Caught Live: CATS in SPACE, Tivoli Venue Buckley 10th May 2019

After three years and three studio albums (plus a live mini-album), several tours supporting some of the major names in the UK rock scene, and a fan base that’s grown exponentially since the band’s inception, it came as a bit of a shock to learn last month that vocalist Paul Manzi was leaving CATS in SPACE after this run of dates. He has been recruited by veteran glam rockers The Sweet, whose guitarist and sole original member Andy Scott has previously collaborated with the Cats. The band themselves seem to be more relaxed about the situation than some of their fans, which suggests they knew what was coming and have prepared accordingly. Consequently I expect a new lead Cat at the microphone to be announced before long, but this show was a chance to bid farewell to the voice that we have become accustomed to on those meticulously-produced albums.

This gig was a three-band bill, and I got in to catch the last bit of  openers Wasted Fate’s set. They were good live, and I enjoyed their cover of Stone Broken’s ‘Wait For You’. Next up were Jimi Anderson Group, who have nothing to do with a fast bowler from the England cricket team! This Jimi Anderson is Scottish, and leads a six-piece band featuring two guitarists. He is a very good singer, with the band performing melodic rock not a million miles removed from Little Angels way back in the early 1990s. He did have to work hard to get the partisan Cat Fans gathered near the front on side, but gave a fine performance.

Those Cat Fans got a bit excited prematurely when the lights went down 15 minutes earlier than scheduled and ‘Stray Cat Strut’ (the intro tape) played through the PA, but the band weren’t ready yet so the mixtape soon resumed. When they did come on, Paul Manzi created an instant impression dressed in his natty long coat with silver trimming. Kicking things off with ‘Johnny Rocket’ from the latest album, they delivered a set taking in all three albums, following up with ‘Too Many Gods’, title track of their 2015 debut. It was clear from the off what an accomplished band this is, although I’ve followed them from the start this was only the second full set I’ve seen them play. Able to recreate live those intricate vocal harmonies thanks to guitarist Greg Hart and especially bassist Jeff Brown (almost Glenn Hughes-esque in his bass/vocal role) contributing heavily, they all also contribute visually – not just standing there gazing at their shoes but moving all over the stage, getting the crowd involved, while never missing a cue. Manzi’s ability to project this material was also noteworthy, plenty of facial and visual expressions to go with his superb lead vocal.

Midway through there came a brief acoustic section, where the band all lined up sat on stools to perform three numbers. I often liken these guys to the Dead Daisies (the Cats are of similar vintage and experience) and this part was reminiscent of what that band do mid-set. One treat for us was an acoustic rendition of ‘Man In The Moon’ which is seldom performed nowadays. During this section the other guitarist Dean Howard was evidently struggling to hear himself, between numbers he was bashing out chords to the amusement of the other guys. He couldn’t hear his monitor – however, out front he was loud and clear, as the audience quickly assured him!

The main set resumed with ‘Last Man Standing’, their lament to the decline of  London’s Denmark Street which once played host to music stores, as well as publishers and writers, prefaced by a short audio montage of news reports about the area’s loss to developers. Before they played ‘Hologram Man’ guitarist Greg Hart spoke about the importance of live music; he’s passionate about the live experience and is so dismayed at the increasing use of ‘on track’ in performances and more recently, the advent of holographic recreations of deceased stars, that he felt he had to stress the point before playing the song the band wrote about this phenomenon. It had particular significance since the date was close to the ninth anniversary of Ronnie James Dio’s passing, one of those artists who have been ‘revived’ in hologram form.

They saved the best of an already brilliant show until last, as they gave us a superb rendition of ‘Greatest Story Never Told’ – or as your correspondent has dubbed it, ‘Greatest Song John Miles Never Wrote’ (!) It is stylistically similar to ‘Music’, the epic that defined Miles’ career and this band has not been shy in admitting the influence of the 70s singer/songwriter on their own material. They closed with ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ before coming back for a short drum solo courtesy of Steevi Bacon, leading into the disco-flavoured ‘Thunder In The Night’. Then that was it, and the band took their bows before a cheering and delighted audience of Cat Fans. That was about the first time we got to see keyboardist Andy Stewart properly, as he was stationed right at the back of the Tivoli’s  deep stage all evening.

