There is a blast of Circus style music. Whirling white lights illuminate a marvellously red and yellow spiralled drum kit giving an extra big top feel, as the band take to stage. Though their entrance maybe crazed, this band are about to prove that they are far from clowns. These guys are practised performers, all clearly enjoying what they do and in constant check with each other. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the good time vibe that permeates the fast-filling venue. After a quick “Hello Bristol!” partway through the first song, singer/guitarist Toby Jepson succeeds in his mission of getting “every pair of hands in the house clapping,” The crowd are well and truly paying attention, quickly grabbing drinks but eager to just get rocking and singing along.
The check-ins with the audience may be brief but as TJ explains, they intend to cram as much music as they possibly can into the opening set. It’s high energy, solid pumping Rock. Drummer Phil Martini is small but lethal as he pummels those skins providing a sound that is fierce, fast and does complete justice to the title track of their first album Ghosts Of Yet To Come which sounds (and looks) even finer in the flesh. The new single ‘Little White Lies’ from the new album The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be, is a slightly gentler hit with eerie guitar effects and a great echoey solo from lead guitarist Samuel Wood, whilst TJ retains his ability to articulate every word of the lyrics clearly to the tune that bounces along. Nic Wastell is a joy to watch as he grooves along with his bass guitar, his spotty shirt flowing as he really puts some movement into his playing. ‘Jokes on You’ – again from the new album The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be – has an ‘80s Rock air about it with great piano sound contribution from Dave Kemp on keyboards.
Wayward Sons have a great live sound and stage presence. New album The Truth Ain’t What It Used To Be is released 11th October 2019. Find Out More at: https://www.waywardsonsband.com/site/
A different approach. This band are straight out and launching in to their brand of guitar-fuelled hard rock. There is a steady yet powerful pace beat out on a striking orange/gold glitter drum kit (complete with an Animal mascot strapped to it) by drummer Robyn Haycock and “Let me hear you,” “Bristol,” “make some noise!” hails Singer/guitarist Rich Moss, bedecked in a trucker hat and bandana combo. Lead guitarist Chris Davis also lends his voice to singing whilst his fingers move their fast magic in the coolest possible fashion. The second song of their set ‘Doesn’t Matter’ from the album Ain’t always easyhas a Grunge flavour and you can really feel the crowd move along with this. ‘Heartbeat away’ again from the album Ain’t always easy has a more aggressive pulse and is a song with poignant lyrics that grip you whilst being carried and delivered by RM’s strong yet smooth and passionate tone.
It transpires that it is bass guitarist Kieron Conroy’s birthday as a cake is brought on stage. The crowd sing along with the birthday chant – apparently there was a shortage of real candles, so there is an orange LED tealight in place of the flame – Rock ‘n’ Roll! This is followed by a deliciously Sleazier sounding tune with ‘Let Me See It All’ from the Album ‘Aint Always Easy. There is an announcement of the band’s debut album All in time being re-released on 11th October 2019 for those who didn’t get a chance to buy it first time around and an offer to get this a whole day early at the merch stand. RM stands alone to play ‘Waiting For You’ from this album, a stunning song which requires nothing more than an acoustic guitar and his powerful voice for the most part (alongside plenty of encouragement, whistles and singing from the crowd) until the final chorus where the rest of the band return to stage to round it off. The energy is kicked up a notch for the remaining songs – ‘Worth Fighting For’ from the album Ain’t Always Easy begins with a sharp Metal edge before taming back into Hard Rock and a barrage of punchy, catchy lyrics. Whilst ‘Not Your Enemy’ from the Album All In Time has the crowd going crazy with more fast Metal and some good “Yeeaaahhss” to get stuck in to. There is a shuddering lead guitar solo from CD in response to a chunky riff from bass and rhythm. These guys and girl play the music with their entire bodies faces and souls and are well worth watching. Find out more at: http://www.stonebroken.com/
BLACK STAR RIDERS
An impressive Black Star Riders emblazoned backdrop hangs on a darkened stage, illuminated by red lights. A haunting Irish melody plays over the PA, punctuated by drummer Chad Szeliga, on his striking wood effect kit, situated on raised blocks as the rest of the members arrive on stage together. Starting with the title track from their recent album Another State Of Grace the band sound incredible. Singer/Guitarist Ricky Warwick belts his all-commanding voice into the mic that is sitting atop a tall, sturdy and what appears to be custom-made mic stand, which suits his impressive stature. Each player is an undoubtedly credible performer in their own right and the atmosphere is absolutely buzzing on this, the first night of the tour.
For the band’s newest member – guitarist Christian Martucci – tonight is his first performance as part of BSR and he absolutely nails it. There are discreet congratulatory hugs between him and bassist Robert Crane after the first few songs and nods of approval from the wonderful Scott Gorham who although experiencing a few gremlins with his guitar/kit, is ever the professional that you would expect, appearing calm and in control throughout and as pointed out by RW “Nothing more is needed than Scott just being in the house, he’s so fucking cool!” The band are having a lot of fun on stage with plenty of face-to-face playing between musicians, impressive stick twirling between fingers on the single drum beats and there is an abundance of interaction with the audience who are soaking it all up. Black Star Riders are killing it with their formula of Classic Hard Rock despite the technical issues. The O2 is jam-packed and the audience are responding in all the right places.
A notable additional talent, is that of bassist Robert Crane who manages to join in with backing vocals by interestingly flipping a plectrum into his mouth from between his teeth when he needs to, meaning that he can sing, plus use fingers on strings but not lose that plectrum – it’s very clever and yet looks second nature – of course, his bass work is even more remarkable as he demonstrates his fast playing, along to clapping, often holding his instrument almost vertically with arms outstretched. For ‘Ticket to Rise’ from the album Heavy Fire, RW loses his guitar and puts his showman gifts to further use with vocals alone, swinging that heavy stand about the stage as though it weighs nothing. Scott Gorham executes his remarkable lead guitar solos for both this song and ‘Why Do You Love Your Guns?’ from the album Another State Of Grace in a way that looks effortless but has the guitar literally pierce the point of the songs deeper in to your heart. He also uses that whammy to it’s full potential in the elongated pause in lyrics of ‘When The Night Comes In’ also from the Heavy Fire album.
The song to close the set is ‘Bound For Glory’ from the album All Hell Breaks Loose – a perfect ending – and there is an explosion of whistles, screams and applause. These guys are gifted born naturals and gel so well together, this tour is most welcome. Find Out More at: https://www.blackstarriders.com/
Review: Suzi Boots
Photography : Emma Painter // Pacific Curd Photography