Tag Archives: rock gig

rock gig

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

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Procol Harum at Giants of Rock, Minehead 30/1/16

At any music festival with multiple stages, as a punter you’re bound to be faced with the odd dilemma about which act to choose when two you really like are on at the same time. But the only clash I really dithered over at Giants of Rock 2016 was between Steve Harley and Procol Harum. In the end we plumped for Procol. I’d seen (and massively enjoyed) Harley at Reading Festival thirty-odd years ago, my two companions had seen neither but in the end we all agreed on Procol Harum. A choice none of us regretted. They were top class.

All the trademark features you would expect from Procol are present: the double keyboards with the delicious interplay between hammond organ and piano, the steady authoritative bass lines, the majestic tunes and, of course, Gary Brooker’s commanding vocals. If some rock vocalists make life hard for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery in their early 20s that gets more and more difficult to pull off as they hit their 70s, then Gary Brooker chose wisely. Brooker’s cool and melancholic vocals are as strong tonight as they were in 1967, when the band first hit the charts with A Whiter Shade of Pale.

While I love the unique sound of Procol Harum I must confess to only ever having owned two albums of theirs: a best-of compilation bringing together many of their late 60s and early 70s classics and the band’s most recent album – 2003’s The Well’s On Fire, which I picked up for the princely sum of £1 at Skegness Butlins two years ago. But I’m pleased to say there’s many songs I recognise tonight from the former, and at least one from the latter.

So after taking us on a stunning journey through the likes of Shine on Brightly, Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of), A Salty Dog and Homburg there was just one song left. They leave the stage. They come back on to thunderous applause. But, oh dear, Brooker can’t remember how it goes! They tease the audience with a snatch of When A Man Loves A Woman and then with a surprisingly brilliant rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, before finally the band hit on the familiar chords of A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of the most recognisable, most majestic and surely one of the most beautiful songs of the late 60s. A powerful end to a magnificent performance.

Setlist:
Bringing Home the Bacon
Homburg
An Old English Dream
Dead Man’s Dream
Kaleidoscope
Whaling Stories
Pandora’s Box
Nothing But the Truth
All This and More (which wasn’t played: The VIP Room instead)
Cerdes (Outside the Gates of)
A Salty Dog
Conquistador
A Whiter Shade of Pale

http://www.procolharum.co.uk/

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Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

“If the last time you saw Mick Ralphs was on some distant stadium stage this is a chance to get up close to the man and his music,” says the programme for the weekend.

Actually, no -the last time I saw former Mott the Hoople and Bad Company guitar supremo, Mick Ralphs, was right here at Butlins for the same Giants of Rock weekend just a year ago. But so impressive was he and the rest of his band it was an experience I was more than happy to repeat.

As I noted last year, Ralphs has assembled a very able bunch of musicians, Jim Maving on additional guitar, Dicky Baldwin on bass and (new boy) Damon Sawyer on drums. Inescapable logic about inevitable human mortality is reminding us that the rock icons of the 70s are not going to be around forever. Indeed, we are losing quite a few of them now, even if live audiences are keen to experience the musical genres most closely associated with that era well into the 21st Century. So kudos to Ralphs for looking ahead to the next generation. He has chosen well in recruiting TV’s former Voice contender, Adam Barron, as lead vocalist. Barron, not yet 30 but gigging and singing since his teens has now been with the band some two years. And he is, in my mind, fast establishing himself of one of the finest blues rock vocalists of his generation. He effortlessly handles Bad Company classics like Can’t Get Enough and Feel Like Makin’ Love as well as material from the band’s new album If It Ain’t Broke – a mixture of classic covers (like Shakey Ground and a magnificently soulful Same Old Blues) as well as Ralphs originals (like I Don’t Care and Too Bad). The Butlins crowd responds accordingly and are clearly pleased to have the band back again this year.

An instantly recognisable sound, classic guitar licks, some of the most iconic rock songs of all time and the rich soulful, bluesy vocals of Adam Barron. It’s an on-stage masterclass in classic rock. The Mick Ralphs Blues Band should be a must-see for any fan of the genre.

