It’s now been two years since I discovered this band via their cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, and around 18 months since seeing them live on a joint tour with fellow Brit-rockers CATS in SPACE. While the CATS have taken off into orbit with some high-profile tours supporting major names, the Space Elevator hasn’t quite ascended to similar heights. Not yet, anyway. Their second album, cunningly titled ‘Space Elevator II’ should have been out to coincide with this run of dates but in the interim between its recording and this tour, the group signed with German independent label SPV. That meant the release date was put back to 25th May, so those who came along to this show would be in for a set containing several new numbers not yet known.
This date was to say the least, low-key. Wigan Old Courts is a multi-purpose arts centre, a converted magistrates’ court as the name suggests. It now hosts a variety of arts events including regular gigs, and this show took place in a rather dark room in the building, quite an adjustment since it was still extremely bright and sunny when I arrived at the venue. After a brief chat with drummer Brian Greene (manning the merch table), who explained the situation with the band’s signing to SPV and subsequent delay in the album release, I entered the hall to find few people there. There was no opening act, so there was a bit of a wait for the band to appear on the stage.
The three guys came on and struck up before the singer, the enigmatically-titled The Duchess strolled out resplendent in a leather jacket and shorts. Not the catsuit she is renowned for wearing, but she had a reason for that and the clue was printed on her top, a large-scale picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (who were wed that day). Opening with ‘Elevator’ itself, opening track of their debut album, they did indeed showcase numerous songs from the upcoming record. Based on what I heard, it promises to be another varied selection of songs – even touching on a bit of ‘rap-rock’ in one number! They played quite a few we did know as well, including my personal favourite ‘Loneliness of Love’ which came quite early into the set. Stood close to the stage, with the PA stacks actually beside me, it wasn’t the best place to get a good sound mix but The Duchess has such a powerful voice, she can overcome pretty much anything, still making herself heard. Not so much seen however, the stage lighting was quite dark all night and in a hall which was near pitch-black already, it didn’t do them too many favours. A pity, since The Duchess eventually showed just why she’d decided not to perform in the usual catsuit tonight – ditching her shorts Angus-style, to reveal that her top was actually a leotard and she’d had the words ‘Hazza 4 Megs’ printed on her backside! Anyone who’s seen this band before would know she’s a bit of a character and with a welcome touch of saucy British humour, of course this audience (mainly comprising ‘certain age’ guys like your correspondent, ahem!) were most appreciative of that interlude (!)
Their cover of ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ came towards the end of the night, as guitarist David Young described it, a hybrid between the Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore versions. He gave an excellent performance on lead guitar, never over-playing and always servicing the song, with strong rhythm backing from bassist Chas Maguire and drummer Brian Greene. There was a lot of humorous banter between themselves and the punters all night, as though they’d decided just to have a bit of fun seeing as so few of us had come out. But they were still ‘on it’, for all the joking about there wasn’t one missed cue, they’re far too good. The last two numbers consisted of one new song, inspired by Freddie Mercury (reminiscent of ‘Only The Good Die Young’ to me) and a cover of Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’. Following this they were straight out to the foyer for a meet and greet with the punters.
This gig actually felt similar to the last time I saw them, in so far as I didn’t know the material (or at least much of it!) but there was no doubting their quality. The Duchess is an accomplished stage performer outside of this band, and the others have all been in some major productions too (David Young spent some time with the We Will Rock You house band, for instance) so you were always in for a good evening with this band. To say it set me back just eight quid for the ticket was a (pleasant) surprise too, in this age of big-ticket shows at astronomical prices, it just shows you don’t have to buy into corporate hype to get a good gig! I do wish more had turned out though (we could all have got the same bus home!) Perhaps they have come up against the ‘never heard of them’ factor which means few will take the punt on a band without a ‘big name’. With SPV now behind them, that should change and soon once the second album is released, it’s to be hoped their new song (‘We Can Fly’, played tonight) will be picked up by Planet Rock and if that happens, their audience will inevitably grow.
When they come around again, heard of them or not – get along to the show. They’ve got the lot: songs, top musicianship, a singer who not only has the looks but a voice that stacks up against anyone. Ann Wilson, Floor Jansen – for me, The Duchess is in that bracket and I say that about very few, even singers I like. She also has that cheeky sense of humour, while immensely talented she doesn’t take herself TOO seriously.
The second Space Elevator album will be released on 25th May 2018 and I look forward to hearing these tunes on record.
- Take The Pain
- Talk Talk
- Loneliness Of Love
- Little White Lies
- Lucky Girl
- Far Away Boy
- World Of Possibilities
- More Than Enough
- I Will Find You (Gallifrey Dreams)
- Crazies (Take Me Home)
- Keep Waiting
- Oils And Bubbles
- Really Don’t Care
- Don’t Believe A Word (Thin Lizzy cover)
- We Can Fly
- Queen For A Day
- Ace Of Spades (Motörhead cover)