For many years I would tell anyone with ears that Brixton based collective Alabama 3 were one of the best live bands on the planet. Their unique brand of “sweet pretty muthafuckin’ country acid house music” and incendiary, unforgettable live shows were legendary in my circles. But I must admit a run of less than spectacular albums and a few less than professional live shows saw (me at least) lose interest a few years back. The tragic death of co-founder Jake Black (aka The Very Reverend Dr.D Wayne Love) in 2019 seemed to seal the deal that it was all over for the Alabama 3.

But then something strange happened…Alabama 3 got their mojo back! Call it triumph over adversity, a rejuvenation even, but Larry Love and the boys unified, licked their wounds and released their 13th album ‘Step 13’ in 2021. A tribute to a fallen friend, the title referred to the next phase after death as quoted by A. Ron Hubbard, and was a return to past glories.

Now in 2013, with a new album (Cold War Classics Vol 2) on the shelves and the return of vocalist Devlin Love to the live outfit, it’s time to see if Alabama 3 can still deliver the goods live.

9 o’clock sharp and Alabama 3 hit the stage at the sold out Brudenell in style to newbie ‘North Korea’. Dressed in military jacket and shades, the ever cool Larry Love commands his audience from the off. Stage right is Devlin Love, the diminutive lady with a larger than life voice. She looks even cooler in a black fur coat, figure hugging dress and stack heels. Her vocals and her stage presence gives a different dynamic to the band now that Jake is gone. 

But the ghost of the Very Reverend D Wayne is all over this show and he even makes an appearance, albeit a taped one on the overly cool set highlight ‘Hypo Full Of Love (12 Step Plan)’, which is a nice touch.

The set is a great mix of old and new, enough to satiate old fans and new recruits alike. It’s a very dance orientated show, the dub heavy bass throbs from the speakers and you can’t help but move to the groove. New tunes like ‘Petronella Says’ and ‘Whacked’ sound good, I mean really good, like they are A3 classics already after just a couple of years, maybe it’s just a testament as to how strong an album ‘Step 13’ is.

The pair of singers work the crowd like pros, inciting the crowd to get on their dancing feet and sing along to the choruses. 

Long time core members keyboard player The Spirit looks suitably miserable all night and Nick Reynolds is always cool, switching between harmonica, backing vocals and sax all night. Larry informs us it’s his birthday and he takes lead vocals on the song the band wrote about his great train robbing old man ‘Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds’. The harmonica induced countrified blues is a killer set highlight for me from one of my favourite A3 albums.

I must admit I’ve not seen them this good in many, many years. Other highlights like the awesome ‘Up Above My Head’, the countrified ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’ and the obligatory ’Woke Up This Morning’ prove that Alabama 3 have the tunes and are an underground alternative institution we should be proud of.

The welcome return of singer Devlin Love seems to be what the band needed at the right time. While no one could ever fill Jake’s cowboy boots, her bluesy, soulful vocals and presence adds sex appeal and spice to the countrified, dance tunes tonight.

Her lead vocals on ‘U Don’t Dans 2 Tekno Anymore’  are frankly stunning, she rules that stage. Encore time sees her return with an acapella ‘Mercedes Benz’ before the full band return dedicating Aslan’s ‘How Can I Protect You’ to the ailing Shane McGowan. 

I’ve seen Alabama 3 a bunch of times over the past 20 years, but this show was one of the best. Larry Love and his band have redeemed themselves in my eyes and take their rightful place as one of UK’s most exciting live bands currently doing the rounds. Long may they  rule. 

Author: Ben Hughes

Phil Campbell has seemingly come full circle since leaving both The Temperance Movement and The Byson Family, by continuing on the singer/songwriter solo journey he started before joining one of the UK’s new breed of bluesy classic rock artists back in 2011.

While it’s a shame The Temperance Movement never reached the dizzy heights their early material and magical live gigs promised, the singer seems comfortable and content with his current status, and the release of his first solo album under the name Philip Seth Campbell.

Playing more intimate venues than he has been used to for many years, Philip is promoting ‘City Lights’ with a series of low-key dates, just the man and his guitar, with just a bassist and a keyboard player backing him.

