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.
30th August 2017
Disclaimer: This was a pivotal night where I fell back into love with live music (post mini-life break). Heading home, I decided to come out of the restful slumber which had consumed these pages almost to the point of extinction. So much to discuss. A fantastic but flawed concept, a stunning performance and unequivocally the worst band we’ve EVER endured!
A “new” concept in gig going. The Pit Party. Promoted and organised by Fluffer records, held resident this warm summers evening in East London’s latest hipster outpost extension of Shoreditch, Stoke Newington. The “Secret” location being a dingy disused nightclub on the high street called EPIC. Bands in the middle, crowd round the outside. Of course nobody has ever done this before outside of the huge arena tours (exception being Monotonix … in 2010!!!).
Immediately I had 2 annoyances with the promotion. Being billed as “360 degrees” is somewhat of a misnomer. 270 maybe, but one side of this band island (connected by low hanging overhead power lines) is piled with amps, meaning you see nothing but disembodied heads peeking above the stacks. Plus the corners were obscured too. Also was this really “sold out”? Given the acres of space I doubt that severely and one can only assume that health and safety had some part to play. Despite this, security was so appallingly lax, that at one point a band on stage were forced to stop mid song to get assistance to remove a power slammed crowd surfer from the stage.
Concept and setting aside… Yowl were the first to trial run the stage. It wasn’t surprising to find out that there is not much space on this small stage for this 5 piece band. Sounding like a rambling politico post punk bunch of indie rockers, they had a bunch of melodies that were cross-wired within their scrappy sound. However someone needed to turn down the volume as it was so loud that the free earplugs did little to dampen the overpowering din. Could have been pretty good if they got their levels right.
Bad Breeding were up next. They were simply terrible. Nothing much has come close in terms of their appalling, almost torturous sound. They are a self proclaimed anarcho-punks so we shouldn’t have been surprised. But the wall of guitars was so unbearably loud, out of tune and nothing more then feedback buzzed through the air. Vocals were a mere blip on the sonic scale and most people were simply braving it out as there was no-where else to go! Truly unpalatable, awful band that showed absolutely no redeeming qualities what so ever. The faint applause at the end was merely a sarcastic goodbye and good ridden’s!
The headline act were no strangers to intimate London venues, but tonight was something really special. Japandroids with with guitar drum combination of soaring indie rock and roll are simply the perfect people to play a pit party. With plenty of space to work with their enthusiasm and stagecraft were at their charismatic peak. The crown were so immensely close they were often singing into the mic and sharing more than just sound waves. It gave a supreme feeling of total immersion and shared gig experience that is impossible to price tag.
Mind the Beachball
They played tunes across their 3 LP’s from the scuzziest fuzz of the debut Post-Nothing, the sky-soaring chorus lines which dot around Celebration Rock and the maturing methodical pop applications of recent Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. Outstanders were the “North East South West” with its strummy yet crunchy guitars, the ecstatically energetic “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and the cumulative crest of their elements the pop friendly rock-banger “House That Heaven Built”.
Their songs studied the school of “ooh ooh” choruses, whilst firmly putting rock and melody on equal weightings. Their sound is dirty, yet melodically clean, vocals sung true conviction with an endearing persona that means you’d back them every time.
A totally engaging and affirming, all killer, no filler show of an indie rock crew at the top of their powers. An incredible night of highs and lows!
28th September 2018
It’s not very often that the DiR crew choose to forego a pint in a pub to head in almost for doors opening, tonight was that night. What we were greeted with was a queue that stretched round the building and back out onto the high street! 15 minutes later an already fairly busy Brixton Academy were enjoying REWS. We caught this all girl duo’s last song which was energetic with clangy noise rock guitars backed by overly cymbal focused drumming. Not bad, but not much to judge.
It’s rare a support get ideas above their Station, but Avatar thought, acted and played like they were tonight’s Headline act! But nobody could blame them as they brought in a huge crowd and full stage setup and even their own lighting rig. Avatar are a heavy neo-classical prog metal troupe who are hard to ignore. Their eccentric flamboyance and overt creepiness were enough to draw attention in their own. It was so over the top that somehow it was fun, rather than haunting.
Avatar (From afar…)
Their well heeled, waist-coated roadies were clearly off shift from the Grand Budapest Hotel. The band’s classical (circus?) themed outfits and make-up gave an air of regal showmanship. Musically they love a good heavy headbanging riff whilst they synchronised hair windmills flailing their long Scandinavian locks. Skipping effortlessly from thunder chugs to intricate picking, harmonious dueling power metal melodies to country hoedowns…it was always entertaining.
