Tag Archives: rock gig

rock gig

Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 11/11/16

77 and still putting out great albums, I’ve been eagerly anticipating each new Ian Hunter release for around three decades now. Fingers Crossed, Ian’s latest album with his superb Rant Band came out in September and it’s great to be seeing Hunter performing songs from that album live so soon afterwards.

A raunchy, rocky ‘That’s When The Trouble Starts’, opens the set, also the opening track on the new album. Over the next couple of hours we get several of the other new ones, too, including the lovely new piano ballad ‘Fingers Crossed’ and ‘Ghosts’ which is Hunter’s reflection on a visit to Sun Studio. Having, visited there myself earlier this year I completely relate to the evocative magic conjured up by the lyrics “All the wonders of the word assembled here to jam..”

‘Dandy’ is Hunter’s tribute to David Bowie, the man who was so alarmed to hear that Mott The Hoople was on the verge of splitting up after being a constant live draw but failing to shift many records, he offered to give them a hit, gifted them ‘All The Young Dudes’ and the rest is history. An affectionate, melancholic, Bowie-esque singalong it name-checks various Bowie songs: “Dandy – you’re the prettiest star. There ain’t no life on Mars. But we always thought there might be…”

Other songs from his more recent career also make there way into the set. ‘When I’m President’, his caustic take on US politics seemed particularly apt tonight as we all still try to comprehend the future in the light of this week’s presidential election results.

In his solo career Hunter has never been one simply to rest on past glories and has always sought to introduce new material into his set. But at the same time, however, it wouldn’t be an Ian Hunter concert without a selection of vintage classics interspersed with the newer material. From the Ian Hunter solo back catalogue ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’, ‘Cleveland Rocks’ and ‘All American Alien Boy’ each made an appearance, while from the Mott The Hoople archive we got storming versions of ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, ‘All The Way From Memphis’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’.

The Rant Band are on great form, as ever. Ian Hunter continues to be both a great rock and roll performer, as ever, and a thought-provoking singer-songwriter, as ever. Let’s hope there’s a good few more tours in him yet.

http://ianhunter.com/main/

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Related reviews:
Ian Hunter at Minehead 2016
Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Motörpace (Motörhead tribute) at The Carlisle, Hastings 20/8/16

My review originally appeared in the Hastings Independent 1/9/16

When there is so much excellent original music being performed live around the town should the Hastings Independent be reviewing tribute bands? It’s a moot point and for much of the past couple of decades I’ve been pretty dismissive of the whole tribute band scene; but two things began to change. Firstly, being exposed to world-class tribute acts, like Australian Pink Floyd, appearing on festival line-ups alongside original artists and experiencing first hand the sheer quality of the musicianship, regardless of whether it was original or not. Secondly, reflecting on the legacy of some truly iconic acts in the wake of a seemingly endless succession of rock star deaths in recent months, not least one Lemmy Kilmister at the end of 2015, and concluding that it would be a particularly severe case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face to refuse to celebrate and enjoy the music of, say, David Bowie or The Eagles or Motörhead in a live setting just because the instigators are no longer with us. No-one ever got sniffy about the artistic validity of the Royal Philharmonic performing an evening of Beethoven so should celebrating the music of some of rock’s greatest icons really be that much different?

So here we are at The Carlisle then to witness the Motörhead tribute act, Motorpace. First, however, the band as they put it themselves “are their own support act” and rattle through a number of heavy metal staples by the likes of AC/DC, Metallica and Judas Priest before doing a full second set in full-on tribute band mode. Wisely, apart from the bass player/vocalist sporting some Lemmy-esque facial hair and a vaguely rock n roll-ish leather hat, the band avoid the temptation to play-act the roles of the former members of Motörhead and instead concentrate on getting the sound right; which they do with devastating precision. All the essential ingredients are there: the fast and furious bass-playing rumbling away like some industrial power tool, the hoary, growled vocals, the blinding guitar solos, the power drumming. It goes down really well with the Carlisle crowd which has swelled significantly by the time the band come on stage to do their main set in tribute to Lemmy and co. Punters lap up the likes of We Are The Road Crew, The Chase is Better Than the Catch, Overkill and, of course, Ace of Spades as well as more recent material like Thunder & Lightning from Motörhead’s final studio album, Bad Magic.