Taking to the stage of the smaller community room at The Brudenell Social club, on this the second date of a UK tour, you would be forgiven for thinking the Glaswegian singer had come straight from a do. Wearing an open dress shirt, trousers and trainers Philip Seth Campbell looks like the dishevelled, cool uncle at a family wedding. He and his band then proceed to run through a selection of choice cuts from the new album, older solo material and a couple of tracks each from his former bands.

Opener ‘Magical West’ was the euphoric first single released, and it loses none of its power in this stripped back format. The ever-animated Campbell may be restricted in his movements with a guitar strapped on, but his voice is on point, full of vigour and soul as he rasps his way through each high energy chorus. By the time the trio hit the gospel-tinged third track ‘Revelation’ his voice and the sound mix has certainly hit the sweet spot.

Yet there’s a sense that the singer must work for it tonight, he is certainly not going through the motions. Starting fresh, playing new songs to an audience who may be unfamiliar with the material can be a trial by fire, and while the meagre and polite audience need some well-spirited goading from the singer into breaking the unnerving silence between songs, the whole thing seems to go swimmingly well. He certainly has the stagecraft, the songs and the voice to carry them. But it is nice to see a performer who is nervous and doesn’t know what to expect, deliver in spades.

The anthemic Springsteen vibes of ‘Hasta Luego’ shine strong in a live environment, and the slower soulful moments such as the autobiographical ‘Sober Boy’ sound great. The new songs all fit well with the older material whether that be The Temperance Movement, The Byson Family or older solo stuff such as the sweet ‘Wrecking Ball Nights’, a song he introduces while strumming the opening chords

“Sometimes there’s nothing else for it but to get fucked up!” he declares. He may be a sober and happier boy these days, but he reminds us that things can easily change.

It was a bit of a surprise to hear him break into ‘Chinese Lanterns’. To be fair, I wasn’t really expecting that. It’s always been a favourite TM track since those early shows where Philip would sing it acapella, off-mic to a stunned crowd. Tonight, with an acoustic guitar as accompaniment it is just as special. Another TM classic ‘Lovers & Fighters’ closes a sweet set that satisfies fans both old and new.

I saw The Temperance Movement in this very same venue 10 years ago on their way up, and now it seems quite fitting to see their ex-singer continue his musical journey in fine form. A mesmerising and rewarding set from one of the best singer/songwriters we have to offer and one of the best gigs of the year for me. This could be the start of something special.

Author: Ben Hughes

The former frontman of The Temperance Movement returns after a tumultuous period in his life with a solo album that has been decades in the making. Musical differences and personal issues saw the gravelly-throated singer leave not only The Temperance Movement in 2020, but also last year he parted ways with The Byson Family, the band he left to form and concentrate on.

But following a series of acoustic shows and a recent EP release, Philip has exorcised whatever demons he was carrying and is back stronger than ever with his debut long player.

Seeking redemption and filled with retrospection ‘City Lights’ is a journey of a storyteller who explores new territories while tipping his worn and tattered hat towards his past glories throughout its 12-track length. There’s a self-assured confidence and a sense of rejuvenation to leading track and first single ‘Magical West’ that sees Philip shed the heavy rock and americana leanings of his previous bands and embrace a more commercial and eclectic direction. Upbeat and euphoric in equal measures, it has a Springsteen style power and delivery with a rousing chorus that will excite the listener and induce goosebumps as well as repeated plays.

‘City Lights’ is an album filled with unexpected directions that take you on a definite journey. The liberating ‘Hasta Luego’ is a tale of eloping to Mexico, and you are with him on the road as he invites you to “get away through LA and San Diego”. Sound wise, with urgent beats and stabs of keys it builds like Hothouse Flowers to a rousing chorus worthy of Butch Walker.

The mellower, more soulful moments such as ‘Revelation’ and ‘Break The Curse’ nod their heads to Van Morrison with gospel-tinged backing vocals, brass and stabs of piano to accompany the stunning vocal delivery.

The needle drops on side two for the funky title track with a blast of horns, crisp drum beats and gospel harmonies, coming on like an outtake from The Black Crowes sophomore long player meets Paolo Nutini, and that ain’t a bad place to be. But if there is any one song that would be a showcase for Phil’s vocal prowess on this album, I would probably go for the celebration that is ‘Soul Fire’. The performance here exudes confidence, power and depth and just seems to flow perfectly. A killer guitar solo adds some fire. It’s worth noting that considering he plays most of the instruments and self-produced this album, it has a very ‘live in the studio’, full band sound.

Elsewhere, ‘Silent Symphony’ mixes up americana and soul with sweeping strings and gospel backing to create a heart-wrenching, cinematic soundscape. And that is something that continues on the honest and confessional ‘Sober Boy’.

He may have left TTM to get away from the screamers, but closer ‘Gut City Blues’ leaves us with a reminder of his past. Killer riffs and even more killer vocals give us a whiff of AC/DC meets Ike & Tina goodness, plus the addition of founding TTM guitarist Luke Potashnick, who turns of to lay down a tasty solo. A glorious rocker that is sure to be a live favourite when he hits the road later this year.

While I was saddened when he left TTM and The Byson Family, Philip Seth Campbell has risen like a phoenix from the flames and delivered an album that exceeds all expectations. ‘City Lights’ is an instantly familiar album that is hard to not fall in love with from the very first listen. With enough rockers, ballads and ravers to satiate his fanbase, it exudes the confidence and charisma of a songwriter who has been around the block and has lived to tell the tale.

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Author: Ben Hughes

Sweden’s finest purveyors of honky tonk flavoured rock n’ roll return with a new long player, just over 18 months after the luscious double album offering ‘Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous’ hit the shelves.

It seems nothing can keep Sulo and the boys from delivering good time rock n’ roll like the last 6 decades of musical innovation never happened. The Faces meets The Stones is a good rut to be stuck in and we wouldn’t want it any other way, not when the songs are this good.

Written and recorded over an 8-day period and recorded in old school analogue, ‘About The Hardest Nut To Crack’ sees the Swedish band in fine form from the word go.

12 bar boogie blues is the name of the game with opener ‘Get A Rock n Roll Record’ and the message is as simple as the three-chord progression it rides on.

Next up ‘Blight The Life’ is one of those life affirming, instantly familiar Sulo melodies. You’ve know you’ve heard it before, but you’re not quite sure where. Was it Rod, Jagger or Monroe? Who knows, or even cares as a mournful fiddle leads us down an emotive road, one we love to frequent again and again.

The low-slung rock n’ roll of ‘Wring It Out’ has plenty of Faces swagger and it’s a raucous party that Sulo and the boys are jamming, with gospel-tinged backing vocals, stabs of keys and a certain boogie-woogie swagger.

There are earworms aplenty on offer. The likes of ‘Gurus and Gangsters’ and ‘Desiree, Yet Another Lonely Mile’ are pure euphoric nostalgia, and about as 70’s as listening to the top 40 run down whilst scoffing a Sunday roast. Songs that groove in a certain way and insist you turn up that dial and dance like no one is watching. 

Sulo’s reflective lyricism recalls the good times and the tight musicianship but loose delivery backs it all up in just the right way. The banjo action on ‘Old Timer’ gives a rustic, partisan feel that sits well with the low-slung guitars and gravelly vocals. The sloppy, but perfectly delivered solo as worn and weathered as the vintage gear it is played on.

The glam slam, foot-stomping closer ‘Rising From The Ruins Of Rock n Roll’ sees the band sign off by telling us to spin them records one more time and not to forget the reason they (and we) do this thing they call rock n’ roll anyway.

A new Diamond Dogs record is always cause for a celebration, and ‘The Hardest Nut To Crack’ does exactly what you would expect. Naysayers may argue that Sulo and the boys are doing nothing new and shock horror, may even be classed as ‘generic’, but you know what? Sometimes I want something familiar, something that doesn’t stray from the path and delivers exactly what I expect it to, and the Diamond Dogs do it every time. Get this rock n’ roll record, play it loud and spread the word. 

PRE-ORDER: https://orcd.co/hardest-nut-to-crack

Author: Ben Hughes

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We’ve been banging on about Texas singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton since before RPM was even a thing, and for good reason. Ryan is an artist who always seems to be on the verge of breaking through with every new album, before some personal tragedy scuppers his plans and he’s back to square one.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, well that all depends on what is trying to kill you, I guess. In Ryan’s case it could be a cheating first wife, addiction, divorce, online abuse, the record business, cancelled tours and most recently…a delayed album due to manufacturing errors. All the above have happened in the last decade and you really couldn’t make it up, but Ryan is still soldiering on, and thank your lucky stars he is.

‘Haunted By the Holy Ghost’ follows his 2020 break up album ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ and the following lockdown album ‘1221’. Produced by go-to-guy Dave Draper who also plays bass, along with Ben Marsden on guitar and Carol Hodge and Emily Ewing on backing vocals. It was recorded at Draper’s studio The Old Cider Press and Ryan’s home studio in Texas, making the whole album a transatlantic power pop affair.

The opening song ‘Asshole’ shows Ryan’s current attitude towards the music business. It was released on Valentine’s Day as an act of self-sabotage guaranteeing zero radio airplay, which is maybe a silly idea if you are a struggling artist wanting airplay, but I’m sure he knows what he’s doing…. but its ok, because this album is choc-a-bloc with singles!

The title track is classic Ryan power pop, a radio-friendly earworm inspired by his Catholic upbringing. With an infectious hook and a euphoric feel, it is an early highlight. ‘Paper Planes’ again, is the sort of song Ryan first showed promise with on ‘Hell Of A Day’, full of quirky, power pop goodness and a euphoric middle section that takes it up a notch.

Ryan is never shy to pen an 80’s style power ballad or two, and for this album he has outdone himself. There are two ‘lighter in the air’ moments that could end up on future teen lovers’ mixtapes. The first ‘Overdose’ is not about drug addiction, but about falling madly and deeply, like ‘first love’ deep or ‘marriage material’ deep. You know, right? We’ve all been there. Elsewhere the emotive ‘Absence Of Love’, lyrically is the complete opposite to the aforementioned ‘Overdose, while full of heartbreak and yearning, it is still as emotive though.

A cover of Splender’s ‘Yeah, Whatever’ is given a lick of aural magic by Ryan and Dave Draper. Indie beats and those quirky vocals give the turn of the century alternative hit a new lease of life, as they do with George Strait’s ‘All My Exes Live In Texas’. This fun run through was a past single but shows its face here as a hidden track (it’s a homage to the CD era, kids!) after the closing song of the album.

‘Sad Bastard Song’ officially closes the 12-track album, and it is the best song here for several reasons. For one, I just love the countrified acoustics and pedal steel guitar vibes, and secondly the tongue-in-cheek lyrics may on the surface make it seem like a throwaway, comedic song for losers, but the stark reality is that these lyrics are from the heart and probably ring truer than you would think, and it’s probably my favourite song on the goddamn record.

It’s a sad fact that some of my favourite artist from the last 30 years will never get the commercial success or the critical acclaim they so rightly deserve. Times are tougher than ever for the underdog, but only one thing can make a difference…you, the music buying public. It would be a tragedy for an album this good to slip under the radar when it should be up there with the Adele’s and the Tayor Swift’s of the world, but how can Ryan compete with those big guns? Who knows, but maybe if when you finish reading these words, you were to click a link and buy this album, that would help just a little. I mean, c’mon, it’s worth it just for that cover art of Jesus in shades, right?  

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Author: Ben Hughes

It’s been a few years since Tyla has graced us with his presence here at The Fulford Arms, what with lockdowns, ill health and all that jazz. Still, here we are celebrating 40 years of The Dogs D’amour with a few low-key shows at independent venues across the country. The first weekender is a couple of ‘spiritual home’ gigs for the band, and following last night’s tour opener at Bannerman’s in Edinburgh, Tyla and the gang roll into York for a sold-out show that will probably be tinged with sadness following the announcement of Quireboys original guitarist Guy Bailey’s passing just the day before.

Up first we have local troubadour Daniel Lucas aka Boss Caine. The last time I saw him live was probably supporting The Dogs here actually. Covid times don’t seem to have changed the man too much, the hair is shorter and the cowboy hat has been replaced by a flat cap, but the song remains the same.

Opening with ‘Ghosts And Drunks’ sets the scene nicely with mournful chords and sandpaper vocals that sit somewhere on the nicer side of Tom Waits. His storytelling and observations of life, whether his or those around him are captivating, and he has a way of drawing you in and paying attention. Just a man and his acoustic guitar with a bunch of tales of love, loss and addiction seems quite a fitting match for the main attraction and the growing crowd seem to think so too by the response. 

