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

Gigs of 2017 part one

That time of year again, and it’s been another busy gigging year. A frustrating ankle fracture stopped me going to see several shows I’d planned to, so let’s hope at least some of those bands I was forced to miss come around again. I didn’t get to write about every gig I did see on here, so this post will cover those briefly.

JANUARY

The year started off with a gig I only found out about the night before, a Bristol collective known as The Blue Aeroplanes stopped off in Liverpool. My main reason for going along was the fact that iDestroy’s Bec Jevons was part of this band; it was a rather different experience than her normal ‘power trio’ act but this group were actually quite enjoyable, if a bit ‘art-rock’ for my usual taste. They had a ‘Bez’ in dancer Wojtek Dmochowski, who must be around 60 but is exceptionally nimble, he had to be to avoid three guitarists, a bassist and a vocalist on the small stage in the o2 Academy’s lower floor! A week later and I found myself in the back room at Frederiks in Liverpool, normally a restaurant and bar but on this night there was a three band bill showcasing locally-based bands. First up was duo Dangerously Canadian, exactly as they said they were a Canadian guitar and drum duo who played a powerful set with plenty of energy. I was there to see Indigo Moon, who were up next, having been told many good things about them. Their set was trippy and psychedelic, something not a lot of others do and I had hoped to see them again this year. It’s all gone rather quiet on that front since the middle of the year, however, so I have no clue whether they’re still going. Their singer (Ash Colley) was enchanting, and I hope she at least is still on the scene somewhere. The third band was Big Bear, another power-rock duo – for the most part – whose drummer really hit like he meant it! For just £3 that was a good night of local music.

Two days later it was back to the o2 Academy for veteran melodic rockers Tyketto. Fronted by Danny Vaughn still, he delivered the goods yet again with a fabulous vocal performance. His band still features original drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny but also now includes Brits such as Chris Childs, of Thunder fame, Ged Rylands and Chris Green. The turnout was very good and encouraging for bands of this style who might consider playing in our city.  The next gig I saw this month was in the same building, but in the larger upstairs hall. US rockers Rival Sons squeezed in this date as a headliner, in between their arena dates supporting Black Sabbath on their ‘The End’ UK tour. This was a return to Liverpool and in my view a huge improvement on their previous appearance, mainly because unlike in 2015, vocalist Jay Buchanan had come out of his shell and actually addressed the rapt crowd he had at his command.

Closing out the month was a gig by Cannock’s favourite son, Glenn Hughes. The gig was moved from its original venue at Manchester University, from Academy 3 to the Club Academy. That didn’t go down too well with yours truly, who isn’t a fan of the basement venue owing to its poor sight lines. However I and a friend who attended this gig got there early enough to get a reasonable spot close to the front, where you need to be in order to have any hope of viewing the bands! Support was from Walsall foursome Stone Broken, who were very good if a little reliant on the downtuned guitar sound. Glenn himself gave his usual stellar performance, with guitarist Soren Andersen back in the ranks alongside hard-hitting drummer Pontus Engborg and keyboardist Jay Boe. At one point in the evening the drummer had a problem with his kit which took several minutes to deal with; as the tech worked feverishly he continued to play on, while the rest of the guys improvised a jam. It’s always a privilege to see Glenn Hughes, he is now back with Black Country Communion of course.

FEBRUARY

This month saw me venture out to Stalybridge, where a new venture run by two guys I know from Facebook had started to put on bands at the Stalybridge Tavern. The place is a pub a stone’s throw from Stalybridge station, which is accessible by rail from Liverpool. The first gig of the year they put on featured iDestroy, the Bristol power trio fronted by Bec Jevons and also featuring Becky Baldwin on bass, a popular performer who is in several bands, and drummer Jenn Haneef. Also featured were Gdansk81, a Manchester-based outfit influenced by the post-punk era and particularly Joy Division, who were good but not my cup of tea. However iDestroy gave a knockout performance, they have energy, passion and above all, songs. Bec Jevons has that magic knack of writing a catchy, pop-punk anthem that will stick in your mind after one listen, and with a strong rhythm section behind her, it’s easy to see how they have grown in popularity over the past year or so. A week later, back in Liverpool and at the o2 Academy yet again, I encountered the ‘all-Metal tribute to the Bee Gees and beyond’, Tragedy. These crazies from New York take 1970s disco-pop classics and twist them into Metal ditties, the most amusing transformation being their take on The Weather Girls’s  ‘It’s Raining Men’ – prefaced by the doomy intro from Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’! They were supported by up-and-coming Brit hard rockers Bigfoot, who have been widely tipped for success in the next year or so.