I’ve certainly become far more philosophical about tribute acts. If your entire experience of live music was to be nothing but an endless stream of tribute acts, each aping the glory days of bands gone by, that would be rather sad indeed; but as part of a balanced musical diet I see absolutely nothing wrong with taking in the odd tribute concert. This is especially so when the quality of the performance is as good as that delivered by Motorpace this evening.

https://www.facebook.com/motorpacetrib/?fref=ts

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Related reviews:
Motörhead – Bad Magic
Motörhead at Hyde Park

Diggeth at The Carlisle, Hastings 15/7/16

The Carlisle pub in Hastings is the town’s premier rock venue, hosting a range of up and coming bands, more established (yet not major league) acts as well as various tributes to some of the big name bands (usually all free). After a trawl around Hastings old town with an old friend, we made it into the Carlisle just as the night’s headline band, Diggeth took to the stage. If you’re not familiar with a band already it’s sometimes a bit of a hit and miss affair: you are never going to like everything after all. But this band immediately grabbed my attention.

Diggeth are a Dutch three-piece who’ve been around for about a decade now. Loud, crunching bass, powerful drumming, some great guitar riffs and those austere slightly Germanic-sounding, slightly American-sounding vocals that Dutch rock singers can pull off so well. But, very importantly, they had some really, really good songs, too. It’s all original material but pays enough dues to heavy metal and hard rock heritage to give some of the songs the immediate air of sounding like would-be classic rock staples. In fact it’s a sure sign of musicians making an impact on their audience if a band that you’ve never heard of before, play you songs that you’ve never heard of before and get you enthusiastically humming and moving along to them while at the same time still sounding fresh and original.

In terms of influences the band cite AC/DC to Metallica to Michael Schenker to Slayer, as well as many more. I was certainly impressed enough by Diggeth to fork out a fiver for their CD – Kings of the Underworld, released in 2014. No souvenir purchase that’s soon forgotten about this: I’ve played it at least half a dozen times in the three or four days since I bought it. Songs like the title track ‘Kings of the Underworld’ and ‘See You in Hell’ have already become memorable classics to my ears and this is a band I’m certainly pleased to have stumbled across.

https://www.facebook.com/Diggethmusic/#

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The Blockheads at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 19/6/16

Ian Dury’s days as frontman may have been tragically cut short by cancer back in 2000, but the band he helped form lives on. Still featuring original members, Chas Jankel, Norman Watt-Roy, Micky Gallagher and John Turnbull, vocals these days are handled by Dury’s former driver-cum-minder, Derek “The Draw” Hussey. Hussey’s striking appearance (long white hair, pin-striped jacket, silk scarves and small round specs with the peace sign emblazoned on each lens..) initially suggests a stage presence more charismatic than it really is. But his sardonic, laid-back delivery kind of works. The totally unique and utterly irreplaceable Ian Dury was always going to be one very hard act to follow but musically the band are as hot as ever. That trademark blend of rock ‘n’ roll, new wave, funk and music hall is there as much as ever.

We get the big hits of course: What A Waste, Billericay Dickie, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Reasons To Be Cheerful and, of course, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. But we also get songs like Express Yourself from their most recent album: “Same Horse, Different Jockey” from 2013. Musically and lyrically these channel a similar vibe to the Ian Drury days, even if they are never going to be as memorable.

