The renaissance of Romeo’s Daughter has been one of the unlikeliest stories in rock of recent years. After reforming after a 15 odd year break for Firefest in 2009, subsequent tours with FM then led to a couple of fresh albums and – on the evidence of this healthy Friday night London crowd – they are now playing to bigger audiences than when trying vainly to make the big time first time around.
Indeed this was a top double bill of melodic rock with Blood Red Saints, hot on the heels of their excellent debut album, coming down from the North-West to make their London debut in support.
Openers ‘Kicking Up Dust’ and ‘Mercy’ were an appetiser for one of the best AOR songs of recent years, ‘Best Of Me’, Pete Godfrey singing like his idol Steve Overland of FM, while ‘Dangerous’ was a real grower.
However I felt their performance was less impressive than the one I witnessed recently at the ‘Just Say Yes’ fundraising festival. An excerpt of ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, complete with guitarist Lee Revill in cowboy hat, seemed unnecessary while the joking over equipment mishaps and Pete taking English self-deprecation to extremes may have been endearing to some, but to me was unnecessary modesty selling short their talents.
‘Unbreakable’ had the air of some of Mr Big’s more melodic moments while after a heavier and as yet unreleased song, with drummer Pete Newdeck sharing the vocals, ‘Better Days’ was another excellent illustration of their melodic potential.
In contrast to their support, Romeo’s Daughter had nothing to prove with a crowd of confirmed admirers, though it was a surprise to see them come on devoid of keyboard player- though not of sounds being piped in to the mix.
I was delighted to see them open at their rockiest with ‘Heaven In The Backseat’, complete with bassist Ed Poole adding the Lange-esque gang vocals, as it had been absent from recent non-headline sets I had seen, together with another old favourite in ‘Velvet Tongue’.
However with a pair of albums behind them since reforming, including last year’s ‘Spin’, RD can no longer be filed under nostalgia with the newer songs taking the lion’s share of the main part of the set. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but the gentle melodies of ‘Bittersweet’ were insidious and the song outro had people swaying from side to side, and ‘Alive’ created an even more joyous atmosphere, while ‘Lightning’ also impressed.
While they lie on the poppier end of the melodic rock spectrum, understated guitarist Craig Joiner really got the opportunity to rock out on a pair of songs, ‘Already Gone’ and ‘Perfect Plan’, the latter even having the feel of seventies American classic and southern rock.
Her willowy frame clad in black and trademark raven fringe, sensual singer Leigh Matty must keep an ageing portrait in her attic. It is also a relief to see someone comfortable enough to avoid the usual foul-mouthed frontman clichés, and chatting to the crowd in a relaxed manner as if we were friends invited to her local wine bar.
‘Tripping Out’ really began to bring the crowd even further to the boil before a belated return to the oldies with ‘Attracted To The Animal’ from the underrated sophomore ‘Delectable’ album giving way to ‘Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’, featuring a mellifluous extended solo from Craig. The way the crowd shouted the lyrics word for word, with ‘I’m A Romeo’s Daughter’ loudest of all, signalled the way this is increasingly regarded as a classic, before the simple catchiness of ‘Inside Out’ was a perfect closer.
I secretly hoped ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ might be brought back for an encore but instead they returned with the acoustic ‘Will Be’ before in complete contrast they rocked out on ‘Wild Child’, a song so good it is always worth reflecting how Heart chose it as the lead off cut for the multi-platinum ‘Brigade’ album.
While Romeo’s Daughter will never reach those heights of success they radiate an uncomplicated joy in what they do, and in the gig post mortems I was not alone in fans who remember both their eras in proclaiming this their most satisfying performance yet. They can be added to the select list of bands that have reformed and eclipsed their original achievements.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Paul Clampin
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