The Answer / The Union with support from Skam, Manchester Academy 2 13.3.12

Despite having seen The Answer a few years ago supporting Alter Bridge a few years ago, I was highly expectant of this double header show, together with The Union, and for one review only  (The) Skam.
It was a gig that didn’t deliver by the spade load, it delivered by the TONNE. First band Skam were a mighty fine surprise indeed. Walking into the gig in the middle of their first song, I was hit by a wave of bass guitar and drums turned all the way past eleven. The power 3 piece from Leicester packed more punch into a 30 minute set than a lot of bands can muster in two hours. Bassist / Mentalist Matt Gilmore was an absolute star, rocking the Academy 2 crowd as if every gig he played was as big as Wembley, and he is one of 3 living musicians who still has a valid MySpace page. Guitarist/Vocalist Steve Hill, resplendent in his ‘Wyld Stallyns’ T Shirt, lead the line and delivered with great flair. Kudos as well goes to drummer Ray Peverill who beat seven colours of shite out of his kit. All of the songs caught showed great promise, nor more so than ‘Massacre’, ‘Dead From The Waist Down’ and ‘No Lies’. Keep an eye out for these guys as they have the potential to do some damage, and to your ear drums!
The Union sauntered onto the stage to a fantastic rapturous applause. Despite a decent generation gap between Morley and Shoulder, you’d swear that this band has knocked years off Luke Morley’s age and you can sense the fun that all the guys are having. Billed as a double headline, The Union, despite the fan base that The Answer brings, have nothing to be afraid of. Their songs, although not in the same DC mould as The Answer, the blues/rock song writing that Shoulder/Morley bring is an absolute joy, and in Shoulder, The Union have one of the best singers I’ve heard in years. He is bloody fantastic! Opening with the powerful ‘Watch The River Flow’ they had the audience in the palm of their hands before the first chorus had even begun.  
When Morley, Childs, and Shoulder weigh in with some harmonies on ‘Black Gold’, the end result is stunning. I wish more bands made use of their talents. The Union were here to push the new album ‘Sirens Song’ and what an album that is! ‘Blame it On Tupelo’ with soloing on guitar from Shoulder, and like Alter Bridge it’s an asset to have a vocalist who is a decent guitarist in his own right and the combination really gives the live songs some oomph. At the midpoint the audience nearly has a whip round for the guys as they were done by the pigs on the way to the gig.  New single ‘Obsession’, ‘Cut The Line’, ‘The Remedy’ and album title ‘Siren’s Song’ all kicked some serious butt.
It won’t be long before The Union are up to the size of gigs that Thunder used to play, if not bigger. Morley certain knows how to pick a singer, and in the case of Pete Shoulder, he’s got a bloke who is right at the top of his game.
The Answer, bang a slightly different drum. High octane rock n roll to be precise. Again like Pete Shoulder, The Answer has the utterly awesome Cormac Neeson. I was expecting The Answer to be playing the bigger Academy by this point in their career, but it’s better to play in a packed A2 that a half filled Academy 1.
 How that voice comes from such a slight frame is anyone’s guess. Once he gets his groove on, Neeson resembles ‘Cousin It’ from the Addams Family! Hitting 60mph from a standing start, ‘New Day Rising’ from their latest album kicks off proceedings. ‘Under The Sky’ set the tone for the evening. With Paul Mahon’s blistering guitar work, a rock-solid rhythm section of bassist Micky Waters and drummer James Heatley in perfect partnership, the Academy 2 was almost levelled; such is the power and ferocity of playing from this quartet.
Again The Answer was here with a mix of both old and new songs. Despite a pretty cool back catalogue (‘Don’t Follow Me’, ‘Too Far Gone’) the new songs really stand out. ‘Vida (I Want You), a reworked and stripped down version of the new single ‘Nowhere Freeway’. 

I always feel that if Neeson gave up his day job he could be a southern Baptist preacher. It’s an appropriate number that in ‘Preacher’ you really believe he could turn people to religion. Halfway through the song he jumped into the audience (wasn’t mobbed) and got everyone within a 5m radius (of which I was one) it sit down all around him. It was a really nice touch and was a great thing to be a part of. You can get away with stuff like this in Manchester.
The Answer finished their set with the majority of songs taken from ‘Revival’.  ‘Tornado’ lives up to its name as a live song, ‘One More Revival’ got everyone in the Academy 2 rocking their arses off. For an encore ‘Waste Your Tears’ was a fitting song to finish off the set and the audience.
For the full house that witnessed this rock n roll extravaganza, it will be talked about for many a year. The was one of the best gigs I will see all year, and it’s still only March