MARCH

The spring is almost as busy a time of year as autumn for gigs, and this year was no exception. Starting off at Manchester’s Band on the Wall, one of the better small venues in that city, was Northern Ireland’s finest The Answer. They’d taken a musical left-turn with their sixth album ‘Solas’, introducing many elements of traditional Irish music to their rock sound, though their live shows remained as heavy as ever. This gig was roughly evenly-split between songs from that album and older tracks from their back catalogue, as the group set out to demonstrate that the latest album didn’t mean they’d turned their backs on hard rock for good. The ‘Solas’ material actually sounded harder live, in particular the title track with which they opened the show. Liverpool band Black Cat Bones supported, their retro look was clearly inspired by Guns ‘n’ Roses but they did a good job warming up the crowd, and that was only the first of several occasions I’d see them this year.

The very next night it was over to Chester Live Rooms to see Dan Reed Network. Many years ago I passed on seeing them at Liverpool, when almost everyone else I knew went along. They weren’t ‘heavy enough’ for me as a young Metalhead then, y’see! What won me round was seeing Dan Reed himself play acoustically with Danny Vaughn on tour a few years ago, he showed himself to be a warm, engaging live singer. The band played a set that seemed to be made up on the hoof, they took several requests and discussed among themselves what they would play next. Although it’s Dan Reed’s name on the ticket he was willing to give the stage over to other members, who all got extended spots. A very good gig, which left me 30 years’ worth of catching up to do!

Barely pausing for breath or even sleep (!) the next gig came up quickly; it was back to Liverpool for a triple bill of hard rock headlined by Swedish outfit Bonafide, with Aussie all-girl trio Tequila Mockingbyrd and another Swedish band (Killer Bee) opening proceedings. This being a Monday night with three, shall we say ‘obscure’ bands, turnout at the o2 Academy was far from packed but those that came got a great night of old-school rock. Bonafide were very much old-school hard rock not far removed from AC/DC, while Tequila Mockingbyrd rocked it HARD. They were in the middle of a transition at this point, with a stand-in bassist (Keira Kenworthy of Syteria played and fitted in so well, I would never have known she wasn’t full-time had they not told us!) and with frontwoman Estelle Artois playing her last tour with the band before stepping down from the group. Killer Bee also played a good set, for those who showed early.

At that time I was working in Chester, which came in handy for the next gig – Stevie Nimmo Trio who were on at the Live Rooms. Stevie, elder brother of King King’s Alan Nimmo attracted some fans of his brother’s band and quite a few who were more familiar than I of his own material. His music is more ‘purist’ blues than the more radio-friendly King King, but he gave a great set, excellent in both vocal and guitar department and ably backed by bassist Mat Beable and drummer Craig Bacon. That was the first of two occasions I’d see Stevie Nimmo here, but more on that later!

The next gig saw a return to the o2 Academy in Liverpool, for American pop-rockers Against The Current. This is a band I knew little about, other than they were favourites of Kerrang! magazine and so I expected a more youthful turnout than normal. They packed out the lower floor of this place (and perhaps should have been given the larger floor) and it was indeed a young audience in the main. They are similar in style to Paramore, with ATC singer Chrissy Costanza openly citing them as influences. For what it was, this was a good live performance and she was particularly energetic and engaging. Not strictly my cup of tea to be honest, and I went mainly because they bothered to come to our city, as one of the most vocal complainers that bands miss Liverpool off such tours!

