This month started off with a bus ride over to St Helens to see proggers Mostly Autumn; that gig did clash with Michael Schenker’s show in Manchester (which featured many guests including former MSG members) but with me still off the road at the time I plumped for the more local gig. The Citadel was full when I got in, moments before the band took to the stage, and they delivered a show of their usual prog epics, with great playing from all. That’s only the second time I’ve seen this band, and I should try and catch them more often. The next night saw veteran American rockers Y&T visit Liverpool on their now-customary UK and European autumn tour. They were supported by Voodoo Vegas who were a good warm-up, while Y&T themselves once again delivered a strong set of back catalogue favourites. There’s still been no new material from them since 2010 but they have such a strong back catalogue they can play a different set from one year to the next and still give a full two hours on stage. A good night topped off by actually meeting frontman Dave Meniketti alongside his wife and manager Jill, whose novel ‘Welcome To Groove House’ I bought a year ago and brought for her to sign this time out.
The next week saw a strong bill pitch up at Warrington’s Parr Hall, headlined by Black Star Riders with Blues Pills, Tax The Heat and Dirty Thrills making up the rest of the bill. I was too late to catch Dirty Thrills but saw another great performance from Tax The Heat, an entertaining set from Blues Pills and a stormer from Black Star Riders. The only slight quibble was the sound balance, in a civic theatre such as this with a high ceiling the sound swirled around all evening. I do like that venue, as it is not too big and has good sight lines with a stage high enough to allow a good view of the band from anywhere – except perhaps the front row! Another week later and it was the turn of Britain’s first lady of blues guitar, Joanne Shaw Taylor to come to our part of the world. She added this show at New Brighton Floral Pavilion some time after her run of autumn dates were announced, perhaps catching out fans as this date was not sold out as I’d expected. She always gives a great, expressive performance and this time was no exception, and this time she’d added former King King keyboardist Bob Fridzema to the live band. With support from the excellent Dan Patlansky, this was a splendid night of bluesy rock guitar.
A few days later I made the (late) decision to take the train up to Manchester and see Deep Purple on what they have billed their ‘Long Goodbye’ tour. Whether that means they really are bowing out remains to be seen, but the guys aren’t getting any younger and there cannot be much more to come. A good bill was opened by CATS in SPACE, given only 30 minutes they wowed the audience, many of whom were already in place. I had missed them on their support slot for Thunder, and also their own low-key tour of small venues, so this was my only chance to see them this year. They’ve had a phenomenal year with the release of second album ‘Scarecrow’ and with them having opened for Thunder, Deep Purple and finally Status Quo, they must be pinching themselves. Special guests were Europe, who since reforming several years ago have delivered some strong material far removed from the parping ‘Final Countdown’ days. They actually sound a lot like Purple themselves nowadays, and gave a good set mixing songs from current album ‘Walk The Earth’ with the 80s hits everyone expected. Deep Purple also showcased a lot of material from latest album ‘Infinite’, but still found room for plenty of old classics. Ian Gillan isn’t the singer he was 40 years ago, but wisely has recognised that and manages his voice well nowadays, rather than try to blast it the way he once did. Near the end of this set, guitarist Steve Morse played a short burst of AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ in memory of Malcolm Young, with news of the AC/DC founder’s passing having only emerged earlier that day.
Last gig of this month was Mr Big, which I almost never got to see! A friend of mine asked would I take on the ticket as his girlfriend (who booked them) had decided against making the trip to Manchester (the show took place at the Academy 1). However, once meeting up at Lime Street Station and boarding our train, he realised he had left the tickets at home! With me resigned to watching football in the student union bar instead, a stroke of luck happened when two people on the guest list arrived to collect their tickets. They had ‘plus ones’ which they did not require, so they allowed us to use them! With that sorted we caught most of openers Faster Pussycat, who have only vocalist Taime Downe left as an original member now. They played a good set of sleaze favourites before making way for The Answer. Unlike when I saw the Irish rockers earlier in the year, this set was designed to touch on all their albums to date. So, having opened with the epic ‘Solas’ they gave airings to a selection of favourites including ‘Preachin’ and ‘Spectacular’. They also paid tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young (The Answer toured the world in 2009/10 opening for the Aussie titans) by covering ‘If You Want Blood, You Got It’. The Answer always give it everything and did so again, though I’d have liked a little more from them of course, time didn’t allow that. Watching Mr Big is always hard work, you never know where to look with virtuoso players (guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan) either side of singer Eric Martin almost trying to outdo one another. They started the set with drummer Matt Starr in place of Pat Torpey, but to the fans’ delight they brought out their original drummer to play percussion alongside the band. Pat Torpey has suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for some years now, preventing him from playing full-time, but the band still consider him a vital member of the band so much that they still bring him on tour. It was, as expected, a long set featuring new numbers and plenty of old favourites, but we had to leave shortly before the end as the last train wasn’t going to wait for us!
The first of this month started off with another Same Night Syndrome gig clash, with two gigs I wanted to see happening in the same building, let alone the same city! The Lancashire Hotpots won out over former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, who was in the upstairs floor of Liverpool’s o2 Academy while the Hotpots were in the downstairs. They were celebrating ten years of their folk-infused tomfoolery with a complete performance of their debut album ‘Never Mind The Hotpots’. That was only part of a lengthy set the lads gave, with them having to play for longer than expected as their regular support Stu Penders & Spladoosh! having withdrawn. ‘He’s got The Mange’, as Hotpots singer Bernard Thresher kindly informed us. This was a superb night full of fun and parody folk, rock, dance, and it’s to be hoped there’ll be ten more years of it!
Next gig was a few days later in Lennon’s Bar on Mathew Street, normally one of many places that cater to the Beatles tourist trade that remains popular in Liverpool but tonight was hosting a bill with several bands on, including locals Nesh (‘alternative, melodic hard rock’ as they described themselves) and St Helens punks Last Reserves whose singer Alice Nancy compered the evening. I was there to check out Psychords, an all-female punk rock trio from Italy who came recommended by several people I knew off Facebook. The girls had a few technical issues at the start but gave a storming set, driven emphatically by their drummer Claudia Lo. I’d like to see that band again and hopefully they’ll get the chance to come back to the UK in 2018. The very next evening was my penultimate trip to Chester for the year, to see Chantel McGregor play at the Live Rooms. I’d never seen her before, and she lulled us all into a false sense of security with two folky numbers played solo and acoustically, before bringing out her band, strapping on the electric guitar and blowing the audience away! One of many good blues rock guitarist/singers on the circuit at the moment, her heavy guitar sound was reminiscent of the great Robin Trower at times. My final gig of 2017 was just a week ago at the time of writing this post, once again at Chester. Opened by Black Cat Bones, who had a ball performing on this bigger stage with an elevated platform for singer Jonnie Hodson (improvised from crates!), then Skarlett Riot who, with only a short time to perform, played their heavier material. Singer Skarlett did without her guitar for this show, leaving all axe duties to lead guitarist Danny. Topping this bill were Finland’s Santa Cruz, a foursome who look and play like they have just come from the Strip in 1988! It’s nothing new to someone like me who remembers Skid Row or Guns ‘n’ Roses, but the Finns were fiery and enthusiastic, with great guitar work from frontman Archie and the other guitarist Johnny.
That’s my roundup of 2017’s gigs; I saw more than I’d expected to this year and it’ll be hard to get to as many in 2018 as I did this year. But I’ll be back to report on whatever comes my way in the New Year!