Romeo’s Daughter – Live Review, Manchester Academy 2, 9.3.12

To quote Steve Overland ‘’I’ve had nothing but bad luck’’ these past couple of years when it comes to seeing my beloved Romeos Daughter. Their ‘Firefest’ appearance was missed due to a chronic chest infection, the gig at Winstanley College was just sold out for a small audience. So when I heard that Dare had been replaced by my wedding band, (not in person I might add) I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity for the world.
You see, me and RD go back a long way, all the way to their supporting FM on their Tough it Out Tour in ’89, and from that moment, I was hooked!
Romeo’s Daughter were in town to support FM and were in receipt of their new album ‘Rapture’ (review soon). Twenty years just passed immediately and I was taken back to the Tiv. I’m pleased to say that in that time, nothing has changed (apart from Craig’s lack of hat and hair! Sorry dude!). Leigh Matty is still as gorgeous as ever, and thankfully, Leigh’s voice has not faltered one little bit. Back this up with ‘Slim’ Whitman, Andy Welsford, the antics of Ed Poole and the golden pen/guitar of Craig Joiner, and it makes for one great (but too short) performance.
Romeos Daughter were here to rock and they were met by a fully appreciative and excited audience. Weighing in with 8 songs, 4 of which were taken from ‘Rapture’, and if the four on offer were anything to go by, Romeo’s Daughter have another great album on their hands. The new songs, ‘Trippin Out’, ‘Bittersweet’, ‘Lightning’ and ‘Keep Walking’ were as good as the classics I wanted and did hear this evening.  The latter two especially so. Mix these four with ‘Velvet Tongue’, ‘Attracted To The Animal’, the wonderful ‘Cry Myself To Sleep’, and ‘Wild Child’ (a song so good it was once covered by Heart), and it made for one fabulous evening.
Me? I couldn’t stop smiling, I was so happy to witness Romeo’s Daughter live again. I just hope they continue to stick around and get to play some headlining gigs of their own, as eight songs just wasn’t enough.
Still ‘Delectable’ after all these years!
 And now…..!

FM – Indiscreet Live, Manchester Academy 2, 9.3.12

Nights like last night don’t come any better than that for me. A night whereby I can witness two of my fave bands of all time, Romeos Daughter and FM. A sight and sound I never ever thought I would witness again on the exact same stage and bill.
In fact I felt like Marty McFly! I’d just stepped into my DeLorean (well its a Passat really), hit 88 miles an hour, and planted myself firmly in 1987! Even some of the hairstyles were still in vogue from that era. You know who you are!
Entering onto the stage to rapturous applause from the Manchester crowd, FM could do no wrong. They were in town to support 25years of ‘Indiscreet’, their debut and definitely their most worshipped album. They were here to play the whole Goddamn thing!

With no fuss, FM went straight into ‘That Girl’, a song so good it was once covered by Iron Maiden! (cue the first of many goosebumps). ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ followed, and I sware that if you closed your eyes, it was 1987 all over again! Only this time, Chris Overland looked a little like Yngwie Malmsteens younger (and thinner) brother. Without harping on too much, classic followed classic, and the highlights for me were, ‘I Belong To The Night’, a song I’ve loved live as it just kicks ass compared to the album version; ‘American Girl’ a song which should have sent FM to the US and mega stardom; ‘Face to Face’ complete with obligatory audience participation – If you don’t know this song, you’re not allowed to buy a ticket, and the classic ‘Frozen Heart’. A special guest was in attendance for an added surprise on ‘Heart Of The Matter’. Yes people, for one night only,  back from a recent tour of Neptune and Pluto, Mr Didge Digital. For when you think its never too much to have one keytar, FM sported two (yes TWO!). That was special indeed! And it was great to see Didge back on the same stage – cue a sea of mobile phones to capture the occasion.

If you thought just listening to ‘Indiscreet’ was enough (I’d have gone home ecstatic at this point), what was about to follow made this an FM gig of a lifetime. FM camped their set firmly in the ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’ era. The second half opened with ‘Dangerous’, which only ever appeared live in the early days, and ‘Let Love Be The Leader’. ‘Tough It Out’ was up next, and Overland had me at ‘Whoa-o-oh’. This album should have sent FM stratospheric, and the remainder of the set was ‘T.I.O-tastic’.
‘Dont Stop’, and ‘Does It Feel Like Love’ followed, before classics ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Burning My Heart Down’ complete with Jupp’s obligatory dance moves, closed off the set. FM returned for ‘Hot Legs’, a song that they made their own 20-odd years ago and was a perfect finale.

In Steve Overland, FM have one of the finest singers ever to grace a stage. Put this together with the mighty rhythm section of Messers Jupp and Goldsworthy, master ivory tinkler Jem Davis, and the best guitarist I’ve seen play for FM with a fire and passion like Jim Kirkpatrick, it all makes for one special formula, and one very special night.
FM don’t play to fans, they play to family and friends, as its rare to see a bond like this between the two. Everyone sang, everyone went home 100% ecstatic. The song selection (and performance) was unparalleled. A point stated as I chatted to friends after the show.
This was the best FM gig I have witnessed in over 20 years of seeing the guys, and I say this on great authority as I must have seen them 20 times over the years. If you were lucky to witness this short tour then you caught a very special night indeed. I’ve never had goosebumps so many times in one night, even two hours later. After a sing-a-long night like last night, my voice is totally buggered. Absolutely fantastic.

Set List –

Intro – Pink Panther Theme
That Girl
Other Side Of Midnight
Love Lies Dying
I Belong To The Night
American Girl
Hot Wired
Face To Face
Frozen Heart
Heart Of The Matter
Let Love Be The Leader
Tough It Out
Don’t Stop
Does It Feel Like Love
Bad Luck
Burning My Heart Down
Hot Legs

Pain Of Salvation – The Robin 2, Sunday 12th Feb 2012

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The music world/Progressive Rock in particular would be a much lesser place if it were not for the likes of the very talented Daniel Gildenlöw. This is a bloke who has more talent and ideas in his little toe (I can vouch for this as I have actually seen his little toe!) than most bands can muster collectively over a lifelong career.

Living with this kind of creative ideas can’t be easy for him or his fellow band members. Since I last saw Pain of Salvation in Nov supporting Opeth, two members – keyboardist Frederick Hermansson and guitarist Johann Hallgren have left, and in (and quickly) have come Daniel Karlsson and Ragnar Zolberg. Without these two adapting so quickly, they (POS) could have easily cancelled the tour
Thankfully the new fellas fitted in very well, to the point where POS seem as energised as I have ever seen them, particularly the added vocal dynamic that Zolberg gives them. These two are only currently classed as touring members, but surely Gildenlöw can see that they are a perfect fit for the future!

Playing in front of a pretty paltry audience, but a dedicated one, POS opened up with the powerful ‘Softly She Cries’ one of many tonight making up most of the set from the RS series. Despite suffering with a cold, Gildenlöw’s voice is in fine form indeed, hitting the guttural throaty sections as well as the much higher screams. ‘Ashes’, a regular of their set follows and is a great example of their past (and continued) glory. ‘Linoleum’ is the first of some audience/Gildenlöw banter, and after a few attempts from the willing audience to ‘oi!’ in the gaps of the riff, the song gets its ass kicked. So much so, that Gildenlöw breaks a string early on and no one batters an eyelid. A trio of RS2 and 70s classic rock influenced songs ensued with ‘The Deeper Cut’, the emotive ‘1979’ and ‘To The Shoreline’
Remedy Lanes ‘Chain Sling’ proved a highlight of the night, especially due to Zolberg’s superb vocals and is as powerful a song as the Hallgren version. This bloke will hopefully prove to be an asset in the long run. Any audience cries throughout the night for ‘Disco Queen’ fell on stony ground, even though Gildenlöw had the whammy pedal up on stage ready to be unleashed! Damn you Gildenlöw!!

The last few songs finished the set on a high with the excellent ‘No Way’ from RS1 and was one of the best received of the night. Final song of the set ‘Enter Rain’ just had me in goosebumps. Nothings better when all members wade in and harmonise. I’m a sucker for harmonies and layered vocals.
The encore was slightly strange with the lengthy (and part French) ‘Physics of Gridlock’, and the final song, ‘Sisters’ an excellent track but for me shoulf have been mid way in the set as it’s a relatively subdued way to finish. Hey, WTF do I know! I still enjoyed the night immensely

Personally Id have preferred a slightly longer set (possibly 2hrs), as there were some glaring omissions, like the excellent ‘Healing Now’, ‘Used’ ‘Scarsick’ and obviously ‘Disco Queen’ but they weren’t to be.
I feel honoured to have seen POS twice in recent months. I just hope the other gigs were better attended than the few at The Robin, otherwise we might only see them restricted to gigs in the capital in years to come
Softly She Cries
Deeper Cut
To The Shoreline
Chain Sling
Ending Theme
Perfect Element
Kingdom Of Loss
No Way
Enter Rain
Physics Of Gridlocl

