Tag Archives: Andy Scott

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Sweet at Birmingham Genting Arena 28/6/17

When I was a teenager getting seriously into rock and metal in the early 80s I was lucky enough to see some of the biggest acts around: AC/DC, Sabbath, Quo, Ozzy etc. One band I never got to see, however, was Rainbow and one guitar wizard I never got to see (in any formation) was Ritchie Blackmore. For some inexplicable reason (and I am normally really on the ball with this) I failed to get myself a ticket when Blackmore revived the Rainbow name and announced a tentative return to rock ‘ n’ roll last year. So when a further tour was announced this year I made absolutely sure I was going to be there this time.

The evening was going to be made even more special when I found out the support act would be Sweet, who I have been following for as long as I’ve been following Rainbow. Unlike Rainbow, I have seen The Sweet many times before over the past twenty-odd years – but usually in small rock venues or provincial theatres, never in an arena with a 15,000 strong crowd. In some ways, both Rainbow and The Sweet summed up the music of the mid 70s: the albums-based rock was brilliant and the singles-based pop was brilliant, too. Perfection!

Tonight would give Andy Scott and co the chance to rekindle their relationship with many older rock fans as well as hopefully winning over some newer fans, too. ‘Hellraiser’, ‘Teenage Rampage’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ et al all go down an absolute storm. My only complaint was that the set was heavily weighted towards the old hits, with little time for the harder-edged album-oriented rock of which the band have an impressive, if less well-known, back catalogue. However, we did get stunning versions of ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and hopefully Andy Scott’s continuing version of The Sweet has a good few more fans after tonight.

“I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order,” Eric Morecambe once famously said. No-one in their right mind could ever accuse guitar god, Ritchie Blackmore, of that. But funnily enough I was reminded of the old Morecambe & Wise gag when I was thinking about Ritchie Blackmore’s set-list at Birmingham tonight. Pretty much all of the songs that I very much hoped he’d play were in there – but the set order seemed to be in random shuffle mode with little attempt at any sort of thematic approach. We jumped from the polished commercial rock of Joe Lynn Turner-era Rainbow, to Coverdale-era Deep Purple, to the infectious pop-rock of Graham Bonnet, to the heavy prog-tinged majesty of Dio-era Rainbow and so on and so on. I suppose the main message was: “I have been involved with creating some amazing music in different bands with different vocalists and different styles – and whichever order you put them in they are all amazing…” Which is true!

After years away from doing gigs of this type and making albums like this Blackmore’s stunning guitar skills have not dimmed. Never guilty of being flashy for the sake of being flashy or of putting technical prowess ahead of creating beautiful melody, there is an elegance about his playing that is a joy to see live. Ronnie Romero, too, I thought was a good choice of vocalist. Of all the iconic vocalists Blackmore has worked with over the years, Romero probably sounds closest to Joe Lynn Turner in style, but he handled all of the material well from Gillan through to Coverdale, Dio, Bonnet and Turner. Towards the end a keyboard solo seemed to go on forever but that is a minor quibble. At the age of 51, the teenage rock fan in me has finally got see Ritchie Blackmore live on stage and has finally got to attend a Rainbow gig. He is happy.

Set-list – Sweet:

Action
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Set-list – Rainbow:

Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
Mistreated
Since You Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain
Soldier of Fortune
Perfect Strangers
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Child in Time
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Lazy
Catch the Rainbow
Black Night
Carry On… Jon
Burn
Smoke on the Water

http://www.ritchieblackmore.info/

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Sweet at The Robin 2, Bilston 19/12/16

While this time of year often provides opportunities to see The Sweet at various provincial theatres around the country it is always nice to see the band at a proper dedicated rock venue. And the Robin in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, is packed out with Sweet fans from across the UK and further afield.

Tonight the band are going to “heavy it up” declares Andy Scott, following a deluge of requests from fans in the run-up to the gig. What this means, therefore, is that as well as those unforgettable Sweet hits, the audience also get a taste of the band’s brilliant 1974 rock album Sweet Fanny Adams, with ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘Into The Night’ from that album making a welcome appearance on the setlist, alongside ‘AC-DC’. The band produced some excellent hard rock back in the day and it’s nice to see that side of the band being properly celebrated, in addition to the more obvious but still equally wonderful glam rock side. It certainly hits the spot as far as the audience are concerned.

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Of course, before The Sweet even began churning out those glam anthems, they had a run of ridiculously cheesy but inanely catchy bubblegum, hits penned for them by songwriting due Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman. For many years, the policy of Messrs Scott and co was to forget these even existed but in recent years they’ve made their way back into the setlist. But now the ephemera of the bubblegum era is completely stripped back and they are re-invented as chilled-out, folky, acoustic sing-alongs. Surprisingly, it works – and the audience lap these up, too.

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Of course, no Sweet gig would be complete without those glam mega-hits: whether it’s the Chinn-Chapman covers like ‘Hellraiser’, ‘The Six Teens’ and ‘Wig-Wam Bam’ or the self-penned hits like ‘Action’ and ‘Fox on the Run’. Add in some majestic versions of ‘Lost Angels’ and ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ and the inevitable ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ for an encore and it’s a perfect Sweet mix.

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There are numerous 70s pop-rock bands ploughing the 70s circuit, many of them continuing to offer a night of nostalgia and guaranteed fun; even if, like Sweet, you will only find one or two original members these days. But few, if any, offer the degree of perfection, professionalism and top class musicianship as Andy Scott and his colleagues, Pete Lincoln, Tony O’Hora and Bruce Bisland do.

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Sadly, I never got to see the classic irreplaceable Sweet line-up of the 70s. But I’ve seen numerous line-ups over the past quarter of a century and this is undoubtedly the strongest since then.

Glam rock and hard perfection. Keep at it boys

Setlist:
Action
New York Groove
Hellraiser
The Six Teens
Set Me Free
Into The Night
AC-DC
Lady Starlight
Lost Angels
Co-Co / Funny Funny / Poppa Joe
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam / Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster!
The Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

Photo credits: Eileen Handley

Related posts:
Sweet at Bilston 2014
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Blockbuster – origins and influences

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

The Sweet at The Robin 2, Bilston 22/12/14

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.

Setlist:

New York Groove
Hell Raiser
Turn It Down
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist
Into The Night
AC-DC
Wig-Wam-Bam/Little Willy
Teenage Rampage
You Spin Me Round
Love Is Like Oxygen
Set Me Free
Blockbuster!
Fox On The Run
Lady Starlight
Action
The Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

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