14th December 2018
Before I dive in, a lesson from history…11 years ago a young southern rock band called Black Stone Cherry were furiously handing out flyers for their early afternoon set on a side stage at Hard Rock Calling 2007. It was packed, it was incredible and It was from that day that tonight’s headliners lodged themselves into my youthful rock heart…
Jumping back to the present tonight showcases a truly spectacular lineup of North American guitar talent.
The Canadian’s were up first as Monster Truck rumbled straight down the throats of the early swelling crowd. They’re no nonsense, all man rock yeah. Playing loud, massive power chords, driving tempos, big choruses and thumping riffs. Their bluesy swagger emanated from lead vocalist/bassist Jon Harvey whose gravel paved howl was designed strike muscle bound notes. Playing a variety of tracks across their discog they cut out all the fat and went straight for their hits. A groove heavy Sweet Mountain River, Don’t Tell Me How To Live soared like an eagle and fresher True Rocker did exactly that. A cracking start and certainly won some new fans in the process.
Straight out of deepest Tennessee come out next act, the Nashville countrified rockers The Cadillac Three. This trio tick many of southern stereotypes, a slow caricature drawl, trucker hats, slide guitars and a gift for musicianship. No Bass and Two guitars, three if you count the double mounted slide fretboards. A unique approach and certainly front man Jaren Johnston did his bit to make up for any rhythm slack.
The Cadillac Three
Coming with a formidable live reputation, I can verify they do indeed whoop ass. But not in the way I had expected. Rather than the big hoedown rock and spritely tempos it was captivating with its approach to slowing almost every song to accentuate the notes at a snails pace. Plus it was far more country than expected too. It showed craft and soul beyond their LP’s and ability to thrive on stage with little or no boundaries. The crowd pleasers we all here on the emotive White Lightning, the adept song craft of American Slang and their Night rounded off with launch pad party anthem The South.
The night was yet young as the stage unraveled to its full potential. No more pokey curtains and basic smoke & light combos. From here on in we had the best pyro and staging Wembley could throw at us, Smoke cannons and all.
Black Stone Cherry
In an instant the Kentucky kings of Hard Rock, Black Stone Cherry had the crowd in the palm of their hands. This being their first headline Arena tour they were enjoying the space and theatre of the evening. Rhythm guitarist Ben Wells especially, running round like an over enthusiastic man child. He barely stayed still all night, which for me set the tone. A exhilarating embrace of their current status and homage to their past.
Their leader, the enigmatic southern man Chris Robertson, was far less athletic, more killer guitar slinger. Taking the leads he showed us his exemplary six string skills with blazing solos and the fattest riffs. It was however their ballads and mid tempo crooners which got the best reception tonight. Engaging in sing-a-long songs and good time crowd pleasers are all Arena staples, perfected on In My Blood and Like I Roll. Even their more touching emotive moments shined under the huge light rigs, Things My Father Said, Peace Is Free and new tune My Last Breath.
Their new material got a good airplay tonight, but with a 20 song set it had plenty of space. Despite this, they brought a groove not usually associated. Just Like James Brown and Ain’t Nobody brought the funk, even if Robertson overstepped slightly by opening up a dance floor in crowd central ‘for the ladies’. Despite this blip, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening which played much more to bluesy roots, which the overstaying 12 min rendition of Hoochie Coochie Man will attest to.
Hooooochie Cooooohie Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!
After 11 years they have hit new highs and as ever their open hearted honest thanks, gets kudos from the adoring masses who have been with them every step of the way. What’s next? Who knows. But it will be fun finding out!
21st November 2018
DIR.net opened the door to the DeLorean and sped back to the early noughties for a stellar line-up of old favourites whose appearance back on the live scene is much anticipated. With a line-up this good we were in early to catch the openers InMe.
This Brentwood based alternative rock/metal outfit have been consistently putting out quality albums for over 2 decades, rarely growing beyond the small venue’s that they frequent almost on a yearly basis. This experience means they are a formidable live act as they mix tracks from early grungy numbers, to more modern epic metal high up the progressive scale. Lead singer and guitarist Dave McPherson with his trademark flat cap was talismanic. His impassioned vocals were exhilarating, guitar work was highly technical and mastering both at the same time was impressive. His emotion poured out on latest single “For Something To Happen“, which he openly admitted that “I’m likely to cry during this next song” which visibly opened some raw wounds. This was a headline act compacted into a 20min sampler, which cut them down when they were only getting going.
