Now, your first question may well be: “How did Platinum Al manage to slip a Toyah review onto a Rock/Metal website?” Well, dear reader, let me tell you a story. The first time I ever saw Toyah live was at a local club, where the dynamic lady herself was backed by the mighty Girlschool. All of these fearsome females put on an explosive show, comprising of ultra-rocked-up originals from both artists and classic rock covers. So yes, Toyah is more rock’n’roll than you (or I) will ever be.
To be fair, despite her pop pedigree, Toyah Willcox has always been more Bowie than Kylie. And on this reissue of the 1980 live album, Cherry Red have presented us with a vibrant – even, dare I say it, rocking – bunch of post punk songs that show Toyah and her band in full flight. The expanded deluxe CD set is packaged with a DVD featuring a contemporary documentary. For this review though, we’re focussing purely on the music.
Happily, the production is top notch. Remastered by Nick Watson from the original master tapes, the sound is formidable. The instruments come through crisp and clear, and the vocals are excellent, as shown on ‘Victims of the Riddle’ where keyboards maintain a steady melody while lead guitar erupts with energy. Likewise, bass and drums shine on ‘Love Me’ – it’s particularly impressive considering we’re dealing with a 40-year-old live album.
Highlights on “Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!” include ‘Bird in Flight’, ‘Danced’ (which reminded me of the Skids) and the occult war chant of ‘Ieya’. Never truly dark enough to be goth, the songs here are more “Scary Monsters” with a generous helping of Hawkwind space rock, especially on ‘Race Through Space’.
Through it all, Toyah’s one-of-a-kind voice soars. Toyah has never stopped writing and performing music, acting, presenting and so on; these days she’s famous for her lockdown YouTube videos performing kitchen-based rock covers with husband, King Crimson legend, Robert Fripp. It’s great to hear “Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!” remastered and in pristine condition. Even speaking as a vinyl purist, it looks like my ancient vinyl copy has had its day.
February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.
Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).
Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.
Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.
You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.
The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start! These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless. I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage. Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party. Bloody great way to kick things off!
Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival. Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants. A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage. Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy. This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived! Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them. Main stage next time, please.
Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years. With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief. Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set. The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”. I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.
My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”. Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate). The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses. Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.
RIFF OVERLOAD! Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat! I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold. Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock. Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything! I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.
And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.
Hello there! Remember me? It’s me, that bloke who occasionally reviews albums for Ever Metal and spins ropey old yarns about rock’n’roll. Yeah, him. Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, had a few things on my all-you-can-eat buffet plate recently. More about that another time (if the lawyers allow me). For now, recline in your favourite easy chair, and let’s review. With me? Good.
Right then, bit of a mammoth task, this one. “Live in the Mojave Desert” is actually a series of five albums, each recorded live (of course) amongst the sand and rocks of the Californian desert. It’s probably like Star Trek, when Kirk and crew are roaming around the cliffs and valleys – but in the dark, and with guitars and lights and stuff – and no one dies (hopefully).
