and Jakko Jakszyk on guitar and vocals. Fripp was at one end, jacket off, headphones on, a virtuoso of guitar texture and guarded by a monolith of outboard gear. He has always seemed, on stage, like a reluctant guest at his own party.
The band’s music is created from a broad palette of sources including classical, rock, jazz and abstract improvisation; and despite virtually no airplay on commercial radio stations and precious little TV coverage they have maintained a loyal following, confirmed by an almost-full Hackney Empire, built in 1901 as a music hall. From 1963 to 1984 the theatre was used by the Mecca Organization as a bingo hall but has survived closure threats due to severe financial difficulties and was refurbished in 2001, part funded by donations from Sir Alan Sugar no less!! It re-opened again in 2004. The theatre’s facilities are clearly now much improved for people attending shows there and as a first time visitor WTS was impressed and will look out for future shows there!
A buzzing sound like an approaching swarm resolved into ferociously heavy riffs on the band's opening number, ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Pt I’. The twisty 1973 instrumental - a jazz-rock raptor bearing down on Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Lark Ascending’ - was given a muscular workout, led by the powerhouse frontline of drummers.
Not being a massive KC fan and a first time viewer, some more songs I had never heard of or recognized followed and I continued to marvel at the skill I was witnessing in a curious detachment I was not used to at gigs. This felt like some sort of dry analytical exercise for myself, which is a different experience for me in concert. I reached the oasis of another song I actually recognized when they played ‘Easy Money’. A calmer mood was introduced with one of the band’s earliest songs, ‘Epitaph’, from the 1969 debut album ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ with Jakszyk ably taking the role of original vocalist and founder member Greg Lake who left KC in 1970 to form somebody called Emerson, Lake and Palmer! Simply wonderful. Song endings came suddenly, solutions to enjoyably tricky problems. The best undoubtedly for me was the 100% prog anthem and ultimate KC song ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’, played at pace with uncannily timed stop-start pauses - a brilliant song with a great drum solo by Gavin Harrison.
I could only sit there and marvel at the dexterity and marvellous interplay between the drummers, overseen like some sort of musical bank manager by Robert Fripp. If you closed your eyes you’d never know there were three players such is their cohesion. With Rieflin also playing the mellotron, the trio was frequently given a chance to shine with extended percussion-only interludes Not one word was spoken to the audience all evening by any band member by the way. This felt like some sort of classic orchestral performance. The ‘congregation’ (as this was clearly a religious experience for many attending) were totally entranced for the most part as the music demanded.
Red light suffused the stage for 1974’s claustrophobic ‘Starless’, the only moment of theatricality. No further decoration was needed for the music, all intricate patterns and impeccable timing. The band then trooped off like it was the end of school assembly with Fripp the headmaster last off, but the students (as this was also an event to ‘study’ evidently) wanted more and gave a rapturous response. They soon returned for the encore and everyone was ecstatic eventually when the band launched into the fantastical pomp and majesty of ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’, another prog rock sacred anthem if ever there was one... At the end the house lights were put on so the band could connect with the audience. Fripp stood at his position and slowly scanned every part of the hall as the storm of applause washed over the band, as if thanking everyone individually for there attention. No emotion, no acknowledgement, simply an almost one-to-one thank you and a look of quiet satisfaction after being afforded an inevitable standing ovation by a hall of fans who in some cases are probably seeing this reclusive band for the first time - and then they were gone.....
This was an incredible concert played with great precision and passion, but for me this felt like very cerebral music for the head rather than something for my heart – but then again I do not possess that life-long emotional ‘fan’ connection so evident in so many ‘Krim’ worshippers present. However, there can be no denying the exceptional musical abilities and timing demonstrated in songs that demand split-second reactions to crossover rhythms, key changes and sudden u-turns mid-number that made the incredibly difficult seem easy. This is high-end musicianship that would challenge the most accomplished performers from any genre. Would I go again? Maybe not (especially at those prices!) but I am very glad to have finally seen such legends in awesome action and doing classics from arguably the first ever Prog album. I would put the band on the same level as Yes and Genesis, just in a different way. Band longevity relies more on brand than continuity of personnel and Fripp’s current line-up seems set to ensure King Crimson will comfortably pass the half-century mark with their reputation as progressive innovators intact.
Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part I)
Radical Action (To Unseat The Hold Of Monkey Mind)
Hell Hounds Of Krim
The ConstruKction Of Light
Suitable Grounds For The Blues
Banshee Legs Bell Hassle
Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row
21st Century Schizoid Man
The Talking Drum
Larks’ Tongues In Aspic (Part II)
The Court Of The Crimson King
Wrinkly the Silver
Half Moon, Putney, London 22/9/15
We came across Shooter via the oft fickle forces of social media after following an obscure link that led us to the video of their single 'Turn It Up'. Absolutely loved it, so much so, that we posted it on our website as video of the day.
If you're going to launch an album, what better way than to play at one of the longest running and most respected music venue's in London - The Half Moon, whose very fabric has by osmosis absorbed the very essence of the bands that have played there.
The stage has been graced by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, Dr Feelgood, and on the night of 22nd September 2015, by Shooter.
There was a definite party mood in the room as the assembled fans and followers waited for the band to take the stage. Mike the drummer was unfortunately suffering with a bad cold, but had dosed up with some Lem-Sip so as to be on form for the stellar night that lay ahead.
Any reservations about the guys kicking off with a song entitled 'Bad Experience' melted away as soon as the first chords were played. With it's uncomplicated foot tapping rhythm, it took us straight back to a time when music seemed always to be so much fun.