Next we have (dare i say it without upsetting fans) a one hit wonder band in Wheatus. Sure they have a few other songs of note, but obviously we didn’t start there tonight. All 7 of them rambled out with bespectacled band leader Brendan B. Brown, for whom they oversized baggy t-shirt look hasn’t needed an update since the 90’s. Still it was somewhat of a surprise to see the sheer swell of numbers. To start with, they have 3 backing singers, for what reason I’m unsure.
Brendan B. Brown
That aside they mid-tempo’d their way through some decent pop ditty’s and their signature cover version of “A Little Respect“. Rather uninspiringly they remained fairly static throughout and just played their tunes. Of course we rounded out with the aforementioned classic alt-rock anthem and rock kid’s fairy tale “Teenage Dirtbag“. It was as fun today as it was back then, and despite exhibiting less of power than you’d have expected, it got the full sing-a-long treatment from the crowd who knew every word from years gone by.
The nostalgia didn’t end there as A bounded onto stage. I was always a little miffed that I missed them in their (/my) heyday. So I was glad to get the chance to turn back to clock and enjoy their 2002 classic Punk Pop album Hi-Fi Serious in full.
As with any gig of this ilk, it can easily get predictable (obvious point right?). But somehow it was still surprising how great these sounded live and how the various tempo/mood shifts typified what is a cracking LP from start to finish. From the powerful frenetic start of “Something’s Going On” and “Six O’Clock On A Tube Stop” before mellowing out with a few semi-ballads to calm the moshers.
Lead singer Jason Perry was in a rather unexpected outfit tonight. A full Deliveroo rider’s uniform complete with backpack. An interesting choice but not surprising given their punk stance, spiking a undertone of social non-conformity and capitalist unease. In fact as he extracted a Starbucks mug from his backpack (which stayed on for almost 5 songs by the way), it was done only in irony to tee up the immortal sing-a-long anthem of the same name with its classic line “I Don’t Want Your Job In Starbucks“. Hundreds of people barking that at top volume clearly made their evening.
Jason did a straw poll towards the end of the night which summed up the crowd nicely, most remember the LP being releases, almost all are over 30 and lots had kids. Which duly prompted him to instigate an “Age Appropriate Mosh Pit“. The caveat being you had to walk! As old bones don’t mend as fast. Of course this accounted for little as the madness soon resumed unabated.
Looping back round to end the main set to the thumping riff of “Nothing“, they exited and duly returned for a last min compilation of older tunes that had the faithful bounding like loons, “Old Folks” ahead of its time mockery of the aging technology user and the perky stomper “I Love Lake Tahoe” being the best of the bunch.
To surmise, tonight successfully managed to turn the clock back 20 years of so and those here to witness, revelled in its nostalgia and youthful reminisces.
16th November 2018
What?! Another Danko show?? That’s right folks, our favourite Canadian rock trio were back in London seemingly rounding out the endless Wildcat Tour 18 months on from their last visit to the London. Whats for certain is we can’t get enough of their energetic, punk-infused hard rock as we descended into the Underworld, too late to catch the support on this occasion.
So immediately to our headliners and the man himself, the eponymous Danko Jones. As ever trailed by his trusty bass partner in guitar slinging John “JC” Calabrese. A packed congregation was wedged into this newly shiny basement club, ready to worship Father Jones. Any break in proceedings was met with the same chant “Dank O Jones, Dank O Jones, etc…”. To which Mr Jones himself merely stood and absorbed all the good vibes coming his way.
Being a personality and figurehead of the rock and roll scene and eloquent podcaster, the charisma pours off of the man with an almost unfair bias. Plus he certainly has his stage banter down to an art. Seamless transitions, honest but appreciative demeanor and funny but not crude jokes typified a night where either you were rocking with the band or rolling with the laughs. He openly admitted to forgetting the set list, and having to bend down to read it!
