Monthly Archives: November 2015

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner at The Stables, Hastings 26/11/15

It’s hard to believe that Gigspanner only appeared on my musical radar some three and a half years ago. It was May 2012 and at the end of an exhausting period in my working life I booked myself into a hotel and did little else but sleep for 48 hours – apart from, that is, venturing out to see Gigspanner who were performing nearby. Other than knowing that they had been put together by Peter Knight, who I had seen perform with Steeleye Span several times, I had little idea what to expect and was too busy/exhausted to do much in the way of research prior to booking a ticket. But on seeing them for the first time I was utterly enthralled and immediately hooked. I’ve seen Gigspanner some  eight times now and everyone I’ve taken along to witness the trio has been similarly transfixed and has become a firm fan. But perhaps the most telling impact was on someone I didn’t know at all. At one of Gigspanner’s gigs I slipped to the bar at the back of the room midway through the performance and as I whispered my order to the barmaid she promptly burst into tears. “I was expecting a normal night at work like any other,” she explained. “But I can’t believe this – it’s just so beautiful.” The power of music.

So what is it about Gigspanner? So many different influences come together: folk, classical, jazz, African, Cajun, Appalachaian, Aboriginal, Celtic rock, folk rock. The list goes on. You can hear so many different sounds coming together to create something totally and wonderfully unique. Classically-trained folk fiddle supremo, Peter Knight, works with percussionist, Vincent Salzfaas, and guitarist, Roger Flack, to build up an amazing texture of sounds. The musicians and their instruments don’t try and compete with one another and, although one of the trio is much better known than the other two, no sound dominates at the expense of the rest; such that the centre of gravity on stage subtly shifts from one to the other and back again as a tune builds up and the music ebbs and flows.

Gigspanner have a new album out Layers Of Ages. And in order that I could experience the new material in a live setting for the first time, I’d deliberately not purchased it before tonight’s show. A number of traditional songs are given the unmistakeable Gigspanner treatment and are included in the setlist tonight. This includes a stunning Death And The Lady, where dark, brooding electric violin blends with beautiful Spanish-flavoured guitar and mesmerising, pounding conga drums. Bows Of London is another real highlight, one of the most macabre of songs in a genre that has always had a close association with the macabre. Sometimes known as The Cruel Sister or The Twa Sisters it’s a tale of sibling rivary, drowning and creating a musical instrument (haunted and self-playing of course!) out of the deceased’s bones. Knight’s sweet, calm and understated vocal delivery always provides for a dramatic juxtaposition with subject matter of this type.

Other songs from the album, like a thoroughly reworked version of Steeleye Span’s traditional classic Hard Times of Old England and a superb Mad Tom of Bedlam, which were given an initial outing on last year’s tour, are included in the set again tonight. Like the two previous CDs, Layers Of Ages will be on my stereo many, many times from now on.

The new songs blend alongside a number of old favourites from the Gigspanner setlist that I was particularly pleased to hear performed once again, songs like Seagull (Knight’s recollection of the shove ha’penny game played in the Lord Nelson pub up the road from our venue tonight in Hastings old town), as well as the stunning tunes Sharp Goes Walkabout and The Butterfly. It’s probably worth saying a word or two about Knight’s gentle but witty, self-deprecating banter, too, always bringing us back down to earth after being transported who-knows-where during each piece of music.

So another Gigspanner gig tonight and another new fan: “I completely lost myself in that. I felt part of it,” was the verdict of one of our party tonight on hearing them for the first time. The audience response from a packed-out Stables Theatre, just as it was in the same venue this time last year, is rapturous. Thank you Gigspanner.

http://www.gigspanner.com/

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Previous Reviews:
Gigspanner at The Stables 2014
Gigspanner at Whitstable

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Sweet at Orchard Theatre, Dartford 22/11/15

Sweet are a melodic hard rock band who play catchy, well-written rock songs with beautifully vocalised harmonies. But some rock fans are a bit snobby about Sweet because Sweet are glam rock and glam rock is not for serious rock fans. Well what a lot of nonsense that is. For sheer musical professionalism, tuneful melodiousness and unforgettable songs, there are few rock bands to match Sweet.