Cryptex Live review – The Robin 2, Bilston 12.2.2012

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Now it’s not very often that your breath gets taken away by a support act. Usually nowadays the support acts are pared to great effect with the support, but in this case and after a brief 40minute dalliance with these German (and young) progsters, you can tell that they are destined for much greater things
Musically they are a bit eclectic to say the least, but to describe them is almost like saying which one of your 2 kids is your favourite (they know which one is my favourite!). Think Meat Loaf, crossed with Jethro Tull, crossed with Queen, and we may be getting somewhere close
Also, NEVER judge a book by its cover as the guys merch stand had CDs on offer (review to follow) and they look like the bastard offspring of (pick any two from) Jim Henson’s Muppets and a Tim Burton Movie, or possibly Rocky Horror and Robert Smith (Cure), and you’re still only half way there! And they sounded (obviously) nothing like I was expecting
I don’t blame the audience at the start as it was only 150 people (ish), so they were never going to get a thunderous welcome. Cryptex were in Bilston to put on a show, no matter how small or quiet the audience. Come the end, they definitely won a few new fans.
‘Cryptex’ is basically one of the hottest bands to come out of Germany, and the driving force behind them is Noddy Holder lookalike Simon Moskon (Keys/piano, bluesharp, harmonica, bass, and even didgeridoo!!), and he confidently holds the keys (and tambourine) to their future success
They basically came, saw and conquered. Opening with the delightful ‘Hicksville, Habitus and Itchy Feet’, ‘Cryptex’ set their plans for domination. ‘Freeride’ was a song straight out of a dark Burton-esque Broadway musical. ‘Cryptex’ are a quite superb 3 piece with wonderous harmonies – just check out Dance of the Strange Folk’. Apparently 12 months ago neither Ramon Heig (Drums & Cajón) or Martin Linke (Guitars, Sansula) sung a note. They harmonised as if they’ve been at it for years, this is where the Queen influence can be heard the most. When the guys take it up a notch for the powerful Camden Town, its an all out Rock assault. ‘Alois’ is where ‘Cryptex’ shone the most, stripped down and full of power and emotion. Linke riffed on the children’s glockenspiel before swapping for the acoustic on ‘Its Mine’, and shows what a powerful tool Moskon’s voice really is, and whips out the harmonica to finish off the song, before surprising the now fully entertained audience with his didgeridoo (a first for many of the prog audience I’m certain).
The talent was in abundance, with Heig keeping the beat on his Cajón (oo-er!)for ‘Gypsy’s Lullaby’. ‘Cryptex’ finished the latter part of their set strongly (not that any of it was weak I must add) with the heavy ‘Most Lovable Monster’, the thunderous ‘Leviathan’ and finally their ‘Outro’ from their album
‘Cryptex’s’ music can be a bit all over the place, but with this gig supporting songs from their debut ‘Good Morning, How Did You Live’ it all makes for a varied and superb gig. Symphonic, pompous, 70s infused classic rock of the highest order. I didn’t mention the link to the DaVinci Code once! Dammit!
Setlist –
Hicksville, Habitus and Itchy Feet
Dance Of The Strange Folk
Camden Town
Its Mine
Gypsy’s Lullaby
Most Lovable Monster
Grief And Despair

Gig Review – A Pale Horse Named Death (with support from Mother of Six and Blood Runs Deep) Wrexham Central Station 24/1/12

I would absolutely love it if the first band on the list wasn’t actually a bona fide band, because ‘Always The Quiet Ones’ didn’t show. I had to check my watch that it wasn’t April 1st, because what they did was almost a masterstroke.
Second up!?, ‘Mother Of Six’, should have taken a leaf out of ATQO book and not turned up and saved themselves from a lack of support. Opening with Artificial Aid (an instrumental of sorts) it lacked any substance or quality. When the (stand in) vocalist appeared for the second song I almost wish he hadn’t as his stage presence was lacking somewhat. It was like a musical version of a Man City fan, he faced the back of the hall for a good part of the song, and when not doing this, just looked at the floor or towards the roof and had no connection with the (small) audience at all. Their third song started decently enough but really fell apart in the middle (drop this section and you’d have a decent track to build upon). Despite my (personal) lack of enjoyment a decent effort was made considering the circumstances.
Now with ‘Blood Runs Deep’ the ante was upped quite bit. Sound was much better, the quality definitely was upped a notch. Hailing from Switzerland ‘BRD’ was here to give it some welly. In Denis Vera they have a young lad who could take them very far. A guitarist in the mould of a Sykes/Gilmore/Page who adds a certain melodic style to a death metal/gothic doom band. With this style of singing, straight out of the Mikael Akerfelt school of vocalisation, it’s difficult to get any meaning or content from Stefan Vida, but musically these guys ripped! They even had a prominent keyboard (which was rather nice!), and a shit hot drummer holding up the proceedings. It’s not a happy set of songs, ‘Lost Myself Again’, ‘These Thoughts About Suicide’ ‘Overdose Anaesthetics’, and ‘Suicide Is Life’ the latter being the best song of their short set. BRD could mistakenly be classed as Death Metal, but their music is 100% influenced by Classic Rock (Sabbath/Floyd/Zep etc).
 If you’re out to catch APHND, it’s definitely worth getting out to catch Blood Runs Deep. If Doom/Goth/Black/Death is your thing, only played with a bit of classic rock finesse then you will not be disappointed. Putting my Anglophile hat on Switzerland is renowned for Alps (and a certain lookalike choc bar)/ Watches/ Army knives, but now I’m convinced that BRD will be putting Metal firmly on the Swiss map.
Onto the main event. Firstly what a bunch of twats are working the desk for the gig. Not employed by the band, the 2 nuggets involved, inbetween chatting amongst themselves and pissing about with their phones, couldn’t find their arses with both hands tied behind their backs. I checked out the band and asked if they liked playing in the dark as they were only lit from behind, Fuck me! It could have been anyone playing up on stage. If money is that tight Central Station I will bring 50p with me next time for the meter. See what I mean below…

