Black Sabbath – The End

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Black Sabbath + Rival Sons

Saturday 4th February 2017

Genting Arena Birmingham

The mighty Black Sabbath.  They created down tuned, dirty, doom laden heavy metal aeons ago.  Wrote songs that defined an entire genre and inspired millions of people.  Lived the rock’n’roll lifestyle to legendary excess, managing to survive through some miraculous method or other.  Black Sabbath are musical titans.

And this was The End – their last ever gig.  At least as far as we know at this point in time, and taking into consideration the band members current situations.

This was The End – Black Sabbath’s last live performance, ever – in their home city of Birmingham.

Through a result of pure luck I was able to blag myself on a trip to witness the event.  Sabbath are one of those bands that I’ve long been obsessed with, going on nearly thirty years now.  They’ve created fantastic albums that I’ve listened to again and again, so it was great to be able to catch this gig, before it was all over.

The support band were Rival Sons, a younger band that’s regarded very positively by fans and press alike.  I’m only familiar with one album or so worth of songs, but can safely say that they put on a very impressive performance.  Their music is rooted in the classic rock of yore, so it was an apt choice to support.  I didn’t recognise any of the material, but then Rival Sons are a band that definitely require some homework on my part.

A confident and popular support act, Rival Sons coped with the huge arena well.  They merit further investigation – I’m sure that classic song to get me hooked is tucked away on an album somewhere.

And so to the headliners, the incredible but sadly not immortal, Black Sabbath.  Of course they opened with the legendary “Black Sabbath” – what else? – the eerie three note, devil’s tritone that heralded the birth of metal years since.  A perfect start to the evening, Black Sabbath then proceeded to entertain with two hours of solid classics.

From my vantage point, standing in the massive arena hall near the sound desk, I couldn’t see great deal.  In fact, I could see more of Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, in the nearby VIP area,  than I could of Ozzy.  The sound however was superb and the set loaded with classics.  Plus I don’t think Ozzy (or Tony or Geezer) did much running around the stage anyway. bs1

Most of the songs were from the first four albums, which was cool by me.  Highlights were “Into the Void”, “Snowblind”, “Children of the Grave” and an unexpected showing of “Hand of Doom”.  Brilliant bass from Geezer Butler on “N.I.B.” too.

My absolute favourite Sabbath track, “Supernaut”, was unfortunately relegated to being sandwiched in as part of a medley (along with “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, another fave) – and therefore sadly under exposed.  A shame that, I went mental when the opening riff started.  No “Sweet Leaf” either.

“Supernaut” should have been in the set, certainly it was preferable to “Dirty Women” which was hauled out of the cellar and into the light one more time.  Although not their best material, this song did give Tony Iommi a chance to shine, the final guitar solo was absolutely explosive.

There were sadly no extra special moments, such as famous guests getting up to join in – maybe that would’ve diluted the spotlight on Sabbath.  It was nice to let them have their final moment of glory.  I think we were all hoping Bill Ward would make an appearance behind the drum kit for one last time though.

And finally, it was all over – with one last rendition of the genius song that is “Paranoid”.

Their final  gig was set to be emotional, set in their hometown for one last time.  In fact it was a hugely uplifting experience, rather than sombre – hundreds of the faithful showing their respect for all the music we love.  Not just Sabbath, but every metal band that’s followed in their sepulchral wake.

Black Sabbath – their legacy lives on.  They are the ultimate metal band and they leave us with a back catalogue beyond compare.  It’s never really The End.

The full setlist is here.

Scorpion Child – Gig Review

Scorpion Child + Jared James Nichols + The Bad Flowers

Tuesday 1st November 2016

The Live Rooms, Chester

Almost a year to the day since I last saw the mighty Scorpion Child rocking out, and in the same venue too.  This time the crowd numbers are down, but hell – it was a bleak Tuesday evening.  No excuse though – people should have been at the Live Rooms for this gig.

I just managed to catch the end of the first set, by UK band The Bad Flowers.  This three piece were all power and chunky riffs – think Motorhead menace with some ZZ Top rock in there.  Very appetising and well worth keeping an eye on.

Next up was Jared James Nichols, with his two bandmates, bringing us our second three piece of the night.  This American band play a fine blend of bluesy hard rock, delivered with a confident, killer attack.  Mountain were a fair comparison – they rocked out a crunching “Mississippi Queen” just to prove it.  Quality entertainment with a boogie groove!

The last time I saw Scorpion Child, they were here on tour with Crobot (another superb band).  Now with their second album – the extremely brilliant Acid Roulette – firmly under their belt, I was keen to witness these new rock’n’roll superstars-to-be again.

Scorpion Child deliver music that is well schooled in the classics of the past – Zeppelin, Sabbath, Purple.  And like those bands they’re able to deliver monster rockers like “Liqour” and “She Sings, I Kill” along with some superbly epic moments that build beautifully (“Survives” and “Acid Roulette”).