I’m sure most live reviews of The Dogs D’amour could start with the sentence “Tyla looks like he has a had a few bevvies already as he takes to the stage”, and tonight is one of those nights. Dressed in an oversized suit, sporting a big, shaggy beard and his dyed black hair longer than I can ever remember him wearing it, the Wolverhampton Wanderer looks like Lemmy meets Fagin and he is in good spirits tonight, or should I say is full of good spirits tonight!

You cannot dislike the gloriously ramshackle sound that The Dogs D’amour create in any guise, and they are always entertaining live. Tyla has written many songs that soundtrack my youth, from those very early days up until the early 2000’s anyway. And as the band are celebrating 40 years of The Dogs D’amour, they are doing things a bit differently tonight. Not only is it a set of just classic songs, but it is also played chronologically, with stories and anecdotes in-between each song from the main man and songwriter himself. Whether half of these stories are true, only one man knows, but its comedy gold all the same.

As Tyla picks the opening notes to ‘Heroine’ those who are witnessing things for the first time may wonder whether he’ll make it through the first song without fucking it up, of course he does! Between songs Tyla explains the origin of each song he is about to play, usually with the words “anyway, and so the next day…” or something similar. And what transpires is possibly a dream set list for any fan of classic Dogs material. None are actually introduced by name, but he doesn’t need to do that, we know them all anyway. From early obscurities like ‘The State I’m In’ and ‘How Do You Fall In Love Again’ to chart bothering singles (“we were on Top Of The Pops you know!”) such as ‘How Come It Never Rains’ and ‘Satellite Kid’, to personal favourites such as ‘Last Bandit’ (dedicated to Guy), ‘Firework Girl’ and ‘Billy Two Rivers’ it is all delivered with passion.

Backed as ever by guitarist Gaz Pennick and fellow Balladmongrel Matty James Cassidy on bass, the band are suitably ramshackle, yet never on the verge of falling apart. Props to drummer Dave Cumming who stood in for the much-missed Simon Hanson for these shows.

Tyla sips from a pint of Guinness between songs and performs several songs sat on a chair. His banter is comedy gold and the stories are informative. Who ever knew that ‘Angel’ was inspired by a guy in a bowler hat who narrowly missed getting squashed by a falling fridge freezer, but Tyla changed it to a piano as it sounded cooler? Did Bukowski have such inspiration to draw from I wonder?

When Gaz informs Tyla they only have time for 3 more songs, he calls Matty over to take lead vocals for the latest Balladmongrels single ‘How The Beautiful Fall’ before ending the set with a killer singalong of ‘Drunk Like Me’.

Armed with the most sentimental of melodies and the most poetic lyrics, The Dogs D’amour came to celebrate 40 years of debauchery and York came with their loudest voices to sing every chorus back to them. A good time, no a great time.

Author: Ben Hughes

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Celebrating the release of a 10th anniversary edition of their debut album, Nottingham based Celtic punks Ferocious Dog announced a special one-off gig at The Barbican in York following their appearance at the Scarborough Punk Festival. This unique event would see the band play a 2-hour show including a performance of the whole of the debut album with a full orchestra.

Being veterans of the festival circuit and with a formidable, energetic live reputation, it would seem to be a no brainer to witness this event.

Not only are Ferocious Dog influenced by the Levellers, but they can also call them friends. Both bands have toured together extensively and shared festival stages over the years, so it seems fitting that Levellers frontman Mark Chadwick has offered his services to warm up an already slightly inebriated and rowdy crowd.

Armed with just an acoustic guitar and with a full house watching his every move, he proceeds to have the whole place in the palm of his hands as he plays a 40-minute set of Levellers hits and deep cuts. You could literally hear a pin drop during the opening ‘Liberty Song’, and what follows is not just mini greatest hits set, but also a masterclass in how to work a crowd with ease, not only proving what a charismatic frontman Mark is, but what a great discography the Levellers have.

Having captured the band’s recent acoustic tour I know these songs work well in an acoustic setting, but what I didn’t realise is, stripped of a band and laid bare, how good Mark Chadwick is.