With many bands on the road at the same time, the inevitable gig clashes started to happen (or ‘Same Night Syndrome’ as I call it!) and one cropped up mid-March as I had inadvertently double-booked the 18th March. I originally planned to go and see Thunder in Sheffield, but had grabbed tickets to see Canadian rockers Monster Truck play in Manchester, before realising that was the same evening! Fortunately I found a taker for my Thunder ticket; though a huge fan of those guys I’ve seen them many times, and this Monster Truck show was too enticing to pass up after seeing them play a stormer of a support to Nickelback previously. It was once again in the unfavoured Club Academy basement but this was a marvellous show, the Canadian quartet really do take you back to the old days of denim, leather, meaty guitar riffs and raucous vocals. They’ve got the songs and the style to really break through in the next couple of years. I was still a bit miffed at missing Thunder, mainly because they had the excellent 70s-flavoured band CATS in SPACE as support and I knew that they’d win fans off the back of that tour. They did that and then some, which I’ll get back to.

A week later it was another trip to Liverpool o2 Academy to see 90s survivors Feeder; I got in to find an all-girl trio bounding across the stage on the main upstairs floor. The Tuts were the band in question, a power-pop outfit with plenty of energy and attitude who told the crowd on several occasions how thrilled they were to support Feeder, a band they grew up idolising. Feeder themselves weren’t the trio I expected but a five-piece, as Grant Nicholas and Taka Hirose were joined by an additional guitarist and keyboard player, as well as drummer Geoff Holroyde who sat in for usual incumbent Karl Brazil. The expanded Feeder were very good, better than last time I’d seen them when for me they tried a bit too hard to emulate Nirvana. For their encore, two members of The Tuts appeared in the crowd and I found myself bouncing along with singer Nadia and drummer Beverley!

This mad month continued with another run to Stalybridge in order to see Scream of Sirens. An all-female trio hailing from the North East who play hard rock with a dash of punky attitude, they are a band worth catching if in your area. I got to chat to them and found that their guitarist Ruth is a fan of Y&T, which instantly endeared me to her! Meniketti’s troupe had themselves just announced the dates for their regular autumn UK tour and that tour included a return to Liverpool. At around this time, Metallica announced their own UK tour dates which were slated for the huge arenas of the country. That didn’t include Liverpool, which didn’t surprise me, but the cost of the tickets I thought were prohibitive in any event. Which didn’t stop them from selling out instantly!

Mad March finally came to an end with a run down to Bilston and the Robin 2, for a show headlined by LiveWire (an AC/DC tribute which features two singers to emulate both Bon and Brian material), but I’d gone there to see DORJA, an all-girl hard rock band who I’d been supporting since their formation as I knew three of the girls from a previous band. That was another frustrating gig clash, as my planned trip to Manchester on that date to see Blackberry Smoke went up in, er, smoke! Because of the fact that DORJA’s singer Aiym Almas is based in LA, they can only get together and perform in short stints and so the chance to see them had to be taken. Their 45-minute set went over very well, especially since Aiym herself was firing on all cylinders this time (she was suffering with a throat ailment on their previous appearance in the UK) and showed us all what a soulful, rich voice she has. Their set drew people from all over the country, many of whom I knew personally, but after their performance some left in order to catch Hands Off Gretel who were playing in Whitchurch, also on that night. I stayed around, partly to see LiveWire, but also to take the chance to spend a little time with the DORJA girls who I hadn’t seen in months. I didn’t realise then that’d be my only chance to see them this year however!

For Part 2 click here


Caught Live: Santa Cruz (with Skarlett Riot, Black Cat Bones) Live Rooms Chester 15th December 2017

Despite the headline band’s name, these guys aren’t Spanish, Portuguese or Latin American but Finnish! Although always willing to go and see bands when I have little prior knowledge of them, I really came to Chester this time to see Skarlett Riot. I’ve only seen this female-fronted band once before, that was several years ago in Liverpool and had been meaning to get to one of their shows again since.

