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Saturday, 25 April 2015


I must admit, before this gig, my knowledge of Russian rock was limited, bar Gorky Park, who back in the late 80's were doing their best Bon Jovi impersonation. But thankfully Reds Cool, a five piece from St Petersburg, eased my ignorance with an hugely impressive performance. Taking to the stage, the band led by vocalist Slava Spark, looked a tad daunted by the lack of bodies in the venue. But as the masses gathered the band's mojo grew. Rattling out some hard edged melodic rock tunes like Love & Pain and Bad Story, what looked a formidable task at the beginning ended in glorious triumph.
When Phil Mogg eventually decides to end his UFO days, he should seriously consider joining the after dinner speaking circuit. His laid back, wonderfully humorous interaction with the Dublin crowd was a pleasure to witness, especially his tale about not being invited back to Geddy Lee's house, and then recognising a fan he'd seen in a bar earlier that day.
But this crowd didn't come to hear Mr Mogg shoot the breeze, all they wanted was to revel in a band that has produced some of the most memorable rock songs in music history. A robust, We Belong To The Night followed by Fight Night kicks things off in true UFO style.
Touring in support of new album, A Conspiracy Of Stars, their 22nd studio album, only two songs were performed, Run Boy Run and album opener The Killing Kind. Not that it disappointed their public, this only left the path clear for the classics. The always brilliant Lights Out and a stirring Only You Can Rock Me had their faithful in raptures. Guitar god, Vinnie Moore performed as you'd expect, majestic all night, especially on Burn Your House Down and Venus. Proving why this man is worshipped by guitar enthusiasts the world over. Sadly his paper aeroplane making isn't the same, as he tried to launch the set list sheet into the crowd but unfortunately nosedived straight into the photo pit.
But there can be no doubting the highlight of the night, Love To Love is now 38 years young, although never mentioned among the so called best rock ballads, it's enduring power and emotion still remains beautifully undiminished. Mogg's heartfelt vocal and Paul Raymond's soothing keyboards still grab you tight. The attentive Dublin crowd were thoroughly transfixed, even the hardest of rockers had their heartstrings tugged with no resistance. Rock Bottom once again showcased Vinnie Moore's incomparable genius, and giving the well lubricated Mogg a brief sit down.
First encore, Doctor Doctor, without doubt the bands live security blanket still retains it's live zest. Drummer, Andy Parker and bassist Rob DeLuca provide the steely rhythm that gets the place in a state of full on delirium. Hordes of ageing rockers shamelessly slung on their precious air guitars to mimic Moore and Raymond's relentless riffing. And slung they stayed for the ballsy closer Shoot Shoot, a smug and contented looking Mogg delivering yet another unblemished performance to finish off a truly memorable night of classic rock.
The only real flaw was that it wasn't long enough, but don't forget longest serving members, Messrs Mogg, Raymond and Parker have a combined age of 200. So lets just be thankful that we still have the opportunity to witness these legends, and god willing for a little longer.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


When I discovered that Joe Lynn Turner was including Belfast, and not my native Dublin, on his acoustic tour, I must admit feeling an overwhelming urge to kick something, or someone.  Nevertheless there was never a doubt about me hopping on the train and heading north to witness the former frontman of Fandango, Deep Purple and of course Rainbow.  And obviously this was a man without any airs and graces, because folks this place was a dump.  So much so that I wiped my feet, twice, when leaving.  But this gig was not about interiors, this was a personal and intimate show with a legendary singer hellbent on bonding with his long serving fans.
At 9.30 the great man took to the stage, and after a quick tune up he launched into a thrilling version of Rainbows' Stone Cold followed by a brilliantly recieved Street Of Dreams.  Devil horns were raised when Joe Lynn paid tribute to former Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio with a moving version of Catch The Rainbow, a memorable moment in the evening.

It wasn't just Purple and Rainbow classics that received the bare bones treatment, Turner belted out Beatles classics Blackbird and aslo a jazzy version of Van Morrison's Moondance to a decent reception.  But you could sense this crowd wanted their own classics, the stuff this man regularly performs majestically.  And they got their wish as the Purple classic Hush followed by an unrecognisable, but brilliant, version of Smoke On The Water brought the house down.
But the biggest surprise of the evening was the absence of I Surrender from the set, one of the most recognisable songs in rock history and the one most synonymous with Turner.  Which would of being a perfect way to close out a fantastic evening.  Instead we got a robust rendition of ZZ Top's Tush which had many a plastic pint glass rattling.  A clearly happy and contented Turner exited the stage to a fantastic reception from the real fans, who hung on his every word throughout the night.  Unfortunetly I couldn't say that for 70% of the Belfast audience.
In between songs, Turner was sharing intimate stories about his time with Rainbow and Deep Purple, and also about a possible reunion with Ritchie Blackmore.  But the majority of this crowd were just plain pig ignorant who choose to ignore him, and instead gave their fog horn gobs an unwelcome workout.  I got talking to a couple from Manchester who travelled over especially to witness their hero up close and personal, but were left disgusted by the obnoxious behaviour.  Those who cared behaved impeccably and saw a true rock great showing his undying talents in it's barest form.  Next time Joe head south, you will have our full attention.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


