After some rare wider exposure playing Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in the summer, Romeo’s Daughter, were back playing to their loyal fanbase with this Friday night Underworld show.
Indeed it was a double bill of arguably the two best female fronted AOR bands the UK has produced, admittedly from a short list. After local house band Kincade opened proceedings, Dante Fox were the main support, as ever featuring the odd couple of Sue Willetts, who combines a powerful voice with an uneasy stage presence and glacial stare and impressive as ever enthusiastic guitarist Tim Manford.
Mixing old favourites from their late 90’s albums such as Fire in My Heart and I Can’t Sleep, with more recent songs like Lucky Ones, the Midlanders recovered from a mid set dip to hit home harder with each passing song- the title track of their most recent album Lost Man’s Ground was a revelation, departing into more musically adventurous territory with touches of Rainbow and Malmsteen, Who Stole the Innocence and Walking the Line had massive hooks (even if the latter keeps reminding me of Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark) and Sue has made Stevie Lange’s Remember her own over the years.
The set was a tad short at 40 minutes but a timely reminder of a too easily underrated and enduring band.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Underworld had filled to around half its capacity for Romeo’s Daughter. The ever elegant and posh-voiced Leigh Matty is always the focus of attention and her uncomplicated delight in being on stage contributed to the fun atmosphere.
Since first reforming for Firefest in 2009, they completed a well-received comeback album Rapture, and the newer material has really settled to be an integral part of the set, from the moment they opened with Trippin Out, followed by the uptempo Attracted To The Animal from 1993’s Delectable.
RD’s songs are insidious ones- at first glance they appear unremarkable slices of pop rock, and yet as they wear on the easy charms of the melodies and Craig Joiner’s economical, understated guitar worm their way deep inside your brain. Bittersweet, with its who-oah refrain, Talking Love and Cannot Be The One were prime examples, while the rocky Alive stood out from the bulk of the mid-pocket songs.
The other bonus was a generous 90 minute set which Leigh said was the longest they ever played and included the rarely played Dancing Slow and even a new song, Perfect Plan, from a forthcoming album.
However it was the debut album songs that have probably had most impact on the audience’s lives, and the back end of the set was chock full of gems – from Velvet Tongue and Inside Out which got the crowd singing and even men of a certain age dancing, and the seductive Colour You A Smile and Cry Myself to Sleep At Night, with a sweet solo from Craig, before rocking out with Heaven In The Backseat still showing its Mutt Lange parentage after all these years.
The encores also showed their contrasting styles, the gentle Hymn giving way to Wild Child which rocked convincingly, reminding us how it was ‘poached’ by Heart for their Brigade album.
A truly excellent gig with which it was hard to find fault (the omission of Don’t Break My Heart aside) and proof to these ears that Romeo’s Daughter are one of the few bands of their generation who have come back better than the first time. Now, how to get them the wider exposure they deserve?
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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