When I got in the main hall, there were a smattering of old-school rock types already here to see openers Black Cat Bones go through their paces. Bandanas, denim, leather and plenty of Guns ‘n’ Roses shirts were in evidence on the floor, as the Liverpool-based quintet warmed up the early attendees. I only saw about half of their short set (they were performing ‘Lust’ from their EP as I walked in) but having seen the lads numerous times before, I know what they bring to the table. It’s old-fashioned hard rock with twin guitar, singalong choruses (such as on ‘Down To The River’) and with an engaging frontman in Jonnie Hodson. He might still model himself on 1988-era W. Axl Rose but has a fine voice, and a nice line in stage humour. He also had a raised platform on which to do his stuff – they’d improvised one from crates, which gave him and the rest of the bill a vantage point over this crowd. That might not have been strictly necessary, as this turnout was only OK but it did give the impression of a ‘bigger’ production than you normally get here.

The last time I saw Skarlett Riot, they played a full set and I got to experience their live show from about two feet away, really up close and personal. This was little more detached, thanks to that raised stage platform, but frontwoman Skarlett still wanted to encourage the crowd (still filling up at this point) to come closer to the stage. They only got a short time to make an impact here, with just six songs, and so delivered their harder-hitting numbers. Skarlett herself concentrated on vocals rather than playing rhythm guitar as she did last time I saw her, leaving all axe duties to guitarist Danny. They’ve definitely got heavier with latest album ‘Regenerate’ but I would have liked to see them play for a little longer, and give them a chance to mix it up a little more. From the front, Skarlett’s vocal was a little swamped by Danny’s guitar and also from bass player Martin Shepherd (the only member of the band who seems to have a surname – Danny and drummer Luke are brothers, and that’s as much as I know at this point!) Skarlett Riot certainly brought lots of energy and effort to the proceedings, but I hope to catch them again in the New Year at one of their own dates where they will be able to play a longer set.

As said at the top of this post, I had little prior knowledge of Santa Cruz (they have three albums and two EPs to their name) and had only conducted basic ‘research’ on them beforehand – in other words, look them up on  YouTube and play three of their videos in order to get a handle of their sound! What I got from that was a band whose spiritual home is the Strip on LA, not the land of a thousand lakes. Metal music has been popular in Finland for some years, however this outfit do stand out because of their approach, an unapologetic throwback to the late 1980s when glam/sleaze/hair Metal (or whatever you want to call it) reigned supreme. They even adopted Ramones-style names, for instance frontman Arttu Kousmanen took on the much snappier handle ‘Archie Cruz’, while guitarist Joonas Parkkonen became ‘Johnny Cruz’. Completing the lineup are bassist Mitja Toivonen (‘Middy Cruz’) and drummer Tapani Fagerström, a.k.a. ‘Tazzy Cruz’.  As they arrived on stage, led by Tazzy, you were left in no doubt as to what to expect. Dressed in ripped T-shirts, teased hair everywhere (Archie chose to wear a hat throughout), and plenty of tattoos, this promised to be a show much in the style of those LA rockers who came before them.

Suffice to say they did exactly as it said on the tin! It was a set packed with hard but catchy anthemic rock, with both Archie and Johnny demonstrating nimble dexterity on the guitar (they split the lead solos roughly 50/50). Both the guys spent a lot of time on that raised platform, joined frequently by bassist Middy, a whirling dervish of blonde hair. Johnny’s stage poses were straight from the Doug Aldrich school of throwing shapes, and he had a guitar tone not that far removed from that of the popular Dead Daisies axe hero. Although unfamiliar with their songs, I could easily spot influences from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Cinderella (at their hardest), even early Def Leppard, and most notably Skid Row. Archie even has the ‘Youth Gone Wild’ slogan tattooed on his left arm exactly like Sebastian Bach, so these guys cannot be accused of not acknowledging their influences.

After about an hour they took their leave and headed out to mingle with the punters alongside the other bands at the merch table. They’d delivered a powerful set of sleazy hard rock like it used to be, and went off to a great reception from the crowd. Having experienced all the 1980s bands for myself first time around, these fellas do a good job of recreating those heady days before a certain trio from Seattle came along and changed everything. In fact, I’d say that if you’re one of those people who hanker for the days of sleaze rock but missed out on that era, you’re probably better off seeing this band, in an intimate venue like this than paying over the odds for a ticket to see the partially-reunited G’n’R play in a huge stadium. Santa Cruz play it like they mean it, they have the hunger and the fire which just cannot be replicated by a reformed band that tasted huge success decades ago.

