Monthly Archives: February 2015

Sam Kelly Trio at The Green Note 23/2/15

While I like to experience new acts, particularly new folk acts, I usually discover them as part of a festival line-up, or as support act to someone I do know or because I know one or more of the musicians from another project. It’s rare that I’ll go to a gig for someone I’m completely unfamiliar with, purely on spec. But the Sam Kelly Trio gig at Green Note in Camden caught my eye and here we are.

Singer and acoustic guitarist, Kelly, is joined by Jamie Francis on banjo and Evan Carson on drums/ bodhran. Although Kelly is clearly a talented singer song-writer, the trio set-up gives a real extra buzz to the performance. And although there’s a wide-range of material, from traditional English folk, to self-written, to country to traditional blues and more, the banjo gives the band a nice kind of Americana feel while at the same time remaining very, very English. And it gives the trio a clearly identifiable sound across the different types of material.

Tonight is the EP launch for their five-track release, Spokes. And for an event like this what would make more sense than performing the whole thing from start to finish in full? So after an initial selection of songs, ranging from country to blues, Kelly announces that this is precisely what the band will do. Highlights include a brilliantly lively version of traditional sailor’s song On Board a 98, which tells of a young man press-ganged into a life on the sea. The Kelly-penned Healing Hands is much gentler but a really beautiful song in the set. After performing all but the last track on the EP they do a couple of instrumental numbers and a Dylan cover then, called back for an encore, Kelly takes the stage alone to perform the final track from the EP. This is The Unquiet Grave, just him, his lovely vocals and beautiful acoustic guitar.

Tonight was a complete punt on a (to me) hitherto unknown act. But I’m glad I’ve become acquainted with the Sam Kelly Trio and I can see them going down a storm on the summer festival circuit.

http://www.samkelly.org/

11001742_10153134802641449_6565356293149104174_n

Never A Hero at The Black Heart, Camden 15/2/15

Like countless teen wannabes before them, guitarist Mickey Thin and his mate Daisy Lai formed a band at youth club. They were even lucky enough to get the chance to record an EP. Once inside the studio, Mickey and Daisy ,the band’s drummer, soon dumped their mates to join forces with the producer’s own band instead. Alternative metal band, Never A Hero was born.

Six years on and tonight this five-piece from Suffolk are at The Black Heart in Camden Town on the final night of their current tour. It’s a Sunday night. The venue is hardly packed and, thankfully, numbers are boosted by members of the other two bands on the tour sticking around for the final set. But the energy of the gig is incredible and the enthusiasm of the crowd is so infectious, at times it gets hard to believe they are not actually performing to a much larger audience in a much bigger venue.

The band (Phrixus – Lead Vocals, Mickey – Vocals/Guitars, Kaji – Lead Guitar, KB – Vocals/Bass and Daisy – Drums/Samples) bring together a range of musical influences. “Throw keyboards, heavy metal and pop into a tumble drier and this is what comes out,” claimed Thin recently. You get plenty of good, hard, aggressive, grungy guitar riffing, of course, but that’s combined with melodic vocals, catchy harmonised choruses and some real nice guitar solos. Now on to their second (just released) album they have a good selection of strong material available, like the excellent Nightboy which had everyone bouncing around and joining in the chorus.

Kiss’s Gene Simmons recently pronounced that rock as an art form is dying. What he probably meant is that rock may not be churning out a succession of future multi-billionaires anymore. But who really cares about that? Bands like Never A Hero prove that rock is far from dead.

http://www.neverahero.net/

10991353_10153114929651449_9074854887845056148_n

Bernie Marsden at Giants of Rock, Minehead 8/2/15

Bernie Marsden and band begin their Sunday night stint at Butlins with a rendition of Jack Bruce’s Sitting On Top of the World, in tribute to the recently departed musician. With some fine guitar work we also get to hear an excellent version of Peter Green’s Oh Well as well as a small taste of music from Marsden’s latest solo album, Shine.

However, this being Giants of Rock it’s fair to say that what pretty much everyone in the audience wants to hear is some classic late 70s/early 80s-era Whitesnake songs from Marsden’s time with the band.  He doesn’t disappoint. Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City, Walking in the Shadow of the Blues,  Fool for Your Loving, Ready and Willing and Here I Go Again are all superbly delivered,  with each becoming a mass sing-along. The sheer pleasure Marsden gains from performing is clear throughout. Abandoning the mic for several of the choruses he appears genuinely moved at the sight of hundreds and hundreds of people enthusiastically singing the words to these songs back at him.

Musically proficient, nostalgic, participatory and, above all, joyful this was a fine choice for the final night of Giants of Rock 2014.

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

10959634_10153102775461449_7159245290857260628_n

Previous review: Bernie Marsden at Jazz Cafe

Slade at Giants of Rock, Minehead 8/2/15

August 22nd 1981. Donington Monsters of Rock festival. My first ever live gig, first ever festival and still (by a mile) my favourite, mainly because of the unbelievable impact that Slade had on the 65,000 strong crowd.

