Caught Live: Rival Sons, o2 Academy Liverpool 25 January 2017

First song into Rival Sons’ set at Liverpool and vocalist Jay Buchanan turns to the packed o2 Academy crowd and addresses them with just one word: ‘Liverpool’. Second song in, he adds: ‘So how you doing?’ before the band launched into the fuzz-heavy ‘Electric Man’.

With those two gestures, he set the tone of this show in a much more effective manner than the last time Rival Sons played this venue, almost two years ago. That night, I felt a distinct disconnect between the band and audience as the frontman seemed to shy away from the crowd, almost totally ignoring them until the end. That gave the gig the impression of a rehearsal (albeit with 1200 people present) but tonight was a far cry from then. The band have been opening for Black Sabbath throughout their ‘The End’ world tour, playing large-scale arenas (this show was one of a handful of headline dates squeezed in between Sabbath’s current arena tour of the UK) and opening for the Brummie veterans has clearly had an effect on the singer. He is much more confident on the stage now, facing the crowd, speaking much more than he did in 2015. It was such a difference, it actually felt like a proper rock gig – it was the show I’d hoped to see from them last time out.

‘We’ve been touring with Black Sabbath, as you know’, said Buchanan to a big cheer from the crowd. ‘But we’ve missed these more intimate venues, sharing the sweat’, he added. There were several Sabbath T-shirts in evidence in the crowd, illustrating that some were here to take the rare chance to see the band do a full set as opposed to the 45 minutes or so they get with Iommi and company. They are promoting current album ‘Hollow Bones’ but the set played tonight was a fairly even spread of all their albums. As lazy a description as it is, their sound is still essentially Zeppelin with a fuzz pedal; I lost count of how many guitars axeman Scott Holliday went through during the set but his riffs all were drenched in that trademark sludgy tone. They seemed to play their best stuff early on; ‘Pressure And Time’ came five songs in, preceded by ‘Secret’ from 2014’s ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ album (basically ‘How Many More Times’ revisited). Nonetheless, this was a tighter, slicker Rival Sons than I saw here last time, they dispensed with the acoustic section of the show tonight preferring to stay electric (man) all the way.

One effect of the frontman’s improved interaction with the crowd came after they played ‘Torture’ from their debut EP; the ‘whoa-whoa’ refrain was taken up by the audience, who chanted it back long after the song had ended, picked up upon by drummer Michael Miley who saluted the crowd. Almost everything they played was greeted with huge cheers, this is a band now ready to make the jump to headline the large venues they’ve been playing as an opening act.

I caught the last few numbers of The Virginmarys; the Macclesfield trio delivered a set of heavier rock than their rather ‘casual’ look might suggest. They got a decent reception themselves from an already full venue, and will no doubt be back for a headline appearance here in their own right before long.

4 - Deserving

4 – Deserving

 

Rival Sons Setlist O2 Academy Liverpool, Liverpool, England 2017, The End (Off-Date)
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Caught Live: Tyketto, o2 Academy Liverpool 21 January 2017

January is never the best time of year for gigs, coming so soon after Christmas attendances tend to suffer. However, this gig had a strong turnout for Danny Vaughn and his troops, as this gig and indeed their whole UK tour was rescheduled from November, when it was originally meant to take place. Most of the dates were able to be rearranged and that included this show at Liverpool’s o2 Academy.

For this rearranged show there were two local bands supporting; I only caught the end of openers Scare Tactics but what I heard was in a similar vein to main support Rain May Fall. They’ve opened for Tyketto once before, and I have seen them previously and know them to be a solid outfit. There were already a good number of punters on the floor for their short set, they played very well with a good vocal performance from frontman Mark and some meaty riffs from guitarists Tim and Ian. (If these guys have surnames, they’re unknown to me!) Admittedly I’m not too familiar with their material, but although they play well, none of their songs really lodged themselves into my head, and I actually thought one or two of their numbers could do with being shortened a little. They are worth catching when they play, however.

