Whitesnake to release tour book. Dig deep!

Forty years after founding the band, David Coverdale announced this week that Whitesnake are to issue a book chronicling ‘The Purple Tour’ of 2015, in which Coverdale celebrated his days as singer of Deep Purple. The band had released an album of reworked classics from the Mk III and Mk IV versions of Purple, and revived several of those songs for Whitesnake’s live set. It was a surprising move for long-term fans of that band, since Coverdale had stated consistently in many interviews that he much preferred to look forward rather than back. However, the release of a covers album did help take some of the pressure off incoming guitarist Joel Hoekstra, who had at that time just taken over from Doug Aldrich, Coverdale’s long-serving co-writer, co-producer and guitarist.

Now, the band are gearing up for a busy 2018 with a new studio album on the way, a live document of The Purple Tour to be released on CD and DVD/Blu-Ray, as well as the book, titled ‘The Purple Tour – A Photographic Journey’. It is their first ever officially-sanctioned book and will run to 300 pages, which they promise will be “…packed with exclusive behind the scenes photos, notes from the band and a song by song breakdown of the tour’s epic setlist.” They’ve really gone to town on the presentation too; even the standard edition (yep, there’s a regular and deluxe edition) is LP-sized, and comes in its own slipcase. The signed, deluxe edition will be hardcover, signed by each member of the band and in a slipcase incorporating a lenticular design. Coverdale described it (in his typically brusque fashion) as a “f**king huge coffee table book, about the size of a f**king huge encyclopaedia, a historical photographic journey from the beginning of ‘The Purple Album’ to the end of the last show in the U.K. in Sheffield. The book’s f**king beautiful to have.”
If all of that isn’t enough for you, if you get your pre-order in before 9th November 2017 you can get your name in to the book.  Reaching for the piggybank now? Wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute there…

Click image to order from Rufus Publications

All this lavishness won’t come cheap. For the standard edition, prepare to fork out the best part of a ton (it will sell for £95) and make sure you have somewhere to keep it safe and nice, printed on what they proclaim is ‘170gsm artpaper’ (so, fancy then) you’ll probably want to handle it wearing cotton gloves. That’s before we get on to the deluxe edition! This one will sell for a staggering £250; that’s right – TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS, and if you’re so much of a fan of the ‘Snakes to consider either of these editions, they’re presumably thinking you’ll want that edition and are prepared to dig deep indeed for it. This edition will be limited to 300 copies worldwide (the standard edition is limited to 500 copies) so it will be exclusive alright, as well as expensive. As a long-term Whitesnake fan myself, this is something I’ll be passing up. I could see a few gigs for that, or even in this age of high-priced vinyl revival have several LPs to listen to. I could even have a reasonably-specified turntable on which to play them!

It is, to me a case of the band as a brand; Whitesnake as a brand has other products out such as wine, there is ‘Whitesnake Workout’ gymwear available if that is your thing as well as a lavish reissue of the 1987 album, plus the usual array of t-shirts in different designs. They clearly feel their brand is strong enough to attract interest in a book like this and, if you have the house room and pockets deep enough, why not?

For me though, I’ll settle for the accompanying live album/DVD and await their next tour of the UK. There’s a limit to how much ‘stuff’ you can accumulate even as a long-time fan of a band, after all and I think I have reached mine! Besides, as someone who tries to support up-and-coming bands too, it would be difficult to justify laying out that kind of money for a product from a long-established act, however beautifully presented. It would need to be kept in a case anyway, so neither of these editions will be winging its way to my home!

Those who feel that they simply must have this tome whatever the cost, can click here to go to Rufus Publications and place their pre-order.