There was a time when you wouldn't hear a peep out of AC/DC from one album campaign to the next.  But in 2014 that all changed.  First were the rumours, and eventual confirmation, that Malcolm Young had been diagnosed with dementia.  When all the talk of a split were put to bed, drummer Phil Rudd found himself inhabiting the New Zealand courts, charged with attempting to procure the murder of two men, and possession of drugs.

But amidst all this, probably the majority of the planet were awaiting the release of the bands 16th album, Rock or Bust.  The follow up to the massively successful Black Ice.  With Stevie Young filling in for his uncle Malcolm, he gets the honour to strike the album's first chords.  As openers go, no one, and I mean no one does them better than AC/DC.

Beauts like Go Down, Rock n' Roll Damnation, Hells Bells and Heatseeker to name a few have all given our eardrums a sweet smack.  And this albums opener, title track, Rock or Bust, is no different.  Lyrically it's cringe worthy, but the rousing chorus, and a typical hard edged riff are vintage AC/DC.  That vibe continues on Play Ball, Brian Johnson's 67 year old pipes are still as powerful as his 1928 Bentley, and Angus Young tickling the frets of his Gibson SG with a clanking riff.

As with most of the albums in the Johnson era, they tend to lose their mojo along the way. Rock the Blues Away sounds like an Anything Goes afterthought, and Miss Adventure gives you the impression producer, Brendan O'Brien, was absent that day.  The song may be a bit of a mess, but the lyrics are reassuringly filthy.                                                                                                                                      
One of the highlights of the album, Dogs of War, struts along with incomparable ease, this gem has live favourite written all over it.  The same can be said for Got Some Rock n' Roll Thunder, though not as dynamic as the previous track, with the chorus lacking a bit of melody, it's still a big balls rocker.  The infectious blues stomp of Hard Times, will have you drumming your steering wheel instantly. Rudd and bassist Cliff Williams once again showing that they are the stitching that holds AC/DC's music together.                                                                                                                                                                

The band roll back the years on Baptism By Fire, the only track on the album where I could visualise Bon Scott singing.  It's relentless driving rhythm and Johno's nasty delivery would stand up against anything on Powerage or Highway to Hell.  The saying, good things come in small packages, more than applies on Rock the House.  Clocking in at 2 minutes & 42 seconds,  it's the shortest track on the album, but this riff loaded belter stands tall throughout.

The cheeky Sweet Candy, won't win any awards for lyrical content.  In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the lyrics were written by a pubescent schoolboy.  Nevertheless, these guys are the grandmasters of the innuendo, and this little rocker is glorious smut from start to finish. Unfortunately the album ends with a bit of a damp squib, Emission Control.  The song has early promise with Angus at his strutting best, but the chorus falls flat on it's face.

But this album has more highs than lows, at this stage in their career, AC/DC know their limitations.  Long gone are the days when they can churn out all killer albums like Back in Black. You could say they're playing it safe, but the formula is tried and tested, and for the most part it works.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Dave Meniketti
If there were awards being handed out for the unsung heroes of rock, then the name Dave Meniketti should without doubt be top of the pile.  The only remaining original member of Y&T, his talent as both guitarist and singer is nothing short of brilliance.  For two and a half hours, the man from Oakland, California gave the Dublin crowd a relentless masterclass.  A dedicated crowd of classic rockers thronged to this tiny club to witness a band celebrate 40 years of ball breaking rock.

9.15pm, Meniketti and co take to the shoe box of a stage and rip into Hurricane from the 1981 album Earthshaker, immediately laying down a statement of intent.  Black Tiger and LA Rocks swiftly follow to raise the decibel level.  The mainly age mature audience get a bit of respite as Meniketti struggles to tune his battered Gibson.  But normal service quickly resumes as Mean Streak hit the crowd firmly between the eyes. Being one of Y&T's signature tunes, everyone except the barman, fist pumped with genuine passion.

A lot of high-fives ensued when the opening chords of Midnight in Tokyo were sung.  I remember my older brother spinning this in my parents backroom 31 years ago, and it's impact still resonated with this crowd today.  I must admit, it pisses me off that generations of so called music lovers don't know this gem.  Meniketti's tuning problems continue, but it only adds to the intimate atmosphere.  While tinkering with his axe, he enlists drummer Mike Vanderhule to tell a couple of dirty jokes.