Tyketto have released a new album (‘Reach’) featuring their current (now Anglo-American) line-up, so unlike their previous visit which was a greatest hits celebration, there were some new songs to fit in. The material off ‘Reach’ (such as opening number ‘Kick Like A Mule’) was well-received but it was the old favourites that everyone had come for. Accordingly, the likes of ‘Wings’, ‘Meet Me In The Night’, and ‘Burning Down Inside’ got another airing. Before performing ‘Standing Alone’ the singer prefaced it with a monologue about how he has viewed success as he has got older. ‘When I started, I thought if I drove a Maserati that’d be success’, he told us. ‘Then along came Grunge, and I thought – OK, how about an Audi?’. Then came the punchline: ‘I drive a Yaris now!’ The point of the humorous speech was to illustrate how a song such as ‘Standing Alone’ had become a favourite of their fans, more than 25 years after it was written, which Vaughn very much considered success – even if he is yet to take delivery of that Maserati! He delivered that song, and everything else, supremely well.

Chris Green/Danny Vaughn/Chris Childs of Tyketto

Chris Green/Danny Vaughn/Chris Childs of Tyketto

Watching this it struck me how every time I’ve seen Danny Vaughn live (going back 30 years, I first encountered him at the nearby Royal Court in 1986 when, as singer for Waysted, he supported Status Quo) he has always – ALWAYS, been on the money live. I can count on one hand the singers I’ve seen live (on multiple occasions) who have been able to bring it every single time, and he is one of them. He has some good backing from guitarist Chris Green and keyboardist Ged Rylands as well as from drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny but they are used when necessary, not as a reinforcement for the lead vocal as I’ve seen with some other (bigger) names. Bassist Chris Childs does not contribute vocals in this band as he does with Thunder, although he did get a moment in the spotlight near the end with a nifty bass solo, when the band jammed on ‘Lay Your Body Down’.

As ever, the band encored with rock night favourite ‘Forever Young’ before leaving the stage, and soon after appearing at the merch stand to meet and mingle with the fans. By rights, a band as good as this, with first-rate players, terrific songs which have more hooks than the locker room at the MetLife stadium and a singer who is up there with the very best this genre has to offer, should be playing venues such as the MetLife. They’re better known in the UK and Europe than in the US however, and so long as they keep doing it, I and I’m sure everyone who made the effort to come out will be back for more.

5 - Delightful

5 – Delightful

Caught Live: Big Bear/Indigo Moon/Dangerously Canadian, Frederiks Liverpool 19 January 2017

This bar and restaurant, sited next to Liverpool’s fabled Philharmonic pub on Hope Street, is not renowned for hosting rock gigs, looking a little too ‘upmarket’ for this kind of raucous music that was on offer tonight. I’d come along mainly to check out Indigo Moon, a band I had missed when they opened for Swedish retro-rockers Blues Pills when they came to Liverpool in 2015. I’d heard good reports about them and had been meaning to get along to one of their gigs since then.

The entrance fee was a pocket-friendly £3, which got you into the back room of this somewhat plush venue, where about 30 or 40 had already arrived when I entered. I felt a little out of place, if the truth be told, since the crowd here was clearly a student-orientated one, but soon put that out of my mind when the opening act were ready to start things off. The success of Royal Blood has clearly inspired other duos to take a similar path and this is what was served up first with Dangerously Canadian. Exactly what it says on the tin, just a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist (Joel, I found out afterwards) served up a mighty racket during their short set. The setup was appealingly low-key, as Joel explained that he had just the one guitar to work with this evening while frantically downtuning for their next number. It wasn’t a slick performance, but it was loud and powerful with plenty of oomph. Speaking to Joel afterwards, it turned out that they were actually studying at LIPA and many present tonight were known to all three acts, which explained the feeling I got of being a gatecrasher at a party. I’d like to see these guys again, they stormed this small room.

Next up were the band I’d come to see; Indigo Moon are a mixed-gender quintet comprising three girls and two guys. The girls were on bass and drums (and of course, lead vocals) while the two fellas took up guitar and keyboards respectively. It was easy to see why they were selected to open for Blues Pills that time, as their material was rooted in psychedelia with more than a hint of progressive rock to their sound too. I was directly in front of singer Ash, but at first found it difficult to hear her, the mix soon settled though and she began to cut through. She did remark that she ‘knew’ people were there for closing act Big Bear, well maybe with the exception of your correspondent (!) and I was impressed with their performance, They sound quite unlike anybody else I know of currently out there, and by rights will be playing to many more people before much longer.

I did stick around for Big Bear, who turned out to be yet another duo. It was clear they had brought along a following as the front soon filled up with what I assume were many of their friends. Once again the setup wasn’t the slickest, effects pedals casually strewn across the floor, but once again the duo brought a massive sound. The most impressive performance for me was their drummer, he hit so hard he was having to retrieve his bass drum after every number as it slid across the floor! I’d go as far as to say his playing was Tichy-esque, he definitely hits for keeps! Mid-way through their set he left the stage to the guitarist/vocalist, who spent several minutes trying to get a loop pedal functioning. Eventually and with the help of one of the organisers (I don’t think the budget for the night stretched to actual techs!) it sprang to life and he performed a solo vocal/rap number, built up in KT Tunstall-style using the loop. That was actually enjoyable in itself, he put real feeling into it and the departure from their regular set was welcome. Towards the end, they actually became a quartet as another guitarist and a bassist joined them for their closing number, a ramshackle and rowdy cover of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’.

All in all an enjoyable evening watching three up-and-coming acts I knew little or nothing about beforehand; as stated earlier the atmosphere felt as though it was a private party that I’d gatecrashed but nobody seemed to mind the guy stood amongst them who was old enough to be their dad (!) Any of these are worth seeing but I will be looking out for both Dangerously Canadian and Indigo Moon on future bills like this.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: The Blue Aeroplanes, o2 Academy Liverpool 11 January 2017

First gig of the year for me and typically, it was one I had only found out about the night before! The Blue Aeroplanes are a long-established act hailing from Bristol, with a history dating back to the 1980s but the reason I came along this night was because of their guitar player Bec Jevons, who certainly does not hail from then (!) She is also a member of punky rock trio iDestroy, whom I have seen before and once I found out she was going to be here in Liverpool with the Blue Aeroplanes, I decided to take the trip into the city centre and see this band, despite knowing precisely zilch about them!

They were playing the smaller downstairs room at the o2 Academy, and I got in to find the bar area cordoned off (there was a smaller bar at the back of the room), with few people there as the openers (sorry, didn’t catch their name!) finished their set. Whoever they were, they didn’t sound bad at all with a good proportion of lead guitar to their sound.

The Blue Aeroplanes have a new album ‘Welcome, Stranger!’ out and they’d even brought along an illuminated sign advertising that fact to display on stage! Plenty of numbers were performed from it, as the ensemble took to the stage fronted by vocalist/founding member Gerard Langley. He looked cool enough in his shades, and had actually brought on a book which appeared to contain lyrics! His vocal delivery ranges from half-sung to spoken, and he did refer to that book more than once early on for the spoken, more poetry-influenced parts. The band were rockier than I’d bargained for, with heavy-hitting drums from John Langley (Gerard’s brother, and fellow founding member) and no fewer than THREE guitarists on the stage! In addition to all of this, they even have a prototype Bez (or, seeing as we were in Liverpool, a prototype Paul Rutherford!) in stage dancer Wojtek Dmochowski, resplendent in a red T-shirt with the hashtag #KEEPCORBYN emblazoned on it. He provides only visuals with his frankly mind-boggling moves (for a bloke who must be nearing 60) but on this crowded stage, did well to avoid being clattered by any of the musicians! Bec Jevons took a lead vocal for one number, as did fellow guitarist Gerard Starkie, during which time the frontman vacated the stage for them.

The Blue Aeroplanes in Liverpool

The Blue Aeroplanes in Liverpool

I can’t say this style of ‘art-rock’ is really my cup of tea, but this was nonetheless an enjoyable and harder-rocking set than I’d bargained for. In the end about 100 showed on a bitterly cold January night, all in all it was a good start to my gig-going for 2017.

4 - Deserving

4 – Deserving