Sunday, 17 September 2017

Serious Black Live at the Underworld

Well I haven't been to a gig since the Stone Free Festival back in mid June. I've missed a fair few gigs for various reasons but to be honest it's been good to get a break for live music to renew the appetite again so to speak. From now on in till December it's going to be pretty busy for me on the live music front and what better way to start it off with than Serious Black.

Sadly not many other people thought so and the attendance was around 70 at its height. Obviously SB hasn't made headway in the UK power metal scene like some bands but that doesn't mean they don't have everything it takes to be a reasonably successful act as far as power metal goes.

Two supports bands were listed. First was a female fronted melodic metal band called My Own Ghost whom I've never actually heard of. I couldn't quite make out if they were English or from somewhere else as the chubby front gal didn't have much of an accent . Anyway they were OK and I've heard worse on the hallowed Underworld stage. Still not really my cuppa and the songs didn't seem to garner much excitement but were reasonably pleasant.

Main support was the Herman Frank band. I must admit I didn't like the sample I heard from his album but the Accept man was on fire and really rocked the riffs out hard. he does look a bit weird though with straggly sideburns and fisherman's cap. I had forgotten that mic for hire man Rick Altzi was the singer in the band. They played well and Rick's voice was somewhat good if a little hoarse at times. I don't know the songs at all, but they are simple chugging or speedier roaring affairs. Simple rocking Accept style heavy metal. Not rocket science and a decent warm up although the samey-ness of the same old Accept riffs gets a little tedious by the end. Herman is fun to watch on stage though with his funny movements and antics despite his age!

Finally at 9.15 the lights went down and it was time for Serious Black to show us what they can do live. Of course I've already seen them live before supporting Gamma Ray but this was a chance to shine all of their own. To say that the band has gone for the theatrical look for the new album would be the understatement of the year. Urban looks like King Diamond without the falsetto and make up basically and the album is not far from classic KD either.

The band sounded killer as they tore into the opener Akhenaton from the debut album. That's all well and good but I far prefer the latest two albums and I was looking forward to hearing that material and I wasn't disappointed in the least. Mr Nightmist with it's superbly catchy hook was the first track aired from Magic followed directly by the title track from the last album. That was absolutely superb and had everyone singing the chorus well about 40 of us down the front! What a song though and Urban sounds superb on that tune.

I should also point out that Bob Katsionis was absent on this tour for some reason. They had instead hired ex Obscura guitarist Christian Muenzer who I almost didn't recognise at first due to his shock of blond hair. The guy had totally black hair last time I saw him on this very stage with Obscura a few years ago. But then the more I looked at him, I recognised his style and even Urban introduced him as Chris and said he'd had a collision of some sort with a bottle of blond dye etc!

The band were hitting their stride mid set and there was no stopping them. the songs continued to flow between all three of their records with Castor Skies particularly going down well as the super energetic Lone Gunman Rules. The next song actually surprised me. I wasn't expecting to hear This Machine is Broken which is almost my fave song from the last album. I was very glad indeed when they played that one. It was followed by Now You'll Never Know which is one of the catchiest choruses on the latest album. Everyone enjoyed that one I think, very melodic indeed.

Setting Fire To the Earth was awesome as was the KD worship of Burn Witches Burn! the band played until just before 11pm their curfew and considering the paltry attendance, played with smiles on their faces and didn't play a shortened set as some bands might have done and rush to get off stage. A very full set list, a solid performance, playing songs with so many memorable melodies for the 70 who bothered to turn up to enjoy. Urban did comment on the low attendance from the stage but he said even though there are not many people here we are the RIGHT people haha. Made me chuckle. He also mentioned that last time he played the Underworld he was in Tad Morose and I was there that night too in 2003 I think it was. Guess what? there were only about 60-70 that night too! Guess you're just not that popular here Mr. Breed! Chin up mate!