Sonically they were as compact as ever, punishing the PA system with their good time party anthems each with a stellar sing a long chorus. Their melodic guitar solos were simple but effective and their rhythmic phrasing super tight. As it turned out there is a new Danko Jones record due early 2019 and we were treated to a few early samples. Each with (you guessed it), cracking chorus’s, rollicking riffs and a lust for rock. The best of the bunch being “Burn In Hell” which bristles along with punk intensity charged with a wonderful guitar lick and rapid but well delivered vocals. The rest of the packed set list picked fro across their discography, some of the best coming from lesser played songs such as the punk power player “Rock Shit Hot” and the rampaging “She’s Drugs“.
A night of full throttle, energetic rock and roll that has a true pop heart, delivered from a legend of modern hard rock that is a shining beacon for all those young bands out there to aspire to greatness.
Anticipation was running high in DiR.net HQ as the rockers from down under are back in ol’ blighty after a almost 6 years of inactivity.
Up first was a band that I’d not heard of before. Didn’t think much of at the time and even now can’t find a great deal about. Hence I’ll say that Tempesst were immediately forgettable and non-invasive in many ways.
It was Bruce Springsteen we have to thank for this Jet‘s return show (sort of). It was at his request that Jet come out of semi retirement to play the Aussie leg of his world tour. Which in turn has reignited the flame enough to warrant a brief 2 date UK tour to coincide with the 15th Anniversary of their debut, Get Born. Now usually album gigs are familiar, but they kept us guessing but not only playing on shuffle, but mixing in other tracks along the way to throw you off scent.
Its tough not to draw parallels with Jet as the Antipodean Oasis, What with both being offshoots of The Beatles with a slice of danger and gruff added for vague edginess. As expected then, the crowd were in strong spirits and voice all evening as the singalong moments and high octane rock and roll emerged. Low rumbling chorus’s, tapered highs and repetitive simplicity meant it was easy to follow and holler, like a decent football chant.
It’s fair to admit that these songs were like old friends you had lost touch with but are really glad to see them again for a brief moment of reminiscing. They have and always will play the nostalgia/retro card high in their arsenal, so in many ways tonight’s retrospective on a retrospection was all the more engaging.
Choice tracks from the night included the furious run through of the dangerous “Get Me Outta Here”, the bruised piano balladry of “Look What You’ve Done”, a party pit inducing “Rip It Up” and of course the swagger and style of their biggest hit “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”.
As the Aussies might say “it was a real ripper” of a show tonight. Let’s hope that its not another 6 years before they return for their next visit.
June 22nd 2018
After a much anticipated return to our stages after over 8 years away, we had to wait an additional few months after Bret wound up with an injured hand from falling down some stairs. Still the Kiwi Duo did duly arrive and treated us to an evening of giggles, fun and jollity.
As this was in essence a comedy gig so I’m going to keep the text brief as nobody likes a spoiler. The comedy act itself threw my enjoyment somewhat as it felt like I knew a lot of the best jokes/songs already. New material whilst as funny and genius as ever with their deadpan delivery, it would take repeat listens to truly get all the japes.
So yes, It was hilarious and their stage banter has us in stitches, but it felt well rehearsed and meticulously planned. Best tracks of the night were the tribute to the late great David on “Bowie”, a French fancy with “Faux de Fa Fa”, the hip hoppity grooves of “Mutha’ukas/Hurt Feelings” and newby combo “Father and Son” and “Deana & Ian”.
In absence of more words, here’s some pictures instead…
25th April 2018
A life’s ambition was fulfilled tonight as I finally got the opportunity to witness one of live music greatest and enduring travelling shows. The epicentre of guitar virtuosity that is the G3 rocked into Hammersmith for a special evening of the finest six sting exponents in the world. The three guitarists on show tonight each have their own style and history, performing in some of the biggest bands in the world.
Uli Jon Roth
Out first was the eccentric psychedelic melody maker of former Scorpions fame, Uli Jon Roth. His aging hippy vibe shone through his bandana and long flowing white hair, waving his super cool custom guitar with style and flare. His playing style was certainly the most expansive of the night, combining progressive ventures with hook heavy melodies that ran though the heart of his songs. Some could be seen as generic AOR, but they had a technical difficulty which way exceeds the ordinary. He has a real feel for emotion and impressive string bends, letting the guitar flow as an extension of his soul. An assured performance from a wizard who took us on a spaced out journey of melodic phasing.
