Live Review – Sweet Crisis with Support from Electric Black, The Eagle Inn, Manchester, Nov 19th

Around the corner N-Dubz were playing the AO arena. However I’d like to think that the 30-40 of us who turned up to see Sweet Crisis definitely had the better deal.

It was a bit of fun finding a parking space close to The Eagle. The reason? It sits in the shade of the mighty AO arena. It just so happened that there was a gig on tonight at the AO with N-Dubz providing the entertainment. I would like to think though that those in the know were descending upon The Eagle to see what would be (as it turned out to be) one of my favourite gigs (and venue) of this year.

Where the AO has a capacity of 21,000, The Eagle has just 80. The 30-40 that did show, got one hell of a gig to tell their friends about. I was already in the know as I got to hear both bands do a quick sound check and couldn’t wait for the gig to get underway.

Firstly we have Electric Black. Coming all the way from Hitchin for a 45 min set takes some doing, but these guys wouldn’t like it any other way. Opening with a working title of ‘Led Hendrix’, it really was a song born from the annals and foundations of rock history, and in singer Ali they have a guy who can sing ANYTHING. This was highlighted on the excellent ‘Love Is A Light For The Lost’. Also Electric Black have their ‘go to killer moment’ with ‘Homecoming” a song that is their own ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Holy Diver’ all rolled into one. Finishing up with ‘Not Afraid To Die’ it is the heaviest song on the album and absolutely is the cream on an excellent set.

Electric Black have been doing this for some time and was evident as they were as tight as a nut. From the mayhem of Animal influenced drummer Matt, and the playing in the pocket of bassist Ryan, to the superb Jonny on lead guitar, Electric Black are going places. If I’d have known they played my nearest venue last week I’d have been there. I am a week late, but the end result is now the same. Catch these guys if you can, as you will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

Onto headliners Sweet Crisis. I absolutely love it when you see or hear a band the first time and your breath is taken away. Just like EB, my moment was getting to hear Sweet Crisis debut album a few months back, even though I was late to the party. It was a case of being better late than never, but I was blown away by their collection of songs on ‘Tricks Of My Mind’. The band is built on the friendship of singer Leo Robarts and guitarist Piers Mortimer, but more of that later. Opening with ‘Loosen Up’ the quality is immediately there for people to see. Leo is part Paul Rodgers, Glenn Hughes and Steve Marriott, and that is some amalgamation of talent right there, with his best mate at his side these guys are unstoppable. ‘Black Magic’ has some nice 3 part harmonies and is the first highlight of many. 

For ‘Love Me Like Sugar’ if B.B.King and Paul Rodgers (OK, bear with me) had a love child then ‘LMLS’ is the end result. ‘Aint Got Soul’ is one of my favourite songs and hearing it live took it to another dimension, never mind new level. There’s a back story behind ‘Ill Be Creepin’. Leo was into Eminem and Jamiroquai when is dad gave him a copy of Free’s “Fire and Water” when Leo was about 14 (aren’t dads great). Right there a spark was ignited, which changed young Leo’s life and has never looked back. Apparently Leo isn’t keen on covers, but let’s face it, when you have a voice like he has, then it makes for one of the best covers you will ever hear. Hot off the press was a new song, ‘The Warning’ and it was smooth as fuck (insert better simile here____).

This next song was my favourite of the whole set. Written when Leo and Piers were just 17, it proves that age is no barrier when writing songs. Leo becomes a baptist preacher, and its a quality of song that many a Southern Rock/Nashville band would crawl over their dead granny to get hold of. It was stunning live. ‘Dont Start Now’ was pure blues heaven. At the and of the song one bloke shouted “Fuck yes!” It shows that you can write a review in just two words. I couldn’t have put it better myself. ‘Living Life On The Edge’ had them jamming on a powerful groove and takes me back to the era of bands like Cream and Jefferson Airplane. SC finished strong with the title track ‘Tricks On My Mind’, and a powerful single from 2020 in ‘Rolling In It’. 

It is hard to vacate the stage for an encore when it is the size of a postage stamp to they stayed put. Sweet Crisis will probably drop the covers as their song list gets bigger, but when you cover Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ as well as they do, then its good to throw in a crowd pleaser for us old farts. The guys finished off with a song that got them started and recognised back in 2019, ‘Misty Haze’. I know its me repeating myself but this has blues and soul in abundance, and echoes Pink Floyd and Jeff Buckley. The guitar tone was beautiful. What a song to end a gig with. 

Theres a tendency for bands to play their whole album in the early days of their gigs. That may be the case here, but Sweet Crisis have a foundation of stunning songs already that will be a staple of their live gigs for years to come. 

I have witnessed some great fledgling bands this last 12 months since gigs have opened up again – Cardinal Black, The Karma Effect, and now Electric Black and Sweet Crisis. Add the likes of Scarlet Rebels and Florence Black into this mix and British rock music is in very safe hands indeed.