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Caught Live: Marco Mendoza (with Black Cat Bones), Studio2 Liverpool 17th October 2017

It felt a bit like a private party, such was the ‘exclusive’ attendance at this date from the US bassist, currently a member of The Dead Daisies but has played with many other major names including Ted Nugent, Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy/Black Star Riders. That, you would have thought, might have persuaded a few more out but as it was, we were fortunate that this date even took place! The original venue pulled out of the gig and it was thanks to the efforts of support band, Liverpool’s own Black Cat Bones, that the date was hastily rearranged for Studio2, once part of Parr Street studios but is now a bar and live venue, while remaining linked to the complex which still includes recording facilities. As a bonus, they’d reduced the ticket price by a few quid from the original date!

Having got to the venue I was greeted at the door by members of Black Cat Bones who advised that the show would run a little late, explaining that ‘Marco hasn’t had his soundcheck yet’. They asked us to give them 30-40 minutes and so there was only one thing for it – head to the nearby Swan Inn for a pint! During that time I caught up with a friend who was also coming to this gig and after a beer, it was back to Studio2 where the BCB lads were now ready to admit us. There was a band already on, another local band calling themselves Black Smoke. They might want to think again about that name given they played alongside another ‘Black’ named band (!) but they played loud, riffy bluesy-based hard rock and I’ll look out for them again in the future.

Studio2 still wasn’t packed by any means when Black Cat Bones themselves came on, but they had apparently brought a few friends along as the place was at its busiest during their set. I’ve seen these lads twice already this year, supporting The Answer in Manchester and also on a bill in Liverpool with Tequila Mockingbyrd and Aussie rockers Massive, so I knew what to expect. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, and their devotion to all things Guns ‘n’ Roses extends not just to vocalist Jonnie Hodson’s near-perfect recreation of W. Axl Rose’s look circa 1988 but also with drummer Ash Janes’s G’n’R t-shirt. He might look like a younger Axl, but Hodson’s stage persona is decidedly more user-friendly. For a start he comes on stage when he’s supposed to (!) and isn’t averse to having a laugh and joke both with bandmates and audience. He has a less harsh, more throaty singing voice than Axl too, and one I actually prefer. They’re an unapologetic throwback to 1980s hard rock, which may or may not be everyone’s cuppa tea but their style is chunky and meaty, with plenty of guitar attack from axemen Alan Rimmer and Adam Kerbache. They even lured Marco Mendoza himself down to the floor briefly, to watch part of their set. Like Kurt never happened? Yes, probably, but the Bones are getting themselves a reputation as ones to watch.

Jonnie Hodson of Black Cat Bones

Jonnie Hodson of Black Cat Bones

Black Cat Bones' Alan Rimmer

Black Cat Bones’ Alan Rimmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time their set ended, time was getting on, and at least half of this already small crowd left. Marco Mendoza and his cohorts came on and spent the first few minutes attending to a few technical issues, with the bassist apparently unhappy at how the rig was set up. That was adjusted, and he gave the instruction to drummer John Macaluso to kick things off. This was a trio, with Mendoza handling lead vocals accompanied by Macaluso and guitarist Micky Crystal (on loan from NWOBHM survivors Tygers of Pan Tang). With such a small attendance, the Daisies man urged those present to get right up to the stage. I was already practically ducking out of the way of his bass headstock, but was soon joined by the rest of the attendees.

Marco Mendoza at Studio2

Marco Mendoza at Studio2

Marco Mendoza

Marco Mendoza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The set was made up mostly of a selection of tracks that feature on his compilation CD ‘Viva La Rock’ (available at these dates), a collection of tracks from previous solo albums. There were also a few choice covers and even a bit of a jazzy interlude with Billie Holiday’s ‘God Bless The Child’. For this one, he actually jumped off the stage and onto the floor; he would do that several times during the performance and go on ‘walkabout’, even playing from the merch table! He is actually a very good lead vocalist; he doesn’t often get the chance to show that with the big-name bands he’s appeared alongside (though I seem to recall Nugent of all people actually giving him lead vocal for one song, when I saw him with Uncle Ted in London in 2002!) He is a commanding, even intimidating presence but he did not hog the stage; when it came to a lead guitar solo he would frequently move to the sides and allow his lead guitarist to take the spotlight. There were many treats in this set but covers of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’ (in a style closer to the original than the Chili Peppers’ version) and Thin Lizzy’s ‘Chinatown’ were particularly enjoyable, watching as I was from about half a metre away! He even invited Jonnie Hodson back onto the stage for a jam, including a cover of Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

