Tag Archives: Sweet

Live review: Sweet – fiftieth anniversary concert at Spandau Citadel, Berlin 9/6/18

From a small trickle (The Stones, The Beach Boys et al) fiftieth anniversaries are now coming thick and fast in the rock world. 1968 was the year The Sweet were formed so this year it’s their turn and a special celebratory outdoor gig in Berlin.

Guitarist Andy Scott didn’t join until 1970 but, save for a short period in the early 80s when the band was on hiatus, Scott has been consistently touring and flying the Sweet flag for the past five decades. Germany, where Sweet have enjoyed a strong and dependable following over the years seems as good a place as any to host it and fans have flocked from all over Europe, including quite a sizeable contingent from the UK. Indeed most of us from the British contingent are still sitting at the back leisurely quaffing beer when the opening bars of ‘The Stripper’ blast from the PA system. An unexpectedly early start to the gig, we hurriedly race to the stage area to make sure we don’t miss anything.

The band rip into ‘Hellraiser’ but, lest anyone think this is just going to be a standard greatest hits set, we soon get some nice surprises. ‘Turn It Down’ never a big hit in the UK but the heaviest and the rawest of the Chinn-Chapman singles gets a welcome airing, as does ‘Defender’ the band’s most recent single, a sing-along slice of melodic hard rock released in 2015.

Former Sweet guitarist Steve Mann, who was with the band for seven years in the early 90s but was also a key figure in the NWOBHM metal scene in the 80s, is welcomed on stage to guest with the band for much of the gig. And before too long Krokus’s Marc Storace is also introduced to the crowd. Performing ‘American Woman’ and Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ this is a nice touch, demonstrating how much Sweet in the early 70s helped lay the the foundations for the generation of rock bands that came afterwards. Another guest is German metal vocalist Doro, who delivers a fantastic version of ‘All We Are’ and proves a perfect fit for the Sweet. Harmony vocals, always an intrinsic part of the Sweet sound, are boosted on stage tonight by the additional presence of some of the Rock Meets Classic touring band.

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A visibly moved Scott makes dedications to the original band members who are no longer with us, Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker, but amidst the plethora of special guests one person is notable by his absence. Apparently, attempts were made to get Steve Priest along but to no avail. Whatever has gone on between the two in the past it would have been nice to see the two surviving members of the classic 70s era of the band reunite on stage for the band’s fiftieth but it was not to be. None of this prevented this from being a very, very special gig, however. The band unleash powerful versions of some of their more hard-rocking album classics ‘Windy City’, ‘Set Me Free’ and ‘AC/DC’ – proving to any doubters that there was always far more to this band than just the glam hits.

Acoustic versions of ‘Lady Starlight’ and ‘Lost Angels’ follow, along with a medley of the band’s earliest bubblegum hits. Then, after an energetic workout from long-time drummer Bruce Bisland, it’s time to whip the crowd up with some of the glam-era smashes like ‘Teenage Rampage’ and ‘Wig Wam Bam’, not to mention a majestic ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and a fabulously rocking ‘Fox On The Run’, the band’s first self-composed mega-hit.

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There is an electric atmosphere in the huge outdoor courtyard of the historic Spandau Citadel (not the place where Rudolph Hess was sent to prison by the way, which was demolished after his death to prevent it becoming some sort of weird neo-Nazi shrine). Andy Scott and his band-mates (Bruce Bisland, Tony O’Hora and Pete Lincoln) are clearly moved by the reaction they get tonight and there’s soon thunderous cries for an encore. The band oblige, returning to blast out ‘Action’, Blockbuster’ and, finally, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ the latter with Marc Storace and Doro returning to the stage once more to share vocals with the band.

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Sweet (and their special guests) truly give fans a night to remember in Berlin. What a fantastic way to celebrate 50 years of this iconic band.

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http://www.thesweet.com/

Related posts:

Sweet at London and Bilston 2017
Sweet with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Sweet at Bilston 2016
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Sweet at Bilston 2014
The riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

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The top ten posts of 2017 on Darren’s music blog

Wishing you a happy New Year and thanks to everyone who has visited Darren’s music blog during 2017. Here are the top ten most popular posts from the year, with the highest number of visits:

1. The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences: actually written in late 2016 but consistently the most popular post throughout the year. Here I trace the origin of that famous riff – back through the glam era, the Yardbirds and those blues masters. Full post here.

2. Stone Roses at Wembley Stadium: “From the moment they first walk on stage to play ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ to the last climatic strains of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ the whole show is pretty much a celebration of that unforgettable and seemingly unrepeatable debut album.” Full review here.

3. Giants of Rock weekend at Minehead: Excellent performances from Troy Redfern, Focus, Bernie Torme, Bernie Marsden, Oliver-Dawson Saxon, The Pretty Things and Killit captured here. Here’s to Giants of Rock 2018. Full review here.

4. In praise of the CD: It was only a few years ago that people were finding it hilarious that I was clinging obstinately to the CD rather than embracing digital formats. Now, with the renaissance of vinyl, some still regard me as a Luddite dinosaur for not embracing the switch back to the 12 inch. Here I gave seven reasons why the CD is king for me. Full article here.

5. For One Night Only – Slade’s Jim Lea in Bilston: “We had been warned not to expect a live performance. But he certainly gave us one, and not some gentle, reflective, soul-searching, acoustic reinterpretation but a full-on, amped-up, raucous rock performance that so perfectly captured the spirit of Slade.” Full review here.

6. Sweet in London & Bilston: “This is a small venue with a tiny stage and it was absolutely rammed but the atmosphere was electric. It was evident that the band were also getting a huge buzz from playing to such a responsive audience, too.” Full review here.

7. The changing demographics behind charity shop CDs: another piece exploring my CD obsession. Here I talk through my observations hunting down charity shop bargains. Full review here.

8. Hastings Fat Tuesday 2017: my preview piece ahead of Hastings’ annual Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) celebrations with many, many dozens of gigs across the town was shared widely. Full article here.

9. Holy Holy perform Ziggy Stardust at Shepherd’s Bush Empire: “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.” Full review here.

10. W.A.S.P. at White Rock Theatre, Hastings: “The Crimson Idol tells the story of a boy Jonathan and explores themes of estrangement, drugs, fame, money and suicide. It has become something of a cult heavy metal album and, twenty-five years since it was originally released, Lawless and his band are touring it in full.” Full review here.

Thanks for visiting Darren’s music blog everyone. Thanks also to publications like Get Ready Rock, the Hastings Independent, The Stinger, fRoots Magazine, Bright Young Folk and the Hastings Online Time for running many of my reviews and articles.

Here’s to 2018!

Darren

Live review: Sweet in London and Bilston 15/12/17 & 18/12/17

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After perhaps rather too many Christmas tours of provincial theatres in recent years and, ahem, a tour supporting the Bay City Rollers last year it was gratifying to have Sweet do a short tour of proper rock venues this year. And I was lucky enough to catch them not once but twice. The renowned Robin 2 venue in Bilston, where the tour culminated, has been something of an annual pilgrimage for hardcore Sweet fans, with people travelling in from all over Europe.

First, however, I caught the band a few nights earlier at Nell’s Jazz & Blues in London. This is a small venue with a tiny stage and it was absolutely rammed but the atmosphere was electric. It was evident that the band were also getting a huge buzz from playing to such a responsive audience, too. This was confirmed by Andy Scott when we chatted briefly after the gig and the Sweet legend is clearly humbled by the reservoir of affection for the band as the Sweet approaches its 50th anniversary in 2018.

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With Brian Connolly and Mick Tucker no longer with us and Steve Priest in the States with his own version of the Sweet it’s been left to Andy Scott to fly the flag for the band’s legacy in the UK and Europe. Consistently exacting in his high standards Andy Scott has never been one to just go through the motions when he goes out under the Sweet name. The current line-up of Pete Lincoln (lead vocals/bass), Tony O’Hora (keyboard/guitars/vocals) and Bruce Bisland (drums) have been together a good few years now (twenty-five in Bisland’s case) and it’s clear just seeing them on stage they work exceedingly well together as a unit. The unforgettable riffs and the trademark harmonies are delivered as powerfully now as they were when the band was at its commercial peak.

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Set-wise, for this tour there was a nice mix between pumping versions of the glam-era singles like ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘Teenage Rampage’ and some of the classic harder-edged album tracks like ‘ACDC’ and ‘Set Me Free’ from the ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ album. In the middle of it all the stools came out for a nice little acoustic set – Andy Scott and Pete Lincoln delivering blinding versions of ‘Lady Starlight’ and ‘Lost Angels’. Tony O’Hora then joined the two for an acoustic run-through of some of the band’s very earliest (pre-glam) bubblegum hits. It’s testimony to the guys’ creativity, not to mention sheer chutzpah, that they can somehow give added meaning to the lyrics of ‘Co-Co’ and ‘Funny Funny’ and get a packed-out rock crowd singing along to every word.

Throw in some majestically symphonic versions of ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ and ‘Fox On The Run’ and add in a barnstorming encore of ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and on both nights I witnessed very memorable gigs and a very satisfied audiences. Here’s to The Sweet at 50 next year.

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Live photo credits: Eileen Handley, Set-list photo: Darren Johnson

http://www.thesweet.com/

Related reviews:

Sweet with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow
Sweet at Bilston 2016
Sweet at Dartford 2015
Sweet at Bilston 2014
The riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set-list – Sweet:

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

http://www.thesweet.com/

Set-list – Rainbow:

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

http://www.ritchieblackmore.info/

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2016 – The top ten most popular reviews on Darren’s music blog

Happy New Year and thanks to everyone who visited this blog during 2016. Here were the ten posts with the biggest number of hits this year:

  1. Sweet at Bilston – December: “The band produced some excellent hard rock back in the day and it’s nice to see that side of the band being properly celebrated, in addition to the more obvious but still equally wonderful glam rock side” – full review here
  2. AC/DC at the Olympic Stadium – June: “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 – full review here
  3. John Cooper Clark & Hugh Cornwell at Kentish Town – November: “It’s a veritable celebration of late 50s/early 60s pop culture and it is, my gig companion for the evening whispers to me, the most surreal gig I’ve ever been to.” – full review here
  4. Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush – November: “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.” Full review here
  5. Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush – November: “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.” Full review here
  6. Ian Hunter at Minehead – January :(yes – clearly a lot of Ian Hunter fans visit my blog!) “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.” Full review here
  7. Mott The Hoople Fan Convention at Hereford – June: “Forty-two years after their original demise Mott The Hoople is still a band that’s loved, celebrated and cherished by its many fans – and rightly so.” Full review here
  8. Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead – January: Sadly, the band have now called it a day following Mick Ralphs’ stroke this year. Let’s hope Mick has a full recovery and let’s hope it’s not the last we have heard of lead singer Adam Barron “he is, in my mind, fast establishing himself of one of the finest blues rock vocalists of his generation.” Full review here
  9. Me! – yes my own biography at number 9. You read the blog, you want to find out a bit more about who is behind it so here I am. Full details here
  10. Slade UK and Pouk Hill Prophetz at Wolverhampton – March: Another fan convention – Slade this time and a chance to see the Pouk Hill Prophetz. “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.” Full details here

Thanks to visiting everyone and here’s to 2017. Although it’s now inevitable that a number of music icons from the 60s and 70s are passing away let’s hope the rock obituary writers are not kept anywhere near as busy in 2017.

Darren

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Sweet at Bilston -our number 1 for 2016 (Photo credit: Eileen Handley)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glam rock and hard perfection. Keep at it boys

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

http://www.thesweet.com/

Photo credits: Eileen Handley

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

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

In January 1973 at the height of the glam rock craze, two singles with instantly memorable but remarkably similar riffs were both enjoying chart success: The Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster!’ and David Bowie’s ‘The  Jean Genie’, each released by RCA records. Which came first? Were they both dreamt up independently? Did one copy off the other? Or did they both draw on influences from somewhere else?

In the folk world songs have always been adapted, evolved and passed on. In the rock world that sort of behaviour is more likely to get you involved in lengthy court cases and costly lawsuits. But in folk there has been over a century of legitimate and rigorous study looking into the often murky origins of traditional songs and tunes. A simple question therefore is: can the principles of studying folk in determining song origins also be applied to glam rock?

We start with the song ‘Blockbuster!’ written by The Sweet’s then songwriting team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, recorded on 1st November 1972 in London and released in January 1973. In Dave Thompson’s Sweet biography ‘Block Buster’, The Sweet’s Steve Priest recalls Chapman playing his idea for a new song on an acoustic guitar while they were backstage at the BBC waiting to go on Top Of The Pops to perform ‘Wig Wam Bam’ (most likely their appearance on 14th September 1972).

The riff was remarkably similar to David Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’ recorded on 6th October 1972, released in November 1972 and in the charts at the same time. “While en route to Tennessee, ‘The Jean Genie’ was developed from an impromptu tour bus jam,” in September 1972 recounts the Mick Ronson biography, ‘The Spider With The Platinum Hair’ by Weird & Gilly. This would have been just prior to the band’s gig in Memphis which is recorded as taking place on 24th September 1972, several days after Mike Chapman strummed the riff for Blockbuster to Steve Priest on the other side of the Atlantic.

Both sides have always denied copying one another and given both ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘The Jean Genie’ were recorded and released around the same time it seems unlikely that either would have had time to secretly copy the other, then get it recorded and released, all within the confines of the same record company, RCA.

What is far more likely is that they were both influenced by the Yardbirds’ 1965 hit ‘I’m a Man’.

Alwyn Turner’s website Glitter Suits & Platform Boots quotes The Sweet’s Andy Scott as follows: “And then, you wouldn’t believe this, before our release we were in the office of the guy who was our contact at RCA and he played us the new David Bowie record, he played us ‘Jean Genie’. And I went, ‘That’s the same guitar riff,’ and he went, ‘Is it?’ This is a record company guy and I’m saying, ‘Haven’t you noticed?’ And he went, ‘No.’ I was horrified, I was thinking: that’s coming out first, and we’re coming out a week behind it, on the same label, it’s got the same guitar riff. I said: well, we don’t stand a chance of being #1. That was my thought. And within three weeks we were #1 and he was #2. I’ve since spoken to Trevor Bolder, the bass-player, and he said, ‘Remember “I’m A Man”?”

Here is that Yardbirds’ version of ‘I’m A Man’.

Interestingly, Iggy Pop and The Stooges also recorded a version of ‘I’m A Man’ during the sessions for the Raw Power album in early 1972. Bowie was involved in remixing this album and although ‘I’m A Man’ doesn’t appear on the album, he would certainly have been familiar with the Stooges cover version. Could this have had an influence on Bowie’s ‘The Jean Genie’ later that year?

We can hear Iggy & The Stooges version of ‘I’m A Man’ here.

Both recordings are, of course, cover versions of a 1955 original version of ‘I’m A Man’ by Bo Didley.

Bo Didley’s song is itself influenced by a song Willie Dixon wrote for Muddy Waters ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ recorded in 1954

The blues of Bo Didley, Muddy Waters et al can be traced back through the early electric blues of the 1940s to the acoustic blues of the 1920s, through the slave trade, plantations and back to African origins, where a number of the elements that would come to define key features of the blues could be traced back to.

But it’s worth specifically going back to that Bo Didley tune. The riff in ‘I’m a Man’ is significantly changed from that played by Muddy Waters in Dixon’s ‘I’m A Man’. Didley has adapted the tune as a simple repetitive four note riff repeated throughout the entire song, making it notably different.

So although it was influenced by an earlier blues song I think we can safely say that the riff that appears in ‘Blockbuster!’ and ‘Jean Genie’ first emerged in a Bo Didley song in 1955.

Postscript:
Another fascinating release from the 60s that could have played an influential role in the later 70s glam releases was Mickie Most’s 1964 version of ‘Money Honey’.

Unlike earlier versions of Money Honey by Elvis and previously The Drifters, the Mickie Most version utilises that same Bo Didley riff. Most would go on to be a towering figure in glam rock as mentor and producer for Suzi Quatro and as RAK Records boss, home to the likes of Quatro and Mud. He knew Mike Chapman very well and could have helped plant some of the creative seeds for that Blockbuster riff, further strengthening those glam rock links back to blues history.

Links and thanks:
Some great background info and quotes here, http://www.alwynwturner.com/glitter/sweet.html

Thanks also to Michael Duthie for pointing me towards the fascinating Mickie Most video and to Josh Beeson for pointing me to the Iggy & The Stooges version of ‘I’m A Man’.

Sweet at Orchard Theatre, Dartford 22/11/15

Sweet are a melodic hard rock band who play catchy, well-written rock songs with beautifully vocalised harmonies. But some rock fans are a bit snobby about Sweet because Sweet are glam rock and glam rock is not for serious rock fans. Well what a lot of nonsense that is. For sheer musical professionalism, tuneful melodiousness and unforgettable songs, there are few rock bands to match Sweet.

The tour is billed as Finale. “But let’s make one thing absolutely clear,” says guitarist Andy Scott. “No way is this the fucking finale.” Phew, they almost had me worried there. But as Scott, stalwart of the band since 1970, tells the Dartford audience tonight, he’s not really qualified to do anything else.

The current Sweet line-up (guitarist Andy Scott, drummer Bruce Bisland, vocalist/bass player Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora on keyboards, guitar and vocals) have been together since 2011. And they’ve proved themselves to be one of the most durable and easily the best line-up of Sweet since the days of the classic Connoly-Scott-Tucker-Priest formation back in the 1970s. Musical talent oozes out of every pore, even though they are a man down down tonight. Drummer Bisland has been ordered to rest for a month by doctors due to muscle fatigue. Sweet’s stage manager, Adam, has gamely filled the drum stool at the eleventh hour. And while there are some truly awful experiences of “roadie gallantly stepping up at the last minute” in rock history there are also some very good ones, too, and tonight is the latter. He does a great job, knowing both the band and the songs like the back of his hand.

I’v seen Sweet many times, of course. But so many of the things I want from a Sweet concert are there in spades tonight. There is a riotous version of Action, a hard-rocking version of Hellraiser, a majestic version of Love Is Like Oxygen (dedicated to Brian Connoly, Mick Tucker and the people of Paris), a pounding version of Wig Wam Bam, an anthemic version of Fox on the Run and, as befits two of the best songs ever written in the history of British popular music, spectacular versions of Blockbuster and Balroom Blitz. But there’s more, too: more well-crafted melodic hard rock in the form of brand new song Defender, a beautiful acoustic version of Lady Starlight. And this is followed by more acoustic delights as the early pre-glam rock bubblegum-era material (Co Co, Poppa Joe and Funny Funny) is given new life by being given the stripped-down, seated, guitar and vocals treatment. The Sweet goes all Bob Dylan as you will – but it works!

If you are a fan of melodic hard rock but have hitherto denied yourself the chance of seeing Sweet. Get over yourself. You are missing out. This band are brilliant. Go and see them!

Setlist:
Action
New York Groove
Hellraiser
Peppermint Twist
Defender
Lady Starlight
Co Co
Poppa Joe
Teenage Rampage
Wig Wam Bam
Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox On The Run
Blockbuster
Ballroom Blitz

http://www.thesweet.com/

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Previous review: Sweet at Bilston

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

If British glam rock could be said to have a spiritual home then Bilston, on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, has a strong claim to the title. Not only was it the place where Slade came together in the early days, for a number of years now its main live music venue The Robin 2 has seen a convergence of Sweet fans from all over Europe (and even further afield) on the occasions the band performs there. Before tonight’s gig Sweet fans from around Britain mingle with those from Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany and even a lady who has flown in from Tokyo.

So what inspires such devotion? Great songs of course – and we get the classic early 70s hits and much more besides; superb musicianship, too – although Andy Scott is the sole member from the classic 70s line-up this is a band of top-class rock musicians who most certainly are not just going through the motions; and exquisite harmonies – the high-range vocal harmonies are an iconic part of The Sweet’s trademark sound and this is a band made up of very talented vocalists.

Sadly, I never got to see the Connolly-Priest-Scott-Tucker version of the band. Only months after discovering The Sweet’s classic albums via the second-hand shops of Preston in the early 80s, the band rewarded my efforts by calling it a day. Since then I’ve seen numerous permutations of the revived band over the years. Without doubt, however, the current line up (Andy Scott on vocals guitar, Pete Lincoln on lead vocals and bass, Tony O’Hora on keyboards, guitar and vocals and Bruce Bisland on drums) is easily the strongest since the 70s.

Tonight, as you would expect,  we get those big hits of the glam era from songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman: Hellraiser, Blockbuster!, Wig-Wam-Bam, Teenage Rampage and The Ballroom Blitz. We also get a couple of songs from their 2012 covers album: New York Groove and You Spin Me Round which are both given the trademark Sweet sound or “sweetified” as Lincoln would have it. Plus we get great renditions of some of their later self-penned singles: Fox on the Run, Action and the magnificent late-70s pomp rock of Love Is Like Oxygen. However, as the 70s progressed Sweet strove to become recognised as more of an albums band than a singles band. It never quite worked out that way, though they did produce some bloody brilliant albums in the process. And tonight we get a real flavour of Sweet the albums band, too, something fans won’t always hear from the band on the European festival circuit or the British Xmas tour circuit. Into The Night, AC-DC and Set Me Free are performed from the Sweet Fanny Adams album, all blistering rockers, together with  a very lovely rendition of the acoustic number Lady Starlight (“my mum’s favourite Sweet song” Scott tells the crowd) from Desolation Boulevard, sung by Scott with just him and Lincoln on acoustic guitars.

The band won’t be around forever. Scott had a major cancer scare five years ago which he thankfully fully recovered from. Their European tour is billed as The Finale. “But a finale is followed by an encore…” Scott reassures the crowd. Tonight’s performance is proof that the band are still delivering musically and thirty-three years after buying my first second-hand Sweet album my own love affair with this band shows no signs of abating. A magnificent show from a magnificent, but criminally underrated, band.

Setlist:

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

http://www.thesweet.com/

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