Up first in my sequence of albums is the legendary Earthless, a band who should need no introduction. I listened to their offering whilst on a trip to North Wales; sadly the surf was flat, but the sonic musings of this three piece fitted perfectly the rolling roads between green valleys and big skies. In the land of druids and standing stones, witches and warriors, this was a perfect soundtrack. The songs are a journey in themselves, awash with psychedelic Hendrix style explorations. Only three songs, but they’re plenty lengthy and offer huge scope. It’s actually quite beautiful. (9/10)
Next on the list was Mountain Tamer, a band I’m not familiar with previously, but a cool name. And a cool name goes a long way with me. The Mountain Tamer sound is raw and in-your-face, with mighty, meaty riffs that clunk around in full-on doom style. There’s also a mind expanding, trippy element to their music, leaving me with the impression of Black Flag in a collision with Hawkwind. This unique approach is best exemplified by stand out tracks “Black Noise” and “Scorched Earth”, but it’s all damn fine. (8/10)
An offering in this series from my old buddies Nebula was very welcome, their brand of psych drenched sci-fi hard rock being something I’m somewhat partial to. This is the album with the most obviously “live” feel – not that it’s sloppy at all, the very occasional tiny imperfections and wall of fuzz give a genuine and celebratory vibe. Opening track “To the Centre” is a feedback drenched, blistering explosion. “Giant” is another standout track with a bouncing, crazy gonzo riff. (8/10)
Spirit Mother are another band I’ve not heard before, and they were a real surprise. Their first song, “Tonic (Exodus Inc)” is straight off the soundtrack of some forgotten Italian/Turkish 1970s horror movie. The band take the standard desert/doom rock and add violin, and everything veers off in a totally unexpected direction. From mournful 70s rock on “Ether” to creating their own genre of gothic Spaghetti Western (“Dead Cells”), it’s like Morricone on peyote orchestrating The Exorcist. Strangely beguiling. (8.5/10)
The album I listened to last in the collection was the debut release of STÖNER, the very aptly named stoner rock “supergroup” which features Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo etc) and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Mondo Generator etc etc). With Brant’s drummer, Ryan Güt whacking the tubs. As a fan of these rogues’ other bands, I was definitely curious about this release. No fear here: this is exactly what I hoped it would be: desert rock royalty. “Rad is Rad” features a relentless, rolling bassline that drags the listener along on a head-nodding journey whilst Brant croons in his laid-back manner. The big, groovy bass continues in “The Older Kids”, and the tracks develop a trancelike vibe as it progresses. And strap yourself in for the final song, “Tribe/Fly Girl” – over 13 minutes that will melt your eyeballs. Definitive. (9/10)
That’s it: five albums, five bands, and a mind-blowing excursion into the remote desert valleys. Whether showcasing how it should be done, or abducting the listener in a smoke-filled UFO to be probed in new realms, these live collections are a trip.
Here’s a ton of links! Click away for more info on this awesome music…
It had been a good 18 months since I last attended a gig, and leaving the house to join a throng of fans enjoying live music seemed like a very strange proposition. I’d actually forgotten all about the concert, as tickets had been booked long before lockdown. Heading up to the Tiv was both exciting and, if I’m honest, a little unnerving.
On entering the venue, it was just like old times: a great vibe as the crowd drank and awaited the bands. As life was getting back to normal, the Goths had crept from the shadows near and far, ready to witness Fields of the Nephilim.
The support band, The Faces of Sarah, were already attempting to breathe life into the evening. Unfortunately, and unusually for the Tiv, they could hardly be heard. I wasn’t too far away, but could barely make out the sound of the instruments. The guitarist looked to be going for it, throwing shapes like a crazed gibbon, but to no avail. The dual lead vocals were extremely impressive, however the poor sound made them come across like an AOR outfit.
Had my old copy of the Usborne Book of Goths been on my person, I could’ve ticked off several obvious dark rock tropes from the moment Fields of the Nephilim took the stage. There was so much dry ice the band could barely be seen, just a group of grey silhouettes in dusty cowboy hats. They begin in true over the top, cinematic style with “The Harmonica Man”. Atmosphere is poured on with no restraint.
And that’s exactly what I paid my money for: I wanted the full experience without any subtlety, and by God, that’s what the audience got.
FOTN erupted into “Preacher Man” and we all loved it. There’s no onstage frontman/audience banter (till the very end) and that, again, is just how I expected it. The songs bounce along like little Goth demons knowing Halloween isn’t far away.
“Moonchild” was an obvious highlight, with its slow, moody intro leading into the searing guitar and rumbling bass. The whole set is all treat, no tricks – I got the feeling that this is exactly how FOTN would’ve performed 30 years ago. The whole set is absolutely note perfect and full of every excess that the audience could devour.
I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy live music. This evening was a fantastic reminder of what we’ve been missing – can’t wait for more.
Right then, who’s up for some big, fat riffs played at a crawling, slow pace? You know I am. Never more ready. So let’s plunge in and have a listen of this live opus from The Gates of Slumber! I can promise you that TGOS not only have one of the best band names ever invented – they also do magnificently heavy, Sabbath influenced doom.
This gig was recorded live at the Clubhouse, in Tempe, Arizona – back in 2011, supporting the mighty Orange Goblin. You can almost feel the heat and smell the beer at the venue on this recording.
