Album review: THUNDER – Stage (CD/DVD/Bluray)


earMUSIC [Release date 23.03.18]

At Thunder rapidly approach their 30th anniversary, Stage – a live set from the band’s 2017 Rip It Up tour (available in 2CD + Bluray, 3 LP, 2 CD +DVD, Bluray, DVD, and various signed Limited Edition Box Set formats) demonstrates just why their no frills brand of goodtime rock ‘n’ roll is becoming ever more popular.

Thunder came along too late in the day to be part of the Giants Of Rock generation, but as Old Mother Time slowly but inexorably erodes the bands of the sixties/seventies, Thunder find themselves in the relatively unique position of being a ‘classic’ rock band, with a pretty much original line-up, and still able to ‘cut it’.

As Pete Feenstra observed in reviewing Rip It Up “for a band that has been successfully reborn after two retirements and with a recent chart album and arena tour, there’s a lot riding on Rip It Up and it delivers impressively.”

So did that recording renaissance, and a willingness to raise their game, translate to Thunder literally ‘ripping it up’ on the road?

Our reviews editor Dave Wilson (a long term Thunder fan) wasn’t entirely convinced when he caught the tour at the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow two days before this date, with a few gripes about a lack of sparkle and audience rapport, overly elongated guitar solos, and a muddy sound with a very harsh guitar sound.

But as he eloquently acknowledged “one man’s flat Prosecco is another man’s vintage Champagne”.

The good news is that, coming to a Thunder live performance with no previous encounters to compare, I can confirm that – enjoyed as an audio/visual experience – there’s plenty of ‘fizz’ about Stage.

The sound is punchy and well balanced, and there’s a rock solid performance from all corners of the stage as the band shift seamlessly through a set that celebrates the old and the new, encompassing fan favourites like ‘Back Street Symphony’, ‘Love Walked In’, and ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘n’ Roll’ alongside a half a dozen Rip It Up numbers including new crowd pleasers like ‘The Enemy Inside’, ‘Right From The Start’, and ‘In Another Life’.

While more generally touring smaller venues, opting to record the Cardiff gig (because of the reception they’d had their on the 2013 Whitesnake/Journey tour) proves to be a good call from an audience participation perspective, and using Toward Infinity (who have become the ‘go to’ team since Marillion started using them back in 2007) to capture the gig a masterstroke in squeezing every last vestige of the night onto the screen.

If I’m nit-picking,  Stage is probably best enjoyed on screen, rather than as a purely auditory experience, having Lynne Jackaman reprise her recorded performance on ‘She Likes The Cocaine’ is a neat touch, although I personally found her vocals a little ‘screechy’, and some of Danny Bowes persistent cheerleading borders on the cringeworthy.

But as Pete Feenstra also quite aptly put it “Very few bands this deep into their career sound this fresh and exciting.”  So while we all know arena gigs are notorious for poor sound quality and being anything but ‘intimate’, Stage overcomes both to deliver a thoroughly entertaining package.  Enjoy.  ****1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

Album review (Rip It Up)

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