Marco Mendoza in Liverpool

Marco Mendoza in Liverpool

Micky Crystal on guitar

Micky Crystal on guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was such a special evening, to have one of the real heavyweights of today’s classic rock scene in my own city playing what amounted to a personal gig, while making us all feel like an integral part of that performance, was something that will live long in the memory. Yes I’d have liked this place to be packed out, for reasons I cannot fathom he didn’t draw out the local ‘muso’ crowd in the same way other ‘name’ bassists have done when they came to Liverpool, but the fact that so few were here to see this made it feel like being part of an exclusive little ‘club’. He also made a point of praising Black Cat Bones, both for their set and the fact that they ensured this show took place, albeit in a different venue to the original location. A fearsome-looking man he may be but he’s one of the good guys, as well as a top-drawer musician. It was a privilege to have him here.

5 – Delightful

Album: Wayward Sons ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’ (Frontiers)

One of rock’s good guys, former Little Angels singer Toby Jepson has done several things since that band went their separate ways in the mid-90s. He toured under his own name in the early 2000s, which attracted some fans of his old band but was almost totally ignored by the rock papers, then obsessed with all things nu-metal. Following that, he had a brief spell as lead singer for reformed Scots rockers Gun, before handing over the mic to their bassist Dante Gizzi. In amongst all of that he was becoming known as a producer, working with some notable bands including Saxon and The Answer, as well as linking up with (motorcycle racer-turned singer) James Toseland for writing and production work on his band’s first album.

Now he has decided to return to the fray with a completely new band. Wayward Sons were formed in 2016, the singer recruited a line-up of experienced but not necessarily well-known players for this band. Joining him are bassist Nic Wastell, guitarist Sam Wood, drummer Phil Martini (the only name which rang a bell with me, he played for a while with Luke Morley’s post-Thunder band The Union and also with Joe Elliott’s Down ‘n’ Outz), and keyboardist Dave Kemp. Lead-off single ‘Until The End’ came out in the summer, a taster for the album. A short and snappy, hard-hitting hard rocker with a powerful vocal delivery, it got a lot of play on Planet Rock, the UK’s sole hard rock radio station (that isn’t broadcast only over the web!) Those hoping that ‘Until The End’ was representative of the band’s sound will be pleased to find that the rest of this album is very much in that style; guitar riffs right there in your face, big pounding drums, vocal pyrotechnics from Jepson (he really pushes himself on opening track ‘Alive’ to such an extent that he comes close to Glenn Hughes territory) and – enough hooks there to have you singing this stuff back after the album finishes.

waywardsonscd

There’s also some welcome variety in the lyrical content – the music is recognisably old-school hard rock, but it isn’t set to lyrics about boozing, birds and brawling. For example ‘Ghost’ is a dig at modern life and how it’s all paid for on tick (‘buy yourself a happy life, with your plastic friend’) while ‘Alive’ is similar in sentiment to Thunder’s ‘No-One Gets Out Alive’ (‘what if I said, that wealth don’t mean a thing?’)

If you’re looking for long, progressive epics on this record, look elsewhere – all the songs here are short and to the point. The longest is album closer ‘Something Wrong’, and all the other songs bar ‘Don’t Wanna Go’ clock in at under four minutes.  The overall sound is almost punky, with that guitar right up in the mix and the songs played with verve, with energy, the sort of thing that is designed to get a crowd up and bouncing from the first powerchord. It is a short album then, at around 37 minutes, but with plenty of punch in those 37 minutes to leave you in need of a cuppa (or something stronger!) after the CD comes to a standstill.

