Changing from last year’s triple treat to a more straightforward co-headliner double bill, this year’s Planet Rock Roadstars tour allowed both bands on the bill the luxury of an extended set. Both Bad Touch and Broken Witt Rebels have spent a fair bit of time on the road recently, opening for other bands. The Roadstars tour gives them the opportunity to stretch out and play for a good bit longer than usual, and in doing so, finish the evening with some new fans tucked away in their back pockets.
Broken Witt Rebels opened tonight’s show, and it’s instantly obvious how much the band have learned from being out on the road with the likes of King King, Whiskey Myers, and Joanne Shaw Taylor. Very comfortable on stage, the brummies are aware of the head of steam that they are building up. Confident, without being cocky, possessing lashings of swagger. With three EP’s under their belts, Broken Witt Rebels are well equipped in making the leap in set length. Current EP ‘Georgia Pine’ was like a breath of fresh air when it was released last year, 5 tracks of soul-drenched, bluesy rock. The EP opens with ‘Low’, which also opened the set, a slow burning peach of a song, that perfectly showcases the vocal talents of Danny Core, the voice that launched a thousand comparisons to Caleb Followill. Not a bad comparison to make, and not too far off the mark. The lead guitar work from James Tranter is incredible to watch. Without being too flash or overplaying, he makes for compulsive viewing.
As good as the ‘Georgia Pine’ EP is, the songs are way more powerful live, taking on legs and fleshing out, like songs are supposed to. ‘Getaway Man’ is a highlight of the EP, and watching Core pour his heart out during it, the first thought that springs to mind is… America would love these guys. Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Rival Sons, and Broken Witt Rebels. The second thought is, holy shit James Tranter can make his guitar sing! Quiet and unassuming on stage, his guitar speaks for him… and it speaks volumes. ‘Turn Me On’ is slower, but just as powerful. This one is all about Core’s vocals, emotional and capable of bringing a tear to the eye. Of the new songs aired, ‘Bang Bang’ impresses the most. Heavier, with a Rival Sons vibe that benefits from some stellar work from the engine room team of James Dudley and Luke Davis. The set closes with ‘Guns’, an arena-filling anthem, if ever I’ve heard one. Considering that Broken Witt Rebels won ‘Best Rock Act’ at the Unsigned Music Awards, it’s baffling why mainstream radio haven’t picked up on them. Good looking guys, nice facial hair, cracking songs… the perfect package, really.
Norfolk’s finest, Bad Touch, close the show, and like Broken Witt Rebels before them, they quickly show how beneficial recent support slots have been. As if to prove a point, once this tour wraps up, in London on April 8th, Bad Touch have a few weeks to catch up on their washing before heading back out on the road with King King, followed by a few dates with Dan Baird… Bad Touch are very much in demand. With sophomore album ‘Truth Be Told’ arriving late last year, this tour has provided the band with the perfect opportunity to spread the word. “Oldie”, ‘Good On Me’ opens up the show with some good old fashioned Rolling Stones inspired honky tonk rock n’ roll. This leads into ‘Heartbreaker Soulshaker’, which changes the dynamics up a tad by getting all groovy. The guitar interplay between new lead guitarist Harry Slater and fellow six stringer, Seeks, is amazing to watch. The playing compliments each others’, which is especially impressive as they’ve only been playing together a short while. Slater particularly impresses with some nifty slide work on ‘Wise Water’, another gem from the early days of Bad Touch. It’s good time blues rock that will never go out of fashion. No matter how many times it get’s knocked down, it will always get back up… played this well does help, mind you.
Slater might look incredibly young, but his playing is intense, and emotional. If you’re good enough, then you’re old enough, simple really. The Black Crowes can be identified as one of the bands that gave blues rock a much needed shot of adrenaline, and there is a nice homage to them when ‘My Mother Told Me’ runs into ‘Hard To Handle’. Yes, ‘Hard To Handle’ is a cover, but Chris and Rich Robinson did help to get it back into the spotlight where it belongs. Seeks helps out on vocals throughout the first part of the mash up, and with his mass of hair and Gibson slung low, he looks every inch the guitar god. Crucial to Bad Touch’s overall sound in many ways, his output is massive. It would also be churlish to ignore the stellar work that the rhythm section of bassist Michael Bailey and drummer George Drewry bring to the party. Before long, the set turns in to the home straight, and vocalist Stevie Westwood introduces ‘99%’. Westwood was born to be on the stage. Possessing a warm and welcoming manner, he has a “classic” British rock voice. It’s hard to imagine him doing anything but this. Two young British bands, two different styles, the same result – a damn good time. The tour hits Birmingham on April 7th before ending in London on April 8th. For the price of a few rounds, get your arse along and shake off them dancing shoes. You’ll certainly need them.
Credits – Becky O’Grady