Gig review: KEE MARCELLO – The Underworld, Camden, 2 October 2015

KEE MARCELLO - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

Kee Marcello has become something of a forgotten man as his former band Europe have successfully reformed and reinvented themselves over the past decade. The guitarist joined them just after ‘The Final Countdown’ propelled them into the proverbial stratosphere and shared in their commercial peak, but when they reformed in 2004 it was original six stringer John Norum who returned to the fold.

Instead he has been plugging away at a low key solo career and this was a welcome London show, albeit poorly attended on a night when there was competition from several other shows. It was also a treble bill in which Swedish raised but London-based rockstrel Mia Klose had the tough task of opening the show at 6:30, with a 10 o’clock curfew in place.

Mia Klose - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

Her petite frame was an energetic stage presence, pulling some great facial expressions  and even doing the odd David Lee Roth style high kick while ‘Living For Love’ is a melodic rock classic. However I found her voice rather thin and shrill and too easily drowned out by her very competent band, even on the promising ballad, which I think was ’Willing To Stay’. Nevertheless the lively riffing to ‘Never Too Late’ was an excellent end to an enjoyable set.

Second up were Spanish band Stop Stop, and I was transported back to the London rock scene of the mid to late eighties when every hopeful seemed to raid their mothers boudoirs and believed they had the attitude to be the next Hanoi Rocks or Motley Crue.

Stop Stop - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

Lead singer and bassist Jakob A.M. combined Paul Stanley-esque face paint with a pink feather boa draped round his mike stand while drummer Danny Stix (sic) had an enormous tousled mop that defied gravity. However the three piece had, to put it kindly, a very basic musical style and after starting well with ‘In And Out’ and ‘Lola’, a medley of ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Thunderstruck’ showed their limitations.

A song like ‘Join The Party’ demonstrated their good time intentions while during lengthy closer ‘Stop Stop’ the crazed Jakob was very entertaining as he sortied into the crowd and mucked around, but I like my music to have a little more polish.

The professionalism on show increased markedly when Kee Marcello hit the stage, and though the hair is a bit shorter these days he affected a leather clad rock star nonchalance. His four piece band were tight; extrovert, heavily hair gelled second guitarist Jonny Scaramanga even relieved him of the odd lead break, while Alien bassist Ken Sandin, sporting an even more distinctive ‘barnet’,  added to the sound with his backing vocals.

Most of those there, yours truly included, were there to hear Europe oldies, so were delighted as he opened with ‘Seventh Sign’ , one of the tougher moments he provided for 1991’s ‘Prisoners In Paradise’ album.

Another classic from that album in ‘Halfway to Heaven’ soon followed, but it highlighted the unfortunate shortcoming that Kee is a functional singer at best, and these songs sorely missed Joey Tempest’s effortlessly commanding delivery.

Kee Marcello - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

There was a fair chunk of his own material too, which was decent enough, ranging from straight ahead hard rockers such as ‘Dog Eat Dog’ (where the AC/DC comparisons did not end with the title) ‘Dead End Highway’ and ‘Get On Top’ , to some longer and bluesier pieces such as ‘Starless Sky‘ and it was the latter songs that most effectively showed off his trademark playing style, managing to hold on to notes as long as possible yet still playing with pace and fluency in a way that called to mind Gary Moore (another workaday vocalist) at his best.

Kee Marcello - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

It was great to hear ‘MoreThan Meets The Eye’ and be reminded what a storming album his Europe recording debut ‘Out Of This World’ was, though ‘Here Comes The Night’ was one of the songs to show up his vocal limitations.

As the curfew loomed it was inevitable that some old Europe favourites would close the set, namely ‘Superstitious’, where the mid-song breakdown went into ‘So Lonely’ which by remarkable coincidence was exactly what I had seen Gun do in London 24 hours earlier, and ‘Rock The Night’, one he did not originally play on but a fun participation song that no Europe-related show could omit.

Hearing a taped intro as the band returned to the stage I was convinced it meant THAT song, but instead it was the pleasant surprise of another ‘Paradise’ favourite in ‘Girl From Lebanon’, before the inevitable ‘Final Countdown’, with a rather too obvious taped keyboard backing track, which no matter how small the crowd, always stirs a party atmosphere of jumping and singing, not least to a loyal band of Europe devotees.

Kee Marcello - The Underworld Camden, 2 October 2015

This won’t go down as one of the vintage gigs of the year, but it was good to see a respected figure enjoying his time back in the spotlight and all three bands made it a fun evening for the faithful.

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan

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