Caught Live: Anvil, Tivoli Venue Buckley, 16th February 2018

It’s been a while since my last visit to the fabled old haunts (word used purposely; the Tiv is reputedly haunted by numerous spooks!) that is the Buckley Tivoli. But it’s been an eternity since last I saw Anvil! My first encounter with the Canadian metallers was way back, at the 1982 Donington when they opened that year’s Monsters of Rock event (headlined by Status Quo) and this show, a mere 36 years later, was my second Anvil gig! They take the prize for the longest gap between seeing the same band again, then, but although they never really broke through as they might have hoped to back in those far-off days, they did influence plenty who did.

Anvil were, of course the subject of a ‘rockumentary’ film a few years ago, a kind of ‘Some Kind of Monster’ only the subjects were not multi-millionaires being encouraged by a therapist to swim through balloons (!) The film did however, raise their profile internationally enabling the band to return to stages across the world, including a Download appearance. Since then the band (now a trio, comprising original members Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow on guitar and vocals, drummer Robb Reiner and completed by current bassist Chris Robertson) have gone on to enjoy a lengthy Indian summer, with a recent album (‘Pounding The Pavement’) released through a crowdfunding campaign.

This was a three-band bill, but a hold-up in leaving for Buckley meant I had missed openers Sidewinder. Next band up were Cheshire rockers Hollowpoint, a five-piece playing 80s-influenced hard rock (including a cover of ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’, made famous in 1984 by another Canadian band – Helix – of course, but originally by Crazy Elephant). The quintet were good players, but nothing you haven’t seen many times before.

When Anvil came on stage, the first thing Lips did was come straight off the stage and out onto the floor! Playing a frenetic lead solo, ‘in the round’ and surrounded by cheering faces, he greeted the assembled crowd with the declaration of : ‘We are Anvil and we play Heavy Metal’ – using his guitar pickup as a microphone! He then led the band into ‘March Of The Crabs’, managing to pose for ‘selfies’ with crowd members while playing guitar at the same time, then he returned to the stage for next number ‘666’.

The set included many headbangers from the early 80s and more recent material (including three from the current album). Lips took most of the attention of course, with plenty of fiery guitar playing and some spectacular ‘gurning expressions’ to accompany the solos! He also had a self-deprecating line in humour, when introducing ‘Bitch in a Box’ he told how some had seen the title and instantly slammed the band for sexism. He then pointed out the song’s lyric is about being misdirected by a sat-nav! Although a trio these days, the hard-hitting bass attack of Chris Robertson almost acts like a rhythm guitar – he really slams it hard and is just as energetic as Lips when jumping about the stage.  The solo spots came later in the set with ‘Mothra’ leading into Lips’ solo spot where he played guitar using a sex toy as a ‘slide'(!)  Not exactly Jimmy Page with a bow, but Lips’ sense of fun lets him get away with it where other bands would probably be condemned for such a stunt!  Robb Reiner’s solo came during ‘Swing Thing’, an instrumental prefaced by an intro from Lips, claiming that swing music has an influence on rock and metal. It certainly did in this piece, reminiscent of Zep’s ‘Moby Dick’.

A long set ran until well past 11pm, ending with ‘Metal On Metal’, which saw Lips return to the floor for one last solo among the crowd. Their set indeed showed how much that they did influence later, more successful bands (some of whom appear in their rockumentary film) but also how they were influenced themselves, Lips readily gave a shout-out to Lemmy, and their old-school Metal styling reminded me of Judas Priest – or how they’d sound with only one guitar, perhaps!

This was a great night of old-school Heavy Metal, the sort of gig that makes you realise how so many newer bands, those that consider themselves ‘Metal’ just don’t clang with that same resonance. When you see a real Metal band do their thing, you know about it – and Anvil are real Metal, alright. Long may their renaissance continue, and it will not be another 36 years before I see them again, that’s for sure!