The tour is billed as Finale. “But let’s make one thing absolutely clear,” says guitarist Andy Scott. “No way is this the fucking finale.” Phew, they almost had me worried there. But as Scott, stalwart of the band since 1970, tells the Dartford audience tonight, he’s not really qualified to do anything else.

The current Sweet line-up (guitarist Andy Scott, drummer Bruce Bisland, vocalist/bass player Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora on keyboards, guitar and vocals) have been together since 2011. And they’ve proved themselves to be one of the most durable and easily the best line-up of Sweet since the days of the classic Connoly-Scott-Tucker-Priest formation back in the 1970s. Musical talent oozes out of every pore, even though they are a man down down tonight. Drummer Bisland has been ordered to rest for a month by doctors due to muscle fatigue. Sweet’s stage manager, Adam, has gamely filled the drum stool at the eleventh hour. And while there are some truly awful experiences of “roadie gallantly stepping up at the last minute” in rock history there are also some very good ones, too, and tonight is the latter. He does a great job, knowing both the band and the songs like the back of his hand.

I’v seen Sweet many times, of course. But so many of the things I want from a Sweet concert are there in spades tonight. There is a riotous version of Action, a hard-rocking version of Hellraiser, a majestic version of Love Is Like Oxygen (dedicated to Brian Connoly, Mick Tucker and the people of Paris), a pounding version of Wig Wam Bam, an anthemic version of Fox on the Run and, as befits two of the best songs ever written in the history of British popular music, spectacular versions of Blockbuster and Balroom Blitz. But there’s more, too: more well-crafted melodic hard rock in the form of brand new song Defender, a beautiful acoustic version of Lady Starlight. And this is followed by more acoustic delights as the early pre-glam rock bubblegum-era material (Co Co, Poppa Joe and Funny Funny) is given new life by being given the stripped-down, seated, guitar and vocals treatment. The Sweet goes all Bob Dylan as you will – but it works!

If you are a fan of melodic hard rock but have hitherto denied yourself the chance of seeing Sweet. Get over yourself. You are missing out. This band are brilliant. Go and see them!

Setlist:
Action
New York Groove
Hellraiser
Peppermint Twist
Defender
Lady Starlight
Co Co
Poppa Joe
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam
Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

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Previous review: Sweet at Bilston

Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 14/11/15

Tonight was my twenty-third Slade concert. After seeing them three times as a teenager in the early 80s the band abruptly stopped touring. But since guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell revived the band in the early 90s, sans Noddy Holder and Jim Lea, I’ve see them most years since. Yes, I miss Holder’s unmistakeable voice. Yes, I miss Lea’s musical dexterity. And yes, I miss the combined songwriting talent of the two of them which produced all of the big hits but isn’t producing any new ones. But going to a modern-day Slade gig means I don’t miss out on hearing those wonderful songs being performed live still. And it means I don’t get to miss out on the sheer, unadulterated, wacky, crazily eccentric sense of fun you get from a Slade gig.

The set-list has hardly changed much in the last twenty years but it’s great to be punching our hands in the air to Gudbuy T’ Jane, throwing toilet rolls across the stage during Mama Weer All Crazee Now, applauding Dave Hill showing off his“superyob” guitar during Get Down and Get With It, swaying along to Everyday and My Oh My and jumping up and down with wild deranged abandon to Cum On Feel The Noize.

In the nicest, friendliest, most good-natured way the whole place was pretty much going crazee. Everyone, that is, apart from two gents on the front row who complained bitterly throughout the concert about people dancing about, jumping up and down and waving their arms in the air. I don’t think they quite got the whole Slade concert business. Never mind, they were gone before the band came back on for Merry Xmas Everybody. A month too early? No way! I don’t put together Slade’s winter tour schedules but mid-November is surely near enough to Christmas for the crowd to be singing along to the greatest Christmas song ever made.

For fifty years Dave and Don have been playing together now. Let’s toast them.