John Petrucci is much more likely to be found flexing his guitar chops in the giant progressive metal band Dream Theatre. Giant band, Giant man. Super buff with muscles upon muscles and a lusciously incongruous dwarf-ish beard. He was so broad that by contrast it made the guitar he was playing look like a kids toy in comparison. Appearances aside, this was much more of a metal performance with more fuzz, more overdrive and more speed. In fact the shredding was sublime and lightning fast mostly without losing focus on a unifying melodic theme. Less progressive than you’d imagine he played the part of a guitar virtuoso with his tight playing and dizzying picking. It was heavy, loud, brash and wrecked havok but he still retained that accessibly with the guitar loving crowd that made this a success.
With all the variety on show, there is only one monolith that stands unchanged across the G3 franchise, its creator and headline act the one and only Joe Satriani. Strutting on stage with his trademark sunglasses (indoors!), shiny guitar and shiny head, the godfather of guitar virtuosity was ready to upstage all who came before. And that’s exactly what he did. He was able to marry the evocative sweeping atmospheres of Roth and the shredtastic heavy metal of Petrucci often within the same song. His stage presence was probably the greatest differentiator as he actively boogies and bops whilst still retaining perfect precision on the fretboard. You feel he’s having the time of his life on stage which makes everything more engaging.
Having recently released his 16th album What Happens Next, these songs took most attention. But far from a drag, these were really good! From the damn funkiness of “Catbot” to the warm loveliness of “Cherry Blossoms”, right up to the exhilarating “Energy”. These slotted in nicely among a subset of his classic jams “Satch Boogie”, “Summer Song” and the unspoken love song “Always With Me, Circles Always With You.
The G3 Jam
As Joe picked his final string, as most G3 vets would know…that is merely the beginning. Joe then invited his tour mates back on stage for “The G3 Jam”. Oh yeah! All 3 virtuoso’s on stage playing extended cover versions of classic rock songs. Tonight it was the turn of Led Zep’s The Immigrant Song and my personal highlight, Deep Purple’s Highway Star. They each played off each other’s energy and thrived in outdoing each other in a titanic guitar battle. It was simply incredible to witness the inherent connection they each had in combining their individual styles with so much grace and ease. Man they rocked!
So tonight was a truly magnificent showcase of the finest guitar playing. I can also safely say this was not a gig. Rather a concert. A show where the onlookers where here to appreciate the music, the craft and the legends who graced the stage. Far more than the usual collective gig consciousness and associated antics. I do feel a little more grown-up tonight, and all the better for witnessing a trio of wonderful performances.
9th March 2018
The legends of independent off-kilter nonsensical progressive post-hardcore and their dance-punk sidekicks made for a line-up too good to pass up. So once more we’re back in Brixton rubbing shoulders with other cool kids (Joe Thomas of Inbetweeners fame included), pretending we’re one of them.
Prior to their arrivals we had a suitably left field artist plying their oddity to all those who graced the venue early. Le Butcherettes were damn strange and this can be primarily attributed to their crazed front woman with a lesser heard name, Teri Gender Bender. Her vocals were all over the spectrum and her dancing was like she’d been possessed by a hyperactive demon puppeteer. Their songs repetitive, harsh, scuzzy and rough like a bad garage DIY band whose sole purpose is to annoy the neighbours. Melody was missing, presumed dead. More of a spectacle and an art performance of a set of indie punk blasts.
Teri Gender Bender
We last caught up with Death From Above (1979) back in 2011, whilst on their comeback trail. Since then they have released more new music and have secured their position as garage-dance punk legends, whilst embracing both pop and prog influences. They had come down in excitement and reckless abandon from that earlier show. Tonight the Drum and Bass two piece pumped out their massive riffs complimented by firecracker drumming to shape their high intensity, groove heavy sound. But overall it was a workman-like professional performance that failed to truly spark the onlookers into frenzy…they were far too cool for that. Barely conversing with the crowd they went about their business, slanting a latest album heavy, fuzz fuelled rhythmic onslaught. Good but has been better.
