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live gig review

Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

Back in the early 80s, I was on a voyage of discovery voraciously buying up the back catalogues of some of the great bands of the late 60s and 70s. Many of the big beasts – the likes of Deep Purple and Humble Pie and, yes, Mott The Hoople had called it a day by then. Even though such bands were at their commercial height less than a decade previously they seemed to inhabit a completely different world to the early 80s music world of my teenage years. I loved the records. I absolutely adored both the ‘Mott’ and ‘The Hoople’ albums, in particular, but I never really entertained the idea of seeing Mott The Hoople live on stage. A brilliant slice of rock n roll history? Indeed. But they were the past and I could, at least, enjoy Ian Hunter’s impressive solo career.

That all changed in 2009, of course, when the short run of reunion concerts by the original line-up were announced. Jubilant, emotional and electric the one small niggle about the reunion, and of a further run in 2013, is that while they rightly celebrated the band’s original line-up, they didn’t do justice to the input of the later members – namely Ariel Bender on guitar and Morgan Fisher on keyboards.

Again, I accepted this as a small niggle in an otherwise perfect reunion. I never really entertained the idea that I’d get the chance to see it put right. On the way to Shepherd’s Bush Empire I was feeling quite emotional about having the opportunity to see it become reality after all, and remembering back to the time when I first happened upon this veteran band in a second-hand shop in Preston as a teenager. This was always going to be more than just a gig. I want it to be special. They more than deliver on that.

Songs from ‘The Hoople’ – Mott The Hoople’s brilliant final studio album (and the only one to feature Fisher and Bender) feature prominently: the camp splendour of ‘The Golden Age of Rock n Roll’, the glammed-up deliciousness of ‘Roll Away The Stone’, the glorious insanity of ‘Marionette’ and many more.

At earlier dates on the tour there had been some online disquiet from fans about the quality of Bender’s playing. True, he was never going to be Jimmy Page (or Mick Ralphs for that matter) but his over the top antics and tongue-in-cheek craving for adulation were an essential component of late-period Mott’s 70s stage act – and so it proves tonight. Moreover, Bender’s blunt in-yer-face guitar work really suits the proto-punk of those early Mott songs like ‘Walking With a Mountain’ and ‘Rock n Roll Queen’ that Bender made his own when he became part of the band.

Fisher, always a magnificently talented pianist, when he’s not tottering around the stage with copious glasses of white wine, gives us many wonderful musical flourishes on the keys. With the untimely deaths of Dale Griffin and Overend Watts the ranks of Hooples are sadly depleted but Ian Hunter’s long-time side-kicks in the Rant Band, gifted musicians all, do a seamless job co-opted into the on-stage madness that is Mott The Hoople.

Hunter’s unmistakable voice, as ever, is in fine form. At 80 he shows no signs of slowing down, of losing his grip as a performer or his creativity as a songwriter. However, if this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….

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Set-list:

American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll
‪Lounge Lizard ‬
Alice
Honaloochie Boogie
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)
Sucker
Sweet Jane
Rose
Walking With a Mountain
Roll Away the Stone
Marionette
Jerkin’ Crocus / One of the Boys
Medley: Rock ‘n Roll Queen / Crash Street Kidds / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Mean Woman Blues / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks / You Really Got Me
All the Way From Memphis
Saturday Gigs
All the Young Dudes

 

https://mottthehoople.com/classof74/

Related reviews:

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

 

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Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ashford 13/4/19

It’s 2019 and yet another band are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. That post beat-boom period of the late 60s to early 1970s was a period of exceptional creativity in popular music, perhaps unparalleled. From hard rock, glam rock, prog rock and, indeed, folk rock so many bands and styles made their mark and we are lucky to have a good number of them still touring today.

Steeleye Span are not resting on their laurels, however. This tour is about far more than a career retrospective from the band’s weighty back catalogue. The band have a new album out and songs from that are given as much prominence in the set as some of the old favourites. The album is not officially released until June but it’s available for sale on the tour so you can get a sneak preview via both the stage and the merch desk. In contrast to the epic prog-folk of the band’s Wintersmith album of a few years ago Est’d 1969 is very much in the spirit of the band’s ‘classic era’ early 70s albums, both in terms of song choices and overall sound. A version of Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’, an adaptation of John Masefield’s poem ‘Roadways’ and various traditional ballads from the album are among the songs performed tonight. Of course, there is room, too, for a good number of Steeleye Span favourites like ‘One Misty Moisty Morning, Alison Gross and Black Jack Davey. A new song, the beautiful ‘Reclaimed’ written by Prior’s daughter and sung a capella forms part of the encore, along with the ever-present ‘All Around My Hat’.

With a line-up that’s always been evolving only Maddy Prior remains from the band’s earliest days. Unlike those other veterans of the folk rock scene, Fairport Convention (whose fluctuating line-up has stabilised in recent decades), Steeleye Span continues to evolve. Jessie May Smart, who replaced long-standing fiddle player Peter Knight a few years ago, is currently on maternity leave so her place on this tour is ably filled by classical violinist Violeta Barrena. Lining up alongside Maddy Prior, the rest of the band’s current members are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices.

Although rightly celebrated as icons of folk rock this band have always continued to vary their style, their set-list and, very often, their line-up from tour to tour which means there’s always an element of the unexpected and nearly always something very special to look forward to. Long may that continue.

Set-list

Harvest
One Misty Moisty Morning
The Elf Knight
The January Man
Alison Gross
Old Matron
Thomas The Rhymer
Tam Lin
Roadways
Black Jack Davy
Little Sir Hugh
The Weaver And The Factory Maid
King Henry
Seventeen Come Sunday
Domestic
Reclaimed
All Around My Hat

http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

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Related reviews:

Steeleye Span live 2017

Interview with Julian Littman

Steeleye Span live 2015

Steeleye Span live 2014

 

 

Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

The house lights dim on a packed auditorium and a bell tolls. This isn’t the doom-laden intro to an epic number like Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ or AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ though but rather the familiar clink-clank-clank of time being called at your local. For this is UFO and this is the Last Orders Fiftieth Anniversary Tour, marking both the band’s five decades together and their final set of gigs together. Fiftieth anniversary tours and farewell tours are both, of course, something we are seeing rather a lot of in the world of classic rock these days.

The band’s legendary guitarists, Michael Schenker and his replacement Paul Chapman, are long gone and bass player, Pete Way, bailed out a decade ago. However, the band still boasts vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard player/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond. Three out of five is definitely not bad for a rock band of this vintage these days.

Although never in the mega-league of stadium rock bands UFO have been a phenomenal presence in the UK rock scene and beyond. While they are rightly acknowledged for Schenker’s virtuoso guitar work back in the day, it must also be remembered, that UFO gave us a slew of absolutely classic songs. Indeed they’ve probably left us with significantly more truly memorable songs than some of the bands in the stadium-filling mega-league. It’s very much about celebrating those songs tonight and the classics come thick and fast: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’. ‘Love To Love’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and many more. The impressive ‘Burn Your House Down’ from the band’s Seven Deadly album and ‘Run Boy Run’ from 2015’s A Conspiracy Of Stars get a look in representing the more recent material but it’s mainly a night for the familiar classics. The band are in fine form, guitarist Vinnie doing a great job replicating some of Schenker’s most famous solos.

Mogg’s trademark geezer-down-the-boozer stage patter belies the fact that this is a historic moment – as the band’s history as a live act draws to a close. There’s another gig in London tomorrow night but Mogg’s on-stage banter is firmly focused on such weighty matters as Albert Steptoe’s junkyard and some waitress in Glasgow not knowing who Jimmy Page is rather than any overblown pomposity or thank you speeches. The venue is absolutely rammed as we say our goodbyes, however. (Too rammed if truth be told – Shepherds Bush Empire frequently seem to be over-selling their gigs beyond human comfort levels these days,) Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Cheers UFO!

Set-list:
Mother Mary
We Belong to the Night
Run Boy Run
Venus
Lights Out
Baby Blue
Only You Can Rock Me
Burn Your House Down
Cherry
Love to Love
Makin’ Moves
Too Hot to Handle
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot

http://www.ufo.band/latestNews.html

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Related review:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire

Live review: The Story of The Blues at The Printworks Hastings 21/3/19

Tonight’s The Story of the Blues tells the tale of one of Black America’s most celebrated and influential contributions to popular music through a combination of archive film footage, spoken narration and live performance. Put together by Hastings’ own Green River Blues Band, the town’s Printworks venue is absolutely packed out for them.

Having a fascination with this genre, both in its original country blues acoustic format and its later electrified form (not to mention the influence it had on both American rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s and the British beat groups of the 60s) this was always going to be a must-see for me as soon as I saw it advertised. I was a little worried that if the band didn’t quite get the tone right that, however accomplished they are as players, we might end up with something that ends up being over-romanticised and shall we say a little saccharine Opening with Sam Cooke’s 1961 hit ‘Working On The Chain Gang’ I thought we may be at risk of going down this route but any notions that they might not pull this off are soon dispelled. Narrator Jonathan Linsley talks us through the early roots of the blues starting with the shameful brutality of the slave era and the spirited songs of defiance that arose from that. The film footage that plays on the screen behind reveals a highly moving montage of images, from the almost impossible to absorb images of slave-sale stores on US high streets through to footage of some of the heroes of the emerging blues scene in action. The six-piece Green River Blues Band deliver a passionate and skillfully-played set taking us through early songs like ‘Take This Hammer’ and ‘Pick A Bale of Cotton’ through to later songs like ‘Crossroads’ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago’. Between songs narrator, Jonathan Linsley gives us glimpses into the lives of some of the performers like Lead Belly, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Robert Johnson.

After a short interval and the band are back one stage, the acoustic guitars now being replaced with electric. Now we move later into the mid-twentieth century, the band presenting us with timeless classics like ‘Got My Mojo Working’, ‘Smokestack Lightning’ and ‘Little Red Rooster’. Of course, though these remain well-known classics today by the 1960s many of the songs, and certainly many of the performers, had fallen into obscurity – until, of course, picked up, adapted and re-popularised by a bunch of middle-class white boys on the other side of the Atlantic. The show touches on this and clearly this was the entry-point for where the blues came into the lives of the guys on stage tonight.

The show celebrates the songs and those who created and performed them while pulling no punches in terms of the poverty, the hardship and, often, the brutality of the environment that the blues sprang out of. A moving and passionate celebration of the genre the biggest surprise is possibly that this is not some slickly-produced show that regularly tours the country but that tonight is strictly a one-off, put together out of love with all profits going to a local good cause.

If the Story of The Blues were to be rolled out beyond a one-off night in Hastings Printworks, however, I am absolutely certain it would find appreciative audiences in many venues. The Story of The Blues is a genuine triumph for those who put this together.

https://www.facebook.com/Greenriverbandpage2016/

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Live review: Seth Lakeman at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 7/3/19

This review was originally published by The Stinger here

It doesn’t seem too long ago that Seth Lakeman was being hotly-tipped as one of the young rising stars of the contemporary folk scene and, back in 2005, was being nominated for the Mercury Prize. Now in his early forties and a father of three, but still maintaining those boy-band good looks, he’s become one of the folk scene’s seasoned figures and has no problem packing out the De La Warr.

For this tour he’s supported by singer-songwriter, Carus Thompson. The singer/guitarist does a nice line in Aussie-flavoured Americana, including a love song that was inspired by playing in a maximum security German prison. Once part of Australian folk/country band Carus & The True Believers, Thompson’s music is well worth checking out.

Lakeman has the audience onside from the first song and takes us on a thrilling but thoroughly modern folk-rock romp. The set-list includes material from his 2018 album The Well Worn Path, as well as highlights from across his now-considerable back-catalogue – both traditional and self-composed.

Set highlights include ‘The Educated Man’, a song from the new album which is surely destined to be an audience favourite for many years to come. Another favourite is ‘Portrait of My Wife’ a traditional ballad that Lakeman initially performed as part of the Full English folk collaboration back in 2013. It’s just Lakeman and his fiddle right at the front of the stage for this – the band and even the microphone are dispensed with. The impact is stunning and the crowd join in the song’s chorus of ‘raise your glass to the one you love’.

Accompanying Lakeman, who alternates variously between fiddle and acoustic guitar, are Kit Hawes on guitar, Ben Nichols on double bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. Nichols’ bass playing produces a deep and powerful sound and Jenkins’ drumming really gives the band that folk rock oomph. However, it’s the interplay between Lakeman and Hawes that proves crucial to the dynamic on stage tonight. Whether it’s acoustic guitar versus electric, banjo versus acoustic, electric versus fiddle or acoustic versus fiddle it’s never less than totally captivating and the sound from the two musicians is glorious.

Lakeman tells us we’re the best audience of the tour so far and the band are clearly delighted with the response they get from the De La Warr tonight.

I volunteer for this project called Gig Buddies which is about giving adults with a learning disability opportunities to have an independent social life and I invited my gig buddy, Glenn, along to accompany me to this gig. The final verdict on Seth Lakeman’s performance tonight, therefore, goes to Glenn and he writes: “I enjoyed seeing Seth Lakeman and I love his songs. He was fantastic and I got to meet him afterwards.”

(Additional reporting by Glenn Harris)

https://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/

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Related reviews:

Seth Lakeman at Folk by the Oak 2014

Live review: Cara Dillon at the Birley Centre, Eastbourne 21/2/19

From ‘She’s Like The Swallow’ from her very first album released, incredibly, some eighteen years ago through to songs from her 2017 album The Wanderer, folk singer Cara Dillon treats the audience to a beautiful and varied selection of songs tonight.

I’ve enjoyed seeing Dillon performing live several times now, the last occasion being at Hastings’ St Mary In The Castle with a full band. Tonight, however, it’s just Dillon, her voice, a little bit of Irish whistle-playing and her husband and musical partner, Sam Lakeman, accompanying her on piano and acoustic guitar. There’s nothing bare-bones and basic about tonight’s performance, though, nor indeed about the setting. The ultra-modern Birley Centre theatre space at the private Eastbourne College, lavishly equipped with a Steinway grand piano, is clearly a gift for Lakeman to perform at tonight, as he compares the Steinway to some of the more battered instruments he’s had to play on elsewhere on the tour.

Whether it’s her interpretations of traditional songs or her own writing, Dillon’s Irish roots and County Derry upbringing are never far from the surface. ‘The Leaving’ is a song she wrote about the tradition of what was once known as ‘the living wake’, she tells us, where relatives would make merry until the early hours to say their farewells, not to a deceased relative but to one emigrating to America, very often never to be seen again. It’s a beautiful, emotive song but an even more poignant moment comes with her rendition of the Troubles-era song ‘There Were Roses’ about two boys, one catholic one protestant, who were both murdered in tit-for-tat killings back in the 70s. Dillon promises not to go on about Brexit but, as she introduces the song, very movingly talks of the threats to the peace process and the crushing of feelings of hope and optimism amongst young people that the current Irish border issues throw up back in her home town. Inviting the audience to join in the chorus, which we all do in our gentle, quiet, thoughtful way – adds to the poignance.

Another especially moving moment in the evening comes about with Dillon’s rendition of the song ‘Lakeside Swans’ from her latest album The Wanderer, which she was inspired to write as a result of the refugee crisis and seeing those awful images of the drowned little Syrian boy on the beach that appeared on the front pages of every newspaper a few years ago.

Always a mixture of beautiful singing, emotive lyrics and captivating performance an evening with Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman on stage is never less than something very, very special. Eastbourne tonight demonstrates their ability to pull this off once again.

http://www.caradillon.co.uk/

Facebook WANDERER POSTER 2019 - 2

Related reviews:

Cara Dillon at Cropredy 2014
Cara Dillon at Hastings 2016

Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

This was the sixth annual Giants of Rock weekend hosted by Butlins in Minehead – and my fifth. Here’s a small selection of bands that stood out for me this time, as well as one that I’m afraid just didn’t do it for me at all.

Worth seeing

Sometimes you want to see an artist, at least just the once, for the small part they played in rock ‘n’ roll history. For me, original Thin Lizzy guitarist, Eric Bell, was one of those names who fitted into that category. It meant missing the much-praised ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ band Ethyrfield on the other main stage, sadly, (but I made up for this by buying Ethyrfield’s CD from the merch stand later). Eric Bell gave us a run-through of rock ‘n’ roll and blues standards. It’s a little ragged in places but we’re soon into a rendition of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ – a slightly different arrangement of the old folk song compared to Lizzy’s version that many of are used to but Bell’s unique guitar sound is unmistakable and this is basically what I came in to hear. Ironically, the drum-kit of Bell’s former band-mate, Brian Downey, sits unused behind Bell’s band because Downey’s own take on Thin Lizzy’s heritage, in the form of his Live & Dangerous tribute, was the next act. Anyone hoping for some form of cross-fertilisation between these two performances, however, would have been disappointed. There are no guest jam spots or even any acknowledgement that the two bands are in the same building on the same stage on the same evening. Compared to the revived Thin Lizzy of a few years ago (which ended up morphing into Black Star Riders) this is more faithful copy of classic-era Lizzy in conventional tribute act format. But Brian Downey has more than earned the right to perform and celebrate these songs as many times as he likes and the band get a good reception.

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Eric Bell http://www.eric-bell.com/

Ones to watch

Now performing under their new identity (but still down in the programme as VOiD due to them still using their old name when they were originally booked last year) Scarlet Rebels emerged as one of the stars of the introducing stage this year. “Unfortunately, there are about a million bands called Void and no-one could ever find us,” lead singer, Wayne Doyle, tells the crowd. I had caught these guys doing a support slot a year ago and what has not changed is their brand of classy, melodic hard rock which immediately impressed me first time around. Lead guitarist, Chris Jones, is an absolute live-wire on stage, injecting wave after wave of energy into the crowd with his soloing, while front-man, Doyle, has a great voice that’s just perfect for modern-day classic rock. Let’s hope any identity issues that the band suffered under their previous moniker are now firmly behind them and that Scarlet Rebels get the recognition they deserve. As one of the triumvirate of introducing stage winners over the three days they’ll be back at Butlins on one of the main stages next year. Thoroughly well deserved.

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Scarlet Rebels http://www.scarletrebels.com/

Surprise of the weekend

Playing only their second gig in 35 years (the first being at Skegness Butlins the week before) the newly-revived Geordie are one of the biggest surprises of the weekend. The band had a handful of hits in the mid 70s but are now best-known as the band that launched Brian Johnson’s career prior to him being tracked down by AC/DC in 1980. Original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Powerful, foghorn very Johnson-esque vocals from Wright with a very well-rehearsed band behind him served to breathe new life into some long-neglected songs. It was great to hear the likes of ‘Can You Do It’, ‘Don’t Do That’ and ‘All Because of You’ getting a live airing after all these years. I’ve seen numerous band revivals at weekends like this, sometimes on some really rather tenuous ground. I therefore approached this with a mixture of curiosity and cynicism but they massively, massively exceeded expectations. A real surprise. I was half-hoping that Geordie would encore with a cover of Back In Black or Rock n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution as a cheeky little nod to the part they unwittingly played in rock ‘n’ roll history – but it wasn’t to be (Geordie – if you are reading this you should absolutely do it!). The job of delving into AC/DC’s back catalogue was instead left to the next act, Chris Slade’s Timeline when the current (and former) AC/DC drummer ran through a selection of classic songs from his various bands. For sheer impact and confounding expectations, however, the afternoon very much belonged to Geordie.

https://www.facebook.com/GeordieFanpage/

Old favourites

Sweet delivered a blistering set and hopefully gained a few more “oh, I just thought they were just a pop band I didn’t realise they were such a great rock band” converts in the process. However, I’ve written about this band many, many times before and readers of Darren’s music blog will be left in no doubt at all of my affection for all things Sweet. Instead, I’m going to give a mention to Oliver/Dawson Saxon. After they had both walked away from Biff Byford’s Saxon, guitarist, Graham Oliver, and bass player, Steve Dawson, got together and formed their own version of the band. Now I’m not saying Oliver Dawson Saxon are better than the actual continuing Saxon – but they are certainly more fun. With his on-stage patter, lead singer Brian Shaughnessy is more Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club than Hallo Wembleyyyy  and cuts a hilarious and quite bonkers stage presence but he is an absolute dynamo of a vocalist. When it comes to belting out all those old Saxon classics there is always so much energy from this band and Minehead 2019 was no exception. There are no pretensions to be anything else with this performance. It’s just good old-fashioned New Wave Of British Heavy Metal played exactly the way it should be. The perfect party band to end the night with on a weekend like this. Oliver/Dawson Saxon we salute you.

http://www.odsrock.co.uk/

And one that just wasn’t for me

Paul Manzi had quite a busy weekend. He did an excellent job filling in as a temporary member of Sweet on the Saturday night due to Pete Lincoln’s absence and then he was back on the Sunday night fronting Cats In Space. There’s another Sweet connection, too, because former Sweet bass player, Jeff Brown, now carries out that very same role for Cats In Space. Like Sweet, harmony vocals and hook-laden melodies are in integral part of the band’s sound. Rather than the British glam rock era of the early 70s, however, this band very much take their cues from the American AOR/ power pop era of the early 80s, when albums were as shiny, polished and lavishly-produced as an episode of Dynasty. Unfortunately, as with that TV series it’s a genre of rock that simply leaves me cold. It’s clear that Cats In Space love what they are doing and they execute it with total professionalism. I really wanted to like them but three songs in I realise it’s never going to be. If the previous night was Sweet this, for me, was saccharine. I up and leave for the other stage. Raw, raunchy down to earth blues rock from guitar maestro, Rob Tognoni was the perfect antidote to what I’d just walked away from – and someone I look forward to seeing more of.

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Rob Tognoni https://www.robtognoni.com/

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

Live Review: Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 19/12/18

This review was originally published by The Stinger here

Steve Harley and his band-mates take the stage and launch straight into George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun, a top ten hit for Harley and co, in 1976. It’s well received by the audience and I’m instantly transported back to the previous (and only) time I saw Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, one blazing August afternoon at the Reading Festival back in 1983 when that song worked its magic on the crowd. It’s a great start. The trademark combination of electric violin, electric and acoustic guitars and keyboards all in place, the band have the audience on side straight away.

After a couple of energetically performed hits, however, he takes us into some of the more reflective songwriting of his later solo career. Harley is a hugely talented and award-winning songwriter, but my view has always been that with an instantly recognisable but fairly limited vocal range, Harley’s voice is better suited to the more upbeat pop-rock material. That was confirmed for me tonight. There’s some beautifully heartfelt songs and some absolutely superb musicianship. Original Cockney Rebel drummer, Stuart Elliot is still with the band and Paul Cuddeford is an absolute whizz on guitar. Between songs Harley is a witty, sincere and, at times, a surprisingly emotional host. However, much as I admire his evident songwriting skills on the slower, more sensitive material, the delivery didn’t always quite work for me.

After a short interval though we’re back on to some of the rockier material where the band excel, particularly the aforementioned Cuddeford, and where Harley’s vocals are perfectly suited. And as we come to the end we start to get another blast of the hits. Over the course of the evening we are treated to Mr Soft, Love’s A Prima Donna, Best Years Of Our Lives, Sebastian and many more. Struggling to move around following a recent hip operation Harley tells the audience he’s not going to hobble off stage, wait in the wings and hobble back on for an encore as he introduces his best-known and one of the most memorable pop songs of the past fifty years. Now in use by Pfizer as the soundtrack for a Viagra ad, he jokes that he offered them Mr Soft but they insisted on this one.
The normally genteel, all-seated De La Warr audience start to get up and make their way up to the front to dance along to a wonderful, life-affirming rendition of Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me).

I learnt a lot more about what makes Steve Harley tick tonight. For someone who did not always endear himself to the media circus back in the day, he comes across as genuinely likeable and engaging. I’m still always going to love him more in glam rock god mode than in sensitive singer songwriter mode, much as I have a deep love for both genres, but this is a gig I am certainly glad I did not miss.

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Photo credit: Sarah-Louise Bowry

https://www.steveharley.com/

Live review: Toledo Steel at The Carlisle, Hastings 3/11/18

A third live blast of this band for me in recent months, Toledo Steel are rapidly becoming one of my absolute favourite modern-era heavy metal bands.

Although they released their debut album ‘No Quarter’ earlier this year, the band are not quite new kids on the block, having been around since 2011 and with two prior EPs and a relentless round of gigging under their belts. Unlike a number of similar bands, however, their line-up has been relatively stable during that time and on-stage they are a formidable unit together.

Rich Rutter’s powerfully melodic vocals, combined with the twin guitar assault of Tom Potter and Josh Haysom and some truly, truly memorable songs make Toledo Steel a really great classic heavy metal outfit.

Storming through a set-list including ‘Heavy Metal Headache’ and ‘No Quarter’ from their recent album and ‘City Lights’ and ‘Speed Killer’ from their last EP the impact on the crowd is instant. These are not just great songs. They are fully-formed heavy metal anthems.

And with a nod to the classic era of heavy metal that has done so much to help shape and influence this band we also get a brilliant cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Heading Out to the Highway’.

Following in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and Motorhead in having an eponymously-named killer track they leave us with a momentous blast of ‘Toledo Steel’ for an encore and for everyone to roar along to. Superb!

While the Carlisle is not packed tonight the band absolutely storm the place and it’s clear Toledo Steel have some committed fans in the audience, myself included. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they are playing on far bigger stages to far bigger crowds. They 100% deserve it.

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http://www.toledosteel.co.uk/

Related reviews:

Toledo Steel – album launch gig in London

Toledo Steel at Mearfest 2017

 

Live review: Ashley Hutchings ‘The Beginnings of Fairport Convention’ at Cecil Sharp House 1/11/18

As well as being a hugely influential musician Ashley Hutchings is a natural raconteur and an elegant wordsmith and here he’s built on his previous touring show (captured on the album ‘From Psychedelia To Sonnets’ in 2016) to put something together specifically about the early days of the band he founded: Fairport Convention.

Part book reading, part anecdotal reflection, part theatrical performance, part quiz show (!) and part full-on folk-rock concert, The Beginnings Of Fairport Convention is a two-hour show celebrating Hutchings’ period with the band 1967-69 and the four iconic albums they released.

For these performances Hutchings has put a full five-piece band together. Initially influenced by the folk rock that was springing up on America’s west coast and the burgeoning singer-songwriter genre Hutchings and his band-mates perform material that the original Fairport performed in their early days: songs like Eric Anderson’s ‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’. It’s far removed from the English folk rock that Fairport Convention would move on to in just a year or two’s time and Cecil Sharp might be turning in his grave if he were to hear what was being performed in the hallowed venue he gave his name to but Hutchings and co. do a superb job of capturing the sound, and some of the energy, of those early Fairport gigs. (Well I was only a toddler at time so what do I know but to my ears it was like having some of the BBC sessions from Fairport’s Heyday album being brought to life some fifty years later.)

There’s anecdotes, too, of course: the band’s first gig, Jimi Hendrix asking if he could jam with them one night and, for their second album, Sandy Denny joining.

After a short break the band return and Hutchings talks us through the band’s evolution from ‘Britain’s Jefferson Airplane’ to the pioneers of English folk rock, following the band’s tragic crash on the M1. Hutchings recalls the weeks spent poring over manuscripts in the library next door and the revolutionary sounds they began to create together rehearsing in the Hampshire countryside ahead of the recording and release of the iconic ‘Liege and Lief’ album. The unforgettable instrumental from that album (‘The Lark In The Morning’ Medley) is recreated together with a beautiful version of Richard Thompson’s and Dave Swarbrick’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. Becky Mills, who performs on the aforementioned ‘From Psychedelia To Sonnets’ album, does a beautiful job throughout the evening performing songs once sung by Sandy Denny, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews.

Ashley Hutchings “the single most important figure in English folk rock” as Bob Dylan puts it, has more than earned his right to celebrate the legacy of the band he helped create in this way and, with the help of some talented musicians, gives us a very entertaining two-hour show.

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http://ashleyhutchings.co.uk/

Related reviews:

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited’

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘From Psychedelia to Sonnets’

Album review – Fairport Convention ‘What We Did On Our Saturday’

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention August 2017

Albion Christmas Band at Kings Place 16/12/14