Setlist:
Gudbuy T’ Jane
Lock Up Your Daughters
Take Me Bak ‘Ome
Look Wot You Dun
Everyday
Coz I Luv You
Run Run Away
Far Far Away
My Baby Left Me
Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Get Down and Get With It
My Oh My
Cum On Feel The Noize
Merry Xmas Everybody

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

dave hill hastings

Photo credit: Dave Kemp

Previous Reviews:
Slade at Giant of Rock, Minehead
Merry Xmas Everybody

Snakecharmer at O2 Academy Islington 13/11/15

Bluesy heavy rock fronted by ex-Deep Purple vocalist, David Coverdale, Whitesnake in the late70s/early 80s were utterly brilliant. One of the first rock albums I ever bought as a teenager was Ready an’ Willing. Whitesnake evolved into something quite different but the early vintage of Whitesnake was always the one I was most interested in. Ex-Whitesnake members, guitarist Micky Moody and bassist Neil Murray, are keeping the flame alive with Snakecharmer, playing a mix of Whitesnake classics and newer material in that similar melodic, bluesy heavy rock similar vein.

The Whitesnake veterans have teamed up with ex-Wishbone Ash guitarist, Laurie Wisefield; the son of Rick Wakeman and keyboard supremo in his own right, Adam Wakeman; and Thunder drummer, Harry James. They are joined by vocalist Chris Ousey who handles the David Coverdale material perfectly, yet resisting the temptation of becoming a Coverdale trinute act.

I’ve seen another former Whitesnake member, Bernie Marsden, perform solo on several occassions and it’s nothing less than an absolute joy. But while Marsden’s shows these days duly celebrate the Whitesnake legacy there is a real emphasis on the slower blues that is his love and passion. A Snakecharmer gig, however, is more in the spirit of the heavy rocking nature of early Whitesnake, with the added bonus of a top-class lead vocalist and, of course, Micky Moody’s irreplacebale slide guitar playing. And anyone who thinks that an extended drums and slide guitar solo spot is a tad self-indulgent and over the top needs to het along to a Snakecharmer gig to see just how good this can be.

There’s some great new material. But, more than anything it’s those old Whitesnake numbers we are at this gig for. And how glorious it is singing along to Ready an’ Willing, Here I Go Again and Fool For Your Loving. I was 15 again, deftly manouevering myself to the very front row at Donington with my mate Gareth. The simple, life-affirming, communal joy of live rock music.

So how devastating it was getting home after the gig and finding out about the terrible events in Paris: other rock fans, like me, just wanting to enjoy the simple pleasures of a night out at a live gig. But tragically, unlike those of us at the Islington Academy tonight, many of them never coming home. I was reminded immediately of the emotive words of another of David Coverdale’s erstwhile colleagues, Glenn Hughes. Only a couple of weeks earlier on the final night of his UK tour Hughes spoke emotively and passionately about the beauty of music and its ability to break down barriers and bring people together, even when there is so much hate in the world. Terrorism will not stop that.

Setlist:
Guilty as Charged
A Little Rock & Roll
Ready an’ Willing
Accident Prone
Falling Leaves
Ain’t Gonna Cry No More
Nothing to Lose
Crying in the Rain
Moody’s Blues (slide guitar & drums solo spot)
Slow an’ Easy
My Angel
Here I Go Again
Fool for Your Loving

http://www.snakecharmer.org/

2015-11-13 20.30.59

Single review: Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody

Brash, colourful, over the top, glittery – 1970s glam rock and Christmas seemed made for each other. Yet glam had been in ascendancy for some two years before anyone contemplated putting the two together. And more than anyone else, we can thank Slade for that. From the familiar pounding on the harmonium in the opening bars to the final “It’s Christmaaaas!” Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody remains one of the most well-known and most popular Christmas records of all time. The Performing Rights Society calculate that it is the world’s most listened to song, heard by an estimated 42% of the global population.

Recorded in New York in the summer of 1973, Noddy Holder told Uncut magazine recently that he wanted the lyrics to convey a mood of optimism. The song certainly does that. But at the time of recording it, the band would have little clue as to how grim things were going to get in Britain that particular winter. Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath’s increasingly fractious battle with the miners took a dramatic turn. Mineworkers, like all public employees at the time were suffering the effects of below-inflation pay increases at a time of hyper inflation, and were pursuing industrial action for higher pay. Regular domestic power cuts became a fact of life.