Death From Above (1979)
Headliners At The Drive In, are returning hero’s of Post-Hardcore and alternative rock, who have broken up multiple times, reformed the same amount, spawned numerous offshoot projects are here and are seemingly getting along. A rapture of applause greeted the bands arrival who duly moved straight into their somewhat aloof and distant stage persona’s who barely engaged with the adoring masses. Putting up that barrier and extracting themselves into their craft was well executed as they went about showcasing their new tracks from last years comeback album with vigor and unhinged energy.
At The Drive In
The performance value was exceptional as each track was sublimely executed and expanded with their outstanding musicianship boosted by their progressive tendencies. All night they feasted on the energy reserves of the crowds revelry. Weaving in new jams, alongside older gems worked nicely and the set flowed beautifully through their career highlights. The finest of said songs were the irreverent choppiness of “Holtzclaw”, an non-obvious expansive sing-a-long on “Invalid Litter Dept.” and their almost mainstream bothering Guitar Hero track, “One Armed Scissor”.
Omar Rodríguez-López (Guitar) & Cedric Bixler-Zavala (Vocals)
I’d say it was a feather in the cap kind of show. A night for admiration and less for head first diving. It was clear though, when your as cutting edge, getting excited and jumping about, doesn’t fit the image. Question is, would I return to see them again…yes, in an instant!
15th February 2018
It has been a while since we were standing at The Worlds End. Whist the incredibly loud metal music streaming over the PA hasn’t changed, the decor certainly had. No longer a rustic old man boozer, it’s had somewhat of a hipster makeover which has given the main bar a lift. Similarly its subterranean darker sibling venue Underworld has also had a lick of paint. Premium beer added and years of accumulated sweat wiped clear away means its more welcoming for those without long hair and black jackets.
That aside, back to tonight’s lineup and having missed Hell’s Addiction, we rolled downstairs to catch Dead Man’s Whiskey. They kicked off our night of rock and roll rather brightly with a fairly good impersonation of a youthful Black Stone Cherry. Full of southern rock-isms despite their obvious britishness, they played their riffs hard and their melodies harder. Simple yet impactful song structures which showcases their knack for a catchy chorus. Their front-man with his low powerful boom was really impressive as he channeled his inner Chris Robertson (Black Stone Cherry). Promising set from a band on their way up.
Dead Man’s Whiskey
It’s been a while coming. Almost 10 years of relative inactivity and at least one cancelled London show have passed since the punk inspired hard rockers Bullets & Octane toured in the UK.
Bullets & Octane
This was not a fact overlooked by their wildly enigmatic frontman Gene Louis when he quipped, “You never know what your gonna get at a Bullets & Octane show. For starters you never know if we’re gonna turn up at all.” Many years of stagecraft were evident here as he continued in his intimate style, making jokes, drinking beer, taking/giving heckles and conversing one on one with the crowd all evening long.
Unbeknownst to us, they actually had new new material to promote as their first worldwide LP “Waking Up Dead” dropped later in May. These songs rang out with familiarity with more of a hard riff and big chorus combo focus, than pedal to the floor punk infused velocity. It bodes well for the release if on first listen, your already singing and hopping along.
B&O’s back catalogue is a rather shallow in quantity, despite their enduring longevity (enabled by rotating cast members). It did however mean that every one of their best songs got some airplay tonight. The La-De-Dah’ing pop rock crossover “Pirates”, thrash-tastic “I Ain’t Your Saviour”, beer-swilling party tune “Song For The Underdog” and their hard rock classic “My Disease”.
It was all over too soon, but certainly they showed why they are such good value to come and watch. 100% commitment, leaving everything out there on stage every night living and breathing rock and roll hopes, struggles and dreams.
20th December 2017
A post Christmas meetup of the DiR.net faithful congregated back in Brixton for a blast from the past, funk filled, 80’s rock show. We jumped at the chase to witness Extreme, the finest funk metal crossover band and their talismanic six string slinging legend Nuno Bettencourt.
But up first was a lesser known funk/rock band from the 80’s, Dan Reed Network. They played a rather generic form of pop rock that fits nicely into non-offensive electro tilted 80’s radio fodder or the soundtrack to an overly produced day-glo exercise video. Crude comparisons aside, their vocalist (the erstwhile Dan Reed) was seemingly out of kilter with the band, with his rockstar vision of his eponymous group was way above reality. Melodies as you’d expect of the style were strong and ever-present throughout each song, as were the big chorus build-ups. But when it was all played at such a plodding pace it was merely lacklustre, mediocre at best.