Thirty-odd years and many Slade concerts later I’m in front of the stage at Minehead Butlins to witness yet another Slade performance. As the writers of Merry Xmas Everybody and a slew of other number 1 hits, Noddy Holder and Jim Lea are long gone; enjoying what must be a very comfortable retirement from the music scene. Guitarist, Dave Hill, and drummer, Don Powell, remain though, still belting out the songs their erstwhile band members wrote. These days they are joined by Mal McNulty and John Berry who replace Nod and Jim respectively.

Slade fans are divided about this modern-day version of Slade. While some see it as a welcome venture to keep the songs and music alive, others see it as an undignified travesty which has done nothing but sully the name of a once-great band.

If truth be told the band were starting to get a bit frayed around the edges in recent years. Of the 2012 and 2013 joint Slade/Sweet tours many commented that the former were considerably outshone by the musicianship and professionalism of the latter. However, tonight’s Slade performance is tight, together and fizzing with energy. You can never beat the original Slade and the Holder-Hill-Lea-Powell Slade will always be irreplaceable. Nevertheless, the band before us are on form and whether it’s died-in-the-wool Slade supporters or more generic rock fans there is certainly an enthusiastic audience for this version of Slade tonight.

Opening with a rocking version of Gudbuy T’ Jane the crowd are singing along and buzzing. They’ve freshened up their setlist a bit, too, giving some of the 80s hits a rest and bringing in lesser known 1977 cover My Baby Left Me to the set. Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Coz I Luv You, Far Far Away and Mama Weer All Crazee Now are all there, though, as are Dave Hill’s colourful over-the-top stage antics throughout. He preens, he goofs around, he milks the crowd’s appreciation. But he doesn’t let it detract from giving faithful renditions of the guitar solos familiar to anyone who has the original recordings. Powell’s drumming is as powerful as ever and an intrinsic part of the Slade sound. Vocal duties these days are split between McNulty and Berry, who now takes on lead vocals on some of the slower numbers. McNulty’s range is never going to match Holder’s and there was talk of him vacating the vocalist slot altogether. This new job-share arrangement seems to work, however. One area where no member of the new Slade is ever going to live up to the original, though, is when it comes to the electric violin solo on Coz I Luv You. Berry’s tuneless scratching is something quite different indeed from what we used to hear from the classically-trained Lea, but you have to hand it to him for at least being game enough to try.

It was all over far too soon, sadly, and before we knew it they were brought back for a riotous encore of Cum On Feel The Noize. No Merry Xmas this time of the year, though. (You’ll have to wait til around October before they start playing that again…)

Is Slade still Slade without Noddy? Should Dave and Don still be going out under that name? For me the answer is simple. I carry on going to Slade concerts to experience those great songs in a live setting, to have an evening that is never less than huge fun and, importantly, to show my support to two men who have now worked together for over fifty years. Whether you appreciate what Hill and Powell are doing these days or not, Slade is something they’ve given their lives too.  That’s got to be worth celebrating.

Setlist:

1. Gudbuy T’ Jane
2. Take Me Bak ‘Ome
3. Lock Up Your Daughters
4. Look Wot You Dun
5. Everyday
6. Coz I Luv You
7. Run Runaway
8. Far Far Away
9. My Baby Left Me
10. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
11. Get Down and Get With It/Tutti Fruitti
12. Cum On Feel The Noize

http://www.slade.uk.com/

10806260_10153096844461449_36421252484434414_n

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants Of Rock, Minehead 7/2/15

While I’ve seen veteran Bad Company/Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs on stage several times including both Mott reunions as well as guest encores with both Ian Hunter and Paul Rodgers, tonight is the first time I’ve witnessed a full set of the type of music Ralphs is most renowned for.

Ralphs’ physical presence on stage is unassuming and he’s the antithesis of the flash guitar hero but his seemingly effortless guitar playing is pure musical perfection. He’s supported by a strong bunch of seasoned musicians, Jim Maving on second guitar, Dickey Baldwin on bass and Adam Perry, drums.

Adam Barron, who only joined the band in Autumn 2014 takes lead vocals. The youthful Barron, a 2013 contestant on TV series The Voice, looks like he’s stepped straight out of 1975 and his soulful bluesy vocals couldn’t be more suited to Ralphs’ material. It was a real joy to hear the band perform classics like Can’t Get Enough and Feel Like Makin’ Love. But newer material like Should Know Better shows that Ralphs has not lost the knack for writing timeless blues rock classics.

While the big set-piece Bad Company and Mott the Hoople reunions have been eagerly welcomed by fans of both bands it’s nice, too, that Ralphs has also continued to do his own thing.  He does it so well. And with a band who clearly get a kick out of working with him.

http://www.mickralphsbluesband.co.uk/

10947209_10153098670766449_6530016315362816803_n