2018 – bad start (goodbye Fast Eddie, Chris Tsangarides, Dolores O’Riordan)

2018 has barely got going and we’ve already lost some music greats. Last week the news broke that producer Chris Tsangarides had passed away aged 61, following a bout of pneumonia. Major names in the rock and metal fields including Thin Lizzy/Gary Moore, Anvil, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Y&T and Bruce Dickinson had all worked with him as producer, illustrating his standing in the genre. He also produced records for artists in other styles, including Japan, Joan Armatrading, Tom Jones and Depeche Mode, having had a long career in the industry.

That was soon followed by the even more saddening news that ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, the last of the classic Motörhead line-up still standing, had died at the age of 67, also while being treated for pneumonia. He joined Motörhead in 1976, having been recruited by founder Lemmy to play alongside then-incumbent guitarist Larry Wallis. However Wallis quit soon after, which left the trio of Lemmy, Fast Eddie and drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor. The band’s hard and aggressive sound gained favour with both the punk and Metal crowds, while Lemmy would always insist that they played nothing more than ‘rock and roll’, they were nevertheless firmly pigeonholed as a Metal band, furthermore they were cited as influences by many Metal bands which came along after.  This was the line-up which made iconic albums such as ‘Overkill’, ‘Bomber’ and of course the album for which Motörhead will always be remembered, ‘Ace Of Spades’. At the start of the 1980s Motörhead were at their height, as their live album ‘No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith’ topped the UK album charts and they scored numerous hit singles.

It all started to go wrong in 1982, firstly over the production of the ‘Iron Fist’ album (Clarke had, reluctantly, stepped in as producer) which the band were dissatisfied with, then the final straw came when Lemmy opted to record with Wendy O. Williams and her band The Plasmatics, on a cover of Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’. Disagreeing with the decision, Eddie quit the band while they were on a US tour. His time with Motörhead had changed him from a moderate drinker into a hardened boozer and, having taken a break to recuperate, reappeared in 1983 with a new band, Fastway. This band was intended to feature former UFO bassist Pete Way (hence the name), but contractual obligations meant he could not take part. Their self-titled debut album was a success Stateside, and they released a follow-up (‘All Fired Up’, 1984) before the line-up splintered. He reappeared with a short-lived new Fastway line-up in 1986, most notably contributing the title track for the ‘Trick Or Treat’ film soundtrack album.  Despite landing a tour supporting AC/DC in the US, the band were unable to capitalise on earlier success.

He continued to record material, with a solo album (‘It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over’) featuring a guest appearance from Lemmy appearing in 1994. Fast Eddie made occasional guest appearances of his own at selected Motörhead shows, the last of which came in 2014 at Birmingham. He was planning a return to the studio and a possible collaboration with Toby Jepson (Little Angels/Wayward Sons) when he took ill. Fast Eddie will always be associated with Motörhead, although he spent only six years with the band and made much more material after leaving the band, it is that manic period from which numerous iconic albums came, that will be his legacy.

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As I was putting this post together news broke of the passing of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan, aged just 46. The Irish band weren’t one I was a massive fan of, but that was still a shock, being so unexpected. She was in London to record new material, and there has been a stunned reaction to her passing. Best known for 1990s hits such as ‘Linger’ and ‘Zombie’, however to close this post I’ll link to their rendition of  ‘Cordell’. Written as a tribute to producer Denny Cordell (who signed the band), its lyric takes on added poignancy now. The song was covered by Delain some years later, and their singer Charlotte Wessels has posted her own tribute to Dolores O’Riordan, naming her as a primary influence.

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New year, new awards, same old faces

It’s awards season at the moment, before long you’ll be bombarded with hype over the BRIT awards, then there’s the NME awards, and over the pond there’s the Grammys. Add to that a new ceremony, another excuse for back-slapping and media hype: The Global Awards. Needless to say the same old faces will be up for these gongs; your Sheerans, your Oras, your Sam Smiths, whoopdedooo…
But what’s significant about this ceremony (to be held at the Hammersmith Odeon on March 1st, or as they would insist on calling the place, Eventim Apollo) anyway?

If the name ‘Global’ doesn’t mean much to you, then you have heard of their stations. Global is a media conglomerate who own many of the commercial radio stations in the country. It is they who are responsible for Heart, Smooth and Capital FM, and if you’ve ever had to suffer even an hour of their output you already know this is going to be a vapid exercise. They also operate Radio X, as well as Classic FM and their model is to network much of their programming centrally across what were once ‘local’ stations, with only minimal output broadcast from the regions they supposedly serve. They and Bauer Radio have the commercial radio sector in the UK carved up between them, which goes a long way towards explaining why their output is so bland, and so repetitive. Global’s brands such as Heart are high-profile but the parent company isn’t just yet; presumably they are aiming to change all that starting with this bash.

Six of the categories are open to public vote, the rest are down to a ‘judging panel’ who will, they say, make their decision ‘with due care, consideration and weight given to a variety of factors’. That’s about as vague as you can get, and to be eligible for nomination an artist has to have been played ‘at least once’ on any Global station in the previous year. Given that the stations are all formatted tightly to a narrow playlist, one you can actually set your watch to (!) that doesn’t give many options. A quick look reveals the usual suspects: Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Rita Ora, Taylor Swift, Beyonce… such variety of choice! But wait, they’ve gone just a little edgy in nominating those Gallagher brothers (Liam is up for Best Male vocal, Noel is nominated for Best Group with High Flying Birds) and they’ve also put Stormzy in for Best Male. That covers all bases, right?

Oh wait, you want rock? By that you must mean indie, and there’s a category for that too. Indie to them means Catfish and the Bottlemen, the Killers, Florence + The Machine and Noel again; that’s sufficient for those rebels amongst you who want a bit of rock, isn’t it? I’m laughing myself silly just reading that list of nominations, they really must think the music scene in the UK begins and ends with the narrow selection Global decide is fit for the masses, as they sit in their cars on the M62 of a Monday morning in another traffic jam, or as they while away their days in their offices knowing that there’ll be a Sam Smith record, followed by a Taylor Swift one at precisely 2:45 and then they have the commercials urging you to check for having had PPI… give me strength!