If you missed out on seeing them this time look out for Santa Cruz when they come around again; they didn’t pack this place out on this December night but hopefully there are enough of us around to spread the word so that next time, they’ll get the audience their intense live show deserves.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Chantel McGregor, Live Rooms Chester 8th December 2017

First of all, apologies to both support acts for this gig (C.F. Boneslum, Kevin Plant) as I was delayed getting to Chester this night and so missed both. (Friday evening grocery run took precedence!) I actually only got into the venue on this bitterly cold and slushy December evening minutes before the main act came on stage. Chantel McGregor is one of many good blues-orientated guitarist/singers currently touring, but is someone I only had a fleeting knowledge of beforehand. Her set began in rather inauspicious circumstances, just herself and an acoustic guitar and following a few moments adjusting things on the stage, she started off with two gentler numbers performed solo. Just when you thought it was going to be an evening of folk-tinged blues, her bassist and drummer arrived on the stage, she changed to her favoured white Music Man electric guitar, and promptly blasted the audience into smithereens!

When this lady plays electric guitar, she really does not hold it back – almost everything she did from this point on was with that guitar set to kill – her heavy playing style, with lashings of gain, reminded me a little of Robin Trower, who I saw here a year previously. Set against that is her singing voice, somewhat sweeter than you’d expect for such a raucous accompaniment. That did get a little lost sometimes in this sound mix (she did ask ‘Mr Soundman’ as she dubbed the sound guy, to verify her voice was coming through out front more than once), but when she did dial it back for more restrained material, she sounded in fine form.

chantel-jjones

Much of the material played was from last album ‘Lose Control’, with a smattering of material slated for a future release also played. She often conferred with her band (drummer Ollie Goss, and bassist Colin Sutton – whose hairstyle made me think of 90s indie band Jesus Jones!) over what to play next, it was as though she was making it up as she went along. That wasn’t exactly the case, although she did admit to having changed a few things around on the fly, partly because of the fact that there was another band playing in the adjacent smaller room. That meant swapping out an acoustic song for electric, but once she picked that axe up there was only ever going to be one winner (!) One instrumental (‘April’, if memory serves!) showed some excellent Hendrix-style soloing, she had me almost thinking of ‘Foxy Lady’ at one point!

It’s taken me a while to get around to seeing Chantel McGregor live, she often comes to nearby St Helens, but this won’t be the last time I see her play. A marvellous talent, who should be getting far more attention than she is presently doing (the turnout was somewhat disappointing, by my reckoning fewer than 100 showed). When she comes around again, make sure to go along.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Psychords, Lennon’s Bar Liverpool 7th December 2017

I came along to this gig on the recommendation of several Facebook friends, three of whom are involved in gig promotions themselves and were touring with this band, an all-girl punk rock trio hailing from Italy. This date was part of a multi-band bill held at Lennon’s Bar, a tiny basement bar in Mathew Street (yards from the Cavern and also Eric’s), an event dubbed ‘LOUD Lennon’. What I had been unaware of was that this had been a regular event and that this was to be the last one held there! A pity if that means no more live (original) music there, but probably a sign of the times as this street is still synonymous with a certain band, one of whose members this place is named for.

I did catch two of the other bands on the bill; local four-piece Nesh gave a short, enjoyable set of what they term ‘alternative, melodic driven rock’, playing in Santa gear and displaying some welcome humour among the guitar riffing. Closing out the evening were St. Helens outfit Last Reserves, a band I’ve seen before and whose frontwoman Alice Nancy acted as compere for the evening. They’re a loud, enthusiastic quartet, they are not entirely my bag however I was impressed by nimble-fingered bassist Matt Bonnell.