There’s also a thinly disguised darkness about the bands sound, not exactly doomy but much more in the vein of 80’s bands like the Mission and the Sisters of Mercy.  At their most bombastic, Scorpion Child are reminiscent of The Cult (from whence they claimed their name).  Apologies for endless musical comparisons – but this band really have some classic style that merits a bigger fan base.  Throw in some Danzig and Soundgarden and you’ve got a list of some of my favourite bands.

A great deal of the set is from the new album, showing justified confidence on the bands part.  Songs like “My Woman in Black” and “I Might Be Your Man” are thundering hard rock compositions that are classics in the making.

A great gig, shame about the low attendance (and the lack of merch!) – but brilliantly infectious modern hard rock.  I’m off for fish’n’chips.

The Scorpion Child website is here.

You can find Scorpion Child, Jared James Nichols and the Bad Flowers on Facebook.

The Live Rooms website is here.

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Reef – Gig Review

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Reef + Tax The Heat

Thursday 24th September 2015

The Live Rooms, Chester

One thing I’ll tell you about Reef: they’ve got the tallest fans ever.  I’m only five foot eight on a good day, so I was dwarfed by this crowd.  I have no idea how come Reef can command such an audience of giants.  Perhaps there’s something mystical in the music of these West Country rock wizards that attracts the giants from the hills, mesmerised.

Tonight I managed to see the entire support set, which made a nice change.  Better time management on my part.  And I’m glad I did, as opening act Tax The Heat were great.  Splendidly dressed in sharp suits, they cranked out some classic rock riffs and looked to be having a hell of a good time.  Definitely good enough to see headline their own gig, Tax The Heat compliment old school rocking chops with a modern sheen.

I’d been hoping that Reef would turn up in my neck of the woods for some time.  Previously I had witnessed part of their set at Wakestock some years ago, unfortunately having to leave early.  That wasn’t enough for me – I felt I was due the full Reef pie, with all the trimmings.

There was quite a good time vibe amongst the crowd – you could feel the anticipation in the Live Rooms.  Reef entered the stage in a relaxed and unassuming manner, though they immediately unleashed some magical sounds with opener “Higher Vibration”.  Conner MacLeod was on vocals, doing a top quality job as Gary Stringer.  To his right is new(ish) guitarist Jesse Wood, who fits in perfectly: he’s confident yet laid back; masterful playing and not overly flamboyant.

A great deal of the set was culled, unsurprisingly, from Reef’s hugely popular second album, Glow.  So we get gems such as “Consideration”, “Come Back Brighter”, “Place Your Hands” (of course) and my personal favourite – the absolutely megalithic stomp of “I Would Have Left You”.  Songs that sum up Reef’s ability to meld Zeppelin sized riffery with tuneful, tender moments.

There’s also some songs from Rides and the sole song from debut album Replenish, “Naked”.  Jack Bessant, looking like Rob Zombie’s Dad but much, much cooler – unleashed another monstrous bass line for “New Bird”.  It’s no mere greatest hits set though, as Reef throw in some well placed new material.  The new songs are quality stuff, sounding like old time soul classics played by seventies blues rock behemoths.  Drummer Dominic Greensmith looks to be having a great time as he smashes his kit into a parallel dimension.

My only complaint is that there’s nothing from their fourth album, Getaway.  I love that album, it’s a real forgotten masterpiece.  It would’ve been great to hear “Set the Record Straight” or “All I Want”, a song that’s so good it brings a tear to my eye every time.

I always wondered how Reef got lumbered in with the whole Britpop thing.  To me, their music is classic old school 1970’s British ROCK, with a nice spoonful of laid back soul.  They put on a great, relaxed and yet commanding show – full of the warmth of the last days of summer.  A great atmosphere with songs that climb to Gandalf sized epicness.  And I guess that’s how you tame the giants.

The Reef website is here.

The Live Rooms website is here.

Madness at the Seaside

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Madness + Chainska Brassika + By The Rivers

Saturday 11th July 2015

Rhyl Events Arena

You know I love Rhyl, right?  Great place.  Under rated.  But that’s ‘cos most people don’t know where to find the cool stuff (Star Wars figures, comic books, skateboards, music, general paraphernalia).  On Saturday 11th July, however, you couldn’t miss the cool stuff.  It was right on the promenade, in front of the beach, at the Rhyl Events Arena.

And the cool stuff was legendary ska/80’s pop maestros Madness.

There have been a lot of rock and punk bands reviewed at the Virtual Hot Tub lately, so it’s about time for something a little different.  Madness were probably the first band I was ever a fan of, back when I was just Bronze Al.  They were the soundtrack of every school yard and summer holiday when I was a nipper.  I’ve listened to them ever since.

A surprise visit for the band to Rhyl was a great opportunity to catch the band live.

After a few hours in a local Tiki bar, my compadres and me made our way to the Rhyl Events Arena.  The venue was outdoor on the prom, with a stage set up right across form the town. Madness Rhyl

Support bands By The Rivers and Chainska Brassika offered a warm welcome.  Both bands were in a party mood playing variations on the ska/pop/reggae theme.  Good musicianship and enthusiasm helped both bands reach out to the ever growing audience.

The rain held off for the evening and there was definitely a party atmosphere in the arena.  By the time Madness arrived on stage, the good times were in full swing.  The audience had obviously travelled from far and wide for this gig, and were keen to see the Nutty Boys in full force.

The first part of the set was a relaxed affair, with a few new numbers and lesser known tracks alternating the big hits.  Step forward “Bed and Breakfast Man”, a lesser known song which should’ve been a single in the first place.

Rhyl lights up like in days gone by for the hit songs.  We get “House of Fun”, “Baggy Trousers”, “Embarrassment”, “My Girl” – sparkling gems every one.  It’s genuine pop classic after pop classic for the large part of the set.  If only the funfair was still open, it would’ve been perfect.  A fine way to reminisce of summer holidays past!

Madness give a great performance, punctuated with some banter and fun along the way.  My personal highlight is hearing “Our House” – my absolute favourite Madness track.  An obvious choice, I know – but I don’t care. Mad Al

The concert ends far too soon.  A great night, thank you Madness for paying a trip to sunny Wales and gracing us with your eccentric pop genius.

And well done Rhyl.  Let’s have more of it, shall we?

The Madness website is here.

The Rhyl Pavillion website is here.

My thanks to the Blazing Minds website, which I used to check some facts!

Corrosion of Conformity Gig Review

Corrosion of Conformity

Saturday 7th March 2015

Manchester Academy 2

I’ve been a Corrosion of Conformity fan for a long time.  Starting with a cassette copy of their hardcore punk/thrash crossover Eye For An Eye back in my early skateboarding days; through their major label success as a stoner metal band; and on.  Never seen them live, though.  Ridiculous, no?

All that was about to change: I decided to get my act together and go see the band in Manchester for their latest tour.  The fact that vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan was back fronting the band, completing their Deliverance era line-up, was a nice little sweetener too.

The afternoon got off to a great start when, mere seconds from arriving in the car park next to the Academy, I spotted bass player Mike Dean walking along the road.  I greeted him and wished the band well in a brief, pleasant conversation.  I think I managed to remain cool and not look like a total weirdo.

A few beers were had in the early evening, before we made our way to the venue.  Unfortunately we were in Manchester Academy 2, not the nice big main Academy building.  The Academy 2 is the size of a sports hall and was too small for this band.  People were crammed in tighter than a glam rockers spandex pants; it was not cool.

I only caught the end of the support bands slot, so I will pass judgement on Hang the Bastard at this time. COC

When Corrosion of Conformity hit the stage, there’s a genuine sense of excitement in the (tiny) room.  They open with instrumental “These Shrouded Temples” from the Blind album, before charging into “Senor Limpio” and “King of the Rotten”.  There’s hardly a breather between songs, and minimal banter – it seems COC are on a mission to destroy.  Pepper leads the band confidently, like he’s never been away; whilst Woody throws down a barrage of guitar.

In keeping with the tour theme, there’s a healthy chunk of tracks from the devastating Deliverance album.  This is fine with me.  My sad fanboy credentials mean I love all their output, but Deliverance is the cream of the crop as far as I’m concerned.  A genuine metal/punk/stoner/doom/whatever classic, rated in the same bracket as Volume 4 and Master of Puppets.  “Albatross” and “My Grain” are highlights amongst a head crushing set, though the slower pace of “Seven Days” is my favourite from that era of the evening – forgot how great that song is.

There’s a pinch of tracks from across several albums, with “Long Whip/Big America” shining from Wiseblood.  “Thirteen Angels” (America’s Volume Dealer) and “Paranoid Opioid” (In the Arms of God) also stand out in a set filled with gems.  The band are well rehearsed – Reed’s drums and Mike’s bass sound tight and locked in.

COC return for their encore with “Broken Man”, before launching into the inevitable “Vote With a Bullet”.  This song is still an absolute monster, and is welcomed heartily by the audience.  “Clean My Wounds”, another Deliverance era stormer, finishes the night off with it’s awesome riff.

Despite being crowded in the tiny Manchester Academy 2, it’s a great night.  Corrosion of Conformity perform a powerful set, which I only wish could have been longer.  I got to tick a band off my “must see” list tonight, and I retire with obligatory tour t-shirt a very happy punter.