Monday, 15 September 2014

20/11/2013 The Dead Daisies, Leogun & The Graveltones @ The Underworld

A midweek trip to Camden finds me dropping into BrewDog for some sustenance before/after the gig - meaning I can go the whole evening without having to use the outrageously priced bar or stinky toilets at The Underworld. It's not a venue I look forward to visiting these days, but tonight I am tempted by a very good bill at a bargain price of £7.50 (before the usual rip-off fees) so here I am.

Although this is said to be a sold out show I find it easy enough to get near the front - and find there is a barrier for tonight's show! I don't think I've ever seen one at this venue before and it doesn't help with the atmosphere. I've made a special effort to get down early enough to catch the first band as I've been wanting to see them for a while. The Graveltones don't disappoint. This is one of those rare bands who I've never heard of, then hear just one song on the radio and instantly want to go and see them live. That song was 'Catch Me On The Fly' - a dirty and very 1950's sounding slice of pure rock 'n' roll. I was hooked immediately. What I didn't realise at first from hearing them on the radio was that there are only two people in the band - they make such a massive sound. I know they aren't the first rock band to perform as a duo, but acts like the White Stripes and Winnebago Deal have never really done it for me. The latter relied mostly on lots of beefy equipment and pure volume, but their songs all tended to sound the same. The Graveltones rely more on having good catchy bouncy songs.
There might only be two of them, but the Graveltones make quite a racket! The absence of a bass player certainly doesn't make their sound lightweight, although I suspect there is some technical trickery afoot to beef up the bottom end as it almost sounds like there is a bass player - I'm fairly sure all were are hearing is actually played live by the two guys we see on stage. The drum kit is quite small but used very effectively and with great power. Although I think I can hear an effect or two on the guitar the sound is still quite raw and basic - very 'in-your-face' rock 'n' roll with some gutsy blues and metal thrown in. With only half an hour to play with there isn't time to play their whole album and the band choose to underline the blues vibe by finishing with a meaty cover of John Lee Hooker's 'Boom Boom'. It will be interesting to see how far these guys can take something as basic as this...

Next up is another new band who have impressed me when I've heard them on the radio with their 'Let's Be Friends' single. With one extra member compared to the previous band Leogun have a fuller but less organic sound. Not as raw as the Graveltones but still full of life. This lot from London take their influences more from the English hard rock bands of the 1970's - Led Zeppelin and Free in particular.
Their look is also very retro with lots of hair - full blooded leonine manes in fact. The vocals are quite high pitched but very good. Not up there in the Justin Hawkins stratospheric heights though. Although the band's slightly bombastic retro sound is strongly rooted in the rock, blues, and soul of the past there is definitely a modern twist to it and they do have a sound of their own. Ones to watch I think...

I'd never heard of The Dead Daisies about three months ago, and to be honest I'm here tonight mainly to check out the support bands as I'd been wanting to see them both for a while. The couple of songs I'd heard on the radio hadn't made a big impression on me; when I first heard the debut single 'Lock 'N' Load' I thought Slash must have joined Lynyrd Skynyrd - the song sounds uncomfortably like that band's 'Ballad Of Curtis Loew' and I think most of the attention it was getting was just because Slash guested on the guitar solo. The next song I heard on the radio was 'It's Gonna Take Time' and that sounded like it had a vocal melody nicked from a Wolfsbane song - I wasn't hearing a lot of originality. To be fair, it's quite possible that no one in this band has ever heard anything by Wolfsbane as they have never really been known Stateside or in Australia where the members of this band originate from. I did change my mind a bit on getting a copy of their self titled debut album - it's actually not bad at all.
The Dead Daisies are in fact a minor 'supergroup' - with tends to make me a bit suspicious, but the standard of musicianship is absolutely top notch. I say 'supergroup', but actually none of the individual musicians are houshold names - but the bands they come from are. Someone from INXS, two current or ex-members of Guns 'N' Roses (not even including Slash) and someone who plays with the Rolling Stones. Not to mention ex-members of the later versions of Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake - on the album but not playing in this touring lineup. If you want to know more about who is who then check out the band's Wikipedia page.
The band seem quite excited to be playing their first ever UK gig tonight, just before going on tour supporting Black Star Riders. As you might expect, this is a pretty good live band - lead guitarist Richard Fortus (G'N'R) is particularly impressive and a natural full-on rock star/guitar hero. Actually, he's the only one with much charisma or stage presence - although singer Jon Stevens (INXS) puts in a strong performance even though he doesn't look at all like a 'rock star'.
Everybody plays really well, both individually (each is given a few bars as a solo cameo - fortunately no long solos) and as a band, although I'm surprised to see bassist Daryl Jones (Rolling Stones) reading music from a stand during at least one song he obviously hadn't learned yet.
Although the headliners weren't actually the main band I'd come to see I did enjoy their set. They played pretty much the whole album as well as a rather good cover of The Beatles 'Helter Skelter'. The encore finished with another cover - The Faces 'Stay With Me'.
I found it a bit odd that this was a supposedly 'sold out' show as the venue never seemed that full - I've seen the Underworld far more packed than this. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't half empty or anything but I was expecting the place to fill up noticeably for the headliners later on. But it didn't. In fact, I got the impression that some people had even left by the time they came on - and it wasn't late or anything either. Still, I'm not complaining as I enjoyed all three bands and would go and see any or all of them again. A great value for money night.

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