The reason I was here though was to check out Psychords; taking to the tiny stage after Nesh’s set they had a few technical issues to begin with, as a techie was despatched to the small console to tweak a few dials, so that guitarist/vocalist Violet Burns could actually hear herself! Once they got things sorted out, they showed us why they were so highly rated. Meaty guitar riffs, accompanied by nifty bass fills from Gio’ Highlander and driving the whole thing along was drummer Claudia Lo. She was the basis for their hard-hitting sound, powerful and expressive. Contrasting this heavy sound was Violet Burns’ somewhat gentler vocal sat atop all this racket. Their songs are short snappy bashabouts, and those Ramones comparisons were totally justified.  They had your correspondent playing air guitar, bass AND air drums throughout!

The attendance was small, but did include an American tourist who only chanced upon this gig, looking for a bar playing something other than the Beatles fare offered almost everywhere else in this part of the city. He was happy to see such a lively gig and was also impressed with this band. This was the band’s third-last UK date before heading back to continental Europe, fingers crossed they’ll be able to return for more dates in 2018. Even better if they could find their way back to this city when they do!

Facebook page for Psychords

Facebook page Last Reserves

Facebook page for NESH

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

 

Caught Live: The Lancashire Hotpots, o2 Academy Liverpool 1st December 2017

Same Night Syndrome hit once again on this date (that irritating occurrence when two or more gigs you want to see happen on the same date); not only same night but same building in this case! While the Hotpots were in the lower floor of this venue, the upstairs was hosting the Mark Lanegan band, that was a gig I’d also have liked to see having seen the 1990s alt-rocker once before here. Also, over in North Wales, blues-rock favourites King King were playing at the Buckley Tivoli, a gig I would definitely have seen had it not been rescheduled for this very same night! (Their original date was put back to allow for their frontman Alan Nimmo to recover from a throat ailment.)

The decision to plump for the Hotpots was taken late on – their tour is commemorating ten years, having released their debut album ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’ in 2007 they’ve probably surprised themselves that they are still playing humorous folk ditties about everyday life now. What swung it was that they had to compensate for the loss of their opening act. Spladoosh featuring Stu Penders (aka Ron Seal, sometimes seen on stage with the Hotpots as well) had to cancel their opening slot after Stu took ill (‘he’s got The Mange’, as Bernard Thresher helpfully informed us during the Hotpots’ extended set!) So it was decided that the Hotpots would play for longer than intended, while still performing all of ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’ as promised.

I’ve followed this group almost from the start; their signature song ‘Chippy Tea’ was played on the radio by a local DJ, back when the main radio station for this area actually was locally based (!) Not long after I saw them play, and liked their retro look and sound playing folk music about such 21st century things as satellite navigation, firewalls and even things that have become dated now like MySpace or the (game console) PSP!

They came on as promised at 8:10pm, with the intro tape being Queen’s ‘One Vision’ and opening with ‘Mek Us A Brew’. They had probably their best turnout in Liverpool since they played the upper venue here many years ago, and this crowd were well and truly up for this show – it was loud from the word go! With more time on the stage several songs that weren’t going to be played originally got added, such as their paean (sort of!) to that well-known furniture emporium, ‘I Fear IKEA’.

An early moment of hilarity came when Bernard debuted a new stage prop, a hand puppet of a loaf of bread (complete with eyes and a mouth. I am not making this up!) Without having rehearsed what to do with it, the whole thing looked and sounded absolutely ludicrous. Which only made it an even bigger hit with the crowd! It was so bizarre, even Bernard himself corpsed on the stage, laughing at the sheer stupidity of the moment so much it took him several minutes to compose himself again! Even fellow Hotpots, bass player Bob Wriggles and singer/percussionist Dickie Ticker had to check Bernard was actually OK, he really did lose it! That was worth the admission on its own, and there was still a long way to go in this set! Once back in the groove, they played the saucy ‘The Barmaid’s Baps’ before Pirate Bernard made a comeback. The character (Bernard Thresher in pantomime pirate getup) was devised for the song ‘Cinema Smugglers’, a comic song about the practice of smuggling sweets into a cinema to avoid the high prices charged by the kiosks! Waving a plastic cutlass (no doubt sourced from the high-quality retail emporium that is Poundland), Bernard had us all chanting ‘yaaarrrhhh!!’ at regular intervals!

