International hard rockers DORJA do have to plan their tour schedules a good way in advance since their membership is spread far and wide, and also because the personnel are also involved in other projects. This tour was arranged several months ago, but as the dates drew nearer some sad news came through that guitarist Sarah Michelle had elected to step down from the band after two years. The Dubliner brought considerable playing talent to the group, so this came as a disappointment to their followers.
Rather than seeking out a new member with so little time before the tour kicked off (taking in several dates in continental Europe this time, as well as shows in Britain) the remaining four opted to work with guests. For the UK run then, it was Dakesis guitarist Matt Jones who came in alongside incumbent guitarist Rosie Botterill, vocalist Aiym Almas, bass player Becky Baldwin and drummer Anna Mylee. It isn’t the first time they’ve performed with a guy on stage (their producer Oliver Lee stood in on bass last year for selected dates while the in-demand Baldwin played with Hands Off Gretel) but it did mean a slightly different dynamic.
The Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool is getting some good bands play; the converted pub with a full stage fitted is becoming a fixture on the live circuit now. I got in to find Bastette on stage, but it soon became clear this was a soundcheck not a set. Bastette is the stage name of singer Caroline Kenyon, as opposed to a band name but she did have a full band behind her with two guitarists, both a keyboard player and a guy on keytar, plus a bassist and drummer. Although an apparent newcomer, she has many years’ experience on the live circuit behind her. Her EP suggested that the material was more towards pop than rock, but live this outfit delivers her songs with plenty of punch. Bastette herself proved to be a sexy, alluring performer with many sensual moves to go with what is a seductive vocal. She (and her band) made a great impression, and I will definitely look out for her again soon.
DORJA’s debut album ‘Gemini’ was given a full release earlier in the year (it was issued to crowdfunders in 2018) and so this was the first time they were touring with an actual album to promote, available at the stand. Consequently pretty much everything from it was performed, kicking off with album opener ‘Chainbreaker’. Despite the loss of Sarah Michelle it was still a marvellous set, Matt Jones kept to his spot stage left all night while accurately replicating the guitar parts on record. He and Botterill dovetailed beautifully on the lead guitar part in the bluesy ‘Use You’, while for her part she shredded splendidly on ‘Limitless’, even reminding your correspondent of a certain Doug Aldrich with her nimble fingerwork. A deviation from the album material came when they revived ‘Not In Your Shadow’; a song which appeared on their first EP ‘Target Practice’ but unlike all the other songs on that release, did not make the tracklisting for ‘Gemini’. It is my personal favourite song by them, so this was a particular treat for me to hear it done live for the first time in over two years.
Almas was in fine vocal form tonight, she possesses both a smokey, seductive vocal or a throaty roar. Add to that her command of the stage, her ability to draw in and hold the attention and we have a real star on our hands. Sat right at the back and quite high up was Anna Mylee, whose assured performance behind the kit drove the others along. They closed out with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, done in the style of the Chili Peppers’ cover, demonstrating their funkier side.
Once again, this band smashed it out of the park; considering they can only get together sporadically they sound as though they spend much more time together, they’re that tight. I spoke to Anna Mylee following the show and among other things, she revealed that they’re already planning another run of dates in February. She also told me that they will continue with the use of guest players for the foreseeable future, before eventually recruiting a new guitar player when they make their second album.
See this band when you next get the chance!
Bastette Set List:
- Rip Me To Shreds
DORJA Set List:
- Too High
- Not In Your Shadow
- Far Gone
- Use You
- Target Practice
- Reaching Out
- Higher Ground