New rock trio Silverthorne tear the sky wide open

Many years ago now, when Thunder had reconvened following a split I’d gone to see them play on their comeback UK tour. Along for the ride were a young trio, who went through several names before settling on ‘Winterville’, led by a blonde singer/guitarist from the North East named Peter Shoulder. He’d garnered praise from Thunder’s own frontman Danny Bowes, and it was easy to see why after seeing this band perform. I distinctly remember them coming on to indifference, and after gradually grabbing the ears of punters there only to see Harry’s boys do their stuff, went off to huge cheers. It was largely down to Shoulder’s vocal, the sort of soulful bluesy delivery that evoked memories of a young Coverdale, but with his own slant.

Winterville only got to make one album before splitting themselves, however Shoulder wasn’t idle for long. He teamed up with Thunder’s Luke Morley to form The Union, who released three albums in the first half of this decade to critical acclaim. However, this came after Thunder had once again called it a day, and it was noticeable at The Union gigs how many Thunder t-shirts were in evidence, suggesting their fans still weren’t quite ready to let that band go. Morley took the hint, reuniting once more with his Thunder mates and they have continued to more success. Meanwhile, save for a low-key acoustic tour a few years ago, Peter Shoulder had apparently disappeared off the radar. Until now – when he reappeared with a new rock trio, featuring bassist Daniel Spree and a certain Brian Tichy on drums. The Tichy link quite possibly came about when The Union opened for Whitesnake a few years ago (while Tichy was a member of Coverdale’s outfit), nonetheless this was quite a surprise when announced, with a teaser for a new song ‘Tear The Sky Wide Open’. That song and video were released fully on 12 August 2019, and they promise more to come soon.

On the evidence of this one song, it sounds like the North East man has got his mojo back in a big way. The track is very reminiscent of Winterville, with that heavy electric guitar sound once more to the fore, alongside that distinctive voice adding the touch of class. With the mighty Tichy driving it all along this looks to be a must-see band for 2020 if they make it over to the UK (Shoulder is now based in LA alongside Tichy and the unknown – to me, at least – Spree).  I’ve no idea whether they have a full album’s worth of material yet, so it may be that they play as support to another band. Either way, I look forward to getting reacquainted with the guys soon – or newly acquainted, in the case of their bassist!

Silverthorne Facebook Page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Album: Whitesnake ‘Flesh & Blood’ (Frontiers)

Cover art for Whitesnake 'Flesh & Blood'

Cover art for Whitesnake ‘Flesh & Blood’

Released 12 months later than scheduled, Whitesnake have finally issued their 13th studio album, Flesh & Blood. Available in multiple formats: as a straightforward CD,  a deluxe CD/DVD edition with bonus material (including two tracks not featured on the standard edition), digital download or for vinyl revivalists, you have a choice of red, silver or gold for your honest twelve inches of Whitesnake, or you can just have plain old black vinyl.  The first album of original material to feature the current line-up, it marks the first time mainman David Coverdale has written alongside long-serving guitarist Reb Beach, as well as with relative newcomer Joel Hoekstra.

Even the most ardent Whitesnake fan will accept now that Coverdale isn’t the singer he once was, that ‘lung-busting roar’ of yesteryear is now supplanted by a vocal blend, with Coverdale heavily backed on stage by every other member bar drummer Tommy Aldridge. For a guy who will be 68 this year though, he nevertheless must feel that he has something left to give since he still wants to produce new music, not just trot out the hits of three decades ago.

There are few surprises here, despite the new blood, though one does manifest itself in the very first number ‘Good To See You’. Coverdale has dropped an F-bomb on record for what I am sure is the first time (he’s notorious for using that word practically as punctuation when on stage), as he urges us all to ‘make some f- noise’.  All the usual tropes are present and correct, fun songs made for the stage (‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’; ‘Trouble Is Your Middle Name’) ones that promise he’ll be around ‘Always & Forever’, or those that show his sensitive side (‘When I Think of You’). That also means he’s used just about every one of his lyrical cliches at his disposal on this album; when not rhyming ‘fire’ with ‘desire’ he’s ‘tongue-tied’ with his ‘temperature rising’ or someone is making him ‘beg and plead’ yet again.  You could play lyric bingo with this album and get a full house of all his favourite phrases, which you’ve heard many times before on just about any previous Whitesnake record.

