Such a mouthwatering double bill for classic rock fans, yet there were no dates scheduled for the North West of England. Having looked at the schedule for the Saturday date then, it meant a trip down to the Second City. This is a true co-headline tour, with the Daisies and The Answer rotating the closing slot, and on this night it was The Dead Daisies who would be last band up.
The gig took place in the 600-capacity Academy 2 and was a sell-out show, as were several on the tour. Opening act was Lynne Jackaman, one-time lead singer for the band Saint Jude who has now gone solo, styling herself as JACKAMAN. For this tour she performed with just acoustic guitar for company (provided by Danny Page). She’s been on my ‘keep meaning to see’ list for a long time, but this was actually the first time I’d seen her live in any guise. The start of her set was fluffed, as she walked on as her musical partner played, then walked off again immediately with a ‘Thank you – goodnight!’, laughing as she went. It turned out that the guitarist had forgotten his ‘capo’ for the guitar, meaning the opening chords were all out of whack. ‘What a w**ker!’, said the singer as she reappeared (jokingly, it should be emphasised!) to start properly once the capo was located. She’s only a slight figure but has a mighty voice, her short set drew warm applause from those that came early.
There was barely a pause between the end of the JACKAMAN set and the entrance of The Answer, as their kit was already set up there wasn’t much to turn around. They released a new album ‘Solas’ last month which has split their fan base, with its more rootsy musical direction delighting some fans while shocking others, who expected more of the same no-nonsense hard rock they had provided on their five previous albums. The band obviously believe in this new album, since no fewer than nine of its eleven tracks were performed in this set, opening with the epic, Zeppelin-esque title track. All seemed well at the start as James Heatley pounded the opening drum beat, joined by bassist Micky Waters then guitarist Paul Mahon, but as trilby-wearing singer Cormac Neeson made his entrance he couldn’t initially be heard. Only when he raised his voice for the second verse did he begin to cut through, and later on a shout from the crowd to ‘turn your mike up’ was acknowledged by Neeson with humour (‘lead singer’s privilege, always be louder than the others!’).
The set may have been weighted heavily towards the new album but it was still The Answer we know and love, when the ‘Solas’ material was performed live there wasn’t the same restraint shown on record, so it rocked as hard as the selected older songs they played such as ‘New Horizon’. The mandolin did come out for ‘In This Land’, and a bouzoki was used by Neeson (‘not a bazooka, although it’s just as dangerous in the wrong hands!’, joked the singer), but anyone who thought they’d gone soft with this record would have to think again after seeing this set. A treat came midway through when the band performed ‘Nowhere Freeway’ (from 2011’s ‘Revival’ album) accompanied by Lynne Jackaman, who appears on the recorded version. With only 75 minutes and with a set leaning so much on ‘Solas’ there wasn’t much space for older songs, notably nothing was performed from debut album ‘Rise’. (The band did mark that album’s tenth anniversary with a lavish reissue packed with extras, and by playing a short run of dates performing ‘Rise’ in full earlier in the year, however.) They signed off with ‘Battle Cry’ (which reminds me a little of ‘Be What You Want’ off ‘Rise’, especially live), complete with its Gaelic refrain. They must have been happy that they got such a good reception from this crowd having debuted so many new songs, but they performed with their usual 100 per cent intensity, with the singer doing his now-familiar jump-into-the-crowd routine near the end of proceedings. When they come around again next year, be sure to go along.
I last saw The Dead Daisies three years ago in Liverpool, when they supported Black Star Riders (whose bassist that night was Marco Mendoza, now a Daisy himself) but, this present lineup is such a different animal that it is impossible to consider it the same band. (Cue shouts of ‘Whitesnake’ or ‘Rainbow’ – but those acts were defined by their founder members.) Only rhythm guitarist (and financial backer) David Lowy remains from the band I saw back then, and the group now surrounding him is made up of some of the finest hard rock musicians LA has to offer. Musicians have come and gone throughout the Daisies’ relatively brief history, as the players Lowy has recruited have all been of such high calibre that they were inevitably involved with other projects. He seems to have found some stability at last now, with vocalist John Corabi and drummer Brian Tichy having been around for the last two years. Guitarist Richard Fortus departed the band early in 2016 order to join up with W. Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan in the partially-reformed Guns ‘n’ Roses, as did keyboardist Dizzy Reed. This opened the lead guitar slot for ex-Whitesnake man Doug Aldrich, who joined up in time to contribute to current album ‘Make Some Noise’. With his addition, three ex-members of latter-day Whitesnake are now Dead Daisies, attracting attention from fans of Coverdale’s outfit.
The Dead Daisies of today are a much harder rocking proposition than before; the band I saw in 2013 were musically excellent but didn’t quite do ‘it’ for me. This lineup certainly does however, with several of the players familiar to me from their previous bands I knew just what they’d bring, hard riffs and hard pounding drums, and they did not disappoint. The Daisies’ set also leant heavily on their most recent release, with eight tracks from ‘Make Some Noise’ performed (including both covers, CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’ and The Who’s ‘Join Together’). The only nod to the earlier Jon Stevens-fronted incarnation came with ‘Lock n Load’ from the debut album, performed mid-set, yet even this is now a heavier proposition delivered by a quintet now operating without Reed’s keyboard texture.
Corabi proved an engaging and charismatic frontman, often joking about with bandmates such as Marco Mendoza. He is also a fine singer, and the vibe I got from this performance was reminiscent of that I got when I saw CATS in SPACE a few weeks ago. These guys are of a similar age to the CATS, and like that band they know each other well. That showed in their playing, it came across like five old friends having a ball on stage. It must be very satisfying for David Lowy having put this act together, although he is the glue holding it all together he prefers to stay in the background allowing the big names he recruited to strut their stuff.
The Dead Daisies are still described as a ‘musical collective’, but it is to be hoped that this incarnation can stay together long enough for at least another album and tour. If they can then it’s likely that it will be bigger venues next time around, so this was a pleasure to see such high-quality musicians on a small stage. A rare award of five inflatable guitars for this gig it is, then.