With the release of a second album ‘Cradle The Rage’, former motorcycle world champion James Toseland has surely laid to rest any suggestions his musical career might be a gimmick, certainly on the evidence of what seemed to be a sold out crowd at the London date of the album launch tour.
Colour of Noise were also a cut above the usual support act, excessive hipster quota notwithstanding, and it was noticeable just how many people seemed to actively be getting into their music. Like Toseland, they also have a link to Little Angels with former member Bruce Dickinson their best known name, and proving a masterclass in restrained but tasteful playing with a great tone, which perfectly suited their unashamedly retro brand of classic rock.
The ace in their card is the rich voice of former Pride and Furyon singer Matt Mitchell, who had some of the mannerisms of Free-era Paul Rodgers and at times, such as on ‘Temptation’, the voice to match. Hard rockers like opener ‘You Only Call Me’ and ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ nestled alongside some more atmospheric pieces such as ‘Can You Hear Me’ with almost Zeppelin like dynamics and ‘Hit Rock Bottom’ was the one more instant song, with a great AC/DC like groove to it.
Ending with the psychedelic strains of ‘Heavy’ which lived up to its name in the way that word was used in the sixties, their very impressive set marks them out as headline material and the latest of a growing number of UK bands to watch.
James Toseland and his eponymous band bounded on stage after an enthusiastic intro from Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony which seems to be de rigueur for any rising bands these days and the atmosphere was cooking as ‘Living In A Moment’ was followed by old favourite ‘Life Is Beautiful’. James is a confident frontman with a sportsman’s toned physique and a natural and endearingly self deprecating personality with the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. All he had to worry about was the way his ‘curtains’ hairstyle kept flopping into his eyes.
The 5 piece band, with guitarists Zurab Melua and Ed Bramford sharing solo duties equally and Roger Davis – one of those powerful, up front bass players – are very well drilled and seem to have become progressively heavier over the 2 or 3 years I have seen them. New songs such as ‘Nothin You Can Do About It’ and ‘Living A Lie’ played to that change in direction, and to James’ almost Myles Kennedy-like voice, while more familiar tunes like ‘Crash Landing’ were enthusiastically received.
After ‘Never Love Another’ provided a welcome change to a slower pace, a keyboard was brought on for James as he sang the Queen-inspired ‘Just No Way’ and ‘Fingers Burned’, which reminded me in places of the Guns ‘n Roses piano- based ballads from their ‘Use Your Illusion’ era.
The set then rocked to a climax with the promoted songs from the new album ‘Too Close To Call’ and ‘Puppet On A Chain’ sandwiched by ‘Broken Hearts And Bones’ which really grew on me, before they closed with the autobiographical ‘Singer In A Band’, a real crowd favourite and drawn out with the band rocking surprisingly hard.
The title track from the new album was an even more startling display of heaviness before the Yamaha (keyboard that is, not motorcycle) was again brought forward, and after an intro talking about his musical upbringing and modestly saying he had taken a different path for a while before reverting to ‘serious stuff’, James performed ‘Renegade’ which is still his crowning glory in my book.
Unexpectedly though we got a final song in ‘We’ll Stop At Nothing’ which was another epic, initially piano led but with the band jamming out. It also answered my own reservations that too much of the new material, on early listening, had been average, lacking in hooks or a distinctive style.
With two excellent bands and a generous hour and a half set from the headliners, this was a quality evening, and for all his modesty, James Toseland is proving any doubters wrong by making a success of his second career.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
Album review (Cradle The Rage)
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