I did note that this line-up has managed to emulate successfully several different past eras, for instance second track in ‘Gonna Be Alright’ is reminiscent of Coverdale/Page with those brooding, menacing guitars hanging over proceedings. ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ meanwhile, could have come off ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ – perhaps that’s Reb Beach’s influence, he can do a pretty good Vai when required. The poppier ‘Always and Forever’, with its Lizzy-esque twin guitar will make you think of ‘Guilty of Love’, while closing number ‘Sands of Time’ is another attempt by Coverdale to recreate the epic magic of  Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’.  Even here though, he’s peppered the song with hackneyed clichés like ‘winds of change’, and ‘eye of the storm’.

Realistically, this late in the day Coverdale isn’t going to come out with a complete change of image and direction, you know what you’re getting with him by now. However I cannot be the only one who was tempted to throttle the speakers (or stomp on my earbuds, listening to it on Spotify for review purposes) when he came out with yet another promise to ‘set the night on fire’!

Even the cover art, another variation on the ‘amulet’ theme used for every album since 1987 is starting to look a bit hackneyed now. I’m all for brand identity and all that, but Whitesnake once used to give us fun, if sometimes risqué covers for their albums, not just the same old ‘Serpens Albus’ thing in a different colour and a slightly different pattern in the background for each record. So, a bit of a mixed bag; some good stuff (‘Heart of Stone’ is the highpoint of this whole record, that shows the man still has a good tune in him), some fine playing from the guys backing him and also a lot of recycling of old ideas and lyrical phrases we’ve heard many times before. If you’re a fan you’ve probably bought this album already; if you’re wavering then I’d give it a cautious ‘yes’ – but do get the deluxe edition, since the bonus tracks are (in my view) good enough to have been included on the album proper in place of at least two others which did make the cut. ‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’ is a slow-burner with some tasty guitar licks, while ‘If I Can’t Have You’ does have a surprise in it, with a Queen-style harmony vocal intro before the main riff smashes in.  These, plus ‘Heart of Stone’ means this offering squeaks four inflatable guitars.

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4 – Deserving

Whitesnake release first new, original song since 2011

‘Flesh & Blood’, the new album from Whitesnake has been much-delayed, but is finally set for release later this year through Frontiers Records. Preceding this is their new single and video ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’, appropriately released on St Valentines Day. This is the first offering of new material from the current line-up, although the band has been in its present form for several years now. Their last album, 2015’s ‘The Purple Album’ saw the band rework a selection of tracks from frontman David Coverdale’s days with Deep Purple, with a subsequent tour spawning a live album/DVD released early last year.

The track itself is an uptempo hard rocker, one Coverdale himself might have described as the sort of song ‘that walks off the disc and into the concert hall’. You won’t find a profound lyric here, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the man who encouraged us to ‘Come An’ Get It’ and to ‘Slide It In’ all those years ago, after all. Guitar-wise, the sound is reminiscent to these ears of the ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ era, which may please Messrs Hoekstra and Beach, since it was one Steve Vai who performed on that 1989 album.  It is not one that’s going to rank alongside their classics, but will almost certainly go down well with a crowd. Vocally, you can tell Coverdale isn’t what he once was, he’s rationed that former ‘lung-busting roar’ now, providing a more measured delivery.

The video clip is a clear homage to his 1987 glory days; Coverdale has not only got the blue jacket from the ‘Here I Go Again’ video out of mothballs but also THAT white Jaguar car! Unsurprisingly, somebody from those days who was heavily featured in those glossy videos is not present now, but there are appearances from Coverdale’s wife Cindy and son Jasper (as well as his girlfriend), with presumably other family friends having fun climbing over the Jaguar. With the full album release still several weeks away, long-term fans of this band will have to wait a little longer to hear what they’ve been cooking up over the past year or so.

Whitesnake ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’ (Frontiers)

 

3gtrs

3 – Decent

From The Earth: ‘From The Earth’ (Machine Devil Records)

This one came out of left-field last month: a six-track mini-album from a new project fronted by Michael Devin, currently the bassist for Whitesnake. He’s written all the material himself, and co-produced this record with Warren Riker, as well as contributing bass, vocals, keyboards and guitars. There are several other notable performers on the record however, listed on the back cover (posted below) including a certain Brian Tichy on one track.

The cover art suggests the style of rock on offer here quite well, evoking the ‘stoner rock’ era of the early 2000s, itself inspired by 1970s acid rock bands such as Hawkwind. That’s the kind of thing to expect, especially with the Monster Magnet-esque ‘Creature Feature’. Those sort of sludgy guitar riffs are present and correct on here, and Devin may surprise those unaware of his vocal prowess on this album. ‘Wild Buffalo’ could have fitted on Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ and it’s no stretch to say that the Whitesnake man’s voice is quite reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell on this one.