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

2016-01-29 23.31.36

Previous review: Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

There is enthusiastic and generous applause for former Rainbow frontman, Graham Bonnet, as he takes the stage for the first night of the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend in Minehead this year. Looking as cool as ever (eschewing, as always, the 70s/80s heavy rock get-up in favour of the 60s spiv look) he launches straight into songs from the classic Down To Earth album he did with Rainbow: Eyes of the World and the unforgettable All Night Long. Later on we get to hear Lost in Hollywood and the inevitable Since You’ve Been Gone, as well as his 80s solo single Night Games. It is an absolute sheer joy to be singing along to those songs with a crowd of equally enthusiastic punters.

Some rock vocalists unwittingly, but nevertheless helpfully, make life easier for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery and a choice of songs they’ll forever be associated with that they can still pull off with ease several decades later. Mr Bonnet has perhaps not made life as easy as possible for himself in this regard. What I did begin to notice, however, was that his voice was much more at ease with the Rainbow material than with the harder-edged and more high-octane Michael Schenker Group and Alcatraz material from slightly later in his career. Those latter songs did appear to be placing more of a strain on his vocal chords.

There’s been mixed reactions to Bonnet’s live performances in recent years. I enjoyed the Butlins show and loved singing along with the crowd. However, if I were advising Graham Bonnet I would probably be urging him to centre his live performances mainly around the polished, commercial rock of Down To Earth (and perhaps his subsequent solo album Line-Up which is very much in a similar vein) rather than trying to represent all stages of his career. Indeed, the previous time I saw Bonnet back in 2014 this is exactly what he did.

Look, Graham, you made one of the most iconic and memorable rock albums of the late 70s. You still deliver those songs well and people definitely want to hear them. Plus you’ve got some great musicians. Let your live shows be a celebration of the wonderful songs on Down To Earth rather than unnecessarily straining your voice on material that it is less equipped to deal with these days.

Still a great night though – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

http://www.grahambonnetband.com/

2016-01-29 22.28.00

Previous review: Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Islington

 

Gaz Coombes at The Roundhouse 28/1/16

If the size and prestige of venues says anything about an artist’s career then Gaz Coombes is on an upward curve. After seeing Coombes perform in some iconic venues in the Supergrass days, smallish (and as they say “more intimate”) club gigs have been the order the day for much of his post-Supergrass career thus far. And while those were great shows it’s nice to see him perform to a capacity crowd in Chalk Farm’s infamous Roundhouse tonight for the first in their current In The Round series.

For the first few numbers it’s just Gaz and his guitar on stage. Some beautifully intimate, stripped-back acoustic versions of Oscillate, Hot Fruit, Needle’s Eye and To The Wire from his two solo albums. Then he is joined, not only by his backing band but a full string ensemble. And the stage just fills with sound for a stunning version of Buffalo, the opening track from his latest solo album – the Mercury Prize-nominated Matador. While there’s evidently a certain degree of continuity with some of the more reflective tracks from later-era Supergrass, Coombes’ writing is maturing and tonight’s packed auditorium (not to mention the Mercury Prize nomination, of course) is a sign of the growing recognition of this. We are presented with lush, beautifully instrumented versions of songs from Here Come The Bombs and Matador. Highlights for me included a heartfelt Detroit, a lovely Girl Who Fell To Earth and a fabulous White Noise, probably one of the most Supergrassy songs of his recent career.

Although Coombes has rigorously avoided becoming a one-man Supergrass tribute act, endlessly churning out the back catalogue, he has often treated audiences to one or two renditions of iconic Supergrass material like Moving or Caught By The Fuzz. We get none of that tonight though. But what we do get is a glorious version of David Bowie’s Five Years. We can’t complain at all. The perfect and fitting encore to a stunning evening.

Setlist:
Oscillate
Hot Fruit
Needles Eye
To The Wire
Buffalo
Sleeping Giant
These Days
Detroit
White Noise
Seven Walls
The Girl Who Fell To Earth
20/20
English Rose
Matador
Five Years

http://www.gazcoombes.com/home/#ZIQPwIIF2P4KOtAo.97

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Previous review: Matador album review

Dave Davies (and Ray!) at Islington Assembly Hall 18/12/15

A couple of years ago I drew up a list of some of the bands I wanted to try and catch at least once before they (or I!) died, became otherwise indisposed or packed up for good. Black Sabbath with Ozzy, The Who, The Beach Boys with Brian Wilson, Deep Purple and, given rumours of a possible reunion, The Kinks. One by one I worked through all the bands on my list, but The Kinks reunion remained elusive. So the next best thing seemed to be to at least catch the surviving members perform solo. I’d already seen original drummer, Mick Avory, perform with several 70s-era ex-members of The Kinks. So a Dave Davies solo gig in Islington seemed like a good idea and I could hopefully get to see a Ray Davies solo gig at some future date, too.