A superb set performed with panache by top class musicians, they showed on stage they can rock as hard as anyone, which may surprise those who see them as a bit ‘mellow’ for the rock scene. That’s especially true of at least one media outlet who claim they aren’t suitable for their radio station – all I can say is that if Thunder, Status Quo and Deep Purple thought they were a suitable opening act, then there’s surely little doubt this band is eminently suitable for a rock radio programme!  Paul Manzi will of course be missed, but I am confident his successor will carry the torch and this band will continue to go from strength to strength.

 

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5 – Delightful

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

Jimi Anderson Group Facebook Page

Wasted Fate Facebook Page

 

 

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Single: Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ (Trend & Chaos)

It’s been a long time coming but at last, Maidstone’s Holly Henderson is ready to release her first full-length album. Recorded back in 2017 in LA, after she was discovered by renowned guitarist and producer Pete Thorn via the magic of the internet, he then brought her over to Los Angeles to cut the album. The album has been completed and ready to go for some time, but only now have things aligned so that the album (which we now know is entitled ‘Monday Green’) will see a 2019 release. Leading things off is the single ‘Loneliness’, which emerged on all streaming platforms literally moments before I took to this laptop to write this post!

First heard in demo form on a BBC Introducing radio slot in 2017, ‘Loneliness’ is the obvious choice for lead-off single. An uptempo rocker with a introductory guitar riff that has a slight taste of Pearl Jam to these ears, and a lyric which, in her own words is “about being all dressed up with nowhere to go, of being a hopeless romantic in the modern age. We fabricate our best selves online, yet we stay in the confines of our bedrooms and become trapped in a superficial circle of proving ourselves to everyone, and getting nothing tactile and genuine back in return.

There is also a promo video for the song, directed by George Mays who previously directed the video for ‘Breakdown’. This clip is a simpler affair, showing Holly in various guises, illustrating the sentiment behind the song where she takes on different ‘looks’ while never leaving her sofa.

The finished version of ‘Loneliness’ now has a few subtle guitar enhancements added in the background, but is pretty much what we heard when the song first got an airing on BBC Radio Kent. Having previously had the chance to see her perform this and several other songs from the upcoming album live, I’m really looking forward to hearing the recorded versions when the album finally lands on my mat. Of course there’ll be a full write-up on here when it does, but for now enjoy ‘Loneliness’ – musically, not literally!

Holly Henderson 'Loneliness' single cover

Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ single cover

Link to Flaunt online magazine article and video premiere of ‘Loneliness’

Holly Henderson Music website

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Caught Live: Monster Truck (with Royal Tusk), Academy 2 Manchester 20th April 2019

Never mind Same Night Syndrome, Manchester University Students Union (who run the Academy group)  have taken it up a level. Same Venue Syndrome! They hosted three gigs simultaneously, all of which I would have liked to attend, but with Massive Wagons playing the upper floor (Academy 3) and American rockers Papa Roach also playing at the main Academy, you might have thought that might impact on the attendance for Canadian ‘true rockers’ Monster Truck. Not a bit of it – as vocalist/bassist Jon ‘Marv’ Harvey’ informed us during their set, this date was the fastest-selling one of their UK dates.

I got into the Academy 2 (also known as Main Debating Hall) to find it already filling up, as openers Royal Tusk were on the stage. The four-piece (also Canadian) were making their UK debut on this tour; playing a style not too far removed from the Truck themselves they gave a good account of themselves. Vocalist Daniel Carriere was a bit of a Meniketti, demonstrating a good voice and also fine lead guitar prowess. He took many of the lead solos himself although guitarist Quinn Cyrankiewicz (you’re gonna be known as just Quinn from here on in, fella!) also got his share of the spotlight. They harmonise vocally similar to the Truck, and bassist Sandy Mackinnon was up front too, making a formidable front line. Towards the end they threw in a surprise cover of Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’, which Carriere handled very well. I’ll look out for these should they come back to the UK, and especially if they find their way to Liverpool!

Monster Truck had this crowd in their palms from the off, opening with stomper ‘The Lion’. They then got a (wait for it) monster singalong second song in, when they launched into ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’. The sold-out crowd were hollering ‘soooarrrr like an eagle’ lustily, back at ‘Marv’ and his cohorts. The set was a mix of all their albums to date, though ‘True Rockers’ is the current offering and several from that were duly played, I suspect that previous album ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ got more songs aired. Not that I was complaining, since the aforementioned ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ is a favourite, as are other bangers like ‘She’s A Witch’ and ‘The Enforcer’ with its crowd-friendly ‘whoa-ohohoh’ refrain. Lots of their material is designed to involve the crowds with shoutalongs like this, allied to satisfyingly meaty riffs from guitarist Jeremy Widerman, big sounding drums from Steve Kiely and that classic organ touch from Brandon Bliss. On top of all that is ‘Marv’ himself, with a rock vocal strong enough to stand with the greats. When not at the mic, he headbangs with menace, stood near the drum riser to allow his guitarist to do his best Angus Young act, all over the stage, never still for a moment.

This was one of those gigs where the band couldn’t put a foot wrong, for me at least even if they’d played a set of polka or something, once they’d given us ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ it would still have been great. As it was, with absolute corkers like ‘Thundertruck’, ‘The Lion’ (which they opened with) and of course singalong favourite ‘Sweet Mountain River’, this was a complete triumph. Gig of the year for me so far, the Truck ticked every box and left me with a post-gig Cheshire Cat grin, always a sign of a corker.

Only slight downer – that old Same Venue Syndrome thing – as we went to exit, they let us out onto the same bit of corridor as the crowd exiting Massive Wagons on the upper floor, causing some crowding. That should have been staggered better, but even that couldn’t detract from a terrific night of proper old-fashioned heavy rock played hard, played like they used to in the old days. Five inflatable guitars coming up!

Monster Truck Facebook Page

Royal Tusk Facebook Page

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Caught Live: Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters, Tivoli Venue Buckley 13th April 2019

I’d been looking forward to this one for some time. The management at the Tivoli are always willing to give newer bands a shot and it was great to see that they’d booked Beth Blade and her band for this legendary venue, a rock ‘n’ roller steeped in the old school although yet to hit her mid-twenties herself. I keep seeing Beth at other bands’ gigs, she’s as dedicated a fan as she is a performer but this was the first time I would see her tread a stage with a guitar.

It was a three band bill, and as usual with my busy schedule I got there in time to miss openers Marble Parlour. Apologies to them, especially since I was reliably informed they are a fine band worth checking out, so maybe next time. I did see local band Violets Leap, who were a decent hard rock act with a particularly good guitarist in ‘Gavin’ (they don’t appear to believe in surnames!) Vocalist ‘Jonathan’ asked the attendees were they ready for ‘The Blade’, which prompted a bit of ribbing from his bandmates!

After quite a bit of setting up, Beth and her Disasters plugged it in and rocked it out! They have a new album recently released (‘Show Me Your Teeth’) and they gave us several numbers from that, but also quite a lot from first offering ‘Bad Habit’. One thing I spotted straight away was that there was just the one microphone on the stage, no backing vocals required here! ‘The Blade’ carried it all off herself, even for songs such as ‘You and I’ which on record do have backing vocal, it was just the one voice delivering it live. One big voice! Beth is often compared to Lzzy Hale, and on this evidence it’s easy to see why. She was reminiscent of early Lzzy, she has that same power in her delivery. Sporting a Paul Stanley signature Ibanez guitar, she is also a mean rhythm guitarist providing plenty of wallop, and alongside drummer Sam Brain and bassist Dan Rowe (I’m not sure whether he is a full-time member; they have been performing with stand-in bassists for some time now, Beth herself played bass on the recent album) they gave the ideal platform for guitarist Luke Strickland Gilmore to do his best Doug Aldrich on the lead. Midway through, she performed ‘Poster Girl For Pain’ solo, before which she admitted to a few nerves. Needlessly, as it turned out!

As a frontwoman, Beth exudes confidence, striding to the front and getting those who were hovering near the bar to come closer to the stage. Aware of the significance of playing a venue which has seen (among countless others) the likes of Thunder, the Quireboys and going back really far – Slade – tread these boards, she was quick to praise manager Rokib Miah (rockin’ Rokib, as she called him) for booking this date. My only slight quibble was that they didn’t perform ‘1974’, the nostalgia-flavoured song on the current album which namechecks numerous classic bands. Make sure to include that next time, Beth!