At the time of this post Wayward Sons are coming to the end of a run of UK dates supporting fellow Brit rockers Inglorious. With Jepson’s vast experience in the business both on stage and off, there could be the possibility of him working with the younger band on their third album. If they’ve had that conversation then the third album from Nathan James and company will be one to look out for. (I am of course speculating!) Wayward Sons themselves can look forward to a bright 2018, as they embark on headline dates in the early part of next year. All in all, a welcome ‘return’ for Toby Jepson as he hasn’t really gone away, but this is the band which will restore him to prominence on the British rock scene.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Stevie Nimmo Trio feat. Alan Nimmo, Live Rooms Chester 8th October 2017

When you make your living as a guitar player and singer, breaking your arm in a mountain bike accident days before you are scheduled to go on tour isn’t the cleverest thing to do.  Something readily admitted to by Scottish bluesman Stevie Nimmo, when he posted some graphic-looking X-ray pics of his busted arm on his Facebook page. Luckily for him, instead of having to cancel the tour he was able to call on the services of his brother Alan Nimmo, whose band King King are off the road at present. In an incredible case of synergy, while Stevie cannot play the guitar but can still sing, Alan is currently recuperating from a throat problem which has forced the postponement of his own band’s dates – but still has two good arms and is therefore perfectly suited to play the guitar solos Stevie would normally handle.

I was a little late getting to Chester on this night, reliant as I was on Sunday timetables the bus was a long time in coming to get me to Liverpool city centre. By the time I got there I’d missed the intended train for Chester and had to wait at least half an hour for the next one (enough time for a quick visit to a chip shop, then!) Chips consumed and I made my way to Central Station and took the escalators underground, to find that the next train was also delayed by several minutes! As it turned out, when that train finally came, the guard announced that it would bypass several stations en route. Suited me, but no doubt a pain for anyone at the intermediate stops who was intending to get there by train!

By the time I reached Chester and made the short walk to the venue, the support (The Hexmen, hailing from Liverpool) were just finishing their set. Apologies to those guys then, but there was still plenty of room in the main hall to find a spot close to the stage. The venue wasn’t as full as anticipated, especially since it was known that Alan Nimmo would be appearing, but there were many King King T-shirts in evidence among those who had made the effort.

The trio – plus one – ambled their way onto the stage a little earlier than scheduled, Stevie with his right arm in a sling and Alan opting to wear jeans rather than his trademark kilt, and demonstrating superb taste by wearing a Thin Lizzy T-shirt 😀
From the off Stevie made frequent reference to his own mishap and the inevitable ribbing he took from Alan as well as his own bandmates (‘I deserve it’, he stressed!) while praising the younger Nimmo brother for stepping in at such short notice. (‘While I was in the hospital I got a text off Alan, saying “I suppose I’d better learn your songs, now!” ‘)

chs-stevienmo

The set was heavily weighted towards Stevie’s ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ album, opening with ‘Roll The Dice Again’. When it came to a guitar solo, Stevie would step away from the microphone and position himself to the back of the stage, so that Alan could take the limelight. He did show a few signs that he missed having the guitar around his own neck, as you could see his left hand sometimes make ‘air guitar’ motions! His vocals were totally unaffected of course, he is a remarkably powerful singer and gave a first-class performance. Meanwhile,  Alan (freed from vocal duties himself) was able to throw himself completely into his guitar playing. It was as though he’d been let off a leash, he is an expressive enough player with King King but here, without having to think about singing, he seemed to relish his role even more.

chs-alannmo

The material may be ‘serious’ blues, but there was still room for some joking about, especially where Alan closed out ‘Running On Back To You’; the song ended with Alan playing the riff while Stevie (using his one good arm) turned down the volume on Alan’s guitar until it was almost inaudible. He then quipped ‘I can see the social media posts now – Stevie fiddling with Alan’s knob!’ Although the brothers worked together for many years before King King took off, it must still have been a big task for Alan to pick up this material, and perform it to such a high standard with Stevie’s band (bassist Mat Beable and drummer Craig Bacon) that a newcomer would be forgiven for thinking that Alan was an integral member of this outfit.

chs-stevie-alan1

The turnout was not quite as busy as might have been expected, especially since the presence of Alan must have generated interest,  but those who came got to see something special.  This was the second time I’d seen Stevie Nimmo (coincidentally the second time I’d seen Alan, too!) having seen Stevie’s trio at this place earlier in the year, but it won’t be the last. To conclude, if you have recently discovered King King off the back of their high-profile support appearances over the past year, you really should give the older Nimmo brother your time as well.