By the time the opening notes of the album's title track 'Recycled Teenagers' sounded, the feel good factor had cranked into top gear, with a great deal of exuberant audience participation.
Having been assured that Henry the Dog (on sticks), would be featuring in the next Shooter video, we weren't too disappointed that he had not shown up to reprise his performance during 'Turn It Up'.
The great tracks from the Recycled Teenagers album just kept coming, being interspersed with some brilliant covers of tracks by the likes of Dr Feelgood, The Who and Bad Company.
The band played 'Straight Shooter' that was originally written in 1978. Music is certainly a vehicle that can transport us to places no other vehicle can reach. For a brief moment in time, we were back there with the band.
All too soon the final number 'No Good Reason' was being played, with some excellent vocals and guitar by Dom.
What a great party! nobody left the venue without a big grin on their face, and of course a copy of the CD.
Recycled Teenagers?....You Bet!
Jules - Rock On The Ridge
Koko, London 22/10/15
It was certainly a case of apprehension as we approached the sold out London Borderline in February. We obviously had reservations about Academy award winner Ryan Bingham performing a solo acoustic set without his dearly departed 'Dead Horses' - who we salivated over when first saw them at Hard Rock Calling in June 2011. We needn't have worried - an easy early contender for our 2015 WRC 'Best Acoustic' award. And the cherry on the cake was that Ryan was returning to London in October with - wait for it - his band! And talking of Hollywood - as we said at the time - "we're gonna need a bigger boat" - hence our trip to the Koko, Camden on Thursday night!
We just missed the start of 'Sons Of Bill' but the band from Virginia - albeit a short set - eased the Koko punters into an eagerly anticipated performance from the headliner from New Mexico. Fresh from stepping off of the Dover ferry after European gigs in Barcelona, Rome and Brussels - the Americana singer/songwriter eased in with The Dead Horses 'Dollar A Day' setting out his Americana/Roots Rock credentials to anyone who was in any doubt. 'Top Shelf Drug' from his recent album 'Fear And Saturday Night' followed - the lack of album keyboards more than made up for by Daniel Sproul's guitar work. The set understandably see-sawed between Dead Horses and 'FASN' - 'Tell My Mother I Miss Her So' an opportunity for another RB - Richard Bowden - to show his prowess on the fiddle on this foot-tapper. Both 'FASN's 'Snow Falls In June' and 'Radio' took the foot-stomping down a notch - emphasising both the contrast and thoughtful lyrics in Bingham's set.
'BlueBird' took me back to Hyde Park 2011 when the Dead Horses packed a punch with their electric guitars and keys - suffice to say this rocked and went down well with the WRC beside me! Ryan's harmonica heralded Junky Star's beautiful 'The Poet' - the audience hanging on tightly on this emotional roller coaster of a set. Bingham's voice to die for - was again perfectly illustrated on 'Hallelujah' - yet another stand out track from 'Junky Star' - which understandably charted in the US in 2010. FASN's 'Adventures Of You and Me', 'My Diamond Is Too Rough' and the "Dylanesque" 'Broken Heart Tatoos' were a microcosm of the contrasting Americana Roots Rock genres in the set although the delicious 'Southside Of Heaven' managed to combine all these musical elements culminating in a wonderful jam with Bingham, Sproul and Bowden stepping up to the railway plate.
They finally let the handbrake off the engine for the encore with a cover of the Stones' 'Rip This Joint', the slide of the awesome Dead Horses 'Sunshine' and finally the stand out acoustic Horses number from his Borderline gig 'Bread and Water'. To be fair the appreciative audience lapped it up but for mine, unexpectedly, it didn't hit the heights of the intimacy and touching personal anecdotes of The Borderline in February nor the first time we saw Ryan and The Dead Horses rock out at Hyde Park over four years ago. Still a great night though.
Joanne Shaw Taylor
Jazz Cafe, London 27/10/15
How often have we all been to gigs to find that the support band appear to be there simply because they are cheap and to be honest not particularly good? Things sounded more promising as I stood at the bar at The Jazz Cafe and told AJ that I would keep my coat as it was cold. “It won’t be cold for much longer” the lady next to me said “and not because of Joanne Shaw Taylor!” Brave words - probably one of the support bands mums!! Thirty seconds later Federal Charm took to the stage and wow!!! Hailing from Manchester these guys have the lot, stage presence, ability, belief and a catalogue of songs that back all of that up. I must admit I was looking for a comparison and on some of the tracks the repetitive Zeppelin riff was more than apparent. If that is who they are basing themselves on then how can they go wrong – for me it’s not a case of will they break through but when! The guys have their second album out called ‘Across the Divide’ and that is on my shopping list. Having already supported Black Star Riders and UFO as well as JST they are a band in demand so when they are back in town, do yourself a favour - definitely in the mix for the WRC Awards this year as ones to watch!!
AJ and me have always been fans of Joanne Shaw Taylor since we saw her support Black Country Communion at the end of 2010. And now that Joe Bonamassa had thrown his hat into the ring stating that JST was the next superstar we just had to check out how her career has progressed. The tour was to promote her new album ‘The Dirty Truth’ and it was clear that tracks on the album were very personal in nature and were aimed at the break up of her relationship with a “shitty” boyfriend – ‘Tried Tested and True’ is an incredibly strong Blues track which is really sung from the heart – not sure the hurt has completely gone though. Contrast this with the wonderful acoustic track ‘Almost Always Never’ which was written about her mothers battle with cancer – again sung with real feeling and you have two total contrasts from what most people associate with JST i.e. in your face Blues/Rock with ear splitting solos. Add in the fact that the new album includes some countrified tracks and you can immediately see that JST is determined not to be known as a one trick pony.
