First track from DORJA now available to listen to online

It’s always nice to be in at the start of something, especially when it’s something you think is going to be big. All-girl rock band DORJA (featuring three former Sex Pissed Dolls) have today released their first offering, a chugging hard rock number titled ‘Fire’.

The blurb on their bio promises much: ‘…a nod to 70’s & 80’s classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Guns N Roses, whilst fusing with the modern sounds of current garage rock bands such as Royal Blood‘, and ‘powerful, guitar-driven hooks and heavy drums, teamed with a vocal of raw energy to challenge Janis Joplin‘, they certainly ain’t setting the bar low! My interest in this outfit stems from knowing guitarists Rosie Botterill and Holly Henderson from their prolonged stint in the Dolls, as well as drummer Anna Mylee who spent a little over a year in that band before relocating to LA. I saw these girls perform live on many occasions, and know all about their abilities.  This project has clearly been a long time in the planning, with Holly and Rosie playing their final gigs with the Dolls at the prestigious Isle of Wight Festival earlier this month before jointly announcing their departure from that band. Things have moved quickly from there with firstly the announcement of DORJA, then a series of teaser trailers via social media and potted biographies of each band member posted daily. Finally they launched their website with an invitation to sign up for their newsletter, promising exclusive preview material. The first of these is the track ‘Fire’, released at 6pm on 30 June but available early for subscribers to the newsletter.

Having only this one song to go on up to now, the promise of an energetic lead vocal is certainly fulfilled here, with a powerful performance from Aiym Almas. The song is an old-school hard rock number with plenty of ‘punch’ to its sound, they have a fine guitar team and I know Holly to be a terrific rhythm guitarist, she gave her last band a very solid footing in the live setting. About all I know about bassist Becky Baldwin at this point is that she has been in a lot of bands! She is much in-demand, having performed with the likes of iDestroy and Triaxis, and until February of this year was a member of symphonic power metallers Control The Storm.

The five members of the band met up in LA a month ago to record this demo and do some publicity pictures, which are now up. With three of the girls based in England and two in LA that does raise the question of how they’ll proceed going forward, they have two gigs in England in July and it may be some of the members may relocate, if they all decamp to Los Angeles then it is worth checking this band out now while we Brits have the chance!

All that is in the future though; for now have a listen to ‘Fire’ – it is sure to appeal to fans of old-fashioned hard rock like it used to be; meaty riffs, raunchy vocal and a proper, honest-to-goodness lead guitar solo! I look forward to the album promised for early 2017, and hopefully a few more live dates in Britain before LA comes calling!

DORJA – ‘Fire’

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(Photo: Dawn Bowery Photography)

http://www.dorjaband.com
http://www.facebook.com/dorjaband

Caught Live: Don Henley, Manchester Arena 27 June 2016

At first I was cursing Roy Hodgson (manager of the England football team until this night) for his team’s failure to top their group in the ongoing Euro 2016 tournament, thus ensuring that their next game against Iceland would take place on the same night as this show. By the end of the night I’d changed my mind, as I saw a great show and missed the abject performance of his team as they crashed out to unfancied Iceland.

That’s about the only reference to the Euro 2016 tournament I’ll make in this piece, although the game did mean that I had a relatively untroubled run along the M62 for this gig, even in rush hour. I got to the arena and station concourse to find it surprisingly quiet, given that it was Eagles legend Don Henley performing what was billed as ‘his only show in England’ (not strictly true, as he is scheduled to play at Hyde Park in London as guest to Carole King.)

After a quick cuppa and a snack myself and a friend took to the arena concourse, again finding it not all that busy. There was a queue, caused by the arena staff searching for cameras. The stipulation by the artist specifically asked that there would be no photography or cellphone use during the show, as had happened two years previously when the Eagles came to town. For obvious reasons there won’t be any more Eagles shows but still, the difference in the size of this audience compared to when Henley last came around with the Eagles only served to illustrate how much cachet a band name holds, even when one of that band’s leading lights performs a rare solo show in this country. By my estimation there were about 6000 present at the most, the floor was seated and only the first couple of blocks were anything like full on either side of this huge arena. (The upper tier was completely sectioned off.)