Opener ‘Hallelujah Blues’ is more like another Monster; the hard rock shuffle of this track is in keeping with Monster Truck’s sound. Safe to say if you like the kind of retro-rock those two Monsters serve up (and I do!) then you’ll enjoy ‘From The Earth’. It isn’t all a heavy hammering though; ‘All The Time’ is a slower, more country-rock styled number while ‘Moon Queen’ also cools things down, Devin sounding more like the Cornell of ‘Euphoria Morning’ here. Closer ‘Monsterland’ is a slow-burning, stoner epic of the kind of thing Dave Wyndorf specialises in, it will conjure up images of sixties-style liquid light shows in your head!

Devin’s Whitesnake commitments (he’s currently on a US tour with Coverdale and co) mean it’s unlikely he will get the chance to play this stuff live often, but it’s to be hoped he can get a band together to play a few selected dates. This is a strong offering from a talented musician who shows here he’s far more than a sideman. Recommended.

The mini-album is available as a download on iTunes, Amazon and is also on Spotify – you can listen for yourself below:

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Caught Live: Bernie Marsden (featuring Neil Murray), Tivoli Venue Buckley, 20th April 2018

Once again the dreaded Same Night Syndrome struck here, I was genuinely torn as to whether to take in this gig by Whitesnake’s original guitarist Bernie Marsden or go and see prog rockers Arena in St Helens, who include in their ranks CATS in SPACE vocalist Paul Manzi as well as the excellent John Mitchell on guitar. I couldn’t decide, so I put it to my Facebook list via a poll! Perhaps a bit over the top, but I needed something to push me one way or the other. The message was clear from that however – and Bernie’s show was duly booked. Maybe the fact that this time around he was to be joined by his old Whitesnake bandmate Neil Murray swung it, but regardless it was off to the famous Tivoli I headed.

I was greeted warmly by the venue’s current manager Rokib, and ushered in as he had already seen that I’d booked the show earlier in the day. On entering a band were already playing; a five-piece made up of middle-aged blokes performing 80s rock and metal covers. Judging by the crowd already on the floor I gathered they’d brought a few of their own followers along, they were a competent enough outfit but I’d have preferred to see an original band, and I could have done without the belly flash from their vocalist (think of the old Reebok advert from about a decade ago!)

Last year when I saw Bernie Marsden at this same place he had a keyboard player along; not so this time as he would play with just Neil Murray and former Magnum drummer Mickey Barker. The set he played incorporated tracks from ‘Shine’, last year’s studio album as well as numerous crowd-pleasing Whitesnake covers. He opened with ‘Linin’ Track’, a song used as basis for Aerosmith’s ‘Hangman Jury’ many years ago, and was into the groove right away. Playing a PRS guitar, when he went into a solo which culminated in a lengthy ‘sustain’ he made me think of how Paul Reed Smith himself talked (at the recent event in Liverpool) about how modern guitars don’t sustain quite the same way as classic instruments, something he’d aimed to redress. Going off this demonstration, the guitar builder has succeeded!

There was quite a bit of humour with the audience, as first Jack Bruce was mentioned to little reaction (‘obviously he wasn’t big in Buckley!’) then as other famous musicians that Marsden has worked with were mentioned to more positive reactions, that was used as a basis for how ‘famous in Buckley’ they were! Joe Bonamassa, Ginger Baker and the late Gary Moore were also mentioned as material they made famous was delivered. Also performed was a substantially reworked cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’, interspersed with ‘The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown’). The Whitesnake covers included ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues’, ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry No More’ (for which he gave shout-outs to both David Coverdale and Micky Moody, who actually wrote the song), ‘Fool For Your Lovin’ and of course ‘Here I Go Again’, the song he wrote with Coverdale which has probably set him up for life! Another surprise was he chose to include a snippet of ‘Is This Love’ in the song; he was long gone from the ‘Snakes when they recorded that one but he did have Neil Murray alongside, who did play on it so I suppose it was justifiable!

He closed things with a cover of ‘Walking By Myself’, dedicated to Gary Moore before almost immediately appearing at the merch stand to sign albums and copies of his book, which he plugged heavily during the show! (‘For those who haven’t got the book yet, I have your names and addresses!’, he joked.) It’s always a pleasure to hear Bernie Marsden play, and when he launched into ‘Fool For Your Lovin’ it brought it home how his guitar was a big part of that song – hearing it played by him, with the same guitar tone present and correct, was special. Also the fact Neil Murray joined him for this show made it extra special too, he hasn’t been on every date so it was a real treat to see him here. He stayed in the background most of the time, but you’d know his fluid playing anywhere.

