Category Archives: Gig Reviews

Free Fall: Dingwalls, Camden


By Simon Hadley

Considering the hype surrounding Free Fall – a band that is being heralded as the “next big thing” – a 30-minute slot supporting the Datsuns at Dingwalls is probably the most low-key debut imaginable.

Not that this is a problem for the Swedish four-piece – you get the feeling they’re happy to play anywhere, as long as there’s a bar and stage set-up large enough to hold their presence. Taking to the stage in the most nonchalant way possible, three shadowy figures shuffle on from the right, quickly followed by charismatic frontman, Kim Fransson.

Dressed in a baggy khaki shirt and light-coloured jeans, Fransson fiddles with his mic stand, mumbles to the audience, and, along with the rest of the band, launches into ‘Free Fall,’ a fist-in-the-air number that teeters on the edge of chaos, but never blows apart. This is quickly flowed by ‘Power & Volume,’ a blistering AC/DC-meets-Motorhead hybrid that shows why the band is rated so highly. Sure, comparisons with their forefathers are inevitable, but Free Fall isn’t a tribute act, just a masterclass in balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll.

By the end of ‘Midnight Vulture’ – a track that would benefit from better acoustics – the lighting has improved significantly, revealing the band in all their glory: Mattias Bärjed, a Tony Iommi look-a-like, brings the power; Jan Martens, a graduate from the Steve Marriott Mod Academy, brings the licks, while drummer Ludwig Dahlberg adds to the volume. As if to add to their growing hype, the set closes with a pulverising blitzkrieg called ‘World Domination’ – and on this evidence, anything’s possible.

Mark Lanegan Band: Princess Pavilion, Falmouth

By Simon Hadley

“We love you Mark!” screams a heckler in the audience. He was excited for one reason: Mark. Lanegan. In. Falmouth.

Falmouth is a picturesque, coastal resort, primarily occupied by students and the retired. The Princess Pavilion is proof of this: Posters lining the walls of tribute acts and weekly club nights, while in the centre is a quaint, Edwardian bandstand; its beauty enhanced in the evening sun. To say that this is an unlikely venue to hear Lanegan’s signature, rasping croon is an understatement.

In fact, it’s a miracle that Lanegan is here at all: homelessness, imprisonment, substance abuse and rehab would test, if not destroy, the average man – that’s before we get into the demise of the Screaming Trees. Ironically, the 48-year-old outlaw is currently enjoying – although he never looks like it – his most successful spell: Blues Funeral was released to rave reviews; topping 2004’s Bubblegum, while he has recently been confirmed as Mad Season’s new vocalist.

After being treated to Creature with the Atom Brain’s lurching, bleary-eyed stomp, Lanegan, accompanied by his hand-picked four-piece – including Atom Brain’s keyboardist, Aldo Struyf – appears from the shadows. Dressed naturally in black, he opens with ‘The Gravedigger’s Song’ before trudging through ‘St Louis Elegy’ – delivering each lyric with a haunting, reflective grimace: “If tears were liquor / I’d have drunk myself sick.”

Keeping conversation to a minimum, Lanegan quipped that “it was an honour to play here,” and seemed genuinely taken with the town: Rather than exiting onto his grand, black tour bus, he made for the merchandise stall; interacting and signing autographs for star-struck locals. Come back soon, Mark.

Ghost: Download Festival 2012

Playing Download for the second time in as many years, Ghost’s Sunday service duly delivered.

Words by Simon Hadley.

Since their 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, Ghost hasn’t been short of followers: from James Hetfield to Phil Anselmo, the band’s uniqueness in an era of metalcore hasn’t gone unnoticed.

With only one album of material to choose from, the five Nameless Ghouls – led by their prophet, Papa Emeritus – are meticulous with their set; chopping and changing, without losing any their mystic. Making their way on stage, backed by a cathedral backdrop, there was, however, one noticeable change: black-hooded robes had been replaced by sparkling white robes – it was Sunday after all.

Despite their new white cassocks having an unfortunate KKK look about them, the crowd’s attention was solely on Papa Emeritus. Dressed in his usual cardinal attire, complete with skull mask and censer; Emeritus, like Pope Benedict XVI overlooking St Peter’s Square, is the master of all he surveys. Pausing briefly to ask the crowd if they were ready “to look into the eyes of the ‘Prime Mover’,” it is his lack of dialogue that upholds this Satanic-inspired aura – well, that and face paint.

With only nine tracks to choose from, and an eerie cover of ‘Here Comes The Sun,’ the band’s 45-minute set was probably about right, however, with new material on the way, and an ever-increasing fan base, the Jim Marshall stage beckons.

Black Sabbath: Download Festival 2012

Words by Simon Hadley.

Photos: Dave Hogan and Simon Hadley.

“When we first formed 40 years ago, I had no idea we’d be here doing this,” mumbled Ozzy Osbourne before his brothers-in-arms: Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and their newest comrade, Tommy Clufetos, launched into ‘Dirty Women’.

In truth, Ozzy’s right: drugs, booze, women, lawsuits and contact disagreements would bury any other band; however, as their video package emphasised: this is Black Sabbath. At 63, Osbourne is seen by most as a caricature: furiously leaping around the stage, yelling “Louder!” before drenching the crowd with buckets of water, and telling them to go “Fucking nuts, man!”.