Surrender, Eyes of a Stranger and the wonderfully suggestive Contagious are played with military precision.  This is largely due to the skills of rhythm guitarist John Nymann and bassist Brad Lang.  Drummer Mike Vanderhule is no slouch either, his thunderous beats give Y&T a bruising backbone like no other.  Lonely Side of Town was a major highlight for me, not because the song strikes any particular chord with me.  The reason being, from the moment the band struck their first chord, an over exuberant fan beside me, high on hops and yeast was roaring for the song. Don't get me wrong, I loved his passion, but he was shouting for it incessantly, like a parrot on speed.
John Nymann(left) and Dave Meniketti
A rare rendition of All American Boy goes down a storm, while Summertime Girls injects a real feel good factor, with it's 80's rousing chorus.  But the real money shot was set closer I Believe in You, with both Meniketti and audience totally getting lost in the heart wrenching guitar work.  This was a perfect example of this man's sincerity, passion and astounding talent.  On returning for the encore, Meniketti reminds club management, that on arrival, no food was laid on for the road crew, and that this entitled them to break curfew,damn right.

A near breaking point crowd still sang Don't Wanna Lose and closer Forever like rock Armageddon was afoot.  This was my first time seeing Y&T live, and while I headed home having had a stonking night, an empty feeling remained.  The simple reason being, after 40 years of releasing great music, Y&T have never been truly rewarded, and have always been the bridesmaid.  Look at the likes of Ratt and Motley Crue, both great bands, but are they better than Y&T, not a fuckin' chance.  In the height of the 80's rock/metal domination, Y&T regularly tested these bands PA as a support act, yet the massive headline tours always eluded them.

But their fans have never drifted, they are one of the hardest working bands around today, their blue collar approach to their music and performance rubs off on their audience.  A great night of pure classic rock.  Long live Y&T.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

JIMMY TO GET THE "LED" OUT........and about bloody time!!

Jimmy Page 2014
1988 was a notable year for a lot of things.  The first transatlantic fibre optic cable was laid, Bruce Willis was sexing up the vest in Die Hard, Barbie was a virgin, and Michael Jackson was a whiter shade of pale.  It was also the year that one James Patrick Page released his one and only solo album, Outrider.  Quite a bizarre statistic, considering this is a man who has probably influenced 95 per cent of the worlds guitar player population.
Outrider album 1988
It is now approaching the seventh anniversary of Led Zeppelin's triumphant reunion show in London.  An extremely fortunate 20,000 people packed the O2 arena that night to witness, without doubt,the greatest reunion show of them all.  But what followed was a tidal wave of speculation as to whether the remaining surviving members, along with drummer Jason Bonham, who replaced his late father John Bonham on the night, would perform live again. With Page, John Paul Jones and Bonham, having been open to a world tour, a reluctant Robert Plant was never keen.

With the release of Plant's new album, Lullaby and..... the Ceaseless Roar, and Jones tinkering with an opera, the likelihood of a reunion are now marginally slim at best.  So what of the present activities of Mr Page. Having spent a sizable chunk of his post Zep career remastering the bands classic albums, the west London guitar god is once again now ready to unleash his genius upon us.  Now in his 70th year, the news will be greatly received by his worshippers the world over.  Having stockpiled a wealth of material over the years, Page has been cagey with his answers as to what direction his new music will take.  Our breaths are growing increasingly bated.
Zeppelin 2007 O2 Arena  London
Despite the lack of Jimmy Page headed product, he never drifted down the reclusive route.  1985 saw him team up with  Free and Bad Company front man Paul Rodgers to form The Firm.  Two well received albums were released, The Firm (1985) and Radioactive (1986).  After disbanding, Page went alone, and released his first solo album Outrider.  Teaming up with old friend Robert Plant, vocalists John Miles and Chris Farlowe and sticks man John Bonham, it featured the brilliant single Wasting My Time (sung by Miles).  The album performed well, peaking at #26 in the US Billboard Albums Chart.
Page with The Firm 1993
Coverdale/Page album 1993
Then in 1993, Page surprised the rock world by releasing an album with Robert Plant's feuding partner, David Coverdale.  No love is lost between the pair, with Plant comically referring to him as David Cover-version, and Coverdale saying "I wouldn't send him cat food if he was starving".

Nevertheless, when the acrimonious dust settled in 1994, Page and Plant reunited for MTV Unplugged, and subsequently released No Quarter:Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded.  Containing Zeppelin gems like Nobody's Fault But Mine, The Battle of Evermore and Kashmir,  it achieved platinum success in the US.  A highly successful tour followed, thus giving the guys a renewed vigour, which resulted in the recording of Walking into Clarksdale.  An album consisting of entirely new material, including Please Read The Letter, which Plant later re-recorded with Alison Krauss on the their collaborative album Raising Sand in 2007.