The fluttery folk of ‘The Boatman’ is perfect, ‘Julie’ is as beautiful as the studio version and even the usually upbeat and powerful ‘15 Years’ sounds magnificent given the stripped-back acoustic arrangement.

“Is anyone drunk yet?” Mark hollers to great cheers, he has the crowd where he wants them and they sing every chorus back to him. Classic singles like ‘Just The One’, ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘One Way’ were always going to go down well tonight, but it was the rousing and emotive ‘Carry Me’ that sent shivers down my spine and got possibly the biggest reaction from a crowd that were on his side before he even played a note. Mesmerising stuff indeed.

With the orchestra in their seats, Ferocious Dog take to the stage to massive cheers, and frontman Ken Bonsall, looking all Peaky Blinders in his white shirt, waistcoat and flat cap, takes to the mic to sing the poetic ‘Verse For Lee’ before blasting into album opener ‘The Glass’. A sense of euphoria is evident from the off, as the whole crowd sings as one. Ferocious Dog class their fans as family and the Hell Hounds, as they are affectionately known, are in fine voice tonight, as the band deliver a high energy set that never falters. The album is played through in sequence and while the orchestra adds an expanse to the sound, this ain’t no laid-back affair. But then you can’t really give the mellow treatment to a song as dancey and upbeat as the instrumental ‘Lee’s Song’, can you?

The band seem to be loving it as much as their fans, bassist Nick Wragg is all over the stage mouthing the words, as is recently reinstated guitarist Kyle Peters, who shares lead vocals on a few songs tonight. Shout out to multi-instrumentalist Sam Wood who shines on banjo and mandolin all night and all so brings a comedy element to the show.

Recently re-recorded single ‘Too Late’ is a live anthem for sure and gets the rowdy down the front dancing. There is no let up in the energy levels from start to finish, except maybe the dub reggae vibes of ‘Freeborn John, and even that erupts into a dancefloor skank.  It’s all killer no filler for an hour.

After a short break the band return to the stage, minus the orchestra, to play another hour set of their standards. Like Chadwick before him, Ken is no stranger to working a crowd and getting audience participation. The likes of ‘Spin’, ‘Broken Soldier’ and closer ‘Slow Motion Suicide’ are crowd favourites that the audience devour like old friends. 

Both artists bought the festival vibes to the Barbican tonight with a special event that will probably never be repeated. The drinks did flow, the songs were sung and there will be a few sore heads and throats in the morning. But you what? It was all worth it. 

Author: Ben Hughes

Buy Ferocious Dog 10th anniversery Here

Being a member of the biggest touring rock band on the planet is a great job if you can get it, but I’m sure it drags at times and maybe certain band members yearn for small sweaty clubs, actually making eye contact up close with an audience and maybe even having to fight for that applause each night.

Chris Shiflett has played guitar in the Foo Fighters for over 20 years now, but he has other things on the go too. Not only has he banged out a bunch of records with Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, but he also has a couple of bad-ass solo albums exploring his country/americana roots.

Riding on stonking new single ‘Black Top White Lines’ from his upcoming 3rd long player, Chris and his band head out on a six date UK tour of intimate venues, stopping off at my favourite venue the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

There is nothing better than discovering a great new band live when you are least expecting it, and I rarely research support bands before a gig for that very reason. Dea Matrona are a 3-piece band from Northern Ireland led by Mollie McGinn and Orlaith Forsythe and they have the biggest smiles on their faces tonight.

I guess you could categorise their sound as classic rock with pop leanings. The pair both play guitar and bass, switching instruments between songs, their vocal harmonies are spot on, and the energetic duo pull all the cool rock poses they learnt in their bedrooms watching Zep and Fleetwood Mac videos.

The songs are good too, ‘Stamp On It’ is very commercial, instant with a pumping bass groove, the sultry vocals delivered with voices that sound way beyond their years. The acoustic led ‘Glory Glory (I Am Free)’ is simply stunning. A definite Fleetwood Mac/The Pierces feel that gets everyone’s attention in the room, and I swear you could hear a pin drop for the entirety.