Their ringleader complete with conducting baton, owned the stage in a freaky you dare look anywhere else manner. He delivered yelps, monologues, guttural screams and super high cleans with ease. Certainly he’d be the guy in real life that people went out of their way to avoid. Their closing track and dedicated to all the ‘Freaks’ pretty much sums up this unconventional but assured band. Totally engrossing, fun, unmissable and unsettling all at the same time!
With the Halestorm banners now raised they were here to banish thoughts that their support has upstaged them. Lzzy Hale bounded onstage with her brand of no nonsense hard rockers in tow and immediately gave us a taste of her incredible raspy power vocals. The sheer scale and pitch of these howls is incredible and forms the cornerstone of their sound. However she wasn’t the only hale on stage who wanted attention. Little brother Arejay on drum duty was immensely watchable and entertaining, twirling, leaping and speedy sticksmanship. His drum solo and now customary “big stick” trick is really something special.
Their set was made up primarily from latest album Vicious which isn’t a bad LP, but this always leaves longer term fans wanting a few more classic cuts. Those from the past were (for me) to obvious highlights with oh-oh’ing “I Miss the Misery“, rollicking rockers “Mz Hyde” and “Love Bites (So Do I)” plus set closing full hearted ballad “Here’s To Us“.
As a hard rock band dressed in black they certainly didn’t provide the visual spectacle of Avatar, but they certainly out-performed them in terms of the music with fantastic melodies, vigor, energy and above all else, epic rock anthems!
17th June 2017
It was a blazingly hot afternoon in the hallowed London 2012 Olympic stadium and home of West Ham Utd. The overall buzz levels surrounding this performance were about as high as I’ve known, as the kings of 80’s rock are back with the (almost) classic line-up including the two bitterly divided figures Axl Rose and Slash. This is a reunion (of sorts), the likes of which most people dare not dream would happen. The tour name “Not In This Lifetime” seems to back this up too. Sure, GN’R have been pulling in the Vegas punters for years with the one man Axl Rose parody show, but tonight was the real deal!
Proceedings started off however with the bluesy southern styled rockers Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. As an unknown entity they showed absolutely no fear in front of this huge ensemble. Strutting about stage their front-man was Steven Tyler-esque (in more than just name) as his hit some fairly difficult high notes, but still soulfully delivered the swagger on slower bluesier numbers. Among the more restrained numbers there were a few arena sized anthems which got the crowd onside. Certainly ones to watch.
Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown
Conversely with hindsight I wish I didn’t have to watch the next set from indie rockers and purveyors of drum driven noise, The Kills. Now I’ve been known to enjoy this duo (No Wow was a particularly good album), but today with a quickly filling cauldron of sweaty hard rockers, they were out of kilter with the fans and thus it mostly fell on deaf ears. The fuzzy guitars just faded into obscurity, the drums mere pitter/patters and vocals yelpy. A most disappointing choice of supporting act.
Guns N’ Roses stepped out of their own fractured shadow as Slash, Axl and Duff all emerged onto the stage to a rapture of adoration.
Guns N’ Roses
Clearly sharpened from his stint fronting Ac/Dc, Axl seemed a true professional tonight and totally in control, considering even turning up on time was an issue a few years ago. His voice was as good as ever and switches effortlessly from his rambling rapid fire verses to high pitched yelps and wails. The highest notes are probably condemned to the archive, but he managed tonight’s bumper set with ease. Flipping from gallivanting around stage to introspective balladry on the grand piano, he was back to his enigmatic best.
The same can also be said of his partner in amplification, the iconic guitar hero, Slash flung his assortment of stunning Les Paul’s around without missing a note of the extended jams and solos which melded tracks together. A particularly standout moment was a stunning instrumental version of Wish You Were Here played between himself and his rhythm partner Richard Fortus.
A fair few covers were thrown in for good measure, “Black Hole Sun” in honour of recently fallen grunge superstar Chris Cornell and a nod to last years appearance in this stadium “Whole Lotta Rosie“. These were alongside more expected output of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and orchestral swell of “Live & Let Die”
The flamboyance and style with which their played this truly epic set list was remarkable. Despite how OTT it got, the musicianship and rapport with the crowd were perfectly in tune. Yes, it was overblown at times, but this is 80’s hard rock of the highest excess, what else would you expect? A heavy slant was duly given to Appetite For Destruction, but the set picked and selected the best from across their output. The set highlights for me were the glorious solo to November Rain, roof raising Paradise City and weirdly the edgier (Buckethead influenced) riffing of Better.
