Gig review: PETE WAY BAND – Camden Underworld, 24 October 2019

Gig review: Pete Way Band - Camden Underworld, 24 October 2019

Everyone wants to be a lead singer these days. Burnt Out Wreck, who emerged to the bouncy theme music from the kids’ TV programme ‘Rhubarb and Custard’, are fronted by Gary Moat who used to be the drummer in Heavy Pettin’.

Later we would see Pete Way, seminal bassist in UFO (the band who’s 1976 album gave Heavy Pettin’ their moniker), also assume front man duties for his own band. More of that later.

Burnt Out Wreck put in a decent shift against a PA leaning towards the shrill end, at least initially, and on a tiny bit of stage in front the Pete Way Band’s kit that was too cramped for this five-piece. Miles Goodman on second guitar was desperate to rock out, but had the close company of a pillar all set.

The sound improved and allowed the bottom-end of the band’s blues classic rock to thump through. Their style is unashamedly lodged at the good time boogie, AC/DC end of the spectrum. ‘Dead or Alive’ the lead track from their new album ‘This Is Hell’ is just that – crunching riffs and stomping rhythms. The title track is faster paced and other new material like ‘Headfuck’ and ‘Guitars Electrified’ continued the good vibe, enjoyed with fist-pumping enthusiasm by a fair few down the front.

‘Swallow’, from the band’s debut album was another raucous workout and the heavy groove of ‘Paddywack’ was about the best in the set, for my money.

Gary Moat is a decent enough husky-toned front man and his gabbly manner between songs can only improve with a few more shows under his belt. The same goes for the overall delivery, which wouldn’t hurt for being a bit slicker and tighter. But in Adrian Dunn on lead guitar, they have a real talent. He was right on the money everywhere bar his filthy moustache, which looked like it had been grown a few days too early for Movember. Enjoyable stuff.

Pete Way has been through the mill in recent years. Since leaving UFO for the last time in 2008 he has fought and beaten pancreatic cancer and suffered a heart attack as recently as 2016. His no-holds-barred autobiography ‘Fast Ride Out Of Here’ added plenty of larger-than-life sensationalism to the already legendary reputation. All the while, there has been a long delayed new solo album lurking in the background, with production credits from Mike Stone and musical contributions from Slash, amongst others. It might see the light of day next year.

Meanwhile, these shows are his first live outings for a long time. Massive respect to his battling qualities and survival instincts to put a good band together and make these dates happen. It was good to see him back.

On the other hand, I did have some trepidations when I heard that Pete had ditched the bass and assumed lead singing duties.

The classical melodrama of Carmina Burana announced the arrival of the band to warm applause. Without too much ceremony, Pete grabbed the mic stand, adorned with a spotted scarf, and led the band through ‘You And Me’ from his project with Michael Schenker, The Plot, swiftly followed up with ‘American Kid (What A Shame)’ from ‘Amphetamine’. On this punky, raw song, Pete’s voice was only passable at best – and you’d have to forgive the harsh, flat delivery.

The band were excellent though, and raised the performance a number of times throughout a difficult show. Way, Laurence Archer (lead guitar) and Clive Edwards (drums) played together on UFO’s 1992 ‘High Stakes and Dangerous Men’. Tym Scopes added some bluesy second lead guitar and Jason Poole on bass had a great night.

Pete was amiable and engaging as a front man and had some decent banter, but was still struggling with the vocals. ‘Shoot Shoot’ was a mess of slurred and garbled lyrics rescued again by Archer’s fireworks.

It was like watching the unravelling of a hero. There is no pleasure whatsoever in reporting the fiasco that overtook ‘Might As Well Go Drinking’ which segued into Zep’s ‘Rock n Roll’ where Pete simply forgot the lyrics and ended up looking round at the band as if he didn’t know what was going on.

Pete actually apologised for this, though matters went from bad to worse when Tym Scopes’ guitar cut out completely on ‘Fooled Again’. We had about five minutes of nurdling and fills from the band whilst the amp was fixed.

‘Crazy’ from the forthcoming ‘On The Edge’ album started out like a cheesy Rod Stewart ballad. However, it built well, with some excellent interplay between the rebooted Scopes and Archer. Poole was excellent on backing vocals and the band pulled this one off. The best of the non-UFO material.

The set moved into UFO territory with a closing trio of ‘Too Hot To Handle’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’. Again the band’s sterling efforts disguised some pretty poor vocal fodder with Pete singing a rough approximation of the lyrics at best, sometimes in time/tune, often not. These tracks were well received. I found myself cheering a memory of the songs.

Pete was simultaneously apologising for his sore throat and blowing kisses to the third-full venue. It felt a little incongruous.

UFO and Pete Way are heroes of mine. I’ve read some far more charitable reviews of this Underworld gig and I respect those views. In some ways I feel wretched and disloyal to pen this, but it’s hard to objectively say this was anything but an entertainingly shambolic gig. Hand on heart, I have to call it the way I saw it. Forgive me Pete.

Review by Dave Atkinson

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