There’s a cheeky Irish charm to the duo, years of hard graft busking the streets of Dublin have paid off and of course playing to a sold-out crowd surely helps, but Dea Matrona were very impressive tonight. Touring the UK through May they are surely ones to watch in 2023.

It’s a sold-out show tonight and there are a lot of Foo Fighters shirts and tattoos on display, but anyone who has come expecting a Foo Fighters song or two will be disappointed. This band isn’t about Chris Shiflett’s day job, this is honky-tonk, low-down countrified americana, best played in bars and clubs and its perfect, utterly perfect.

“I had a feeling this was gonna be a good one” remarks Chris as he tunes up after delivering a salvo of high energy, countrified rock n’ roll. Yes, there is something about this venue that brings out the best in any artist, and tonight is a great example.

Chris, bassist Fox Fagan and drummer Robert Jolly are tight as a duck’s ass and the songs are short, sharp and bloody good. Opening one-two ‘Sticks & Stones’ and ‘Liar’s Word’ sound awesome. The sound is magnificent, the telecaster tone to die for and the crackling energy is classic of the Brudenell.

The 90-minute set covers Chris’ two solo albums ‘Hard Lessons’ and ‘West Coast Town’, new tracks from his unreleased 3rd album and a couple of choice covers thrown in for good measure.

Free of the confines of the Foo’s stadium juggernaut, Chris is chatty, funny and engaging between songs. He tells us of his newfound love of Greggs chicken bakes and his hunt today in Leeds for football shorts while winding up Leeds fans (he is an avid Arsenal fan). It all adds to the feeling of camaraderie the band exudes, but tonight is really all about the songs.

Set highlights for me go to recent singles ‘Black Top White Lines’ and the emphatic ‘Long Long Year’, the yearning country vibes of ‘Blow Out The Candles’ and ‘Room 102’ both sounding like they are lifted straight from the Smokey & The Bandit soundtrack.

There are a few newbies I don’t recall the titles of, but the reggae-tinged ‘Damage Control’ was a standout for sure, Chris even encouraging the audience to film and upload it to socials so they could steal footage to make a video for the next single.

A 3-song encore includeded Mearl Haggard’s ‘Working Man Blues’ and a mighty fine cover of Hank Williams Jnr’s ‘Family Tradition’ with added audience participation,  glorious set closer ‘West Coast Town’ wraps things up nicely.

The fact that this highly enjoyable 21 song set was over in what seemed like a flash is testament to the songs and the delivery of the band tonight. High energy, countrified rock n’ roll has never felt so good.

If this band travels your way, do not miss em! Chris Shiflett and his band just set the marker for gig of the year, who has the minerals to take up the challenge?

Author: Ben Hughes

I rarely venture out to academy size gigs these days, not for lack of wanting I hasten to add, it just seems most of the bands I’m interested in play smaller more intimate venues. But after catching The Interrupters last summer, it sure reminded me of a lot of the rock shows I used to attend back in the day at academy size, and who doesn’t like a full-on rock show?

So, with Black Star Riders coming into town promoting their highly acclaimed new album ‘Wrong Side Of Paradise’, and bringing with them not only the Michael Monroe band but also Phil Campbell & The Dirty Bastards, well it would be a shame to miss this.

I wouldn’t say I’m a massive Motörhead fan, but Phil Campbell once came to my flat and I made him a cup of tea, but that’s another story. Anyway, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons are not Motörhead, but in the same way as Black Star Riders they channel the spirit of the band that came before them. What The Bastard Sons are though, is a full-on, old school hard rock band, and a good one at that. The sole non-Campbell onstage, new singer Joel Peters, works the crowd like a pro tonight. A larger-than-life personality with a larger-than-life voice, he splits the crowd for audience participation, mixing up originals like ‘We’re The Bastards’ and ‘Get On Your Knees’ with Motörhead classics like ‘Going To Brazil’ and ‘Born To Raise Hell’, the band are mightily impressive. The rhythm section is tight, the guitar tone fantastic and Phil must be proud having his sons up there keeping the spirit of Motörhead alive for fans and the younger generation.

