At an age when others of his generation may be reaching for the comfy slippers and the Saga and Stanna catalogues, Reuben Archer is moving forward with the vigour of a man half his age. After successfully reforming Stampede, the singer’s first solo album, sporting a series of respected guests, was released to good reviews last summer and, belatedly, his live band made their bow.
Sadly there is no getting away from the fact the Borderline show was poorly attended, with a number of gigs in town that night including a rare show by prog supergroup Transatlantic vying for attention. I also wonder whether the name recognition factor played a part, and in those circumstances it was ironic that his Stampede guitar duo of Rob Wolverson and Chris Clowsley were in the six-piece band.
However, game trooper that he is, Reuben, in his dapper pinstripe jacket, shrugged off the sparse crowd plus a cold with his usual gusto to deliver a classic set of bluesy hard rock in the best British tradition.
While the new album formed the lion’s share of the set, what was particularly pleasing was the way there was a diverse style from one song to another, from the bluesy shuffle of ‘Lately’ to more straight ahead rockers like the title track, which had Nazareth grittiness, and Bulletproof.
Reuben’s anecdotes added a personal touch to songs like ‘Ace Cafe’ and ‘Spanish Nights’, the latter with a laid back groove reminding me of Lizzy’s ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, while a Stampede cast-off in the acoustic ‘Flaming Gold’ took things in a more rootsy direction altogether.
Rob and Chris are a classic twin guitar pairing with complementary styles – the latter’s speedy technique was immaculate, and he got to work out to a souped up cover of ‘Shakin All Over’, but the latter’s more considered style and tasteful fills were an underrated contributor to the sound.
‘TV Junkie’ and ‘Play My Rock n Roll’ were more conventional, but for me the two highlights were ‘Like a Clown’, coming over as a wonderful mix of Lizzy and Chapman and Carter-era UFO, and ‘Time On My Hands’, a winding epic with a hint of Gary Moore, giving Rob full reign to allow a great solo to develop.
A generous 90 minute set flew by as Reuben dipped into the Stampede catalogue to encore with ‘Send Me Down An Angel’, with riff straight off Journey’s ‘Stone in Love’. Bravely going into the song’s traditional singalong Reuben was rewarded with an audience response several times louder than pure numbers would dictate.
That reception was the final proof that, whether with Stampede or under his own name, here is a true pro playing classic hard rock and maintaining old-fashioned virtues of hard work and quality songwriting. Long may he and his cohorts continue to rock.
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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