Seventies legends The Sweet arrived in Bexhill on Sea on the last leg of their ‘Still Got The Rock’ tour, which had seen them travel the length of the UK in some of the wettest weather conditions in recent memory, an issue touched on by Andy Scott later in the evening when he mentioned that the band had considered re-naming the tour ‘The St Swithans Tour’. However, another rainy night in Sussex wasn’t enough to keep the punters away and a very healthy but mature, crowd turned out for a night of glam rock.
Support came from the hard-rocking Novatines who quickly rattled through their opening numbers to an audience who soon warmed to the vocals of lead singer and guitarist Jamie Beale. The four-piece, who only formed in the winter of 2017 have been quickly making a name for themselves whilst touring throughout the UK and Europe on headline and support tours and when they entered the studio to start recording their debut album in summer 2018, Andy Scott was in the producer’s chair. They soon moved onto ‘Medicine’ with its thumping beat and bold guitar sound and it wasn’t long before drummer Callum Moloney was shirtless as the band turned up the heat, before Beale announced a new song ‘Joyride’ which was well received. The audience continued to show their appreciation for the high octane set as the band worked their way through ‘Never Enough’ and ‘Come Alive’ before encouraging everyone to light up their phones for the final number, ‘Silverscreen’. The crowd duly obliged and the band gave them a noisy finale. I think we will be seeing more from the Novatines over the coming months and years.
A short time later Sweet entered the stage to the opening bars of ‘Piece Of The Action’, a track later covered by Def Leppard, which set the tone for the evening of big hits and we were off and running as the band went straight into ‘In The New York Groove’ and ‘Hellraiser’. However, there was a feeling that the evening was being restrained a little, as it was an all-seated gig and it was clearly frustrating for both the band and the audience. Andy Scott in full long, blonde wig then explained how the band had lost 2 members in quick succession a few months earlier and then proceeded to introduce the latest line up that had only come together in October of Lee Small on bass, Steve Mann on guitars and keyboards, Paul Manzi on lead vocals, Bruce Bisland on drums and Scott himself on guitar.
‘The Six Teens’ from the album Desolation Boulevard followed and some of the audience who had stood up and were starting to dance were told to sit back down by the stewards before the rocking ‘AC/DC’ where ex-Cats In Space lead singer Manzi really proved his worth with a superb vocal performance alongside the dualling guitars of Scott and Mann. ‘Turn It Down’ was next up then ‘Set Me Free’ which gave Lee Small a chance to show his vocal prowess alongside Manzi, as Scott showed that he can still hold a note in his seventy-first year when they all came together to give us those harmonies that Sweet was known for back in the day.
Scott then proceeded to tell us a story about how Mary Whitehouse had complained about ‘Teenage Rampage’ when it was released as it could encourage teenagers to riot. That never happened (well as a result of the song at least) and as the band broke into the track, Scott encouraged people to stand up and dance, with some of the ladies at the rear of the auditorium not waiting for a second invite. The audience was by now singing and chanting along as they prepared for the run of big hits to the finale and ‘Wig Wam Bam’ followed which had any of those who were still seated, up on their feet and there was nothing that the stewards could do about it. The band broke into ‘Little Willy’ accompanied once again by the crowd for the chorus, who also clapped along throughout, before a huge cheer as ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’ started and we were treated to the full extended version, with Scott showing he still knows his way around a guitar. Both the audience and the band were by now in full party mood for the closing track of the set, ‘Fox On The Run’. The band left the stage to a raucous standing ovation which soon turned into foot-stomping and chanting of “WE WANT SWEET”.
Sweet returned to receive the crowd’s adulation for a job well done and proved that 51 years after forming, they can still rock it with the best of them. Scott and Manzi thanked the crowd for coming out and for their support but they had unfinished business here and the everyone present knew it. The encore started with their biggest UK hit ‘Blockbuster’ with full crowd participation, before bringing the curtain down on the evening and the UK tour with ‘Ballroom Blitz’. Once again the crowd raised the roof while showing their appreciation, as their band took their bows.
This latest incarnation of one of the glam rocks most enduring bands may be in its infancy but Scott has chosen his bandmates carefully and on this evidence, there’s plenty of blockbusting gigs still left in the band.
Review by Howard Whitelaw
Photography Courtesy of Laurence Harvey Via Metal Planet Music