The first time I reviewed JST I did have reservations over her vocals and I am afraid I still do to some extent. Her range is limited and I personally have difficulty with understanding the lyrics at times. That said she has more control since the last time I saw her and the vocals are more earthy which I like. I have always liked artists that leave their comfort zone and look for progression – ‘The Dirty Truth’ certainly does that and I applaud this very talented lady – can’t wait to see where she goes next.
O2 Arena, London 29/10/15
The theme and title of U2's current created for arena’s tour is "Innocence and Experience". Those ideas don’t stay perfectly separated in life, nor do they in the band’s complicated and forceful show. And over their 39-year career, U2’s live shows have oscillated between gravely sincere and daftly ironic. This quite frankly had put this reviewer off until now. I had heard about the band’s 1997 PopMart tour when they arrived on stage in a giant flying lemon, dressed like The Village People. Ten years previously, they had toured the world as po-faced Blues journeymen, all ponytails and pomposity. Perhaps it’s only with the benefit of hindsight, as they enter the twilight of their career, that they’ve been able to make sense of their decades together. So while this show was going to be musically varied and ambitiously staged, it was to be hoped that it had a compelling narrative and intimate feel.
If the goal was to re-connect with fans after 2011’s dodgy Glastonbury appearance and September 2014’s bungled giveaway of their latest and thirteenth album ‘Songs of Innocence’ - downloaded automatically to 500 million people’s iTunes accounts, irrespective of their musical tastes - then they succeeded. The show suggested a band at ease with itself. And there wasn’t a giant lemon or a ponytail in sight thank god! In fact, the 02 Arena lights were still on as Bono slipped onto the runway almost unnoticed..Clearly he feels he has no longer anything to prove then. The only thing that looked odd was his beach bob that makes him look like a leather trousered Freddie Starr!!
This six-night residency at the 02 Arena, and their first indoor UK concerts for 14 years, are being performed in the round across two stages linked by a walkway. There was a cage with vast see-through LED video screens as walls hung overhead. For U2, this was stripped back. And for the first five songs - during the part of the show that dealt with U2’s past in Dublin - there were no coloured lights, no screens, nothing. Just four men playing under a single oversized light bulb, like a multi-millionaire pub band. For a band whose previous, stadium-filling 360° tour lasted two years and was the highest grossing tour of all time, this run of dates counts as positively intimate.
Even if you’re not a fan of U2 seeing them play live is quite a unique and impressive experience. The Irish rockers opened their set with ‘The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)‘, a confident performance with an anthemic chorus and drubbing rhythm. The was part of the opening salvos which included ‘Gloria’ from second album ‘October’ and ‘I Will Follow’ from 1980 debut album ‘Boy’ with a stonking version of ‘Vertigo’ in between which was well received and very apt giving the WRC crew were ensconced in the cheap seats in Row M of Level 4!!
The projections screens play an important role in the stage show and are as an impressive of a use of digital technology in an arena as it can get. Particular attention has been lavished on a chunk of the ‘Songs of Innocence’ material, which opened with ‘Iris (Hold Me Close)’, Bono's ode to his late mother and which was illustrated with home movies of his parents' wedding as the singer advanced down a catwalk into the midst of it. The beautiful artwork on the screens is used to depict the street he grew up on during ‘Cedarwood Road’ and Bono simulates walking down it, as references to Bowie and the Sex Pistols swirled around, endearing the audience closer to him and the band. In ‘Song for Someone’, he sang to an animated version of himself on a screen, at 18, playing guitar in his bedroom. “He’s trying to write a song to impress a girl named Alison Stewart”, Bono said of his younger self. That girl later became his wife. “She’s here tonight; I’m still working on it.” (Nice: the past as present.)
In ‘Raised By Wolves’, surround-sound guitar noise preceded the sonic simulation of a car bomb and images of the 33 Dubliners killed by such explosives on May 17, 1974. The whole band had already shifted themselves to the narrow stretch of the catwalk for 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and perform the homage to the war stood side-by-side as illustrations of Ireland at a time of war are shown. Bono belts out his part with touching sincerity. It ended with Larry Mullen beating a single snare drum hung round his neck (a reminder of his time in the Artane Boys Band), as a car bomb exploded on the screen above him. It was brutally effective and quite brilliant.
The band played ‘Invisible’ and ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’ between and inside the screens, so that each side of the audience saw the four musicians only through dropouts in a digital projection of the Berlin Wall having previously revamped a version of ‘The Fly’ as a piece of ambient techno and used it as a soundtrack for the “virtual" Wall. During ‘Until The End Of The World’ guitarist the Edge wanders inside it while a huge video Bono spits water over him or holds him in the palm of his hand, before both are swept away by a Biblical cartoon flood. The phrase "old dogs, new tricks" springs to mind but it was completely captivating and so bloody clever. U2’s flirtations with technology have always veered from the cutting-edge to the cheesy, and the trend continued as for ‘Mysterious Ways’ they pull a rather beautiful woman from Sarajevo from the crowd to join them on the “E Stage" to film them during ‘Elevation’ and the shaky footage becomes a simultaneous live stream for subscribers to a mobile video app. More effective is ‘Every Breaking Wave’, a melancholy ballad sighed by Bono accompanied only by The Edge on piano. Between those two songs, and a pleasant surprise here for me, was to hear ‘New Year's Day’. Still one of their best as far as WTS is concerned….