Dan Reed Network
Looking round the crowd this evening, the pleasant mix of middle ages metal heads, youthful pop bangers and old school rockers showed the broad appeal of this lesser known but fantastic band from the 80’s Metal scene who stood apart on merits (not just good looks and hair). Extreme!!!
Immediately they showed their flair for melody within the opening bars of the show, as Nuno kick started a night of goddamn funky guitar heroics. Now when the bassline for “Get The Funk Out” kicked in early doors, it was clear they were intending on focusing on their hits. 4 minutes of boogieing and wah-washed guitaring later the crowd were well and truly warmed, vocal chords and all. We continues in obscure, hit, obscure sequencing covering ballads “Hole Hearted”, unhinged rocker “Decandence Dance”, and even more phone waving ballads “Rest In Peace” and “Stop The World”.
Overall they were tight and had heaps of chemistry on stage, however their vocalist Gary Cherone lacked power (sometimes tunefulness) and potential to pierce the wall of sound coming from behind him. This took a little of the edge sheen of this polished performance, but for me the true star of the night was always going to be Nuno Bettencourt.
His furiously fast, neo-classical, overtly tuneful and technically mesmerizing fretwork was an absolute honour to witness. He was given centre stage repeatedly on stunning solo’s and entire instrumental tracks that send shivers of excitement down spines. The best being “Midnight Express” a super fast acoustic strummer, the shred masterpiece “Flight Of The Wounded Bumble Bee” and of course Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” sampling classic “Play With Me”.
In summary, a fantastic night of sing-a-longs, funk-a-delia and true guitar greatness.
Oh, and in case you were wondering. Yes they did play their other song too…what was its name again? Something about some Words (or am I thinking of Boyzone or the BeeGees?).
7th December 2017
Oh yes, back to the seaside for another arena tour for the glam band that the 70’s forgot. If past history has anything to measure tonight by, it will be in laughs, decibels or most likely…both.
Out first was a total unknown entity, owing to me not conducting any homework. But with a name like Blackfoot Gypsies, it was fairly clear they would meet my appreciation criteria. As hoped, they sound exactly as their moniker suggests. A countrified electric blues band who love a good ol’ ho down, whilst adding a little wooziness to cloud the journey. Their overtly American deep south Tennessee drawl was both engaging and energising, seeming to be awestruck by people turning up to watch them. Each song was packed with melody and their guitar strings twanged with a true American heritage spirit. Wholly enjoyable and entertaining.
The Darkness appeared from the shadows full of their flamboyant style, all glittered up and ready to rock (eye wateringly tight cat suit and all). They wasted no time and aptly opening with Open Fire the tongue in cheek ‘The Cult’-esque hard rocker. The pace started strong and barely let up with a rip roaring set which showcased the best of their catalogue. From classic jams, the phone waving balladry of “Love Is Only A Feeling”, the best (?) riff ever (as voted by Planet Rock listeners “Barbarian”, drug infused “One Way Ticket” and pop sensation “Friday Night”.
It was however the newer heavier, cheesier tracks which really raised the standard tonight. The epically thunderous “Japanese Prison Of Love” gnarled its teeth with relentless wattage, the raging rant against “Southern Trains” and the fast and furious “All the Pretty Girls” taking the plaudits.
Whilst they played professionally as the finely crafted specimen of rock legend they are, It wouldn’t be the Darkness without Justin Hawkins between song comedic interludes. Between mercury-esque Ay-Oy’s, stories about his conception above a Colchester Pub and the obligatory gimme a “D”, gimme an “..Aaaarkness” there was barely a dull moment.
What with it being December, we also got a huge festive treat to round us out with “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)”.
The Darkness have settled into their position of defenders of the 70’s glam/pop influenced hard rock faith, refusing to resist making a few too many innuendo jokes. But for those crowed into this sea front concert hall, it was everything they hoped it would be. Big, Brash, Bold, Colourful (in many ways), Camp and Classic.