Merry Xmas Everybody was released on 7th December 1973. On 12th December Heath announced that in order to conserve coal stocks, as from midnight on 31st December the Government would be enforcing a three-day week. Companies were to be permitted to consume electricity only on three consecutive days per week, additional working hours were to be banned and TV companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10.30pm each night. This was the Christmas in which Slade’s Merry Christmas was first unleashed on to the public.

It’s a groundbreaking Christmas song in a number of ways. Unlike the treacly nostalgia of previous Christmas classics, Holder and Lea managed to capture the essence of a working class family Christmas:

Are you waiting for the family to arrive
Are you sure you’ve got the room to spare inside
Does your granny always tell you
That the old songs are the best
Then she’s up and rock ‘n’ rolling with the rest

That was combined with a genuine spirit of bright, breezy optimism:

So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun
Look to the future now, it’s only just begun

There is a freshness about the way that hookline is delivered that still sounds fresh even today. “In terms of comfort we shall have a harder Christmas than we have known since the war,” Heath declared ominously. But while it might be argued that anything Slade recorded at that particular time in pop history was destined for the Number 1 slot anyway, there was something marvellously subversive about Slade’s Christmas single being the best selling record at the time. People singing along to a chorus that celebrates having fun and looking to the future during the middle of a heated political stand-off, a major breakdown in industrial relations, a draconian response from government and a very bleak-looking New Year indeed.

The three-day week came into force on New Years Day 1974. The Christmas song that was the antidote to it remained at Number 1 until well into the middle of January. In fact, it was February before it dropped out of the charts. As the chorus makes clear, the song is very much a song for the New Year – looking ahead to the future – and not simply one about Christmas.

The Government’s battle with the miners continued to intensify and, refusing to back down, Heath called an election in February 1974. “Who governs Britain?” demanded Heath. “Not you!” the voters told him. He lost the election and embarked on what became known as the longest sulk in British political history. The National Union of Mineworkers secured their pay rise, returned to work and lived to fight another day. But they would be brutally smashed by the Thatcher Government a decade later and Britain’s pit communities decimated. Whatever the battles of the past, the challenge of climate change, of course, means that the only sensible coal policy today is to leave the rest of it in the ground.

Yet Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody lives on, outliving the three-day week, Ted Heath, the miners and (in its original formation) even the band itself. That celebration of working class life in the festive season and the bright sunny optimism for a better future ahead still makes it the greatest Christmas song ever recorded.

It’s Christmaaaaaas!!!

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

MXE

Previous live review: Slade at Minehead

Mawkin at Cecil Sharp House 11/11/15

Cecil Sharp House’s 2015 programme of concerts continues to excel with a cracking performance from Mawkin. Formed in 2002 as a three-piece, Mawkn evolved into a five-piece band offering a rousing brand of folk-rock.

The set is heavily dominated by material from their great new album The Ties That Bind, released in July. And they deliver us a nice mix of traditional English tunes and songs, some original compositions as well as the odd little nuggets from America and Sweden. Unlike some folk acts who feel compelled to unearth out ever more obscure traditional songs, Mawkin don’t shy away from performing some really well known traditional material, songs like Birds Upon a Tree, which they got everyone singing along to, and Searching for Lambs, both of which appear on their new album.

Vocals are shared between guitarist David Delarre, who takes the bulk of the singing duties, and his brother (and the band’s hugely talented fiddle-player) James. The latter I wouldn’t have minded hearing a little bit more of. He has a really engaging vocal delivery – a sort of 90s indie meets English folk. The musicianship is superb, particularly the interplay on stage between fiddler, James Delarre, and melodeon player, Nick Cooke. At one point, the rest of the band leave the stage while these two let rip on a couple of instrumentals.

While many of the rockier contemporary folk acts have gone for the box-style cajun percussion rather than drums these days, Lee Richardson unashamedly plumps for the full drum kit. And not only does he use it to make some of the faster folk numbers really rock, he also creates some spookily atmospheric soundscapes with it. At times he reminded me of Martin Lamble’s playing on Fairport’s “A Sailors Life” – the track that started off the whole drums-on-English-folk-songs thing back in the late 60s.

Mawkin have been making music for well over a decade now and while there probably weren’t more than thirty people here tonight, the noise the audience made in showing their appreciation was testimony to just how well this band was received. Deservedly so.

Setlist:
I Can Hew Boys
Skymningspolskan / Betsy Likens
My Love Farewell
Wreckers
Envikens Waltz
Duo
Searching For Lambs
Andro / Lang Stayed Away
Birds Upon a Tree
Jolly Well Drunk
Song On The Times
The Frenchy Set
Shanghai Brown
Merry Mawkin / Peacock Follow The Hen
Young May Moon

http://www.mawkin.co.uk/

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Marina Florance at The Islington (Emerging Talent Showcase) 4/11/15

For sheer passion in terms of promoting new artists, there cannot be many outfits to beat Folkstock, the small “boutique” record label that’s helped bring a number of acts to wider attention. Tonight’s event in Islington is one of two nights that are being hosted under Folkstock’s “Emerging Artists” banner as part of the London Folk & Roots Festival. All of the acts showcased in the two live shows also feature on Folkstock’s “Downtown” album, which has a track contributed from each of the artists. Tonight the theme is Americana and we hear from three solo acts: Katie Rae, Marina Florance and Ben Smith as well as the headliners, five-piece band, Fred’s House.

With many artists you have a pretty rough idea of what they are going to sound like and a reasonable guess at what their musical style is going to be as soon as they take the stage. When the engaging but down-to-earth singer-guitarist, Marina Florance, takes the stage I have very little idea what to expect. But wow what an incredible, incredible voice. And in a strong field tonight, for me, she is the stand-out act of the evening. Florance came to live performance late in life but has been receiving plaudits wherever she’s played and sung. Her rich, heartfelt, expressive voice has been compared to everything from Stevie Nicks to Johnny Cash and is a joy to listen to, both on the more mournful, melancholic countrified numbers like Little Black Cloud (her contribution on the Downtown compilation CD) as well as the raunchier, bluesier songs like Big Legged Woman (from her latest EP: Triple A Side). Some great luscious, dexterous acoustic guitar-playing, too, compliments her voice perfectly. You can catch a video of her and the previous act, Kaity Rae, here

The only downside of an event like tonight is that when you do come across an emerging talent like Florance, you don’t quite get to hear enough of them before it’s time for the next act. Before she leaves the stage, however, the next artist, Ben Smith, joins her for a couple of songs. They make for a powerful musical combination and it’s gratifying to discover Smith plays on a couple of tracks on Florance’s latest EP.

She is the oldest of our emerging talent acts tonight by some way. But whoever said there was any age limit on when an artist can emerge: Marina Florance – I’m a fan!

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http://www.marinaflorance.com/

Greg Russell and Rex Preston at The Green Note 2/11/15

The folk world thrives on the sort of musical partnerships and band formations that are perhaps far more promiscuous than in the rock world. Part of this is down to simple economics. Folk gigs rarely command the sort of fees that are ever going to allow an artist to tour for a couple of months then spend the rest of the year snorting cocaine at some sun-kissed poolside in LA (even if they wanted to). So it is not at all uncommon for folk artists, even as part of a really well-established project, to work in different permutations with different sets of musicians throughout the year. But much of it, I suspect, is also down to a simple and addictive love of playing and singing. Both of tonight’s performers have made a real impact in recent years in well-established duos, Greg Russell with Ciaran Algar and Rex Preston with Miranda Sykes. However, explains Greg, with himself and Rex both living fairly close to one another in Devon they soon evolved from drinking buddies to playing together purely for fun – and now to touring together. Tonight at Green Note it is only their second show together but an absolute treat.