After so many classic rock anthems, those here in London Stadium rested easy as we boarded the Nightrain back to normal life once more. Escapism at its most finest for 3 glorious hours of amped up euphoria. Even if this is the only time in this lifetime…it was worth it!
So with the first 6 months of 2018 over and the days already starting to get shorter (how is this possible!!), I thought it the right time to pull together a highlight playlist of my favourite jams of the year to date. With a re-ignition of activity here at DiR.net, its about time to do some more sharing, how modern of this aging dinosaur! We’ll see how many of these stick around until the traditional end of year retrospective.
DiR.net: Best of 2018 So Far…
As usual a huge mixed blend of guitar genres on offer covering
- Sharp indie-rock (The Spielbergs)
- Unhinged rock and roll (The Hawkins*)
- 70’s Pop throwbacks with the best band name of recent times (Death By Unga Bunga)
- Dutch manic Pop-Punk/Rock (Tusky)
- Huge Southern Rockers (Black Stone Cherry)
- Youthful diversity (YUNGBLUD, Dead!)
- Scandinavian Melodic Hard Rock/Metal/Pop (Audrey Horne, Mustasch, Spiders, Heavy Tiger*,The Night Flight Orchestra*)
- British Blues (Kris Barras Band)
- Progressive Metal (Caligula’s Horse*)
- Thumping Stoner Rock (Corrosion of Conformity, Black Rainbows)
- Fresh and Modern UK Hard Rock (Fragile Things, Turbowolf, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, Fire Red Empress*)
- Hardcore & Post Punk (Turnstile, The Fever 333)
- Essex Folk anti-hero (Beans On Toast)
- …plus a few more to boot
* Whilst most of these are from 2018 releases I have snuck in a few that slipped my best of 2017 end of year net.
23rd March 2017
A sizable queue snaked up Camden high street prior to this anticipated evening of rock and roll and the visit to these fair shores from Canadian rising stars, Monster Truck, here to promote their great “DiR.net Album Of The Year 2017 Sittin’ Heavy.
First up at the racetrack this evening was a The Picturebooks, a German Duo of Guitars and Drums. What they lacked in numbers they certainly made up for in decibels and drumsticks as their drummer beat his low rise kit to within to a bloody pulp. If those skins could talk they’d be in the police station reporting assault charges. The resonance was deep and thunderous which gave everything a foot stomping vibe that was brightened by the gruff vocals. Guitars were as bluesy as you’d expect and they has a few decent rabble of songs that shined out from the set. In contract to their precise deliberateness our main event was ready to ramp up the engines…
The throttle went well and truly through the floor as Monster Truck launched somewhat ironically straight into “Why Are You Not Rockin?” which set the tone for the rest of the evening. A night of ‘Monster’ riffs and ‘Truck’ loads of high octane rock and roll ensued (puns intended!). There was little in the way of diversions with a focus firmly upon their set, not even the bare chested guitar slinger could divert much attention. Whilst its clear they can riff with the best in the business, of me its the overlay of vocal harmonies and powerful wooo-ooaaaahhhs…which provide the melodic hooks scaled to land moby dick.
With such a straight-up hard rock band, they could easily have repeated the same winning riff, chorus, riff formula. But yet they balanced out the set with mid-tempo ‘pop’ numbers (“For The People”) between their all out attack gung-ho guitar frenzies (“The Enforcer”) and even threw in a few more swaggering slow-burning blues numbers (“Seven Seas Blues“). Not to mention the James Brown “I Feel Good” cover which should get its own release! A gigantic show from a rising band who are heading for the top of rock mountain.
15th March 2017
It’s clear after many years of being in and around the London rock’n’roll circuit that times have changed. Gone are the days of a cheeky pre-gig grab and run from McD’s, a few cheap ones at the local bar before heading to the venue sharpish to start swilling on more cheap lager. Nowadays we now like a nice comfy pub with good beer and a quality kitchen to satisfy our rumbling tummy’s.
Nevertheless, we did managed to get in for the only support band of the night, Miraculous Mule. What was miraculous that I remember them at all, which being honest is hazy at best. They were a rootsy 3 piece blues band that struggled with captivating the crowd and stuck to same tempo. Honestly…a forgettable Ass.
