Caught Live: Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts (with The Amorettes), Waterloo Music Bar Blackpool 22nd June 2019

Much as I would love to say I came along to check out a band I’d never heard of before, that’s only partially true. I had only heard of this band a few days prior, but the impulse decision to come to this show was based on the fact that The Amorettes were support. The band as we knew it actually split earlier this year with the departure of the McKay sisters (drummer Hannah and bassist Heather) leaving singer/guitarist Gill Montgomery to rebuild. In one of those strange coincidences you get from time to time, at around the same time Aussie trio Tequila Mockingbyrd had just parted company with their own singer/guitarist. So, two bands of a similar style, one needing a rhythm section and the other needing a frontwoman, it only made sense that these should join forces especially since it was heavily suggested by fans of both bands that this should happen. The hybrid Tequila Amorettes have announced they’ll honour previously booked dates by both, and in addition to this they have just expanded the live line-up to a foursome with the addition of second guitarist Laurie Buchanan.

As it turned out this was only the second full show performed by the new line-up, at this converted pub in the southern end of Blackpool. A dedicated rock bar and live venue with a reasonably big stage and a decent viewing area for a pub, this was also only the second time I’d ventured to this place for a gig this year. The T-Byrd/Amorettes came on led by drummer Josie O’Toole, who sat at her kit and just slammed it for the next hour. Any concern that this merged band wouldn’t be quite the same was soon dispelled as the T-byrds drove along this material with just as much oomph as the McKay sisters did, powering through a set of around ten songs – all of which were designed to get fists pumping and heads shaking. O’Toole really has some motor in her, giving it the beans and locking in superbly with bassist Jacinta Jaye. The addition of a second guitarist proved to be useful mid-set when Montgomery lost the low E string of her guitar while playing, she demonstrated impressive dexterity in getting the errant string off while still singing her lines! The fact she had a rhythm guitarist covering the parts helped of course but it was amazing to see her playing, singing and being guitar tech all at the same time. Proof that women are much better at multitasking than we fellas, then (!)

I’m not sure whether this arrangement will continue beyond the tours booked for both acts, but if you go to see either ‘The Amorettes’ or ‘Tequila Mockingbyrd’ this year you’ll get these four ladies, and you’ll get a hard-hitting, hard-rocking set in either case. I’d hope that this line-up will carry on past this year, whichever name they choose to go with as the Aussie pairing fitted in like they’d always been there. I see no reason why they can’t play a set combining the two band’s songs whether they continue as The Amorettes or Tequila Mockingbyrd. Excellent stuff and we hadn’t had the main act yet!

When you’ve not heard a note from a band before seeing them for the first time it’s difficult to write much about them, so to cut to the chase I did enjoy Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts, but it took me a few numbers to get into it. All of the band came on wearing suits and ties, Hamilton himself also in a hat, and they played a set which to me was like a harder Blackberry Smoke with added infusions of humour. A five-piece band with a potent lead guitarist in Dave Winkler, and Carol Hodge on keyboards and backing vocals, rounded out by drummer Mickey Richards and bassist Rob Lane, I’d assumed that because Hamilton is American (Texan, to be exact) that the rest of the band were too. Not so, all bar Hamilton are British and between songs, he made much of the cultural differences between his country and ours. He had this crowd give several ‘yeeeeehaaaawww’ chants, much to his amusement, and made many jokes about British slang words not known in the US. In addition, he was amused to have it pointed out what the acronym of their latest album ‘This Is The Sound’ spelt out (has anybody mentioned this to Swiss prog-metallers Cellar Darling, by the way?) 😀

Though there is a clear country influence to their sound (Hamilton himself does sound like Charlie Starr vocally) they’re probably a bit too far over to the rock side to appeal to country fans, not that this mattered to a pretty decent crowd, all of whom had me at a disadvantage since they all knew this stuff!

I’d certainly go and see these again if they came near me, but it was the Amorettes now powered by Tequila (Mockingbyrd) which led me to jump in the car and head up the M6, and I look forward to seeing more of this merger in the near future.

Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts Facebook page

The Amorettes Facebook Page

Tequila Mockingbyrd Facebook Page

 

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

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DORJA release new single/video ahead of full album release

A year after international hard rock collective DORJA issued their debut album (‘Gemini’) to crowdfunders they are finally ready to release the record officially this month. Gearing up for that, they’ve already put out two tracks online complete with promo videos, firstly ‘Chainbreaker’ and now the title track ‘Gemini’ has come out.

The video for ‘Gemini’ (directed by Dan Coffey) sees the various band members in low key lighting, performing against a black background alongside reflections of themselves, while vocalist Aiym Almas is shown flicking through and then dropping Polaroid photos, which are later revealed to be portraits of the band members themselves. Also there’s another scene showing the singer conducting a ‘photo shoot’ with the rest of the band, which was of interest to a camera geek like me, since they were using what looks to me like a vintage Bronica SQ-A medium format camera. Their earlier video for ‘Chainbreaker’ utilised on-stage footage intercut with scenes from the road, with the studio recording soundtrack up until the final minute where it segues into the band actually performing live, getting the crowd to chant ‘DOR-JA’ as they did during this number when I saw them last year.

Also released recently was a stripped-back version of ‘Use You’; described as ‘acoustic’ although both guitarist Sarah Michelle and bass player Becky Baldwin are using their regular instruments, this shows the quintet in a relaxed, informal setting with three of them on a sofa (!), while drummer Anna Mylee is sat playing the cajon.

‘Gemini’ will see a full release on 21st June 2019; as one of the crowdfunders I got my copy a year ago and have reviewed it here. Following this the band are looking to play a run of dates in the UK and Europe around August; when they come around I shall be in attendance.

http://www.dorjaband.com

 

Album: Holly Henderson ‘Monday Green’ (Trend & Chaos)

I heard her first before I saw her. Four years ago in Liverpool, having just joined an all-girl band Holly Henderson introduced herself with a mighty blast of rhythm guitar, before stepping onto the stage (somewhat tentatively) to join the others. She was performing under a stage name then, but she elevated that group single-handedly, bringing not just looks but a feisty attitude, as well as a mastery of her instrument well beyond her years (she was just 19 at the time).

Even then it was clear she was going to go much further than playing rhythm guitar for a touring cover band; when not playing live she was also putting out home-recorded demos on YouTube, of her own material as well as some selected covers of artists who influenced her. These demos were eventually collected into an EP, released online (‘Opium Drip’, 2016), but by the time that had happened her home recordings had caught the ear of Pete Thorn, a Canadian guitarist and producer based in Los Angeles who has recorded with many ‘names’ in the industry. He established contact with her and after hearing her cover of David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’, he did something remarkable: he invited her over to Los Angeles to record a full album in his studio, with some of his fellow professionals, furthermore he actually paid for the plane ticket himself!

Holly Henderson 'Monday Green' cover photo

Holly Henderson ‘Monday Green’ cover photo

The album was mostly recorded in early 2017, with finishing touches added later that year but only now is the complete album seeing the light of day. In the meantime Holly has gone on to release two more EPs (‘Desert Wax’, 2017; ‘Rust’, 2018), venturing into a more electronic style, as well as appearing on sessions for other artists. When I finally got my hands on this completed album (it is only available digitally at the moment, either for streaming or purchase) I was a little concerned that because I’ve got to know Holly over the past few years, even travelling down to her home town of Maidstone on two separate occasions just to see her perform material from this album live, I might have become a little too ‘invested’ in this project to give it an objective appraisal. Hence, it has had a LOT of play over the past few days; on constant play in the car or via the download I got from Google Play (other platforms are available!) before putting fingers to laptop keyboard.

Opening with ‘Uncommon’, a co-write with Pete Thorn, this number sets the tone with a quietish opening before the guitars are unleashed. You’d expect a good portion of guitar when you’ve got a highly-regarded six-stringer as producer, and axe fans aren’t going to be disappointed here. It’s not a hard rock or Metal project by any stretch of the imagination, but rockers will find much to savour here. ‘We Sold The Earth’ is one I do know from her live performances, in which she laments the fact that almost everything on Earth is the property of huge corporations (‘We sold the Earth and all its creations, all its colours‘).