At around 7:45 support act JD and the Straight Shot appeared on stage. A rootsy ensemble headed by vocalist James Dolan, they featured a fiddle player, a double bass player and both male and female vocal. Their set was well-delivered, with some fine playing but not really to my taste, although the longer their set went on the more the audience warmed to them, a sign of a good opening act.

Henley and his troupe came on at 9pm sharp, with his whole band grouped in a semi-circle for their opening number (‘Seven Bridges Road’) sang acapella with the whole ensemble harmonising. Following this, the band (ten of them backing Henley by my estimation) took up their positions to begin the main set with ‘Dirty Laundry’. That got the audience going immediately, before the singer addressed the audience to plug current album ‘Cass County’ with his trademark dry sense of humour. He has great comic timing; on mentioning the album title he got a cheer to which he responded ‘I see some of you have the record’, (long pause) ‘And for those of you who haven’t got it’ (even longer pause) ‘I heartily recommend it!’ He isn’t a Springsteen between songs, but when he does speak it’s with the audience hanging on every word.

The set alternated between songs we know and ‘Cass County’ numbers for the first half of the show; classics from his solo career such as ‘New York Minute’ were immaculately performed and when doing the more country-orientated material from ‘Cass County’ he’d duet with one of his three female backing singers. He threw in one or two surprises; it wasn’t that much of a surprise that some Eagles material appeared in the set but one which hadn’t been performed live in decades was ‘The Last Resort’, again delivered with stunning precision. ‘I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore’, a song which appeared on final Eagles album ‘Long Road Out Of Eden’ was also played, but after announcing it (and pointing out it was written ‘by one of your own’ – Paul Carrack). Henley opted to vacate the stage for this number, giving over the spot to the three female singers (Lily Elise, Lara Johnston and Erica Swindell). Another surprise was a cover of Tears For Fears ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’, which Henley said was ‘appropriate for these crazy times’.

About halfway through Henley made reference to his stipulation on no cellphones or cameras; on thanking the audience for complying he then threw out a bone revealing that they’d close with ‘Hotel California’ and that he knew he couldn’t stop them at that point (!) Other Eagles material performed such as ‘One Of These Nights’ gave the guitarists a chance to shine, one of whom was Steuart Smith who was here with the Eagles two years ago. The main set ended with ‘The Boys Of Summer’ and ‘Life In The Fast Lane’, then after the mellower ‘Train In The Distance’ performed in the encore, Steuart Smith produced the twin-necked guitar. Henley then said ‘OK, get ’em out!’ (meaning cellphones!) as they launched into ‘Hotel California’ to a sea of LED lights. We thought that was it, but of course he couldn’t end the evening without making reference to his old Eagles partner Glenn Frey, dedicating final number ‘Desperado’ to his memory. That was once again performed immaculately and was a fitting way to end a splendid show.

It was probably the most chilled-out concert I’ll go to this year and a complete change to what I’m normally accustomed to, but this was definitely a top-drawer performance from Henley and his excellent band. A shame then, that his own name doesn’t carry quite the same weight as his old band’s name does but for those that came along, it was a privilege to spend the evening with one of the great songwriters of the rock era.

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5 – delightful

 

Caught Live: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Genting Arena Birmingham 25 June 2016

The last time I saw Ritchie Blackmore play at this venue was in 1993, and things have changed a lot since then. He was with Deep Purple then, and in a now-infamous incident he refused to come on stage with the rest of the band, then when he did show up for his solo on opening number ‘Highway Star’, he broke off from playing in order to launch a plastic water bottle at a nearby cameraman. (The show was being filmed, which he had objected to).

Soon after that he quit Purple for the second and final time, had a brief revival of the Rainbow name with a new set of musicians, releasing one album (‘Stranger In Us All’, 1995) before forming Blackmore’s Night with his wife, American singer Candice Night. That project saw him turn away almost totally from the hard rock with which he made his name, preferring to play music inspired by the Renaissance era. He has stuck steadfastly to that path, releasing a string of albums and gaining a whole new following, but had consistently said he did not wish to return to playing rock music. Until now, that is.