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

 

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Caught Live: The King Lot/Thirteen Stars (with Sister Rose), Maguire’s Pizza Bar Liverpool, 11th February 2018

Another one of those gigs I ended up at despite having not heard of either band until days before this show took place! I saw the show advertised on Facebook, and went along based on the old ‘youtube test’ done on The King Lot. A Scottish trio comprising vocalist/bassist Jason Sweeney, guitarist Jay Moir and drummer CK Gillon, they described themselves as ‘melodic, hard rock’. That’s pretty accurate though to an old-school Metalhead like me they’re heavier than that tag suggests. This date, held in the back room of a pizza restaurant which can hold around 100 people, was a co-headliner with Thirteen Stars, a Cumbrian quartet who really were unknown quantities to me. So much so that when I got to Maguire’s and asked a young chap near the entrance to the back room when the bands were on, I had no idea that I was actually asking the drummer of Thirteen Stars (!) He told me that I was a little early and they’d be ready to open soon, so I headed for a swift pint in a nearby real ale pub (as you do!)

One pint later and I headed back to find the first band having just taken to the stage. Sister Rose, a quintet from Ramsbottom, played old-school hard rock not a million miles away from The Dead Daisies in sound, even if it was a million miles away in budget and scale (!) The band were squeezed for room on the small Maguire’s stage, their vocalist (Chris Berry) would step onto the floor regularly. A decent band with a fine rhythm section (drummer ‘Wanger’ and bassist ‘Woz’, as cribbed from their Facebook page!) and a particularly good guitarist in ‘Clanger’, these guys all looked around my age unlike the other member, a second guitarist introduced as ‘Alex’. Turned out he was Clanger’s son and has only just joined up with the band! They were good live, but their trad-rock was a bit too familiar to quite push my buttons.

Next up were The King Lot themselves, the band I’d actually come to see. As a trio, they looked a bit more comfortable up there. Led off by a Geddy-esque bass intro from Jason Sweeney, they showed plenty of class in their 45 minutes or so on stage. Being unfamiliar with the material (your correspondent hollered when the frontman asked ‘who here hasn’t got our new album?’) ‘At least you’re honest, sir!’ was the follow-up! Of course I hadn’t even HEARD of this band until three days before, but he wasn’t to know that! A power trio with plenty of emphasis on power, and an excellent guitarist in Jay Moir.  Their current album is ‘A World Without Evil’, which I shall have to get hold of before their appearance this July at SOS Festival, where I intend to catch this band again.

The King Lot at Maguires Pizza Bar

The King Lot at Maguires Pizza Bar

Closing out the evening were Thirteen Stars, who appeared to be keeping Gibson in business all by themselves (for those unaware, the company behind the iconic brand is in serious trouble at the moment) with both guitarists and even the bassist sporting Les Pauls! Frontman, vocalist/lead guitarist Hoss Thompson changed frequently between at least two Les Pauls and a white Gretsch. When they struck up, they did so with a vengeance! Although British (straight outta Cumbria) they are heavily influenced by Southern Rock, even the grizzled look of the frontman and fellow guitarist Jax Sedgwick appeared to be straight out of the Skynyrd style guide. Clean-cut and short-haired bassist Ryan Bell did buck the trend, though! Their take on Southern Rock is loud, hard and heavy, though a recurring theme I noticed with their songs was that many of them ended suddenly! The sound was a bit too loud for this tiny room I thought however, making it a bit tricky to make out the vocals. Again, some fine playing, and a dry sense of humour demonstrated by Hoss between songs, though should I see these again I hope for a bit more restraint on the volume, that was one of those gigs I knew would give me buzzing ears for a bit (and it has!).

Thirteen Stars at Liverpool Maguire's

Thirteen Stars at Liverpool Maguire’s

It’s always a bit tricky to report on a gig when you have little to no prior knowledge of any of the bands, but despite the volume (in particular from the last band) this was a good night. The gig drew only a small crowd, several of whom appeared to be there for The King Lot, but all involved are to be commended for bringing their tour to Liverpool, especially since Hoss told us that this was only their second visit to the city, the first being ‘an unmitigated disaster’ as he put it! (Long story short, they were kept waiting for hours before being told they had only 15 minutes, which they defied!) This time around they got to play a full set at least, and I will look out for any of these bands when they come around again.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Thirteen Stars Facebook Page

The King Lot Facebook Page

Sister Rose Facebook Page

 

Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey passes at 64

Pat Torpey of Mr Big

Pat Torpey at Manchester Academy

Once again I heard about this as I was about to turn off the laptop for the night. It only became known tonight but original Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease on Wednesday, February 7th.  Only last autumn he toured with the band despite his condition, and played a specially-set up percussive kit alongside Matt Starr, who had stepped in as regular touring drummer. He was still fit enough to actually play the drums on the ballad ‘Just Take My Heart’ and contributed greatly to the live show still, adding his backing vocals as well as additional percussion. Introduced to the audience after three songs by bassist Billy Sheehan, his entrance was greeted enthusiastically by the fans at the show I saw, at Manchester Academy 1.

