Gig review: RECKLESS LOVE – Scala, London, 31 March 2016

Santa Cruz - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

Unlikely though it may seem, Finland is a country with one of the biggest associations with glam rock past and present. It was Hanoi Rocks who arguably blazed the trail in seminal fashion for the LA scene that was to become the dominant strand of hard rock for much of the eighties.

Wind forward over 30 years and it is a pair of their fellow countrymen who are among the standard bearers for the new generation of glam-inspired bands, so it made sense for Reckless Love and Santa Cruz to combine forces on a UK tour. They also demonstrate that very different sounds exist within the glam rock spectrum.

Santa Cruz - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

Indeed Reckless Love are now seasoned campaigners with four albums to their name over six years, quite an answer to their detractors that saw their slightly tongue-in-cheek, bubblegum sound as a gimmick. The heavier, grittier Santa Cruz have emerged on the scene more recently, yet the reaction of a packed Scala showed that they have already earned themselves a good following.

With flailing hair, guitar poses and an extrovert manner they definitely have the right look about them while headband-clad lead singer and guitarist Archie Kuosmanen pulled off the trick of The Answer’s Cormac Neeson, getting the crowd to all sit down before leaping into the air at the start of ‘Six Feet Under’.

Santa Cruz - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

However their songwriting needs working on with none of the first five or six numbers generating any memorable hooks, until ‘Nothing Compares To You’ which took the staccato riffs of a ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ or ‘Cherry Pie’ and heavied them up, while a cover of ‘Paranoid’ was utterly pointless.

Even their better songs like ‘Wasted And Wounded’ and ‘We Are The Ones To Fall’ mixed strong choruses with passages where the song appeared to be going nowhere. Ironically, when over their allocated time they concluded with the rapid fire ‘Aiming High’, showing all the tightness that had earlier been missing in a set that was well received, but for me did not match up to the promise they had shown when I saw them headline the Barfly, then open proceedings at last year’s Rockingham festival.

RECKLESS LOVE - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

In fairness, this venue with its confusing layout, poor lighting and patchy sound quality is one of my least favourite in London and it was frustrating from the main floor to be watching only the top half of the band with the stage at knee height.

I put these reservations to one side knowing that a Reckless Love set is invariably fun, and the place was packed as they opened with ‘Animal Attraction’, perhaps surprisingly in a slot where a new song might be expected, followed by ‘So Happy I Could Die’, where an unremarkable verse gave way to a joyous hook-filled chorus of the type no current band does better.

RECKLESS LOVE - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

Their new album ‘Invader’ has received a mixed reaction, particularly with its diversions into non-rock musical styles, but the dance pop feel of ‘Monster’ was redeemed by a catchy chorus- an ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ for the modern day perhaps?

The bulk of the set though was the now familiar catchy tunes from their first three albums, principally the first two, with ‘Beautiful Bomb’ with its ‘who-oahs’, ‘Badass’ with guitarist Pepe, whose solos were concise and melodic throughout, stretching out a tad, and ‘Born To Break Your Heart’ all highlights.

RECKLESS LOVE - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

In typically light-hearted fashion, ‘Scandinavian Girls’ (a truly awful song worthier of a Europop act like the Vengaboys) was enlivened by Santa Cruz coming on dressed as the eponymous, caked in makeup and archly pulling drag-like poses, while ‘Rock It’ boasted not only some ill-advised rapping from colourful singer Olli Herman, but was not the only song in the set to wear its Def Leppard influences a bit too obviously.

Any reservations were set aside however as a closing trio of ‘Back To Paradise’, the very Bon Jovi-esque ‘On The Radio’ and best of all ‘Night On Fire’ had the whole of the floor jumping up and down with its catchy hooks and bouncy choruses.

RECKLESS LOVE - Scala, London, 31  March 2016

First encore ‘We Are The Weekend’ has joined the ranks of Reckless Love anthems, but the biggest of them will always be ‘Hot’, which lived up to its name as the Scala became a sweaty mass of partying bodies, screaming out the chorus line ‘Hot Like California’. Santa Cruz joined the fun though the ‘last night of the tour’ farewells did drag on somewhat and in a relatively short set of under an hour and a quarter they still dropped traditional closer ‘One More Time’.

This was perhaps not the best environment to do justice to both these fine bands, but in spite of the dodgy pop leanings of their latest album, the reaction suggested that Reckless Love’s good time party music will keep people coming back for more.

Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Paul Clampin

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