Anyway the show was good and Serious Black deserve more success but I guess they won't find it in the UK but I'm sure they will have more fans on the continent on the rest of the tour. I do hope they come back though maybe on a tour with Sabaton or something that's what everybody else does to get exposure haha!

Older and Wiser
Mr. Nightmist
Trail of Murder
I Can Do Magic
Heartbroken Soul
Serious Black Magic
The Life That You Want
Castor Skies
Lone Gunman Rules
This Machine Is Broken
Now You'll Never Know
As Long As I'm Alive
Setting Fire to the Earth
Burn Witches Burn!
I Seek No Other Life
High and Low

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Stone Free Festival

This fest has been going a couple of years now and it's basically a classic rock all-dayer at the O2 Arena. I missed last year's event but I thought let me give it a shot this time with Rainbow headlining. At the time I bought my ticket I had no idea who all the other bands were going to be bar UK old time glamsters Sweet.

Eventually I found out the list of bands and it was an interesting mix of classic rock and newer less well known bands. I've never actually ever been to an all day fest like this in London so it was good to break that duck. I wasn't sure how it all worked out with the stages etc but well I'll find these things out won't I.

To say it was hot in London yesterday was an understatement though it's actually even a bit hotter today. But anyhow yesterday the thermometer was hitting highs which makes us Brits a little uncomfortable shall we say! The event was due to start at 12pm dead with a band called Riff Rath on the Orange Amps stage which was as it turns out a makeshift stage actually inside the forecourt of the O2 as soon as you walk in. These gigs were actually free as anyone is allowed to walk in to the venue after a security check without actually going into the main arena and the other larger venue Indigo which is a 3000 or so venue also inside the O2 complex. All these stages are within 30 seconds walk which was very handy indeed.

I walked in and immediately you could see a band playing on the Orange Amps stage and my festival guide revealed that they were called Tequila Mockyngbird. Nice name and nice gals for they were an all-girl group playing hard and ready hard rock ala Girlschool or Warlock or other rough voiced female led bands. I saw about 3 songs from them they were quite fun and the 150 or so early gatherers seemed to enjoy their set.Nice start and time to get a beer, the first of a fair few!

Next I entered into the Indigo by virtue of producing my ticket which allowed me quick and free entry to the hall which was on a first come first serve basis. It was time for the Crazy world of Arthur Brown. Never seen the old man obviously and I know Fire of course, who doesn't, but my knowledge of Arthur ends there. To say the show is an experience is an understatement. Musically it's a bit dark and mystical and sometimes progressive dark rock. A bit hypnotic and always very interesting to witness and observe. Arthur is a crazy old man that's for sure! Sadly they got the plug pulled on them right towards the end of Fire as they over-ran their 40 minutes. But that was weird and always a spectacle. never seen a show like that. He introduced the song Devil's Grip and said someone told him he's the reason why heavy metal exists when he wrote that song! Definitely a mystical and slightly satanic song! At the end Arthur said he turns 75 next week and we better keep coming as he doesn't know if he'll be alive much longer haha! Mind you more than a few of the band members of all the bands kept mentioning their ages from the stage during each of their sets!

I quickly exited the Indigo and  walked round to catch a few songs from Death Valley Knights. I think they're Brits but not sure but these guys are full on big trad metal with a piercing vocal. I heard about 3 songs but I was gasping for another beer by now so I went to the bar opposite where I can still hear the band but I could also quench my thirst. They were OK but I couldn't really make out any memorable tunes but they looked the part. Big hair, denim and leather and pounding metal! Probably the heavist and most metal band on the whole bill.

Back to the Indigo for a quick listen to Scots Gun who've been around since late 80s early 90s. They were actually rather good and I saw them for about 25 minutes. Very decent catchy hard rock and roll indeed with memorable, poppy tunes. The cover of Word Up was funny and good too. I made for the exits and missed the last 15 minutes of their set as I wanted to catch the full 30 minutes from Massive Wagons, Yorkshire's finest rock and roll band! Or is that only haha!

Got to the Orange Amps stage and the MW dudes strode on and the little fireball Yorkshireman, front man was flying and twirling his mic stand all over the place, nearly knocking his band mates over the stage was that small! The crowd was filling well for them as Gun ended and more than a couple of hundred watched the band. They really have a fantastic set of tunes that are guaranteed to get everyone moving. Their 30 minutes ended rapidly and was very enjoyable indeed. One of the few bands on the bill that I know well and was looking forward to immensely. Could've easy watched another half hour no probs.

I had set aside the next 45 minutes to go and eat some food as I had seen The Answer before and thought I could miss some of their set. I thought I'd maybe catch a few of the songs towards the end if I finished eating quickly enough. I went to eat a pretty hefty burger and chips which went down well obviously and then quickly made my way back to the Indigo to see The Answer, Northern Ireland's finest rock band.

The Indigo was rammed and they closed the main hall but I was allowed to go upstairs to the balcony and it was hopeless up there too with no seat in sight. I must admit The Answer sounded great and put on a really rocking 20 minutes. The front man has a great voice indeed. I should've maybe caught the whole of their set but my stomach won out as usual!

After their set ended a few people left their seats but not many and I managed to find a solitary seat with not a great view of the stage at all but I was just happy to rest the legs to be honest. It would be 45 minutes before epic blues rock legends Blue Oyster Cult would take to the stage. Other bands would be playing outside on the Orange Amps (Massive, Buck & Evans, Evil Blizzard) stage but I don't know them well or at all in some cases and I was just glad to rest a bit and wait for the 'Cult.

Finally after a good wait the old timers, who are celebrating their 45th anniversary, strode out to great applause. The Indigo was rammed to the rafters and any late comers would've been disappointed as the house full signs were up. What I know about BOC you can some up in a couple of abbreviated words. Reaper and Cities. Maybe I've heard more as well, in fact I know I have but I don't call myself a fan so recollection is minimal. But who doesn't love Reaper. One of the best epic pop rock songs ever.

The band sounded good or even great considering the main guys are probably ancient by now haha! One of 'em never took off his dark glasses. I guess he doesn't like house lights or has bad eyes or something. Some of the members were obviously not original as well. probably the bass guy and the keys/guitar guy, "something Castellano" as he was announced. They all sang they, All had extended solo spots. It turns out they were celebrating the 45th anniversary of their debut album and played it in its entirety. Some parts were a bit tedious to be honest but there were interesting and more melodic parts too. Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll was treated with great glee by all the old bastards in the house.

After ending the album the band played about 5-6 hits which were to be honest much better sounding than the debut album which was far too blues and Honky Tonk for my tastes. Of course THAT song is played and everyone loves it and then some. The band played a two song encore as well and finally the proceedings were bought to a close at the Indigo for the night as the fest moved to the man Arena for the final two bands in Sweet and Rainbow.

Took a while getting out of the Indigo as everyone is fucking old beyond belief and it takes us all time to sort our bits and pieces out before we head out and make for the Arena! This is an old man fest make no mistake. I am fairly young compared to plenty here that's for sure but I still feel as bloody old as everyone else. Still time for a cooling beer though as it was dark and baking inside the Indigo. Phew!

Walked up to find that our allocated seats in the Arena had been changed as obviously the venue was vastly undersold. I was given a replacement ticket for a seat much closer than my own but still on the upper tier, but a far better view. The thing was I didn't even sit in my second allocated seat either. There were still expanses of seats available as the lights went down for Sweet. But slowly the old folks filled up the venue and it wasn't too bad as Sweet started things up with their slightly pomp, glam rock. My knowledge of Sweet is built around the two massive hits Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz. After that I'm tested greatly! I did end up knowing more songs too such as the punky Teenage Rampage and the epic Love Is Like Oxygen which was actually awesome. They played Fanfare for The Common Man in between that song which was nice too. There were lots of people up and dancing to old timers Sweet. I liked them as well and Blockbuster is always fun to listen to. The sound was a bit cavernous for Sweet though and left me feeling they would be far better suited to a club show.

Time for yet another beer and a wander before Ricthie's new mob would entertain us to bring this epic day to a close. The venue was as full as it was going to be, maybe just around 10,000 or a little more in a 20,000 seat venue. To be fair Gun n' Roses were playing 20 minutes down the road and that venue holds probably 50k so that took away a fair few fans from Stone Free I guess. The planning was perhaps unfortunate but it couldn't be helped. At just before 9pm, Land Of Hope and Glory was played over the PA as the Union Jack floated on the massive video backdrop behind the stage to signal the start of the show as the band strode on to cheers from the all seated crowd on the main floor. Although everyone was standing up in any case by the time the band started.

The band starts with Spotlight Kid which is not a song I'm familiar with but it was obvious that everyone sounded good with the star being Ronnie, with his voice ringing out loud and clear. This Ronnie chap is a God send for this version of the resurrected Rainbow. Sure JLT should have been considered as he's great but Ronnie Romero has a youthful enthusiasm and power that JLT wouldn't be able to match. Although I'm sure 90% of these old codgers have never heard of him! It's great that Ritchie has given an unknown talent a chance like this and man has not let him down either. I Surrender has everyone singing the chorus and sounds great too with Russ Ballard the original writer joining the band on stage.

Mistreated slows things down and allows Ronnie to use his full range and power. Since You Been Gone brings us back to hit single territory and everyone laps it up. Man On The Silver Mountain is immense and it's a nice tribute to see images of Dio on the video screen behind the current band as the song is played. Quite emotional to watch actually. The set continues with a mixture of Rainbow and Purple classics. Rainbow bring hits like All Night Long and Purple has epic tales like Child In Time and the big blues rock of set closer Black Night.

The band return for a 3 song encore and all three were classics with Burn which everyone sings along with a nice flame effect video behind the band as they play. The epic and mystical Catch the Rainbow follows and finally the world's most famous riff rears its ugly head as we head on to the end with Smoke. A word about Ritchie. The guy's lead work is still as classy as hell though his tone is a bit unclean sounding for my taste. Maybe it will sound much better in a smaller Arena but it sounds too echoe-y in a big arena. However his actual solos are tasteful and as melodic as any. The man is no doubt a legend and a huge influence to the power metal movement that followed in his footsteps. It's good that he decided to pick up the electric again and play a few dates here and there. Special mention to Mr Romero again. They guy was perfect. He sings with emotion and power in spades and is a worthy guy in a long line of great singers that Ricthie has used in his previous bands.

So Stone Free was over for another year and it had been an epic day indeed. However it wasn't even quite over yet! There was an after party held back in the Indigo which I decided to attend and ended up staying an hour and a half! A band from Finland played humpa and hillbilly covers of metal and rock songs and they were the most fun and hilarious thing ever. They were called Steve 'n Seagulls and they put a final smile on every one's face as the more drunk of us were dancing on the floor including some sorry old man dancing sights! The DJ s played metal and rock classics and it was a chance to have a final dance and party before heading home. That's what you call an epic day folks!

Land of Hope and Glory
(Edward Elgar song)
Over the Rainbow
(Harold Arlen song) (Intro)
Spotlight Kid
I Surrender
(Russ Ballard cover)
(Deep Purple cover)
Since You Been Gone
(Russ Ballard cover) (with Russ Ballard)
Man on the Silver Mountain
(incl. Woman From Tokyo snippet)
Soldier of Fortune
(Deep Purple cover)
All Night Long
Difficult to Cure
Child in Time
(Deep Purple cover)
Still I'm Sad / Drum Solo
(The Yardbirds cover)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll
Black Night
(Deep Purple cover)

(Deep Purple cover)
Catch the Rainbow
Smoke on the Water