Starting out with “Bastards Born”, the riff is slow and menacing, with mournful vocals. Second track “Ice Worm” ups the tempo a little, with a chugging groove. The highlight of the album is possibly the gloomy “Day of Farwell”, which is allowed to breathe and sprawl, featuring some spellbinding guitar. “Coven of Cain” rocks out, before the band slow down to a monolithic pace for “The Wretch”. Moving those stones from South Wales to Salisbury to create Stonehenge was probably faster. Finally, the band are at their most Sabbath with the crunching “The Jury”.
Audience reaction is very low in the mix, and the sound is very clear, with no studio or soundboard trickery. What the listener is left with is a very honest representation of Gates of Slumber – those guitars and drums are free to go straight for the jugular. It might not be the sort of album that will blow the mind of the casual listener, but for anyone who’s schooled in the melancholy beauty of Saint Vitus and The Obsessed, this is a short but sweet treat.
Will that do for the review, guys? I’m knackered myself after last night. I wasn’t partying with Ozzy and Slash again, honest. I was up all night with Brian May, going on about his bloody astronomy. “Really Brian? That is fascinating. You don’t say? Yawn.” Didn’t get a wink of sleep.
In February last year, I interviewed Chester based punk/grunge band Ryuko at Pentre Fest. Due to numerous unavoidable issues – not least this blasted pandemic – the piece was unfinished till recently. Not long ago, this post finally appeared on Ever Metal, and I thought I’d republish it here too. Enjoy!
“Grandpa, what’s a gig?”
“Well son, a gig was what we used to call a band playing live music, in front of an audience.”
“What, people watching musicians play their instruments? Crazy!”
“I know it seems like a strange idea to you youngsters, but it used to be a fantastic experience. Actually being able to gather with friends and strangers to enjoy hearing music. It was another world.”
That’s what the situation seems like right now: no gigs, no gatherings for entertainment – the old days sometimes feel like a lifetime ago. At least it seemed a whole different world back in February 2020, before the pandemic, when I caught up with Chester based band Ryuko at Pentre Fest.
The three piece – comprising The Bobfather (guitars/vocals), Captain Andy (bass) and MattMan (drums) were something of an anomaly at the metal-centric Pentre Fest. Not that Ryuko don’t rock out, but their brand of punky, alternative rock was a little different from the other bands on show. I found their style of honest, yet far from pretentious rock’n’roll refreshing and it added a vital tone to the proceedings.
Post gig, I caught up with the band to pose some questions and contemplate the meaning of life.
First off, the cliched yet crucial discussion on influences:
Bob: It’s weird, ‘cos we’ve got influences from all over. If you listen to one of our sets, it has stages: it starts off punky, then it goes alternative rock. Then it goes a little metal/grungy, then back to punk at the end.
Matt: Drop D then back to punk! I’m a huge fan of Motorhead and Metallica, the list goes on, so me being the drummer, I was always doing these thrash beats. To go from that to stepping into this, this was more fun to me. I really enjoy myself when I’m behind the kit with these guys.
Bob: When I write the songs, I listen to quite a broad variety of music, so I think that becomes apparent in my songs. I don’t like to write the same song twice. As far as when I started out, I would say when I was a teenager, I first started listening to Nirvana, Carter USM. I also drew influences from a lot of electro – The Prodigy and stuff like that – so sometimes I’d try and work out how to play dance songs on a guitar. And then that would give me the influence to write more interesting songs. I like to try and fuse a bunch of different genres together, make it more interesting.
Andy: I listen to a lot of Neil Young, I think he’s a very diverse artist. He’s done folk, he’s also done electric stuff.
How do you promote yourselves?
Matt: I’m more into social media than these guys are. We’re promoting ourselves on Facebook, we’re gonna make a new YouTube account. That’s kind of going up and down at the moment…
Bob: We don’t know how to work it!
Where does the name Ryuko come from?
Bob: I’m really into anime and all things Japanese, Japanese music… At the time I was watching an anime called Kill la Kill. The main character is called Ryuko Matoi and I just thought it was a really cool name. Some really fun facts: Ryuko is one of the least popular names in Japan. It basically means “rebirth”, start over. So I thought, we’re starting again, it’s a really cool name.
Andy: Well it’s not a cool name in Japan, is it?