Audiences familiar with Greg and Ciaran would recognise the magnificent “Davy” from The Queen’s Lover album. But beyond that it’s a completely different set of tunes and songs: a nice mix of self-written compositions, covers and traditional material. As well as impressively beautiful mandolin-playing throughout the evening, Rex sings a couple of songs, too. And while Greg’s musical background is steeped in folk from a young age, Rex’s influences are far more diverse, and the mix of sounds and styles from the two make for a great combination.

Whilst the irreverent banter between Greg and Ciaran is always hilarious and always an essential and welcome part of their live show, in a different format like tonight we perhaps get to hear a little more about what makes Greg tick musically. He tells us he could just about cope if he was never able to play guitar again but couldn’t imagine what he would do if he was never able to sing again. And what a singing voice it is. If you listen to the lead vocals of a young Simon Nicol on the early post-Sandy Denny Fairport albums, for example, his delivery sounds somewhat hesitant compared to the magnificent gem it would become later in his career. With Greg Russell, it’s a completely different kettle of fish altogether. There is character and richness and depth to his voice, such that would take many of even the greatest singers years and years to develop. So let’s put aside the qualified labels like “rising star” and “enormous promise” – I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and call it for Greg Russell as the country’s finest folk singer of his generation.

I look forward to seeing both Greg and Rex back in their more usual partnerships in the not too distant future. But tonight has been a fruitful and enjoyable product of the folk scene’s continuing musical promiscuity.

Setlist:
Crooked Jack.
Frolicks
A Close Shave
Old Mans Retreat
Wily Ole Lad
Two Magicians
Did You Like The Battle Sir?
SAD
Rosie
Davy
Brisk Young Man into Good Natured Man
Sandy River into What You Do with What You’ve Got
Rolling Down The Ryburn

http://www.gregrussellfolk.co.uk/
http://www.sykespreston.com/

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Previous review: Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar at Green Note 

Glenn Hughes at The Electric Ballroom 1/11/15

In my professional life I once played a small part in the successful campaign to help save Camden Town’s Electric Ballroom from demolition. So ten years on, at a time when so many venues have closed, it feels good to be standing in this legendary place waiting for the even more legendary Glenn Hughes to take the stage. Tonight’s gig in Camden is the final night of a solo world tour that features Doug Aldrich on guitar and Pontus Engborg on drums.

I’ve been a fan of Deep Purple virtually as long as I’ve been a fan of rock music. And although I’ve always loved the Gillan-fronted Mark 2 era albums I also love the output of Mark 3 era Deep Purple, too. And what made those albums particularly distinctive, had much to do with the influence of a certain Mr Glenn Hughes who brought his pitch-perfect harmony vocals and inventive funked-up bass playing to the party.

But whereas, post-Deep Purple, the other Mark 2/Mark 3 members all found gainful employment in three of the biggest heavy rock bands of the time, namely Rainbow, Whitesnake and Gillan, Glenn Hughes seemed to be left to one side a little. Of course, he continued gigging and recording in various projects. But, arguably, it wasn’t until the arrival of Black Country Communion, a 21st century take on the old early-70s “super-group” concept, did he really have a project to match the significance of his Purple days. Like every supergroup before it, Black Country Communion eventually fell apart but was superceded by yet another supergroup, California Breed, one that also ended up going the same way. So Hughes is back touring as a solo artist and tells the audience tonight that’s absolutely the way he intends to keep it from now on.

Few artists look as joyous to be on stage as Glenn Hughes or as appreciative of the audience. He genuinely looked like he was enjoying every single minute. After starting with a suitably heavy version of Stormbringer, the set tonight took us through songs from various stages of his long career. Deep Purple, of course, but also Trapeze, Hughes-Thrall and, more recently, Black Country Communion – as well as highlights from his solo career.

Mistreated was a definite highlight of the evening for me and I suspect , judging by the reaction from the crowd, for much of the audience, too. And much as I’m exited at the thought of seeing the modern-day line-up of Deep Purple next month, I doubt we will see anything as majestic, soul-filled or dazzlingly, spine-tinglingly, emotionally brilliant as what we witnessed with Mistreated tonight. The latter-day Deep Purple have practically disowned the Mark 3 material and it doesn’t appear in any of the band’s setlists. So let’s be thankful Glenn Hughes is helping to keep this music alive. And so magnificently he does it, too. Arguably, his voice is holding up better than either of the two front-men most associated with Deep Purple, Ian Gillan and David Coverdale. And he certainly hits all the high notes so beautifully.

