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.

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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

Festival fiasco in Liverpool as day 2 of Hope & Glory is cancelled

‘No festival today’

The curt message posted on social media by the organisers of the first (and increasingly likely, only) Hope & Glory Festival was the coup de grace for this event, plagued by logistical problems on its first day and cancelled altogether on the second, leaving many bands who had been booked to perform high and dry.

The event, which has been advertised for several months, was something I had not taken a great deal of notice of, as the bill featured mainly indie fare which wasn’t my cup of tea. One or two acts looked interesting but I thought at £55 for a day ticket and £85 for the weekend was a bit much to see maybe a couple of bands I might like. The event did however generate interest nationally and internationally, with fans coming from across the country and some had flown in from other countries. Held in St Johns Gardens, behind the neoclassical St Georges Hall in the centre of Liverpool, the organisers promised a range of bands playing across three stages, which right there should raise red flags to anybody who knows that part of the city.  A video that the event organisers released on Facebook shows the intended layout of the site, which they claimed would be suitable for up to 12000 attendees:

Hope & Glory Festival site layout

Hope & Glory Festival site layout (screenshot from organisers’ promotional video)

One glance at that layout makes it clear that there’s no way that site could accommodate 12000 fans comfortably. For those not familiar, the garden area is set from the street to the right (William Brown Street, site for the main ‘Great Exhibition Stage’) by a wall, accessible only by steps in one or two places.

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Location for main stage (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

Straight away that creates bottlenecks, if people wished to go from one stage to another. In addition, the main stage being set on that narrow street would create yet more overcrowding. The site was just not big enough to hold three stages – one would have been enough, and sure enough on the Saturday (the only operational day), reports of sound from one stage bleeding over to the other stages were coming in via social media. (There was a third stage, set aside for smaller acts).

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Second stage location (screenshot taken from organisers’ promotional video)

On the day itself there were enormous queues snaking down Lime Street, around the corner into St John’s Lane (to the left of the picture), leading to what appeared to be the only entrance into the site. Tickets had been on sale right up to the day of the event and reportedly also available on the day itself, going off what took place it is clear the festival was massively over-subscribed. Questions on facebook before the day were asking about wristband pass-outs, a system which was initially going to be put in place but had been withdrawn at the eleventh hour, leading to some frustrated comments even before the event began. As it became clear that nobody was getting into the site anger grew, and before long the police arrived on the scene to deal with the massive overcrowding. Some disgruntled fans gave up altogether and headed for the bars instead, while the schedule was thrown out by the disruption with acts coming on up to two hours later, playing truncated sets. One big name (singer Charlotte Church) was axed from the bill altogether, presumably in a bid to get the event timescale back into some sort of order, but she was left stranded, having travelled from South Wales with her band only to find she had no slot in which to perform. In a prelude to the next day’s events, she put out an appeal on social media for any venues in the city who might be able to put her on. That was answered by Liquidation at Heebeejeebees, who hastily arranged a gig for her within the hour.

The scale of the problem on the Saturday is illustrated by this video from the Liverpool Echo:

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Bands such as The Fratellis, Razorlight and James did get to play, however by this time many fans had abandoned hope of getting in and had left the site, leaving those already there to queue for the bars and for the toilets, neither facilities were sufficient for the amount of people there leading to yet more overcrowding. The set by James appeared to save the day for many, but a barrage of criticism on their Facebook page and by the number of tweets condemning the organisers for what appeared to be a shameful lack of organisation followed.

Instead of trying to appease or placate disappointed fans, or even showing that they might at least have taken some of the criticism on board for the Sunday, the next day the cancellation was announced on social media with those three words ‘no festival today’. That was it, no explanation, no apology, nothing. With more ‘name’ bands scheduled to play on the Sunday including Ocean Colour Scene, the Lightning Seeds and Space, that left all of those acts in the lurch. Tim Booth of James was also scheduled to play again, as part of ‘Hacienda Classical’ but after he posted a tweet slamming the organisation, they gave only a spiky response instead of the expected contrition:
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By midday on the Sunday the stages were being dismantled, as the tag #HopeAndGlory Festival began to trend and venues across Liverpool were already mobilising to do what they could to put on stranded acts, or make some sort of goodwill gesture to the people who found themselves in the city centre with their event cancelled. Another event (Liverpool Loves) was also taking place elsewhere in the city centre, their organisers were swift to invite would-be Hope & Glory attendees to their stage. Some of the bands did get to perform; the Zanzibar put on the Lightning Seeds at short notice while other venues including Magnet, and Hangar 34 also tweeted that they would make themselves available for acts who wished to play there.  The fact that these venues had to pick up the pieces after the festival descended into chaos was reminiscent of the scenes a decade ago, when the outdoor stages at the Mathew Street Festival (a free, annual event that took place across several stages in the city centre, featuring mostly tribute bands) were suddenly cancelled with days to go by their organisers. That year, bars and venues went out of their way to accommodate bands and this cancellation prompted similar scenes.