Bob: It’s cool to me! I think it’s cool!
Andy: I do wish we’d chosen a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce.
Bob: People can never say it.
Your cover of the Madness classic “Baggy Trousers” tonight was a surprising choice, but great!
Matt: We decided to spruce that up to make it ours. The original is completely different to how I play it, I add extra little bits just to make it more funky.
Do you feel you’ve got the right band dynamic between the three of you?
Bob: We’re pretty good as we are. More people add more complications cos you’ve got to think – are they free; do they drive, are they going to be available…
Matt: I’ve got a son, he’s 9, we discuss upcoming gigs before we agree to it. If I’ve got my son and he comes along with us, if he’s allowed in the venue we play – he’s got his little ear defenders, he just sits in the corner and watches us or plays his game.
Bob: I’ve got three jobs…
Sounds like a positive environment to work in.
It’s got to be positive, if it’s not it just doesn’t work. If no-one’s happy, nothing gets done.
So, what’s next? What are your plans?
Bob: World domination! One step at a time…
Andy: We’ve been working on re-doing our EP, we’ve been recording on and off. Recording, playing as many gigs as we can.
And there you have it: an enjoyable chat with the gentlemen of Ryuko. Make sure you check them out live, as and when we can return to the experience of live music. If grungy, punky alt rock with some metallic crunch is your thing, then Ryuko will be just the antidote you need in these dreary times.
With apologies to Ryuko, who have waited months for this interview to see the light of day.
Check out Ryuko on Bandcamp and Facebook. Plus you can follow this link to listen to the interview on YouTube – yes, you can admire my fantastic interviewing skills for real!
I’m sure everyone who was there will agree that this year’s Pentre Fest was the best yet. The bands were fantastic; the were more people; the vibe was magnificent.
Held at McLean’s in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales, this festival features underground, unsigned rock and metal from near and far.
I attended the full two days this year, and saw most of the acts performing. I only wrote up a few though, so if you want to read the full review, visit the Ever Metal website here.
There were many highlights. Witchtripper had been on my “must see” list for a while – they didn’t disappoint. Old favourites Impavidus and Lullaby for a Unicorn were superb as always. Cry for Mercy, Stormrider and Womenowar were some of the newly viewed bands that I was very impressed by.
The whole weekend was unmissable and I was genuinely sad when it was all over. A brilliant, positive experience – well done to Fozzy, Beany, Frank and all the McLean’s staff.
You have to be there next year!
Ryuko presented a couple of surprises on Friday night’s acoustic stage. First off, they were fully plugged in and electric. Second, they play more of an alternative rock sound, which was something of a contrast to the majority of other Pentre Fest bands. Readers may not be aware, though, that I am in fact King of Grunge, with my 90’s credentials well proven. Ryuko’s set included some melody and even jangly pop along with heavier riffs, which was an enjoyable diversion in a Dinosaur Jr/Nirvana style. Well performed, Ryuko just need to test their audience further and throw in additional surprises in either a “Negative Creep” or “About a Girl” vein.
Rhiannon and Rachel
Sadly Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year. One such example was on the acoustic stage, where half of duo Rhiannon and Rachel was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform. But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage. Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing, she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort. Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven. A beautiful singing voice that even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” – making it sound good for the first time ever.
If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you. I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul. Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost. A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can. Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet? If not, there’s a headline for us there!
On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas. Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy. Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them. Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs. OMV were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they actually were going to pistol whip the audience into submission. The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.
A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage. In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020. Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge. Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers. Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure! A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.
Son of Boar
They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests. And from the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special. I wasn’t wrong. These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness; they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch. The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb. I even bought a t-shirt.
What could be better at this time of year than a bit of proper, 1970’s glam rock? Sweet never had a world conquering Crimbo hit like Slade, but they did have a ton of mega singles that are totally inextricable from the days of seventies glam. After missing the band when they played Buckley Tivoli last year, I wanted to make sure I was there this time around.
Support band The Novatines seemed like a decent hard rock proposition, however I arrived late and missed the bulk of their set. Worthwhile checking out another time though.
