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Concert Review: Thunder in London, Plus More

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As with most years, the live scene takes a while to recover from the end of the previous year. It has taken until this last Saturday to see a bloody amazing gig hit London town. Over the last week I have a few CDs to review; this time it will be a less eclectic than the last bunch. We’ve got some known, some not so well known, and a couple of singles as well.

Live Review:

Thunder: (w/Roadstar & Toby Jepson in support) Hammersmith, Apollo, London 4 Feb 2006

Now anyone who has stuck with me this long on Blogcritics knows that I have quite an affection for local boys Thunder. Having followed them since their stunning if chronically underrated and wasted (in the US) debut Backstreet Symphony, I was rather pleased to see their return early this century to making records and touring.

They have toured extensively both in the UK and in Japan; as well as releasing at least one rather good album The Magnificant Seventh and smattering of EPs of which Six Shooter was just one.

Saturday night marked the end of a UK tour which saw them once again reconecting with their loyal UK fans and delivering up a nice slice of British blues-rock. Saturday night was no exception. The band was on absolutely top form with Danny Bowles showing younger frontmen how to play a crowd. The audience members were literally eating out of his hands the entire set.

Where this man gets his energy to bounce around and sing so well for 110 minutes is beyond me. The rest of the band showed they could keep up with him through some classic songs both old and new. Harry James, Thunder’s eccentric drummer, even showed us he could play guitar and sing. The stage set was useful while at the same time not distracting.

The band performed wonderful versions of “Love Walks In,” the ode to Englishness “Englishman on Holiday” as well as new stuff in the form of “Fading into the Sun” and that ode to love, “I Love You More than Rock n’ Roll.” The crowd sang along with most of the tunes, naturally louder to the old ones, and many a couple relived their gig-going days of yore. The crowd was a mixture of young and old; with in some cases three generations together.

My girlfriend and I were able to attend the aftershow party. We got see the family attmosphere that is the Thunder touring machine. There were children, wives, and family members around and a smattering of aging groupies as well, which just added to the ambiance.

Any band would kill to be able to deliver a performance as stunning as Saturday’s. Who said you are ever too old to rock and roll? Not I, that is for sure.

Openers Roadstar, formerly know as Hurricane Party, delivered a cracking set as per usual. They played a few new tracks that will be showing up on their soon-to-be-released full-length debut, as well as tracks featured on their debut EP Get This. Despite their major-label debut in the care of John Kalodner, the band is still as nice as ever. It would not shock me in the slightest if Roadstar’s CD is better than the Darkness’ latest.

Toby Jepson of Little Angels fame delivered a decent set of both solo and LA material. The sound was a bit rough at the beginning, but improved in time for some of the LA stuff the audience wanted to hear, like “Young Gods” and “Don’t Pray for Me.” To say Toby has aged well is an understatement. Whatever it is that he does to keep so fit and young-looking, he should bottle it. Let’s hope we see more of Toby touring this year.

As far as touring packages go, this one got it completely right. The bands fit together nicely and clearly enjoyed themselves (They all got together to jam on a Stones track at the end of the gig.) It’s good to see good hard-rock gigs like this. Oh yeah, one more thing, I finally got to snog a beautiful woman during “Love Walks In” at a Thunder gig…

CD reviews:

Ray Davies, Other People’s Lives

Ex-Kinks man Ray Davies has released a cracking set of tunes. There is humour, satire and quite a bit of observation. To a Londoner like myself, many of the tunes evoke scenes from the city, whether it be a tale of neighbors – “Next Door Neighbor” – or the title track. He takes a potshot at the state of British comedy as well, with “Stand Up Comic.”

The music here does remind one of the Kinks in their heyday, and offers a touch of Americana as well. It is clear to anyone that this man has oodles of talent both in his songwriting and singing. The fact that it inspires one to go down the pub (as he says he is doing) merely adds to its attraction.

Mary-Jane, What I Came Here For

Imagine Slunt fronted by Gwen Stefani and you would not be far off with this lot. Mary-Jane gives us sleaze-rock with attitude and angst. This seven-track EP has a mixture of studio and live tracks with one studio track apearing in two forms. While not exactly original – there are several other bands doing a similar thing – this is quality stuff. The fact that Geordie Walker of Killing Joke is in the production chair shows that there are others who see their potential. Tracks like “Love” and “Lipstick” put a smirk on your face in anticipation of seeing this lot live. It’s good stuff well worth listening to: The fact that a full CD is on the way makes it all the better. Find out more at Mary-Jane.

Single reviews:

The Rakes, “All Too Human”

Yet another band to jump on the the bandwagon. The Rakes play electonica-tinged pop-rock with an almost Pulp-like feel to it. The geeky appearance of the band adds to this feeling. This song is quite pacey and quite a catchy piece of pop. It’s only one song, but I see good things for this lot. No doubt their label V2 does as well.

Harpies, “Waitless”

Think a less subtle Die So Fluid that combines screaming female death-metal vocals with indie-style melodic bits. The title track is about as in-your-face as it gets. The second track on this CD is far more electonic in feel; it’s even a tad Portishead-like with its distant vocals. This is certainly quirky music and probably not for everyone. But to say they aren’t sticking to the current trends is an understatement. For the brave rock listener, my review of their last full-length should serve as a warning.

Well, this week’s column is no less eclectic than most. The pick of the bunch is definitely the Thunder gig last Saturday. To say it has lasting effects on me is an understatement. Then again, such a display of class and talent is rare and most enduring. See you lot next week and keep rocking.

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About Marty Dodge

  • Paul Roy

    Wow. Your stirring up some old memories here. I used to really dig both Thunder and Little Angels, back when they first came on the scene around 1990. At that time I was stationed with the military in Scotland and both of these bands were pretty big in Britain. Thunder’s “An Englishman on Holiday” is a friggin’ riot. Some of the best straightforward party rock you will ever hear.