Skam were just finishing up their set with a dirty, full blooded version of ‘War Pigs’ as I entered the venue and wished I’d been around for a bit more. Next time maybe. The Leicester power three-piece seemed to go down well with this Buckinghamshire audience.
The venue at the Craufurd Arms is a decent sized room at the back of an old Victorian pub in Wolverton, a part of Milton Keynes where the Royal Train is housed and where half the nation’s railway rolling stock was built in the 20th Century. Crucially, the venue is of good proportions/sight lines and has a 21st Century PA kicking out a solid sound.
Voodoo Six came out to a pretty full room and immediately hit their straps with the excellent ‘Falling Knives’. Pumping bass, distorted lead guitar and massive drums. This is one of their best tracks and was a great choice to get the audience on side.
The band are all about passion and worked really hard tonight. Tony Newton on bass spent a good part of the gig with his foot on the monitor and face scanning the crowd locked somewhere between an insane grin and steely grimace. He’s the beating heart of the band.
‘Falling Apart’ off the new album followed up quickly and impressively. I was a little unsure of new singer Nik Taylor-Stoakes on record, but live his delivery is less overblown whilst losing none of the raw power, range and tone.
He’s also a bit of a livewire and very personable, rapping with the crowd in refreshing style. This included a humorous conversation about what Milton Keynes is famous for, when the singer refused to believe Irn Bru was made in the city. (It is. Yes, another fun fact. No charge.)
Maybe the relaxed style was inspired by this being the last night of the tour. If, so it worked. The new material was pumped confidently. ‘Let Me Walk’ and ‘Walk A Mile’ were full of good honest swagger, with plenty of melody. Classic British hard rock.
Lead guitarist Matt Pearce was bang on form, soloing fluently and finding some real growl on the excellent ‘Sink Or Swim’. He was also happy to come forward and stake his claim for the spotlight, despite the rival attentions of both Taylor-Stoakes and Newton (and an unfortunate passing resemblance to Phil Collins).
‘Amen’ was introduced with a dedication to the victims of the Bataclan massacre, for whom the track was written, and given renewed poignancy by the Manchester shootings. It is a bit of an epic on record, but felt a more stripped down and visceral live; and was better for the abbreviated ending. The keyboards also came through more strongly here than elsewhere (hidden by the PA on my side of the stage, so for most of the gig I had thought this was merely Voodoo Five…) adding some depth and colour.
That would normally be the set closer, but as seems to be an increasing trend, the band simply stood on stage and said, ‘this is the bit where we go off and you shout for some more and we come back on. Shall we just skip that bit?’. This went down well, again reinforcing the relaxed feel of the night. ‘Electric’ and ‘Your Way’ provided the fake encore and closed out the set in powerful style.
This was a thoroughly entertaining gig by a hard-working and honest band with a decent set of tunes. Surely a higher profile is just around the corner.
Review by Dave Atkinson
Album review (Make Way For The King)
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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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