You could construct a whole musical Room 101 of top class sportsmen who unwisely thought their talents would translate to the music business – from Hoddle and Waddle to Pat Cash and John McEnroe. However former World Superbikes champion James Toseland seems on the verge of breaking the mould, demonstrating both his musical talent and natural flair for performance.
After well received festival shows and releasing his debut album, larger live audiences such as this near capacity 100 Club appearance suggest that his career is accelerating away from the start line nicely.
There was a well matched support, not to mention one with a motor connection, in Four Wheel Drive who have built quite a following for themselves. It had been a while since I saw them and their sound has become significantly darker and heavier, with an almost Black Label Society like intensity to the guitar riffery of the likes of ‘Buzzed Up City’ and ‘Big Red Appetite’.
Set closer ‘Hammered Again’ reverted to the bare chested, rough house boogie, not to mention the drinking theme that had them originally likened to a British version of Airbourne, with some great extended guitar jamming. It will be interesting to see what direction they head in next, now that they have followed Toseland in linking up with ex-Little Angel Toby Jepson, with a name change also planned.
As if to prove his serious credentials, Toseland’s five piece band jammed for a good minute or two before the eponymous singer took the stage. The sound was certainly considerably heavier than my first experience of them last year as he (they?) opened with ‘Gotta Be A Better Way’ and ‘Burning the System’, built on an AC/DC riff.
James has an arresting harsh edge to his voice and on ‘Life Is Beautiful’ even had hints of a more melodic Axl Rose or Faith No More’s Mike Patton. But with his finely toned arm muscles and ever present smile, he also radiates a natural rock star charisma.
A few songs in, the pace was lightened, as a portable keyboard or – as he joked – a hostess trolley, was wheeled on for the classically trained pianist to play two songs including ‘Just No Way’, with a lush sound owing much to Queen.
There was an unexpected rocked up cover of the Teardrop Explodes’ ‘Reward’ which we even got twice after his microphone packed up and it was encouraging to hear a couple of new numbers, including ‘Broken Bones’ from a forthcoming second album, also being written with Toby Jepson.
By late set my one criticism was that the material, with its new heavier sound, was becoming a tad samey but the most likely autobiographical ‘Singer In A Band’ ended the main set on a more distinctive note.
There was a generous trio of encores, including perhaps his best song, the Little Angels-esque ‘Renegade’ which on this evidence already seems to be his signature, and a hard-hitting duo in a cover of ‘Pump it Up’, and ‘Crash Landing’.
No longer a novelty act, James Toseland seems to be having the time of his life making an increasing success of his second career. In his own words, Life is Beautiful indeed.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Darran Scott
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Power Plays w/c 16 May 2022 (Mon-Fri)
FLOYA The Hymn (Arising Empire)
VEXES The Dream Disease (indie)
NEAR DUSK The Way It Goes (Iron Head Records)
IN SEARCH OF SUN Make Me Crazy (indie)
WALLNER VAIN Deceive Her (indie)
FIGHT THE FADE Where You Go I Go (FiXT)
MARATON Non-Euclidean Heart (Indie Recordings)
Featured Albums w/c 16 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TERRA NOVA Ring That Bell (Lion Music)
12:00-13:00 FOZZY Boombox (Mascot)
14:00-16:00 MICHAEL McDERMOTT St.Paul’s Boulevard (Pauper Sky Records)
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