With many bands it’s the lead guitarist who is leaping around on stage and drenched from head to toe in sweat by the end of the evening. With The Blockheads, however, it’s bass supremo, Norman Watt-Roy, who has this honour. This is testimony to what a superbly energetic bass player he is but also to how integral his playing is to the band’s overall sound. Also noteworthy are the keyboard skills of Mick Gallagher and Chas Jankel, especially when the two play together. This is a band that may have been tragically robbed of its original lead singer but musically they have not lost a thing.

A word, too, on the venue. Hastings is blessed with a fantastic selection of live venues. However, for those who regularly pass by this one, perched high in front of West Hill on the seafront, but have yet to venture inside, St Mary in the Castle is well worth a visit. The nineteenth century church was deconsecrated in the 1950s, saved and eventually restored as an arts venue in the 1990s and now has a good varied programme of live music and other events. It makes for a quite spectacular setting for gigs.

http://www.theblockheads.com/

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AC/DC at The Olympic Stadium, London 4/6/16

After successfully purchasing two tickets for this AC/DC gig the minute they went on sale last December I was gutted to later learn that a number of dates were being pulled because of Brian Johnson’s hearing problems, but also mystified to read in the announcement that they hoped to resume the tour “likely with a guest vocalist.” Just how was that going to work out?

A huge amount of controversy ensued about the way Brian Johnson had been treated, about whether the band was right to carry on and if (in the light of also losing founder, Malcolm Young, and drummer, Phil Rudd) the dignified thing was to call it a day once and for all and put the AC/DC name to rest. The subsequent rumours and then confirmation that it was to be Axl Rose replacing Johnson for the remainder of this tour merely stoked the controversy even further.

And now, as I’m standing in the Olympic Stadium watching the Axl Rose-fronted AC/DC, I’m reminded of something that my dad said to me at the time of Bon Scott’s death when I was just 13: “They might find another singer but no-one is ever going to sound as dirty as Bon Scott.” That’s not to berate Brian Johnson, who was a hugely powerful vocalist who delivered some brilliant rock anthems and who embodied the spirit of AC/DC for well over three decades. But he had a different style of vocal delivery to his predecessor and as I’m listening to Axl Rose belting out the likes of Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and High Voltage I can’t help feeling he’s absolutely nailing those old Bon Scott tunes and bringing back some of that elusive “dirtiness” that my dad was always looking for. Perhaps, especially given I’d seen a brilliant AC/DC set at Wembley Stadium last year with Brian Johnson still at the helm, I’d probably have liked a few more Scott era classics in the set-list but that’s a minor quibble. Rose handles both the Scott and Johnson material with aplomb.

Musically, the band are as together as ever: blinding solos from Angus Young, crunching rhythm from Stevie Young (Malcolm’s successor), ever reliable bass-lines from Cliff Williams and powerhouse drumming from Chris Slade. The effects are all present and correct, too: the over the top lighting show, the crazy video shorts, the clanging bell, the firing cannons…

I’m genuinely pleased that I approached this gig in a spirit of optimism and open-mindedness. Axl Rose would certainly never have been my immediate thought for a replacement frontman for AC/DC. But he and the rest of the band gave us a night to remember. A credible band with a credible lead singer delivering a truly astonishing show. Long live AC/DC.

Setlist:
Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Rock ‘n’ Roll Damnation
Thunderstruck
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Given the Dog a Bone
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Sin City
You Shook Me All Night Long
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
T.N.T.
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Highway to Hell
Riff Raff
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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http://www.acdc.com/

Previous review: AC/DC at Wembley

Bernie Tormé at Horsham 23/4/16

Horsham’s Holbrook Club was transformed into a buzzing rock venue on Saturday 23rd April with appearances from The Stuart James Band and headliner, ex-Gillan guitarist, Bernie Tormé. Local trio, The Stuart James Band, opened proceedings with their brand of classic blues rock. With some well-chosen covers as well as original material they will have delighted existing fans and almost certainly gained some new ones on Saturday.