5gtrs

5 – Delightful

 

FOOTNOTE: The Live Rooms is a venue I’ve attended numerous times over the past year and have plans to do so again; however I recently saw a Facebook post from a well-known local musician slating its recruitment policy. I am looking into this, if verified it would be disappointing and would make me question whether it should be supported by bands or punters in future. A blog post will appear following verification of the Facebook post.

Caught Live: Living Colour (with Stone Broken), Hangar34 Liverpool 6th October 2017

They might have been a year late but, it’s such a rare opportunity to see Living Colour in the UK that this show had to be attended. Even better was that they came to Liverpool this time! A year ago they pulled out of a scheduled tour with Glenn Hughes, and although the former Purple man did rearrange his dates for early 2017 it was without the US rockers alongside. Also left stranded somewhat were Midlands rockers Stone Broken, who were scheduled to open on that tour. However, they did support Glenn Hughes on his rearranged tour and for this run, Living Colour made good on their earlier cancellation by booking the Walsall foursome as openers.

Also a year has passed since this venue, located in the Baltic Triangle district in the south end of Liverpool, first opened its doors. The area has become something of a creative hub in recent years, and in its first 12 months of operation the venue has already become a fixture on the live scene in this city. With a capacity of around 750, all standing floor but with a small balcony towards the rear, it is a venue fit enough to draw many more bands to this end of the M62. It will hopefully mean rock fans in this area won’t always have to make the journey to Manchester, as remains the case for far too many tours still.

The place from the outside looks like a nondescript factory unit, but once inside you see a nice, spacious hall with a decently-sized stage and good sight lines from pretty much wherever you are. It is located a little further away from the centre of town which is its only drawback.

On the ticket it stated the doors were to open at 7pm; not so, I got there just at that time to find there was a queue running right along the street still. They didn’t open up until at least 7:30, and after entering and finding a nice spot towards house left,  Stone Broken came on while the hall was still filling up. I was directly in line with drummer Robyn Haycock’s kit, set up towards my side of the stage. The guys and girl gave us a run-through of numbers from their promising debut album ‘All In Time’, alongside a new one (‘Doesn’t Matter’) which according to frontman Rich Moss will feature on their new album scheduled for early 2018. They have a strong sound built on heavy downtuned guitar riffs, allied to the hit-em-and-stay-hit drum style from the permanently headbanging, permanently smiling, Robyn Haycock. She had a mishap midway through this set when two cymbal stands fell over mid-song (taking out her ride, crash and one splash cymbal), which at first went unnoticed by her bandmates. She actually managed to recover the stand holding her ride cymbal before the end of the song without losing the beat, but was subjected to some ribbing from the lads when they finally noticed her picking up half her kit when they ended that number!  Stone Broken are definitely ones to watch, they are still not the finished article; apart from the slower ‘Wait For You’ it was all in a similar style. But for a band with one album under their belts, there’s plenty of time to develop their repertoire.