She’s been a gig buddy at previous shows I’ve attended but from now on I’m a fan, and I look forward to catching ‘The Lancashire Lzzy’ and her boys at another gig very soon.

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4 – Deserving

Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters Facebook Page

Caught Live: Electric Boys, Tivoli Venue Buckley, 22nd March 2019

First visit of 2019 to Flintshire and the Buckley Tivoli, which has another bumper selection of bands lined up for the coming year. The present management are doing their utmost to revive the glory days of the late 80s and early 90s, when this place saw many bands pass through, some on their way to much bigger things. A lot of those acts from those days are coming back around again however, finding their way back to this small town near Chester after many years. One-time Love/Hate frontman Jizzy Pearl was also to appear the following evening, but tonight was about the Swedish funk-metallers who enjoyed some success around the turn of the 1990s, before being swamped by the flannel brigade.

I got in to find a bunch of guys who looked like they’d been at Jon Fratelli’s wardrobe – dressed in outfits not far removed from the one he appeared in for the video to ‘Chelsea Dagger’. The Last Great Dreamers play a more rootsy brand of rock ‘n’ roll than the Scottish indie band however, and are worth another look when they come around again.

The Electric Boys are now older Electric Men, but one thing I noticed immediately was the rather small Orange bass amp used by Andy Christell; the result was that his bass did not swamp the sound, it was present but not intrusive. They did have a good sound balance for this show, although they did several from latest album ‘The Ghost Ward Diaries’ they made sure to give us plenty of their fan favourites from ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’ and ‘Groovus Maximus’. Frontman Conny Bloom still dresses like it is 1971 (!) but sounds in good voice still, giving us all plenty to sway our hips to – those of us still capable of it! He split lead guitar work with Franco Santunione, who got plenty of chance to show his own touch on the six-string. Naturally they ended things with ‘All Lips ‘n’ Hips’, a favourite of many a rock club night back in the day – including the ones they once held at this very venue every Thursday night!

A good if somewhat nostalgic night then, from a band who still have plenty to offer in 2019 and more than welcome back to this part of the (mystery) world again soon.

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4 – Deserving

Electric Boys Facebook Page

Last Great Dreamers Facebook Page

Caught Live: Sarah Darling, Leaf Liverpool 17th March 2019

It might have been a Sunday night but because it was also St Patrick’s Day, you bet the streets of Liverpool were awash with green, white and orange clad revellers, some of whom were actually Irish (!) as given away by their shirts. Numerous GAA club shirts were in evidence, but they were here not to see an American country singer as I was, but to see infamous folk singer Damien Quinn, who’d come over to play a gig in a nearby Irish bar.  I made my way through the sea of green (hey it’s Liverpool, obligatory Beatles pun!) to Leaf where Sarah Darling was performing on this night. I first encountered her a year ago, across town at Studio 2; persuaded to go along as a fellow gig-going friend of mine had travelled all the way from Derbyshire to see her I went mainly so he wouldn’t be a ‘billy no-mates’. Having surprised myself (a self-confessed headbanger) by enjoying the set I decided to come again, seeing as she had been so nice as to return to Liverpool!

Leaf is a tea room by day, but is a bar by night; set on two levels it was on the upper floor where this show was to take place. I’d only been once before and that was to see American singer-songwriter Arielle recently, who was performing on the lower level on a small stage, before a clientele who weren’t necessarily there for her. This show was however ticketed and on this floor, there was a proper stage for the acts with a big floor space for those who chose to stand. There were two support acts, both solo singers who played acoustic guitar and the first of these was Laura Oakes. It soon became clear that she was a local; delighted at playing a gig in her home city she gave a short and enjoyable set of country-flavoured songs, the highlight of which was ‘Glitter’. A critique of the fake personas put on by users of social media, there was a nice touch of humour in this number.

Next up was Liv Austen, whose accent fooled me into thinking she was an English girl too, albeit from the Home Counties. She’s actually Norwegian, which I probably should have guessed by looking at her (a slim blonde figure) who has lived in the UK for several years. Delivering another set of songs performed solo and acoustic, she also demonstrated a nice line in humour for her song ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’. The song is about her list of exes, which she said was a lie – admitting to regretting more than one! Both these performers got a good reception from the attendees, many of whom elected to sit at the tables dotted around the floor rather than come to the front by the stage.

Sarah Darling did have a full band with her of drummer, guitarist, bassist and keyboard player, and she came on a little after 9pm. Clad in a green dress to mark the occasion, she played a set featuring several new songs alongside some I knew from last year. Two songs were performed solo and acoustic (‘Montmartre’ and ‘Wasted’). Although categorised as country, her music is a bit more diverse than that; opener ‘Blue Sky’ for instance could have fitted into Fleetwood Mac’s mid-70s output comfortably. A stand out for me was new song ‘Enjoy The Ride’ which features a funky bass line through it, and had the devotees at the front (plus your correspondent) clapping along enthusiastically!

Towards the end of the set she brought Liv Austen back on stage to duet on ‘Home To Me’. Another catchy pop-country number, it was one where her guitarist finally got to cut loose a little with some lead soloing. This was a very enjoyable evening of music, rather more chilled out than I’m accustomed to, sure but a good singer is a good singer, and we had three of those on this night. In the end I walked out of there with CDs from both  Laura and Liv, plus a T-shirt from Sarah which I promised her I’d wear at the upcoming Cellar Darling gig (I had that band’s T-shirt on for this gig, my little joke since I was probably the only Metalhead present on the night!)

Sarah Darling’s next album is due for release in the summer, and I’ll be looking out for that and any future dates in this country.

Laura Oakes Facebook page

Liv Austen Facebook page

Sarah Darling Facebook page

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4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Sari Schorr, Citadel St Helens 16th March 2019

The middle portion of my weekend gigging saw me head over to St Helens for what might be the last time, to see Sari Schorr return to the Citadel a year after she came and wowed an audience best described as ‘selective’, with her incredible voice.

It was announced early in the year that the charity which runs the Citadel, a small but splendid theatre in St Helens town centre, is to close the venue and instead focus on its community theatre productions. The reasons given were depressingly familiar; cuts to its funding meant that they could no longer operate viably in this theatre, where they have been based for the last 30 years. The Citadel will close up in the summer, meanwhile they are still putting on the already booked dates.

As was the case with the gig the previous year, there was no support with the musicians coming on stage around 8pm, followed by Sari Schorr herself.  With keyboard player Bob Fridzema on tour with Joanne Shaw Taylor, once again Steve Watts was in charge of the ivories. This time however, the show was performed in one block, as opposed to splitting the set with an interval as was the case last year. It mattered little, since once again the New Yorker gave a stellar vocal performance. Personnel-wise it was the same band as last year save for the keyboardist; guitarist Ash Wilson has become the foil for the singer, his playing was again top quality. This time there was another album to promote so several tracks from ‘Never Say Never’ were performed alongside selected numbers from ‘A Force Of Nature’. Softly-spoken when talking, Schorr’s vocal when the music kicks in is startling – all the soul, and raunch, of a singer who’s lived a life, not someone who’s straight out of music college.

Following the set she was straight out to the merch table for an instant meet and greet, she has got to know a few faces from last year and also from the recent tour supporting King King. Another quality set from a singer who is winning more friends in this country and there’ll be a second chance to see her on this tour when she plays in Chester in April.

Sari Schorr web site

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4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Joanne Shaw Taylor, o2 Academy Liverpool 15th March 2019

A good turnout at the downstairs venue for Britain’s first lady of blues guitar, as Joanne Shaw Taylor commenced the UK leg of her tour in Liverpool. Coinciding with the release of latest album ‘Reckless Heart’, her first since signing to Sony, that meant a few songs not many of us were going to be familiar with yet. But her style is familiar to her fans, most of which I have to say were ‘blokes of a certain age’ yet again – and I include myself in that category! It remains to be seen whether her signing to a major label means a tweak in style to get through to more than the cult following she presently has, but at the moment she is still giving us oldsters what we want – lots of that superb guitar playing and that rich, throaty voice.

Before JST came openers Blackwater Conspiracy. The five-piece from Northern Ireland looked and sounded like they’d been on a trip back to either 1989 or 1973, depending on whether you’re a fan of the Quireboys or Rod Stewart and the Faces (!) but it was decidedly retro- rock with lashings of slide guitar and tinkly piano on offer.  Their brand of old-time rock ‘n’ roll did go down well with this audience though, and we’ll no doubt be hearing more from them in the coming year.

