If British glam rock could be said to have a spiritual home then Bilston, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, has a strong claim to the title. Not only was it the place where Slade came together in the early days, for a number of years now its main live music venue The Robin 2 has seen a convergence of Sweet fans from all over Europe (and even further afield) on the occasions the band performs there. Before tonight’s gig Sweet fans from around Britain mingle with those from Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany and even a lady who has flown in from Tokyo.
So what inspires such devotion? Great songs of course – and we get the classic early 70s hits and much more besides; superb musicianship, too – although Andy Scott is the sole member from the classic 70s line-up this is a band of top-class rock musicians who most certainly are not just going through the motions; and exquisite harmonies – the high-range vocal harmonies are an iconic part of The Sweet’s trademark sound and this is a band made up of very talented vocalists.
Sadly, I never got to see the Connolly-Priest-Scott-Tucker version of the band. Only months after discovering The Sweet’s classic albums via the second-hand shops of Preston in the early 80s, the band rewarded my efforts by calling it a day. Since then I’ve seen numerous permutations of the revived band over the years. Without doubt, however, the current line up (Andy Scott on vocals guitar, Pete Lincoln on lead vocals and bass, Tony O’Hora on keyboards, guitar and vocals and Bruce Bisland on drums) is easily the strongest since the 70s.
Tonight, as you would expect, we get those big hits of the glam era from songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman: Hellraiser, Blockbuster!, Wig-Wam-Bam, Teenage Rampage and The Ballroom Blitz. We also get a couple of songs from their 2012 covers album: New York Groove and You Spin Me Round which are both given the trademark Sweet sound or “sweetified” as Lincoln would have it. Plus we get great renditions of some of their later self-penned singles: Fox on the Run, Action and the magnificent late-70s pomp rock of Love Is Like Oxygen. However, as the 70s progressed Sweet strove to become recognised as more of an albums band than a singles band. It never quite worked out that way, though they did produce some bloody brilliant albums in the process. And tonight we get a real flavour of Sweet the albums band, too, something fans won’t always hear from the band on the European festival circuit or the British Xmas tour circuit. Into The Night, AC-DC and Set Me Free are performed from the Sweet Fanny Adams album, all blistering rockers, together with a very lovely rendition of the acoustic number Lady Starlight (“my mum’s favourite Sweet song” Scott tells the crowd) from Desolation Boulevard, sung by Scott with just him and Lincoln on acoustic guitars.
The band won’t be around forever. Scott had a major cancer scare five years ago which he thankfully fully recovered from. Their European tour is billed as The Finale. “But a finale is followed by an encore…” Scott reassures the crowd. Tonight’s performance is proof that the band are still delivering musically and thirty-three years after buying my first second-hand Sweet album my own love affair with this band shows no signs of abating. A magnificent show from a magnificent, but criminally underrated, band.
New York Groove
Turn It Down
The Six Teens
Into The Night
You Spin Me Round
Love Is Like Oxygen
Set Me Free
Fox On The Run
The Ballroom Blitz