The biggest cheer of their set goes up as bassist Tyla thumps out ‘that’ bass line. They were always gonna end with ‘Ace Of Spades’, right? The crowd go wild, and so they should.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Michael Monroe support anybody before, and I’ve never seen him do such a short set. This band don’t do bad shows, never give less than 100% onstage. The opening salvo of ‘One Man Gang’ and ‘I Live Too Fast To Die Young’ works a treat. The die-hards down the front know the words and the uninitiated are getting a shock treatment in high energy rock n’ roll. The Finnish Iggy Pop is on fire and the usual onstage chaos surrounds the whirlwind vocalist, who as ever is mesmerizing to watch, as he gets tangled up in microphone cables, does the splits and climbs the rigging. He swings the mic stand precariously close to guitarist Steve Conte’s head, but its all in a day’s work for the Michael Monroe band.

Older singles ‘Last Train To Tokyo’ and ’78’ go down well and get the crowd singing them back to the livewire singer as he bounds about the stage. If this is mainly a Black Star Riders fanbase tonight, I would say the band have won them over by now. And any who are not convinced may be shedding a tear by the time they finish the Hanoi Rocks classic ‘Don’t You Ever Leave Me.

‘Ballad Of The Lower East Side’ is arguably the strongest song in the band’s solo discography and it sounds killer live, yet as Michael climbs the rigging for the second time, the power is cut and the band stop playing mid-song! Seems the 02 don’t like rock stars climbing on their equipment. Funnily enough, the last time I saw this band, at The Brudenell up the road, there was an actual power cut on the equipment on the exact same song. What are the chances of that?

The band shrug it off and launch into ‘Motorvatin’ to get things back on track. ‘Dead, Jail Or Rock N Roll’ and ‘Up Around The Bend’ end a killer set that didn’t exactly go to plan, but rock n roll’s like that sometimes. I like it when a band has to work for it and I pity any band who has to follow The Monroes night after night.

Black Star Riders have that unenviable task, and while Ricky Warwick doesn’t possess the maniacal stage presence of Michael Monroe, he is one of the last of a dying breed of classic rock frontmen who are still out there doing it and doing it well. A 10-year anniversary for any band these days is something to celebrate, and Black Star Riders have morphed into quite the classic rock band now.

With original members drummer Jimmy Degrasso, bassist Robbie Crane and the Richard Branson of rock n’ roll Scott Gorham back in the fold for this tour, tickets have flown out, and the 02 is buzzing with anticipation as the band break into newbie ‘Pay Dirt’. In a leather jacket, his hair greased back and a Les Paul swinging from his hips, Ricky Warwick looks mean, moody and healthy, and his gritty voice is as powerful as it ever was back in The Almighty days. With the ever-smiling Wayward Sons guitarist Sam Wood by his side (who looks uncannily like a young Scott Gorham) the band sound impressive too.

The first half of the set weighs heavily on the new album. The single ‘Better Than Saturday Night’ is a killer highlight, ‘Riding Out the Storm’ and the title track ‘Wrong Side Of Beautiful’ showcase Warwick’s songwriting ability and suggests this album could go down as their strongest effort. They even breathe new life into their cover of The Osmonds ‘Crazy Horses.

Ricky introduces Scott Gorham to great cheers and the 71-year-old Thin Lizzy guitarist joins Black Star Riders for the rest of the set. The likes of ‘All Hell’s Breaking Loose’, ‘Testify Or Say Goodbye’ and ‘Bound For Glory’ all hit the spot and are welcomed like old friends to a crowd of a certain age. The spirit of Thin Lizzy seems omnipresent and of course a couple of choice songs get aired tonight. Phil Campbell joins them for ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ and a sublime ‘Jailbreak’ comes later in the set and understandably gets the biggest reaction of the night.

While the first half of the set was strong, I felt the latter half suffered and felt ploddy and a bit so-so. Only the addition of the Lizzy covers lifted thing for me. Hey, but I’m just nit-picking, really.

Big academy rock shows are always an event and tonight was no different. 3 bands who are well suited, all channelling the sprits of the bands who came before them, yet all with strong material that sets them apart from the legacy of those classic bands. And whether you’re a fan of Motörhead, Hanoi Rocks or Thin Lizzy, all had great new things to offer, as well as dipping into the past.

But finding out The Academy takes 25% of profits from the band’s merch and the fact that a pint and a G&T cost £17 reminds me why I favour the smaller shows these days.

Author: Ben Hughes