Based on tonights performances I hope that they both continue to record and gig as they both deserve to be heard by much bigger audiences than current. The numbers did not detract, in fact it enhanced it as it felt like a gig in your own living room. We can all say that when they do make it, we were there almost from the beginning. I can’t wait to see what Sweet Crisis (and Electric Black) do next.

Sweet Crisis Set List –

Loosen Up 

One Way Traffic

Black Magic


Love Me Like Sugar

Ain’t Got Soul

Great Big Steps

This Guitar

I’ll Be Creepin’ 

The Warning

Treading In Deep Water

Don’t Start Now

Living Life On The Edge

Tricks On My Mind

Rolling In It

In The Dark

Oh Well

Misty Haze

Lifesigns – ‘Altitude’ Review

Certain prog bands have a tendency to make me feel wonderful, and Lifesigns have just been added to my list.

Lifesigns – Altitude

In 2016 Oxford Dictionaries conducted a worldwide survey to find out what was the worst word in the English language. That word was ‘moist’. Other frontrunners were ‘Hello’, ‘no’, ‘panties’, and ‘hate’. Is it pure coincidence then that this is most hated sentence in the world….’I hate moist panties?’ Anyway, what I’m getting to is the word ‘Prog’ when describing music. In most instances it covers a band that the PR companies and labels don’t know where to pigeonhole the band in question. Progressive rock is based on fusions and styles, approaches and genres involving a continuous move between formalism and eclecticism. Steven Wilson hates the term, and I’m not far behind him.

One thing I do know is that certain prog bands have a tendency to make me feel wonderful, there’s a calmness and emotion that sweeps over me whilst I enjoy the various facets of the music. That is what Lifesigns ‘Altitude’ has given me on the very first listen. Not many bands do that to me. In fact Lifesigns is in great company – Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Spocks Beard, Ostura and Tilt are such bands of the club that Lifesigns have just acquired a lifetime membership to.

Opening number ‘Altitude’ is a 15 minute piece that sweeps by in a matter of moments. Time is irrelevant, quality is utmost. From the opening few bars the feeling is one of soaring through the clouds, the quality of musicianship is second to none. It’s the first time I have heard John Young, and similarly to Wilson, he doesn’t have a soaring range, but what he does, he does ever so well and the tone fits the piece perfectly. There’s a string midsection that could accompany a Chinese ancient history movie, before the song drifts with some wonderful backing vocals and amazing guitar playing from Dave Bainbridge (who again is new to me, but won’t be for much longer!). The final act of ‘Altitude’ again pulls you back to the soaring atmosphere of the beginning. All in all it is a wonderful opening and an introduction to Lifesigns that I’ll not forget in a long time. ‘Gregarious’ draws on influences like ELO and Supertramp, and is a close to a pop song as Lifesigns get, I suspect. It’s built around Young’s keyboard and Poole’s base and features another fine solo from Bainbridge. I feel as if I could be repeating myself for the rest of the album here!

‘Ivory Tower’ is one of two Young songs given a reboot and a place within the Lifesigns catalogue. Robin Boult plays a guest role playing acoustic guitar. Midway the rhythm section is again impeccable and closes with ‘I fall….’. I can see this being a particularly great live moment with the crowd yelling….’DOWN!’

Three songs in and there is nothing to criticise. ‘Shoreline’ starts with a jazzy feel, making you wonder where the song is going next. With the highlight being Czorsz’s drumming. Young’s delivery on Shoreline evokes early Genesis and his phrasing is very Gabriel with a touch of Neal Morse. I also am a fan of the female ‘choir’ that’s been adopted on here. I’m running out of superlatives, so I’ll just settle on it being great. ‘Fortitude’ is yet another highlight, especially the sounds and textures being built from keyboards, and Taurus pedal and Moog. They are as important as Young’s vocals. More importantly every member gets their chance to shine, without anyone jockeying for position or domination. The counterbalance between keyboard and guitar is really something else. Played live, this will be a stunning piece to be expanded upon. ‘Arkhangel’ is a short keyboard appetite whetter before entering into ‘Last One Home’. It’s the second Young song that been give a new like. It’s a ballad where Youngs vulnerable vocals come to the fore, before Bainbridge’s guitar solo is one to behold and bow down to. I’ve found a new guitar hero to add to my list! There is a final reprise of ‘Altitude’ and its just enough to wind down and reflect on the majesty of the last 50-odd minutes.

I also have to give kudos to Steve Rispin (sound and production) as he really is the bonafide fifth member as the whole album sounds fantastic.

I love it when a band I’ve not heard before sweeps me off my feet. Its one of the reasons I still like reviewing for the opportunities like Lifesigns and John Young have given me in listening to this today. For that I will certainly be digging out the other albums and count me in as a fan!

This is a wonderful, wonderful album.

Track listing –
Ivory Tower
Last One Home
Altitude (Reprise)

John Young – Vocals and Keys
Dave Bainbridge – Guitars and Keys
Jon Poole – Bass and BVs
Zoltan Czoesz – Drums
Steve Rispin – Sound and production