Have a look for yourself at the list of nominees, and barf! The safest, blandest, most corporate, most fluffy load of pap imaginable. Even the ‘indie’ isn’t really so; without wishing to rake over the coals of what ‘indie’ means yet again (it stopped meaning independently-produced and released music – regardless of style – a long time ago), only Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds out of all their nominees for ‘Best Indie’ is actually on an independent label. And he hasn’t been what you’d call ‘cutting-edge’ since about 1995 (or maybe he is, to Global execs!) It’s interesting that they still consider the Foo Fighters to be ‘indie’ too; a band so big that they sold out huge stadium dates inside an hour, and whose last album featured a guest appearance from one Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other bands completely off Global’s radar, who can sell out tours with regularity, who actually do release their records on genuine independent labels, and who score well in those independent charts, that will never get recognised by these self-important, self-satisfied ‘gatekeepers’ who have taken it upon themselves to decide for the rest of us what is, and is not ‘relevant’. I mean of course ROCK bands, as in those who actually do play music with craft, with thought, with care but who might be the wrong side of 40, or they might be a bit too different from ‘the formula’ to fit in with the background music that Global dispense on a daily basis between their beloved PPI ads. Such bands might sell out venues up and down the UK, but for a regular gig-goer who goes to see rock bands frequently, who has co-workers who just accept this repetitive stream of tedium day after day on the workplace radio, just try telling them about anything else and the answer will always be ‘never heard of them’ – the implied subtext being, they mustn’t be any good then. It fair makes you want to reach for the nearest baseball bat…!

So I am scratching my head as to why we need yet another awards ceremony, of course *we* do not. It’s Global themselves who want to establish themselves, their stations are ubiquitous as it is but clearly they now want you to know who it is that is ‘delivering’ this garbage to your ears each day. The corporate speak in their ‘About’ page is enough to make you reach for the bucket; they claim that half the UK population tune in every week to their ‘media brands’ and now they’re boasting of a ‘world-class’ (THE most meaningless, vapid piece of high-falutin’ corporate-speak you will EVER encounter) phone app that will deliver to your smartphone every station they offer. Sign me up now (!)

No doubt this tedious event will be promoted relentlessly on Heart, Smooth, Capital, Radio X and probably the one local station they still have (XS Manchester, the one-time rock/metal station which was turned into a carbon copy of Radio X; ostensibly ‘owned’ by Communicorp UK now but broadcasts out of Global’s studio facilities, takes their news service, and participates in events such as the charity Make Some Noise – to all intents and purposes it remains a Global station).  If you are sick and tired of the same slop served up day after day, there isn’t much you can pick from as an alternative – Bauer’s stations have a similar ‘network’ programming strategy and their ‘local’ stations are all geared up to play the same generic pop tunes. Bauer do operate Planet Rock (the UK’s only ‘national’ station that caters for hard rock fans) but even that is tightly formatted much of the time and is in any case now limited in its coverage since its move to the Digital 2 DAB network, leaving out large swathes of the country.

Global claim they are ‘obsessed with radio, music, and entertainment’ in their blurb – I disagree, they are only interested in advertisers, celeb ‘gossip’, inane chatter and six or seven songs from major-label artists they can repeat over and over until your brain rots away. Maybe one day there’ll be a decent regulator who won’t let these and Bauer walk all over them, until that time comes I suggest CDs for the car or, if you have one of these new-fangled players with a USB port, make use of it!

The usual rubbish from Global

Meanwhile, for as long as I continue to attend gigs, buy records, I will continue to write about those artists your co-workers ‘have never heard of’. To sign out, here’s a track that is more than apt, from one such band who consistently sell out venues across the UK  whenever they play (parental advisory, yadda yadda!) 😀

Whitesnake release video for ‘Burn’ from ‘The Purple Tour – Live’

Whitesnake gave their fans a little Christmas gift this week with the release of a specially-shot promo video for ‘Burn’, one of several Deep Purple songs revisited by singer David Coverdale for 2015’s ‘The Purple Album’ and the subsequent tour. This video is set to a live performance of the song, taken from the upcoming ‘The Purple Tour – Live’ CD and DVD package. The release of this set has been delayed but is now slated to come out on January 19th. There will be a choice of either a CD/DVD or CD/Blu-Ray set, as well as audio-only versions available on LP, CD or digitally.

The video (directed by Tyler Bourns; described by Coverdale as a ‘young, hip gunslinger’) features all of the current band members (guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devin, keyboardist Michele Luppi and drummer Tommy Aldridge) intercut with numerous special effects and introduces Tiffany Atkinson (Coverdale’s ‘Executive Personal Assistant’) as the ‘fire’ woman depicted in the song lyric.

The track listing for the CD/DVD, CD/Blu-Ray and audio CD is as follows:

  1. Burn
  2. Bad Boys
  3. Love Ain’t No Stranger
  4. The Gypsy
  5. Give Me All Your Love
  6. Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City
  7. Mistreated
  8. You Fool No One
  9. Soldier Of Fortune
  10. Is This Love
  11. Fool For Your Loving
  12. Here I Go Again
  13. Still Of The Night

The CD/DVD or CD/Blu-Ray sets will also feature the music video as shown above plus interviews with the band members, as well as bonus live audio in high-resolution 5.1 of the following tracks:

  • You Keep On Moving
  • Lay Down Stay Down
  • Lotsanotes
  • Stormbringer

The vinyl version of the album will include all of the main set plus ‘You Keep On Moving’.

Whitesnake recently released their first book (‘The Purple Tour – A Photographic Journey’) in strictly limited quantities, and have been working on an album of new material for a 2018 release. They also recently announced that they are to tour the US as special guests to Foreigner in summer 2018; at the time of writing they are yet to announce any dates for UK or Europe.

The band have also released an audio taster of the upcoming album, a live rendition of ‘Fool For Your Loving’:

A review of this CD/DVD will appear on the blog once I get my copy!