What’s clear from this album as opposed to her home-recorded work is that her voice is much more prominent here. She didn’t previously consider herself a singer; whereas before she’d multi-track her vocals heavily or swamp her voice in effects, that’s been pared back on this album, allowing her voice to find an identity, as opposed to a choir of Hollys. That’s down to Pete Thorn, who encouraged her to use her voice much more, as is evidenced on ‘Somebody Knows’ and lead-off single ‘Loneliness’. The latter is an immediately catchy, instantly memorable uptempo rocker that is a sure-fire radio favourite, if radio is savvy enough to pick up on it that is! ‘Pride Can Wait’ was also released ahead of the full album, and this is a completely different kettle of fish. A quieter number not too far removed from her ‘Opium Drip’ material, the production on this song is lush and showcases what a gorgeous voice she has. It builds up into a power ballad with the guitars gradually coming to the fore.

The next track ‘Doldrums’ is my personal favourite of the album, another slow-burner like ‘Pride Can Wait’ which reminds me a little of Radiohead (another of her influences). Again, her voice is allowed to shine, with layers only used where necessary. This is probably the most ‘prog’ track on the album, with the song eventually breaking into a fantastic guitar solo at around the two minute 30 mark. Breathtaking. How do you follow that? Why, with a song about a ‘bad Tinder date’ of course! ‘Ghost of Denmark Street’ was influenced by a real-life encounter and features a half-spoken vocal over a prominent bass line, with an acerbic lyric recounting how that date didn’t exactly go as hoped! Once again, she delivers a searing guitar solo to go with the line of ‘Little psycho boy, I wanna take you home‘ (the song was originally titled ‘Psycho’ when performed live.)

‘Your Hands’ (which originally featured on ‘Opium Drip’) comes next. Here it has been shortened, tightened up, with a cleaner sound once again bringing Holly’s voice further up but retaining the killer guitar solo at the end. What I take from listening to this song and the album as a whole is how good the production is; it could so easily have ended up as a Pete Thorn album featuring Holly Henderson, but not a bit of it. He’s subtly, but effectively brought the best out of her, sharpening her sound and giving her a platform to showcase her immense talent, but without taking anything away from who she is. That is also down to the other players on the album; it must have been a privilege to play alongside top talent such as bassist Jon Button (currently touring with The Who) and drummer Blair Sinta who has performed with world-renowned names such as Chris Cornell and Stevie Nicks among many others.

‘Cost of Love’ will probably have you singing ‘Roxanne’ over its Police-style guitar riff, with some memorable lines (‘the heat always rises in the cracks in the council house window‘ and ‘you crushed my conscience and you took it like a drug; now the world is on fire and our leaders are drunk‘). Another uptempo number which would sound great on radio, once again if the powers that be are actually paying attention! Closing number ‘Frantic’ once again starts off with gently tinkling guitar, and on this occasion Holly has deployed the layered vocal to introduce the main body of the song. It’s this song which provides the background to the cover image of Holly playing guitar sat on the loo – she actually recorded the guitar part for the pre-chorus in the bathroom to get the desired sound! I suppose it’s not quite Deep Purple in the Grand Hotel but y’know, the end justifies the means! This one has a huge chorus sound which is likely to stick in the mind after the album finishes. Unless of course you play the whole thing over again (!)

As said earlier I was wondering whether the fact I have got to know Holly as a friend would impact on my thoughts on this record. but there is no doubt about what a well-produced, well-recorded set this is. If she didn’t have the writing and playing talent to start off with no amount of production sheen would hide it, but she has it all in her locker. What Pete Thorn and his players have provided is the sharp focus to make sure that talent gets recognised. This album was well worth waiting for, and what’s worth remembering is that this material is two to three years old. A lot’s happened since then, and this is one of the few artists I know where I honestly don’t know what to expect from her next. The genuinely exciting thing is that unlike some so-called ‘alternative’ acts who have gotten huge by sticking to what works, by ‘staying inside the box’, Holly has a whole collection of boxes, of different shapes, sizes and colours to choose from, so what will follow from this album is a mystery to me. But I am looking forward to finding out!

‘Monday Green’ (a pun title, based on ‘mondegreen’ or misheard song words) is everything I’d hoped for and more besides. Despite being close to this whole thing in so far as having followed her journey from backing musician in a cover band to her recording in LA with some of the best in the business, I’ve no other option than to award the full five inflatable guitars. Sadly for Holly, they’re not inflatable Telecasters though!

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

www.hollyhendersonmusic.com

Album: Desensitised ‘Sister Psychosis’ (Sound-Hub)

In this day and age when pretty much all the media outlets are controlled by a handful of huge corporations, and only those who are carefully selected and vetted by the ‘gatekeepers’ get to be presented to the masses gift-wrapped for their adulation, it’s good to know that you still can get to hear of a band by old-fashioned word of mouth. My first encounter with Desensitised came two years ago, at a birthday bash organised by a fellow gig-going friend, who’d seen this band several times and booked them to play (also performing at that event was Lauren Tate from Hands off Gretel, another band I found out about from the grapevine).

Desensitised album cover 'Sister Psychosis'

Desensitised album cover ‘Sister Psychosis’

That night, they were playing acoustically and without any drums; I’ve since seen them numerous times plugged in, electric and untamed and so I was looking forward to hearing this first full album from the trio. They have a following of mainly punk fans, but this album does cover a few bases in its eight tracks.  Opening track ‘Emily’ is a typically energetic piece of power pop, about a girl of ‘beauty beyond belief’ who is also ‘eaten up by jealousy’. The punkier ‘You’ll See’ (a previous single) keeps the energy levels high, with meaty guitar from Libby Butters-Smith and a powerful roar from bassist/singer Charlotte Radford, with following tracks ‘All Eyes On Her’ and ‘Messed Around’ showing their knack for a catchy chorus.

Things ratchet up a notch with ‘Wasted’, with a pounding bass line and heavy guitar sound more akin to the hard rock of The Amorettes, then comes ‘I See Red’, a pogo-able number sounding like it could have come from the 1978 post-punk era. Penultimate track ‘Burn The Witch’ has also been previously released; a favourite of mine, it’s a slow, menacing track unlike pretty much everything that’s come before with Radford showing remarkable range to her voice, low rumbles in the verses and power in the choruses.

For all this however they saved the best until last; ‘He Loves Me Not’ is the archetypal acoustic ballad with which to close things. Radford’s vocal delivery on this one is spine-tingling, she shows here she’s no mere punk shouter but a singer of versatile talent. Indeed it is she who truly shines on this record; whenever I’ve seen the girls live it’s been glamorous guitarist Libby Butters-Smith who caught the attention with her untamed stage antics, reminiscent of Este Haim but on record, the bassist/singer comes across as a star waiting to be discovered. One other thing to note is the drum sound, a satisfyingly solid delivery from Claire Brookes and something that isn’t always evident on records from certain other bands with far higher budgets than Desensitised had.

I have only one real quibble with this album – it’s too damn short! At eight tracks, most of which are short and to the point, totalling 25 minutes, it’s certainly snappy but there’s a definite sense of being left wanting more; I found myself humming that melody from ‘He Loves Me Not’ almost immediately after it ended and it wouldn’t leave my head for some time after.

Charlotte, Libby and Claire can rightly be proud of this record, self-funded and released and already garnering acclaim. They’ve had airplay on Planet Rock’s New Rock Show and their gigs are now starting to draw in growing numbers of attendees, so it’s to be hoped they find their way to my part of the world before someone snaps them up to a major deal! Despite the brevity of this debut album, I will still award all five inflatable guitars.

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

Desensitised Facebook page

Album: Whitesnake ‘Flesh & Blood’ (Frontiers)

Cover art for Whitesnake 'Flesh & Blood'

Cover art for Whitesnake ‘Flesh & Blood’

Released 12 months later than scheduled, Whitesnake have finally issued their 13th studio album, Flesh & Blood. Available in multiple formats: as a straightforward CD,  a deluxe CD/DVD edition with bonus material (including two tracks not featured on the standard edition), digital download or for vinyl revivalists, you have a choice of red, silver or gold for your honest twelve inches of Whitesnake, or you can just have plain old black vinyl.  The first album of original material to feature the current line-up, it marks the first time mainman David Coverdale has written alongside long-serving guitarist Reb Beach, as well as with relative newcomer Joel Hoekstra.

Even the most ardent Whitesnake fan will accept now that Coverdale isn’t the singer he once was, that ‘lung-busting roar’ of yesteryear is now supplanted by a vocal blend, with Coverdale heavily backed on stage by every other member bar drummer Tommy Aldridge. For a guy who will be 68 this year though, he nevertheless must feel that he has something left to give since he still wants to produce new music, not just trot out the hits of three decades ago.

There are few surprises here, despite the new blood, though one does manifest itself in the very first number ‘Good To See You’. Coverdale has dropped an F-bomb on record for what I am sure is the first time (he’s notorious for using that word practically as punctuation when on stage), as he urges us all to ‘make some f- noise’.  All the usual tropes are present and correct, fun songs made for the stage (‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’; ‘Trouble Is Your Middle Name’) ones that promise he’ll be around ‘Always & Forever’, or those that show his sensitive side (‘When I Think of You’). That also means he’s used just about every one of his lyrical cliches at his disposal on this album; when not rhyming ‘fire’ with ‘desire’ he’s ‘tongue-tied’ with his ‘temperature rising’ or someone is making him ‘beg and plead’ yet again.  You could play lyric bingo with this album and get a full house of all his favourite phrases, which you’ve heard many times before on just about any previous Whitesnake record.

I did note that this line-up has managed to emulate successfully several different past eras, for instance second track in ‘Gonna Be Alright’ is reminiscent of Coverdale/Page with those brooding, menacing guitars hanging over proceedings. ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ meanwhile, could have come off ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ – perhaps that’s Reb Beach’s influence, he can do a pretty good Vai when required. The poppier ‘Always and Forever’, with its Lizzy-esque twin guitar will make you think of ‘Guilty of Love’, while closing number ‘Sands of Time’ is another attempt by Coverdale to recreate the epic magic of  Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’.  Even here though, he’s peppered the song with hackneyed clichés like ‘winds of change’, and ‘eye of the storm’.

Realistically, this late in the day Coverdale isn’t going to come out with a complete change of image and direction, you know what you’re getting with him by now. However I cannot be the only one who was tempted to throttle the speakers (or stomp on my earbuds, listening to it on Spotify for review purposes) when he came out with yet another promise to ‘set the night on fire’!

Even the cover art, another variation on the ‘amulet’ theme used for every album since 1987 is starting to look a bit hackneyed now. I’m all for brand identity and all that, but Whitesnake once used to give us fun, if sometimes risqué covers for their albums, not just the same old ‘Serpens Albus’ thing in a different colour and a slightly different pattern in the background for each record. So, a bit of a mixed bag; some good stuff (‘Heart of Stone’ is the highpoint of this whole record, that shows the man still has a good tune in him), some fine playing from the guys backing him and also a lot of recycling of old ideas and lyrical phrases we’ve heard many times before. If you’re a fan you’ve probably bought this album already; if you’re wavering then I’d give it a cautious ‘yes’ – but do get the deluxe edition, since the bonus tracks are (in my view) good enough to have been included on the album proper in place of at least two others which did make the cut. ‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’ is a slow-burner with some tasty guitar licks, while ‘If I Can’t Have You’ does have a surprise in it, with a Queen-style harmony vocal intro before the main riff smashes in.  These, plus ‘Heart of Stone’ means this offering squeaks four inflatable guitars.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

CATS in SPACE reveal their new frontman

UK rock revivalists CATS in SPACE have announced the name of their new lead singer this week, who takes over the role from Paul Manzi. They announced it in a short video clip posted to Facebook and YouTube, along with additional news that they are working on new studio material and that the tour in support of current album ‘Day Trip To Narnia’ will resume soon.

New vocalist Mark Pascall is a name unfamiliar to me, he is also lead singer in melodic rock band Departed who have toured in support of Inglorious. On the evidence of that band’s songs available to listen to online, he will be a good fit for the band. Possessing a powerful tenor voice, he will have big shoes to fill of course but certainly sounds up to the job of presenting the CATS songs live, alongside incumbent members Jeff Brown (bass), Andy Stewart (keyboards), Steevi Bacon (drums) as well as guitarists Greg Hart and Dean Howard. The band are known for their intricate vocal harmonies and so they have chosen well here.

Meanwhile, former frontman Paul Manzi has joined veteran glam rockers The Sweet; that band (still featuring original guitarist Andy Scott) will be playing dates of their own later in the year.

I look forward to seeing what Mark Pascall brings to the CAT universe, I intend to see the new incarnation as soon as they return to my part of the world.

Presented is ‘Are You Ready’ by Departed featuring vocalist Mark Pascall:

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

Departed Facebook Page

The Sweet Facebook Page

 

Caught Live: CATS in SPACE, Tivoli Venue Buckley 10th May 2019

After three years and three studio albums (plus a live mini-album), several tours supporting some of the major names in the UK rock scene, and a fan base that’s grown exponentially since the band’s inception, it came as a bit of a shock to learn last month that vocalist Paul Manzi was leaving CATS in SPACE after this run of dates. He has been recruited by veteran glam rockers The Sweet, whose guitarist and sole original member Andy Scott has previously collaborated with the Cats. The band themselves seem to be more relaxed about the situation than some of their fans, which suggests they knew what was coming and have prepared accordingly. Consequently I expect a new lead Cat at the microphone to be announced before long, but this show was a chance to bid farewell to the voice that we have become accustomed to on those meticulously-produced albums.

This gig was a three-band bill, and I got in to catch the last bit of  openers Wasted Fate’s set. They were good live, and I enjoyed their cover of Stone Broken’s ‘Wait For You’. Next up were Jimi Anderson Group, who have nothing to do with a fast bowler from the England cricket team! This Jimi Anderson is Scottish, and leads a six-piece band featuring two guitarists. He is a very good singer, with the band performing melodic rock not a million miles removed from Little Angels way back in the early 1990s. He did have to work hard to get the partisan Cat Fans gathered near the front on side, but gave a fine performance.

Those Cat Fans got a bit excited prematurely when the lights went down 15 minutes earlier than scheduled and ‘Stray Cat Strut’ (the intro tape) played through the PA, but the band weren’t ready yet so the mixtape soon resumed. When they did come on, Paul Manzi created an instant impression dressed in his natty long coat with silver trimming. Kicking things off with ‘Johnny Rocket’ from the latest album, they delivered a set taking in all three albums, following up with ‘Too Many Gods’, title track of their 2015 debut. It was clear from the off what an accomplished band this is, although I’ve followed them from the start this was only the second full set I’ve seen them play. Able to recreate live those intricate vocal harmonies thanks to guitarist Greg Hart and especially bassist Jeff Brown (almost Glenn Hughes-esque in his bass/vocal role) contributing heavily, they all also contribute visually – not just standing there gazing at their shoes but moving all over the stage, getting the crowd involved, while never missing a cue. Manzi’s ability to project this material was also noteworthy, plenty of facial and visual expressions to go with his superb lead vocal.

Midway through there came a brief acoustic section, where the band all lined up sat on stools to perform three numbers. I often liken these guys to the Dead Daisies (the Cats are of similar vintage and experience) and this part was reminiscent of what that band do mid-set. One treat for us was an acoustic rendition of ‘Man In The Moon’ which is seldom performed nowadays. During this section the other guitarist Dean Howard was evidently struggling to hear himself, between numbers he was bashing out chords to the amusement of the other guys. He couldn’t hear his monitor – however, out front he was loud and clear, as the audience quickly assured him!

The main set resumed with ‘Last Man Standing’, their lament to the decline of  London’s Denmark Street which once played host to music stores, as well as publishers and writers, prefaced by a short audio montage of news reports about the area’s loss to developers. Before they played ‘Hologram Man’ guitarist Greg Hart spoke about the importance of live music; he’s passionate about the live experience and is so dismayed at the increasing use of ‘on track’ in performances and more recently, the advent of holographic recreations of deceased stars, that he felt he had to stress the point before playing the song the band wrote about this phenomenon. It had particular significance since the date was close to the ninth anniversary of Ronnie James Dio’s passing, one of those artists who have been ‘revived’ in hologram form.

They saved the best of an already brilliant show until last, as they gave us a superb rendition of ‘Greatest Story Never Told’ – or as your correspondent has dubbed it, ‘Greatest Song John Miles Never Wrote’ (!) It is stylistically similar to ‘Music’, the epic that defined Miles’ career and this band has not been shy in admitting the influence of the 70s singer/songwriter on their own material. They closed with ‘Five Minute Celebrity’ before coming back for a short drum solo courtesy of Steevi Bacon, leading into the disco-flavoured ‘Thunder In The Night’. Then that was it, and the band took their bows before a cheering and delighted audience of Cat Fans. That was about the first time we got to see keyboardist Andy Stewart properly, as he was stationed right at the back of the Tivoli’s  deep stage all evening.

A superb set performed with panache by top class musicians, they showed on stage they can rock as hard as anyone, which may surprise those who see them as a bit ‘mellow’ for the rock scene. That’s especially true of at least one media outlet who claim they aren’t suitable for their radio station – all I can say is that if Thunder, Status Quo and Deep Purple thought they were a suitable opening act, then there’s surely little doubt this band is eminently suitable for a rock radio programme!  Paul Manzi will of course be missed, but I am confident his successor will carry the torch and this band will continue to go from strength to strength.

 

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

Jimi Anderson Group Facebook Page

Wasted Fate Facebook Page

 

 

Single: Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ (Trend & Chaos)

It’s been a long time coming but at last, Maidstone’s Holly Henderson is ready to release her first full-length album. Recorded back in 2017 in LA, after she was discovered by renowned guitarist and producer Pete Thorn via the magic of the internet, he then brought her over to Los Angeles to cut the album. The album has been completed and ready to go for some time, but only now have things aligned so that the album (which we now know is entitled ‘Monday Green’) will see a 2019 release. Leading things off is the single ‘Loneliness’, which emerged on all streaming platforms literally moments before I took to this laptop to write this post!

First heard in demo form on a BBC Introducing radio slot in 2017, ‘Loneliness’ is the obvious choice for lead-off single. An uptempo rocker with a introductory guitar riff that has a slight taste of Pearl Jam to these ears, and a lyric which, in her own words is “about being all dressed up with nowhere to go, of being a hopeless romantic in the modern age. We fabricate our best selves online, yet we stay in the confines of our bedrooms and become trapped in a superficial circle of proving ourselves to everyone, and getting nothing tactile and genuine back in return.

There is also a promo video for the song, directed by George Mays who previously directed the video for ‘Breakdown’. This clip is a simpler affair, showing Holly in various guises, illustrating the sentiment behind the song where she takes on different ‘looks’ while never leaving her sofa.

The finished version of ‘Loneliness’ now has a few subtle guitar enhancements added in the background, but is pretty much what we heard when the song first got an airing on BBC Radio Kent. Having previously had the chance to see her perform this and several other songs from the upcoming album live, I’m really looking forward to hearing the recorded versions when the album finally lands on my mat. Of course there’ll be a full write-up on here when it does, but for now enjoy ‘Loneliness’ – musically, not literally!

Holly Henderson 'Loneliness' single cover

Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ single cover

Link to Flaunt online magazine article and video premiere of ‘Loneliness’

Holly Henderson Music website

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

Caught Live: Monster Truck (with Royal Tusk), Academy 2 Manchester 20th April 2019

Never mind Same Night Syndrome, Manchester University Students Union (who run the Academy group)  have taken it up a level. Same Venue Syndrome! They hosted three gigs simultaneously, all of which I would have liked to attend, but with Massive Wagons playing the upper floor (Academy 3) and American rockers Papa Roach also playing at the main Academy, you might have thought that might impact on the attendance for Canadian ‘true rockers’ Monster Truck. Not a bit of it – as vocalist/bassist Jon ‘Marv’ Harvey’ informed us during their set, this date was the fastest-selling one of their UK dates.

I got into the Academy 2 (also known as Main Debating Hall) to find it already filling up, as openers Royal Tusk were on the stage. The four-piece (also Canadian) were making their UK debut on this tour; playing a style not too far removed from the Truck themselves they gave a good account of themselves. Vocalist Daniel Carriere was a bit of a Meniketti, demonstrating a good voice and also fine lead guitar prowess. He took many of the lead solos himself although guitarist Quinn Cyrankiewicz (you’re gonna be known as just Quinn from here on in, fella!) also got his share of the spotlight. They harmonise vocally similar to the Truck, and bassist Sandy Mackinnon was up front too, making a formidable front line. Towards the end they threw in a surprise cover of Audioslave’s ‘Cochise’, which Carriere handled very well. I’ll look out for these should they come back to the UK, and especially if they find their way to Liverpool!