And of course U2 would not be U2 if they did not compulsively meld the personal and the political, and ‘October’ is accompanied by harrowing images of the devastation being wrought by the bombing of Syria. Fleeing migrants and Isis training camps illustrate ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’, as with megaphone in hand Bono recites the complaints of critics of his global activism: “You’re part of the problem, and exclaimed about himself: “Have you forgotten who you are?! Have you forgotten where you come from?! You’re Irish!” An explosive and discordant instrumental steered the highly political song forwards, while white lights coruscated as the Edge struck his guitar. You might question whether you go to a rock show for a seminar on history and politics, or for that matter to be bombarded with audio-visual leaflets promoting Bono's assorted good causes (AIDS, poverty, starvation and the refugee crisis all got a mention during the show, with plugs for Amnesty International and RED - Bono's AIDS-fighting charity). But U2 have been doing this a long time, so if you don't know them by now, you probably won't be at these shows anyway.
The second half really did focus on the world-conquering half of U2’s career. And the set closing back-to-back ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, ‘Pride’ and ‘With or Without You’ would be hard to beat in any setting. And here they were simply majestic, just colossal pop rock songs. Edge’s guitar fills space like no other guitarist can claim. An elaborate effects board, multiple amps, and extraordinary technique meant that Bono had already at the beginning rightfully introduced Edge as the genius of the band. He is not wrong.
Then, a recorded introduction by Stephen Hawking telling us "we must become global citizens" leads into an encore that climaxes with the band bringing the priestess of punk herself Patti Smith on stage for intimate performances of Smith’s ‘Gloria’ and her 1988 classic hit ‘People Have the Power’ which U2 are using as their entry music for this current tour but had never played in full until now. I’m not convinced all the U2 devotees in the crowd knew who she was, but they punched the air and sang along. Patti still has the power alright and to see her singing with one of the many bands that bear her influence was a joy to behold..
In summary, no other band with just a guitar, bass, drums and vocals and no overdubs sound quite so huge as U2 do live. Which is what I wanted to hear. Although Wrinkly was a tad disappointed!! He still didn't find what he was looking for as the band didn't play it!!. However, they still do this rock band thing better than the rest and it was a remarkable show. When it's all said and done, no one communicates a singular undefined emotion to millions as clearly and succinctly as U2. However the greatest risk is that one-day they will not be able to better what they’ve done before, but fortunately we’re not there just yet. There are certain concerts that go down in history, and it’s hard to believe that this wouldn’t be one.
The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Song For Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised By Wolves
Until The End Of The World
Even Better Than The Real Thing
New Year's Day
Every Breaking Wave
Bullet The Blue Sky
Where The Streets Have No Name
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
With Or Without You
City Of Blinding Lights (Stephen Hawking speech intro)
Mother And Child Reunion (Paul Simon cover- partial)
People Have The Power (Patti Smith song)(with Patti Smith)
Wrinkly The Silver
Crobot, Scorpion Child, Buffalo Summer, The Underworld,
So much good music - so little time! The WRC are so fortunate to have strong ties with fans, bands and of course publicists. Consequently Pennsylvanian band Crobot have been on the WRC radar for a while now but it wasn't until (appropriately on a flight back from the US recently) I found their album 'Something Supernatural' on the Virgin playlist - something that I was well impressed with! Given the fact that I was also told if you’re a fan of the album you’ll be absolutely be blown away by their live show - consequently attending one of their gig's was a no-brainer.
Anyway, as expected The Underworld rocked as Buffalo Summer, Scorpion Child and headliners Crobot began their UK Invasive Species Tour by blowing the bloody roof off of the Camden venue last Friday night! Partly due to the early curfew - but more to do with the fact that we spent too long drinking upstairs in The World's End - we missed the start of Buffalo Summer's set (sorry guys). Hailing from South Wales - their tag of an effortlessly up beat; groove-laden; sing along balls out Rock 'n Roll band was immediately apparent as we caught the end of their set. 'Rolls On Through', with a great riff from guitarist Jonny Williams, was complimented by Gareth Hunt's drumming plus another great guitar solo from Williams on the catchy 'A Horse Called Freedom'. 'Down To The River' rocked but they saved the best for last with 'Money' it's 'Zep' influences oozing through - with vocalist Andrew Hunt's voice and mannerisms a la Plant and the energetic bass of Darren King finishing with 'A Back In Black' outro! Promise we will definitely give these guys the courtesy of witnessing a full set next time we see them!
Crobot's Nuclear Blast riffing label mates Scorpion Child were next up and they would take the 'Zep' inference to another level. The Texan flags were unfurled and the five-piece band from Austin were ready to unleash their brand of Heavy - Acid Rock. Positioned at the front, we literally witnessed an in your face performance as vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black continually rocked his microphone stand back and forth, patted the heads of the assembled photographers and finally leapt into the crowd - not crowd surfing as such - but just giving a friendly embrace to those lucky enough to be within the vicinity. But just as importantly the music rocked as well with Christopher Jay Cowart on lead guitar, Jon "Charn" Rice on drums, Alec "Mexecutioner" Padron on bass plus the rockin' heavy keys of AJ Vincent added a welcome dimension to their genre. Stand out's in the set were 'Liquor', 'Polygon Of Eyes' and ‘She Sings, I Kill’ - a new track given a furtive glimpse into our forthcoming 'Sophomore' album. Another great band - consequently we not only got the t-shirt but also one of Jon's drumsticks!