Mr. Big were formed in 1988 by Billy Sheehan who had up until then been playing bass for David Lee Roth; recruiting singer Eric Martin first of all he soon completed the line-up with virtuoso guitarist Paul Gilbert and finally Pat Torpey, a respected drummer who had played with many big names including Ted Nugent, and AOR singer/songwriter Jeff Paris. The band’s 1989 debut album got them noticed, but they broke through in 1991 with second album ‘Lean Into It’ and singles ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Green-Tinted Sixties Mind’.  They continued to record and tour throughout the 1990s until Gilbert departed in 1999, reforming his old band Racer X. He was replaced by another guitar prodigy in Richie Kotzen, and this line-up made two more albums before the band split in 2002.

By 2009 the band had reconvened, with Gilbert back in the fold, and the group toured again, firstly in Japan where they had enjoyed much success. Two more albums (2010’s ‘What If…’ and ‘The Stories We Could Tell’, released 2014) followed, but Torpey had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by the time of the latter album. He was unable to play drums on that album and contributed by working alongside a drum programmer. For that tour, Matt Starr was recruited to play in his place. Their most recent album (‘Defying Gravity’, released last year) had Starr play the drums on the record but working closely with his predecessor, credited as ‘drum producer’ on the album. Hailed by Eric Martin as ‘the strongest guy I know’, his appearance on the band’s most recent European tour both surprised and delighted the group’s fans.

To close yet another hastily-written post marking the passing of a great rock musician, here is Mr. Big performing ‘Addicted To That Rush’ before a huge audience at Japan’s Budokan in 2009, complete with Pat Torpey still at the top of his game:

 

Caught Live: Hayseed Dixie (with Emma McGrath), o2 Academy Liverpool 6th February 2018

It’s been much too long since last I saw Hayseed Dixie live, so long ago I understand there have been several changes in line-up since then! Not that it matters too much, for a band set up to cover classic rock songs in a bluegrass style (and styling it ‘rockgrass’!), as well as adding a few of their own into the mix. Founder and singer/guitarist John Wheeler (aka ‘Barley Scotch’) remains, and the current players alongside him are banjo player Tim Carter, Hippy Joe Hymas on mandolin and fierce expressions, and on acoustic bass is Jake ‘Bakesnake’ Byers. “Hippy” Joe is a scary-looking figure in dungarees (accessorised with patches of classic rock bands including Budgie and Yes!), wild hair, unkempt beard and a habit of pulling tongues Gene Simmons-style, but is a nimble-fingered player. He is also a fast string changer – in one song he snapped a string on the mandolin, continued to the end, but rather than having a tech hand him a backup instrument, changed the string on the spot while ‘Barley Scotch’ covered with a quick shaggy dog story!

Their set takes in covers of many bands, not just AC/DC as the name suggests, all rearranged to suit the instrumentation. Their cover of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has to be seen to be believed, they retain all elements of the song (including the guitar solo as interpreted by “Hippy” Joe!) right down to the ‘I see a little silhouetto’ segment. However, part way through that bit (enthusiastically augmented by the crowd!) it’s broken off for a completely different song, which three of the guys leap into leaving “Hippy” Joe to pick up the setlist off the floor, look at the others with disgust, and then take a swig of his whiskey bottle!  They play with a lot of humour, but also terrific musicianship. These guys are all masters of their instruments, and with no drummer the sound they create is all the more remarkable.

To go through all the bands they cover would take up far too much time, but the AC/DC they played included ‘TNT’,  ‘Big Balls’ ‘Touch Too Much’ and in the encore, ‘Highway To Hell’. They also cover KISS, Aerosmith, Billy Idol, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, even Bryan Adams and Ricky Martin (!) All of which served to illustrate their mission, which as stated at the start of the show it was to demonstrate that the ‘Lost Highway’ of Hank Williams and the ‘Highway to Hell’ of AC/DC are the same! There are now other bands doing a similar thing (Hayseed Dixie started up in 2001) which probably surprised Barley Scotch as much as anyone else that not only has his act survived, but inspired others. However, a classic song is a classic song however it is interpreted, and Hayseed Dixie illustrate that brilliantly.