It’s been over ten years since last I saw Living Colour, when they played Birkenhead at the now-defunct Pacific Road Arts Centre, so I was eager to see what they brought to the table this time. Frontman Corey Glover and guitarist Vernon Reid were both sporting flat caps, the former’s tweed headgear and specs made me think he was trying out for The Lancashire Hotpots (!) All thoughts of chippy tea-inspired comedy folk were blown out of the water once they struck up though. These fellas are all virtuosos on their respective instruments, it’s sometimes hard to know where to focus the attention as both Reid and bassist Doug Wimbish throw out lick after lick, while drummer Will Calhoun thunders out some complicated fills of his own, all while holding everything together. Starting off with ‘Preachin’ Blues’, a cover of Robert Johnson which appears on LC’s latest album ‘Shade’ they followed up with ‘Wall’ from 1993’s ‘Stain’ album. This one really did make the viewer look all over the stage, there was so much going on even as the song reached its conclusion. The ‘big rock ending’ had the entire band noodling away, all this time Glover kept the vocal refrain ‘The Wall Between Us All Must Fall’ going throughout, until only his voice was left standing. The effect was more impactful than I can describe here!

The band are here to promote most recent album ‘Shade’, but the set featured several tracks from debut ‘Vivid’ including fan favourites ‘Cult of Personality’ and ‘Middle Man’. Their incendiary delivery of ‘Elvis Is Dead’ (from ‘Time’s Up’) was followed up by an equally fiery blast of ‘Hound Dog’ complete with hip-shaking from the singer! His vocal was sometimes obliterated by the heavyweight playing all around him (or perhaps it was the sound balance from my spot!) but when he could be heard, he was in fantastic voice. He’s lost nothing in almost thirty years, there are few other singers I could say the same about.

Although much of their material tackles some serious, political matter, they still have fun on the stage. Corey even took up a seat to the side of the stage, literally inches away from me to watch the other guys play at one point! There was a solo spot featuring Doug Wimbish, where he got to use his huge array of effects including an octave pedal, which allows him to emulate a guitar and play a lead solo of his own. Will Calhoun got a solo spot too, which enabled me to see him for the first time all night (he was obscured by his ride cymbal from my spot) as he emerged from the kit, having looped a beat so that he could play on a hand-held electronic frame drum.

This band play hard rock with the emphasis on hard – there is an intensity, a passion, about their playing which is lacking in many so-called ‘metal’ bands around today. As such, whenever they come around it’s always a privilege to see them and I very much hope it isn’t another decade before they return!

5 – Delightful

 

Caught Live: Martin Turner (ex-Wishbone Ash), The Brindley Runcorn 5th October 2017

The last time I saw Martin Turner and his current band was at St Helens about 18 months ago, a show which was filmed for an upcoming DVD. That night was a special show where there were two sets: the first being a complete performance of ‘Written In The Stars’, an album of all-new material and the second being a selection of Wishbone Ash classics. For this tour, the focus was almost completely on Turner’s former band, as the first set comprised tracks from across Wishbone Ash’s back catalogue (with a few numbers from ‘Written In The Stars’ included) but the second set was a full run-through of that band’s career-defining album ‘Argus’.

There was no support, as the guys came on stage at around 8pm. The Brindley is a small, seated theatre with good views offered from anywhere in the auditorium, but for this show I secured a seat in the second row of the stalls – the night before the show! The turnout wasn’t capacity by any means, coming as it did on the same night as the World Cup qualifiers with England’s game being televised live. Suffice to say, that those of us who made the effort to come to this gig got the better end of the deal (!)

Martin Turner at Runcorn Brindley

Martin Turner at Runcorn Brindley

As was the case at St Helens, the four-piece benefitted from a properly-balanced sound mix, just right for their surroundings. Their performance was top quality, with impressive vocal harmonies from guitarist Danny Willson and drummer Tim Brown backing Turner. Fellow guitarist Misha Nikolic handled much of the lead guitar duties in the first set, but for the ‘Argus’ section of the show Willson came more to the fore. Both guys played superbly yet tastefully, driven along expertly by Tim Brown, with Turner’s bass lines prominent but not dominant.

Guitarist Danny Willson

Guitarist Danny Willson

The ‘Argus’ material was played in album sequence apart from ‘Blowing Free’ which was put to the end of the set so that they could close with it. Throughout, the show was sprinkled with similar humour to when last I saw these guys, some of the gags were familiar but one tale told by the bassist concerned a performance in Greece, a clip of which was videoed and put online – however, the front row insisted on singing along (out of tune) and, according to the frontman, was seized upon by followers of a former colleague of Turner’s as ‘evidence’ that he could no longer sing live! That was totally disproved on this night as the vocals from all concerned were spot-on. There was a three-song encore, comprising ‘Doctor’, ‘Jail Bait’ and ‘Blind Eye’.

Guitarist Misha Nikolic with MT

Guitarist Misha Nikolic with MT

Martin Turner turned 70 at the start of October yet still has the voice and the energy to deliver a long set of classic Wishbone Ash material to a high standard. Any opportunity to see this line-up should be taken, it’s a masterclass in how to play classic rock. He may no longer be able to tour under the Wishbone Ash name but he and his band can still more than do justice to the songs which he had a large part in writing.

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Erja Lyytinen, Live Rooms Chester 27 September 2017

Finland, famous for Nokia, ski jumping, ice-hockey, javelin, and Metal bands. Now we can add blues-rock to that list, courtesy Erja Lyytinen. She only came to my attention this year after I read a positive write-up of her gig at London’s 100 Club back in April, but has actually been around for over a decade, with 10 studio albums and three live albums to her name. For this show, to the best of my knowledge her first in my local area, she and her band were booked into the L2 at Chester’s Live Rooms. The set-up was intimate, with low lighting, tables (complete with candles) and chairs set out on the normally standing floor area. If there was a support, I’d missed it (I took the train to Chester on this occasion) but got there to find a crowd of mostly guys my own age, all awaiting her arrival.

It was a low-key entrance, as she and band strolled out through the main door, ambled across the audience and to the tiny stage in the corner of this room. Accompanied by a bassist, drummer and a keyboard player who had a real, genuine Hammond organ (yaaay!) as opposed to a software patch emulating one, she introduced herself and band before strapping on a glittery blue guitar to kick things off with ‘City of Angels’, a track from her latest album ‘Stolen Heart’. Any inkling that this was going to be a quiet little gig was blown away within seconds, as that glittery guitar was set to kill with an almighty tone! I’ll admit to not having boned up on her music before this show, partly because I wanted to experience it ‘blind’ but I did have a reasonably good idea of what to expect, and she didn’t disappoint. Slide guitar, heavy riffing, solos both tastefully restrained and delightfully unrestrained, soulful singing and also giving her band space to show off as well (in particular Hammond player Harri Taittonen) with some soloing of their own.

Erja Lyytinen with bassist Juha Verona

Erja Lyytinen with bassist Juha Verona

Several tracks off the current album were played including the lengthy epic ‘Black Ocean’ and the slow blues of ‘Slowly Burning’, as well as numerous covers including Hendrix’s ‘Crosstown Traffic’, Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’, a hard-rocking cover of Tina Turner’s ‘Steamy Windows’ and closing with an immaculately delivered ‘People Get Ready’, originally by The Impressions. Throughout, she held the attention not only with superb playing, but with an endearing sense of humour, happily joking with the audience, for example asking who among us is in need of a rocking chair (before playing her track ‘Rocking Chair’ – nothing to do with the Magnum song of the same name!)

From my spot the sound of her guitar was a little loud, so that it did at times overwhelm her singing when she really unleashed the fury, but during the quieter moments she did show what a fine singer she is too. She got a tremendous reception from the audience, as said before it was about 100 at the most who showed but it sounded like far more. She said that she and her band will return to the UK in March next year, I’d expect word of her to spread rapidly after this run and so if she returns to Chester it should be the main room next time, where greats of this style such as King King and Joanne Shaw Taylor have already graced that stage.

Erja Lyytinen at Chester Live Rooms

Erja Lyytinen at Chester Live Rooms

I knew little about this artist before the show, but feel like I know her well now – the mark of a great performer. When she comes back I intend to be there, and if you’re reading this Erja – the Live Rooms is great but we’ve also got venues at my end of the Merseyrail in Liverpool that would suit this show 😉

4 – Deserving