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

Caught Live: The Dead Daisies (with The Amorettes) Robin 2 Bilston, 9th April 2018

Once a bit of a revolving door, The Dead Daisies still refer to themselves as a ‘collective’, but it cannot be coincidence that their recent success has come about since the line-up began to stabilise into the hard rock ‘supergroup’ of today. Founder member David Lowy set out to bring back classic rock to audiences when he started this outfit five years ago, and the ‘sold out’ signs on every date of this UK tour suggest he’s got his wish. Of course the group he now has is a dream line-up, the sort most of us put together in our minds, but unlike most of us, the Aussie businessman/musician is in a position to make those dreams reality.  Vocalist John Corabi and bassist Marco Mendoza have been in place since second album ‘Revolución’, while guitarist Doug Aldrich came on board for 2016’s ‘Make Some Noise’. That album and tour was a success, and saw them take a decidedly harder-rocking direction. The new album ‘Burn It Down’ (which only came out days before this tour commenced) continues in the same vein, and sees the arrival of drummer Deen Castronovo who has come in for Brian Tichy.

This show at the Robin 2 was only the second date of the band’s UK tour, and was one of the first to sell out. They gave an incentive for fans to get there early, as the first 100 through the door were given a wristband enabling them to get into a post-show signing session with all five members. Having got there early enough I was one of those handed the all-important wristband upon entering. It also meant I got close to the stage, the Robin 2 stage has no barrier meaning it really is an up close and personal experience!

First up were Scottish all-girl trio The Amorettes; led by singer/guitarist Gill Montgomery she and her bandmates (sisters Hannah and Heather McKay on drums and bass respectively) gave a storming set of no-nonsense hard rock, in the AC/DC tradition. Hannah’s drum kit was so close to the front of the stage we could almost play drums for her (!) and she didn’t hold back all set. The band have benefited from writing with the likes of Ricky Warwick and Luke Morley, and judging by the positive reaction of this crowd, look set to make the jump to bigger things. Their fourth album ‘Born To Break’ has also just come out and several tracks were performed from it including lead-off single ‘Everything I Learned I Learned From Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

The Dead Daisies were greeted like returning heroes once they hit the stage; opening with a hefty one-two punch of ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Resurrected’ they had the crowd going from the off.  The set was fairly evenly split between tracks from the new album and previous release ‘Make Some Noise’, along with a selected few from ‘Revolucion’ including some covers. They’re now a much harder, much heavier proposition than they were when I first saw Lowy’s previous line-up in 2013, and the effect of having numerous stars, several showmen in this band means you find yourself not quite knowing where to look! You get all the shapes thrown by guitarist Doug Aldrich and bassist Marco Mendoza, picks thrown out like sweeties to the front row all through the set, and Lowy himself has taken a more prominent role than he did the last time I saw this band in 2016. Previously he preferred to let his colleagues hog the limelight, but nowadays he is also up at the front, engaging with the punters and posing alongside his bandmates. Not to be outdone, John Corabi was in splendid voice and also threw his fair share of stage poses, his easygoing charm had the crowd eating from his hand all evening.

‘New Daisy’ Deen Castronovo slotted into the band seamlessly; those who may have thought that the band might have lost some power with Tichy’s departure need not have worried, the former Journey man has all that power and then some, as well as adding his own backing vocals (he is an accomplished singer in his own right).  He may be associated with melodic rock, but his playing is so hard that he could easily fit into any Metal band you care to name.

The set flew by and before we knew it was time for the band intros, these were done with each member getting to play an excerpt of (presumably) a favourite classic rock track. For instance Doug Aldrich got to play a snippet of ‘Smoke On The Water’, David Lowy ‘Highway To Hell’ (he is Australian, after all!), Marco Mendoza got ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and Deen Castronovo got ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night’. All of these were picked up by the crowd for a singalong, as was Corabi’s own spot (a brief excerpt of ‘Heaven and Hell’). These, plus the covers they included, sat well with their own material.

As with the last time I saw this band, it came across as a bunch of old friends having fun and making sure everyone present had fun with them too. That’s what it’s all about really, and it’s easy to see why the Daisies are fast becoming one of the major draws on the rock scene. They’re planning to return to this country in late 2018 for more dates, hopefully one will be in my part of the world but regardless, it’s recommended you catch these guys while they’re still playing small-ish venues.

5 – Delightful