Gig Review: VANDENBERG’S MOONKINGS – Islington Academy, London 24 April 2014

Vandenberg's Moonkings

For a man with such a pedigree, both with his own band and spending longer as David Coverdale’s right hand man in Whitesnake than anyone else, Adrian Vandenberg’s profile has been surprisingly low for a number of years.

However the man always referred to by his old boss as the ‘Flying Dutchman’ has returned from exile with a new band, Moonkings, and this disappointingly attended London show represented one of a brace of debut UK gigs.

Looking incredibly youthful for a man who has just entered his seventh decade, the fair haired guitarist’s technique is as immaculate as ever and his playing has a distinctive style. However,  rather than tread new ground, the Moonkings are firmly in the mould of traditional blues rock and it is hard to stand out from the crowd with such a tried and tested format where the wheel has already been invented and any Classic Rock magazine sampler will show you how over saturated the field is.

While decent enough songs decent songs, the opening quartet of  ‘Line of Fire’, ‘Steal Away’, ‘Leave this Town’ and ‘Feel It’  were a touch samey, until the powerful ballad ‘Breathing’ came as a welcome change of tempo.

Vandenberg's Moonkings

This wasn’t just a gig to showcase a new band as the set also dipped into Adrian’s past, even with a Manic Eden song in ‘Pushing Me’.  ‘Burning Heart’ (a top 40 USA single, it is hard to recall now) was sung with passion by curly-haired singer Jan Hoving, who had an impressively throaty set of pipes not too far removed from a prime time Coverdale,  and the Zeppelin-esque riffing of ‘Judgement Day’ sparked an outbreak of head shaking and air guitaring from Whitesnake fanatics present.

In addition, covers of ‘Superstitious’ and ‘I Put A Spell On You’ gave the band a chance to stretch out and pay homage to their roots, even if I could have done without a drum solo.

‘Leeches’ was too close to Zeppelin for comfort but they closed the main set with ‘Lust And Lies’, built around a truly memorable Vandenberg riff.

Vandenberg's Moonkings

For the encores, ‘Here I Go Again’, with Jan’s commanding vocal performance carrying a tune that otherwise may have seemed a bit basic with no second guitar or keyboards, and the good time rock n roller ‘Nothing Touches’ were excellent.

However after Adrian spoke of his love affair with English rock they ended with a cover of ‘All Right Now’, probably unaware that UK legislation requires every amateurish,  weekend warrior pub band to include the Free classic in their repertoire alongside ‘Highway To Hell’, and it came over as an over cheesy end to the evening.

Nevertheless, for a new band, albeit one featuring a familiar name, this hour and a half long set showed great promise, and it is great to have the Flying Dutchman raising the flag for classic heavy rock and sailing again.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

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