Since we last saw the honourable Graham Bonnet, he has turned 70. In the interim he’s been gigging with Schenker, playing festivals, and recording a new album. This is a great credit to Bonnet - in a topsy-turvy world that doesn’t always elevate its elders and, moreover, when the passage of time is not always very flattering or kind.
With an excellent new album to promote and seemingly endless energy (this gig came at the end of an extensive August tour) Bonnet would put many of his peers (and even younger bands) to shame. It’s a pity therefore that the set, perhaps predictably, concentrated on the “classics” (with a fair helping of Alcatrazz amongst them) and only one off the latest album and a couple from the previous ‘The Book’.
‘Long Island Tea’ was a strange choice for the one concession to the latest ‘Meanwhile, Back In the Garage’. It’s certainly not the strongest track and the most obvious would have been the video/single ‘Livin’ In Suspicion’.
Bonnet seems to consume guitarists at an alarming rate, perhaps getting his own back, but Kurt James is the latest incumbent. In the eighties he was in a later version of Steeler, the band with whom Yngwie made his recording debut. Kurt came in late to proceedings and Joey Tafolla played on most of the new album.
This might help explain the lack of focus on the newer material with James getting familiar with a challenging back catalogue. Hopefully he will grow in the role although I have to say he wasn’t quite as engaging visually or musically as the departed Tafolla.
This was evident in an extended “solo” section when Bonnet departed the stage for a breather. It might have been far better to bring back drummer Mark Benquechea and Beth-Ami Heavenstone for a more structured “killer” instrumental.
Three standouts came in the first fifteen minutes of a generous one and a half hour set, with ‘All Night Long’, ‘Night Games’, and the excellent ‘California Air’. The addition of Alcatrazz and Impellitteri material pays tribute to those worthy periods of Bonnet’s history although I am sure ‘Starcarr Lane’ uses the same chord sequence as the brilliant ‘Stand In Line’.
A sprinkling of Schenker reiterated that the vocalist has now resolved any bad feeling with the German guitarist and there was a particularly impressive version of ‘Desert Song’.
Throughout, Bonnet gave it his all – totally engaging from the off – even finding time to sing an accapella chorus of ‘Only One Woman’ (50 years young this year) whilst Benquechea fiddled with a broken cymbal stand.
It’s quite amazing how Bonnet sustains a 90 minute show because it’s pretty much high energy from the off. That might be a criticism, in that there is a lack of real light and shade in the setlist and no ballads.
With sterling support from Beth and long-standing keyboard buddy Jimmy Waldo the gig resolved with a superb ‘Since You Been Gone’ but by ‘Lost In Hollywood’ (usually the encore) it was clear Bonnet and the band had run out of steam as they didn’t reappear. All in all, though, a wonderful finish to an extensive tour and hopefully now an annual event.
Earlier, label-mates Doomsday Outlaw played an excellent support set. We’ve been playing the band’s second album ‘Hard Times’ persistently since release. If The Rolling Stones had been born 40 years later, and in Alabama, there’s a chance they might have sounded like Doomsday Outlaw.
The Derby band have actually been around in their present form since mid-2015 and their recent material is heavy on muscular riffs and strong choruses with the twin guitar attack of Steve Broughton and Gavin Mills. Songs like ‘Spirit That Made Me’ and ‘Bring It On Home’ are impressive and provided the perfect curtain raiser for the very honourable “gentleman”.
A word too for the friendly venue. The Tivoli nestles in the shadow of Snowdonia and gigs compete with popular “ghost nights”. They attract an excellent range of “name” and upcoming artists (in recent years we’ve reviewed big hitters Uriah Heep and Saxon) and it’s certainly a venue worth going out of your way for.
Graham Bonnet setlist
1. Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live 2. All Night Long 3. Night Games 4. California Air 5. Island In The Sun 6. Jet To Jet 7. Rock You To The Ground 8. Stand In Line 9. Starcarr Lane 10. Goodnight And Goodbye 11. Desert Song 12. Into The Night 13. Long Island Tea 14. Assault Attack 15. Mirror Lies 16. Since You Been Gone 17. Lost In Hollywood
Review and photos by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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