Cancellation notice (pic: David Munn/Liverpool Echo)

The whole debacle does little for the image of the city, other than to show that there is still a defiant spirit among the bars and clubs to make something of a bad situation and try to give something to those who’d wanted to spend the weekend watching live music. Those venues deserve bouquets, while brickbats are fully merited for the organisation behind Hope & Glory, a PR company called tinyCOW based in the Midlands.  This would appear to shatter that company’s credibility once and for all, however over the course of the weekend stories emerged that the people behind tinyCOW have previous history of staging events which went wrong. In a particularly disgraceful twist, their twitter account not only passed all blame onto a production manager, condemning him for not installing walkways in time and – worst of all – publishing an email address for all complaints to be directed to him as opposed to the organisers themselves. This was rightly condemned on social media by fans who saw it as the buck-passing exercise it was. Meanwhile, the fire was turned up still further on Tim Booth who got a post from the festival organisers’ account telling him to ‘go back to your yoga’ – a bizarre comment from the organiser to one of their main acts:

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When the dust settles on this debacle, there are questions to be answered. First of all, did anybody do any due diligence on this company who arranged the festival? It has emerged that they have a track record of disputes for previous events, were no questions asked of these?  Secondly, how did they get a licence to stage this event in a space so obviously unsuitable for the amount of people who came? The site was far too small for a projected 12000 people, there were bottlenecks owing to the layout of the land, there were obstacles everywhere and getting around must have been nigh-on impossible. With all that in mind how could it possibly have been passed as safe? Linked to that, and thirdly, who signed it off? Presumably the city council must have cleared it, questions must be asked about their role in this fiasco. On the evidence of the reports, it must be considered miraculous there was not a disaster at this event, which would have been catastrophic for this city. At the very least there should be a resignation from within the council department who passed this event as safe to go ahead.

As said at the top of this post, the musical fare offered at this event was not to my taste, nevertheless when live music events are staged here I want them to pass off well, leaving visitors with good memories – not the frustration and anger which must be felt by visitors after this fiasco. The tickets were not cheap – unsurprisingly there are many calls for refunds, which have also been batted away by organisers referring people only to their ticket agents. That, like so much of the attitude from them, is insufficient and insulting. It is to be hoped this has not caused lasting damage to the city’s hard-won reputation for staging events, nor the ability of the city to attract name acts to perform in Liverpool.

As it was, there was better and more effective communication from artists performing at the event than there was from the festival organisers, which should mean that this company will never be trusted again to deliver a large-scale event in this, or any other city.

The 27 Club: A new and much-needed Liverpool venue

I found myself in the centre of Liverpool last night after finding out about not only a new venue, but that it was launching (officially) that evening with four bands, headlined by Glam Skanks, a Californian all-girl quartet about whom I knew little. However judging by the name and that at least two people in my Facebook list had already checked them out, it looked like it would be a good night out.

First challenge was to find the place: I knew it was on Victoria Street, but not exactly whereabouts. I actually walked the whole length of the street, going past it before retracing my steps and discovering that the venue was actually in the former L1 KTV karaoke bar on the corner of Peter Street; it even had the old sign outside still. Only on closer inspection did I spot the small ‘The 27 Club’ sign in the window. Having found the venue and furthermore, discovering it was free entry (!) I entered to find a small, dimly-lit room with the bar to the right as you go in, and the stage area (such as it was) to the left. A band was already on, it turned out to be a four-band bill. The main lighting was behind the performers – an array of multicoloured flourescent tubes. I suspect that this is a remnant from the place’s previous life, and the whole set up looked like it had only just been put together. I had no idea at the time, that it had!