The Islington Assembly Hall, part of the town hall complex, is not the largest of venues but it’s filled up nicely as Dave Davies takes the stage, backed by three supporting musicians. We get a nice mixture of classic 60s Kinks singles, some lesser known tracks from the band and a selection of Dave Davies’ solo material. Although his speaking voice sounds frail at times, his singing voice is much stronger and his mastery of the guitar (arguably, on You Really Got Me, the man who invented the heavy metal riff) is as powerful as ever. It’s a particular joy singing along to those old Kinks numbers especially: All Day and All of The Night, Tired Of Waiting For You, See My Friends, Death of a Clown and I’m Not Like Everybody Else.

Of course, when he came back on for an encore we could all guess absolutely what the song was going to be. What we couldn’t guess, though, was who would be joining him for that final song. “A surprise for Christmas!” announced Dave and on walked his brother Ray, the two of them sharing a stage together for the first time in 19 years. The audience as one are hit with amazement and wonderment at this beautiful and unexpected moment in rock’n’ roll history. Ray was in fine voice as he sang You Really Got Me and Dave cranked up the guitar. The audience went wild. Excitement, joy and genuine emotion as that 2 minutes and 14 seconds of one of the greatest rock’n’roll songs of all time blasted out from the stage. An early Christmas present indeed.

Setlist:
Ripping Up
All Day and All of the Night
She’s got everything
Creeping Jean
Tired of Waiting For You
See My Friends
In You I Believe
Strangers
Flowers in the Rain
Young and Innocent Days
The Man He Weeps Tonight
Death of a Clown
Living on a Thin Line
Dead End Street
Where have all the Good Times Gone?
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
You Really Got Me (with Ray Davies)

http://www.davedavies.com/

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Steeleye Span at Cadogan Hall, London 14/12/15

Although always described as a folk rock band, just how much weight Steeleye Span attach to one or the other of those two influences has tended to ebb and flow over time. They started off very folky, then got more rocky, then more folky, then more rocky… and so on and so on. At the moment we are at a particularly rock phase in Steeleye’s history.

Wintersmith, the Terry Pratchett-inspired 2013 album, set the band in a prog-infused direction and really gave guitarist/keyboardist, Julian Littman, a chance to come into his own and stamp his own influence on the band. It’s not a direction that’s going to please all fans but it’s one I’m certainly enjoying. “We keep movng forward – we’re not a Steeleye Span tribute act,” explains Maddy Prior at one point, as she introduces some of the newer material. And it is genuinely fascinating to witness.

We do get old songs from the back catalogue, even going back to the very first album. But the dark, heavy, progged-up feel of Wintersmith is carried through into much of the older material too, with lush keyboard passages, crunching bass lines and high-octane, melodic, screeching guitar solos. There have been a couple of personnel changes lately in this constantly-evolving band. New second guitarist, Spud Sinclair, and new fiddle player, Jessie May Smart, both bring something worthwhile to this latest musical direction the band are currently headed in. Smart is a versatile player, deftly moving from haunting and melodic to spiky and rocky, and she’s proving a worthy replacement for the legendary Peter Knight. Plus having another set of female backing vocals compliment’s Prior’s voice nicely.

It’s a well chosen selection of songs in the setlist for this tour. The excellent Wintersmith album is well-represented, of course, with songs like Crown of Ice, You and the brilliant The Dark Morris Song. But there’s some nice surprises, too. New York Girls, which I’ve always considered a fun but extremely lightweight novelty song from 1975’s Commoners Crown album (with Peter Sellers on ukele!), is transformed into something far more meaty and substantial. Cromwell’s Skull, a new song with (in the words of Rick Kemp) a real Floyd-ified bit at the end is absolutely fantastic and it’s great to see the band really rocking and progging it up. There’s the glam-folk 70s smash All Around My Hat, of course and there’s Blackleg Miner and Boys of Bedlam. But rather than encoring with the acapela Christmas hit, Gaudette, as on many previous the band all come back to stand at the mic stands to do a beautiful acapela Somewhere Along the Road, an old song of bass player, Rick Kemp, that has finally been given the Steeleye treatment.