Follow that! Well headliners Crobot are an American hard rock band from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, composed of Brandon Yeagley (vocals/harmonica) , Chris Bishop (guitar), Jake Figueroa (bass) and brother Paul Figueroa (drums). Their album 'Something Supernatural' smacks of Creed, Wolfmother and Velvet Revolver - so it was fitting that they launched proceedings with 'The Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer' - testament that there was going to be no let up in the the intensity of evening. Other 'SS' tracks were lapped up by the Crobot faithful particularly the classy 'Skull Of Geronimo', 'Le Mano de Lucifer', 'Nowhere To Hide' and the brilliant 'The Queen Of The Light'. Yeagley's vocals, stage presence (and harmonica on 'The Necromancer') were immense, Jake's antics were reminiscent of Animal from The Muppets playing bass, Bishop is literally huge (and more importantly plays a mean guitar) whilst Paul's driving drums pulled it all together. Bravely, they did play some new stuff though - particularly towards the tail end with 'Edge Of The Sun', 'Hold On For Dear Life' and 'Upon A Pale Horse' - but finished off an awesome night returning to 'SS's 'Fly On The Wall'. You can't knock the energy and quality of Crobot's performance although it will be interesting to see how 'second album syndrome' kicks in - given how high the bar is following 'Something Supernatural'. The tour culminates with both Scorpion Child and Crobot supporting English Rockers Heaven's Basement at the Engine Rooms, Southampton on Thursday 3rd December. If you love traditional 60/70's Rock then do not miss them!
King King, O2 Academy, Islington,
11 November 2015
As the nights close in, and this year’s season of outdoor festivals fades into the memory, the UK’s beacon for live music passes to its innumerable indoor venues. Last night, the place to be was definitely the O2 Academy, with its promise of a double bill of virtuoso blues guitarists.
The evening started with the Ben Poole Band. Could Ben live up to the ringing endorsements he’s already received from Jeff Beck, Paul Jones and the late Gary Moore? He didn’t take long to answer. Ably assisted by Craig Bacon on drums and Matt Field on bass guitar he launched straight into a series of ferocious Blues numbers that gave him ample opportunity to demonstrate his skills on the guitar, and his range of vocals. Not that his whole set was explosive: the highlight for me was ‘Time Might Never Come’, an emotional tribute to Gary Moore with a slow, poignant start that gradually built up to an arousing climax. Gary would have been proud and impressed.
Possibly the only mistake in Ben’s set was its early start: at 7:30 many people were still travelling to the Academy and the audience was comparatively sparse. It built up steadily during the performance and, when he finished at 8:15, was large and appreciative. An 8pm start may have been better for both the band and its audience.
As winners of the Best Band category at the British Blues Awards for the last three years, King King definitely had a reputation to live up to. Furthermore, at this year’s awards ceremony, Alan Nimmo was both Best Vocalist and runner up Guitarist (to Aynsley Lister), and Wayne Procter has won the Drummer category in four of the last five years (what went wrong in 2012, Wayne?). And, as if to demonstrate they are not solely reliant on Blues awards, King King were nominated as Best New Band at this year’s Classic Rock Awards. Not that they’re particularly new: King King was formed from already established musicians in 2010 and have already released three acclaimed albums.
King King are based in Glasgow, but their current line-up has an international flavour with Bob Fridzema hailing from Rotterdam. Bob plays the Hammond organ and keyboard as well as providing supporting vocals. Alan Nimmo’s guitar and vocals front the band; Lindsay Coulson’s bass guitar accentuates Alan’s lead; Wayne Proctor’s dazzling drums complete the line-up.
Last night King King wasted no time in proving both their rock credentials, opening with ‘Lose Control’, and their Blues roots, following up with ‘Wait on Time’. Their set encompassed tracks from all three of their albums, ranging from the slow, harmonious blues of ‘Jealousy’, to the raucous Rock of ‘Crazy’ and the emotional ‘You Stop the Rain’, dedicated to Alan’s brother Stevie.
Often when bands announce they’re about to play songs from their new album, you can almost hear the audience groaning. This definitely wasn’t the case last night: King King’s ‘Reaching for the Light’ has already won awards and is not only faster, louder and more energetic, it is also their most acclaimed and most exciting album to date. All the songs from the album were well received: the bustling riffs and tough vocals in ‘Hurricane’, the ballad ‘Lay with Me’, Lindsay’s pulsating bass on ‘Crazy’ and the slower, powerful Blues of ‘Stranger to Love’, well suited to Alan’s vocal range.
All that was left was to finish the evening on a high. This was achieved in style with ‘Let Love In’, with the audience providing a deafening echo to Alan’s one-liners.
Overall an excellent evening of Blues and Rock - if King King’s tour is coming anywhere near you, don’t miss it - especially if Ben Poole is in support.
Corky Laing Plays Mountain,
100 Club, London
15 November 2015
The irony was not lost on London's 100 Club crowd last Sunday, that just two night's earlier, an attrocity had been committed at another vibrant European Capital city. If that was not bad enough, the fact that the most heinous of the crimes had been committed at a live music venue in Paris made it all the more sickening - if that were possible. So Born Healer's Helen Turner's welcome was all the more poignant as she reflected and thanked the audience for supporting this gig.
