Tonight, Bad Touch passed through Bristol as part of their first headline tour. I was intrigued to see how one of the elite group of always-busy, much-admired support acts seeming to constantly tour the UK would step up to the demands of a full set.
First up tonight were local lasses Flowerpot. They went on stage to a small crowd, but threw themselves straight in to an energetic and enjoyable set. Up front, vocalist Steph combines a cracking voice with real stage presence and energy. The band have had a change of personnel since I last saw them, and this new line up is still finding its feet a little. Bassist Morgan provides more theatre as she flings her hair around whilst punching in some great rhythm, and drummer Jess is more than capable of keeping her company. New guitarist Ellie is a quiet and somewhat shy presence as she rips out some classy riffs, and it is here that Flowerpot need to concentrate their efforts to move from a fun local band to one that fully realises it’s potential. The energy of Steph and Morgan needs to be backed up by the two quieter members. If they can develop a little more stagecraft, relax and have fun, Flowerpot could start to show what they are truly capable of. Take a listen to “Loser Girl” or “Bruised”, both cracking rockers that had me nodding along.
Second up was the delicious blues of Mollie Marriott. I have heard her duet with the Bad Touch guys recently, but had no idea how utterly delightful her voice was. Opening with “Run With The Hounds”, I was reminded of Fleetwood Mac at their best. Her voice is melodic and tuneful, with power to spare when she needs it. “Truth Is A Wolf” brought a little funk to the mix and, truth be told, I developed a bit of a crush, as I lost myself in those silky smooth vocals. Mollie is one of those rare singers that gives you the feeling they are singing to you personally, and it is easy to immerse yourself in her gentle smile as she controls the stage in a relaxed, engaging manner. She has a vulnerability that gives the impression she is using her set as something cathartic and a way of moving forward from past hurt, and I found myself feeling privileged to be a part of it. As the set progressed, it was easy to see why Mollie has provided backing vocals for some of the biggest names on the rock circuit (Liam Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, and Ron Wood, for example), and why Paul Weller has had a hand in her newly released album. “Broken” was given a very emotional treatment and “King Of Hearts” got more and more raw as it progressed, Mollie’s backing band really rocking it up towards the end. The set ended with possibly my favourite song of the set, “Control”. By then, Mollie’s vocals had warmed and eased, and her sound was utterly glorious as she lauded being made to stand up for what she believes in. It’s a sing-a-long, powerful, beast of a song. If you only listen to one piece of her work, I urge you to make it this one!
Finally, we were ready for Bad Touch to answer the questions. Is the breadth of their material enough and is it strong enough to take on a headline slot? Do they have the musical ability? The songwriting prowess? The “IT” factor to make the leap? They take to the stage, launch into “Take Me Away” to a raucous cheer from the suddenly much larger crowd vocalist, and Stevie Westwood takes the mic. If ever a man was born to front a rock band, it is Stevie. Hair down to his waist, waxed ‘tache, flamboyant clothing, and the ability to control a crowd, all just reinforce the range and power of his voice. “Good On Me” and “Sweet Little Secret” follow, and already the questions are being answered. Guitarist Rob Glendinning mixes some glorious slide guitar with soaring solos, and the musical ability he lends to the sound is beyond question. Backing him up, rhythm guitarist Daniel Seekings and Bassist Michael Bailey not only thicken up the sound, but also add to the stagecraft, the pair of them constantly seeking space to pose and posture, never still, and looking like they are having a great time. Behind them all, George Drewry gives his kit a controlled battering and also provides much of the backing vocals (a skill I am always slightly in awe of).
Bad Touch fly through some cracking rock songs. “Heartbreaker, Soulshaker”, “Waiting For This”, and “Wise Water” flow swiftly from the stage. Stevie introduces a new song, “I Belong”, and provides the clearest answer yet to any questions asked. It’s a glorious hint at what may be coming. His voice seems to sweeten, the guitar sound expands, the rhythm seems more mature, and I realise I have forgotten to take any pictures since it started! If the rest of the album comes even close to the sheer prowess of this one preview, it is going to be a belter! Things speed back up again with “Down” before Stevie shows real emotion with “Something Someone”. It’s a lovely soulful interlude and provides some interesting shade against the light of the rest of the set. Straight back into rock and roll with “My Mother Told Me”, a raucous sing-a-long ear worm, then on to the blues for “Take Your Time”, and a searing guitar for “Outlaw”. The set comes to a close with “The Mountain” which builds and swells to a glorious crescendo.
We all knew it was coming, but we play along and shout for more. Bad Touch wander somewhat sheepishly back, and then called Mollie Marriott back to the stage for a rabble-rousing version of “Baby Get It On”, the new single. In terms of energy, this was just sublime. Two great contrasting voices working in harmony, some great musicians with huge smiles on their faces leaning on each other, playing their hearts out, and a crowd loving every second. “99%,”, another cracking rock and roll gem, end the show for good on a high note..
As I head out to start the journey back to the shire, I think back to my initial questions. Would they have the depth of material to sustain a longer set? Undoubtedly. Could they provide the energy and theatre of a headliner? Absolutely. Do they deserve to be top of the bill on a UK tour? Utterly. If the new album comes anywhere near what we heard with “I Belong” and “Baby Get It On”, the Norfolk Rock ‘n’ Rollers could be about to make the leap to the next level, and based on tonight’s performance, deservedly so.
Review and photos – Rob Wilkins