This gig was nearly, but not quite, ring out the old ring in the new. With some gigs rearranged from early December, this was a chance to see a band of essentially old stagers with two of the “nu-breed” of melodic hard rock.
Gin Annie opened the evening with their brand of relentless riffage and focusing on debut album ’100% Proof’ with infectious songs like ‘New Bad Habit’ and ‘Damage Is Done’.
Vega have steadily built their audience since 2009 and have frequently been reported on by GRTR! Their mix of melody and harder rock fair bristles with energy and now with five albums to draw upon (and a sixth on the way early in 2020).
The band have perhaps defied the system in a current musical climate that seems to make it increasingly harder for new bands to get established even if – like Vega – they have the requisite on-stage chemistry, an amiable frontman and anthemic hooks. Songs like the revitalised ‘Kiss Of Life’ and ‘Worth Dying For’ punctuated an all-too short set.
Last In Line, on the other hand, show what it is to have “veteran” rockers in the line-up whilst still embracing modern hard rock. Their album debut ‘Heavy Crown’ was back in 2016 and sadly since then they’ve lost their bass player Jimmy Bain who added more credence to the then Dio triumvirate. His place is now ably taken by Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy, Billy Idol, Vince Neil).
Andrew Freeman was a revelation and hopefully he won’t run out of puff before the end of the band’s short tour which includes two festivals. He wrapped his powerful vocals around several Dio classics – a fitting tribute to Ronnie J himself – whilst also an engaging frontman.
Vinny Appice needs no introduction on drums (and without a need for the ubiquitous drum solo) whilst the underrated Vivian Campbell has a chance to really shine in this line-up. Vivian’s trajectory was on the up from the early 1980s with Dio, a brief spell with Lou Gramm in the often-overlooked but quite superb Shadow King until he jumped ship to Def Leppard replacing Steve Clark.
Whilst the Defs have obviously given him a good pension it has not really been the best place to savour his consummate style and highly melodic and fully engaging hard rock approach. He makes it all seem effortless, and authentic, using the vintage Les Paul featured on the Dio recordings. My wife thought he looked like a younger Monty Don, the WASPI woman’s favourite gardener; it is not clear whether Viv has green fingers but he certainly uses them judiciously.
This gig warmed up with ‘Holy Diver’ and pivoted on ‘Last In Line’ before Jimmy Bain was remembered ahead of the pile-driving LIL composition ‘Starmaker’. It was then a galloping Dio-fest with Campbell’s extended soloing in ‘Egypt’ and ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ real highlights.
The band was obviously conceived as a vehicle for playing classic Dio by relevant musicians but it’s clear – announcing the home-grown-if Dio-like ‘Devil In Me’ – that they do want to break away from that band’s legacy and forge their own path. Their second album released earlier this year was a further step in the right direction which hopefully will be consolidated in the future. But for the moment, this gig, and band, remains a masterclass in superbly executed – and still relevant – heavy rock.
Review and photos by David Randall
Setlist: Landslide/Stand Up And Shout/Straight Through The Heart/Year Of The Gun/Holy Diver/Black Out The Sun/Last In Line/Starmaker/Electrified/Egypt/Rainbow In The Dark/Don’t Talk To Strangers/Devil In Me/We Rock
With thanks to Roki and his staff at The Tivoli for keeping local live music alive in 2019 and promoting some great bands.
UK tour dates
Fri NOV 29 – The Limelight, Belfast
Sat, NOV 30 – Troon Concert Hall, Troon
Sun, DEC 1 – KKs Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
Mon, DEC 2 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Sat, DEC 7 – Planet Rockstock, Trecco Bay, Wales
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)
Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.
Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
A selection of albums featured in 2019
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