1999 saw Page team up with southern rockers The Black Crowes, for the double live album, Live at the Greek:Excess All Areas.  Recorded over two nights, it was basically Page and a cover band, as the majority of the tracks were Led Zeppelin classics.  But vocalist Chris Robinson, and the rest of the Crowes, performed majestically.  So much so, a co-headline, North American tour with The Who followed.  Despite Page and Zeppelin receiving a glut of accolades, things were relatively quiet on the Page front.  Until that monumental night in London in 2007.
Now with Page having finalised the remastering of iconic albums Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy, he's now ready to go it alone again.  The music world needs legends like Jimmy Page active, I personally think he and his bands work should be on every school curriculum the world over.  Zeppelin's music still continues to permanently embed an imprint on peoples lives worldwide.  I'm proud that not only me, but my two young children are awaiting Jimmy Page's next move.

Saturday, 1 November 2014


When I think of brilliant, three piece rock bands, straight away the likes of ZZ TopRushCream and Motorhead spring to mind.  These are all bands who emerged in the 60's and 70's, and, with the exception of  The Winery Dogs, nothing is really turning my head at the moment.  But having just discovered this power trio from Ohio, my luck has definitely changed.

Devilstrip's debut album Rise, incorporates melodic rock brilliantly blended with hard edged riffs.  Right from the opening track, Not What You Need, you immediately get the impression that this isn't your average weak boned trio.  This is a powerhouse of a song, played with rhythmic intent. The bass led verses of Go, quickly ascend to a bombastic chorus.  A perfect choice for a single release.

If your partial to a bit of funk driven rock, then you'll love Including Me, featuring grimacing vocals from Marc Wasmund.  Also, some throbbing drums from Jimmy Gray.  The nasty riff work on Are You Ready, compliments this melodic gem perfectly.  This is a song that is sure to take on a new life when played live.  Kill The Headlights(Roll) ups the speed of the album to an explosive pace, featuring a Steve Harris like, galloping bass line from Graig Lingren.

Opening with a delightful orgy of silky riffs, To The Enemy, is a mixed bag, integrating metal, grunge and rock elements.  The Alter Bridge like Ugly is one of the stronger tracks on the album, a brilliant melodic chorus following engaging verses.  This song delivers on every level.

The only real criticism I have of Light Up The Room, is that it just isn't as meaty as the previous tracks.  It's by no means a filler, but it doesn't get me off  my seat.  Any hint of negativity is firmly put to sleep on the haunting Love, Hate, Die.  Wasmund's vocals put a classy stamp on this arresting track.  Closing track She Said, is the nearest thing to a power ballad on the album, but it retains enough grit and macho emotion to lose that tag.

So if you love discovering new rock bands who are making music a little bit left of centre, you're not going to do much better than this.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


It's refreshing to get an album these days that's not overrun with the usual 13 or 14 tracks, and a glut of substandard bonus tracks.  So I was pleasantly surprised when Black State Highway's self titled debut album arrived at my door, containing just 8 tracks.  The saying quality over quantity without doubt applies here.

The Brighton based band introduce themselves with a riff happy blend of blues rock with a distinctive metal influence.  Lead vocalist Liva Steinberga immediately makes you sit up and take notice on opener Conclusion.  Her impressive range is more than a match for the Zeppelin-esque guitar on this groove laden rocker.  Lead off single, Ain't Got No, is more of the same and showcases  some impeccable drumming from Harry Bland.

On the atmospheric Broken, you get more than a hint of early Sabbath, with Steinberga once again excelling, especially on the chorus.  It's no coincidence that this band met at the Brighton Institute Of Modern Music, because their musical intelligence is blatantly evident here.  Guitarists Olie Trethwey and Yonnis Crampton make next track, Free, their own.  With a riff containing a healthy slice of Deep Purple's Black Night, but the distorted guitars puts their own stamp on it.

It's not just your 70's classic blues rock that's the chief influence on the album..Sacrifice leans a lot in the grunge direction, but is delivered with a hell of a lot more slickness and precision.  The raunchy Tekkers has a delicious meaty groove that is incessant throughout.  Gordon Duncan's brilliant bass line knits the whole song together perfectly.  Penultimate track, Common Man, more than tips it's hat to Southern rock with a relentless grinding riff.

Closer, Trouble, once again has Steinberga's voice dominating, which in truth is my only real criticism of this very impressive debut.  But this band are only going to get better.  Debut albums aren't meant to be perfect, but if this is just a taste of Black State Highway's talents, then I intend on tasting a lot more.