The band playing were called Figures, formed in Liverpool but with personnel hailing from the Preston area. The set was grunge-inspired hard rock, their chief asset was singer Carrie who had a powerful voice. The next band up were St Helens crew Last Reserves, who were energetic with powerful bass lines and some enthusiastic jumping about from frontwoman Alice Nancy, not really my cup of tea to be completely honest. Following this came Novacrow, the only band on the bill I had prior knowledge of, having seen them last year also in Liverpool. A four-piece fronted by the purple-tressed Kitty, they’re a lively bunch. Kitty is singer/guitarist, something along the lines of Lzzy Hale but with a more expressive performance; when she puts the guitar down for a series of numbers mid-set she is all over the stage, occasionally off it and into the audience! Not to be outdone, bassist Federico ‘Freddy’ Spera is leaping about the place, all over the fittings,  out on the floor, and memorably running out into the street mid-song while continuing to play! His radio link makes that possible of course, he is totally untamed. Next to this, guitarist Jonyx’s own ventures off the stage seem gentle by comparison! The liveliest of live bands you’ll see, they are well worth checking out and play regularly in the area, as they are based in Merseyside.

I found out while the other bands were playing that Glam Skanks were actually playing a double-header this night; when doors opened at the 27 Club the girls were actually 35 miles up the road in Manchester, opening for veteran punkers The Skids at the o2 Ritz. They must have packed up in record time and shot down the M62 then, as they arrived just before Novacrow started their set. I’d not heard a note from them prior to their arrival on this stage, but they were exactly what I expected. Introduced by an older guy in a trilby (presumably their manager) they looked as expected too, glittery costumes and guitars aplenty. They opened with ‘G.L.A.M.’, with singer Ali Cat looking like a cheerleader, the song is a definite nod to that and got the punters in the mood. They beckoned us up to the stage and ran through a short set of hard rocking glam punk, played with humour. One of their songs, whose title is direct and to the point, shall we say (!) is a more profane take on the Beatles ‘Please Please Me’. (Get their album, you’ll soon identify the track in question!)

It was an enjoyable set of riff-heavy glam rock, watching them reminded me a little of London combo The Featherz but with a more Hollywood twist. I was amused to find their bassist was called Millie, and they have a song called ‘Bad Bitch’ – but the links to The SoapGirls (a South African sister act I have seen on several occasions, whose bassist is also called Mille) ended there. Ali Cat was an endearing frontwoman, easily getting this crowd clapping and singing along. Following their set, their manager was hawking their CD ‘Glitter City’ (featuring many of the songs played in the set) and so I treated myself to a copy.

All in all this was a successful launch night for a venue that this city has needed for some time. The people who run the place also offer rehearsal space for bands, and live music will be on offer most nights. I often travel even to see small gigs in venues such as this, and this place looks ideal for several bands from other parts of the country that I know. Only thing was, with the lighting minimal to non-existent, I didn’t take any pics of the proceedings so you’ll just have to content yourself with this snap of yours truly with three of the Glam Skanks! 🙂

glamskanksme

I wish the 27 Club every success with this venture and look forward to seeing many more up-and-coming bands play here.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Facebook Pages:

The 27 Club

The Glam Skanks

Novacrow

Last Reserves

Figures

Caught Live: Iron Maiden (with Shinedown) Echo Arena Liverpool, 20th May 2017

‘Scream for me, Liverpool – SCREAM FOR MEEE!’

A lot’s happened since the last time we heard vocalist Bruce Dickinson utter that at an Iron Maiden gig in this city: your humble correspondent was still a young man in his twenties at the time for one thing, Liverpool FC were league champions, few had heard of Nirvana and the site where the Echo Arena now sits was a large overspill car park for the Albert Dock. That gig, a staggering 27 years ago this year, also came before Dickinson exited the band to be replaced by Blaze Bayley (guitarist Adrian Smith had already packed his bags, being replaced by one-time Gillan guitarist Janick Gers), before he and Smith returned to the fold in 2000. So the anticipation of this gig was palpable, even though when the tour dates were announced last autumn, I for one didn’t want to believe it until I saw Bruce, Steve, Nicko, Dave, Adrian and Janick on that Echo Arena stage!

