Gig review: THUNDERSTICK – Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend, 28 July 2018

Back in the early 80s after a three-album stint with Samson, masked drummer and NWOBHM pioneer Thunderstick (Barry Graham Purkis) formed a band of the same name. Female-fronted, first with Ana Marie Borg then with Jodee Valentine, it allowed Purkis to pursue his love for the theatrical. As with many bands of the era, record company politics and management hassles got in the way and the band broke up, performing their last gig in Tunbridge Wells in 1986.

Following the death of lead singer, Jodee Valentine, however, Purkis was inspired to record a new Thunderstick album, featuring songs played by the original band but never recorded as well as brand new material. The wave of positive reviews for 2017’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ led Purkis to put together a more permanent line-up of the band and a return to live performance.

So, some thirty-two years after the last gig, we find ourselves in a packed-out Leo’s Red Lion for the return of Thunderstick.

The atmosphere is already buzzing with a superb hard-rocking performance from support band Blackmayne, another band that were around in the 80s and have reformed in recent years.

They deliver a blistering set of original NWOBHM-era metal and it’s great to see them get a second stab at things. Their original 1984 album is re-released with some additional bonus tracks recorded by the current line-up and they have a brand new album out shortly so do watch out for that.

And then comes the mighty Thunderstick. Purkis’s gargantuan drum-kit dominating the stage, the band march through the crowds in sinister radiation suits before ripping them off as they launch into opening number, the Samson classic ‘Riding With The Angels’.

Vocalist, Viixen, instantly has the audience in the palm of her hands. Although she did not appear on the 2017 album, with her striking visual presence, undoubted charisma and incredible voice she absolutely makes these songs her own. Her vocal range is as magnificent and as impressive as her many costume changes.

Musically, the band are exceptionally together. No sign of any first night ragged edges here. Purkis along with bass-player, Rex Thunderbolt, and guitarists, Baz Roze and Lee Quenby, make a formidable musical unit behind Viixen.

THUNDERSTICK - Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend, 28 July 2018

Set-wise, there are songs from the original Thunderstick era, like ‘’Heartbeat (In The Night)’ and ‘Rich Girls (Don’t Cry)’; songs from the recent album, like ‘Go Sleep With The Enemy’ and ‘Dark Night Black Light’; as well as the odd Samson classic, like the aforementioned ‘Riding With The Angels’ and ‘Vice Versa’.

The band encore with a deliciously deranged cover of the Rocky Horror Show’s ‘Time Warp.’ For a crowd that seemed to be a nice mix of die-hard Thunderstick fans and curious Leo’s regulars (and an equally nice mix of ages, too) there is no doubt that the audience are well and truly won over and some definite new fans on board.

No low-key return this, Gravesend’s renowned rock venue witnessed a dramatic resurrection of one of the NWOBHM era’s legends on Saturday – with a formidable new line-up, a spectacularly entertaining show and some truly classic rock ‘n’ roll. Thunderstick are go!

Review by Paul Abram
Photo by Phil Smith

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