One final observation. I don’t think it was just my imagination but the crowd did seem slightly more ethnically diverse than at many similar rock gigs I’ve seen recently. Hughes’ funk-influenced bass-playing and soulful vocals always marked him out as someone who could reach out beyond the archetypal white male rock fan. And given how much he talks of the healing power of music I suspect that this would please Mr Hughes greatly.

“Thanks for coming out and supporting this guy,” said guitarist, Doug Aldrich towards the end. “One of rock’s treasures.” Indeed he is.

Setlist:
Stormbringer
Orion
Way Back to the Bone
Touch My Life
First Step of Love
Sail Away
Good To Be Bad
Mistreated
Can’t Stop the Flood
One Last Soul
Soul Mover
Black Country
Burn

http://www.glennhughes.com/homenews.html

2015-11-01 22.33.59

Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 31/10/15

It’s 1981 and the band Gillan, fronted by former Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan, created a ripple of excitement amongst the teenage rock fans at my school when they burst into the charts with a cover of New Orleans. One of the things that seemed to make this far more than just a heavied-up version of an old rock ‘n’ roll number was the guitarist, Bernie Tormé. He looked like a punk, acted like a hippy, sounded like Hendrix and seemed different from anyone around in rock and metal at the time.

Tormé was soon gone from Gillan and, after a very brief sojourn with Ozzy Osbourne, he formed his own band and started hitting the smaller venues circuit. That’s where I first caught him live. And in similar types of venues now, he’s still out there gigging as well as recording. Hot on the success of his crowd-funded Flowers & Dirt double album last year, he’s used the crowd-funding formula once again and has a brand new album to promote, Blackheart.

First, though, he opens with a storming version of Wild West, the standout track from one of his early solo albums, Electric Gypsies. He has a really strong band in Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums percussion) and the power trio format suits Torme’s style of music perfectly. Well, of course, why wouldn’t it? The fuzzy feedback-laden guitar is combined with well-written, accessible tunes and vocals that give an honesty and meaning to the lyrics. From the same era, the excellent Turn Out The Lights also gets an outing. It’s not just about nostalgia, though, and songs from both last year’s Flowers and Dirt album and this year’s Blackheart both feature prominently. It’s not all blistering hard rock, either. As on the recent albums there’s some lighter, bluesier, folkier moments, including Flow from the new album and the excellent Spirit Road from Flowers and Dirt..

Soon, however, we are nearing the end with an explosive set of Gillan songs, including the one that got me hooked on Tormé’s guitar-playing in the first place, New Orleans. At the very end of the set, friend of the band and the man who first helped Torme get the crowd-funding venture off the ground, Peter Cook, joined the band for an encore after pledging to “buy” a guitar solo as part of the crowd-funding appeal. In a big arena gig with big corporate sponsors this could sound like the tackiest thing in the world. In a small intimate venue of this size, however, it’s genuinely fun and there is no doubting Cook’s evident passion both for Tormé’s music itself and for helping him secure a viable recording career in this challenging era for the music industry. Indeed, compared to the old record company model, the crowd-funding approach has allowed Tormé to connect very directly with fans and even re-connect to those, like me, who had fallen by the wayside and previously lost touch with Tormé’s career.

A mention, also, for the Bordeline. While numerous other live venues in the West End have closed their doors, this 300-capacity venue has held its open now for over 20 years, always with a stirling line-up of acts throughout the year and the perfect setting for Bernie Tormé tonight.

Setlist:
Wild West
Bullet in the Brain
Blood Run Cold
Turn Out the Lights
Pain Song
Flow
Star
Dirt
Spirit Road
Stoneship
Rocky Road
Can’t Beat
Trouble
New Orleans
No Easy Way
Party’s Over

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

2015-10-31 20.49.40

Previous review: Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 2014