Monthly Archives: October 2014

Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 29/10/14

For those looking for fuzzed-up  glam-punk, squealing Hendrix-style feedback and guitar wizardry then Bernie Tormé is clearly the one to look to. In fact, if this is what you are looking for then Bernie Tormé is probably the only one to look to.

Part punk, part hippy, Dublin-born Tormé, first came to prominence in the late 70s/early 80s as the guitarist with Gillan. His distinctive riffing was as much an intrinsic part of that band’s sound as Ian Gillan’s instantly recognizable vocals. There has been something of a slight interlude since I last caught up with Tormé, however. In fact, the last time I saw him was not long after he left Gillan and was busy promoting his then new solo album, Electric Gypsies.

Skip forward thirty years and Tormé is in London’s Borderline promoting another brand new solo album, Flowers and Dirt, with a classic trio line-up of guitar/vocals, bass and drums. The first song they play though is an old one. Hearing them kick off with Wild West, a great energetic song from the aforementioned Electric Gypsies album, was a delight. That’s not to say there was not plenty of room for new material tonight, however. Several songs from Flowers and Dirt make an appearance and although he has never stopped playing and recording, the album may deliver something of a career renaissance for the guitarist and songwriter. It is Tormé’s first solo album in fifteen years and following an enormously successful crowdfunding appeal this summer, it’s been attracting very favourable reviews. Partytown is one of the new songs from the album that’s performed tonight. Raw and raucous with frantic riffing and the type of chorus you can immediately sing along to, it’s classic unadulterated Tormé

Nicely balanced between old and new material, the crowd were given a great set tonight covering various stages of Torme’s career. For me, Lightning Strikes and Turn Out the Lights were both very welcome inclusions from the earlier days. The main set ended with those two early rock n roll classics that were both given a new lease of life by Tormé’s former band Gillan, back in the early 80s: Trouble and New Orleans. As the band are called back on stage for an encore and perform two more covers, Bony Moronie and Jimi Hendrix’s Fire, I did begin wondering why I’d left it quite so long before catching up with this unique performer once more. But it was certainly worth the thirty-year wait.

Setlist:
Wild West
Bullet in The Brain
Blood Run Cold
Turn Out the Lights
Getting There
Partytown
Your Voodoo
Star
Lockjaw
Lightning Strikes
Stoneship
Rocky Road (From Dublin)
Can’t Beat Rock ‘N’ Roll
Trouble
New Orleans
Encore:
Bony Moronie
Fire

http://www.bernietorme.co.uk/

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Bernie Marsden at Jazz Cafe 22/10/14

When I first moved to London twenty-odd years ago and eagerly began scouring listings magazines the Jazz Café always sounded to me like it must surely be one of the capital’s coolest venues with unimaginable levels of sophistication for a northern boy like me. It isn’t. It’s pretty much like any other well-run small music venue, as I finally get to find on my visit to see ex-Whitesnake guitar ace, Bernie Marsden.

Whitesnake, with a constantly-evolving line-up, made the transition from bluesy and very British heavy rock band to slick American-based hair-metal outfit. Marsden was very much part of the earlier period. Later on he and his superb band will perform some classic songs from those days: Fool for Your Loving, Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City and Here I Go Again. But anyone wanting a whole evening dedicated to Whitesnake nostalgia is best off looking to other bands on the circuit. Marsden has much broader musical heritage to draw on and a brand new album, Shine, to promote as well. We hear a number of songs from Shine, including show-opener Bad Blood and the ecologically-themed Who Do We Think We Are. Marsden is a guitar wizard but his songwriting, just like in those classic Whitesnake days, is always catchy and melodic, never just a platform for technical noodling. He also gives us a beautiful version of Fleetwood Mac’s Dragonfly, recalling past collaborations with Peter Green, as well as a version of Sitting On Top of the World in tribute to Jack Bruce.

Those early Whitesnake classics drew the biggest applause tonight and were undoubtedly amongst the highlights of the evening. But it’s fair to say there’s much more to Marsden that that as tonight shows.

Setlist:
Strictly Latino
Bad Blood
Wedding Day
Born Under a Bad Sign
Ladyfriend
Who Do We Think We Are?
Dragonfly
Kinda Wish She Would
Fool for Your Loving
Sitting on Top of the World
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City
Walk Away
A Place in My Heart
Here I Go Again
Encore:
Hoxie Rollin’ Time

http://www.berniemarsden.co.uk/

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Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 4/10/14

I first got into Ian Hunter aged fifteen when I bought a second-hand version of Mott the Hoople’s Mott album. Everything about it appealed to me: Hunter’s eccentric but instantly recognisable vocals, Mick Ralphs‘ guitar, the pounding rock piano, the catchy and highly memorable songs. I was a fan straight away and soon began scouring the second-hand shops for other Mott the Hoople albums. Then I moved on to Hunter’s solo career. And while it’s true that some lead singers from classic name bands went on to make some pretty ropey solo albums, I was pleasantly surprised when I bought Hunter’s You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic to find that his solo albums were equally brilliant, too. So it’s fair to say that I’ve followed his career closely for well over thirty years now, eagerly buying every new album as it’s released, seeing him solo on numerous occasions as well as catching both Mott the Hoople reunions.