Founded at the beginning of this year out of the now defunct but well respected Bare Bones Boogie Band - with Helen (vocals), Iain Black (guitar) and Andy Jones (drums) - they have been joined by bass guitarist Marek Funkas to form London Blues Rock band – Born Healer. They opened with Funkas' (never was a surname more appropriate) cool bassline on 'River' followed by 'Trust Yourself' - Turner's groovy, gravelly voice and stage presence coming to the fore. After 'Pressure Valve' Black's intro on 'Til The Dawn' took things down tempo for the 'Blues Police' in attendance. Classy. Following 'Share The Ride' and 'Brand New Day' - they covered Taj Mahal's 'Leaving Trunk' which grooved and rocked in true 60's/70's acknowledgement. However, after 'Healing Hands' they saved their best cover to last - sending one young lady near me into rapture (who was wearing the same boots as Helen apparently) - with Zep's 'Since I've Been Loving You' - faultless - as was the rest of the set - a standard that was going to dictate the rest of the evening.
It's really pleasing to see that The Rainbreakers - who opened our BluesRockfest in July - are getting the recognition they deserve. You couldn't meet a nicer bunch of hard working guys who despatched their traditional "on the road" tweet on their way up from Ilfracombe, Devon! The guys opened up with a combination cover of Hendrix's 'Third Stone from the Sun' and the groove of Albert Collins' 'If You Love Me Like You Say' but it's the strength of their own EP - as they followed up with 'On My Knees' and the title track 'Blood Not Brass' - that really sets them apart from the rest. The script was pretty much the same as BluesRockfest with Free's 'Fire And Water' and the guys completing their EP with 'AlI I Got' and the stand-out riff driven finale 'Ain't Nothin' Goin' On'. But to be fair Ben (Lead Vocals), Jack (Lead Guitar), Peter (Bass) and Sam (Drums) seem a lot tighter now and it would be unfair to single any of them out - given they are really revelling in their delivery - throwing in two new covers - The Wood Brothers 'Honey Jar' and a surreal Monophonics version of 'Bang Bang'. Well played chaps - ain't nothin' goin' on? You're having a laugh!
The legendary Power-Rock band Mountain made its electrifying debut at Woodstock, in the summer of 1969. Thirty-five years and millions of album sales later, the line up still included the whiskeyvoiced singer/guitarist, Leslie West, and the incomparable Corky Laing on drums when the WRC saw them at the Mick Jagger Centre, Dartford, in 2005. Another ten years down the line, and with West unable to tour because of health issues (watch out for news of a new CD release later this week), it's now "Corky Laing plays Mountain" joined by guitarist Phil Baker and bassist Joe Venti. Well Laing delivered exactly what it said on the tin as the heavy power trio kicked off with Mountain's 'Silver Paper', followed by Venti's bass riff on 'Never In My Life' and then the rockin' 'Long Red'. An early inclusion of an abridged version of the iconic 'Nantucket Sleighride' was a surprise - with Venti's vocals commanding the middle of the stage with unquestionable support from Baker's brilliant guitar and Laing's magical sticks either side of him.
And if 'Nantucket' had not set the scene then the clanking cowbell of 'Mississippi Queen' plus the classic 'Theme From An Imaginary Western' not only took us to another level but the latter also touched upon Laing's work with the late great Jack Bruce. It was then back to '69 with 'Dreams Of Milk And Honey/Blood Of The Sun' before, mid-set, Corky's undeniable presence multiplied with his own drum solo and vocals on Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone' followed by 'Don't Look Around' and 'Sittin' On A Rainbow' -which maintained the momentum. Laing also made reference to the events in Paris - although you could have filed his anecdotal intro to 'Yasgur’s Farm' under the category 'You couldn't make it up'. Corky's story being that he never actually played with Mountain at Woodstock but ended up on the soundtrack recording with Ten Years After and won two Gold Discs! Given Laing is now 67 - he is not showing it - as testified nearing the end of this awesome set on 'Travelling In The Dark'. A departure from the Mountain trail was the classic West Bruce and Laing 'Doctor' followed by a further nod to Bruce with a Cream medley finale featuring 'Politician' and of course 'Sunshine of Your Love'.
A top night for all the punters that were there to witness three quality bands - but also a fitting tribute to those in Paris who needlessly died or were injured - doing what they loved - listening to live music.
Vive La Musique!
St. Moritz Club, London
23 November 2015
Just two days after they supported Walter Trout at The Forum, London - Nashville rock trio SIMO - led by JD Simo - played an exclusive showcase gig at the St. Moritz Club in Soho, London, on Monday night. Situated not far from the old Marquee Club and personally recommended by Joe Bonamassa as “Old school to the max and playing vintage guitars - JD is one of the best out there right now…one of the guys on the scene I’d love to jam with” - the prospect was understandably mouthwatering in advance of their new album 'Let Love Show The Way' - due to be released on Friday 29th January 2016.
Eight days earlier we had witnessed the legendary Power Rock of Mountain plus the influences of Cream and Ten Years After and to be honest - despite its history as part of the London music scene - this was the first time I had visited the St. Moritz. Indeed the venue made the 100 Club look mightily spacious - although ironically indicative of both the 60's live music scene and the emergence of the classic rock, blues and psychedelic genre. Anyway, just as the chosen few had secured their vantage points, bass player Elad Bishop and drummer Adam Abrashoff fought their way through the crowd before a laid back JD arrived with his guitar case - no standing on ceremony from these guys. Loved it already.
JD immediately ripped into a cover of Willie Dixon's Blues classic 'You Need Love' - well it was a showcase - and Simo duly demonstrated that as well as playing a mean guitar he had the vocals to match - well complemented by Bishop's bass also. And if you wanted Classic Rock straight from the 70's - well the short but effective riff of 'Right Now' (not to be confused with 'Alright Now') left you in doubt that they could rock out as well. SIMO then debuted one of their new songs from 'LLSTW', namely 'Two Timin Woman' the intensity of which could not be confused with Hank Snow's classic of the same name. And talking of classic's - the initial pull for me to this gig was when I heard a demo of 'I'll Always Be Around' - JD's slide and Abrashoff's drumming intro enticing you in - before this standout track explodes into life. Cue mandatory JD guitar solo and you have a reason for buying 'LLSTW' on its own - although was a tad bit disappointed that they didn't air the other "LLSTW' demo 'Becky's Last Occupation'.
Yet another from 'LLSTW' - the storming 'I'd Rather Die In Vain' - gave us a full house on the genre bingo card - Jimi's Blue Plaque just up the road in W1 was no doubt reverberating to this nod to his legend. It was then back to the Blues and to their 'Love Vol. 1' EP and 'What's On Your Mind' - a track that not only JD has performed before using Duanne Allman's Les Paul but also many would think is a Blues standard and a cover. Praise indeed. The 'Big Country' style opening riff of 'Long May You Sail' lead into another SIMO epic from 'LLSTW' and a bonus ball with Progressive rock overtones - the togetherness of this three-piece never being more apparent now than during their entire set. The prog flag continued to fly with 'Off at 11' again from 'Love Vol. 1' plus I suppose the obligatory but great drum solo from Abrashoff. There's no doubt that JD's voice has a certain 'Cocker' about it - so the opening guitar salvo to 'With a Little Help From My Friends' made the proverbial hairs on the back of the neck stand up. This necessitated banter later as to what was the better cover - Janis or Joe? One thing for sure was that SIMO nailed it! And there was room from one encore - 'Evil' from their first self-titled album - doffing their caps to Zep with its 'How Many More Times' type riff which - par for the course - proceeded into a jam - but rounded off a wonderful evening that had transported us back in time to when bands and small venues rocked. Given the forthcoming release of "LLSTW' - you have to question whether we will ever be able to witness this intimacy again.
Sari Schorr and the Engine Room, Surya, London
7 December 2015
Seeing someone new can be exciting. Is this band or this musician the next big thing? Or at least one to keep an eye on? Or a nonentity puffed up by hype? On 7th December at the Surya in north London, Manhatton Records invited an audience to see their newest American artist, Sari Schorr, run through a few songs. The calibre of people there supporting New Yorker Sari was impressive. The head of the record company, the producer of Sari's upcoming album, veteran producer Mike Vernon and a band including noted guitarist Innes Sibun. Mike gave an insight into why he has chosen to work with Sari, "Sari is a great singer-songwriter, with a good attitude, professional and good looking. I met her at the Blues Awards in Memphis, she was different from the others floating around. She sent me demo's, and we met and now she has a hand-picked bunch of guys in her band."
Sari's band ran through songs including 'Ain't Got No Money', in which Sari showed that however she is financially, she has plenty of voice, singing at a penetrative, but still musical, yell. By the close of her second song, 'Demolition Man', Sari had a hardened audience of media, venue managers and DJ's, unprimed by free booze (sadly) or any other stimulants, whooping and clapping. Where the bulk of Sari's songs were pumped out loud and fast by her band, The Engine Room, 'Oklahoma' particularly showed a mellower side. In another strong song, 'Kiss Me', Sari's added a tribute to her three pitbull terriers. Innes Sibun's guitar wove some impressive solos throughout and a particular highlight was Anders Olinder, playing beautuifully on keys and organ. One song to really look forward to on the album will be the powerful 'Aunt Hazel', which has nothing to do with family relations and a lot more to do with New York and drugs.
So, how far will Sari go? Somewhere towards the top of the glass ceiling of the Blues, for certain, as she is a genuine talent. The most striking thing about Sari was her attitude. She gives her music, and the audience, everything. Even to the extent of belting out songs at 100% in her warm up when the audience consisted of her producer, the soundman, and your correspondent. Impressive.
15 December 2015
It can be difficult to be objective when you go to a charity gig because it is very easy to get caught up in the emotion of the evening. Don’t get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with that but part of the evening for me was to cast my eye over U2-2 with a view for them to appear at one of our events so no pressure.
Before the band took to the stage there was the opportunity for the organiser of the event Ciara Lawrence Jones to welcome everyone and give an insight into the works of the charity and areas that not everyone would be aware of their involvement in. Ciara also was keen to share personal information in that in her early life there was discrimination due to her learning disabilities but that she had overcome all of that to achieve so much including being happily married.
Ciara signed off by introducing U2-2 (an apt choice as she is the cousin of The Edge) and as AJ said on the website on the day of the gig would they move in Mysterious Ways? Well I don’t know about that but from the moment they took to the stage they certainly held the attention of those in attendance. For a start they certainly had more than a passing resemblance to the real thing (ok try and ignore the The Edge had become left-handed) and it was clear that they meant business.
With the crowd already warmed up with the first two tracks “Bono” was quick to latch on to the lyrics of the next track namely 'Even Better Than the Real Thing' by motioning to each member of the band as he repeated the lyric – no one in the crowd appeared to disagree with the sentiment. Next up was 'Mysterious Ways' which AJ had eluded too and the noise from the crowd moved up a notch. The set was moving along nicely before organiser Ciara was invited on to the stage to duet with Bono to the anthem 'I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For' – to say the roof came off is an understatement and it was thoroughly deserved. With the crowd fully engaged by now they were not going to slacken the pace and three heavyweight tracks followed in 'Vertigo', 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' and 'Beautiful Day' soon to be joined by 'I Will Follow'. If that wasn’t enough we still had 'Streets Have No Name' and 'With Or Without You' to come. Brilliant evening and not just because of the quality of the band.
I don’t want to get involved in the politics of Tribute Bands v Originals Bands but I will say that I believe there is room for both and instead of arguing for one or the other it would seem appropriate to embrace both sides – live music is struggling these days so let’s use all quality acts Originals, Covers and Tributes to help keep music venues open.
This was a great night, with a great band for a great cause – end of!!!
Def Leppard, Whitesnake,
Black Star Riders
Wembley Arena, London
18 December 2015
At this time of year when 'Fairytale Of New York' is churned out once again - the Ugly Ducking fairytale in reverse springs to mind given Black Star Riders reinvented themselves from Thin Lizzy. This point is hammered home as Lizzy legend Scott Gorham makes his way on to the Wembley stage just before 7 to a half empty arena. With a restricted forty minute set, literally 'All Hell Breaks Loose' as BSR hit the ground running with the classy title track from their very first album - with Gorham's guitar already in overdrive. Ricky Warwick then asks "Are You Ready?" and of course the arena starts to rock as those unique Lizzy guitar harmonies ring around the auditorium. It's then back to the title track of their second album 'The Killer Instinct' which again has those distinct Lizzy chords with guitarist Damon Johnson showing that he's just not there to make up the numbers. We then see-saw back to 'Jailbreak' - Warwick's vocals as usual are spot-on for my all-time favourite Lizzy track. Brilliant. 'Bound For Glory' was followed by the opening Celtic drum intro from the excellent Jimmy DeGrasso on 'Kingdom Of The Lost' also from 'AHBL' - a latter day 'Black Rose'. However the stand-out BSR track of the night was 'Finest Hour' from 'TKI' - not forgetting new recruit Robert Crane on bass (who replaced Marco Mendoza) completing a formidable BSR unit. The guys finished with 'Whisky In The Jar' and to be pefectly honest we could have quite easily gone home happy after that opener. Black Star Riders might still have a bit of an identity problem but who cares when they produce music of this quality.
Whitesnake opened the set with a thundering re-worked version of the classic 1975 Deep Purple track ‘Burn’. Whitesnake featured a new line-up with Michele Luppi making his debut for the Snakes on keyboards. The new version of ‘Burn’ lost none of the original song’s energy and was suited to the twin lead guitars of Hoeksta and Beach whilst Luppi’s keyboards added that extra dimension. Whilst the concert was to promote the new ‘Purple Album’ I was delighted that with no time wasted, Whitesnake launched into ‘Bad Boys’ written little over a decade after ‘Burn’ and from the brilliant 1987 album and followed this with ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’. Both of these songs were fantastically executed and retained authenticity with the original versions despite the band’s new line-up. Back to the ‘Purple Album’ and Whitesnake treated us to ‘The Gypsy’. Originally from Deep Purple’s ‘Stormbringer’ album, this too had received an updated touch but lost nothing in transition to 2015. As a Blackmore fanatic and loving the original version of this song, I felt this was a very credible version and performed extremely well.
The next song was again from the 1987 Whitesnake album, 'Give Me All Your Love' and this was followed by 'Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City'. The following three songs, however, were from the Purple album, with 'Mistreated' the next. Personally I didn’t think the “Snaked-up” version of this song with twin guitars worked and needed the Coverdale/Blackmore bluesy collaboration. 'You Fool No-One', however, more than made up for it though with this culminating in a stunning Tommy Aldridge drum solo before Reb Beach exchanged his electric guitar for an acoustic one for the 'Stormbringer' classic 'Soldier Of Fortune'. The last four songs of the night were Whitesnake belters; ‘Is This Love’, Fool For Your Loving’, ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Still Of The Night’. All of these were big songs and they nailed each of these. ‘Still Of The Night’ rounded off the evening to much applause from the audience before Whitesnake left the stage to a recorded “We wish you well.” Some criticism had been made of Coverdale’s voice not being what it was, however, despite his 64 years Coverdale proved he still could still belt out a tune and keep a capacity crowd happily entertained. Having bought the ‘Purple Album’ I had some reservations on what to expect. Nevertheless, a very enjoyable performance. Thoroughly enjoyed it so well done Whitesnake.
Def Leppard strolled into London's Wembley Arena heavily armed with their hits from the 80's and early 90's. Kicking off with 'Lets Go', 'Animal', 'Undefeated', 'Dangerous' and 'Love Bites' made the opening twenty minutes feel like one. Bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen hold a tight ship at the bottom end, while Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell (ex-Whitesnake/Dio) dual guitar attack compliment each other perfectly. Lead singer Joe Elliot delivers the hard rocking songs and ballads with ease aided by all the band's players contributing impressive harmonies. Phil Collen who plays shirtless with a six-pack at 57 years of age - certainly had the ladies around us 'wide-eyed'. Ending with 'Pour Some Sugar With Me' and encoring with 'Rock Of Ages' and 'Photograph' you got what you paid for!