From The Earth: ‘From The Earth’ (Machine Devil Records)

This one came out of left-field last month: a six-track mini-album from a new project fronted by Michael Devin, currently the bassist for Whitesnake. He’s written all the material himself, and co-produced this record with Warren Riker, as well as contributing bass, vocals, keyboards and guitars. There are several other notable performers on the record however, listed on the back cover (posted below) including a certain Brian Tichy on one track.

The cover art suggests the style of rock on offer here quite well, evoking the ‘stoner rock’ era of the early 2000s, itself inspired by 1970s acid rock bands such as Hawkwind. That’s the kind of thing to expect, especially with the Monster Magnet-esque ‘Creature Feature’. Those sort of sludgy guitar riffs are present and correct on here, and Devin may surprise those unaware of his vocal prowess on this album. ‘Wild Buffalo’ could have fitted on Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ and it’s no stretch to say that the Whitesnake man’s voice is quite reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell on this one.

Opener ‘Hallelujah Blues’ is more like another Monster; the hard rock shuffle of this track is in keeping with Monster Truck’s sound. Safe to say if you like the kind of retro-rock those two Monsters serve up (and I do!) then you’ll enjoy ‘From The Earth’. It isn’t all a heavy hammering though; ‘All The Time’ is a slower, more country-rock styled number while ‘Moon Queen’ also cools things down, Devin sounding more like the Cornell of ‘Euphoria Morning’ here. Closer ‘Monsterland’ is a slow-burning, stoner epic of the kind of thing Dave Wyndorf specialises in, it will conjure up images of sixties-style liquid light shows in your head!

Devin’s Whitesnake commitments (he’s currently on a US tour with Coverdale and co) mean it’s unlikely he will get the chance to play this stuff live often, but it’s to be hoped he can get a band together to play a few selected dates. This is a strong offering from a talented musician who shows here he’s far more than a sideman. Recommended.

The mini-album is available as a download on iTunes, Amazon and is also on Spotify – you can listen for yourself below:

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

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Caught Live: HAIM, Olympia Theatre, Dublin IRL 12th June 2018

It’s been almost five years since I last saw the sister-act HAIM live; that was at the end of their breakthrough year of 2013. Although they’d played UK dates in 2012 as support to Florence + The Machine, they really came to the attention of the British public when they won the BBC’s ‘Sound Of…’ award at the beginning of that year. From there they were featured heavily on BBC music programmes including their coverage of Glastonbury, T in the Park and Reading/Leeds (the band appeared at all those festivals), and their UK tour that winter saw the ‘sold-out’ signs everywhere they went. Since then, they’ve replicated their UK success in their US homeland, off the back of a support tour opening for megastar Taylor Swift. This short run of UK and Ireland dates came a year after their second album ‘Something To Tell You’ was released, and also sold out rapidly proving their popularity hadn’t waned in the interim.

The Olympia in Dublin is a small but ornate theatre, I chose to sit in the circle rather than stand in the crowd in the stalls, a wise decision when I got there to find the queue reaching back halfway across Temple Bar! They played two nights here, and I was at the first of those. The opening act was US singer Maggie Rogers, somebody who (once again) I had no prior knowledge of. She turned out to be an expressive performer, clad in a blue jumpsuit and using all of the stage to dance across as she sang, she drew huge cheers from this (mostly) female audience every time she so much as let her hair down or took off her jacket! Her material wasn’t that far removed from HAIM’s own, at least in terms of how they sound on record, and her band gave her good backing, particularly the drummer.  Not strictly my cup of tea, but a good live act and fine singer.

Support act Maggie Rogers

Support act Maggie Rogers

Following her set a huge army of techs were on to turn over the stage for the main act, and soon revealed were a bank of keyboards to one side, a set of drums to the other (for touring members Tommy King and Jody Giachello respectively), and in the middle, more drums! Three sets, for the sisters themselves to use, and not content with that, there were more set up at the front of the stage! These came into use right away as the girls came on, led by youngest sister Alana. Her drum pounding was soon joined by middle sister Danielle and finally, by eldest sister Este. The three of them gave a Sepultura-esque display before launching into opening number ‘Falling’, from their debut ‘Days Are Gone’ album. Following that up swiftly with ‘Don’t Save Me’, they already had this crowd in raptures.