And so to tonight. Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a wonder in itself. It’s always great to be inside this old Edwardian music hall, seeing it given renewed life as one of London’s iconic rock venues. It’s no stranger to live performances from Mr Hunter and is the perfect setting for this, the last night of the tour. After the support band finish Hunter saunters on stage about 9pm, every inch the cool rock star. It’s scarcely believable he’s now 75 years of age and it’s even more unbelievable he still continues to write, record and perform highly original and consistently good songs that continue to attract glowing reviews. Although he is shrewd enough not to disappoint audiences who want to be able to celebrate some of the classic songs from his earlier career, he has eschewed a life of constantly touring mere greatest hits packages, however. Tonight therefore, we get brilliantly original songs from his more recent career, like When I’m President and Girl From the Office, alongside older solo standards, like Once Bitten Twice Shy and Irene Wilde, as well as a smattering of Mott the Hoople classics, like All the Way from Memphis and I Wish I was Your Mother. It’s a great mix and the quality of the songwriting shines throughout, as does Hunter’s wonderfully distinctive voice which has not diminished with age. He is assisted by his excellent  five-piece backing band, The Rant Band, who each display incredible musicianship, from the slower more poignant ballads to the all-out rockers.

As the main setlist comes to an end and the crowd loudly call for an encore Hunter, invites old bandmate, Mick Ralphs, on to the stage and they launch into Roll Away the Stone, Life (a new Hunter anthemic sing-along from his last studio album) and the inevitable but still brilliant All the Young Dudes.  Indisputable evidence that Ian Hunter remains one of the most interesting and entertaining artists on the planet.

Setlist:
(I’m The) Teacher
Once Bitten Twice Shy
Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman)
Something To Believe In
Now Is The Time
When I’m President
Boy
I Wish I Was Your Mother
All American Alien Boy
Black Tears
All the Way from Memphis
Irene Wilde
Flowers
Wash Us Away
Girl From the Office
23A, Swan Hill
Bastard
Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)
Sweet Jane
– Encore – (with Mick Ralphs):
Roll Away the Stone
Life / All the Young Dudes / (Miss) Silver Dime
Goodnight, Irene

http://ianhunter.com/main/

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Hawkwind at The Old Market, Hove 29/9/14

Although I’d seen various Hawkwind offshoots composed of various combinations of ex-members, tonight is the first time I’d seen the band, formed in 1969, that continues to carry the Hawkwind name to this day. The Old Market is a small to medium sized venue and is absolutely jam-packed this evening. The audience are suitably attired, looking pretty much exactly as you would expect at a Hawkwind gig, even if some of them have walking sticks. However, there is a healthy smattering of 20- and 30-somethings  throughout the crowd, too. Proof that the band are still reaching new audiences, even today.

I’d not caught Hawkwind themselves before and I’ve never taken LSD before either. However, the light show, a constant backdrop of swirling fluorescent computerised graphics (on top of numerous pints of the venue’s guest real ale) started to give me a reasonable approximation of what it might be like. Talk about putting you in the right mood. The band themselves are great. All the classic ingredients of the trademark Hawkwind  space-rock sound are present: the pounding, rumbling bass; the whoops and bleeps; Dave Brock’s ever present guitar as well as strong and convincing vocals from current lead singer, Mr Dibs. Of the songs, there is a good selection of classic Hawkwind material: Assault and Battery Uncle Sam’s on Mars, Orgone Accumulator, Motorway City all made an appearance. Sadly though, there was no Silver Machine this evening, the band encoring with Reefer Madness instead. My one main quibble.

Wikipedia painstakingly lists thirty-nine different line-up of this band throughout its history, guitarist Brock being the only constant member. However, the current line-up put on an entertaining show that is faithful to the spirit of Hawkwind for anyone who’s had more than a passing interest in the band and well worth seeing.

http://www.hawkwind.com/

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Oysterband with June Tabor at Bexhill-On-Sea 27/9/14

If you think you’ve seen the run of charming but fairly samey faded seafront concert venues, Bexhill-on-Sea’s De La Warr Pavilion is something quite spectacular. A beautiful and lovingly restored 1930s modernist building it proves to be a worthy setting for Oysterband and June Tabor.  Following an acoustic set from singer-songwriter (and talented guitarist) Sam Carter as support, the band initially do a set on their own featuring songs from their latest album, Diamonds on the Water, as well as older favourites.  The Wilderness, one of the new ones, was inspired by the band’s trip to Canada where, on a day off from touring, they experienced the natural wonders but also the potential dangers of the Rocky Mountains and its fearsome bear population. “You’re not the master here” goes the chorus of this poignant reflection on man and nature.

After a short break, Oysterband perform their second set with guest singer, the great June Tabor. Both band and singer have illustrious back catalogues and both are stalwarts of the folk and festival scene. But the two combined produce something very special indeed. Their first collaboration was in 1990 on the acclaimed Freedom and Rain album. They followed this up with a further collaboration in 2011, Ragged Kingdom, and live collaborations have continued on and off for many years. Their set tonight delivers songs from both of these albums, a superb mix of traditional folk songs, like Bonny Bunch of Roses and Dark Eyed Sailor, together with inspired folk-rock covers of such marvellously un-folky material as Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties and Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, which Tabor and John Jones of Oysterband sing as a duo.  Seeing is believing for anyone who has the slightest doubts about the beauty of these songs in the hands of Tabor and Oysterband.

The band has a distinctive sound. It’s folk-rock but, unlike their predecessors who pioneered the genre, having emerged in the late 70s rather than the late 60s the cultural references are different with a more contemporary feel and this is reflected in the sound. Allied with Tabor’s unique voice it is little wonder that this has been hailed as one of the most successful musical collaborations in the world of folk and folk-rock. The audience tonight is clearly in agreement. The appreciation and warm affection for both are clearly apparent throughout tonight’s performance.

http://www.oysterband.co.uk/

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