After their much publicised line up changes 2019 has been a year of inglorious putting in the hard yards to regain career momentum. A February tour and well-received festival appearances were followed by this second tour of the year, covering some of the roads less travelled.
I took a trip up the A40 on the misleadingly titled Oxford tube, a handy all-night bus service to the Academy, which is always a good fall back to see bands when there are those annoying gig clashes, or, as in this case, no London dates on the tour. Ironically I used to regularly make the journey in reverse as a student in the late eighties heading up to the big smoke for gigs at places like the Marquee.
The smaller of the Academy’s two rooms was far from full and I would wager the crowd was not more than 150, though a Monday night in the busiest time of the season for gigs was always going to be a hard sell.
However if the pride of singer Nathan James was wounded, there was no sign of it in his genial on stage demeanour. Opener ‘Where Are You Now’ saw him relatively restrained on the verses before that big, bluesy roar took over on the chorus.
The fast-paced ‘Breakaway’ was cut from the classic Purple family tree hard rock I cut my teeth on while one from the current ‘Ride To Nowhere’ album in ‘Time To Go’ took a while to make its mark on me but the chorus proved belatedly catchy.
There was a change of pace unusually early in the set , drummer Phil Beaver joining both of the guitarists on acoustics for ‘Glory Days’, with Nathan joking it had to be early in the set while his voice was still in good shape, as he sang in a striking falsetto that owed as much to Radiohead’s Tom Yorke as his usual hard rock idols.
One thing I noticed was that whereas the original Inglorious line up was built very much on one lead and one rhythm guitarist, even compared to the shows I had seen earlier the year lead guitar duties are now pretty much shared 50/50 between the V-wielding Dan Stevens, whose solos have a crisp, unfussy but more metallic feel and the mercurial technical wizardry of curly-haired youngster Danny DelaCruz. Both also are masters of throwing the classic shape of tilting the guitar at a vertical angle.
‘Liar’ and a trio of songs from their debut- ‘High Flying Gypsy’ segueing into ‘Girl Got a Gun’, before ‘Unaware’, were impressively heavy, notably with Phil’s ferocious drumming, but despite Nathan’s powerful delivery, they summed up the one thing that for me has held Inglorious back to date- a lack of memorable hooks and songs.
Indeed one of the set highlights was a cover in Alanis’ Morrissette’s ‘Uninvited’. I am not overly familiar with the original, but it was stunning from the piano intro of Rob Lindop, Nathan’s impassioned, falsetto vocals than a fine solo from both guitarists, notably that from Danny which showed stunning technique and emotion and gave the lie to any doubts he might be something of a show pony.
The title track of ‘Ride To Nowhere’ was, as Nathan said their heaviest yet and I was reminded of early Black Sabbath, but it grew on me. The slow, brooding feel of ‘Holy Water’ showed off Nathan’s Coverdale-esque tones even if his traditional sortie into the crowd was absent.
The set then returned to more conventional territory with ‘Read All About It’ and the catchy hooks of ‘High Class Woman’, making a return to the set. However the semi Ballad ‘I Don’t Know You’ took another step forward, Nathan putting heart and soul into some quite breathtaking vocals before leaving the stage to both guitarists who were in equally fine form.
The encores saw the most enthusiastic response yet from an appreciative crowd, to ‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’, its stately pace only accentuating the huge chorus and the big Zeppelin-esque riffing of ‘Until I Die’.
Even if their commercial forward momentum seems to have stalled for the time being, Inglorious have successfully regrouped and are diversifying in promising fashion. It was to their immense credit that they can fill an hour and a half set of nearly all original material without recourse to solos and other padding, contributing to a top night of the best of traditional British hard rock.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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