Support was from Emma McGrath, a young singer/songwriter from Harpenden in North London, accompanied only by a drummer (introduced as ‘Alfie’). Strumming a Squier Bullet guitar, she looked a little introverted at first but as her short set progressed, she did start to silence the chatterers in the crowd (many of whom were still streaming into the venue as she played) with her remarkable voice. She is just 18 years of age, but has the mature timbre of somebody nearer 40. Her songs are a bit mellow for the dyed-in-the-denim metalhead still in me, but her quality is clear for all to hear. I found out later she has already featured on BBC Introducing as well as other platforms, so she is definitely heading in the right direction. If you’re going to a date on this tour, get there early and give her a listen.

Support Emma McGrath

Emma McGrath at o2 Academy Liverpool

Hayseed Dixie Facebook page

Emma McGrath Facebook page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

The Dead Daisies release ‘Resurrected’ in advance of their upcoming album

Hard rockers The Dead Daisies, a ‘collective’ project started in 2012 by Australian guitarist (and one of the country’s leading businessmen) David Lowy, comprising some of rock’s finest players, have today released ‘Resurrected’, a track taken from their upcoming fourth album (‘Burn It Down’).

The band has seen many musicians come and go during its five-year existence, but has more recently stabilised its line-up with founder member Lowy, vocalist John Corabi, bassist Marco Mendoza and lead guitarist Doug Aldrich (all of whom played on the last album, 2016’s ‘Make Some Noise’) now being joined by drummer Deen Castronovo. Previous drummer Brian Tichy announced his departure last year, with the former Journey sticksman taking over the drum stool  in time to record this upcoming album.  The group have already given selected fans a sneak preview of the album but they have decided to make one track generally available as a taster.

If this track is any indication of the album, then the fourth Daisies platter will be their heaviest one to date. The opening riff smashes in with a guitar sound not far removed from Monster Truck, though early fans will note that it is a long way (to go?) from the first incarnation of the band. When I get the full album a write-up will appear on this blog, and I am looking forward to seeing the Daisies at Bilston’s Robin 2 on their Spring UK tour when they will no doubt play several tracks from this album.

For now, here is the Spotify link to the track ‘Resurrected’ – crank it up, reach for the neck brace and pick up that air guitar!

The Dead Daisies release ‘Burn It Down’ on Spitfire Records, on April 6th 2018 and have a UK/European tour booked for April/May, with further shows planned for Japan, South America, the US and Canada throughout the rest of the year.

Click Image to go to the Dead Daisies website

The Dead Daisies 2018 tour poster (click to go to the band website)

CATS in SPACE guitarist comes ‘Full Circle’ with reissue

The band CATS in SPACE have been enjoying some much-deserved success over the past year; comprising guys who have been around the block as it were, their collective experience and musical craft has seen them gain favour with rock fans quite quickly. Now the fan base has been delving back into the members’ respective pasts, and there have been many requests for a reissue of ‘Full Circle’, an album released by CATS founder member Greg Hart ten years ago under the band name ‘Hartless’. I treated myself to a copy at the time of the original release, and gave it a good write-up on my old MySpace blog, likening it to a bygone era when rock bands such as Thin Lizzy were seen on TV shows frequently, especially the anarchic Saturday morning show ‘Tiswas’!

At the time of that album, Greg had just ended a decade-long stint as one of two guitarists in long-established tribute band Limehouse Lizzy; this album makes plain his deep admiration for Lynott and company from the get-go with a pose featuring Greg in a Thin Lizzy t-shirt. There is strong Lizzy influence throughout the record, although he and the band (comprising guitarist Marty Wells, bassist/vocalist Ray Edmunds, drummer Michael van Dell as well as Greg himself on lead guitar and vocals) were able to produce an album of songs that recalled the golden era of 70s rock, without outright copying it.  They did include one Lizzy cover (‘Romeo & The Lonely Girl’), further emphasising their admiration of the Irish rockers.