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DVD: Delain ‘A Decade of Delain – Live At Paradiso’ (Napalm)

It’s taken me a while to get around to this – Delain’s first long-form live video. I’ve described it as a ‘DVD’ in the title, in actual fact this package includes the concert, filmed at Paradiso in Amsterdam on 10th December 2016 (a show I attended) issued on both DVD *and* Blu-Ray discs, as well as audio of the complete set on two separate CDs. They have also featured a short documentary showing the workings of the group behind-the-scenes on their ‘Moonbathers’ tour of 2016, and vox pop interviews with selected fans.  That’s the regular edition; if you look on Delain’s own site there is a limited edition ‘deluxe’ set including all of the above, plus a ‘cover flag’, a laminated ‘pass’ with lanyard and six photo cards. That’d be for the diehard collectors; speaking as someone with plenty of ‘stuff’ already, the standard edition was fine by me. After all you are getting quite a bit for your money anyway.

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All that aside, what’s this filmed concert like? I saw it in full on the big screen in October when Delain arranged a special screening at a small cinema in Utrecht on the day of their concert at TivoliVredenburg. However I wanted to get my own copy before posting a blog on it, so after giving the DVD a spin (I still haven’t joined the Blu-Ray revolution, nineties kid that I am!) here are my thoughts:

The first thing you’ll notice is that they used a lot of camera angles – I do remember a camera on a boom arm flying over my spot on the night, and they used a lot more than just that camera to film this show. There are frequent cuts, sometimes showing singer Charlotte Wessels from one angle for a moment, then a different one two seconds later. They also cut frequently to the other band members, it isn’t the ‘Charlotte show’ by any means. The effect is to give the production a sense of ‘urgency’, if not quite like being there on the front row they’ve aimed to give the home viewer the next best thing. It reminds me a little of how the Whitesnake live DVD (produced over a decade ago, now) was cut, that had similar direction in terms of the amount of camera angles used and how often they cut to a different viewpoint. Anyone who has that DVD will hopefully be pleased to find that Delain did not cut to the occasional grainy black & white shot the way Whitesnake did, though (a trend I found irritating in video production and thankfully one that seems to be out of style nowadays).

The band went to a lot of trouble to make this show a special one, it being a celebration of their tenth anniversary, and so you’ll see tickertape, fake snow, visual projections and a whole host of special guest appearances in this concert. The snow effect looks spectacular on video, viewed from the back of this hall (a former church converted into a concert venue), cascading down on the audience amongst an array of lighting effects. You also see just what a mess all of that made of the stage even at an early point in the show! The guest appearances commenced right from the first song, as Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz joined the band for opening song ‘Hands Of Gold’. She returned later in the set to duet on ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’, another track in which she appeared on record. Also making appearances in person were Burton C. Bell (who’d flown in especially for this show) of Fear Factory, on ‘Where Is The Blood’, regular contributors George Oosthoek (growl vocals on ‘Pristine’) and former Leaves’ Eyes singer Liv Kristine who came on stage to duet with Charlotte Wessels on ‘See Me In Shadow’; she was also accompanied by cellist Elianne Anemaat for that song. The other guest performer didn’t appear in person that night (we had to wait another year for that) – Marco Hietala appeared in projected form on the backdrop, for his vocal parts on ‘Your Body Is A Battleground’ and ‘Sing To Me’.  However, the real treat for fans came about midway through this show; a brief interlude allowed the singer to make a quick costume change off stage, while the rest of the band (save for keyboardist Martijn Westerholt) made way for former members Sander Zoer (drums), Rob Van der Loo (bass) and songwriter/studio contributor Guus Eikens (guitar). It was this line-up who played ‘Sleepwalkers Dream’ from their first album, after which they handed back to regular players Timo Somers and Merel Bechtold (guitars), Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije (bass) and Ruben Israel (drums).

Much of the set was based on the then-current ‘Moonbathers’ tour, save for the special treats described, with six played from that album, six more from previous album ‘The Human Contradiction’ and four from their breakthrough ‘We Are The Others’ album. Only two from ‘April Rain’ made the cut; that is still my favourite album of theirs and I have high hopes they’ll celebrate that one in 2019! Four from debut ‘Lucidity’ were played, and they perhaps could have done one or two more, such as ‘A Day For Ghosts’ seeing as they had Liv Kristine (who actually performed it on album) with them, but that’s a minor quibble.

If you’re a fan of this band then the DVD/Blu-ray/2CD package included here is a must-buy, just for the concert footage. It’s beautifully presented, and slickly-produced. It almost made me feel like being back there in that crowd, and you clearly see from the live footage how much they enjoy audience participation, with arms waving, clapping about (‘Keep those hands in the air!’ commanded the singer before introducing ‘Get The Devil Out of Me’) and plenty of bouncing both on the stage and on the floor. The additional documentary is a nice extra (that was also shown at the special screening the band arranged in Utrecht recently) in which you see the band rehearsing, meeting fans at pre-show greets and preparing to perform at festivals such as Graspop. You might even recognise one or two faces from the front row, if you’re a long-time fan; luckily for you all though, not your humble correspondent! The video content is completed with the promo for ‘Suckerpunch’ and a live clip of ‘We Are The Others’ shot at Masters of Rock 2015.

I’d advise fans to shop around for this DVD/Blu-Ray however, it is available online via the band’s webshop priced at €30 for the standard digipak (currently around £27) however I’ve seen it retailing for as little as £17 at a well-known UK High street Major record and Video retailer.

To coincide with the first anniversary of the concert taking place, Delain have put one track from the show up on YouTube as a taster for fans who haven’t yet got this DVD.
You can watch ‘Fire With Fire’ from the Paradiso show below:

Finally, if your pockets are deep enough you can also buy this recording as a standalone live album on vinyl (on golden coloured vinyl too, if you wish) from Napalm Records’ webshop. As you get the live album on CD with this package anyway, that is really only recommended for the devoted completist.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Gigs of 2017 part four

For part one click here

For part two click here

For part three click here

NOVEMBER

This month started off with a bus ride over to St Helens to see proggers Mostly Autumn; that gig did clash with Michael Schenker’s show in Manchester (which featured many guests including former MSG members) but with me still off the road at the time I plumped for the more local gig. The Citadel was full when I got in, moments before the band took to the stage, and they delivered a show of their usual prog epics, with great playing from all. That’s only the second time I’ve seen this band, and I should try and catch them more often. The next night saw veteran American rockers Y&T visit Liverpool on their now-customary UK and European autumn tour. They were supported by Voodoo Vegas who were a good warm-up, while Y&T themselves once again delivered a strong set of back catalogue favourites. There’s still been no new material from them since 2010 but they have such a strong back catalogue they can play a different set from one year to the next and still give a full two hours on stage. A good night topped off by actually meeting frontman Dave Meniketti alongside his wife and manager Jill, whose novel ‘Welcome To Groove House’ I bought a year ago and brought for her to sign this time out.

The next week saw a strong bill pitch up at Warrington’s Parr Hall, headlined by Black Star Riders with Blues Pills, Tax The Heat and Dirty Thrills making up the rest of the bill. I was too late to catch Dirty Thrills but saw another great performance from Tax The Heat, an entertaining set from Blues Pills and a stormer from Black Star Riders. The only slight quibble was the sound balance, in a civic theatre such as this with a high ceiling the sound swirled around all evening. I do like that venue, as it is not too big and has good sight lines with a stage high enough to allow a good view of the band from anywhere – except perhaps the front row! Another week later and it was the turn of Britain’s first lady of blues guitar, Joanne Shaw Taylor to come to our part of the world. She added this show at New Brighton Floral Pavilion some time after her run of autumn dates were announced, perhaps catching out fans as this date was not sold out as I’d expected. She always gives a great, expressive performance and this time was no exception, and this time she’d added former King King keyboardist Bob Fridzema to the live band. With support from the excellent Dan Patlansky, this was a splendid night of bluesy rock guitar.

A few days later I made the (late) decision to take the train up to Manchester and see Deep Purple on what they have billed their ‘Long Goodbye’ tour. Whether that means they really are bowing out remains to be seen, but the guys aren’t getting any younger and there cannot be much more to come. A good bill was opened by CATS in SPACE, given only 30 minutes they wowed the audience, many of whom were already in place. I had missed them on their support slot for Thunder, and also their own low-key tour of small venues, so this was my only chance to see them this year. They’ve had a phenomenal year with the release of second album ‘Scarecrow’ and with them having opened for Thunder, Deep Purple and finally Status Quo, they must be pinching themselves. Special guests were Europe, who since reforming several years ago have delivered some strong material far removed from the parping ‘Final Countdown’ days. They actually sound a lot like Purple themselves nowadays, and gave a good set mixing songs from current album ‘Walk The Earth’ with the 80s hits everyone expected.  Deep Purple also showcased a lot of material from latest album ‘Infinite’, but still found room for plenty of old classics. Ian Gillan isn’t the singer he was 40 years ago, but wisely has recognised that and manages his voice well nowadays, rather than try to blast it the way he once did. Near the end of this set, guitarist Steve Morse played a short burst of AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ in memory of Malcolm Young, with news of the AC/DC founder’s passing having only emerged earlier that day.

Last gig of this month was Mr Big, which I almost never got to see! A friend of mine asked would I take on the ticket as his girlfriend (who booked them) had decided against making the trip to Manchester (the show took place at the Academy 1). However, once meeting up at Lime Street Station and boarding our train, he realised he had left the tickets at home! With me resigned to watching football in the student union bar instead, a stroke of luck happened when two people on the guest list arrived to collect their tickets. They had ‘plus ones’ which they did not require, so they allowed us to use them! With that sorted we caught most of openers Faster Pussycat, who have only vocalist Taime Downe left as an original member now. They played a good set of sleaze favourites before making way for The Answer. Unlike when I saw the Irish rockers earlier in the year, this set was designed to touch on all their albums to date. So, having opened with the epic ‘Solas’ they gave airings to a selection of favourites including ‘Preachin’ and ‘Spectacular’. They also paid tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young (The Answer toured the world in 2009/10 opening for the Aussie titans) by covering ‘If You Want Blood, You Got It’. The Answer always give it everything and did so again, though I’d have liked a little more from them of course, time didn’t allow that. Watching Mr Big is always hard work, you never know where to look with virtuoso players (guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan) either side of singer Eric Martin almost trying to outdo one another. They started the set with drummer Matt Starr in place of Pat Torpey, but to the fans’ delight they brought out their original drummer to play percussion alongside the band. Pat Torpey has suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for some years now, preventing him from playing full-time, but the band still consider him a vital member of the band so much that they still bring him on tour. It was, as expected, a long set featuring new numbers and plenty of old favourites, but we had to leave shortly before the end as the last train wasn’t going to wait for us!

DECEMBER

The first of this month started off with another Same Night Syndrome gig clash, with two gigs I wanted to see happening in the same building, let alone the same city! The Lancashire Hotpots won out over former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, who was in the upstairs floor of Liverpool’s o2 Academy while the Hotpots were in the downstairs. They were celebrating ten years of their folk-infused tomfoolery with a complete performance of their debut album ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’. That was only part of a lengthy set the lads gave, with them having to play for longer than expected as their regular support Stu Penders & Spladoosh! having withdrawn. ‘He’s got The Mange’, as Hotpots singer Bernard Thresher kindly informed us. This was a superb night full of fun and parody folk, rock, dance, and it’s to be hoped there’ll be ten more years of it!

Next gig was a few days later in Lennon’s Bar on Mathew Street, normally one of many places that cater to the Beatles tourist trade that remains popular in Liverpool but tonight  was hosting a bill with several bands on, including locals Nesh (‘alternative, melodic hard rock’ as they described themselves) and St Helens punks Last Reserves whose singer Alice Nancy compered the evening. I was there to check out Psychords, an all-female punk rock trio from Italy who came recommended by several people I knew off Facebook. The girls had a few technical issues at the start but gave a storming set, driven emphatically by their drummer Claudia Lo. I’d like to see that band again and hopefully they’ll get the chance to come back to the UK in 2018. The very next evening was my penultimate trip to Chester for the year, to see Chantel McGregor play at the Live Rooms. I’d never seen her before, and she lulled us all into a false sense of security with two folky numbers played solo and acoustically, before bringing out her band, strapping on the electric guitar and blowing the audience away! One of many good blues rock guitarist/singers on the circuit at the moment, her heavy guitar sound was reminiscent of the great Robin Trower at times.  My final gig of 2017 was just a week ago at the time of writing this post, once again at Chester. Opened by Black Cat Bones, who had a ball performing on this bigger stage with an elevated platform for singer Jonnie Hodson (improvised from crates!), then Skarlett Riot who, with only a short time to perform, played their heavier material. Singer Skarlett did without her guitar for this show, leaving all axe duties to lead guitarist Danny. Topping this bill were Finland’s Santa Cruz, a foursome who look and play like they have just come from the Strip in 1988! It’s nothing new to someone like me who remembers Skid Row or Guns ‘n’ Roses, but the Finns were fiery and enthusiastic, with great guitar work from frontman Archie and the other guitarist Johnny.

That’s my roundup of 2017’s gigs; I saw more than I’d expected to this year and it’ll be hard to get to as many in 2018 as I did this year. But I’ll be back to report on whatever comes my way in the New Year!

Gigs of 2017 part three

For part one click here

For part two click here

AUGUST

Always a fairly fallow time for tours, as it’s the height of festival season in the UK, plus I had a holiday in North Wales to enjoy this month! So the only gig I got to was once again at Stalybridge Tavern, for their ‘Punk Sunday’ multi-band bill held every so often. Because it was an all-day event that meant it was possible to get there and back by train from Liverpool, handy for me still recovering from my ankle injury at that time. There were several bands on including Australian outfit The Mis-Made, my reason for going was to see those iDestroy girls once again. They were as usual excellent, however my leg wasn’t up to standing through this whole event so after their set I headed home to give it a much-needed rest! This month saw the Hope & Glory Festival take place in Liverpool; sited at St Georges Plateau it was billed as a ’boutique’ event with three stages, but anyone who knew the area would have foreseen the problems which blighted day 1 (lengthy queues, little space to move) and with some acts actually axed from the bill because of an over-running schedule it all went wrong. The music on offer wasn’t at all to my taste, but even if it were I could have told them there would be logistical issues having an outdoor music event in such a confined space. The second day was simply called off and the organisers were slammed in the local media.

SEPTEMBER

Only two gigs this month; the first was a second outing to see Women In Rock, this time at Chester’s Live Rooms. Their regular guitarist was back (so no Rosie from DORJA this time) and one of the female singers was different to the previous occasion I saw them at Stoke-on-Trent. They have a revolving cast of singers who appear as and when available; the set performed was along similar lines however. Their repertoire is mostly 1980s hits but they do include a few that are not so obvious. For instance they play Skunk Anansie’s ‘I Can Dream’, and also deviating from the norm a little they play Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’. (That was a number one hit in its day, mind you!) The only aspect of female-fronted rock they don’t really cover is European symphonic Metal; it’d be nice to see a Nightwish, Within Temptation or even a Delain (slight bias!) song added, as I’m sure their audience would be receptive. The other gig I saw this month was also at Chester,  but in the L2 bar area which was decked out with tables and chairs for the occasion. Finnish blues guitarist/singer Erja Lyytinen paid the Live Rooms a visit, drawing a small crowd of blues/rock devotees she blasted away the serene setting with a storming demonstration of rock guitar. I’d never heard of her until this year but made a note of her next visit, which, when speaking to her after her set, she told me would be in March 2018. (She is scheduled to play in Southport at the end of that month.)

OCTOBER

I’d been off the road for some time by this point, the car I could not drive during my injury needed more work doing to make it driveable than I thought it was worth, so it was public transport and strictly local gigs at this point! First up was Martin Turner, a founding member of  1970s rock band Wishbone Ash. He did used to tour under that name but a legal dispute with former bandmate, guitarist Andy Powell, saw the latter gain exclusive use of the Wishbone Ash name. Hence this gig was billed as ‘Martin Turner, EX-Wishbone Ash’! This gig was at the Brindley Theatre, a small civic hall in Runcorn town centre and would see he and his band play two sets, the second being a complete performance of Wishbone Ash’s 1971 album ‘Argus’. The show was extremely good in all aspects; a clear sound balance, fine playing from all concerned and plenty of classic songs to please the audience. Only thing was, this show coincided with an England World Cup qualifier, so the audience was ‘selective’. So much so, I bought a ticket on the night and found myself in the second row, centre of the stalls! A pity, since he is still in fine form, but he has played to a packed house in nearby St Helens too so does have a following in these parts still.

Next up was a long-awaited show from US band Living Colour. Last time I saw these was in 2004 at Birkenhead, and this show at Liverpool Hangar 34 came a year after their planned 2016 UK tour with Glenn Hughes was suddenly scrapped. That left intended openers Stone Broken high and dry, at least until the ex-Purple man arranged his own tour in January of this year. Living Colour then lined up this tour for autumn 2017 and again featured Stone Broken as support. This was my first visit to Hangar 34, situated in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle it is a very good venue for bands this size, with good sight lines, a decent stage/sound system, and a capacity of around 800 it ranks alongside places like Manchester’s Academy 2. It is however a fair walk from the transport hubs, so even if you are local-ish you have a long hike here from getting off the bus in the city centre. Nonetheless it is a good venue and one that should be able to attract more bands to our city/ Stone Broken gave a good performance, with one or two new tracks from an upcoming album aired (they later revealed they’d signed with Spinefarm Records for their second album) and drummer Robyn Haycock played with such power she managed to knock over half of her kit while playing! Living Colour were greeted like returning heroes; singer Corey Glover was in a flat cap reminiscent of The Lancashire Hotpots (!) but sounded just as potent and passionate as he was in 1990. He has virtuoso players all around with Vernon Reid, Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun cooking up a mighty storm. A great set, and let’s hope it isn’t another decade before they come back.

Two nights later, and I was back in Chester to see Stevie Nimmo at the Live Rooms for the second time. The difference this time was that his brother Alan was playing guitar for him – days before this tour started, Stevie broke his right arm in a cycling accident. Alan, meanwhile had been forced to reschedule the dates for his own band King King, owing to an ongoing throat ailment rendering him unable to sing. He could still play guitar though, and it was perhaps fated that the two brothers should pool their talents. Alan slotted in seamlessly, so much so Stevie could be seen playing air guitar with his one good arm at times! A week later and I was planning to see Marco Mendoza play a rare solo show in Liverpool, at the Magnet. That was however scrapped by the venue late on (ticket sales were slow, at best!) and it was thanks to support band Black Cat Bones that he still got to play in the city, as they hastily arranged another venue (Studio 2) for him to play. This was a great night, Black Cat Bones were themselves praised by the Dead Daisies man both for their set and that they rescued this gig. When the main man came on, he gave a virtuoso performance with that bass, and with a vocal talent that is all too often hidden as a backing singer in his regular gig. He didn’t care that few people had showed, he gave us what amounted to a private performance and went out of his way to involve everyone present. One of the gigs of the year for me because it was so personal.

My last gig of October was one booked earlier in the year, when funds permitted (!) Dutch symphonic metallers Delain, one of my favourite current bands, were playing a special run of dates and featuring Nightwish’s Marco Hietala as guest vocalist. The only UK date was in London, and I decided that it would actually be easier to travel to Utrecht in their homeland than venture to the UK capital. Fans of Delain know that the Nightwish bassist has a long relationship with this band; he played bass on their first album ‘Lucidity’ and has contributed vocals to several of their albums alongside regular singer Charlotte Wessels. When the time came for this gig however, I was unsure whether I’d be fit enough to make it owing to a recurring back ailment which rendered me almost immobile! It eased off sufficiently on the day however and I travelled,. After surviving a tumble down the steps at the hall (TivoliVredenburg Ronda) I found a good spot and settled to watch the openers, Swiss folk-metallers Cellar Darling who impressed the crowd. Also on the bill were Austrian band Serenity, a high-energy Power Metal act familiar to Delain fans as they’ve supported them before, who were entertaining as ever. Delain themselves were cheered to the rafters from first song to last, in the singer’s home city and when they introduced Marco Hietala, this place needed a new roof! Many songs were played that don’t normally feature in their set, especially ones where the Nightwish bassist did appear on record. They’d just released a live DVD from a show filmed a year earlier and revealed during this show that it was also being filmed. I look forward to that one when it does come out.

Part four click here

Gigs of 2017 – part two

 

For Part One click here

APRIL

The very next night following DORJA’s gig at Bilston, it was back down the M6 to Birmingham in order to see Swedish masked men (and woman!) Ghost. Although they’d been around for a few years they only came onto my radar the year before, with the catchy ‘Square Hammer’ getting a lot of airplay on rock radio. A sensible person would have planned to stay in the Midlands knowing there were two gigs on consecutive nights, but yours truly is neither sensible nor much of a planner! The venue (o2 Academy) was packed out when I arrived, even as support act Zombi did their stuff (not to my taste). A lengthy interval followed, with lots of ritual bowing to one another by the stage crew as they set things up, then the band themselves came on and surprised me at least by opening with the aforementioned ‘Square Hammer’. All the band members dressed in identical jumpsuits with masks completely covering their faces, save for the main man Papa Emeritus III. He made his spectacular entrance in a puff of smoke and proved to be the consummate showman. They played up the Satanic angle to the point of parody, but they were far from threatening, this was pure vaudeville entertainment (much in the style of Alice Cooper) complete with ticker-tape at the end! Shortly after this tour, several former members of Ghost launched legal action claiming they were excluded from royalties, this action unmasked Papa Emeritus III as Tobias Forge, the brains behind the act whose identity was already an open secret, but the lawsuit confirmed it.

A week later I decided to venture out to St Helens and the Citadel, a small theatre which often hosts some good bands. The band Frost* made a rare appearance on the 9th, this quartet is made up of virtuoso players throughout but all are busy with so many other projects, that they can only get together occasionally. Led by guitarist John Mitchell (Lonely Robot, It Bites, many others) and keyboardist Jem Godfrey (a famed producer) and also including bassist Nathan King (of Level 42; brother of Mark and just as adept on the four-string) and drummer Craig Blundell. They play long-form progressive rock, and their set included the epic ‘Milliontown’ which lasted at least half an hour with lots of complex passages. For £15 this was terrific value, especially seeing as a certain famous progressive Metal band were also touring at this time and asking about five times that for a ticket!

On the 14th (Good Friday) I took a run out to Whitchurch, where iDestroy were playing at Percy’s cafe/bar (a small bar with a stage set up out the back in the open). It was good to see Bec, Becky and Jenn again, this time close enough to almost play Bec’s guitar for her (!) and the evening was closed out by Italian hard rockers Atlantic Tides, who impressed me enough to get their album. A week later it was ‘hello Becky’ once again, this time at Rebellion in Manchester where she was performing with Triaxis, her melodic Metal band. This evening was an album launch for Yorkshire metallers Vice, and the bill also included Dakesis and Amethyst. I was there mainly for Triaxis, who annouced later in the year that they were to call it a day following some personnel changes. One of those was in the vocal department, as Greek singer Angel Wolf-Black was fronting the band when I saw them. The band were obviously influenced by European metal bands with many synchronised poses and technoflash guitar solos, but entertaining as anything Becky features in tends to be. Their setlist had ‘DIO’ written on it, I was expecting a cover of Tenacious D but it turned out to be ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ (!) I stuck around to watch Vice, who were good but weren’t holding my attention too much until they too did a Dio cover, or more correctly Sabbath’s ‘Heaven and Hell’.

Hot on the heels of that show was a completely different one – Bristol rockers Tax The Heat had a show at Chester’s Live Rooms. To my surprise this took place in the smaller L2 bar area, which I thought was odd for a band who had got themselves a reputation as ones to watch. It turned out tribute band UK Foo Fighters were booked into the main L1 hall, and that had drawn a big crowd. Those who plumped for this gig however got a stormer of a set, TTH play hard and really rocked this small room. For me this was one of the highlights of my gigging year, to see such a slammin’ band up close and personal was a real privilege. The month closed with yet another iDestroy gig, this time at Star and Garter in Manchester. By this point Becky must have thought she could not brush me off the doorstep (!)

MAY

On the first of this month (a bank holiday) I made the crazy decision to drive from Liverpool down to Maidstone just to see Holly Henderson’s debut live set with her newly-assembled solo band. Holly had at that time just come back from LA, having been invited over there by ace guitarist Pete Thorn after he’d heard her home-produced material (released as the ‘Opium Drip’ EP). At that time I had just finished a contract, and with some free time on my hands as well as a little money for once, I decided to do it knowing I wouldn’t get many other chances to see her live this year. She was playing as part of a one-day live music event at a bar in her home town, but as it was I made it there only minutes before her set was due to commence. I’d only ever seen her as a guitarist in bands before then, this time she was out front handling lead vocals too (although she was augmented by singer Katy Chellar) and her band, made up of musician friends of hers, were a powerful live unit who gave her excellent backing. I knew none of the songs she played that night (save for ‘Your Hands’ from that EP) but the track which lodged in my mind was ‘Loneliness’, a pacy rocker that she has now lined up as the lead-off single for that upcoming album. At that time she was still a member of DORJA, but her own solo project had gained legs so quickly that it soon became clear she couldn’t juggle everything, and shortly after this set she announced she was parting company with the hard rock band she co-founded. That was a little saddening for all involved but both she and her former band would go on to release more material this year.

My next gig was a little closer to home; original Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden was playing at the fabled Buckley Tivoli. Although he remains best-known for those three years or so with Coverdale, he has ploughed his own bluesy furrow for decades now and as well as being a highly-respected guitarist, he is also a fine lead vocalist. He couldn’t get away without playing ‘Here I Go Again’ of course, the song he co-wrote with David Coverdale which took off so successfully five years after its initial release, that it probably set him up for life! Following that, I was invited to a birthday bash with a bit of a difference – a friend of mine I know from gig-going (Nigel) had arranged an evening featuring several acts he had seen and got to know. All performed acoustically, and the night was staged in a social club near Nottingham. Performers included Alisha Vickers, a singer from Yorkshire, the glamorous April Allen (a singer/songwriter who performs solo with an acoustic guitar), Nottinghamshire band Desensitised. (the full stop is part of their name!) who played as a duo with guitarist Libby and bassist/singer Charlotte, and Hands off Gretel, a grunge-inspired band featuring the striking Lauren Tate who also performed as a duo with Lauren accompanied by guitarist Sean McAvinue. It was HOG who stole the show, with Lauren Tate’s expressive performance seeing her climb chairs, her guitarist, or even just make shapes as she played and sang. I have yet to see her with the full band but intend to do so in 2018.

The next gig this month was a trip to Stoke-on-Trent, in order to see the Women in Rock act which, on this occasion, featured DORJA guitarist Rosie Botterill who guested in place of their regular guitar player. This act is fronted by two, sometimes three, female singers with a (usually!) male band and they play covers of rock songs made famous by the likes of Pat Benatar, Heart, Stevie Nicks and Joan Jett among many others. Rosie had only limited time to learn a long set and gave a great performance, as sole guitarist a lot sat on her shoulders. She is a big fan of Slash, so playing in his home city was a big deal for her.  A few days later, the month continued with another trip to Stalybridge, to see the SoapGirls who had just arrived back in the UK from their South African homeland. They spend the summer months in the UK playing anywhere and everywhere who will have them, and have gained a loyal following since first making themselves known to many of us in 2015. Comprising of sisters Camille (‘Mille’) and Noemie (‘Mie’) Debray on bass and guitar respectively, they split lead vocal between them and play hard punky guitar-orientated songs, some dealing with serious topics about the state of things in their native SA, others are more light-hearted party numbers. They perform as a trio, with a drummer locally recruited for live performances. Their shows tend to border on the anarchic, with audience participation not just encouraged but enforced sometimes! I found this out for myself as I was shoved up on stage by Sam Debray, their mother who acts as tour manager, driver, road crew, photographer, guitar tech, costumier and chaperone/security where necessary! She, like the girls, has got to know many people who attend regularly and decided to involve yours truly in the show! I won’t divulge what took place exactly other than to say it included water spray bottles and wax strips, with grateful thanks to Mie for going easy on a vulnerable ageing hippy (!) I’d hoped to see more of the SoapGirls this year, as it turned out this was one of only two of their gigs I’d get to for reasons I’ll get to later.

Things calmed down a lot the next week as I attended an in-store appearance by Inglorious, a UK hard rock band fronted by the flamboyant Nathan James, who had just released their second album (recorded at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios). This took place at Liverpool HMV and saw the quintet perform a short acoustic set of songs from both their albums, followed by a signing and photo session with fans. During the appearance the singer let slip that they were touring in the autumn, when that came it clashed with a gig I had already lined up though, so I have yet to see them live other than this in-store. I saw enough to hear what a powerful voice he has, however.

Days before my next gig, one I was really looking forward to (Iron Maiden, at Liverpool Echo Arena) news broke of the death of Soundgarden/Audioslave singer Chris Cornell. That cast a shadow over the gig, with Brent Smith of support act Shinedown visibly shaken by that news, when he paid tribute to the fallen singer (a hero of his) during their set. Iron Maiden were, as expected, magnificent. They brought the full arena production to Liverpool, a spectacular show with songs from latest album ‘The Book Of Souls’ and a selection of back catalogue classics, all performed with the usual verve and with bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Janick Gers running around the big stage, the bassist as ever mouthing the song words alongside singer Bruce Dickinson.  The show fell on a Saturday evening, and from my prime spot close to the front I was surrounded by fans who had travelled from other countries including Italy, Brazil and Poland. That showed me just how much our city had needed this venue and shows like that to bring people to Liverpool. The gig was one of those real events we get precious little of in Liverpool, with this show having been such a success it is to be hoped there’ll be much more like it while your correspondent is still fit enough to enjoy these gigs!

The month ended on a dreadful note however, as news broke on the night of the 23rd May about the horrendous attack at Manchester Arena following a concert by pop singer Ariana Grande. As someone who knows that venue extremely well, and could have been there myself shortly before this attack had I decided to see Maiden play in Manchester too, it really hit home. It shook music fans of all stripes, especially as many of the victims were children. The arena was out of action until September as a thorough investigation commenced, with planned gigs from KISS, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and others cancelled.

JUNE

The best laid-plans, and all that. I had several gigs in mind for this month but after seeing two, things all changed!  First of only two gigs I did see this month (both in Liverpool) was at the newly-opened 27 Club (a live venue and rehearsal space) where they kicked things off with a multi-band bill headlined by Californian all-girl glam punks the Glam Skanks. Before that there were some local bands (all female-fronted), including Last Reserves from St Helens, the Liverpool-based Figures, and Novacrow who delivered their usual mayhem including when bassist Freddy not only jumped off stage but ran out of the door – his radio link allowing him to play while out in the street!  Glam Skanks meanwhile, were playing in Manchester supporting The Skids, and as soon as their set was over they hightailed it down the M62 for this set in Liverpool. Arriving during Novacrow’s set, they had to set up quickly in this small bar area. They were very entertaining, more glam than skanky for sure with singer Ali Cat charming the punters with her cheerleader-inspired look. I’d definitely see these again if they came around my way, and it was a great start for a new venue that would be great for many bands of my acquaintance.

The only other gig I got to this month was by The Strypes. I’d heard of this Irish quartet from a few people I know, and they resonated with this old rocker who liked their modern-day take on Feelgood-esque rock ‘n’ roll played hard. Coming the day after the UK General Election feelings were still a little high, encouraged by support Man & The Echo, whose frontman was certainly no fan of the incumbent prime minister! The Strypes themselves avoided such things for the most part, preferring to concentrate on delivering their songs as hard as possible to an eager audience. They had as much energy and volume as any Metal band I’ve seen, more so if the truth be told, and had the crowd moshing all evening. Yours truly anticipated that and stood well clear, however it was after a splendid gig I suffered an injury that put me out of gig-going for some time. Walking back through the city I caught a step by the ruined St Luke’s Church (‘the Bombed Out Church’ as it is locally known). Falling to the ground, I could not stand up again and had to sit for several minutes to compose myself. My right ankle swelled up like the proverbial balloon in the meantime, and I still had to get back to my car which was parked several hundred metres away. To cut a long story short I made it somehow, drove home, thinking I’d just turned it and it’d be OK in a few days. In fact I’d fractured my ankle in the fall, which became clear once I had it looked at and was immediately sent to A&E at my local hospital! With my leg in a cast for several weeks, that meant no more gigs for a while. Ruled out for a start was an intended trip to Chester to see Tyler Brant & The Shakedown, also out of the question were two Manchester gigs by classic rock bands Blue Oyster Cult and Cheap Trick, neither of whom I’ve seen and was hoping to change that.  I’d also considered a run to Birmingham to see Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, but that was also scrapped following the injury. In fact, the only ‘live’ music I got to see during that period was the Foo Fighters’ televised appearance at Glastonbury. That wasn’t bad, but I’d much rather have been at some actual gigs! Also ruled out were the DORJA dates, which were planned for July and would feature their newly-recruited guitarist Sarah Michelle, but I could not travel with my right leg in plaster. That was disappointing, but there was nothing to do other than wait this out and let it heal. Then I remembered – the SoapGirls were coming to Liverpool that month…!

JULY

I had no choice but sit out many tours I’d planned to get to, as my leg was in plaster all through this month. However, by the time of The SoapGirls gig at Maguire’s Pizza Bar (a small restaurant with a back room they hire out for bands) I’d decided that as they were coming to my city I would be there regardless. Some of their regulars were attending, and some were even helping out with merch, gear transportation, whatever. I was unable to stand properly and used a wall as support (!), but was still greeted warmly by tour manager Sam Debray. The performance space was very small, and that possibly affected the girls’ plans as they didn’t do many of the usual stunts such as getting audience members to drink dubious concoctions (!) or even spray champagne (or cheaper sparkling wine) and shaving foam everywhere, it was a more restrained performance by their standards. They still played hard, of course but it was not the full SoapGirls experience by a long way. Nevertheless it was a big deal for me at least to see a band I’d got to know play in my city, and when Mille and Mie saw my cast after their set they got why I wasn’t at the front jumping around as usual!

A week later I decided to go along to another gig in Liverpool, this time at long-established club the Krazy House who were staging a three-band bill including Tequila Mockingbyrd, Black Cat Bones and Aussie outfit Massive. I recognised only drummer Josie from Tequila Mockingbyrd; since their earlier gig singer/guitarist Estelle Artois had stood down from the band and taking over was Louisa Maria Baker. Also recruited for the bass position was Jacinta Jaye, who is a fair dinkum Aussie unlike the Bristolian Louisa. Unfortunately I got there in time to see them packing away – hobbling through the doors I saw Josie clearing away her kit for Black Cat Bones to take the stage. However, the girls let me know that they would reappear with Massive during their set. Black Cat Bones once again delivered a fine set of retro rock, vocalist Jonnie Hodson is a real talent although he does like to have a laugh on stage between songs. I’d little prior knowledge of Massive but was expecting a hard-hitting set, as befits an Aussie rock band. They didn’t disappoint in that respect, they smashed it and at the end, they did indeed bring members from both Black Cat Bones and Tequila Mockingbyrd on stage for a chaotic jam. That was my lot for gigs in July, I was barely getting back on my feet at this stage but without a live fix for weeks I was starting to go stir-crazy!

For Part 3 click here