Alone among the golden generation of British bands who progressed from Marquee sized hopefuls to top 40 chart regulars at the turn of the nineties (Thunder, Quireboys, Gun, Terrorvision, Skin etc), Little Angels resisted the temptation to reform.
But good things come to those who wait and after much clamouring for it, and with the cajoling of promoter Andy Copping, the Scarborough bred band reformed 18 years after their untimely split for a reunion at Download this year. To no one’s surprise this was then followed by a full reunion tour in the winter and there was a very special atmosphere at Shepherds Bush.
The London gig scene is rather incestuous with the same faces appearing at every gig, so seeing so many unfamiliar faces in their late thirties and early forties, I did wonder whether they too had returned from many years gigging exile for the return of their heroes.
Rising stars The temperance Movement got the show started nicely, even though their early seventies vibe and the Jimmy Barnes meets Rod Stewart vocals of Phil Campbell are at present more impressive than their songwriting.
Intriguingly the main support came from Skin, who 3 years back took the same reunite for Download route, split up again but seem unable to lay the band to rest even though band members are now carving out new careers with the Red White and Blues and Hand of Dimes. To add to the connections, their big break had originally come supporting the Angels on their 1993 tour.
Interestingly they opened with Born to Rock n Roll from the comeback album Breaking the Silence, that and the anthemic , mid tempo Stronger both showing that this was not just a nostalgia trip. However it was the likes of How Lucky You Are, Money and House of Love that brought a response beyond that which you would normally expect from a support band. Their tight muscular sound was topped off by the magnificent throaty roar of Neville MacDonald, best shown on Shine Your Light and Take Me Down to the River, one of the best blues rockers Thunder never wrote.
Ballad Tower of Strength featured a marvellous melodic solo from Myke Gray, then The Offspring-influenced Perfect Day and the inevitable Look but Don’t Touch, with the world record number of ‘baby babys’ in a song ended a 55 minute set that was over all too soon and set a daunting standard for Little Angels to match.
The good news was that after appearing a little tentative on their return in the summer, they seemed- at the end of the tour- much more road hardened and animated on stage, with Reef’s Dominic Greensmith seamlessly replacing the unavailable Mark Richardson on drums. They opened with She’s a Little Angel and if Toby Jepson struggled to reach the higher notes, he was on excellent form for the rest of the set.
Kicking Up Dust, Boneyard with a great guitar solo from Bruce John Dickinson, and Radical Your Lover completed an opening quartet of aces so spectacularly that it was hard to see where the set could go next. However Don’t Pray for Me, movingly dedicated among others to drummer Michael Lee, at whose funeral the seeds of a reunion were sown, was a highlight and it was interesting to hear relatively rare cuts such at That’s My Kind of Life, with almost honky tonk style piano from Jimmy Dickinson.
The pace dropped mid set with Soapbox and Womankind, complete with dreamy slide guitar from Bruce, neither of which were favourites if mine back in the day but were beautifully delivered with great melodies. In contrast to Skin’s straight ahead rock’n’roll, the Angels approach was more polished and discerning, with the prominent horn section giving songs such as The Way That I Live and I Was Not Wrong a distinctive dimension.
A faithful cover of Kids Wanna Rock, with a snatch of AC/DC, was a curveball but upped the pace nicely before Too Much Too Young, which perhaps will serve as their epitaph, had the whole crowd joining in before one of rock’s great endings. After the encores of I Ain’t Gonna Cry and their trademark anthem in a stonking Young Gods, it was clear they had risen to the gauntlet laid down by Skin and produced a 1 hour 25minute show that in its different way was equally excellent.
With Bruce on record as doubting that the world wants a new Little Angels record, their future is unclear but it was great to experience a night that many of us who were there first time around feared would never happen again. Nostalgia is a mighty potent force.
Review by Andy Nathan
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