Apologies, back to the band. A Pale Horse Named Death were here to promote (pretty much in its entirety) their debut album from 2011, ‘And Hell Will Follow Me’. Again like BRD, the songs on offer don’t lead to a happy & fluffy environment. A purgatorial odyssey of drug abuse, nightmarish deleriums and agonizing meditations on loss. Sounding like prime Alice In Chains throughout, these ashen songs – from the Burroughsian narcotic haze of ‘Heroin Train’ to the psychopathic discharge of ‘Serial Killer’ – are inescapably bleak, but quite compelling. Vocallist Sal Abruscato, and guitarist Matt Brown, define themselves as ‘’the murdering evil version of Lennon & McCartney’’. And you know what, I cant argue with that at all.
Type O’s original drummer (Sal) has moved to the front of stage for this band to lead his own way for A Pale Horse Named Death, and does so with great confidence and attitude. They clearly do not mimic Type O Negative, but use them as a creative influence alongside the afore-mentioned Alice In Chains.
Opener ‘To Die In Your Arms’ has a grinding riff keep the headbangers in the crowd happy. You can feel the pain and despair in his voice.  Whilst not the best singer in the World, Abruscato holds a tune, and can be more in the Rob Zombie camp of vocalization. 
When a band has only one album to plug there is a tendency to play everything, and that’s just the case here (except for ‘Bad Dream’). Not all hit the mark for me, but hey, it was my first ever experience of APHND, but they did have some pretty useful songs – ‘Cracks In The walls’ being a more classic rock number, ‘Heroin Train’, ‘Bath In My Blood’, ‘Serial Killer’ in particular will become staples in their set over the coming year.
Whilst not my fave type of music, APHND put on a pretty good doom laden/gothic show. I suggest getting down to see them on the remainder of the tour as new bands like this deserve all the support they can get. For a tiny crowd like Wrexham (shame on you people of Wxm for not showing) APHND never let it get to them and put on a sterling performance. A cool bunch of guys. 
Mother of Six – dont care! (3/10)

Blood Runs Deep – Lost Myself Again/These Thoughts About Suicide/All The Things Above/ Overdose Anesthetics/ Suicide Is Life (7/10)

A Pale Horse Named Death – To Die In Your Arms/Devil In The Closet/When Crows Descend Upon You/Heroin Train/Meet The Wolf/As Black As My Heart/Pill Head/Cracks In The Walls/Serial Killer/ Die Alone/Bath In My Blood (8/10)

Best live performances of 2011 – Top 10

So I didnt go to any of the festivals in 2011 – Download & Firefest being my main two I have liked to attend, so I have just concentrated on the single gigs of 2011, by a headlining act, or even the support!! (Yes they were that good)

10. Saint Jude

70s style rock goddess with a voice that makes grown blokes cry into their beer. Their first headline tour of many in late 2011 will surely lead them to much bigger venues than the Academy 3. A band to watch out for in 2012

9. Rival Sons

Another heavily influenced 70s classic rock band from LA. Yes its like getting into a DeLorean and watching Led Zep, but who gives a flying f*ck. Absloutely brilliant. They will be huge! Another band to watch in 2012

8. Judas Priest

Billed as their last tour, I understand further dates have been posted for 2012. As camp as a custard fight between Julian Clary and Alan Carr, Priest (like Kiss) give their fans exactly what they want. Next time Mr Halford I expect you to sing Breaking the Law, and not the audience

7. Rush

Once as rare as a Kate Bush concert in the UK for a generation of followers, Rush are now as regular in the UK as the Norovirus. Still cutting the mustard (even at their ripe ages) they give all the young pretenders more than a run for their money. Playing ‘Moving Pictures’ in its entirety, a Rush/Rash concert doesn’t get mush better than this

6. Mr Big

Four blokes, utterly skilled in their own crafts (and each others come to think of it) Mr Big came, saw and conquered the UK this Summer. Excellent dexterity and layered vocals from all concerned it was one of the unexpected highlights of 2011

5. Richard Marx

Marx has been a whipping boy for many people ever since he came onto the scene in the 80s. But boy, can this bloke sing. A solo performance that slayed the UK audiences and proved that he can still perform with the best of them. Just don’t wait another 20 years until your next visit ‘eh! I don’t think I will be still alive and kicking by 2031

4. Opeth

If there ever was an award for ‘Metals funniest bloke’, Akerfeldt would win hands down. A definite sea change over recent years now he has set his and Opeth’s stall firmly in 70s Prog-land. Some fans will surely be lost along the way, the recent tour was probably a surprise for even the most hardened fan as they stuck firmly to ‘mellow’. Even I would have preferred the odd Death Metal nugget, but alas it wasnt to be the case. If they had have just played ‘Deliverence’, Opeth would have been No.1 in the list

3. Steel Panther

First band on the bill, they absolutely blew away the competition they were taking the piss out off. Tommy Lee doesn’t get it, but that’s because Steel Panther are playing music like Crue dreamed of (then and now!). If Michael Starr wasn’t a DLRoth impersonator before SP I will show my arse in what was Woolies shop window.  Extremely talented and even funnier, they deserve to be taken seriously. I beg you to catch them on tour in the UK in March

2. Foreigner

This should have been billed as the ‘Tour without any original singers’ tour!. Styx were as polished as a highly polished thing, but Foreigner with Kelly Hansen on board blew away all concerned – yes that means you Journey!. Foreigner now have a new lease of life and with Hansen looking like Steven Tylers younger brother, Foreigner now have a singer than can sing the songs live just as Mick Jones intended. Mick must be laughing his cock off. THE surprise gig of the year

1. Alter Bridge
Been a huge fan of AB since the beginning. I for one was delighted and surprised that they had stepped up a gear and playing the arenas in the UK. In Myles Kennedy they have a ‘bona fide Rock God’ who can sing anything thrown at him. Just ask Slash who has a guy for the first time ever who can sing songs just as he intended. Ranging from Metal to gut wrenching balladry, AB are one of the best live bands I have witnessed in the last 30 years.They deserve everything that is due to them. Unfortunately there will be no AB activity in 2012, so I will have to settle for the DVD release due out early 2012                          

Saint Jude – Manchester Academy 3, 15/12/11

Well I have to admit that I have more than a soft spot for female singers, especially rock singers. Pat Benatar, Leigh Matty, Ann Wilson, Amanda Marshall, Grace Potter, Sarah McLachlan, Sam Brown –  and now I have found someone who does not look amiss at all amongst this company, the very impressive (and very gorgeous) Lynne Jackaman.
Imagine if Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin got it on and had a love child, well Jackaman would certainly be it! The type of beauty that you’d walk away from your missus just to spend a night with, but with a voice given by the rock (and Soul) Gods!

Yes, Jackaman is drop dead gorgeous. Yes, she has one of the finest voices I’ve ever heard, but these two (hot properties) don’t cut it if you haven’t got the quality of songs to back it all up, and thankfully Saint Jude have some pretty decent tunes to call upon.

It’s great when you get bands (so young) like Saint Jude and Rival Sons, who proudly have set their styles in the Classic 70s era (think Stones/Faces/Bad Company)  and make no apologies for doing it their way.
Apart from my lad  (16) I doubt there were many around me (apart from one or two) that were below the 35-49 age bracket, which tells you exactly the type of crowd that they are pulling in, the 70s Classic Rock fan.
Saint Jude made a pretty clever move recently, in giving away their current album with Classic Rock. There’s no point in trying to shift an album for a tenner when you can give it away to tens of thousands in a mag. The upshot of which was a pretty decent turnout, which otherwise might not have been the case
Opening with ‘Little Queen’, was played like a band with hundreds of gigs under their belt, assured and professional. The excellent ‘Garden of Eden’ followed, and sums up exactly what Saint Jude are about – bluesy, soulful  and instantly addictive. ‘Leave a Light’ reminded me a little of ‘Northwinds’ era Coverdale (before he went all MTV and Harmony Hairspray on us). The two best songs which highlighted the ‘Diary Of A Soul Fiend’ album were the stunning vocals on ‘Angel’ and passionate ‘Down and Out’. It all felt a bit religious to be honest. I nearly shouted ‘Hell Yeah’ at one point. When Jackaman sings ‘’hold out your hand / let me lead you astray / close both your eyes / I will show you the way’’ I for one was up for anything at this point.
The two new sons ‘Black Rum and White Lies’ and ‘Layhee’ prove that the dreaded ‘second album syndrome’ will not be a problem for Saint Jude. The former being a blend of the Stones and Faces and was one of the heaviest songs of the set
‘Soul On Fire’ probably the bands most heard track by the audience went down a storm, before they came back for their ‘Southern Belle’ encore. Such was the response at the end, they came out for what seemed like an unplanned second encore for the excellent ‘I’m Losing You’
With only one album under the belt it was all over fairly quickly, but what mattered was the quality of the performance. If I have any doubts, it’s not about the music at all, but I’d have liked a little more interaction with the audience. Hardly any of the songs were introduced and there was little banter. This will come I’m sure of it.  Musically, considering it was the first night of the tour, their souls were on fire!
Judging by the new songs, I expect that the success that Saint Jude crave (and deserve) is just around the corner. 2012 to be precise


Setlist –

Little Queen
Garden Of Eden
Pleased To Meet You
Leave A Light
Sweet Melody
Down And Out
In My Head
Black Rum And White Lies
Parallel Life
Soul On Fire
Southern Belles
I’m Losing You

Mr Big – Manchester Academy 2 – Sat 17th Sept 2011

Well I never in a million years thought I would ever get to see Mr Big playing live, not only in the UK, but also in a relatively small and intimate MA2, twenty feet away from the band! Thanks to this resurgence in melodic rock over the last year that has made this feat happen for fans over in Blighty. In 2009 Mr Big, after some huge musical/personality differences, buried the hatchet/s and reformed to great surprise (of many), but still proved they all had the chops as they released the excellent and aptly titled ‘What If?’ earlier this year.
I wasn’t expecting the venue to be full, especially with tickets priced at £30 plus no support act. Thankfully this meant that Mr Big played a decent set at 2hours and twenty minutes, and to be honest, played the gig as if they were playing Madison Square Garden back in the 80s. Hell, they even looked extremely thankful and enthusiastic to be playing in front of a very appreciative audience.
Mr Big kick off with the high octane ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’ and they have audience in the palm of their hands right from the off, with Sheehan and Gilbert trading licks, Martin looking (and sounding) as youthful as ever, and Mr Pat Torpey taking it all in his stride, tying it all together – no fancy tricks, he is the glue holding the whole thing together. The screams just getting louder with every passing song – ‘Alive and Kicking’, ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’,  with ‘Undertow’ and ‘American Beauty’ getting an early airing from the new album. ‘Take Cover’ followed, before a rousing rendition of ‘Just Take My Heart’.
‘One Upon A Time’ followed, but for the previous song Mr Cool (Torpey) made a rare mistake and played the intro to this song,  which came complete with a side order of piss taking from the band.
Next came a stunning piece of vocal dexterity from Torpey/Sheehan/Gilbert (man these fuckers can all REALLY sing!) before letting rip into ‘ A Little Too Loose’. No doubt the three add to the whole vocal experience adding in where (on a few occasions) Martin struggles with the higher sections on what is a demanding and long set. The same can be said of ‘Road To Ruin’ where the harmonies from all four were just fantastic.
Gilbert stepped to the front , stopped listening to his mp3 player, took off the defenders, and blazed into his guitar solo. Up came ‘Still Aint Enough For Me’ and ‘The Price You Gotta Pay’ complete with a Gilbert Sheehan jam, and a sing-a-long with Martin, who if he ever decides to leave the profession, then the guy has the calling to be a preacher. We all were lucked up by singing his ‘mucca-lucca-heini-hi’ verse, before going back to the first Mr Big album with ‘Take A Walk’.
Even more Gilbert/Sheehan interplay followed before ‘Round The World. If I have one slight gripe with the whole evening (don’t shout at me) was with Sheehan’s bass solo. Yes I totally agree that he is one of THE best bass players in the business (I wish I’d have caught him playing in Roth’s band in the 80s) but for me the five minute solo was four and a half minutes too long. Sorry! At least it led into the utterly excellent ‘Addicted To That Rush’.
After two hours they left the stage for a few seconds before returning with their mega-hit ‘To Be With You’ This is one of the few instances where I thought Martin’s vocals struggled to hit some of the notes, who am I to judge after his wonderful singing for the last two hours? The fierce ‘Colorado Bulldog’ followed, before what was to come next….
If there was a event in the 2012 Olympics for ‘Best Band/Best Musicians’ then Mr Big would certainly be in contention. Not only do they reign supreme in their own instrument of choice, but the talented bastards also switch around for Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’ playing each other’s instruments – Torpey bass/ then vocals, Martin – lead guitar / then bass, Sheehan – lead guitar / then vocals, with Gilbert just tying all together for the whole song impeccably sat at the drum stool.
Finally the last song was here, with The Who’s Baba O’Reilly, before taking the applause from a very appreciative Manchester audience. I even think the bloke next to me was crying.
A great night, played by a great band, with a great audience in tow. Just don’t leave it so long in coming back next time guys.

