Q5 were one of the names those of us who read ‘Kerrang!’ cover to cover or visited Shades Records raved about in the mid-eighties, their debut ‘Steel The Light’ an outstanding piece of powerful yet melodic metal. But whereas their Seattle and alphabetical neighbours Queensryche broke through into the mainstream, Q5 remained the very definition of a cult band, disappearing after a less well-received second album halted their momentum.
Nevertheless, as with many such acts, a few years ago they reformed and two years after an underwhelming comeback album in ‘New World Order’, this was their first ever appearance in the UK, crossing them off my ever diminishing bucket list.
However the occasion failed to pull in the punters – whether through their low current profile, or being on an August Bank Holiday weekend when a number of festivals were taking place, a thin but enthusiastic crowd was barely into three figures.
The timing was also rotten on another level: with two support acts on the bill, I reckoned I had allowed plenty of time by turning up at 8:15pm only to find the band already three songs into their set, and being told I had missed my favourite song of all, ‘Lonely Lady’.
As I arrived midway through ‘Pull The Trigger’ it was not the last time the high pitched rasp of original vocalist Jonathan K – allied to his short stature, cap and straining every sinew of his body – reminded me of Brian Johnson, with perhaps a bit of Helix’s Brian Vollmer thrown in.
‘Rock On’ saw him very effectively supported on backing vocals by bassist Evan Sheely, now the only other original member and thankfully with the ridiculous clip on mohawk he sported a couple of years ago returned to the dressing up box.
A cunning pun on their love of playing in Greece, ‘One Night In Hellas’ had a classic, almost NWOBHM-esque riff, which was a reminder that the last album had its moments, but it was ‘Steel The Light’ numbers that dominated the setlist including ‘No Way To Treat A Lady’ and ‘Missing In Action’ which had a few people headbanging and I was imagining myself at the Marquee in about 1985.
The difference from those days is that much of the range and depth of Jonathan’s voice has gone, but he handled the situation perfectly and pre-empted any sniping. Full of genial charm and smiling throughout the set, he said he would need some help from the crowd to get him through a couple of their earliest songs before introducing a double of the bluesy ‘In The Night’ and the ballad ‘Come And Gone’.
Up to this point the newest band recruit James Nelson had been handling nearly all the solos but on the latter his guitar partner Dennis Turner stepped up with a superb solo full of emotion. They may not be original members but the way the pair combined superbly throughout was the most pleasing aspect of the gig, the highlight being ‘When The Mirror Cracks’ (the atypical title track from their more AOR-influenced second album) when the way they furiously swapped solos reminded me of Iron Maiden.
They also impressed on the title track of the last album – which barely featured in the set – before ‘Teenage Runaway’ saw Jonathan start a singalong, but the moment most had been waiting for more than ever was the epic feel and gargantuan riffs of ‘Steel The Light’ itself, and in such a cracking atmosphere it hardly mattered that Jonathan’s thinner voice struggled to soar above them.
The reception they received even brought them back for an encore which hadn’t appeared on the setlist, even if the rapid fire ‘Tear Up The Night’ was well short of past glories. They had played a decent hour and a quarter, but as the gig finished at 9:25pm I was still left mystified by the early start.
Nevertheless, 33 years after ‘Steel The Light’ came out it was a memorable if belated UK debut. They said they would be keen to return so I hope promoters take a chance in more promising circumstances, and that I finally do get to hear ‘Lonely Lady’!
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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