The only slight downer was the constant chatter heard throughout the show towards the back of the hall by the bar – from my spot it was fairly easy to block it out but that must have been irritating to many who’d come to see a guitar legend play, only for a few inconsiderate idiots to babble away like they were still in the pub. It didn’t spoil it too much for me but I imagine venue manager Rokib got a few complaints about it, since he took to Facebook soon after to ask punters whether it was a distraction. Good as it is to see a venue boss taking on board feedback, that’s really a lack of consideration on the part of certain punters and perhaps they’d have been better off staying in the pub!

All the same, the performance was as high-quality as you’d expect from a musician of this calibre, so I’ve little option but to award another five inflatable guitars for this set!

5 – Delightful

CD/DVD: Whitesnake ‘The Purple Tour – Live’ (Rhino Entertainment)


Sourced from a performance at the Genting Arena, Birmingham in December 2015 (a show which your correspondent attended), this live album and video captures the current incarnation of Whitesnake during their tour supporting ‘The Purple Album’, vocalist David Coverdale’s celebration of his time fronting Deep Purple.

The release is available in several formats, as is so often the case these days. Most will plump for either the CD/DVD or CD/Blu-Ray package (yours truly opted for the former), but for those who just want an audio memento of this concert it is available either as a standalone CD or on double vinyl LP.

Utilising a similar artwork theme as used on ‘The Purple Album’, the presentation here is beautiful. The familiar Whitesnake ‘amulet’ surrounded by that distinctive lettering is present and correct, only with the band members now depicted around that amulet. The purple marble effect on the cover is seductive, and will make a nice companion for the 2015 album, the tour programme (if you have it) or even the recent coffee-table book, if you had pockets deep enough to stretch to either edition!

David Coverdale acts as much as master of ceremonies as lead vocalist on this DVD, the video presentation makes sure it is as much about the players currently surrounding him as it is about himself; every member is given a good amount of screen time with individual camera shots for each. The cuts are rapid, similar to how it was done for the earlier ‘Live In The Still Of The Night’ DVD, and there are black and white shots frequently interspersed like in that production. That’s something I am not a massive fan of, but these are a little less jarring with the shots being not quite so ‘grainy’ this time. The director for this footage is Canadian Tyler Bourns, who also worked on the bonus promo video for ‘Burn’, released to YouTube at Christmas and included on this disc. The DVD picture is mostly crisp, but the sharp-eyed will notice some ‘artifacts’ in the picture which may or may not be down to visual effects used in post-production. For fans of a certain age, who remember watching bootleg VHS tapes of this band back in the 80s, it’s not a show-stopper compared to the tape dropouts we had to put up with in those days!

I was at this concert and reviewed it at the time for this blog, so I shan’t go into detail once again about the actual show. The band (guitarists Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach, bassist Michael Devin, keyboardist Michele Luppi and veteran drummer Tommy Aldridge) gave a splendid performance, allowing Coverdale to ham it up in front of this huge crowd as only he can. He sounds in good voice on this presentation, although even his most ardent fans will now concede he isn’t what he once was. He has chosen these players for their vocal as well as instrumental abilities; you see all of them providing strong vocal backing for the main man throughout, in particular Reb Beach and Michele Luppi.

Overall, it is a good value package, including a complete concert performance plus extras, in the form of the ‘Burn’ promo video, a short interview segment where Michael Devin quizzes Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach (with generous portions of humour), and some bonus audio, presented on the DVD or Blu-ray in stereo or 5.1.  When this tour came to the UK the band had limited time, as it was a co-headline tour with Def Leppard and so some of the songs performed in other countries were left out of the UK shows. That was a little disappointing I thought, as this was a unique tour in which Purple classics from Coverdale’s old days were revived, possibly for the only time. He has rectified that, at least in part with three songs not done on the UK tour included here (‘You Keep On Moving’, Lay Down Stay Down’, and ‘Stormbringer’ with the other track ‘Lotsanotes’ being a guitar duel between the two axemen). It isn’t made clear when these tracks were recorded, but I’d guess it came early on in the tour as ‘Lay Down Stay Down’ was only in the set for a few shows.  This is a carefully produced and lavishly presented set, and will no doubt prove popular with Coverdale’s loyal fans.

wstheprupletour

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4 – Deserving

 

Whitesnake release video for ‘Burn’ from ‘The Purple Tour – Live’

Whitesnake gave their fans a little Christmas gift this week with the release of a specially-shot promo video for ‘Burn’, one of several Deep Purple songs revisited by singer David Coverdale for 2015’s ‘The Purple Album’ and the subsequent tour. This video is set to a live performance of the song, taken from the upcoming ‘The Purple Tour – Live’ CD and DVD package. The release of this set has been delayed but is now slated to come out on January 19th. There will be a choice of either a CD/DVD or CD/Blu-Ray set, as well as audio-only versions available on LP, CD or digitally.

