Tag Archives: Shepherds Bush Empire

Shepherd’s Bush Empire = live music venue

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2/11/17

Michael Schenker’s career, as well as his personal life, went through an increasingly erratic period a decade or so ago. Having seen Schenker a couple of times in recent years with his Temple Of Rock project, however, it was clear that he has absolutely, undisputably got his shit together again. If more proof was needed, tonight’s gig provides overwhelming evidence of that.

Tonight’s gig, dubbed Michael Schenker Fest, features all three vocalists from the three key eras of MSG: Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley. Barden is first up. While I won’t say he is the strongest of the three vocalists who will appear on stage tonight this is undeniably my favourite era of the band and the classic songs come thick and fast, transporting me back to my teenage rock fan years: Victim Of Illusion, Cry For The Nations, Armed And Ready….

Schenker is on stunningly good form with some stunningly good guitar work coming from his signature Flying V. On stage there’s other familiar faces from the old MSG days, too: Chris Glenn on bass, Ted McKenna on drums and Steve Mann on keyboards.

Next up is Graham Bonnet and while I have heard him struggle a bit at times during previous gigs he is definitely on form tonight. Originally recording one excellent album with MSG and playing just one disastrous gig where he drunkenly flashed the audience and promptly got sacked, much water has passed under the bridge since then. It feels a privilege to witness Bonnet perform Dancer and Assault Attack with Schenker and properly celebrate the part he played in MSG’s legacy. Even the sound system crashing in the early part of Bonnet’s set didn’t dampen the mood (and allowed me a much-needed loo break!)

Then it is the turn of the third of tonight’s vocalists. Robin McCauley is easily the strongest of the three singers tonight. Although set-wise, the earlier songs probably have far more resonance for me than the McAuley Schenker era, he certainly doesn’t disappoint tonight. To end the set he delivers a brilliant rendition of Rock Bottom from Schenker’s UFO days.

That sets the tone for a brilliant out-of-this-world encore which becomes a complete and utter UFO-fest. McCauley, Bonnet and Barden all come back on stage for Doctor Doctor, followed by Shoot Shoot, Natural Thing (with Schenker’s son Tyson joining his father on guitar) and, finally, Lights Out.

Three great vocalists, a brilliant gifted guitarist, some top class musicians and song after song of unforgettable rock classics, this was definitely one of the best hard rock gigs of 2017.

Set-list:

Searching for Freedom
Into the Arena
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Victim of Illusion
Cry for the Nations
Attack of the Mad Axeman
Armed and Ready
Coast to Coast
Desert Song
Dancer
Assault Attack
Captain Nemo
No Time for Losers
Save Yourself
Bad Boys
Love Is Not a Game
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot
Natural Thing
Lights Out

http://www.michaelschenkerhimself.com/home.php

20171102_183334

Advertisements

Holy Holy perform Ziggy Stardust at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 30/3/17

My review was  originally published on the Get Ready To Rock website here

“He’s fucking sacked us,” Spiders bass player, Trevor Bolder, was seen to mouth when David Bowie announced at the Hammersmith Odeon in October 1973 that it would be the final Ziggy show ever. Tragically, like Bowie, Bolder and his former Spiders colleague Mick Ronson are no longer with us. However, three years ago Spiders drummer, Woody Woodmansey, teamed up with long-term Bowie collaborator, Tony Visconti, to tour The Man Who Sold The World, an album that both played on. Now their Holy Holy outfit have done the seemingly impossible and resurrected Ziggy and the Spiders, forty-odd years after Bowie declared it would be the last show they would ever do.

Would they pull it off? I was certainly keen find out. Much as I wholeheartedly agreed with all of the tributes last year about what a truly unique, talented and infuential presence Bowie was throughout his entire career, for me it was always the early 70s glam rock period of Bowie’s work that I was truly, unequivocally a 100% fan of.

Starting out with The Width Of A Circle from The Man Who Sold The World, the seven-piece band go on to perform the Ziggy Stardust album in full, treating the crowd to blinding versions of Starman, Ziggy, Suffragette City and all the other gems from that iconic album. Once the final song of the album Rock n Roll Suicide plays out they give us to a spectacular run-through of other Bowie classics including Changes, Life On Mars and Space Oddity.

Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory delivers superb Bowie-esque vocals with the familiar phrasing that we all know and love from the records, while at the same time avoiding descending into a “Tonight Matthew I’m going to be…” pastiche. Post-punk icon James Stevenson absolutely nails the Ronson guitar licks in what is a talented band of world-class musicians. And, of course, it goes without saying that Woody Woodmansey is still an exceptionally talented drummer. The outpouring of affection for him throughout the night is thoroughly deserved.

The capacity crowd sing along to every word and the whole thing is joyful and celebratory. As we inevitably lose more and more of our twentieth century rock icons it becomes more and more apparent that we continue to have a tremendous yearning to still hear the music they made being performed live. We are no more going to forget Life On Mars in fifty years time than we have forgotten A Wonderful World almost fifty years after the death of Louis Armstrong. The challenge is to find an appropriate way of continuing to celebrate such music in a live setting. Holy Holy perhaps provides the template. They don’t claim to be the original band, although they’ve got a living, breathing direct link to it in the form of Woodmansey. They are not a tribute act, in that they avoid the role-playing and dressing up which can risk turning contemporary live performances into the musical equivalents of historical re-enactment societies. They do, however, pay tribute to the music in a way that is accurate and authentic and which delivers the songs with great love, care and affection.

In short, Holy Holy shows a way forward as to how we can continue to enjoy some of the greatest music of the twentieth century well into the twenty-first. A genuinely and truly impressive gig.

Setlist:
The Width of a Circle
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Five Year
Soul Love
Moonage Daydream
Starman
It Ain’t Easy
Lady Stardust
Star
Hang On to Yourself
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
All the Young Dudes
Oh! You Pretty Things
Changes
Life on Mars?
Space Oddity
The Supermen
Black Country Rock
The Man Who Sold the World
Watch That Man
Time
Heroes

http://www.holyholy.co.uk/

2017-03-30 18.53.02.jpg

Related:
The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences here

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/

074b71f6-047e-4048-b995-ac337665422f

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

Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/11/16

So it’s another trip to London and another trip to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Saxon, who are currently headlining a tour that also includes includes Fastway and Girlschool.

Girlschool are first up and deliver a great opening set. Even those unfamiliar with pretty much anything the band have put out since the 80s would find lots to like here. I always thought Girlschool’s brand of heavy metal worked best for them when they channelled their inner glam-pop sensibilities (something they always acknowledged was a key influence) and delivered songs that were loud, hard and heavy but laden with unmissable hooks, catchy choruses and memorable riffs. And for much of the set that’s exactly what we get: old favourites like Demolition Boys, Hit and Run, Emergency and (Gun cover) the fantastic Race With The Devil. Fitting very much into that template, too, is new song Come The Revolution, from their latest album: 2015’s Guilty as Sin.

Even thirty-odd years after Girlschool formed all-female rock bands are few and far between but well done the women of Girlschool for keeping the flag flying all these years and for doing it so brilliantly in 2016. A definite thumbs up from me.

Girlschool setlist
Demolition Boys
Hit and Run
Come the Revolution
Take It Like a Band
Future Flash
Watch Your Step
Race with the Devil
Emergency

http://www.girlschool.co.uk/

When Fastway was launched in 1983 a heavy rock supergroup was in the offing, featuring former members of Motörhead, UFO, and Humble Pie. Pete Way of UFO left before they even made their first album and, incredible a guitarist though ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke undoubtedly is, the band never really stayed on my musical radar. But at least that allowed me to approach their set tonight with a completely open mind. And my verdict: probably among the most talented performers of all three bands this evening. Eddie Clarke is an awesome guitarist, in particular, and Toby Jepsom (lead singer since 2007) has a great voice and a charismatic stage presence. And all the musicians had a good musical vibe and worked well on stage together. But… and this is a big but … compared to the other two bands this evening with their fistfuls of songs that are always imprinted on your brain and you can sing in the shower, this lot simply don’t reach that bar. In spite of some superb musicianship and a great stage presence having a great set of songs is, for me, a crucial component in distinguishing a good rock band from a truly exceptional one. However, Eddie Clarke’s greatest moment of the night is yet to come.

Fastway setlist:
Misunderstood
All Fired Up
Another Day
Deliver Me
Telephone
Heft!
Feel Me, Touch Me (Do Anything You Want)
Easy Livin’

http://www.fastwayofficial.com/site/

By the time Saxon come on at around 9pm every last square inch of floorspace in the Shepherds Bush Empire is completely rammed. I like being part of a sell-out audience in a packed venue but this bordered on being too close for comfort. Perhaps it’s a welcome sign that Saxon need to start booking bigger venues for their next tour.

Now Saxon have had their ups and downs over the years. After the initial wave of early 80s success, they never managed to attain the dizzy stadium-filling heights of their contemporaries like Iron Maiden (though personally I think Saxon are by far the superior band). Saxon risked being derided as heavy metal has-beens and written off as a bit of a joke. A much publicised documentary in 2007 saw them at constant loggerheads with Harvey Goldsmith as he took up the challenge to help restore the band’s popularity. But whether the band took on board any of Goldsmith’s advice or not it inevitably lead them to reflect on their music and their career. There’s been a significant change around in fortunes since and their bloody-minded determination to carry on serving their old fans as well as looking to gain a next generation of new ones has seen them through.

The album currently being toured Battering Ram stands up well against any of their early classics and it’s great to hear the album’s title track open the set. The album has been played and played on my stereo and so songs like The Devil’s Footprint and Queen of Hearts have become familiar old friends to me now and sit well in the set alongside earlier material. The last third of the set, however, is a non-stop run-through of those early Saxon classics: And The Bands Played On, Dallas 1PM, Wheels of Steel . It’s briefly broken for one of those ‘need-to-be-there’ moments when Eddie Clarke returns to the stage for a cover of his old band’s Ace of Spades as Saxon’s very special tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. Then it’s on with more timeless classics: 747 (Strangers in the Night), Denim and Leather and Princess of the Night.

Saxon in 2016 deliver the old material as good as they ever did, produce truly stunning new material and perform with a confidence and authority as befits one of British rock’s truly great bands. Just book a bigger venue next time, Biff!

Saxon setlist:
Battering Ram
Let Me Feel Your Power
Sacrifice
Solid Ball of Rock
Never Surrender
Crusader
Stand Up and Be Counted
The Devil’s Footprint
Strong Arm of the Law
Killing Ground
The Eagle Has Landed
Queen of Hearts
And the Bands Played On
Dallas 1 PM
Wheels of Steel
Ace of Spades (with Eddie Clarke)
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night

http://www.saxon747.com/

saxon-r800-310516

Related review:
Saxon – album review: Battering Ram

Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 4/10/14

I first got into Ian Hunter aged fifteen when I bought a second-hand version of Mott the Hoople’s Mott album. Everything about it appealed to me: Hunter’s eccentric but instantly recognisable vocals, Mick Ralphs‘ guitar, the pounding rock piano, the catchy and highly memorable songs. I was a fan straight away and soon began scouring the second-hand shops for other Mott the Hoople albums. Then I moved on to Hunter’s solo career. And while it’s true that some lead singers from classic name bands went on to make some pretty ropey solo albums, I was pleasantly surprised when I bought Hunter’s You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic to find that his solo albums were equally brilliant, too. So it’s fair to say that I’ve followed his career closely for well over thirty years now, eagerly buying every new album as it’s released, seeing him solo on numerous occasions as well as catching both Mott the Hoople reunions.

And so to tonight. Shepherd’s Bush Empire is a wonder in itself. It’s always great to be inside this old Edwardian music hall, seeing it given renewed life as one of London’s iconic rock venues. It’s no stranger to live performances from Mr Hunter and is the perfect setting for this, the last night of the tour. After the support band finish Hunter saunters on stage about 9pm, every inch the cool rock star. It’s scarcely believable he’s now 75 years of age and it’s even more unbelievable he still continues to write, record and perform highly original and consistently good songs that continue to attract glowing reviews. Although he is shrewd enough not to disappoint audiences who want to be able to celebrate some of the classic songs from his earlier career, he has eschewed a life of constantly touring mere greatest hits packages, however. Tonight therefore, we get brilliantly original songs from his more recent career, like When I’m President and Girl From the Office, alongside older solo standards, like Once Bitten Twice Shy and Irene Wilde, as well as a smattering of Mott the Hoople classics, like All the Way from Memphis and I Wish I was Your Mother. It’s a great mix and the quality of the songwriting shines throughout, as does Hunter’s wonderfully distinctive voice which has not diminished with age. He is assisted by his excellent  five-piece backing band, The Rant Band, who each display incredible musicianship, from the slower more poignant ballads to the all-out rockers.

As the main setlist comes to an end and the crowd loudly call for an encore Hunter, invites old bandmate, Mick Ralphs, on to the stage and they launch into Roll Away the Stone, Life (a new Hunter anthemic sing-along from his last studio album) and the inevitable but still brilliant All the Young Dudes.  Indisputable evidence that Ian Hunter remains one of the most interesting and entertaining artists on the planet.

Setlist:
(I’m The) Teacher
Once Bitten Twice Shy
Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman)
Something To Believe In
Now Is The Time
When I’m President
Boy
I Wish I Was Your Mother
All American Alien Boy
Black Tears
All the Way from Memphis
Irene Wilde
Flowers
Wash Us Away
Girl From the Office
23A, Swan Hill
Bastard
Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)
Sweet Jane
– Encore – (with Mick Ralphs):
Roll Away the Stone
Life / All the Young Dudes / (Miss) Silver Dime
Goodnight, Irene

http://ianhunter.com/main/

10665704_10152779126481449_4579046967544669685_n