Blackwater Conspiracy at Liverpool o2 Academy

Blackwater Conspiracy at Liverpool o2 Academy

One thing that has changed with Joanne Shaw Taylor from years gone by was her outfit – no longer clad in all-black, she chose a natty red jacket for tonight’s proceedings! She isn’t one for fancy adornments, and as usual there was nothing in the way of a stage show (not even the usual backdrop with her name on it, this venue isn’t big enough for that!) She gave her customary guitar masterclass, rocking out, taking it down, playing subtle fills or fiery solos, and all accompanied by that oh-so-husky voice dripping with soul. She has a foil in keyboardist Bob Fridzema now, who got a few solo spots of his own to please his fans that know him from King King. She has retained drummer Oliver Perry in her live band but for this run, bassist Tom Sansbury has come in for previous four-stringer Luigi Casanova. He’s less visual than the dreadlocked Luigi but is equally as effective in the supporting role.

The set was weighted towards the latest album with seven from it performed, though the other albums save for ‘Almost Always Never’ were represented too, including 2016 radio hit ‘Dyin’ To Know’ which actually scored her some daytime airplay. Personally I’d have liked to see her restore her cover of Frankie Miller’s ‘Jealousy’ to the set, since in my view she makes her own of it with her phenomenal soloing, but she did give us a good serving of guitar mastery even without that.  Late in the set, she shrugged off a potential incident where one nutter who’d managed to sneak through to the back of the stage waddled on nonchalantly, he was soon intercepted by her guitar tech before he could get near JST herself!

I say it every time she comes around, but she should really be playing to much bigger crowds, in much bigger venues than places like this. As happy as I am to see an artist of that calibre in my city! Maybe the Sony deal will help her make that jump to bigger things, let’s hope it doesn’t mean record label pressure to come up with a ‘radio hit’ however since she’s got this far with her own talent and vision.

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4 – Deserving

Caught Live: IDestroy, Shipping Forecast Liverpool 9th March 2019

At last, thought I when this date was announced. Bristolian punk-pop trio IDestroy have been on my radar for a couple of years now, having seen them play on several occasions and wow whoever they play in front of. They’d never performed in Liverpool until now, and that was one of two firsts for me with this gig. The other, was that it would be the first time I got to see the new line-up. Founding member, bass player Becky Baldwin departed the band last year, almost immediately resurfacing in Hands off Gretel. In her place came Nicola Wilton-Baker, who played with the band for the remaining dates of 2018 and will feature on their upcoming full album.

This gig was a multi-band bill showcasing unsigned talent, I was here primarily to see IDestroy however, and it was actually their second gig of the day. They’d played a set in Manchester as part of the GirlzRawk all-day event, featuring a bill that had numerous good bands on it. Sadly it wasn’t a show I could make as the date coincided with another event I’d long planned on attending (Liverpool Comic Con). So while I was pleased that the girls had elected to take a trip down the East Lancs Road but was still a little disappointed at not being able to do everything at once (!)

Following two local bands, one of whom was down a member, so their lead guitarist took over on drums (!) and another which was a more mod revival-influenced band I took my place for IDestroy. They rattled through a short set of songs taking in both EPs they have out to date, plus the single ‘Annie’/’98%’, as well as a new one. Nicola is a good fit for the band, she has a striking look of her own, and plays with plenty of attack. Those still missing Becky in this group shouldn’t be too disappointed, they still have Jenn on drums hammering away and of course, frontgal Bec Jevons whose all-action style hasn’t changed a bit. She writes this band’s songs (save for the cover of The Gossip’s ‘And You Know’,  played on the night) and has a knack for the power-pop hook to go with their full-on live assault.

The Shipping Forecast basement isn’t the greatest for sound, having rather a low ceiling, so this was a bit of a sonic blast, but the band didn’t let that affect them as they powered through their alloted time. Following their set I had time to say a quick hello, and Bec was happy that she and the band finally got to play in Liverpool, promising me (who’d been asking them to come for over a year!) that they’d be back soon. There was another band to close out the evening, but I had another day of Comic Con to attend and an early start, so called it a night there. There was a guy on the decks between sets, who I believe actually put this gig on, persistently banging on about the importance of live shows by unsigned bands. I felt like saying he was preaching to the converted (!) since those who came out already believe that but anyway, it was good to see Bec, Jenn and Nicola rock Liverpool. At last!