The main part of the set followed, the complete run-through of  ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’. Before all of that Bob confessed to the gathered crowd that they never thought they’d still be doing this ten years on back when they started out, let alone that it would prove popular. Some of the songs were given a bit of a twist from their recorded originals (recorded at Dickie’s house originally, we were informed) so that ‘He’s Turned Emo’ was played straight at first, then they changed it completely to a reggae-style arrangement! It was played for laughs, but does show these fellas are actually very good musicians behind all the tomfoolery. Some of the subject matter hasn’t dated well (who still uses MySpace in 2017 for example, let alone meet any girls on that platform!) but that’s the pitfall of writing about present-day life! ‘The Firewall Song’ (written in fifteen minutes, according to Bernard) was given an extended coda simply because it was so short on record, again done with a touch of humour.

They overcame the hurdle of performing ‘Sat Nav’ by giving the vocal to Bob; it was originally performed by their first drummer Willie Eckerslike (aka Tom McGrath, who passed away in 2010) and Bob dedicated it to his memory. That also saw Bernard take to the drums, regular drummer Kenny Body came out to the front to shake his maracas (!) and keyboardist/humorist Billy McCartney also stepped out from his keyboards to play Bernard’s acoustic guitar. ‘Shopmobility Scooter’ was played with its regular coda of ‘Hey Jean’ (the Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ slightly altered!) and ‘A Lancashire DJ’ saw the usual conga form in the crowd, which swept up your correspondent! It being December, it was appropriate that ‘Christmas In Lancashire’ closed out this part of the show, the very first thing they recorded as the Hotpots according to Dickie.

They still had time to fill after playing the whole of their first album though, and Bernard had us all bending the knee for ‘A Perfect Pint’. That takes its toll on knees as old as mine (!) but he still has me wondering how he delivers the song at speed as it gets faster and faster! Not letting us pause for breath ourselves, next up came ‘Egg, Sausage, Chips and Beans’. That one had Bernard confess that he still cannot believe he can get a  crowd full of grown men and women sing that – but this is the band that had us singing ‘Bitter Lager Cider Ale and Stout’, also set to a traditional tune, so from our perspective it isn’t that much of an ask! They closed the main set with their parody of Bruno Mars (‘Hotpot Funk’), with its memorable refrain of ‘Hotpots go down t’chippy for you’!

A lengthy encore started with ‘Mums For Tea’, starting out quite slow and meaningful, it ended as a near-thrash number! A couple of more recent numbers (‘Thirsty Thursday’, ‘Do The Dad Dance’ had us all bouncing along before the traditional reprise of ‘Chippy Tea’ brought the evening to an end. This time however, they arranged it as a Quo-style rock ‘n’ roll version, even suggesting we put our thumbs into our belt loops and sway about in the fashion of Quo audiences! To emphasise that, there was an added snippet of ‘Rocking All Over The World’, changed of course to fit the song theme. (‘I like it, I like it, I like it, curry sauce, splash it all over your chips!’) Following that, they were cheered off like heroes and were soon out to greet Hotpotters both old and new.

It’s always an uplifting night seeing Bernard, Dickie, Bob, Kenny and Billy when they come around but this was a really special night. Having to play longer went down well with their devoted followers, and after Bernard’s earlier collapse into fits of laughter with the bread puppet, needless to say the crowd demanded its return! ‘Bread! Bread! Bread!’ they chanted until Bernard got the puppet back out again, still without having thought of any comic lines for it but it just didn’t matter. The moment was madcap enough as it was!

There was really only one thing left to do after seeing this show, and that was make my own trip to the chippy (where else but The Lobster Pot, and yes, chips complete with curry sauce!) and consume that before heading home. I’ve been a fan since the beginning as I’ve said, and so long as these chaps still feel like encouraging us to enjoy our Northern heritage of egg, sausage, chips, beans plus bitter, lager, cider, ale, stout I’ll be there to see them. After all, in the words of their own song, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow!

5 scooters

5 Shopmobility Scooters – Delightful