The band members are now either approaching 60 or have already passed it; consequently in recent years they’ve eased back on the relentless, extensive tour schedules they are known for in favour of large outdoor festival dates. Their last arena tour was in 2011 and for this run, they made a point of including cities they had either not been to before or hadn’t played in a long time. The fact that many more cities have a large-scale venue suitable for their stage show now made that possible, and the fact that this date fell on a Saturday made this show attractive to travelling fans. On the day of the show, you could not move for Iron Maiden T-shirt clad people, with the focal point being the Baltic Fleet pub, normally a quiet dock road pub which brews its own beer on the premises but on this occasion, the setting for the ‘Trooper’ gathering. The band had chosen the pub as host for its pre (and post show) gathering, with ‘Trooper’ beer on sale and band mascot Eddie stationed outside to greet fans.

When the dates went on sale much was made of the band’s efforts to thwart what is euphemistically described as ‘secondary ticketing’. The system put in place was not to print out tickets, rather you needed to produce photo identification plus the card used to purchase the tickets with. That meant if there was a group of say, four going, all had to be together at the venue entrance. The band and manager Rod Smallwood also put in place a system for fans who genuinely could not make the date that they’d booked and who wanted to pass on their ticket, although as the date drew closer, actual tickets were issued to fans who had booked for the seated areas. For those who had plumped for the standing floor, the original arrangement of turning up at the venue with ID and payment card stood. On the night, there were massive queues at the Cityside and Riverside entrances, while those of us booked for standing were directed to a low-level entrance away from the main doors. Expecting a massive queue, I arrived shortly before doors to find only a small line in place. At this point, venue staff asked us to have our cards ready with ID, as a team of staff worked their way down the line. They were armed with what looked like bus ticket machines (!) and upon verifying the card and ID, their machines printed a small ticket out there and then for entrance. The doors soon opened and I’d noticed the queue I joined ten minutes earlier had quadrupled in size, so my timing for once was excellent! The system worked better than I’d anticipated and I soon found myself in the empty arena, where a crowd was already gathering at the barrier. I’d expected to be at least halfway back, as it turned out I was about five off the front, right of centre.

As the crowd began to filter in, I noticed several different languages being spoken in the crowd around me. It turned out there were fans over from Italy, Poland, Argentina, Brazil and several other countries. As someone who has had to do a fair amount of travelling myself to see bands, this was a big deal that this show had brought so many foreign visitors to Liverpool. It also brought it home to me how important it is to have such a venue in your city, from a tourist standpoint – these people could have gone to say, Manchester instead (and probably did fly into the country via Manchester Airport before heading to Liverpool).

With the doors opening just after 6pm, it was quite a wait before openers Shinedown arrived on the stage, the place had filled up a lot by then. Having seen these guys twice before in similar settings (last year in this same hall) I had few expectations. I like their music – at least, the material they focus on (they generally overlook their first two albums of the five they have done) but, I’ve never really taken to frontman Brent Smith. When I first saw this band in 2013, as special guests to Alter Bridge, I was unimpressed with his tendency to make long, rambling speeches (while standing on a box) between songs. Last year’s set was an improvement however, his between-song chats were shorter and this time out, he and they were more focused on the songs, not the speeches. Opening with ‘Devour’ from their breakthrough album ‘The Sound of Madness’ they gave a hard-hitting but enjoyable set taking in material from that record, plus follow-up ‘Amaryllis’ and most recent offering ‘Threat To Survival’. Smith’s vocal sounded stronger this time too, and he was well backed vocally by guitarist Zach Myers.  He did try his usual trick of encouraging the audience to turn to each other and shake hands, to usual British resistance (!) and his main speech part came when introducing ‘Enemies’ – he came out into the crowd and urged the crowd (‘the legendary Liverpool’ as he called us!) to start jumping when he brought the band in. By and large however, it was more rock killer than filler, though he (like many of us) was shaken by the shock death of Chris Cornell just days before this show. He asked for – and got- a brief moment of silence from the crowd in memory of the Soundgarden frontman before resuming proceedings with ‘Cut The Cord’ from the last album. They ended with ‘The Sound Of Madness’ before making way. This was another improvement on the last time I saw them, as stated earlier I do like their music but had this been the performance I’d first seen from them, I’d probably be more of a fan than I actually am now.

Some things never change, and after some feverish work from the crew in decking out the stage in preparation for the headliners, a huge cheer went up when UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ came through the PA. The traditional prelude to a Maiden show, as soon as it was over the lights went down, as Bruce Dickinson appeared at the back of the stage atop a massive platform, behind what appeared to be a witches’ cauldron. He sang the intro from the back before the rest of the guys burst onto the stage, kicking their way into opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ from the current album. From that point it was traditional Maiden; Dickinson running all over the stage ramps while guitarist Janick Gers ran straight to the front, throwing his shapes, and balancing his left leg on the ‘speaker cabinet’ prop placed there specifically for his use! Gers comes across as the fan in the band; he remained with them even after Adrian Smith returned and it is he who has the most ‘face time’ as it were, always grabbing the attention alongside bassist Steve Harris while Smith and fellow axeman Dave Murray handle the majority of the lead guitar work. Janick’s role is more cheerleader, his guitar parts live tend to duplicate Adrian Smith’s (he replicates the solo in ‘The Trooper’ note for note for instance) but acts as the foil for Dickinson’s stage antics. It’s Gers who gets grabbed by the head, or has a flag dangled in front of him by the singer for instance, but amazingly, never misses a note while all that’s going on!

The set obviously was slanted towards ‘The Book Of Souls’ album with six tracks played from it, but if you aren’t familiar with those songs help is always at hand from Steve Harris; as usual he was up there at the front of the stage, resplendent in his West Ham colours and P-bass, mouthing the words along so we could all join in! There was room for older songs of course, and Bruce made mention of the fact he knew that there were many there who weren’t born when ‘Children Of The Damned’ was first released, which they then played. Naturally ‘The Trooper’ had me reaching for the air guitar, at least until a pit started (!)

The current album has its fair share of epics including ‘The Red And The Black’ and the title track itself, which saw a ten-feet tall Eddie make his customary stage appearance. He joked around with Janick Gers before Bruce appeared to ‘remove’ his heart, and spray us all with fake blood! As well as that the guys reached back to 1984 for another epic, ‘Powerslave’ from the album of the same name which saw the singer don a mask for the track. You know it’s getting near the end when ‘Fear Of The Dark’ is played, with the crowd chanting it’s opening refrain and of course, the main set ended with ‘Iron Maiden’ as the huge Eddie head appeared over the stage. The encore was (of course) ‘Number Of The Beast’, with ‘Blood Brothers’ and finally, ‘Wasted Years’ – which is another air guitar favourite of mine!

This was a night that will live long in the memory; Bruce was in jovial form all night and you could see him laughing away as he joked with bandmates throughout. He can be spiky at times, if he feels the crowd isn’t with him but there were no worries on that score tonight, as he gave shoutouts to the various flags he saw in the crowd – pausing to ask what someone from San Antonio was doing in Liverpool! He then risked a few jeers (and cheers from this punter!) at the mention of Liverpool FC boss Jürgen Klopp; the singer revealed that Klopp (a fan of the band) was meant to be there tonight but because of ‘other commitments’ (i.e. his team’s game the next day) he was unable to attend. Bruce then reiterated that all who come to a Maiden gig are welcome no matter who you are or where you’re from, to universal cheers.

This band have maintained their status throughout many musical trends, never fitting in with what’s popular and never caring one iota, while their fans just kept on coming. In that respect they’re similar to AC/DC or even Rush, bands who also exist in their own bubble with a fanbase which turns out regardless of trends. Watching these guys do their thing for two hours left me amazed, it was as though they were still in their thirties, their fitness levels must be off the scale to keep that up night after night. In addition, Dickinson’s vocal performance was top-notch, for a guy who recently battled cancer he was astounding.

Almost three decades since they were last here, it was well worth the wait. Whether we’ll see the guys do this again in arenas is unknown, but they wouldn’t be the first band to want to keep it going as long as possible. It was a privilege to see their return to this city at long last, and if they do decide to go around once more, they’re welcome back – hopefully not in another 27 years’ time!

5 – Delightful