While Ozzy is the figurehead, the band’s creative soul is “Ironman” Tony Iommi. Currently battling lymphoma – a battle we all know Iommi will win – it is his mesmerising playing on a crucifix-adorned fretboard that has cemented Sabbath’s place as the greatest metal band of all time. Introduced by Ozzy as “one of the strongest guys I know” Iommi, looking healthy and relaxed, was visibly touched by Download’s deafening ovation: wiping a tear from under his trademark glasses.

With “Mr Geezer Butler” also on form – his near-perfect bass solo between ‘Behind The Wall of Sleep’ and ‘N.I.B’ was one of the highlights – Black Sabbath’s encore, consisting of ‘Children of the Grave’ and ‘Paranoid’, sent their mud-stained followers into raptures. Taking their bows to a blaze of fireworks and devil horns, murmured chants of: “woah-oh-oh-oh, Sabbath, Sabbath” could be heard long into the night.

Fu Manchu: O2 Academy Islington, London

Words by Simon Hadley.

Photo: Dead by Sunrise.

Californian desert rock veterans, Fu Manchu kicked off their two month European tour last night at Islington’s 02 Academy.

Since the release of their 1994 debut album, No One Rides For Free, Fu Manchu have gone through a number of different line-up changes including briefly recruiting ex-Kyuss drummer and now solo artist, Brant Bjork, but despite this, their live shows have always been consistent.

Kicking off with the blistering heavy fuzz classic of ‘Hell on Wheels’, beginning with Bob Balch’s throbbing guitar, that slowly morphs into a deadly thunderous roar, shows that Fu Manchu are a band on top of their game. ‘Bionic Astronautics’, the first track from their new album, Signs of Infinite Power, harks back to the bands, hardcore punk roots and a chorus  break down that echoes early 70’s era Black Sabbath.

A flurry of tracks from their new album followed as the band threw themselves into: ‘El Busta’, ‘Steel.Beast.Defeated’, ‘Webfoot Witch Hat’ and ‘Gargantuan March’, all of which were received well by the sold out crowd and hinted at a return to the glory days of the genre classics of 1996’s In Search of and 2000’s King Of The Road releases.

‘California Crossing’, the main stay of Fu Manchu’s set lists, starts with Scott Reeder’s thundering military style drumming, before vocalist Scott Hill unloads: “Twenty years or more/We had a plan/To build the finest street ride/In the whole damn land”, sparks a mass three minute sing-a-long.

Despite the mixed reception for the bands previous two releases, Start the Machine and We Must Obey, Fu Manchu’s greatness is still here. Lynchpin guitarist and front man Scott Hill’s laid back, West Coast Californian croon, Scott Reeder’s and Brad Davis’ driving rhythm section and finally Bob Balch’s thick fuzzy guitar licks make you wonder why Fu Manchu are not as big and  as well received as their Californian neighbours, Queens of the Stone Age.

Despite the emphasis being on the bands new tracks, fans were treated to a flurry of classics including: ‘Eatin’ Dust’, ‘Laserblast!’, and ‘Evil Eye’, a brilliant, psychedelic tinged hard rock classic that is arguably one of the strongest tracks the band have ever released. The 90 minute set list finished up with an eight minute, psychedelic, down tuned, doom rock onslaught of ‘Saturn III’, with vocalist Scott Hill commenting that Islington was: “Not a band way to start the tour.”

Them Crooked Vultures: Plymouth Pavilions


Words by Simon Hadley.

Rock’s most talked about supergroup began their seven-date UK tour last night in Plymouth, to the delight of the South West.

Them Crooked Vultures, comprised of Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and Desert Sessions), Dave Grohl (Nirvana and the Foo Fighters), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) as well as touring guitarist Alain Johannes (Desert Sessions and Eleven) did not disappoint.

The band kicked off their set list with ‘No One Loves Me & Neither Do I’, a raw plodding groove that descended into a Zeppelin-style breakdown wowed the Pavilions and set the tone for the rest of the night. The dream team rhythm section of Dave Grohl on drums and John Paul Jones on bass have a natural chemistry, which was evident on ‘Scumbag Blues’, a slice of classic 70’s rock that echoed Cream, with Josh Homme adding a bluesy lead riff into the mix.

The hard rock stomp of ‘Elephants’ soon followed, before a rare outing for ‘Highway One’, a track that narrowly missed out on the group’s debut album, but with talk of an EP release next year, may still see the light of day. ‘Gunman’, a hard rock-disco stomp echoed shades of Physical Graffiti era Zeppelin and was a fan favourite amongst the sold out crowd, showing how easy it is to add different textures to the bands already impressive arsenal.

However, it was John Paul Jones who stole the show. Introduced by Homme as : “One of your own”, multi-instrumentalist Jones, showed just why he is one of the greatest living and influential rock musicians of the last 40 years, effortlessly changing between bass guitar and the keytar, during ‘Interlude With Ludes’. Jones rounded off his performance by treating the crowd to a beautiful piano solo, which will hopefully feature on the group’s next album.

‘Mind Eraser, No Chaser’ bought the straight forward rock assault back into the set as did ‘Caligulove’, but set ending ‘Warsaw or the First Breath You Take After You Give Up’, was the moment of the night. Warsaw bought together the harder and fuzzier moments from Homme’s first band Kyuss, and psychedelic Desert Sessions elements to create a psychedelic progressive rock wall of sound, with Homme, and touring guitarist Alain Johannes trading solos, putting the crowd into a hypnotic daze.

Clocking in at over 90 minutes the fans got their money’s worth and will be hoping that Them Crooked Vultures return to the South West sooner rather than later.