The video (directed by Tyler Bourns; described by Coverdale as a ‘young, hip gunslinger’) features all of the current band members (guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devin, keyboardist Michele Luppi and drummer Tommy Aldridge) intercut with numerous special effects and introduces Tiffany Atkinson (Coverdale’s ‘Executive Personal Assistant’) as the ‘fire’ woman depicted in the song lyric.

The track listing for the CD/DVD, CD/Blu-Ray and audio CD is as follows:

  1. Burn
  2. Bad Boys
  3. Love Ain’t No Stranger
  4. The Gypsy
  5. Give Me All Your Love
  6. Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City
  7. Mistreated
  8. You Fool No One
  9. Soldier Of Fortune
  10. Is This Love
  11. Fool For Your Loving
  12. Here I Go Again
  13. Still Of The Night

The CD/DVD or CD/Blu-Ray sets will also feature the music video as shown above plus interviews with the band members, as well as bonus live audio in high-resolution 5.1 of the following tracks:

  • You Keep On Moving
  • Lay Down Stay Down
  • Lotsanotes
  • Stormbringer

The vinyl version of the album will include all of the main set plus ‘You Keep On Moving’.

Whitesnake recently released their first book (‘The Purple Tour – A Photographic Journey’) in strictly limited quantities, and have been working on an album of new material for a 2018 release. They also recently announced that they are to tour the US as special guests to Foreigner in summer 2018; at the time of writing they are yet to announce any dates for UK or Europe.

The band have also released an audio taster of the upcoming album, a live rendition of ‘Fool For Your Loving’:

A review of this CD/DVD will appear on the blog once I get my copy!

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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.

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

Caught Live: The Dead Daisies, The Answer (with JACKAMAN), o2 Academy Birmingham 19 November 2016

Such a mouthwatering double bill for classic rock fans, yet there were no dates scheduled for the North West of England. Having looked at the schedule for the Saturday date then, it meant a trip down to the Second City. This is a true co-headline tour, with the Daisies and The Answer rotating the closing slot, and on this night it was The Dead Daisies who would be last band up.

The gig took place in the 600-capacity Academy 2 and was a sell-out show, as were several on the tour. Opening act was Lynne Jackaman, one-time lead singer for the band Saint Jude who has now gone solo, styling herself as JACKAMAN. For this tour she performed with just acoustic guitar for company (provided by Danny Page). She’s been on my ‘keep meaning to see’ list for a long time, but this was actually the first time I’d seen her live in any guise. The start of her set was fluffed, as she walked on as her musical partner played, then walked off again immediately with a ‘Thank you – goodnight!’, laughing as she went. It turned out that the guitarist had forgotten his ‘capo’ for the guitar, meaning the opening chords were all out of whack. ‘What a w**ker!’, said the singer as she reappeared (jokingly, it should be emphasised!) to start properly once the capo was located. She’s only a slight figure but has a mighty voice, her short set drew warm applause from those that came early.

Opener Lynne Jackaman

Opener Lynne Jackaman

There was barely a pause between the end of the JACKAMAN set and the entrance of The Answer, as their kit was already set up there wasn’t much to turn around. They released a new album ‘Solas’ last month which has split their fan base, with its more rootsy musical direction delighting some fans while shocking others, who expected more of the same no-nonsense hard rock they had provided on their five previous albums.  The band obviously believe in this new album, since no fewer than nine of its eleven tracks were performed in this set, opening with the epic, Zeppelin-esque title track. All seemed well at the start as James Heatley pounded the opening drum beat, joined by bassist Micky Waters then guitarist Paul Mahon, but as trilby-wearing singer Cormac Neeson made his entrance he couldn’t initially be heard. Only when he raised his voice for the second verse did he begin to cut through, and later on a shout from the crowd to ‘turn your mike up’ was acknowledged by Neeson with humour (‘lead singer’s privilege, always be louder than the others!’).

