Gig review: THE UNION Islington Academy, Thursday 28 March 2013

This was the rescheduled gig after the February one was postponed as vocalist Pete Shoulder was suffering badly from flu. Luckily he has since fully recovered and there was a decent turn out again. First up were Black Wolf, who had played at the February gig.

They are a young and exuberant five piece with a frontman who fair belts out the songs (and has a decent line in Coverdale/Plant approved rock star poses), plus one guitarist who thinks he is Angus Young right down to the Chuck Berry approved duckwalk.

The sound got a bit distorted at times and I am surprised the powerful drummer didn’t burrow his way through the stage! They have the enthusiasm, a good reception from the crowd and sounded tight, along with a couple of above par tunes making them a band to keep an eye on.

Next up we have American three piece Beware Of Darkness and their frontman certainly is no shy, retiring type leaping all the over the stage andbusting his guitar lead by the end of the second song. Musically they had a little Nirvana meets Smashing Pumpkins vibe about them and two songs in the set were good, but after awhile you started clock-watching and wondering when they would be wrapping up their set. They said they would be supporting the Smashing Pumpkins in July and perhaps that is a better audience for them.

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

And so The Union and Pete Shoulder quipped at the start ‘now where were we?’ Kicking off with ‘Step Up To The Plate’ and ‘You’re My Jesus’ showed the band and in particular Pete Shoulder wanted to make up for the postponed gig.

Pete Shoulder sounds superb on CD and even more so live, like Myles Kennedy he effortlessly swoops and sores his vocals as the songs require it. He is not a bad guitarist either and he has a good onstage rapport with the crowd.

The other main driving force in the Union is of course Luke Morley, who as you’d expect played flawlessly and gave a heartfelt thanks to the fans for supporting them. Add in Thunder bassist Chris Childs and drummer Dave McCluskey and the Union are a real force to be reckoned with.

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

 They may be only three albums into their career but they gave the excellent new album ‘The World Is Yours’ a fair airing. In fact the title track was one of the night’s highlights, along with a new song ‘Tonight I’m Alive’.

What I love about this band is that they have no set musical genre, as one minute you can have some hard rocking blues and then they hit you with some modern rock a la Alter Bridge. Bizarrely the postponed gig had seen both the band and more importantly the crowd really up for the night and neither would go home disappointed.

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

Due to the joy of trains I had to leave early so missed the last couple of songs including the immense ‘Siren’s Song’ and the encores which included ‘Watch The River Flow’.

The Union have completed their most successful tour to date and they keep a consistently high standard on album and live. I’d highly recommend you get along to see them on their next tour and it can’t be long before they are playing even bigger sized venues.

Review by Jason Ritchie

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

Little over two years since they made their live bow, The Union continue to work at a cracking pace. Already onto their third album, the Pledge Music-funded The World is Yours, as guitarist Luke Morley said, at each tour they are playing to an ever larger following , escaping the shadow that many feared his past (and occasional present) with Thunder would cast.

This though was a night with a difference – a show rescheduled from a month earlier when Peter Shoulder’s voice had given out just two songs in.  The crowd did seem a bit smaller second time round, though the first words in his rich Geordie brogue ‘now, where were we? instantly got everyone in a good mood.

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

Traditional opener Step Up to the Plate and You’re My Jesus , with some tasty slide guitar work from Luke, are cast in the same honest bluesy rock stone that Thunder carved, but The Union are a different beast, Pete’s unique vocals enriching a variety of styles, all nodding to rock’s past yet sounding contemporary. The ever assured Chris Childs on bass and energetic curly haired drummer Dave McCluskey completed a very tight unit, with Luke and Chris’s harmony vocals completing the package.

While some of the new songs, like Tonight I’m Alive,  made an instant impact, others  such as the title track from the new album, are not obvious and take a while to reveal their charms. This however gives their live show a depth that perhaps Thunder’s cheeky chappie approach did not have. However the crowd did seem to have a rather disproportionate number of old curmudgeons and the response was appreciative rather than lively, even on more commercial numbers like Obsession where the band tried to get a clap along going alongside its glam rock riff.

The Union, Islington Academy, 28 March 2013

Pete’s rich, expressive voice also lends itself well to ballads and the way some of the country or Americana flavoured ones – like Saviour and Fading Out of Love –  offset the more swaggering blues rockers reminded me at times of the role of Ronnie Lane’s songs within the Faces.

Having taken a while to get the crowd going, they judged the set pace perfectly with the more familiar sounds as we entered the home straight of Blue Monday, with its sixties influences from the Doors and the Kinks, Black Gold which had the swagger of prime time seventies American rock, not to mention a searing guitar solo at the end from Pete, then Siren’s Song, which with its chanting and heavy riffing appears already to have become the Union’s signature tune.

Once again the encores showed their versatility with the country ish ballad Come Rain Come Shine leading into the muscular Bad Company esque riffery of Watch the River Flow, proving it was worth the wait for Pete’s voice to return. While they may never occupy the same place in rock fans hearts as Thunder have, The Union deserve to be taken seriously in their own right and this gig proved that  few bands are making music of this consistent quality at present.

Review by Andy Nathan

Photos by Mark Carne


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