In stark comparison, on bounded the talismanic presence of Danko Jones, band in tow to a rapturous rousing applause. He wasted no time in kicking into his trademark punchy punk infused hard rock. Stopping regularly his stage banter is second to none, away from the crafted and scripted lead-ins he lives, breathes and sweats rock and roll so its no wonder he speaks with such passion to his fans.
Rather than revert to stereotype and dwell on the recent album Wild Cat, this evening’s set list was truly career spanning. From early raw punk of Sugar Chocolate and Cadillac, to their (in inverted quotes) “Pop” song First Date, the sweltering dirty groove of Legs and the menacing thunder roar of There’s Gonna Be A Fight Tonight. When the new material did surface it was warmly received, with plenty of crowd singing despite the relatively short time between its release and today. They were soaked in pop, macho rock posturing, general merriment and uplifting melodies.
What is 100% guaranteed at a Danko show is that we’d finish the night with the epic Live only track that is ‘Bring On The Mountain’, tonight was no exception. This unreleased song (and probably never will be put to a studio record) captures the essence of the man and the band, one that’s so steeped in rock tradition, grit and determination that can only be put into perspective from the summit of rock and roll. As he finished his heartfelt monologue he calls all the names of those with him at the top (a british feel to the list tonight including Lemmy & Strummer). Inevitably the cheers go up, and finally as we build to the finale, the taught guitars are finally unleashed in an avalanche of furious power chords…Fade to Close!
Job Done! Next City! The Next Crowd Awaits! Danko Jones Has Left The Building!
“This heart gets stronger, this skin gets thicker, this mouth gets louder”
January 19th 2017
Fast forward into 2017 and I (after many missed opportunities) thought that “The End” of Black Sabbath was a worthy tour to catch before they crumbled into the heavy rock and metal history books of which they authored many years ago.
Now a huge venue and a huge band needs a suitably big support act and rising hard rock and blues busters Rival Sons took this coveted slot. Having first seen them back in 2012 supporting Black Stone Cherry, apart from the elapse of 5 years, not a lot has changed. Sure they have polished up their professionalism and got better kit, but my opinion is still the same. Underwhelming. They have a lot of precious materials to work with showcasing a knack for retro styles blues riffs, swagger by the jagger-full and a vocalist whose range nearly blew the roof off this dome. Yet it all seems lazily patched together with the same mid tempo ploddy beats, riff, chorus, beats, riff chorus repeat… It’s just not inspiring seeing such a talent going through to motions and certainly the overkill on the retro effects do nothing to mask their tepid blues by numbers formula.
The tolls of the bells rang loud over the PA at tonight’s chosen church of heavy metal in anticipation at the eerily empty stage. The crunch of Tony Iommi’s darkly menacing Gibson SG finally signaled the entry of the forefathers of metal and all round darkness. Speaking of which, the “Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne himself swiftly…no gently…no shuffled slowly, onto stage centre to utter the immortal words “What is this that stands before me?”. 20,000 Heavy Metal fans was the correct answer and they immediately showed their captors for the night they can sing as loud as any crowd they’ve witnessed over their last 40+ years of touring.
Ozzy Osbourne & Tony Iommi
After such longevity, its clear they had their live stage craft honed to absolute perfection as they slothly pummeled their way through an outstanding set of career spanning metal monsters. They may not move as fast, but they still gracefully levitated between songs and evaded intense fire cannons proving their theatrics were not of this world. The show was a set piece masterclass in suspense, perfect timing, humongous riffs and often surprisingly up-tempo dynamic shifts, often many times within a single song (Exhibit A: War Pigs).
The highlights for me was witnessing the grandfather of metal Iommi chugging our deeply tuned riffs which sounded as earth shattering today as i’m sure they did way back when. He has lost nothing, deftly skulking around the fretboard for those huge chords before dexterously dancing through epic solos with ease. The setlist was drawn primarily from their early heyday and those first 4 albums which defined the landscape for all who followed in their wake. The riff-fests of Children Of The Grave, Iron Man, Fairies Wear Boots and Into The Void were all stunning and gloomily anthemic.
As could be expected, Paranoid played us out to allow everyone to say farewell to the Black Sabbath (Osbourne, Iommi & Butler) in fitting style… on stage doing what they have always done, rocking, shocking and rolling!