Cormac Neeson of The Answer

Cormac Neeson of The Answer

The set may have been weighted heavily towards the new album but it was still The Answer we know and love, when the ‘Solas’ material was performed live there wasn’t the same restraint shown on record, so it rocked as hard as the selected older songs they played such as ‘New Horizon’. The mandolin did come out for ‘In This Land’, and a bouzoki was used by Neeson (‘not a bazooka, although it’s just as dangerous in the wrong hands!’, joked the singer), but anyone who thought they’d gone soft with this record would have to think again after seeing this set. A treat came midway through when the band performed ‘Nowhere Freeway’ (from 2011’s ‘Revival’ album) accompanied by Lynne Jackaman, who appears on the recorded version. With only 75 minutes and with a set leaning so much on ‘Solas’ there wasn’t much space for older songs, notably nothing was performed from debut album ‘Rise’. (The band did mark that album’s tenth anniversary with a lavish reissue packed with extras, and by playing a short run of dates performing ‘Rise’ in full earlier in the year, however.) They signed off with ‘Battle Cry’ (which reminds me a little of ‘Be What You Want’ off ‘Rise’, especially live), complete with its Gaelic refrain. They must have been happy that they got such a good reception from this crowd having debuted so many new songs, but they performed with their usual 100 per cent intensity, with the singer doing his now-familiar jump-into-the-crowd routine near the end of proceedings. When they come around again next year, be sure to go along.

Bassist Micky Waters

Bassist Micky Waters

I last saw The Dead Daisies three years ago in Liverpool, when they supported Black Star Riders (whose bassist that night was Marco Mendoza, now a Daisy himself) but, this present lineup is such a different animal that it is impossible to consider it the same band. (Cue shouts of ‘Whitesnake’ or ‘Rainbow’ – but those acts were defined by their founder members.) Only rhythm guitarist (and financial backer) David Lowy remains from the band I saw back then, and the group now surrounding him is made up of some of the finest hard rock musicians LA has to offer. Musicians have come and gone throughout the Daisies’ relatively brief history, as the players Lowy has recruited have all been of such high calibre that they were inevitably involved with other projects. He seems to have found some stability at last now, with vocalist John Corabi and drummer Brian Tichy having been around for the last two years. Guitarist Richard Fortus departed the band early in 2016 order to join up with W. Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan in the partially-reformed Guns ‘n’ Roses, as did keyboardist Dizzy Reed. This opened the lead guitar slot for ex-Whitesnake man Doug Aldrich, who joined up in time to contribute to current album ‘Make Some Noise’. With his addition, three ex-members of latter-day Whitesnake are now Dead Daisies, attracting attention from fans of Coverdale’s outfit.

Dead Daisies vocalist John Corabi

Dead Daisies vocalist John Corabi

The Dead Daisies of today are a much harder rocking proposition than before; the band I saw in 2013 were musically excellent but didn’t quite do ‘it’ for me. This lineup certainly does however, with several of the players familiar to me from their previous bands I knew just what they’d bring, hard riffs and hard pounding drums, and they did not disappoint. The Daisies’ set also leant heavily on their most recent release, with eight tracks from ‘Make Some Noise’ performed (including both covers, CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’ and The Who’s ‘Join Together’). The only nod to the earlier Jon Stevens-fronted incarnation came with ‘Lock n Load’ from the debut album, performed mid-set, yet even this is now a heavier proposition delivered by a quintet now operating without Reed’s keyboard texture.

Dead Daisies' Doug Aldrich

Dead Daisies’ guitarist Doug Aldrich

Corabi proved an engaging and charismatic frontman, often joking about with bandmates such as Marco Mendoza. He is also a fine singer, and the vibe I got from this performance was reminiscent of that I got when I saw CATS in SPACE a few weeks ago. These guys are of a similar age to the CATS, and like that band they know each other well. That showed in their playing, it came across like five old friends having a ball on stage. It must be very satisfying for David Lowy having put this act together, although he is the glue holding it all together he prefers to stay in the background allowing the big names he recruited to strut their stuff.

Marco Mendoza of Dead Daisies

Marco Mendoza of Dead Daisies

The Dead Daisies are still described as a ‘musical collective’, but it is to be hoped that this incarnation can stay together long enough for at least another album and tour. If they can then it’s likely that it will be bigger venues next time around, so this was a pleasure to see such high-quality musicians on a small stage. A rare award of five inflatable guitars for this gig it is, then.

5 - Delightful

5 – Delightful