The Steeleye Span bus continues to take us on a long, winding and unpredictable yet thoroughly satisfying journey.

http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

2015-12-14 20.59.25

Previous Review: Steeleye Span at New Forest Folk Festival

Fotheringay at Great British Folk Festival 6/12/15

Having seen Fotheringay on their short summer reunion tour (after a modest break of some 45 years) one of the most delightful things about tonight’s performance is, founder member, Jerry Donahue’s assertion that what started as a temporary project to promote the band’s retrospective box set is now set to become permanent. So the band that was formed by the late Sandy Denny, her late husband, Trevor Lucas, and the still very much alive Jerry Donahue, Pat Donaldson and Gerry Conway lives once more.

Donahue talks with great fondness tonight about his time in Fotheringay. But, given a band whose overlap in membership with Fairport Convention was often mocked by critics back in the 70s, Donahue managed to commit the ultimate faux pas by getting his two former bands muddled up and referring to the band on stage as Fairport at one point. Pat Donaldson, the only member of the original Fotheringay never to have ended up in Fairport, made to leave the stage in mock disgust. The spirit of Fotheringport or Fairport Confusion clearly lives on…

What a wonderful show we get though. Some of Sandy Denny’s most beautiful songs brought to life once again and performed live for audiences in the 21st Century. Between them, both Kathryn Roberts and Sally Barker do an amazing job handling Sandy Denny’s vocal parts with passion, beauty and respect. I was terribly dismissive about Sally Barker’s vocals when she sang a Sandy song during a guest slot at Fairport’s Cropredy appearance in 2014. But after seeing Fotheringay twice now I happily own up to being completely, absolutely 100% utterly wrong about Barker, my guilt being compounded even more because, not only did she give us such a wonderful performance tonight, she also took the trouble to personally run around backstage for me to ensure I had all three surviving members’ autographs on my Fotheringay CD. Sorry Sally!

PJ Wright also does a fine and convincing job handling the vocals originally sung by Sandy Denny’s late husband, Trevor Lucas, as well as delivering some beautiful pedal steel guitar on a couple of Sandy Denny solo tracks the band perform tonight.

Song highlights: there were so many. Nothing More, John The Gun, Knights of the Road, Solo, Peace in the End and many more, even though they have to trim their planned setlist slightly due to time pressures.

Had she lived would we now be seeing Sandy Denny joining her erstwhile folk-rock contemporaries, Jacqui McShee and Maddy Prior, at Butlins folk festival this weekend? That we’ll never know. But we have got Fotheringay brought to life once more. There have been various tributes to Sandy Denny (arguably the most gifted female singer-songwriter that Britain has ever produced) in recent years. In addition to the boxed sets and the various books we’ve had the all-star The Lady tribute show put together by Andrew Batt, we’ve had Thea Gilmore’s interpretation of Denny’s newly unearthed lyrics and, of course, we can always expect some sort of tribute in any performance of Denny’s old band, Fairport Convention. But of all the tributes, and they’ve all been wonderful in their own way, for me the one that has been the most special, the most authentic and the most spine-tinglingly, amazingly beautiful has been this current Fotheringay reunion. Long may they continue.

http://www.fotheringay.com/

2015-12-06 21.33.48

Previous review: Fotheringay in London

Deep Purple at The O2 3/12/15

In the world of classic rock/heritage rock/dad rock, call it what you will, three out of five members from the heyday era of a late 60s/early 70s rock band is pretty good going these days. So those buying a ticket for Deep Purple at the O2 still get to see Ian Gillan on stage, joined by the rhythm section for much of the band’s history Ian Paice and Roger Glover, just like when the classic Mark 2 incarnation of the band recorded Deep Purple In Rock, Machine Head and Made in Japan. And while Ian Gillan, Ian Paice and Roger Glover are on fine form tonight it would be unfair to suggest that it is only the presence of these three that make the band worth seeing.

Guitarist, Steve Morse, has now been with the band 21 years, joining not long after Ritchie Blackmore walked out seemingly for the very last time. And keyboard player, Don Airey, who many will recall from his time in Blackmore’s original post-Purple project Rainbow, has now been with the band 13 years, ever since founding keyboardist Jon Lord retired from the band before tragically succumbing to cancer. Both of these“new boys” are serious, world-class, heavyweight additions to the band as they demonstrate tonight.