Monster Truck had this crowd in their palms from the off, opening with stomper ‘The Lion’. They then got a (wait for it) monster singalong second song in, when they launched into ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’. The sold-out crowd were hollering ‘soooarrrr like an eagle’ lustily, back at ‘Marv’ and his cohorts. The set was a mix of all their albums to date, though ‘True Rockers’ is the current offering and several from that were duly played, I suspect that previous album ‘Sittin’ Heavy’ got more songs aired. Not that I was complaining, since the aforementioned ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ is a favourite, as are other bangers like ‘She’s A Witch’ and ‘The Enforcer’ with its crowd-friendly ‘whoa-ohohoh’ refrain. Lots of their material is designed to involve the crowds with shoutalongs like this, allied to satisfyingly meaty riffs from guitarist Jeremy Widerman, big sounding drums from Steve Kiely and that classic organ touch from Brandon Bliss. On top of all that is ‘Marv’ himself, with a rock vocal strong enough to stand with the greats. When not at the mic, he headbangs with menace, stood near the drum riser to allow his guitarist to do his best Angus Young act, all over the stage, never still for a moment.

This was one of those gigs where the band couldn’t put a foot wrong, for me at least even if they’d played a set of polka or something, once they’d given us ‘Don’t Tell Me How To Live’ it would still have been great. As it was, with absolute corkers like ‘Thundertruck’, ‘The Lion’ (which they opened with) and of course singalong favourite ‘Sweet Mountain River’, this was a complete triumph. Gig of the year for me so far, the Truck ticked every box and left me with a post-gig Cheshire Cat grin, always a sign of a corker.

Only slight downer – that old Same Venue Syndrome thing – as we went to exit, they let us out onto the same bit of corridor as the crowd exiting Massive Wagons on the upper floor, causing some crowding. That should have been staggered better, but even that couldn’t detract from a terrific night of proper old-fashioned heavy rock played hard, played like they used to in the old days. Five inflatable guitars coming up!

Monster Truck Facebook Page

Royal Tusk Facebook Page

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

 

Caught Live: Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters, Tivoli Venue Buckley 13th April 2019

I’d been looking forward to this one for some time. The management at the Tivoli are always willing to give newer bands a shot and it was great to see that they’d booked Beth Blade and her band for this legendary venue, a rock ‘n’ roller steeped in the old school although yet to hit her mid-twenties herself. I keep seeing Beth at other bands’ gigs, she’s as dedicated a fan as she is a performer but this was the first time I would see her tread a stage with a guitar.

It was a three band bill, and as usual with my busy schedule I got there in time to miss openers Marble Parlour. Apologies to them, especially since I was reliably informed they are a fine band worth checking out, so maybe next time. I did see local band Violets Leap, who were a decent hard rock act with a particularly good guitarist in ‘Gavin’ (they don’t appear to believe in surnames!) Vocalist ‘Jonathan’ asked the attendees were they ready for ‘The Blade’, which prompted a bit of ribbing from his bandmates!

After quite a bit of setting up, Beth and her Disasters plugged it in and rocked it out! They have a new album recently released (‘Show Me Your Teeth’) and they gave us several numbers from that, but also quite a lot from first offering ‘Bad Habit’. One thing I spotted straight away was that there was just the one microphone on the stage, no backing vocals required here! ‘The Blade’ carried it all off herself, even for songs such as ‘You and I’ which on record do have backing vocal, it was just the one voice delivering it live. One big voice! Beth is often compared to Lzzy Hale, and on this evidence it’s easy to see why. She was reminiscent of early Lzzy, she has that same power in her delivery. Sporting a Paul Stanley signature Ibanez guitar, she is also a mean rhythm guitarist providing plenty of wallop, and alongside drummer Sam Brain and bassist Dan Rowe (I’m not sure whether he is a full-time member; they have been performing with stand-in bassists for some time now, Beth herself played bass on the recent album) they gave the ideal platform for guitarist Luke Strickland Gilmore to do his best Doug Aldrich on the lead. Midway through, she performed ‘Poster Girl For Pain’ solo, before which she admitted to a few nerves. Needlessly, as it turned out!

As a frontwoman, Beth exudes confidence, striding to the front and getting those who were hovering near the bar to come closer to the stage. Aware of the significance of playing a venue which has seen (among countless others) the likes of Thunder, the Quireboys and going back really far – Slade – tread these boards, she was quick to praise manager Rokib Miah (rockin’ Rokib, as she called him) for booking this date. My only slight quibble was that they didn’t perform ‘1974’, the nostalgia-flavoured song on the current album which namechecks numerous classic bands. Make sure to include that next time, Beth!

She’s been a gig buddy at previous shows I’ve attended but from now on I’m a fan, and I look forward to catching ‘The Lancashire Lzzy’ and her boys at another gig very soon.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Beth Blade and the Beautiful Disasters Facebook Page