Thursday, 21 December 2017

21/12/2017 Wolfsbane & Last Great Dreamers @ Islington Academy 2

On paper it seemed like an odd bill, but as I really like both bands I'm not going to complain! Both bands might have been playing in the same era when they first appeared, but putting a Glammy old school rock 'n roll band on with an out and our heavy metal band might not seem a natural choice? In spite of this strange pairing the venue is packed out - with fans from both bands.

I've been wanting to see Last Great Dreamers again since being very impressed by their live set at Camden Rocks festival last year.
Tonight they are again very good., and they also have some new songs to play from their latest album '13th Floor Renegades'. If you like The Quireboys (who they have supported on tour) and The Faces then you'll probably like this lot too, although they have their own character and can't be accused of ripping those bands off. Although they have a very gritty rock 'n' roll vibe they have a more pop and commercial feel in their songwriting - and they really know how to nail a catchy chorus!
Last Great Dreamers are seasoned and polished live performers too, and you can't help wondering why they've never managed to crack the big time when so many lesser bands have got lucky.

Wolfsbane got a lot closer to cracking the big time - signing to Rick Rubin's label and having him produce their debut album - rather badly in my opinion as it's the least good sounding record they ever made with it's horrible lightweight tinny sound. They made by far their heaviest and meatiest sounding record after escaping Def American for Bronze Records with Simon Efemey producing - they released their self titled album and promptly split up after Iron Maiden poached their singer. And that appeared to be that. And for a few years it was - until some time after Blaze Bailey was ousted from Maiden to made way for the return of the 'Air raid siren' and the totally unexpected happened - the classic (and only if you don't count early drummers before the band were signed) lineup of Wolfsbane reformed! There were some live dates playing old material, an EP 'Did It For The Money, and then a brand new album Wolfsbane Save The World appeared - and it was actually very good! Odd live dates and tours have followed since, and also some newly discovered old recordings have been released - along with a new EP Rock! - which does exactly what it says on the tin and also contains some interesting topical and autobiographical songwriting. Guess what? Wolfsbane are still really good live!
A current Wolfsbane live show contains songs from across their career right up to date. Blaze Bailey is still one of the best frontmen out there and retains a terrific voice and very powerful stage presence! Also a self deprecating sense of humour along with his larger-than-life stage personality. Come to a Wolfsabane show and you will be entertained - whether you like it or not! The band's songs are great too - many that are heavy and intense, but also great really catchy tunes you can sing along to - there is always a terrific atmosphere at their gigs! The band may not look like they used to back in the day (apart from bassist Jeff Hately who still looks exactly the same) but they still play as well as ever.
A Wolfsbane show is enormous fun, and you can be pretty sure you will hear most of, if not all your favourite Wolfsbane songs. There are very few metal bands who can be so downright entertaining - even if you are new to the band and not familiar with their songs you will be entertained - as well as being a great singer Blaze is also very funny! He takes the music deadly seriously without taking himself seriously - which is very refreshing as well as being fun!
Wolfsbane gigs aren't that common these days, but they do seem to have got into the habit of getting out to play around once a year - usually shortly before Christmas. I recommend you catch them if you get the chance.

Monday, 18 December 2017

18/12/2017 A trip to Westminster

The Dark Lord finally takes his seat in the House of Lords? Not quite, but I had a most interesting tour the House of Commons courtesy of my local MP. No politics involved I'm glad to say. As you might expect these days, security is very tight. There were airport style scanners and the expected searches among other things. Much interest was taken in the contents of the pockets in my leather jacket, and I had to take my belt off to be scanned due due it's metal buckle. I was most disappointed that the equipment didn't start bleeping due to the metal plate I now have in my wrist! Maybe it's calibrated to ignore certain things.
The place is absolutely fascinating - this part is nearly a thousand years old and still in use. The Great Hall has seen countless significant events in our history from trials to weddings and funerals - it's quite something just standing there trying to take it all in.
The tour includes places that are regularly seen on the TV news like the famous lobby where politicians get interviewed. Photography is only allowed in certain places though, so there is much that I can't show you...
The atmosphere of the place is amazing. I didn't take many pictures as I was more interested in just soaking up the feeling of history. There are those who say that it should all be torn down and replaced with something more modern and efficient, but I think if those people had actually visited the place they would think differently. It does cost a huge amount to look after and much work is needed to maintain it and fix problems that have appeared due to past neglect, as well as bomb damage from WW2 - some parts aren't actually as old as they may appear. I think you ignore history at your peril. Some may think that history isn't important, but ignorance of it only insures that the mistakes of the past will be repeated again.
I finished my visit by going to the House of Commons to observe what was going on. No photos are allowed there, but it was fascinating to sit quietly and watch the debate in progress. It was quite something to sit there so close to the scene that appears on the 6 O'Clock News populated by famous (and infamous) politicians both now and back over hundreds of years of history. To actually be almost in touching distance of the benches, despatch boxes and the famous mace. Although the actual debate taking place was concerning a finance bill and rather dull, I stayed there for quite some time soaking up the history and atmosphere of the place. If you ever get the chance to go I can highly recommend it.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

17/12/2017 Ginger's Birthday Bash

Ginger's Birthday Bash is always one of the highlights of the year, and this was no exception! For 2017 the event is back to a smaller venue - which is a surprise after the same event proving capable of selling out the Kentish Town Forum previously. However, I find the show more enjoyable is this more intimate venue - which also gives a nice sense of Deja Vu as I remember being as Ginger's very first Birthday Bash at this very same venue in 2001. Although I have really enjoyed the shows at the Forum and other venues in the past, I really don't think The Garage can be beaten for intimacy - without being overly cramped and uncomfortable. It's got great transport links too, and is almost next door to a Wetherspoons - making it hard to beat in most respects.

It's been a very challenging year for Ginger on a personal level. He's had his ups and downs, and some of the downs have been very down. Fortunately things seem to be looking up for him and hopefully tonight will be a tonic for him. The show starts very early, but with no support acts there is a lot to cram into the show - with so many guest spots. I spot Alex Kane coming in the front door with a guitar on his back just after the show starts - so I already know who one of the guests will be, and have heard hints on who one or two of the others are...

Ginger opens the proceedings with a song from his latest solo release 'Ghost In The Tanglewood' his so- called 'Country' album of acoustic material. Emily Ewing joins Ginger on vocals. After starting with 'The Daylight Hotel' he treats us to a few more of his solo songs from various albums as more of the long procession of special guests take to the stage.
We are treated to some songs by Ginger's other recent projects G.A.S.S. and Hey! Hello! These go down a storm with the crowd in this packed venue. Cat Southall takes lead vocals for some songs - Ginger's fans have certainly taken her to their hearts after seeing her filling in the vocal slot in Hey! Hello! at live shows and she has tons of energy and personality. The rest of Hey! Hello! join Ginger on stage as well - The Rev on guitar, rhythm section Toshi and Ai, as well as Kelli Compulsive and Givvi Flynn on vocals.
After the show going 'electric' for a while there is an 'acoustic' interlude for a few cover songs with Maya McCourt on cello. Incuded are Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin' and 'American Girl' to pay tribute to the legendary songwriter we lost earlier in the year.
The energy level get's cranked up again when Jim Jones is brought on stage to sing AC/DC's 'Live Wire' in tribute to rock's best ever rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young who we also lost recently. The excitement is heightened even more by the arrival of AntiProduct frontman Alex Kane on guitar for this song! I know Alex is a huge AC/DC fan, as is Ginger - The Wildhearts even toured (very briefly!) with AC/DC back in the day. But that's another story.... Other guitar guests include Andy Brook from Shush (and Milena too I think) Rich Rags of Role Models, plus on vocals Tracie Hunter and Phoebe White of The Rebelles,  and Ray Zell from Marionette as well as Jason Knight rocking out on bass!
The 'Special guest' musicians are coming thick and fast by now, and Rachel Stamp's David Ryder Prangley arrives to sing a great version of the Silver Ginger 5 song 'Girls Are Better Than Boys'. Ginger swaps to bass guitar at one point for a few songs as there are so many amazing 6 string players doing guest spots.Then, just when you think the guitar energy level can't be cranked any higher - on strolls Bernie Torme! He rips through 'New Orleans' which he played in his time with Gillan. Then when you really think things can't get any hotter in the guitar stakes - on comes Dregen from Backyard Babies! Any more guitar pyrotechnics and the venue will surely spontaneously combust!
We get a tribute to another recently departed guitar legend with Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode', and also an incendiary 'Ace Of Spades' in tribute to the much missed Lemmy - who was a particular inspiration and personal influence to Ginger. I can't believe I have just seen Bernie Torme, Dregen, and Alex Kane all ripping it up together on the same stage at the same time! Guitar pyrotechnic Heaven!
Ginger, Dregen, Alex Kane, and Rich Battersby on drums then play a few Super$hit 666 songs - something nobody thought ever likely to happen as that band only recorded a single mini-album but never played any gigs. This night is turning out even more special than I expected! Needless to say, the atmosphere in this sold out venue is amazing - and it's just about to get even better. Yes - it's Wildhearts time! Ginger is joined by CJ as well as Rich Battersby, with Toshi filling in on bass. Also guesting on the set closing Wildhearts songs are Chris McCormack, Frank Turner, and Lauren Tate from Hands Off Gretel. 'My Baby Is A Headfuck', 'Sick Of Drugs', 'Caffeine Bomb', 'Suckerpunch', 'Greetings From Shitsville' and the inevitable fan favourite '29 x The Pain' round off the evening perfectly. Maybe the best Birthday Bash yet?

Let's hope 2018 is a better year for Ginger on a personal level - I think good things are on the way. And The Wildhearts are coming back!

My photos are crap - I didn't really bother as I wanted to enjoy the show instead. Messing about with my digicam was a pain and I didn't want to risk dropping my phone in the crowd (again) as it's already got a cracked screen. If you want to see some decent pictures of the show go and look at Trudi Knight's pictures 'cos she took loads and they are really good! My only decent quality picture is of my spare ticket - I found myself on the guestlist and couldn't find anyone who wanted a free ticket at short notice.
Same time next year then?