I’ve been an admirer over the years of Myke Gray’s very fluent, technically accomplished guitar playing style, particularly so as he has always been complemented by powerful, bluesy vocalists, be it in Jagged Edge, Skin or Red White and Blues.
At one point I feared he was lost to us as, disillusioned with the music industry he spent time on his successful business ventures so it was a pleasure to see him return a couple of years ago. His album ‘Shades of Gray’ was largely instrumental, but in keeping with tradition a couple of shows I saw in London and at Download featured the throaty tones of Blackwater Conspiracy’s Phil Conalane on the old favourites.
Around that time I noticed a new name being associated with Myke in powerhouse singer Kim Jennett- after many rave reviews, and with Phil’s own band now making waves, now was a belated first chance to see the two in partnership for myself. The turnout though at the Underworld was rather disappointing, even allowing for the fact it was a Sunday night.
The evening was warmed up very nicely by a support from promising young Midlanders The Howling Tides. On openers ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Cut Your Losses’ they combined riffs of almost Sabbath-like darkness and intensity with the strong, anguished vocals of Rob Baynes.
Some of their songs were works in progress, but Rob and his fresh faced co-guitarist Hayden Kirk combined very effectively. ‘Thalia’ had a great riff like a doomier version of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Its Only Money’ but the standout by far was ‘Fortune Never Favoured Me’, building from a brooding opening reminding me of cult Southern rockers Raging Slab into something of a guitar epic.
Rob had a lot of stage presence and the confidence to encourage participation from the sparse crowd on ‘White Crow’ and in particular set closer ‘He Told Me’ as they picked up on the ‘your days are numbered’ chant.
With so many aspiring young heavy rock bands out there at the moment that it is difficult to make predictions, but that ability to engage a crowd, allied to their musical intensity, means they must be somewhere near the top of the list of bands who might follow Those Damn Crows in making a breakthrough.
After a Queen intro tape, Myke Gray hit the stage in a very natty waistcoat reflecting the black and white imagery of his current project and cranked out the AC/DC esque riff to the Red White and Blues song ‘Stand up for Rock n Roll’, seconds before Kim raced in from the wings in leopard print strides and a swiftly discarded leather jacket.
You could almost see jaws drop at the sheer intensity of this petite figure roaring the song with leather-like lungs, and the nearest comparison I could make was when I first watched the young Lzzy Hale.
She also rose above some monitor issues during a very intense burst of opening songs- a couple of her own songs ‘Let Me Be the One’, and ‘Psycho’, either side of ‘Love Like Suicide’ from the years Skin went for a more alternative sound.
I was relieved when the sound settled down and the pace dropped just a tad but she passed the test of delivering the first of the Skin classics the majority had probably come to hear- ‘House of Love’- with flying colours. ‘Stronger’ was transformed from its studio counterpart, but the tour de force was a version of the RWB ballad ‘Counts for Nothing’ of quite stunning intensity.
It wasn’t just the strength of Kim’s voice that made an impact but her dervish-like energy, with one sortie into the crowd followed swiftly by another, getting right in the face of most of those present.
Not to be overshadowed, Myke’s playing was as immaculate as ever while he had assembled a crack band of drummer Neil Ogden, former Inglorious bassist Colin Parkinson and second guitarist Glenn Quinn, all of whom I had seen shine in other bands recently.
A run of Skin classics, mainly from the debut album, brought the gig to the boil very nicely, be it a mass singalong to ‘Colourblind’ or a fast and furious ‘Take Me Down to the River’ with Kim conducting the crowd from the floor. She then used her intro to the best loved of all, ‘Look but Don’t Touch’ to make a bold statement about unwanted harassment, though in the excitement a couple of likely lads down the front didn’t seem to get the message!
She could have given her voice a deserved rest- but didn’t- as the crowd roared along to ‘Tower of Strength’ which seems a very personal song to many Skin fans, then with Colin playing the trademark bass intro, Kim tore through ‘Shine Your Light’ as Myke delivered one of his best riffs before the song went into its rapid climax.
Getting the Skin favourites out of the way allowed the band to play a much more varied set of encores, with Kim showing on the ballad ‘Tripping’ that she is no one trick pony and can sing in a more restrained style as well, and doing justice to Jagged Edge’s old classic single ‘You Don’t Love Me’ which particularly delighted a group of us who go back to those days.
Yet the gig ended up bringing things right up to date- it was Myke at the mike (apologies!) as after a short but gracious speech of various thanks, he sang lead on brand new song ‘I Get Up’. It had a slightly lighter and more straightforward rock’n’roll feel than what had gone before, but was catchy enough and with Kim returning to the mike and leaping into the audience the bluesy stomp of another of their originals ‘Take Me Home’ generated an even better atmosphere to send everyone home on a high.
Myke hinted that Kim is destined for a stellar career outside the confines of his own band, but the two were a perfect combination. I came with high hopes but was totally unprepared for the extent her power and energy breathed fresh life into his already impressive catalogue.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year Pete Feenstra presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Tuesdays at 19:00 BST (GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon. This show was first broadcast on 14 July.
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