Most of the set leant towards the current album, although other favourites from the debut such as ‘My Song 5’, ‘The Wire’ and of course ‘Forever’ were played. Whatever the song, once again this band showed themselves to be a vastly different experience live than they are on record. Meticulously-crafted, polished and slick on the CD you listen to in the car, live they are a much heavier, much harder-hitting band. Put simply, on record they’re Smooth Radio, live they’re Planet Rock! Live drummer Jody Giachello has a lot to do with that, he is a thunderous player and drives the backline along superbly, but the other major difference is that Danielle Haim is unleashed live – she is a fine lead guitarist, throwing out solos that Gary Moore or Robin Trower would have enjoyed on songs like ‘Nothing’s Wrong’, which simply aren’t there on the records. In addition to that, Alana gets to add her own guitar parts as well as contribute keyboard touches and additional drums. She relishes the chance to get amongst the fans and did just that towards the end of the set, singing while posing with her adoring public on the front row. She even draped a tricolour around herself and returned to the stage to play, with it still on her back!

Eldest sister Este on the bass once again delighted her fans with her ‘bass face’ expressions, and surprised us all by ditching her top after three numbers, opting to play the rest of the set in her bra! Not that anybody minded (least of all this fan!) but it did encourage at least one audience member to follow suit! As usual, there was the humorous banter between songs, and as they were in Dublin they even indulged in a pint of Guinness each. At least two of them did, Danielle opted out, explaining that she’d been fighting off a bug and was still on antibiotics.  Behind the antics, Este is a fantastic bass player, locking in with their touring drummer and providing many tasty little fills. Danielle took over the drums for ‘Something To Tell You’; she normally sings it too, but with her being ill Alana took the lead vocal on this occasion.

That was about the only indication Danielle was unwell, she still sounded in good voice and her guitar playing, as said before, was immense. For their rendition of ‘Right Now’, played in the encore, the delivery was with more ‘anger’, more ‘menace’ than was evident on the album, with a few choice F-bombs thrown in for good measure. Danielle closes this with another scorching lead solo before the three of them take to those drums at the back and give us one final blast. For this segment, they gave Giachello a (deserved) moment in the spotlight for a solo of his own. After that they took their bows to tumultuous cheers and made their exits.

The band I saw in 2013 were great, but still raw. It was their harder live sound which hooked me, and they still have that now but with more experience and more craft, after some solid touring in huge arenas over the past couple of years. They’re now the finished article, and it’s to be hoped that their short run of shows on these shores this time will be followed up by a more comprehensive tour at a later date. That will likely be in arenas though, they now have the audience to fill bigger places and if I may drop a hint to the girls, it’s time you came back to headline Liverpool’s Echo Arena!

5 – Delightful

Punk Sunday 16 (Diablo Furs, Healthy Junkies, Lilith and the Knight), Stalybridge Tavern 10th June 2018

The latest in the series of multi-band shows, staged on a Sunday afternoon/early evening and promoted by IndigoBravo (two guys based in east Manchester who have worked hard to bring up-and-coming bands to the local area), saw another varied selection of groups playing at this bar, sited close to Stalybridge railway station and also close to a free car park for those who drive in. The IndigoBravo team are about to change venue yet again, as the venues often find that they are drawing visitors from outside the local area (such as your correspondent) and are therefore on only soft drinks such as J20; they’re not necessarily attracting a local clientele.

I got there in time for Diablo Furs (the openers were The Awkwards, apologies to them), a female quintet which spans generations. They played a lively set of new wave-style power pop/rock, lead vocals split between a frontwoman and a guitarist/singer. The bassist was the live wire of the band, all over the stage (literally, lying down at times) and occasionally off it altogether. They have a sound straight out of 1978 but are well worth catching.

Next up was a band I’d heard of, but not seen live until now. Healthy Junkies are a four-piece led by singer Nina Courson and guitarist Phil Honey Jones. A band inspired by the 90s grunge movement by the looks of things, with Nina’s stage look reminiscent of Daisy Chainsaw’s Katie Jane Garside. They have that heavy guitar sound to boot, and Nina is a captivating performer, never stood still for a moment and quite prepared to try a jump off the bass drum on the crowded stage of a pub back room, let alone a big venue! The guitar sound was a bit overpowering from my position (near the front – I wanted to try some gig pics with a DSLR) though, so I would definitely like to see these again.

Last band I saw was Lilith and the Knight, a Metal outfit rather than punk. Formed around the singer (Lilith, of course!) they have also attracted a lot of attention over the past year. Lilith has recently joined up with the Women in Rock touring collective (an act I’ve seen several times) so will be seen as one of two or three singers at selected shows from now on. However when she pitched up here, there was a bit of a surprise – her right arm was in a sling! She’d injured herself only just before this show, so her rather glamorous look was offset somewhat by this ‘accessory’ of a blue sling, as she could not move her arm! Her voice was unaffected, she and the band gave a strong performance of modern-style Metal, with plenty of chances for Lilith to reach for the big notes. Owing to time constraints none of these bands could play for longer than about 45 minutes, so this is another band I must catch again soon.