Andy Scott is the only remaining member from this version of Sweet’s classic line-up. He’s a local lad – well, Wrexham is just a few miles away – so it’s nice to see him and the band on near enough home ground. Andy Scott is also a bona fide rock god: his guitar playing is exceptional; the trademark high pitched backing vocals are ball-squeezingly present and correct; his banter funny and his charisma epic. He’s the real deal.
The rest of the band are a fine bunch of musicians, and together they smash out both the bubblegum pop hits and the rockier tracks. It’s this combination of pop sensibilities and rock skills that have made Sweet inspirational for generations of music fans.
Starting off with one of my absolute favourite tracks, “Action”, it’s clear that this is going to be a night of delivering the goods. The set features all the obvious gems: “Hellraiser”, “The Six Teens”, “Sweet F.A.”, “Wig Wam Bam” and “Little Willy” before closing with another personal fave, “Fox on the Run”.
Everything is performed brilliantly, and the audience clearly love every second. It’s also nice to note that I’m in the younger age range at this particular gig!
Finally, the band return for an encore of “Blockbuster” and “Ballroom Blitz” – two songs that are really no surprise, but could not be left out. No way, Jose – there’s have been a blitz at the Tivoli Ballrooms had they been omitted.
So a rare Wednesday night out at a gig for me, but well worth the effort. Some may find Sweet too lightweight in an era that gave us Alice Cooper and Bowie; I thoroughly enjoyed it. A solid band of fantastic musicians performing well loved (and under rated) songs.
This is one Sweet I’d like a second helping of. I’ve definitely got a Sweet tooth. And so on.
It’s ridiculous how long it’s been since I last wrote a gig review. Time to end that drought with a write-up of a great band in one of my favourite local venues: yes, it’s the mighty Buckcherry at the Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales.
Yes, you read that right – US rock’n’roll giants Buckcherry were playing the Tiv. This legendary venue has welcomed many amazing bands over the years, and happily I’ve seen quite a few of them. Also sadly missed quite a few too, so I was determined not to miss this gig. Tickets were snapped up, super quick style.
The Tivoli was buzzing on arrival, the place was already busy and best of all – the main bar was open! Opening band Rocky Kramer had already started their set, so I grabbed a beer with my compadre, Ben the Swede, and checked them out.
Rocky and his band were very professional, and obviously extremely capable musicians. It was a bit melodic and keyboard heavy for my personal tastes, but they seemed to go down well with the already excited audience.
Up next were UK rockers The Treatment. This was a more gutsy affair altogether: their hard rock was energetic and brash; the sound bringing favourable comparisons to a certain massively successful Australian band that I can’t quite remember the name of… It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll, but The Treatment put on a great show that carried them far.
Buckcherry have never been afraid of rock’n’roll. They seemed something of an anomaly in a post grunge world infested with sportsgear-wearing New Metal, but they stuck to their diamond-encrusted guns. And thank God they did. Opening with a thunderous version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole”, their set was overflowing with swaggering anthems.
“Lit Up” was obviously a highlight, but the whole gig was an electrifying performance. Sadly, I missed the classic track “Crazy Bitch” when I went to the bar (I know, please shoot me) but made it back for the encore of “Say Fuck It”, a gloriously foul mouthed monster that finished the night off.
My only complaint was that the gig seemed maybe 15 minutes too short – hence my poor bar visit timing. I thought we had a good half an hour left. No complaints though, Buckcherry put on a fully entertaining testament to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll that was worth every penny.
And finally, well done again to the Tivoli, who managed to stage something of a coup and host yet another world-class band. Thank you!
It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester. Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show. It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.
First off the bat, our old chums The Damned! This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records. However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd. And in such a huge venue.
Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance. The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there. I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.
Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years. Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start. Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…
Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game. Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.
The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991! Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro. Fantastic. There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.
Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly. The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well. From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.
I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot their lines and The Damned get a gold star.
You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on. However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed. Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned. Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.
Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger. Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.
The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well. Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are. Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock. For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.
I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless. At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.
There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front. This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).
And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase. The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up. Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy? Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?
Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point. Yes, they can play – and they can write, too. It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.
Yes, that Johnny Depp
The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade. Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.
Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently. It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.
Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly. He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.
It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage. It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is. Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.
Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax. Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang. He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.
In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride. Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun. It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band. Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it. Which is what it’s all about, right?