From one power trio to the next, punters didn’t have to wait long until Bernie Tormé and his band, Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums), took to the stage. Dublin-born Bernie Tormé first came to prominence in the late 70s/early 80s as the guitarist with the heavy rock outfit, Gillan. His distinctive riffing was as much an intrinsic part of that band’s sound as Ian Gillan’s famous vocals. And it’s all still very much on display for those watching Bernie Tormé and his band on Saturday. Fuzzed-up glam-punk, squealing Hendrix-style feedback and guitar wizardry galore, combined with great songs that span an illustrious recording career, Bernie and his band truly rocked the Holbrook Club.

Material from his post-Gillan solo career such as the storming Wild West, which kicked of proceedings, is combined with newer material from his two recent solo albums. The two albums Flowers & Dirt and Blackheart have proved to be something of renaissance for Bernie Tormé with excellent reviews and renewed interest from fans around the world. Songs from both albums are well received. There’s still room for a bit of nostalgia though and the main set ends with those two early rock n roll classics that were given a new lease of life by Gillan back in the early 80s: Trouble and New Orleans. The band are called back on stage for an encore and end the evening with an incendiary version of another Gillan classic: No Easy Way. Bernie Tormé is still rocking hard!

Setlist:
Wild West
Bullet
Blood Run Cold
Turn Out The Lights
Pain Song
Flow
Star
Dirt
Stoneship
Rocky Road
Can’t Beat
Trouble
New Orleans
No Easy Way

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

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Previous reviews
Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 2014
Bernie Tormé at The Borderline 2015

Slade UK and Pouk Hill Prophetz at Wolverhampton 19/3/16

We’re in an era of rock history where bands’ fiftieth anniversaries are increasingly common. The Stones did a world tour,including a celebrated gig in Hyde Park. All the surviving leading members of the Beach Boys reunited and The Who had a well-received anniversary tour which packed out arenas, too. Now it is the turn of Slade, a band who had their breakthrough in the early 70s but who formed in the 60s, when Noddy Holder and Jim Lea joined Dave Hill and Don Powell in an existing band called the N Betweens, a band that would eventually be renamed Slade. It’s exactly fifty years since the four first shared a stage together but there’s no big reunion of the original members, no sell-out gigs at the O2 or the Wembley Arena and no wall to wall press coverage. Instead, the occasion is celebrated with a fans convention in the aptly named, though modestly-sized, Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton where there are performances from a couple of tribute acts, Slade UK and the Pouk Hill Prophetz.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening there’s a Slade quiz; there’s some Slade-related poetry from stand-up poet, Paul Cookson (who perhaps is to the glam rock genre what John Cooper Clark is to punk); and there’s even a speech and formal welcome from the Mayor of Wolverhampton. The Pouk Hill Prophetz play the first of their two sets, an all-acoustic set that delivers acoustic versions of well-known classics like Coz I Luv You and Cum On Feel The Noize, as well as far more obscure material that fans of Slade seldom get to hear in public.

The Pouk Hill Prophetz came together through their shared love of Slade. They’re not a tribute act in the classic sense, in terms of dressing up and adopting the persona of individual band members, and they don’t restrict themselves purely to Slade’s back catalogue either – they throw in a couple of Sweet and T-Rex numbers in the evening set. But in both their earlier acoustic set in the bar and their later evening set on the main stage their love for Slade’s music clearly shines through. Where the band really excel, particularly in the later set, is in the delivery of pre-glam era “before they were famous” Slade songs – stunningly authentic versions of songs like Know Who You Are and Dapple Rose from 1970’s Play It Loud album, for example. Indeed, one of the highlight’s of the whole day is when, drummer, Trevor West’s 13 year old daughter takes the stage to play a beautiful rendition of the violin solo on Dapple Rose, the first decent violin rendition I’ve heard on a Slade song since the classically-trained Jim Lea stopped performing with the original band years ago.

Slade UK are more of a traditional tribute act. They dress like early 70s Slade and vocalist Nidge (Nod) Hillam arrives on stage replete with enormous sideburns, lots of tartan and a mirrored top hat. In the past I’ve tended to be a bit sniffy about tribute acts – of all genres. Slade UK are bloody good though. In fact, the voice of the lead singer is far closer to the raw power and sound of Noddy Holder than Holder’s actual replacement in the modern-day Slade, Mal McNulty. There’s a real energy to the musicianship, too, and they capture the authentic sound of Slade perfectly. As with the previous act, it’s not just about delivering the well-known hits either. We get B sides, we get songs that were never performed live by the original band and we get songs from many different eras of Slade, stretching from the early days right through to the band’s very final hit single, 1991’s Radio Wall Of Sound. Loud and blisteringly authentic they do the band proud. There can be only one song to finish though: the band return to the stage with Santa hats, fake snow pumps out from the stage and the familiar opening chords signal the start of the greatest Christmas song ever made…

The night may have lacked the huge arenas, the enormous crowds or the wall-to-wall press coverage associated with other famous bands’ fiftieth anniversaries. But there is no lack of love for Slade and their music here tonight and both acts do the band and its fans proud.

http://www.sladeuk.com/

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Related reviews:
Slade at Minehead
Slade at Hastings

Vangoffey at The Social, London 14/3/16

Few who were following popular music in the mid 90s will forget Supergrass bursting on to the Britpop scene with Alright. But the band were always a multi-faceted animal. And since they split in 2010 lead vocalist, Gaz Coombes, has clearly carried the flame for the more reflective, soulful side of Supergrass into his deservedly well-received solo career. And the loud, spiky more punkish side of the band looks to have been taken on into bass-player Mick Quinn’s post-Supergrass outfit, the DB Band. But what then of the quirky, zany, wacky, britpoppy side of Supergrass? The side of Supergrass that most of us came across first before we were even aware of any other Well step forward Danny Goffey. The erstwhile Supergrass drummer has re-emerged as the frontman for Vangoffey. And after a short tour in support of their debut album last year, Goffey and the band are back with a handful of dates showcasing their brand of chirpy, humorous indie pop-rock.

The Social is a long, narrow basement bar in London’s west end with a tiny, tiny stage at the far end. Indeed, it’s quite a cram getting Goffey, bass-player Drew McConnell (of Babyshambles), two guitarists and drummer, James Yates, on that stage. The band launch into Trials of a Modern Man, definitely one of the stand-out tracks from the album and probably the one that most closely channels the spirit of the hook-laden, slighly manic but instantly catchy Britpop-era Supergrass. I absolutely love it.

Race of Life – a funked-up Ian Drury-esque tale of the life of a sperm is less my cup of tea but the Ray Davies-esque Alfie Loves the Birds most certainly is. There’s plenty to enjoy here and Goffey is a witty and inventive songwriter who is more than capable of writing some catchy hooks. In this small but crowded venue the band are very well received. After working their way through all ten tracks on the album there are calls for an encore but that’s our lot. “We haven’t got any more songs yet,” explains Goffey.

I still hold out hope for a fully-fledged Supergrass reuinion at some point. But in the meantime it’s nice to see Danny Goffey come out from behind his drum kit and front a band. You wouldn’t want to see every drummer try this. But Danny Goffey pulls it off – the Phil Collins of Britpop…

Setlist
Trials of a Modern Man
Sucker
You, You, You
Alfie Loves The Birds
Race of Life
Beta Man
Episode
The No. 9
Phil’s Dummy
Spilt Milk

http://www.vangoffey.com/

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Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 13/2/16

“It’s as rough as hell but the rock nights are good fun,” the woman in the cab office tells me as I wait to get taken to the Red Lion. Buried away in an industrial estate along Gravesend’s river frontage, it’s a traditional boozer with a large, cavernous old-fashioned function room that’s been given a makeover as a rock venue and a decent-sized stage put in.

The event is billed as 3G and features three bands. First up are young Kent-based band Salvation Jayne (an all-female line-up save the bass player) who instantly channel the vibe of early 70s Humble Pie with covers of Black Coffee and I Don’t Need No Doctor. Great stuff. Next up is modern blues band Big River, fronted by Damien Fawsett who put the whole evening together with the aim of showcasing guitar rock.

And then, finally, it’s the turn of Dave “Bucket” Colwell with fine backing from the Big River boys, who take the stage once more. Colwell spent a number of years in Bad Company and that’s very much reflected in the sound and feel of tonight’s set. This is not only due to Colwell’s excellent lead guitar-playing but also because he’s joined on vocals by the superb Adam Barron, who can normally be found doing vocal duties with another Bad Company guitar hero, Mick Ralphs. I’d seen Barron performing with the latter only two weeks ago at the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend. But tonight, not only does he get the chance to let his vocal chords loose on some Bad Company classics like Ready For Love, as well as some Colwell solo material, we also get to hear some Free classics this time, too, with brilliantly-performed versions of The Stealer, Fire & Water and All Right Now.

Not only has Barron been fortunate enough to work with some genuine guitar greats, like Colwell, he’s also got the voice to take the polished but emotive blues rock of the early 70s well into the 21st century.

https://www.facebook.com/dbcandfriends/

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Related reviews:
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2016
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock, Minehead 31/1/16

Over the course of the Giants of Rock weekend there appears to be an informal game of one-upmanship playing out between the various artists as they recount to the audience the first time they appeared on a Butlins stage: 1976, 1962 and so on…

But no-one beats Ian Hunter’s 1956. At a time when so many of his rock contemporaries are sadly passing away in their late sixties and early seventies, it’s incredible to think that, at 76, not only is Hunter still going strong, still singing and still performing but that he is still a major creative force, writing songs and making albums as consistently original and wonderfully compelling as the ones he made over four decades ago.

I’ve described elsewhere my almost lifelong love affair with the music of Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople. And while the long-defunct (and somewhat forgotten at the time) Mott The Hoople were not the obvious choice for teenage boys to hit upon as one of their favourite bands in the early 1980s, I was privileged, during the course of the weekend, to bump into a fellow Hunter fan of a similar age with an almost identical story as my own. I felt doubly privileged when he turned up with a couple of spare backstage passes for my friend and I a few hours before the gig, allowing me to meet one of my topmost musical heroes after the show.

And what a show it was. Hunter is not usually one for a lot of on-stage banter. But his ability to connect with an audience through the quality of his song-writing and through the power and resonance of his performances is second to none. The sheer range of emotions that one can experience during the course of a single show is incredible: from the exhilarating, joyful irreverence of All The Way From Memphis to the heartfelt, introspection of Boy to the sardonic political commentary of When I’m President. All, of course, delivered with Hunter’s unique vocal style, accompanied by the superbly accomplished musicians in the Rant band.

In what was undoubtedly the number one highlight of a weekend of many highlights, we get a set that any Ian Hunter fan would be delighted to hear: from songs of the Mott The Hoople years like Honaloochie Boogie, to early solo material like Once Bitten Twice Shy to more recent material like Black Tears from his last studio album. Soon the set is drawing to a close but the band return for an encore of Rest In Peace (particularly moving following the death of Mott drummer Dale Griffin), Roll Away The Stone, Life (the brilliant new Hunter anthem from his most recent album) and, of course, All The Young Dudes. What better way to pay tribute to its writer, David Bowie (whose kindness and support came in the form of gifting the song to Mott The Hoople at a make or break stage in their career) than to bellow along to this at the top of our voices.

Then it’s all over. But, of course, it’s not quite all over as we head backstage to meet Mr Hunter and the rest of the Rant Band. A wonderful, moving moment in my life but all the more memorable for coming at the end of such a wonderful, moving performance. Thank you Ian Hunter for continuing to make such amazing music.

http://ianhunter.com/main/

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Previous review: Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire