Picture Gallery: The Dead Daisies at Holmfirth Picturedrome 27 July 2018

I attended this gig by the Aussie/American hard rock ‘collective’ The Dead Daisies; having seen and reviewed a previous gig from earlier this year however I felt there was little need to do another review of this show. Aside from one or two changes to the set (incorporating a brief acoustic interlude, also featuring drummer Deen Castronovo taking lead vocal for one cover) it was as rockin’ a show as the gig I caught in Bilston.

So instead, presented below are a selection of shots taken at this gig. I didn’t have a particularly close spot, so these are the best you’ll get! Shot with an old pocket digital compact, they’ve been enhanced as best as possible for the web.  The support once again were Scottish girl trio The Amorettes, and a couple of snaps from their set are included.
All pics by Ronnie Soo 2018.

 

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Caught Live: Holly Henderson, Drakes Maidstone 21st July 2018

Oops, I did it again. Apologies for the Britney quote but it’s rather apt! Last year I made a long road trip from Merseyside to Kent, taking several hours, just to see Holly Henderson play live with her then newly-formed solo band. This year, I did it again! She only plays sporadically at the moment, occasionally in London but mostly in her native Maidstone, with her band made up of musician friends she’s known for many years.

What made me do it was that I genuinely believe she has everything in her locker to become the next big music sensation to come out of this country: incredible playing talent, a remarkably diverse musical taste (how many girls in their early twenties do you know who have even heard of Martin Barre, let alone cite him as a leading musical influence?) and the ability to write those things all musicians need – songs. She has written, or co-written, material in a wide variety of styles, from punk and hard rock, to ambient or ‘dark pop’, through to deep house. In addition she is gaining a reputation as a composer of incidental music for TV and film productions, so fitting in live performances in amongst all of that must be tricky. With three EPs under her belt already she is gearing up for the release of her long-awaited album, recorded in LA with producer Pete Thorn. She has been working on securing the right deal for this album and the signs are that it will see the light of day this year.

This live appearance was at Drakes, a pub in the centre of Maidstone and was part of a multi-act bill. Sadly, besides Holly and band I was only able to see the first act (a young girl called Maya, playing solo with an electric guitar and a loop pedal). She was an enjoyable enough opener, before Holly’s band followed her. Now a six-piece band, I knew guitarist Jamie Chellar and his sister, harmony singer Katy, as well as drummer Luke Phillips from last year, but she has since added a keyboardist in Harry Morley to the live line-up, which is completed by bassist Reece Beard. There wasn’t a lot of room on that pub stage to accommodate them all, but they squeezed on with Jamie taking a position towards the rear alongside the bassist, with Holly and Katie alongside each other at the front. There was a few minutes of quick testing, they weren’t able to do much of a soundcheck owing to time constraints, then they launched into the actual set.

The set comprised songs which are to be featured on the upcoming album, and having heard snippets of studio material it was nice to be able to hear the songs played in full and put titles to them (I bagged a setlist sheet soon after their set). That was in part my motivation for travelling all that way; at present the only way to hear these songs is to see them done live, the teasers heard are more than promising but you get the full experience in this situation. (As an aside, the MC for the evening decided that this act should be dubbed ‘The Holly Henderson Situation’!) So songs such as ‘Doldrums’, and ‘Psycho’ (about a ‘bad Tinder date’ according to Holly herself!) finally made more sense having seen them performed in full. Her lead-off song ‘Loneliness’ came second in the set, a bit of a surprise since it is the one song from the album she’s unveiled in full up to now.

Live, this band does rock it out hard – Luke Phillips is particularly impressive to an ageing Metalhead like me – he can give it the beans on the drumkit, but can also damp it down as the situation requires. Another thing to note is that Holly does not hog all the lead guitar work on stage; she gives her ‘guitar compadre’ Jamie Chellar plenty to do as well. In closing number ‘Sold My Company’ he actually jumped off the small stage to join us on the floor to play the outro solo, not content with that he then cued in Luke Phillips for a ‘coda’ with Holly herself stood laughing while he really went for it in a ‘big rock ending’! She’s got a group of players that really bring this material to life, which considering the calibre of musicians she worked with in LA on the album itself (drummer Blair Sinta, bassist Jon Button as well as Pete Thorn himself) is testament to what an outfit she’s built around herself. They did take it down a tad with ‘Pride Can Wait’, a track previewed on her new website, it is a slower number but live, builds into a climactic ending with yet more guitar mayhem from Jamie Chellar.

The sextet were given raucous cheers after their all-too-brief set, they’re still a well-kept secret in the local area at the moment but that surely must change once this album gets out there. All being well, that will mean Holly and her band will play dates further afield and I remain hopeful of something in the North West soon! How she will fit all of this in among her burgeoning studio commitments is another matter, but it must be a nice problem to have to be in such demand.

I have presented a selection of photos from the performance below; taken with my trusty but ageing DSLR and using a flash bounced off the ceiling, they show Holly at her glamorous best with a lively band backing her up. She is a star waiting to be found!

5 – Delightful

Holly Henderson music website

Holly Henderson facebook page

Caught Live: DORJA, Actress & Bishop Birmingham 14th July 2018

This gig was a year late for me; I’d intended to see the international all-girl hard rockers in July 2017 but was unable to travel then owing to the fractured ankle sustained a month before. At that time the band had just introduced new guitarist Sarah Michelle, so it was doubly disappointing not to get the chance to see her line up with the band last year.  Because the band are made up of musicians who live some distance apart, they can only play selected dates. This run of dates took in a few shows in continental Europe and return dates at festivals held in Scotland and also the SOS Festival in Prestwich, near Manchester.  I was able to attend SOS Festival for the band’s Sunday appearance (a few photos from that event appear on this post) but this post will cover the gig played the previous evening in Birmingham.

Actress & Bishop styles itself as Birmingham’s ‘original and best’ music pub. There are two levels, the upstairs level was where the live music was to be held and I got there a little after 7:30. It was a multi-band bill and DORJA were to close out the evening. Of the other bands I saw, two of them were trios consisting of lead vocal, lead guitar/vocal and drummer (no bassist). That seems to be a trend now, not one I’m keen on as a bit of a rock ‘traditionalist’ but both Air Drawn Dagger and Kanada played with commendable energy. The trio format was about all they had in common though; Air Drawn Dagger were fronted by a female vocalist who used the floor as much as the (small) stage while Kanada were three guys ‘of a certain age’; their permagrinning guitarist provided much of the visual, with a headset mic to allow him to roam the stage as well as sing. Third band I caught were Midlands stoners Resurrection Men, boasting a 3-guitar line-up and some fuzzy-toned music that took several twists and turns.

There was a good turnout for DORJA with not just your correspondent having travelled some distance to attend, the band have now got some dedicated followers prepared to spend a lot of time and effort to see them play whenever the chance arises. It’s that fan dedication which enabled them to raise the funds to record their debut album ‘Gemini’ (available at these dates), it has been well-received by the fanbase which bodes well for any follow-up album. All the tracks from that album were performed live at this show, not in the order on the record though as they opened with ‘Reaching Out’. What was immediately noticeable was that live, the restraint shown on the record is completely gone. Guitarists Rosie Botterill and Sarah Michelle deliver the riffs with plenty of intensity, while the returning Becky Baldwin (she had only been able to play some of these dates owing to schedule clashes, with their producer Oliver Lee stepping in when required) gives her usual whirling dervish performance on bass. Anna Mylee gets a brief  drum solo mid-set, her playing was as impeccable as ever.

But it’s the singer who really captivates – Aiym Almas is a star waiting to be discovered. Her bluesy roar was in full effect here, and she has added a little bit of raunch to her stage presence too since last I saw her. An alluring presence, even in a band full of accomplished players she absolutely owns that stage. This was so good a performance, that I hope at least one of these dates were recorded for a possible release. They’re very good on record but live is a whole different level, they look like headline material for bigger venues already. They ended their main set with ‘Fire’, the song which started it all for them and for an encore they played their usual mashup of ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’.  Going off to big cheers, they were soon posing for pictures and chatting to their followers for some time afterwards.

This band are still a well-kept secret; their take on a classic blues-based rock sound allied with a lyrical theme of empowerment which runs throughout the ‘Gemini’ album does set them apart. It will only take one established band to snap them up for a support tour to push them up to where they deserve to be. The band are hoping to play more UK dates in the autumn, and it is strongly recommended to get to at least one of them before they do become the ‘must-see’ act I expect they will become.

As a postscript, presented below are a few shots from the band’s appearance at SOS Festival; they played a slightly shorter but equally well-received set there. SOS Festival is a rock/metal event held each July at the Longfield Suite in Prestwich, and attracts bands from all over the country. A well-run event with a main and acoustic stage, it is one I intend to attend again next year.

5 – Delightful

DORJA band website

Caught Live: Myles Kennedy (with Dorian Sorriaux), o2 Academy Liverpool 7th July 2018

First Tremonti, now Myles Kennedy. For the second weekend running I find myself at a gig from a member of Alter Bridge, although this was going to be a radically different experience to the one I had last week. It was actually the second of three gigs I saw in a day; first of all I saw folk funsters The Lancashire Hotpots play in St Helens town centre as part of a food and drink festival held that day; then there was this gig and straight after that it was across town to see the SoapGirls at North Shore Troubadour.

However this post is all about the guy from Spokane, the in-demand singer of Alter Bridge who, until now, has had to put his plans for a solo record on hold. Dovetailing between Alter Bridge and Slash (who was so keen to recruit Kennedy that he bills his own band as ‘Slash featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators’), he has found a gap in his schedule at last after Guns ‘n’ Roses (partially) reunited; Slash, Axl and Duff are still on their seemingly never-ending reunion tour. He released the album ‘Year Of The Tiger’ earlier this year to acclaim, and an initial batch of UK and European dates sold out so quickly that a second run was announced hastily. This time, it meant that to the best of my knowledge, this gig would be the first in Liverpool by any member of Alter Bridge. The show had been bumped up to the main hall at Liverpool o2 Academy, such was the demand for tickets, and the enormous queue snaking around the venue suggested that this was going to be a packed hall, on a baking hot summer evening!

Before that, a small figure sporting frizzy hair and a beard appeared on the stage, to no reaction whatsoever. Most of us thought he was a guitar tech (!) until he ambled up to the microphone and started singing. He performed solo and acoustic, and it wasn’t until he spoke to identify himself that the penny dropped: this was Dorian Sorriaux, better known as the guitarist from retro-rockers Blues Pills. His short set was warmly (word used advisedly, the place was already filling up and getting hot) received, though his own singing voice wasn’t really to my taste. He is a tremendously talented guitarist though, and showed as deft a touch on the acoustic as he does on the electric in his day job.

Opener Dorian Sorriaux

Opener Dorian Sorriaux

By the time the mainman came on stage most of us were already feeling the effects of the heat in this packed room – it was a sauna in there! That didn’t stop the crowd cheering Kennedy to the rafters as he emerged, acoustic guitar in hand and opened with ‘Devil On The Wall’ from that recent solo album. This crowd were certainly up for this show, but early on Myles sparked a chant of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ when making reference to the earlier result in the World Cup (for the record, England beat Sweden 2-0 to reach a first semi-final in 28 years). Joining in with his stomp box, following that he then told us he’d avoided watching it so as not to be a ‘jinx’! From there the set was a mixed bag, having only one solo album he’s adding songs from his other projects to the set. Naturally that includes some Alter Bridge material, but also his previous band The Mayfield Four, and of course some of the songs he recorded with Slash.

Midway through a rendition of ‘Mars Hotel’ he broke off into a fit of laughter, trying to replicate an echoed vocal as heard on the record. It caused him to stop the song, compose himself (or try to); the crowd were also enjoying the flub and laughing along. A delivery of Alter Bridge’s ‘Addicted To Pain’ soon got them singing again, and he followed that with a rendition of  Slash’s ‘Starlight’. For that he reached for (and got) the high notes in the final chorus, he was obviously in great vocal form for this show.

He played the majority of the set all by himself, but for ‘Haunted By Design’ he introduced Tim Tournier (getting the crowd to chant ‘Timmy, Timmy’) on second acoustic guitar. This allowed Kennedy to show his prowess on the acoustic with a neat solo. A real surprise came after that, when he delivered a cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ – suitably arranged for this format, but still with the ‘whoa, whoa’ bit present and correct, eagerly seized upon by the Liverpool audience.

Towards the end, a splendid rendition of ‘Watch Over You’ had the crowd singing in unison in a way reminiscent of the old Whitesnake Choir before he signed off the main set with ‘World On Fire’. Unlike his AB bandmate, he did do an encore and came back for two more off his own album: the gentle ‘Love Can Only Heal’ and finishing with ‘Year Of The Tiger’ itself, once more accompanied by Tim Tournier.

With this album and tour becoming a success right out of the gate, he has given himself yet another ball to juggle – he’s scheduled to tour with Slash again in the latter part of 2018 and of course Alter Bridge will reconvene next year. How he’s going to fit all of this in is anyone’s guess, but he’s proven here that his own name is a big enough draw to establish him as a solo artist in his own right. The thing I took from this over all else was how good his vocal was this night; whenever I’ve seen him with Alter Bridge in recent tours he’s struggled with some of the songs but here, he sounded better than he has on at least the last three occasions I’ve seen him with Messrs Tremonti, Marshall and Philips. Perhaps it’s the stripped-back format which suits him better, or it’s the fact he isn’t touring in the autumn like he normally does, but this was a superb performance which reaffirmed his status as one of the great voices of the current rock scene. The place was immensely hot all evening, even though the venue management did use the huge cooling units on the edge of the balcony, so I reckon I must have lost at least 4lb there and then!

Myles Kennedy rocks Liverpool

Finally, the fact we got at least one member of that band here to Liverpool at last was a big enough thing, but in case Myles is reading this (!) next time Alter Bridge come around, there’s an arena across town more than suitable for that band’s show. (Blatant Hint number 34 in a series, collect ’em all!) 😉

5 – Delightful

Caught Live: Tremonti, o2 Institute Birmingham 30th June 2018

Although I’ve seen Alter Bridge many times this was the first chance I’d had to see guitarist Mark Tremonti’s eponymously-titled solo project. Now four albums in, with the most recent offering ‘A Dying Machine’ coming out earlier this year, the band has consisted of guitarist Eric Friedman, drummer Garrett Whitlock as well as Tremonti himself throughout. They once also featured Wolfgang Van Halen on bass but he stood down last year, Tremonti himself playing bass on the last album. Live, they have brought in Tanner Keegan on the low end.

The Tremonti project does have some similarity with Alter Bridge but focuses more on the heavier side of things. While he plays arenas with Alter Bridge these days, for his own project the venues are the sort of smaller halls played in AB’s early days. Surprisingly, they didn’t play in the North West this time (they usually pitch up in Manchester) and so this meant a run down to the Second City and a venue I’d never been to before.

Opening times on the ticket said 6pm, and I got there shortly afterwards to find the huge queue already outside had just started to let in. The o2 Institute is a former church, which later acted as a civic hall and finally a nightclub/music venue. The gig was to be held in the main hall, which was up a flight of stairs after passing through a narrow corridor. In that corridor there were already people queuing to buy merchandise at the stand, somewhat awkwardly located so it created a bit of a bottleneck.  I got into the hall to find it already filling up, and I’d barely settled on a spot when openers The Fallen State came on. Early on vocalist Ben Stenning let us all know how pleased they were to get this opening slot, as long-time fans of Tremonti’s music down the years. That was evident from their music, they have that similar downtuned guitar-heavy sound, much in the vein of many North American bands. They’re not the only British band to have taken their cues here, Stone Broken occupy similar territory and if you like them, you’ll probably enjoy these too. The out-front sound didn’t do them many favours though, it was a bit swirly in this converted church hall. Stenning was a decent vocalist, backed well vocally by guitarist Jon Price. Their best song for me is ‘Nova’ which has had Planet Rock airplay, a slower number not too far removed from Stone Broken’s ‘Wait For You’. I was amused when they got the crowd to chant ‘whoa-oh-oh oh-oh’ before ‘Burn It To The Ground, as an oldie I recognised the refrain as straight from Status Quo’s ‘Dirty Water’!

It didn’t take long to see the difference between an Alter Bridge crowd and a Tremonti one: moshpits started from the word go – even further back where I was! The Tremonti sound is relentlessly heavy, with few pauses for breath. Once again though, the hall’s acoustics let them down as the sound, admittedly intensely loud – blended into a mush. I did pick out ‘Cauterize’ from the previous album early on in the show, though the set actually featured a good spread of tracks from all four albums to date, with six from ‘A Dying Machine’ played. Not that it mattered – it was all delivered with sledgehammer intensity! Despite the bad sound, Tremonti did show a strong vocal and guitarist Eric Friedman proved to be a fine vocalist himself, the harmonies were almost AB-like (a compliment, given who Tremonti performs with in his ‘day job’!) There was plenty of soloing too for the air guitarists, with Friedman getting his share in the spotlight too.

Mark Tremonti at o2 Institute

Mark Tremonti at Birmingham o2 Institute

They played 16 numbers in around 90 minutes, and because of the early start (Tremonti themselves came on at 8pm) we were done by about 9:30. There was no encore, with the frontman explaining they didn’t like the false idea of going off then coming back on (but you do that with AB, Mark!) and so they said they’d do two more then finish, with the carrot of a post-show meet and greet to follow. Ending with ‘Wish You Well’ (absolutely nothing to do with a similarly-titled Whitesnake number!) they left us hot and exhausted by the end.

Tremonti band at Birmingham

Tremonti band at Birmingham

I didn’t fancy getting into a big crowd for a meet and greet with no guarantee I’d actually meet the guys (they had a curfew to work to) so decided to get out as soon as the last powerchord rang out. Or at least that was the plan! Actually getting out of this place proved to be troublesome, the exits clogged up completely with nobody moving for at least 15 minutes. When we eventually got through that door leading to the upstairs foyer, we saw why – there was already a queue formed outside for the aforementioned meet and greet and it was causing problems with the exits. The foyer itself was crowded, queueing people seemingly in all directions, and even getting down the stairs back to the corridor was a slow process since the merch stand was right at the bottom, causing yet more crowding. This is something that this venue needs to look at – it’s completely unacceptable to have exits blocked even at the best of times, what if there were an incident? As said, I’ve never been to this place before and it left a bit of a poor impression on me, this would never be allowed at a sporting event so why is it tolerated at a music event?

To conclude, although the band (and openers) were good, this is a venue I’d think twice about visiting again based on this one experience.

4 – Deserving