Following this record he went on to work once more with his old band Moritz and eventually formed an act (which also includes present CATS keyboardist Andy Stewart) celebrating the pop hits of the 1970s, with male and female singers, and playing live a broad selection of hit songs from artists of many differing styles. Originally titled ‘The Jackie Generation’, it became known as ‘Supersonic 70s Show’ or ‘Solid Gold 70s Show’ and continues to tour the UK regularly.

Back to ‘Hartless’, and the reissue of ‘Full Circle’ will be available from the beginning of February and is strictly limited to 100 copies. The album will only be available as a physical CD; no downloads, no streaming, so if you want one, be quick!  Recommended for fans of 1970s styled pop-rock; to register interest, contact Greg directly.

Screenshot-2018-1-31 Greg Hart

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Caught Live: Novacrow (with Primyl Vinyl, Gil Guillermo) Jacaranda club Liverpool, 26th January 2018

I only spotted this gig listed at the beginning of the week, it was made all the more attractive, seeing as it was not only in town but with free admission! The Jacaranda is a well-known bar and live venue in the centre of Liverpool, they host bands in a small basement room which probably holds about 100 at the absolute most. Headlining were local outfit Novacrow, a band I’ve seen on two previous occasions who play hard rock/Metal with wild abandon.  The other two acts on the bill were young acts who are studying at LIPA, neither of whom I had any prior knowledge of, and first up was Gil Guillermo. Not Spanish or Latin American as might have been surmised from that name, but an Israeli who has been in the city for two years. His brand of folky rock was pleasant, if a little gentle at first, but he and his band soon started to cut loose with some particularly tasty playing from (Geddy Lee lookalike) Zak Langford-Do, and even a nifty bass solo from Chris Jones (who didn’t look like Geddy despite playing the four-string!) Their short set ended with a vastly reworked cover of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’, once again showcasing Zak’s impressive lead guitar.

Gil Guillermo at Jacaranda Liverpool

Gil Guillermo at Jacaranda Liverpool

Next up were Primyl Vinyl, a quartet fronted by lanky singer/guitarist Matt Bankhurst (who, keeping the lookalike theme going, made me think of a younger, taller, and right-handed Luke Morley – mainly because of his slightly unkempt fair hair!). These guys were a harder-rocking outfit than I’d anticipated, and they also had a good lead guitarist in Will Dorey. During their second number, the frontman lost the A string of his guitar but soldiered on to the end of the song. Following this he was about to hand vocal over to drummer Nahum Matthews (who was already providing substantial backing vocals) while he changed string on this small stage, but he was helped out by Gil Guillermo who loaned his own guitar for the remainder of the band’s set. They also gave a good account of themselves and even had yours truly nodding the head in approval during their last (heavier) number!

Primyl Vinyl at Liverpool Jacaranda

Primyl Vinyl at Liverpool Jacaranda

When Novacrow took to the small stage here it was immediately obvious they were down a member – regular guitarist Jonyx has been suffering from the bug that has been going around, as explained by singer/guitarist Kitty. That meant they were to play as a trio; she would have to handle all guitar duties for this set. It mattered little – while she can provide enough guitar wallop on her own, she has bassist Freddy to help compensate. His bass sound is heavy, he doesn’t so much storm the stage as outright attack it. A real force of nature, if he isn’t pirouetting on the spot he is leaping about, sometimes jumping onto the floor and getting right up into punters’ faces! Underpinning all of that is Torben Schmidt-Hansen on the drums, hitting with power and fury. He and Freddy were so powerful that Kitty even managed to carry off performing one song without her own guitar (‘Criminal Mastermind’). Normally Jonyx would have been playing it, but they were able to pull that off as a ‘drum and bass’ number and still have it rock hard!

This band is a sensational live act, they have Kitty who provides glamour, hard rockin’ riffs and a sensual stage presence, contrasted with the tumultuous Freddy who is transformed once onstage from a nice guy into something resembling the Tasmanian Devil from the cartoons, only with a bass in hand! They have dates across the country and some international appearances too for 2018, if you like your live bands to be LIVE, they don’t get much livelier than Novacrow.

Gil Guillermo Music facebook page

Primyl Vinyl facebook page

Novacrow facebook page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving