London saw its second triple bill of melodic rock in a week, but a line-up with a difference, as bands on the Hard Rock Hell AOR bill sought gig opportunities while they were over in the UK. Originally this was Coldspell’s show, but following the cancellation of their own London show with Robin Beck, House of Lords were added to the bill much later and as the more experienced band took on headlining status.
A half hour set from Lawless warmed things up nicely. The Stoke band formed by a couple of Demon members including shaven headed lead singer Paul Hume produced a solid set of hard-driving but well played songs in the classic tradition of British hard rock, with guitarist Howie G shining, even if song titles like FOAD and Heavy Metal Heaven gives the game away that they will win no prizes for originality.
By my reckoning this was the third tour on which I had seen Coldspell in the UK, and they become a more enticing proposition every time now with three albums under their belt.
The Swedes have the typically Scandinavian ear for melody but are not afraid of more complex arrangements which gives songs like the openers ‘Heroes’ and ‘Angel of the World’ added depth, and the adventurous interplay between Michael Larsson’s guitar and the keyboards of Matti Eklund calls to mind the glory years of Deep Purple, Rainbow and UFO, none more so than on ‘Night Falls’ with a great Hammond organ solo.
Singer Niclas Swedentorp, diminutive and short haired, cuts an incongruous figure and yet has a strong vocal range (not to mention a dry sense of humour) and barely missed a note.
‘Soldiers’ had a slight Thin Lizzy feel to it, ‘Straight Things Out’ rocked around a punchy riff and the catchier ‘Time’ ended an excellent set just short of an hour that would certainly have been worthwhile headline material.
House of Lords came on stage with a surprise as the three band members played a trio of songs from their new project Maxx Explosion. They were impressive melodic hard rock with bassist Chris McCarvill doing a good job with the singing, reminding me of Firehouse’s CJ Snare, but it was not what people had paid to see.
Fortunately singer and sole HoL original member James Christian joined them and the set began in earnest with a lengthy taped intro leading into a splendid ‘Sahara’. James was in excellent voice although hiding throughout behind a pair of shades suggested he might not be feeling at his finest.
The current line up has been together for several years now, over which point the newer material has gradually edged out the oldies from the Gregg Giuffria years, with the exception of a typically majestically delivered ballad ‘Love Don’t Lie’ – enhanced by the taped keyboards that I always find infuriating at a modern day HoL show.
Numbers like ‘Big Money’, ‘Into Battle’ and ‘Permission To Die’ – the latter two from the new Precious Metal album- were significantly heavier, while ‘Sleeping With The Sharks’ saw James straining outside his usual deep vocal register.
The oldies were saved for later in the set, with should-have-been hit ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ featuring an excellent solo from Jimi Bell, who resembles - in appearance rather than his rapid soloing style – a young Tony Iommi with his black hair, crucifixes and left handed guitar, before another lengthy taped intro gave way to the pomp sounds of ‘Pleasure Palace’.
However the pacing of the show was uneven, with further time taken up by a lengthy drum solo and a strange ending in which a lengthy band jam gave way to a brief return for ‘Slip Of The Tongue’, and a low key exit with James failing to say goodbye to the fans and close off the show.
While sublime in parts, the House of Lords show fell short of Coldspell’s sustained excellence and on merit alone the Swedes probably would have been deserved headliners.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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