As stated earlier, I do like to take snaps at gigs but I have found it difficult to get pics in this, and other smaller places unless I used flash. I’m reluctant to do that with a pocket camera whose inbuilt flash I cannot control, plus I dislike the idea of firing it in performers’ faces (although Nina told me afterwards that they’re used to it!) So, with this being a more informal setting, I thought I’d try a digital SLR. I’m not rich enough to get the latest and greatest kit though, so I went with a ten-year old one picked up for not too much money, from a well-known chain store specialising in used electronics. With this was an old flash unit from my decades-old film SLR kit (NB – if doing this yourself check the trigger voltage of the flash, some can ‘fry’ the electronics of your modern DSLR or CSC) which had the ability to tilt upwards. Knowing the pub’s ceiling isn’t that high, it was a matter of playing about with manual settings until I got one that looked close, and went with that for the sets. A handful of snaps from the day are presented, and where possible I will do this again. (For big gigs, this isn’t possible without a photo pass so I will continue to use a pocket compact there).

The experiment proved a success, so I hope to do this again at a future event.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Marco Mendoza (with The Kut, Nitroville) Rebellion Manchester, 7th June 2018

Marco Mendoza is a busy guy. He’s barely finished a tour with the Dead Daisies (with further dates scheduled for later in the year) and has also managed to squeeze in a short run of solo shows in between. These are in addition to the dates he played last autumn in the UK, when he made it to Liverpool despite the fact the venue was switched at the last moment. He plays in a trio format when solo, and he was once again joined by North East-based guitarist Micky Crystal (on loan from Tygers of Pan Tang). This time however, he had a different drummer in Kyle Hughes, another North East native who also added vocals.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me why a performer of this calibre isn’t playing to huge crowds unless with the Daisies, the attendance here was better than at Liverpool last year but not by that much, especially considering this show took place in summer. The ‘Download factor’ may have come into play, as this date coincided with the annual bash at Donington but even so, the stayaways missed another excellent show.  There was plenty of banter between the three, and just as he did at Liverpool, the Daisies bass player ventured out onto the floor while playing, in order to get his audience to clap, click fingers or just sing. He was out on the floor during their cover of Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

There were several covers (including ‘God Bless The Child’, a Billie Holliday song), as well as many ‘props’ given to artists he’d performed with in the past. In particular he praised a certain Ted Nugent for taking him out on the road (he played with the Motor City madman in the early 2000s) and ‘schooling’ him, as he put it. As at Liverpool, he did Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, retaining all the funk vibe of the original but giving it a rockier feel. He did play some of his own songs too, including ‘Viva La Rock’ from his recent solo album, but later in the set he treated us to some Thin Lizzy, even letting Kyle Hughes take lead vocal on ‘Jailbreak’. For ‘Chinatown’, somehow Micky Crystal manages to make you forget the original had two lead guitars – he covers both magnificently. After this set Marco Mendoza was immediately off the stage and at the stand for an instant meet and greet, happily posing for pics and chatting to all and sundry – including the opening bands!

I did want to get there early to catch London trio The Kut; a highly-rated outfit (who have enjoyed airplay recently on Planet Rock) fronted by the striking Princess Maha on vocals and guitar. Instantly identifiable with her bright blue hair, she and her bandmates (drummer Diana Bartmann, and deputising bassist Dany Jones) stormed the stage early on. Dany Jones clearly knew this band and their material well, slotting in seamlessly for regular bassist Stella Vie who was unavailable for this tour. A hard rock trio with a grungey/punky flavour, the highpoint was probably ‘Bad Man’ for which they invite punters up to add their own backing vocals – including the F-bomb in the lyric if they wish! Maha is a mean guitarist as well as a powerful singer with a raunchy vocal, she treated us to the full Eddie van Halen tapping routine at several points! They certainly converted this punter, who had only heard about them via reports until then.

Nitroville were a more traditional Metal quintet fronted by a female vocalist; they gave a good performance of numbers which were in the vein of Judas Priest, plenty of twin guitar parts and lead solos to widdle along to on the air guitar. Their drummer even managed to wreck his snare mid-set, leading to a dash off stage for a spare while the rest improvised hastily! Good, but I did lean more towards the performance by The Kut who I hope to see again soon.

Nitroville supporting Marco Mendoza

Nitroville supporting Marco Mendoza

Whoever is the support though, it’s highly recommended that you catch Marco Mendoza whenever he plays these solo gigs, he always gives a top-drawer performance and makes you feel as though you’re part of the act.

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

Album: Ghost ‘Prequelle’ (Loma Vista Recordings)

The fourth album from Swedish theatrical metallers Ghost sees the band on the cusp of breaking through to major success. As with every album, the act has unveiled a ‘new’ frontman for its anonymous troupe of Nameless Ghouls, identified only by elemental names such as ‘Fire’ or ‘Water’. The difference this time around is that the masked vocalist has taken on an entirely new persona (dubbed ‘Cardinal Copia’), instead of variations of the Papa Emeritus character he has portrayed since the band’s inception. It’s also become public knowledge that all of these characters have been played by the same person, vocalist Tobias Forge. His identity was widely known among fans already, but since he was the subject of legal action (still ongoing at the time of writing) from some former members of Ghost, he was ‘outed’ as the brains behind the band. None of this has affected the band’s rise to prominence, and this album was eagerly anticipated after they had gained a substantial amount of new fans on their last tour, at one point even opening for the legendary Iron Maiden.

Lead-off single ‘Rats’ gave a good indication of what was to come, it’s a catchy, even poppy song (including a ‘whoa-whoa’ bit in the chorus) but with sufficient heavy metal guitar riffing to appease the headbangers. The video showed Cardinal Copia resplendent in a natty outfit with moves reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Lyrically, it alludes to the Black Death, and how that destroyed many lives. The whole album is broadly based around death (‘don’t you forget about dying, don’t you forget about your friend death‘ – Pro Memoria). So it may be an album full of catchy pop/rock songs, but it is as dark as you are going to get in its song lyrics.

The band took to the road in the US before the album’s release, so much of this material has been heard by fans, both at the shows and through social media as clips of the new show have been shared. Ghost also previewed parts of it in their video shorts which introduced the Cardinal Copia character; ‘Faith’, ‘Pro Memoria’ and ‘See The Light’ were teased. ‘Faith’ is one of the heavier moments of the album, but still accessible. If radio programmers weren’t listening too closely to the lyrics, they might even deem this album radio-friendly!

The big surprise of the album is instrumental ‘Miasma’ (it refers to a foul stench, associated once again with death, for example with unburied bodies such as happened during the Plague). For a band made up of anonymous musicians, where only the lead singer is known, to perform an instrumental (in fact there are two; ‘Helvetesfönster’ – literally ‘Hell’s Window’, towards the end of the album recalls ‘Pro Memoria’ in its melody) is surprising enough. For there to be a saxophone solo is an even bigger surprise! It’s quite a prog-rock style number, and when performed live, it featured Papa Nihil (the ‘elder’ Papa shown on the video shorts) on the sax! ‘Dance Macabre’ (no relation to a similarly-titled song from Delain) is a dancefloor classic in the making; I can picture this one filling the floor at your local rock night.

prequelle

Already, this album has divided Ghost’s fans; while many have taken to it for the immediate impact of the songs, others have been scathing about it being ‘too commercial’. In truth, Ghost have never been the sort of po-faced black metal band of the sort you see in forests prowling around in corpse paint; rather their take on the whole ‘satanic’ thing is humorous, they are taking the mickey with the concept and set out to amuse, rather than terrify their audience. If you’re a fan of 1980s hard rock bands, particularly the more ‘glam’ style, this album will probably appeal to you more. Certainly many of its songs will latch into your brain quickly, Forge has that knack of writing a hit – if the powers that be decide it’s a hit that is!

The other 1980s thing about this album is that it is quite short! The ten tracks which make up the standard album add up to a running time of around 40 minutes. For anyone who still tapes albums onto one side of a C-90 cassette, you’ll love this! However, it has little in the way of filler – the material is strong throughout.

As an old-school rock fan myself, I can see where a lot of Forge’s ideas come from, but he does have a talent for songwriting, and has created a world of characters to illustrate his music, which helps fans ‘buy into’ the whole concept. I think this album will stand the test of time, long after the image has been forgotten about these songs will still sound good in 30 years time. Someone else will have to verify that for me though, since I will likely be part of this album’s concept myself by that stage!

Listen to ‘Prequelle’ for yourself here via Spotify:

 

 

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

The rise and fall (and rise again?) of Rock Radio

It was a little over ten years ago that Rock Radio launched on FM radio in two UK cities (Manchester, and Glasgow). A station that actually delivered on its promise (there is a station known as ‘Rock FM’ in Lancashire, but that plays contemporary pop, the name refers to ‘Blackpool Rock’), it launched to great fanfare, with no less than Paul Rodgers/Bad Company playing at a launch event in Manchester. The station played hard rock/metal from both classic bands and new artists, and if you were fortunate enough to live in the coverage area it was essential listening. (If not, the station could be heard UK-wide over the internet).  Unsurprisingly, it found an immediate, and loyal, listener base who had been overlooked by radio bosses for far too long. The Manchester station could be picked up in easterly parts of Merseyside, so for myself it was a great listen whenever travelling towards Manchester in the car, either for work or when heading that way for a gig.

free-air-guitar

A typically amusing marketing stunt by Rock Radio 96.3 Glasgow (as was)

Sadly, things couldn’t last. The station owners first of all merged some of the output from the two stations, then rebranded as ‘Real XS’ (possibly to avoid confusion with the aforementioned Rock FM)  – this meant a dilution of the station policy, but it was still focused on hard rock music. Ultimately the parent company sold the stations – first to large conglomerate Global, then after a review from the Competition Commission, Global were obliged to sell this and other stations. They offloaded the Manchester station to Communicorp UK, a subsidiary of an Irish group, although they continued to broadcast using studio facilities owned by Global. Meanwhile the Glasgow station was rebranded as ‘XFM’ (an indie-focused station) for a short period, then Global decided to close it altogether, handing back their licence to radio regulator OFCOM.

In early 2016 Real XS in Manchester underwent a rebranding, becoming ‘XS Manchester’ and with a new music policy which saw indie/britpop music added to the playlist. The rebrand went down like the proverbial lead balloon with their listener base, but was met with stubborn resistance from the radio bosses, who pointed to the sop of a weekly ‘metal show’ (since dropped).  Predictions that the indie music introduced would gradually become dominant have since proven to be correct, with the station as it is today now a completely indie-orientated one. It even declared itself ‘no longer a classic rock station’ in a recent Facebook reply to a post. Their attitude of actually ‘firing’ their own listeners (outright telling them to find another station, in response to brickbats sent via Facebook posts) in favour of a completely different audience irritated and infuriated their original listener base. Many switched to Planet Rock (now the only radio station in the country with a rock music policy), but because that broadcasts over DAB not everyone had access to it in cars, for example.

An attempt to revive Rock Radio in Glasgow at least looked to have succeeded, when the former boss of the original station won the licence to broadcast on their old frequency, but that also failed this year when, after a lengthy period of test transmissions, the news came through that they had sold up to Nation Broadcasting. That company is obliged to launch a station by autumn 2018, and must follow the rock format stipulated in the licence, but should it start up it is likely to be a contemporary (read: softer) format, another disappointment to fans of this type of music.

Meanwhile, several former presenters of the original Rock Radio successfully crowdfunded a new web-based venture, and that began last year. Primordial Radio takes a different approach; it is subscription-based for one thing. That does have the plus point that advertising is not heard every ten minutes on this station (or at all) and features DJs familiar to the old station, such as Dewsbury and Moose presenting during the daytime. However to hear their links, the listener has to sign up. (A stream featuring music-only is freely available). I signed up recently and found this to be the radio station I have been missing since Rock Radio/Real XS was crushed and replaced by an indie-orientated station apparently run by  hipsters, old 1990s ‘madchester’ scenesters and achingly trendy bloggers.  To tempt people into listening, they have offered the rock fan a chance to try it absolutely free for three whole months, by giving their existing members a referral code to allow anyone at all to take advantage of that offer. If it is for you then you can sign up fully at the end of it, or if not, you haven’t lost anything. Its music policy is rock/metal in many stripes; for instance they might play Blink 182 one minute, Mastodon the next. New bands are regularly featured, as well as some of the classic rock we all love. They recently unveiled an app for Android or iPhone users so you can listen on the go (data plan permitting).

Declaring an interest then, this is my own referral link. Help yourself to three free months of Primordial Radio (just think, no more PPI ads every 15 minutes!)  by following this link, or alternatively I have provided a nice little banner for you to click instead!

Click for a free trial of Primordial Radio

Click for a free trial of Primordial Radio

 

Caught Live: Space Elevator, Old Courts Wigan 19th May 2018

It’s now been two years since I discovered this band via their cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, and around 18 months since seeing them live on a joint tour with fellow Brit-rockers CATS in SPACE. While the CATS have taken off into orbit with some high-profile tours supporting major names, the Space Elevator hasn’t quite ascended to similar heights. Not yet, anyway.  Their second album, cunningly titled ‘Space Elevator II’ should have been out to coincide with this run of dates but in the interim between its recording and this tour, the group signed with German independent label SPV. That meant the release date was put back to 25th May, so those who came along to this show would be in for a set containing several new numbers not yet known.

This date was to say the least, low-key. Wigan Old Courts is a multi-purpose arts centre, a converted magistrates’ court as the name suggests. It now hosts a variety of arts events including regular gigs, and this show took place in a rather dark room in the building, quite an adjustment since it was still extremely bright and sunny when I arrived at the venue. After a brief chat with drummer Brian Greene (manning the merch table), who explained the situation with the band’s signing to SPV and subsequent delay in the album release, I entered the hall to find few people there. There was no opening act, so there was a bit of a wait for the band to appear on the stage.

The three guys came on and struck up before the singer, the enigmatically-titled The Duchess strolled out resplendent in a leather jacket and shorts. Not the catsuit she is renowned for wearing, but she had a reason for that and the clue was printed on her top, a large-scale picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (who were wed that day). Opening with ‘Elevator’ itself, opening track of their debut album, they did indeed showcase numerous songs from the upcoming record. Based on what I heard, it promises to be another varied selection of songs – even touching on a bit of ‘rap-rock’ in one number! They played quite a few we did know as well, including my personal favourite ‘Loneliness of Love’ which came quite early into the set. Stood close to the stage, with the PA stacks actually beside me, it wasn’t the best place to get a good sound mix but The Duchess has such a powerful voice, she can overcome pretty much anything, still making herself heard. Not so much seen however, the stage lighting was quite dark all night and in a hall which was near pitch-black already, it didn’t do them too many favours. A pity, since The Duchess eventually showed just why she’d decided not to perform in the usual catsuit tonight – ditching her shorts Angus-style, to reveal that her top was actually a leotard and she’d had the words ‘Hazza 4 Megs’ printed on her backside! Anyone who’s seen this band before would know she’s a bit of a character and with a welcome touch of saucy British humour, of course this audience (mainly comprising ‘certain age’ guys like your correspondent, ahem!) were most appreciative of that interlude (!)

Their cover of ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ came towards the end of the night, as guitarist David Young described it, a hybrid between the Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore versions. He gave an excellent performance on lead guitar, never over-playing and always servicing the song, with strong rhythm backing from bassist Chas Maguire and drummer Brian Greene.  There was a lot of humorous banter between themselves and the punters all night, as though they’d decided just to have a bit of fun seeing as so few of us had come out. But they were still ‘on it’, for all the joking about there wasn’t one missed cue, they’re far too good.  The last two numbers consisted of one new song, inspired by Freddie Mercury (reminiscent of ‘Only The Good Die Young’ to me) and a cover of  Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’. Following this they were straight out to the foyer for a meet and greet with the punters.

This gig actually felt similar to the last time I saw them, in so far as I didn’t know the material (or at least much of it!) but there was no doubting their quality. The Duchess is an accomplished stage performer outside of this band, and the others have all been in some major productions too (David Young spent some time with the We Will Rock You house band, for instance) so you were always in for a good evening with this band. To say it set me back just eight quid for the ticket was a (pleasant) surprise too, in this age of big-ticket shows at astronomical prices, it just shows you don’t have to buy into corporate hype to get a good gig! I do wish more had turned out though (we could all have got the same bus home!) Perhaps they have come up against the ‘never heard of them’ factor which means few will take the punt on a band without a ‘big name’. With SPV now behind them, that should change and soon once the second album is released, it’s to be hoped their new song (‘We Can Fly’, played tonight) will be picked up by Planet Rock and if that happens, their audience will inevitably grow.

When they come around again, heard of them or not – get along to the show. They’ve got the lot: songs, top musicianship, a singer who not only has the looks but a voice that stacks up against anyone.  Ann Wilson, Floor Jansen – for me, The Duchess is in that bracket and I say that about very few, even singers I like. She also has that cheeky sense of humour, while immensely talented she doesn’t take herself TOO seriously.

The second Space Elevator album will be released on 25th May 2018 and I look forward to hearing these tunes on record.

Set List:

  • Elevator
  • Take The Pain
  • Talk Talk
  • Loneliness Of Love
  • Little White Lies
  • Lucky Girl
  • Far Away Boy
  • World Of Possibilities
  • More Than Enough
  • I Will Find You (Gallifrey Dreams)
  • Crazies (Take Me Home)
  • Keep Waiting
  • Oils And Bubbles
  • Really Don’t Care
  • Don’t Believe A Word (Thin Lizzy cover)
  • W.Y.T.A.T.
  • We Can Fly
  • Queen For A Day
  • Ace Of Spades (Motörhead cover)

Space Elevator Facebook Page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Holly Henderson launches new website ahead of album release

The Kent musician and songwriter Holly Henderson has just launched a new website with photos, video and significantly, three excerpts from her long-awaited album recorded in LA last year and produced by (renowned guitarist) Pete Thorn. Of these extracts, ‘Loneliness’ will probably be familiar as it was previewed on BBC Radio Kent last summer, while the other two clips (for the tracks ‘Cost Of Love’ and ‘Pride Can Wait’) are heard for the first time on the site. I intend to review this album the moment it hits my ears but for now, the three snippets promise a welcome diversity to this album.

‘Loneliness’, the one track that’s been heard in full up to now, is a pacy rocker, a tasty slice of guitar-driven rock with a hint of Pearl Jam, while ‘Cost Of Love’ will make you think of The Police with its insistent chugging guitar. ‘Pride Can Wait’ is a much slower number, more akin to her work on the ‘Opium Drip’ EP. She has earned a reputation as a fine guitarist, however these clips show how her voice has developed in leaps and bounds since she first took tentative steps into lead vocal territory on her self-produced EPs. No longer drenched in reverb, there’s a new-found confidence in her vocal delivery that bodes well for the album as a whole.

The website also includes video content such as her promo for ‘Breakdown’ (filmed in LA and directed by George Mays), her cover of Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ which directly led to the album recording session with Pete Thorn, as well as an EPK with some more brief extracts from this upcoming record. In addition there are some exquisitely-shot promo photos (by Claudio Tristano) which show Holly with her beloved Telecaster guitar, as well as indicating her penchant for 1970s fashions! Lastly, there’s a webshop with the three EPs released to date available (‘Rust’, ‘Desert Wax’ and ‘Opium Drip’). The album release was put back to allow her to return to LA and add a few finishing touches, but the launch of this website could well indicate she is finally ready to gear up for a summer release. She has played some selected dates (showcasing tracks from this album) with her live band recently too, and more are planned.

Having followed Holly since her days as a rhythm guitar player in a covers band, her talent has always stood out and I am just one of many who are keenly awaiting this album. I hope to speak with her once the record is ready for release and talk about the making of this album and her future plans.

Holly Henderson (photo: Claudio Tristano)

Holly Henderson (photo: Claudio Tristano)

Holly Henderson Music website

Caught Live: King King (with Steve Hill), Epstein Theatre Liverpool 10th May 2018

A shuffle of the running order caught me out tonight as I entered this venue, a small theatre above what used to be a musical instrument store, but is now just another bar. The times had been bumped so that opener Steve Hill was already playing as I entered, and made my way to my seat in the second row. I’d have liked to see more, as he was an intriguing ‘one man band’ – playing guitar and singing, while keeping the beat using bass and snare drums operated by his feet, and with a small drumstick coming from the guitar headstock, so he could play cymbals as well! I saw enough to pique my interest and as he is also supporting King King in Chester in a few days’ time, I might have to check that out.

His sound is rootsy hard rock, and by playing everything himself he can’t blame the drummer (!) on the other hand, he doesn’t have to pay a backing musician! I’ve mentioned before on this blog that the ‘duo’ thing has become almost a cliché now since Royal Blood got successful, spawning many similar acts. It did cross my mind that it is the logical conclusion to this paring down thing that’s seen the likes of The Picturebooks, Rival Bones, REWS (to name but three) duos who have all come along in recent years. Whether we’ll see a trend for this one-man band style remains to be seen, but if anyone can blaze the trail for others it’s this remarkably talented Canadian.

The early start meant King King were due on at 8:30, it was a little after that when the lights went down and the quartet (led by recently-recruited keyboardist Jonny Dyke) came on stage to their intro tape, of AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. Opening with ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Loving’, the lead-off track from current album ‘Exile & Grace’, that set the tone for the evening.

King King have steadily evolved from a blues band into a melodic rock outfit, still with that blues base but with accessible, snappy songs that have you clapping along, or in some cases getting folk out of their seats to dance – even as early as second song in (‘Waking Up’, in this case).  They’ve been compared to early Whitesnake but to me, especially with this current album, the material is reminiscent of Thunder (a band they supported a couple of years ago, which helped to raise their profile).  Singer/guitarist Alan Nimmo (following a period of recuperation after a throat operation) is now back in the sort of vocal form which won over many Thunder fans on that tour, while his masterful guitar playing is as immaculate as ever. His vocal on ‘Broken’ from the current album was immense, putting over the passion in the song’s lyric (‘this world, is broken, we can’t hold on’) dealing with the current state of the world. Not everything was so lyrically dark; as the big Scotsman observed, we’d come out to enjoy a night of music.

The band went back to their earlier days to perform  ‘A Long History Of Love’, which features extended solos on both keyboard and guitar. The audience were treated to a beautifully-performed guitar solo which was immaculately-observed, the proverbial pin would not have dared drop during the quiet moments. New guy Jonny Dyke was also welcomed with a generous cheer; having taken over from the popular Bob Fridzema just after the album release he has made the keyboard position his own already.

It was such a superb set, that it flew by and barely seemed like an hour. In fact they’d been on stage for at least 90 minutes, and nobody would have minded if they’d done 90 more! The rhythm section of Lindsay Coulson (bass) and Wayne Proctor (drums) kept it tight all evening, both play immaculately but tastefully, always for the song. That’s the second time I’ve seen King King, both times were in this small gem of a theatre which yours truly persists in referring to by its old name ‘The Neptune’ theatre. The venue went into administration late last year and it’s to be hoped that it is able to continue, as this band certainly enjoyed performing here and I for one hope to see them again on this stage next time around.

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

King King facebook page

Steve Hill facebook page

Caught Live: Nickelback (with Seether), Echo Arena Liverpool 7th May 2018

The lads in Nickelback were well aware that people would have been feeling the effects of enjoying the hottest day of the year so far, and on a Bank Holiday Monday at that.
“So are we feeling, what’s the word – knackered?” asked guitarist Ryan Peake early in the set, while frontman Chad Kroeger joked that they should never arrange a gig on a bank holiday again. He did his best to gee up this crowd by hollering ‘LIVERP-O-O-O-LLLL!’ at regular intervals, something he habitually does every time this band visits. It did have the desired effect, and he got a second wind out of the ‘knackered’ audience.

There’s little I can add to what I wrote the previous time they came here; their show featured many of their regular crowd-pleasing hits, they played everything well and the humorous interplay between Kroeger, Peake and their crew was present and correct (at one point, Chad jokingly admonished the crewman who brought on their drinks for not stopping to salute the crowd, then getting him to do just that the next time he came out). One thing I did like was their idea of putting up a countdown on the screen behind the stage, after support Seether’s set the band appeared on that screen to deliver a brief message, telling the crowd they’d be on in 20 minutes and in the meantime telling us to ‘buy beer’ (not at arena prices, fellas!) When that clock did count down to zero, it was a short featurette on the band which played on that screen, and in fact there was another five-minute interval before the lights dropped for real.

The set delivered was not that different from last time they were here 18 months ago; although they did open with the title track from current album ‘Feed The Machine’. I’d have liked more from that record personally (that was the only song from this record played all night), but they do tend to stick to what works and so once again ‘Photograph’, ‘Something In Your Mouth, ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Figured You Out’ were among many of their favourites given another airing. However they did pledge that they’d play something off all their albums to date and so they did ‘Million Miles An Hour’ from their previous album (‘No Fixed Address’) this time, as well as a medley of ‘Curb’ from their first album, incorporating snippets of ‘Where?’ and ‘Left’ (“There were some cool riffs on that first record”, explained Kroeger).

The traditional performance of ‘Rockstar’ with two fans invited up was memorable; Ryan Peake picked out a guy called Adam who not only sang it all but thoroughly lapped up his moment of fame, stomping all over the stage and even onto the stage ramps while fellow audience member Lucy (picked out by Chad Kroeger) also enjoyed her time up there, singing and dancing away. Both of them even managed to get selfies with the band members without breaking stride mid-song! (“No stage fright whatsoever”, remarked Chad afterwards.)

Towards the end the frontman sent the guitar tech into a bit of a panic, declaring that he wanted to play ‘Hero’ (his song from the ‘Spider-Man’ film of 2002) this meant a change of guitar and so he stalled for time, making light of the crew rapidly running off so that they could fetch the correct guitar for him and Ryan Peake. It kept them on their toes of course, but there was a lot of humorous banter all night, as usual whenever the band play here.

Of course ‘How You Remind Me’ closed the main set, and their encore was ‘Gotta Be Somebody’ and ‘Burn It To The Ground’ (“I’ve got my James Hetfield guitar ready so you know what’s coming!”, said Kroeger, a self-confessed Metallica fanatic).

So few surprises then, but once again Nickelback came, played a well-received set with everything from pop-rock singalongs to outright Metal, and sent a few thousand people home with smiles on their faces. I wish they had taken a few more chances with the setlist, though I get that they aren’t in the business of disappointing their fans (hey, that’s why they always play these big barns after all!) and so tend to adopt the AC/DC approach of ‘give ’em what they want’.  As they took their final bows, bassist Mike Kroeger decided to treat us to an impromptu workout of about 20 press-ups, why that was only he could explain!

Openers Seether also played a set touching on most of their back catalogue to date, with their riff-heavy downtuned guitar sound going down well with those who’d got here early enough to see the South African rockers. Perhaps they felt that they should do a bit of everything for fans not necessarily well-up on their material, but their sound is familiar enough. Not a million miles away from the likes of Shinedown or even Nickelback themselves when they crank it up, though their decision to place bassist Dale Stewart front and centre (thus getting the best of the stage light) rather than vocalist/guitarist Shaun Morgan was a little bit strange. Another good band brought to an arena setting in the UK by Nickelback (following the likes of Monster Truck and Black Stone Cherry), they’re a band I wouldn’t mind seeing live at one of their own shows at some point.

4 – Deserving