Blackmore has been hinting for some time that he was ready to pick up the Strat again; more recent Blackmore’s Night albums have been featuring a little more electric guitar than before, he has included reworkings of several Rainbow songs in albums and – perhaps most telling – the passing of his old Purple colleague Jon Lord directly inspired Blackmore to feature a guitar-led instrumental (‘Carry On, Jon’) on the 2013 Blackmore’s Night album ‘Dancer And The Moon’. More recently than that, he even re-established contact with David Coverdale, with whom he had been estranged ever since his first departure from Deep Purple in 1975. Although informal discussions about working together amounted to nothing (but did inspire Coverdale to record ‘The Purple Album’ with Whitesnake,  featuring reworkings of songs he first recorded 40 years ago) fans began to entertain the possibility that one of the truly inspirational guitarists of the classic rock era would do it again, maybe just one more time.

Finally in Autumn of 2015 Blackmore announced that he would play just three shows. billed as ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’ but featuring a new line-up of musicians, and the posters advertising the gigs declared that the set would feature songs from both Rainbow and Deep Purple. Two of those shows were to take place in Germany, while the only show in the UK would be at Birmingham’s NEC Arena (now known as Genting Arena). Needless to say interest in these shows was massive, and the British date sold out almost instantly. He has resisted the call to add further shows, declaring that the reason for only three was ‘to see if I can still do it’. He has not ruled out playing more dates in the future, but has made clear his first priority remains Blackmore’s Night. Remarkably, the date sold out even before he revealed who would be accompanying him in this new line-up, which should surely tell him how much his fans wanted this to happen again.

When the announcement came to reveal who was in this new line-up, some eyebrows were raised when Blackmore announced unknown singer Ronnie Romero would front the act. Described by Blackmore as (vocally) a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Freddie Mercury, he certainly had no pressure there (!). Also featured were Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson (who having previously worked with both Ronnie James Dio and Yngwie Malmsteen, should be ideally suited to play with the man who pioneered what’s now called Power Metal); drummer David Keith (from Blackmore’s Night, aka ‘Troubadour of Aberdeen’), and bassist Bob Nouveau (also once of Blackmore’s Night).

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The NEC floor was seated, and I found myself around 30 rows back in the left hand block. I’d have preferred standing personally, but many of these people at the show are the same ones who had followed the original incarnation of Rainbow, and to put it bluntly none of us are 20 any more! There were some younger fans present, some of whom were wearing T-shirts of Power Metal bands whose music was directly influenced by the Man in Black.

A cheer went up as the strains of ‘Land of Hope And Glory’ filled the arena, the traditional prelude to a Rainbow show, followed by the ‘Over The Rainbow’ excerpt from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. They chose to open with ‘Highway Star’ which brought back memories of 1993 for me (!), however this time Ritchie was on the stage from the start, and didn’t throw anything at anybody! The set then dovetailed fairly evenly between Rainbow and Deep Purple songs; that had been clearly stated on the posters advertising the gig but still raised a few complaints that it wasn’t slanted more towards Rainbow, especially as the show was billed as ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’, complete with artwork from the iconic ‘Rising’ album used in the poster adverts. Although all eyes were trained on Blackmore himself, he was content for the most part to just stand and play, letting Romero take the front of the stage and giving him plenty of space to express himself. Vocally, he was certainly up to the task. Possessing a powerful voice, he was able to handle Dio’s material with ease (he even borrowed a few hand gestures and stage moves from his more illustrious namesake) and dealt with Gillan-era Purple songs containing high notes with equal aplomb. Although he was compared to Mercury by his band leader, his stage appearance made me think more of Adam Lambert.  His accent betrayed his roots in places (he is Chilean) but his strong delivery of some challenging material more than made up for the occasional South American inflection.

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I did feel that this band hadn’t really had enough time to gel, with just three shows rather than a full tour behind them. Blackmore himself showed one or two signs of ring-rustiness; although his fingers were as fluid as ever on solos such as the one in ‘Spotlight Kid’ his playing was a little sloppy in places. Then again, the word ‘mercurial’ should be accompanied in a dictionary by a picture of Blackmore; it’s always been the case where you never quite know what you’ll get from him from night to night, or even from song to song! That unmistakable tone was present and correct, many have tried but nobody gets close to imitating Blackmore’s sound. He can really make that Strat sing like nobody else.

The songs, be they Purple or Rainbow numbers, were delivered in rather a straightforward fashion. The Blackmore of old would have taken a song into all kinds of places, stretching them out, adding bits, trading licks with the keyboard player and finally bringing it all back with a thundering riff. The player we saw tonight however, kept his arrangements fairly close to how the songs were recorded with just his solos wandering off the original path. The clearest example of this was with their rendition of ‘Catch The Rainbow’; it was nicely delivered but lacked the spine-tingling intensity that he used to bring to it live (have a listen to the same song from ‘On Stage’ or ‘Live in Germany 77’ to illustrate what I mean here). Indeed much of what was played was delivered in a more sedate manner, it was as though he’d arranged it not to stretch himself TOO much (he is now 71) whereas in the past, he’d choose players specifically to stretch himself, which added that crucial element of ‘danger’ live – you never knew where he was taking things in the old days. Consequently the set lacked a little excitement, I did initially put this down to the drummer but that may have been a touch unfair, his drumming certainly didn’t ‘drive the band’ the way Cozy or even Paice would have done, but I now believe he played to instruction.

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Some Coverdale-era Purple was also performed, with ‘Burn’ being played relatively late in the set but also an acoustic rendition of ‘Soldier of Fortune’. Coverdale has made his own of this song in recent years when performing with Whitesnake, being one of the few Purple covers he retained in his set until last year’s ‘Purple Tour’ but Romero’s rendition impressed many at the NEC. ‘Mistreated’ came early in the set, Romero’s vocal was reminiscent of Dio’s from the version heard on ‘On Stage’ but yet again, the rendition lacked the intensity of old. Perhaps I have the California Jam version stuck  in my mind as definitive, since this version just didn’t send the shivers down the spine in the same way.

Only when the band played ‘Child In Time’ did they recreate anything of the old intensity, with some sublime soloing from Blackmore waking this audience up, who had until then responded with applause that was polite at best. This was followed by ‘Stargazer’, a song Blackmore had often shied away from performing live in the old days (to the best of my knowledge, the last time he played it was at the 1980 Donington headline appearance, certainly that was the last time it was performed live in this country) since the recorded version is so iconic. This rendition was performed impressively by Romero, emulating his namesake to great effect and was another number which had the audience in raptures by its conclusion.

Although the revelation was Romero, the major surprise for me came during the band introductions. Romero namechecked everybody (including the backing vocalists, one of whom was Candice Night) but for his own shout out, it was Blackmore himself who took the microphone to introduce his singer to the audience. I have *never* seen him so much as go near a mic on all the occasions I’ve seen him play before, and that to me showed how highly he rates the guy he introduced to us on these dates.

Conclusions then: it was marvellous to see the Man in Black back with the Strat playing the music that made him famous, but he showed only flashes of the old magic at this gig.  Even allowing for the fact he’s now in his seventies, I think a more energetic rhythm section would have given the show a bit more oomph, this was good but played a little too safe for me. If he does decide to do more, I would hope he doesn’t leave it so long again. Neither he nor we are able to wait around for another twenty years until next time!

3gtrs

3 – Decent

From the Dolls to DORJA – new band emerges

Following on from the earlier post about all-girl punk/new wave cover band The Dolls parting company with both their guitar players, already the two axe-ladies have resurfaced with news of a newly-formed band. Having shed their Dolls stage names, lead guitarist Rosie Botterill (previously known as Connie Rotter in the Dolls) and fellow axe-slinger Holly Henderson (the former Kitty Vacant) have revealed they are to be part of a new all-girl outfit, DORJA. The band describes itself as a ‘transatlantic hard rock collective’ with members hailing from England, one based in LA and one coming from Kazakhstan of all places!

Little else is known at this stage other than the fact that this project also sees the return of another Dolls alumnus in Anna Mylee. Anna was the drummer with the Dolls for that band’s first year of touring, and her playing impressed many of their early followers (myself included). She left the band in late summer 2015 to move to LA, where she has been working with famous drummer Kenny Aronoff. Rounding out the lineup are two new names to me, bassist Becky Baldwin and singer Aiyn Almas. With the early blurb promising ‘guitar-driven hooks, heavy drums and vocals with the raw energy to challenge Janis Joplin’, that’s a big claim for such an unknown vocalist and one I’d very much like to check out for myself at the earliest opportunity.

The fact this band has been unveiled mere days after the announcement that Rosie and Holly had left the Dolls does suggest that this project has been long in the planning; presumably the band will feature original material as opposed to the majority covers-based set the girls had been doing up to now. There is a lot of fan goodwill around the girls stemming from their time with Nancy and company; it remains to be seen how many members of the Dolls Barmy Army will take the time to check out DORJA – particularly if there is a clash of dates!

Meanwhile the Dolls themselves are continuing; they appear to have already recruited one guitar player and will presumably unveil her at their upcoming appearances at Wellowfest and at the afterparty for the British Grand Prix. Another guitarist is expected to be recruited shortly. They have, as expected, reallocated the stage names previously used by Holly and Rosie for the new recruits and so Dolls fans will be getting acquainted with new faces at upcoming dates.

DORJA are currently counting the days to a debut release and have already announced some live dates for July. I look forward to hearing what the girls have been working on.

DORJA

  • Aiym Almas – lead vocals
  • Becky Baldwin – bass
  • Rosie Botterill – guitar
  • Holly Henderson – guitar
  • Anna Mylee – drums

http://www.dorjaband.com

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Caught Live: Blackberry Smoke, o2 Academy Liverpool 19 June 2016

Long straggly hair, big bushy beards, ten gallon hats and – gasp – flares! Take one look at Blackberry Smoke and you know exactly what you’re going to get when you hear them – traditional Southern rock like it used to be and with more than a nod to, dare I say it, country. They’re no strangers to the country scene in their homeland, with latest album ‘Holding All The Roses’ topping the US country album chart in its first week of release. Nonetheless the band have a strong following among the hard rock crowd in the UK, frequently selling out Academy-size venues whenever they venture over the pond.

This date in Liverpool (their first time here to the best of my knowledge) was one of a short series of summer dates. The band have been championed for some time now by the DJ of a rock radio show which is broadcast in the Merseyside area; he has interviewed them in the past for his show and dropped the odd hint that they’d go down well in this neck of the woods. With a good turnout in the larger upstairs hall of the o2 Academy (although a fair few ‘walked up’ and got tickets on the night) his faith was justified.

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The hall was already fairly full when I got in to find support Aaron Keylock on stage. He is one of many around at the moment who are playing old-style hard rock steeped heavily in blues, and like others such as Jared James Nichols (himself touring the UK this week) he plays guitar and sings, accompanied by just a bassist and a drummer. He is a very good player and a decent singer, and is well worth seeing but may find it tricky to stand out during a time when there are many others out there treading the same path.

I have to award Blackberry Smoke full marks for punctuality as they arrived on stage at precisely 9pm and kicked things off with ‘Fire In The Hole’. It’s been a long time since I have seen this sort of jamming band perform, probably not since the Black Crowes were around two decades ago. Some songs were indeed stretched out into jams; even with a bit of Zeppelin thrown in (a snippet of ‘Your Time is Gonna Come’ was delivered during ‘Sleeping Dogs’). However shorter stuff such as their radio hits ‘Rock n Roll Again’ and ‘Shakin Hands With The Holy Ghost’ were also delivered in the main set, so they did break it up into manageable chunks quite a lot.

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Blackberry Smoke frontman Charlie Starr at Liverpool

The room was very hot with what I estimate to be over a thousand punters present, and midway through the set a few worrying drips came down from the rafters, probably condensation. ‘I hope that wasn’t from the toilet’, quipped frontman Charlie Starr when one got him! It didn’t throw them off, and I was astonished to see bassist Richard Turner keep his entire regalia of shades, hat, scarf, and double denim intact throughout. He gives off a pretty intimidating air in that hat, shades and beard while standing stock still playing bass, and by keeping all that gear on (in what amounted to a sauna) all through the set only underlined to me how he was prepared just to tough things out! Across the other side of the stage guitarist Paul Jackson was more animated, and drummer Brit Turner was another who kept the hat on all night while keeping a steady beat. Surprisingly they did more from previous album ‘The Whippoorwill’ than from ‘Holding All The Roses’, although it was a fairly long set so there were still seven tracks from the current album played.

The gig was one of those that put a big smile on your face, rather than one where you feel you’ve just had your face melted off. It was still loud, but with one of the better sound mixes I’ve heard in this venue of late. Definitely a feel-good sort of a night then, and one we could do with much more of at this end of the East Lancs Road. Let’s hope that’s the first of many visits to our city from this band, and I look forward to welcoming them to the arena in years to come!

4gtrs

4 – Deserving

All change at the Dolls house – exit Connie and Kitty, enter – who?

Although they formed a little over two years ago, all-girl punk and new wave cover band The Sex Pissed Dolls (who have been increasingly going by the shortened name of ‘The Dolls’) have enjoyed rather a meteoric rise. From club gigs before a few curious folk to headlining steadily bigger venues, and with a growing fan base (some of whom will think nothing of travelling up and down the country to wherever they play), they’ve recently made a jump to performing at the legendary Isle of Wight festival before several thousand people. With the band having also signed up with the prestigious Solo agency and promoter, their rise seemed to be unstoppable.

It therefore came as a surprise to many fans when a Facebook post appeared (just days after their Isle of Wight appearances) inviting applicants for the guitarist position. As far as fans were aware they already had two guitarists, and with no further information forthcoming at that point their followers began to wonder which of the two would be leaving the group. We got our answer late on Thursday night, when it surfaced that both lead guitarist Connie Rotter and rhythm guitarist Kitty Vacant had parted company with the Dolls. They announced their departure via Facebook, but the posts were missed by some followers. The posts explained that as neither of them had  access to the profiles set up in their stage names any longer, they had announced their departure using the profiles set up with their real names.

The news was a big blow to the fanbase (informally dubbed the ‘Dolls Barmy Army’); both girls were very popular as they brought not just good looks, but personality and considerable playing talent to the group. Connie had been with the group since summer 2014; coming in for their original guitarist who hadn’t worked out and was let go after some early gigs. She was soon joined by Kitty, expanding the original quartet to a quintet. The addition of a rhythm guitar player made a massive difference to their sound; I’d felt on the two occasions I’d seen them before they pitched up in Liverpool in April 2015 that they could do with a bit more ‘punch’ to their live sound and that was exactly what Kitty Vacant provided. She was the final piece in the jigsaw with her heavier sound giving the Dolls a much more solid foundation. Until then, it had been singer Nancy Doll who had essentially carried the whole thing along with her dynamic performances, but now she had a rock-solid band behind her. The tour in Spring 2015 took in many o2 Academy type venues, and I was so impressed with the new-look Dolls line-up that I began to follow them more regularly, going to see them in Manchester, Wrexham, Holmfirth, Wigan and even going further afield, to Nottingham, Lincoln and Bilston when schedules permitted. I began to notice there were a crowd of regulars also following them around and before I knew it, I was a member of the Dolls Barmy Army myself!

As word spread about the Dolls, they began to attract bigger crowds and by the autumn, they’d arranged a special show at Warrington Parr Hall which was to be filmed for a live DVD release. The gig was a success, drawing fans from all over the country, and the  DVD was issued in double-quick time coming just a month after the show itself took place. By the end of that year, plans were already in place for their next tour and they revealed they were to perform at several high-profile events including the Isle of Wight festival, and at an afterparty following the British Grand Prix. With what looked to be a packed schedule, and with the band’s profile still rising, it is very surprising looking at it from the outside, that they’d lose both their guitar players at the same time just days after their biggest triumph to date.

The timing suggests they’d made the decision jointly and that they’d agreed to play the Isle of Wight before announcing their exit. The Dolls camp themselves only posted about it the next day, thanking them for their contributions and confirming all future dates booked would take place. That suggests that they have a replacement already lined up, given that it is only a couple of weeks before they are due to perform again they’d surely need time to meet the new guitarist (or guitarists!), get to know her, settle in and get some rehearsal in before unveiling the new axelady to the Dolls Barmy Army. At the time of writing the identity of this new six-stringer is unknown but what is clear is that she will have a big job following Connie and Kitty. I would hope that the band don’t do what they did when their original drummer moved to LA; her stage name of ‘Anna Key’ was reused for her successor. They got away with that because at the time of the original Anna’s departure, they were still getting themselves known. When the new Anna took over, she was captured on video for the aforementioned live DVD, and they have since become a popular live act, so it is the current drummer who is now firmly established as ‘Anna Key’. To reuse either the ‘Connie Rotter’ or ‘Kitty Vacant’ stage names for any new guitarist will not work however, the names may have been thought up by the management (and very good they were) but it was the petite blonde with the Les Paul who breathed life into Connie Rotter; similarly the feisty, Telecaster wielding Kitty Vacant was given life by the shy young brunette girl she reverted to once off stage.

So a new start and may I suggest, a new name for the next Dolls guitarist. With a new stage name she’ll settle in much quicker and be much more readily accepted by the band’s followers. If anyone from the Dolls camp is reading this rather long post, they are welcome to use ‘Catherine Sensible’, or even ‘Shelley Peters’ for free! 😀

As for the artists formerly known as Connie Rotter and Kitty Vacant, both have fresh plans and have invited Dolls fans to stay in contact in order to hear what they come up with next. Linked is a photo album collecting pictures of the girls on stage during their tenure with the Dolls, followed by embedded links to their current Facebook pages.

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Click to go to Photo Album

 

 

Caught Live: Black Sabbath, László Papp Budapest Sports Arena 1 June 2016

This time they are billing it as ‘The End’ – the final time Black Sabbath (or at least 75% of the original band) will tour. For contractual reasons as we all know, drummer Bill Ward is not involved; his drum stool is taken by Tommy Clufetos. Original members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are present and correct, accompanied by touring keyboardist Adam Wakeman for this final run of dates before the group retire from the road. Having scored a number one hit album (’13’) only a couple of years ago, it does seem odd that they are to bring the curtain down but with guitarist Iommi having battled lymphoma in recent years (as of 2016 he is in remission) and the other guys not exactly in their first flush of youth themselves, it’s likely this really will be ‘The End’.

I found myself in Budapest to see the first show of this leg, as a friend had asked me along back when the show was announced late last year. The band’s only scheduled UK date was headlining the Saturday night at Download, and as I like to think my festival-going days are behind me now, the idea of seeing them in a more ‘regular’ indoor arena appealed more, plus it afforded the opportunity of visiting a city I’d never been to before.

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Rival Sons at Budapest

When we arrived at the arena, we found ourselves at the side of the stage on Iommi’s side in the last two seats in the row. So it was an almost 90-degree view of the stage, but reasonably close. Upon entering the support Rival Sons were already on, and we only caught the last few numbers of their set. When I saw these guys in Liverpool last year I thought they played well enough but was disappointed by the lack of interaction with the crowd, especially from vocalist Jay Buchanan. Although I didn’t see their whole set here, it was apparent to me that he’d been working on that aspect since then. He doesn’t need to make Springsteen-esque speeches, just a few salutations between songs will do the trick. He was actually looking at the audience more, and as a result what I saw of their performance came across a lot better in this big arena than the last time I saw them in a 1200-capacity venue.

The lights went down at 9pm on the dot as a projected show appeared on the curtain covering the main stage. This was difficult to view clearly from our spot but that hardly mattered once that curtain dropped and Black Sabbath were stood there on the stage. They chose to open with ‘Black Sabbath’ before playing a set loaded with classic tracks, mostly taken from their first three albums.
Surprisingly, there was nothing played from ’13’ and some of the selections (for example ‘Hand of Doom’, ‘Behind The Wall of Sleep’, even ‘N.I.B.’) could probably have been swapped with more fondly-remembered classics such as ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ and ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. I did note the irony of ‘N.I.B.’ being played, since the title is reportedly inspired by original drummer Bill Ward’s ‘nib-shaped beard’ which he sported at the time of recording. Only ‘Dirty Women’ (from ‘Technical Ecstasy’) and ‘Snowblind’ (from ‘Vol. 4’) came from any of the albums after ‘Master of Reality’, so it seemed a little strange that they’d choose so much early material for their final tour rather than a selection covering their whole recorded career.

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Black Sabbath at Budapest Arena

Regardless of the material selected for the set, it was all delivered very well. Ozzy can be a bit hit and miss live as we all know, but this was one of his better nights, he wandered off key now and again but his vocal this night was much stronger than on some occcasions when I’ve seen him before. Iommi was of course imperious, serving up classic riff after classic riff while bassist Geezer Butler is always a treat to watch, not only providing the platform for Iommi but giving us many tasty little fills of his own. While I was certainly one of those who was disappointed at the failure to include Bill Ward in this latest Sabbath reunion, there’s no denying Tommy Clufetos does a fine job in his stead. His is a completely different style, being of the ‘hit ’em and they stay hit’ school of drumming, so the groove of the original band is lessened a little in favour of a more Metal delivery. I’ve seen the original Sabbath (complete with Ward) twice before, and this was definitely a heavier performance than on either of those occasions which I put down to the change of sticksman.
Another thing which struck me was how energetic Ozzy was, stomping the stage and repeatedly headbanging (when not chucking his buckets of water over the audience, and on himself!) – for a man of 67 with well-documented health problems of his own, that was quite a revelation. If this is the end of Sabbath, I’d bet it isn’t the end of Ozzy as a solo act just yet. Early on in the set, he made a point of namechecking all the players – including unseen keyboardist Adam Wakeman – and ensuring they all got a cheer from the crowd. The fact he chose to acknowledge Wakeman’s contribution did suggest he didn’t agree with the decision to put the keyboard player behind a curtain, but that’s probably something he should discuss with his manager 😉

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Ozzy and Geezer Butler, Budapest Arena

Small quibbles aside, this was a very good show, ideally suited for the arena setting. We are coming to the end of an era with 70s rock bands such as Sabbath finally calling it a day as they near their own 70s, and when all the greats from those days have brought the curtain down for the last time we will know whether or not the later generation of bands who all cited the liked of Black Sabbath as influences, can both fill huge venues and hold on to their appeal as long as Sabbath have. Whether they can or not, Sabbath and other bands of that period will be very much missed in the years to come.

4gtrs

4 – Deserving

STOP PRESS!!
Black Sabbath have since announced a ‘final, final’ UK tour to take place in early 2017.  The dates were leaked by a fan who had been handed a flyer at Download, advertising the tour with confirmation coming through on the Monday after their headline appearance on the Saturday.

The UK tour dates are as follows:

  • 22 January 2017 – Manchester Arena
  • 24 January 2017 – SSE Hydro, Glasgow
  • 26 January 2017 – First Direct Arena, Leeds
  • 29 January 2017 – o2 Arena, London
  • 31 January 2017 – o2 Arena, London
  • 2 February 2017 – Genting Arena (NEC), Birmingham
  • 4 February 2017 – Genting Arena (NEC), Birmingham

Tickets are on sale from Friday, 17th June although o2 Priority holders can access a pre-sale from Wednesday 15th June.