Gig review: PANIC ROOM – Citadel Arts Centre, St Helens, 2 June 2017

Tour preview broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, 4 June 2017 (9:47)

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

It is two years since I last saw Panic Room, and, musically, what a difference two years can make.

Back then, the band played a fantastic ‘double set’  – a more laid-back acoustic first half and a much rockier second set.

They were promoting the marvellously chilled ‘Essence’ album at the time – an album of band favourites delivered with a much more relaxed, acoustic vibe – and I thought at the time ‘wow, how are they going to better this?’

At that time, guitarist Dave ‘The Dave’ Foster was the new kid, still bedding himself into the band, although so well had he learned the material, you would have been hard-pressed to see the join.

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

Fast forward those two years however, and a completely cohesive and exciting band ethic has emerged which, I think, has the potential to take the band to the next level.

The Citadel was packed with ‘Roomies’ as Anne-Marie likes to call the band’s fans – and the band would not disappoint a single one of them as they tore through a much more in-your-face set, yes with the light and shade of the quieter tracks, but, for the most part, kicking ass.

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

Opening up with the appropriately apocalyptic ‘Apocalypstick’, the only track tonight from the ‘Visionary Position’ album, Panic Room’s stage craft, audience interaction and downright musicality grabbed the attention from the first power chord and refused to let go for the entire two and a half hour set.

There was, I think most Roomies would agree, a real middle Eastern vibe to the first part of the show as the fabulous ‘Skin’ and ‘Incarnate’ albums were plundered for their treasure with fan favourites ‘Incarnate’, ‘Screens’ and a particularly fine ‘Chameleon’ being highlights.

As a treat to close the first half there was a rare live outing for ‘Tightrope Walking’, again from the ‘Skin’ album, and a very rare outing for an Anne-Marie solo track ‘Wheels Within Wheels’.

By this time the whole place was buzzing…

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

There was no let-up in the second half either as ‘Into Temptation’ and a superb ‘Freedom To Breathe’ opened up an even tastier main course.

And yet another treat on the menu was a new song (working title ‘Easyjet’) which sounded great and bodes well for the next album.

The more laid-back ‘Freefalling’ was another highpoint, as was the poignant closer ‘Dust’ dedicated to victims of terror all over the world – but with special significance for the band having played Manchester a few days after the Arena bombing.

We were all expecting the encore to be ‘Satellite’ but no-one was disappointed as ‘Sandstorms’ and ‘Nocturnal’ brought proceedings to a glorious close.

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

Panic Room have never sounded better. The engine room of Yatim Halimi (bass), whose little asides were another highlight, and Gav Griffiths (drums) are both supreme exponents of their craft as is Jonathan Edwards (keys) who, despite hiding his light under a bushel at times, always steps up to the mark when required.

Anne-Marie Helder’s voice is in fine fettle and she is the glue that binds the whole thing together, but the addition of ‘The Dave’ has been a master-stroke – his subtle blend of tight rhythm lines, power chords and feverish soloing are just brilliant.

They are all just so good at what they do and the band would be so much less without any one of them, but they don’t take themselves too seriously and are very deferential to their audience – qualities not lost on their (hopefully) expanding fanbase.

If ever a band deserved wider acclaim it is Panic Room.

Onwards and upwards.

Review by Alan Jones
Photos by David Randall

Alan sequences “The Eclectic Mix” on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, second Sunday of the month at 18:00 GMT. Expect some Panic Room.

The Best of 2017

Setlist: Apocalypstick, Velocity, Incarnate, Screens, Chameleon, Promises, All That We Are, Tightrope Walking, Wheels Within Wheels, Into Temptation, Freedom To Breathe, Picking Up Knives, Freefalling, Skin, Song For Tomorrow, New Song (Easyjet (!)), Hiding The World, Dust. Encore: Sandstorms, Nocturnal

Panic Room - The Citadel, St.Helens, 2 June 2017

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 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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12:00-13:00 BLUE OYSTER CULT The Symbol Remains (Frontiers)
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Power Plays w/c 12 October (Mon-Fri)

HELLZ We Want Rock (indie)
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UNCUT Family Blues (indie)
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CORY MARKS Blame It On The Double (indie)
MASON HILL Against The Wall (indie)
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