The Sweet // Tony Wright // Live Review // The Cheese & Grain // Frome

To say that it’s a chilly evening would be massively understating it. At the risk of triggering jokes about brass monkeys, it is absolutely freezing. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the crowd have decided to brave it for these 1970s glam rock legends, The Sweet.

It’s a mixed audience, let’s be honest many of the original followers of this band are in their 50s and 60s but they’ve brought their families with them, and most are dressed for the weather apart from a couple of committed stack-heeled glitter warriors.

Tony Wright

We don’t really know what to expect as Tony Wright, former frontman of Yorkshire 90s Brit-rockers Terrorvision takes the stage somewhat later than advertised. It turns out that he’s accompanied by fellow Terrorvision musician Milton ‘Milly’ Evans for a half-hour set on acoustic guitars, occasionally augmented by a thumping bass drum track.

With little fanfare, they launch into “Sleep from Tony’s new release, “The Anti Album”. It’s a soulful set full of heartfelt lyrics, plenty of clapping, and friendly banter.

Tony talks about his early life as an intro for “The Blues” from 2016’s “Walnut Dash” album, followed byBuried you Deeper” andOpposites Attract”. Self-deprecating humour is the order of the day as they progress to the closer “Cannonball”. Wright doffs his cap and with a wry “see you later!’ the set is over, leaving the crowd wanting more.



The Sweet

No long wait for the headliners, a few tracks from Deep Purple and ZZ Top on the PA, a subsonic rumble, and a teaser chorus from “Still Got the Rock” pulls in the last punters from the bar. Sweet is on stage to an appreciative roar from the audience and they pull no punches as they start with crowd-pleaser “Action” from their 1976 album “Give us a Wink”. The trademark vocal harmonies are there reminding us how they became such a phenomenon and it’s amazing to hear the songs live.

The audience is appreciative but it’s a clap and sing-along gig rather than a riot. There is a feeling of awe at being in the presence of genuine rock legends, even if Sweet has changed their line-up many times over the years. Their cover of Russ Ballard’s “New York Groove” is awesome, especially as bassist Lee Small shows off his astonishing voice as he takes over the vocal in the bridge. Lead vocalist Paul Manzi is no slouch either and goes around the stage as we are treated to one classic track after another.

The sheer musical ability of the band is an absolute delight to hear, and it must be said that their sound guys did a cracking job at the Cheese and Grain. “Hellraiser” with its trademark Moog-style synth sound, ably performed by touring 2nd guitarist/keyboard player Tom Cory takes us further into a set marked by many changes in style. Tonight’s lighting rig isn’t spectacular, but why should it be, when such a band is blowing the audience away just by playing crowd-pleasers one after another with such finesse?

As the only remaining member from the band’s classic period, Andy Scott shows off his continuing ability to entrance an audience with the intro and solo from Sweet’s recently re-recorded track “Everything” – a track reminiscent of Foreigner at their best in the tight harmonies and classic rock vibe.

While re-tuning his Mick Johnson custom strat, Andy takes the opportunity to have a good-natured rant about the way the music industry and politics are killing live music, the audience is most definitely on his side. Paul takes over leading the audience in a jokey test of their vocal histrionics and the band heads back into a series of classic hits, “Teenage Rampage”, “Wig-Wam Bam” segues into the crowd pleaser “Little Willy and then the musically complex but perfectly rendered “Love is Like Oxygen”. This reminds us how comparisons to ELO are not misplaced.

Andy and Paul introduce the band before “Fox on the Run” concludes the main set, but it’s clear that an encore is on the way as the crowd chants “We want Sweet”. Sure enough, the air raid siren starts with an ecstatic reaction from the audience and the band are back on stage for their only number-one hit in the UK – the classic “Block Buster”, followed by some excellent drum work from Bruce Bisland to introduce “Ballroom Blitz”. The band take another bow and with a resounding ‘We will be back!’ it’s all over.

A superb gig from a band that, despite its long and extraordinary history and many changes, can rock with the best of them. To risk a cliché, all killer no filler – no extended drum or guitar solos, just classic rock at its best and a roomful of smiling faces is a testament to that. Long live rock and roll, and long live Sweet!


Review: Dave Smith Price


Photography: Emma Painter 

Pacific Curd Photography 


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