Set-wise there’s a lot that fans of 1972’s Made In Japan (one of the best live rock albums of all time) will be familiar with: Highway Star, Strange Kind of Woman, The Mule, Lazy, Space Truckin’, Smoke on the Water (everything from the acclaimed live album, in fact, bar Child In Time). The classic 70s tracks are complemented by a few “best of the rest” from the post-84 period, like Perfect Strangers, as well as stand-out tracks from the latest album Now What?! It being a gig by 70s rock legends, of course, there are the obligatory solo spots: guitar solo, drum solo, bass solo and a gloriously eccentric keyboard solo from Don Airey (encompassing everything from Land of Hope and Glory to Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner (Elgar meets Chas and Dave?)

The O2 is a great venue for really big arena gigs in many respects. But I’ve noticed on several different occasions now that for those in the banks of seating around the sides, where we were seated tonight, the audience can take a little bit of time to warm up. Clearly, they were enjoying it. But unlike those on the main floor the audience remained resolutely seated. Given I was starting to get cramp and given there was no way I was going to remain seated for Smoke On The Water I decided that as soon as I heard the opening da da der – da da da der, I would jump up in my seat and hope that everyone else would follow me. They did. And the band stormed through Smoke, through their first ever single Hush and, finally, through a roaring version of Black Knight. The crowd lapped it up. O2 audiences can take a bit of warming up but they get there in the end.

Setlist:
Highway Star
Bloodsucker
Hard Lovin’ Man
Strange Kind of Woman
Vincent Price
Uncommon Man
The Well-Dressed Guitar
The Mule
Lazy
Demon’s EyeH
Hell to Pay
Perfect Strangers
Space Truckin’
Smoke on the Water
Hush
Black Night

http://www.deeppurple.com/

2015-12-03 20.47.36

Judas Priest at Brixton Academy 1/12/15

The evening kicked off with excellent support from Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock. And Schenker clearly understood the golden rule of being an effective support act: unlike the headliners that everyone has paid to see, hit the crowd between the eyes with your best song first – don’t save it ’til the end! So we begin the night with a cracking version of Doctor Doctor. It couldn’t have been a better start to the evening in an absolutely jam-packed Brixton Academy.

I first discovered Judas Priest as a teenager back in the early 80s not long after British Steel came out and the band can still be heard regularly blasting out from my speakers. But as a gay heavy metal fan I can’t also fail to mention my personal admiration for lead singer Rob Halford. In a genre that always seemed so resolutely heterosexual, Halford’s decision to be open about being gay back in 1998 was a big moment both for him personally and for heavy metal generally. Seeing his total command of an adoring crowd tonight it’s hard to believe that Halford’s sexuality could ever even have been an issue. But there must be many a teenage rock fan across the globe who can personally thank Rob Halford for demonstrating so visibly that, yes, it’s ok to be both gay and like heavy metal. Cheers Rob.

Halford is not a frontman who goes for a lot of between-song chat and audience banter but, boy, does he know how to work a crowd: mass chanting, crowd sing-alongs, every stage movement eliciting a multitude of fists in the air and more costume changes than Elton John, Halford knows how to squeeze every last drop of adulation from an audience. His vocal range is as wide and as powerful as it always was. He growls the lowest of the low notes and howls the highest of the high notes just as he always did. It’s a performance of utter brilliance in every respect, as is that of the whole band. The unmistakeable twin lead guitars are as powerful as ever, with Glen Tipton being joined by new guitarist Richie Falkner (who replaced Priest veteran, KK Downing, in 2011).

And let’s not forget the songs of course. They deliver a great mix of songs representing different eras of the band’s history, the relevant album cover for each song flashing up on the giant screens on stage beforehand, fuelling anticipation of what might be coming next. We get some new songs from last year’s album, Redeemer of Souls, of course – the first with new guitarist, Falkner. But as we move through the hour-and-a-half set, more and more of the unforgettable classics of the 80s emerge: Breaking The Law, Hell Bent for Leather, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.

Soon we are nearing to a close, however, with the crowd going wild to a high-octane version of Painkiller and a brilliant sing-along Living After Midnight. Always metal. Always Loud. Never just noise. Judas Priest are still on form and are truly still the Metal Gods.

Setlist:
Battle Cry
Dragonaut
Metal Gods
Desert Plains
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
The Rage
Turbo Lover
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Screaming for Vengeance
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
The Hellion
Electric Eye
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Painkiller
Living After Midnight

http://judaspriest.com/

2015-12-01 20.36.07