Setlist from Shipping Forecast Liverpool

Setlist from Shipping Forecast Liverpool

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4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Blue Öyster Cult (with The Temperance Movement), Academy 1 Manchester 1st March 2019

Another of those veteran bands it’s taken me until now to get around to seeing, I really couldn’t have left it much later. This band, still best known in the UK for their perennial ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ hit of 1976 still feature original members, vocalist/guitarist Eric Bloom and lead guitarist/vocalist Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser, alongside relatively new faces in keyboardist/additional guitarist Richie Castellano, drummer Jules Radino and one name I did recognise, bassist Danny Miranda (who I saw last backing Queen + Paul Rodgers a decade ago). All are New Yorkers, as Bloom proudly informed us during the set, but it’s the two main men we were here to see run through a selection of their classics. Bloom is now 74 years old (Roeser is 71), despite this they look in good shape to continue on for a while yet.

The band remain a draw, having filled the largest hall at Manchester University to near-capacity although it should be said most of us were of a certain age ourselves (!) despite not having released an album of new material since 2001. That hardly mattered tonight, since the set was made up of songs from their back catalogue. They were changing the set around during this run of dates; not being one who has followed this band avidly down the years it mattered little to me, however!  One change to the set came with the very first number, as they opened with ‘Transmaniacon MC’ in place of ‘The Red And The Black’ which was how they started things off on most of these dates.

I might not have known these songs all that well, but Roeser’s guitar tone was immediately recognisable as he launched into the first of many lead guitar solos. He also took lead vocal on more songs than I’d anticipated, ‘Burnin’ For You’ was one of his and that got a huge cheer from this crowd. Bloom, despite being centre stage and resplendent in those ever-present shades, seemed to be more of a supporting figure to Roeser who drew most of the attention.  He would also swap places with Castellano so that the latter could play guitar on some numbers, a particular highlight was the lengthy ‘Then Came The Last Days Of May’ which saw he and Roeser earn warm applause for their respective lead guitar spots.  Mid-set, Bloom offered the audience the choice of either ‘Shooting Shark’ or ‘Harvest Moon’; the latter was played as he decided the cheer was a little louder for that number. Other highlights were ‘Buck’s Boogie’, an instrumental spot showcasing not only Buck himself but the other players; Danny Miranda was given a chance to take in some cheers as he showed his dexterity on the bass, plus favourites such as ‘Godzilla’ and of course set closer ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’. Hearing that live for the first time did answer one question for me, as in how they could play that sustained note as it comes out of the lead solo (they don’t!)

Blue Oyster Cult at Manchester Academy

Blue Oyster Cult at Manchester Academy

This was a fine gig from a band I really should have got around to seeing long before now; I missed them two years ago because of that busted ankle but I wasn’t passing up this chance. At the end, Bloom said he ‘hoped they could come back again soon’ – let’s hope they do, and next time I’ll know their stuff a little better!

Support were The Temperance Movement, a band I’d not seen live since a brilliant gig in Liverpool in 2013. I recognised only vocalist Phil Campbell (who has adopted Steve Marriott’s hairstyle to go with his Jagger-esque stage moves), guitarist Paul Sayer and bassist Nick Fyffe. I certainly recognised opening song ‘Only Friend’ though, as they played a crowd-pleasing set of numbers from their first album and current one ‘A Deeper Cut’. New members, guitarist Matt White and drummer Simon Lea have changed the band’s sound hardly at all, so if you liked their brand of whiskey-soaked rock ‘n’ roll when they first came on the scene, you’ll like them now. Interestingly nothing was played from second album ‘White Bear’; they also didn’t play ‘Midnight Black’ which was a slight disappointment for me. However they got the crowd nicely warmed up, as many got here early for this band and gave them a rousing reception. Hopefully they’ll play more dates in the UK soon, and fingers crossed one of them is in Liverpool – as they haven’t been back since that stormer of a show in 2013!

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Blue Öyster Cult Facebook Page

The Temperance Movement Facebook Page