Gig review: SANTA CRUZ – The Barfly, Camden, London, 17 November 2014

SANTA CRUZ - The Barfly, Camden, London, 17 November 2014

A whole generation after grunge was supposed to have killed it, the sleaze and glam scene continues to thrive with younger Scandinavian bands leading a revival. The likes of Hardcore Superstar and Crash Diet have already made a mark and the latest underground darlings of the scene are Finns Santa Cruz, this time making their headline UK debut after a series of support slots.

As seems to be usual with gigs at the Barfly it was also a value for money triple bill showcasing two other new bands. Dirty Thrills have just produced what I thought was a very accomplished album showing they have the potential to be a British Rival Sons.

Regrettably they did not come over so well live – the band members had vastly diverging images and the songs themselves also seemed rather disjointed and failed to gain momentum. However the powerful, expressive voice of singer Louis James  still stood out.  I did find some of his between song banter a touch irritating, but this may just be an age thing.

However the all-girl trio the Amorettes instantly got on my right side with bassist Heather McKay sporting a UFO t-shirt. Their name may conjure images of a Phil Spector creation from the sixties but the feisty Scottish lassies had an impressively tight, no nonsense sound and comparisons to the Runaways or even Rock Goddess.

Though perhaps overly influenced by AC/DC, songs like ‘Rock Me Roll Me’, ‘Get What’s Coming’, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Hot and Heavy’, where they even got the crowd singing along. A place on the Black Star Riders and Europe 2015 tour is sure to win some new friends on this evidence.

Santa Cruz came on in front of a decently sized crowd, predominantly female and with a large number too young to have experienced this scene first time round. They certainly have the looks, all tousled hair and cut-off t-shirts, and the self confident attitude, though it was accompanied by smiles rather than snarls.

SANTA CRUZ - The Barfly, Camden, London, 17 November 2014

Fair-haired singer Archie Kuosmanen has a powerful set of lungs on him and he and right hand man Johnny Parkkonen combined to provide a crunchy lead guitar sound, although the likes of ‘Get The Party Started’  and ‘Young And Restless’ lacked the songwriting hooks say of their compatriots Reckless Love.

New single ‘Wasted And Wounded’ on the other hand has a sharp chorus that could have come off the first Skid Row album, although in common with two other new songs aired they also seem to have moved in the direction of a more modern metallic sound.

‘Nothing Compares To You’ (no, not that one) appeared to be a crowd favourite that got people swaying before bassist Middy Toivonen introduced a fast and furious ‘Screaming For Adrenaline’.

SANTA CRUZ - The Barfly, Camden, London, 17 November 2014

It was a short set, finished by a rather broken up ‘We Are The Ones To Fall’ and a solitary encore of ‘Aiming High’, but the most impressive part of the evening was the way both Archie and Johnny dived into the crowd on more than one occasion, both ending up playing on top of the back bar!

They certainly looked like they owned bigger stages than this and, even though I thought the songs are not the strongest at this early stage of their career, I left convinced that these young Finns are on their way to bigger things.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan


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