Live Review – Firewind with support from Wolf (Moho Live Sat Sep 10, 2011)

Very last minute gig this one, and was surprised to hear that the curfew was 10 O’clock. Ah well, least I’d be home relatively early for once!
I last witnessed Firewind a couple of years ago at what I thought then was a small venue, the Wolves Little Civic. I was taken aback when this current venue ‘Moho’ in Manchester was even smaller. Id at least thought that Gus G’s tenure with the great man Ozzy might have added some extra fans, even if out of curiosity, but he lucked out with that one. From what the venue lacked in size it certainly made up for it in atmosphere and intimacy. Plus the sound system was one of the best I’ve heard in such a small venue (take note – future revellers you may need earplugs to stave off the dreaded tinnitus!!)
What of the gig itself. First off, Swedish opening band Wolf was pretty awesome. I’ve only picked up on their last two albums, but after tonight I’ll make sure the rest are mine! Coming on to the ‘Twilight Zone’ they blazed their path with ‘Evil Star’ hardy stopping for breath along the way. Vocalist/guitarist Niklas Stålvind’s razor sharp vocals, backed with the ferocity of Johannes Axeman (surely not a genuine Swedish surname) whose twin guitar assault knock you for six. It is pretty much speed metal anthem after anthem and they give the crowd exactly what they a baying for (Aroooo! Hoowwl! Etc). ‘Hail Caesar’, Voodoo’, Full Moon Possession’,  and Skull Crusher’ which could easily double as Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ with  Stålvind proving a good match for a certain Mr Halford, and looks like a kid considering the band has been in existence since 95. ‘K-141 Kursk, a song about a Russian sub disaster in 2000, and the mighty ‘Speed On’ brought matters to a close way too quickly. I implore you to catch Wolf as their brand of metal deserves to be huge. If Priest can do it, why can’t Wolf as they deserve to pick up the mantle that Priest are leaving behind. I’d have liked them even more if they werent from Orebro (home of my fierecest rivals in my day job!!)
Onto the Greek God’s that are Firewind. Unfortunately Apollo Papathanasio wasn’t available for this leg of the tour due to personal reasons (15 dates) but will return for their ‘Frets Of Fury ‘ tour over in the US in October. Stepping into his shoes is Swedish singer (and I must say highly respected) Mats Leven, who has Therion and Yngwie Malmsteen on his CV and considering the short notice given, did not miss a sing beat, apart from being told to get off stage for the instrumental ‘SKG’. Also since I last witnessed Firewind in 2008 they have replace drummer Mark Cross and introduce new drummer Johan Nunez (Nightrage’s drummer), and was a tight as a nut
As per my Little Civic experience, Firewind have now given me two great experiences. On both occasions, I have never ever been so close and almost very intimate to a band, and I must say they were perfect once again. Despite playing a small venue to a couple of hundred people (it should be much more I add) they play the gig as if it were MSG (no not Michael Schenker, the ‘other MSG, Madison….’). Off the agenda were any high jinks, raising guitars in the air, clapping as the band would have chinned themselves
Opening up the gig with the storming ‘The Ark Of Lies’ Gus G explodes into action, with Leven settling into this style immediately and didn’t have to win over a single fan . ‘The excellent ‘Head Up High’ follows, with a jaunt back to the beginning of their career with ‘Destination Forever’.  A brief Katsionis keyboard solo ensues before they rip into ‘Angels Forgive Me’ which gets one of the biggest cheers of the night, before upping the pace with the powerful ‘World On Fire’.
A really cool band jam ensues with Katsionis showing he can match Gus G given the chance to show off his expertise, and is a values member being so talented and adds great depth to Firewind’s live experience.Nunez and Christo add to the enjoyment holding it all together
Other live staples followed, ‘Ready To Strike’, the mega catchy ‘Mercenary Man’, ‘My Loneliness’ which gets Leven a huge cheer, leading into the fast paced and utterly superb instrumental SKG.
For the encore, there were two highlights for me, ‘Into The Fire’ and their now ‘must play at all costs, ‘’Falling To Pieces’’’, before leaving all too soon
This sort of thing should be on the school curriculum, seeing bands play live and excelling at what they do, and not today’s penchant for what passes as music being pushed onto the public with shite like X factor. Compelling stuff indeed. Catch them while you can, you will not regret a single minute of it

  1. Encore: