Setlists.fm is a blessing and a curse. Notwithstanding the occasional inaccuracy it has proved a boon to lazy or forgetful reviewers but also a useful tool to evaluate the worthiness of a tour. And recently I used it to decide that – even though I really love the band – it wasn’t worth making a 400 mile round trip to the Winger gig in Bristol. Only two songs from the new album, a Van Halen cover, and no ‘Rainbow In The Rose’ sealed my decision.
On the other hand, from what I could make out the Jeff Scott Soto setlist was a little more interesting and, of course, the gig much nearer home.
The choice of venue for the opening gig of an all-too-short UK tour – a sparsely populated Tivoli in a North Wales backwater on a Monday night – must have surprised Soto as much as the audience, a good proportion of whom were worryingly aged and old enough to be your granny. But Soto seemed to warm to the challenge.
The claim that Soto would be celebrating his 30th anniversary by playing some seldom played fare was maybe a little disingenuous; it felt like a greatest hits and then some. But to a novice like myself it was a truly wonderful introduction to the man and his music.
Yes I had a cursory knowledge of his career but was never a follower of his former band Talisman. He had seemed to me to operate on the periphery of greatness, with a barely-twelve month stint with Journey the nearest he has come to truly mainstream attention. But all that doesn’t matter.
Here was a Monday night masterclass in tremendous melodic hard rock music and my recent frustration and soul searching with Winger became ‘Soul Divine’ with Soto. He swept through those thirty years offering up such gems as ‘Eyes Of Love’ and ‘Drowning’ with even a nod to his more recent W.E.T. configuration (a glorious ‘One Love’) and former incarnations with Axel Rudi Pell (an incredible ‘Fool Fool’) and Malmsteen ( ‘I Am The Viking’).
But it was when he hit the humungous Talisman medley that it all fitted into place. It was one great track after another. My only criticism is that a medley by its nature only dips into the songs and given the band’s entertaining if protracted audience interaction there is some slack to play at least some of these pieces to conclusion. Whatever, ‘Break Your Chains’ , a superb ‘Dangerous’ and the Seal cover ‘Crazy’ are enough to rattle the old dears’ jewellery if not the rafters.
But it was during those audience exchanges that Soto and his band really came into their own, even inspiring some old guy to take the shirt off his back as they offered to play what was on his T-Shirt. We didn’t get much of hair-metallers ‘Danger Danger’ though, although that was probably a better description of the old guy’s state of health or mind to be truthful.
Soto’s band were particularly good with two Brazilians – BJ and Edu Cominato – both of whom play in the excellent band Tempestt (check out their album ‘Bring Em On’) and an engaging bassist Dave Z (whose impromptu ‘Billie Jean’ was a show highlight – so good that one of the jewellery-rattlers was heard to mutter ‘is that really him?’ as the melody and the bassline came pumping from the stage). Spaniard Jorge Salan was also impressive on guitar adding by equal measure funk and shred to the already glorious mix of melody and heavy riffage.
Rallying with two songs from the ‘Rock Star’ movie (when Soto performed in the fictional Steel Dragon band) this gig was an unexpected delight. And yes – on present form – I would make a 400 mile round trip to see this band.
1. Take U Down 2. 21st Century 3. Damage Control 4. Drowning 5. Learn To Live Again / One Love 6. Believe In Me 7. Look Inside Your Heart 8. Soul Divine 9. Fool Fool / Warrior 10. Eyes Of Love 11. Risk (Jorge Salán) 12. (Talisman medley) Break Your Chains / Day By Day / Give Me A Sign / Colour My XTC / Dangerous / Just Between Us / Mysterious (This Time It’s Serious) / Frozen / Crazy 13. I’ll Be Waiting 14. I Am A Viking / I’ll See The Light Tonight 16. Livin’ The Life Encore: 17. Stand Up
Review by David Randall
Photos by Simon Dunkerley
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT
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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 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
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