Twenty years is a long time in any business, even longer in the cut-throat business of music. Twenty years ago, record companies were mammoth beasts, MTV could make or break a band (whereas now it’s Z-list wannabes that they concentrate on), and if you were Scottish then YouTube was merely what your teacher called you. Twenty years have passed since Candlebox last toured the UK. Vocalist, Kevin Martin offers the best explanation for the delay in getting back over here…”We were a bunch of fucking idiots…”. There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Thankfully, the multi-platinum band came to their senses, and dragged their sorry arses back across the Atlantic for ten dates that had many in the audience wiping away tears of joy.
It’s an all American affair tonight, as LA based singer/songwriter Pete RG and his band open the show before handing over the reigns to the northerners from Seattle. At times RG (short for Argy, an abbreviation of his surname Argyropoulos) has me scratching my head thinking of who he reminds me of, but then photographer Dave hits the nail on the head with a comparison to Neil Diamond. The same lush, deep, soulful voice that makes you stop and pay attention. Musically, in places (‘Divine’ and ‘Reload’), I catch an almost Springsteen vibe, or maybe even Don Henley? ‘Heaven Knows’ has a great guitar tone to it… simple, effective, and catchy as hell. It’s a short set, but the band do more than enough to gain some new fans, and more importantly, have those new fans turning around and dropping some money at the merch table.
The first part of tonight’s Seattle one-two is provided by Jeff Angell’s Staticland. Music fans might recognise both Angell, and keyboardist Ben Anderson, from their time with The Walking Papers. With fellow Walking Paper, Duff McKagan, rejoining GNR, guitarist/vocalist Angell created Staticland, along with Anderson and drummer Josh Fant. The debut album was released in May 2016, and began to turn some heads. Ask me who they sound like, and I’m dumbstruck, blues-rock based, but without sounding like any blues-rock band that I’ve ever come across.
Modern, imaginative, and highly charged, Staticland are impossible to take your eyes off, largely due to Angell’s commanding presence, but also down to Fant’s powerhouse drumming and the atmospheric sound from Anderson. No traditional bass guitarist, just Anderson playing all the parts on his keyboards. It’s quite a dark set, with not much spoken communication from Angell, instead beckoning the crowd to come closer with his hands. He goes for a wander through the crowd, staring out some poor sod (me) without saying a word, just staring blankly ahead. For the good of Anglo-American relationships, let’s call it a draw, but I’m fairly certain he blinked first! ‘Freak’ is a slow-burning gem, with some passionate playing from Angell, but the highlight is the poignant ‘Let The Healing Begin’, an emotional and spiritual few minutes that lives on some time after. Another short set, but again, another one that saw money being exchanged for CDs at the stand. Dig deep folks, it’s the money dropped at the merch stand that keeps the wheels turning.
So, the moment that’s been over twenty years in the making finally arrives, and Kevin Martin leads Candlebox onto the stage, and straight into something new. ‘Vexatious’ from the ‘Disappearing In Airports’ album is a fantastic way to open the show. It’s one of many highlights on the album, and it sounds way heavier on the live stage, thanks mainly to the twin guitar fireworks. There is a guy at the front of the stage (who has also brought his kid along), and his reaction justifies every mile that Candlebox travelled to be here tonight. No matter how long a band has been around, I bet that they still get jitters when they step on to a stage. Having someone in front of them clearly having such a great time must have given Candlebox such a boost. The joy on the guy’s face would bring a tear to a glass eye, and once again, shows the effect that music has on so many of us.
Of course everyone wants to hear the hits… the tracks that perhaps everyone thought that they would never see Candlebox perform in the UK again. ‘Bitches Brewin’ is the first flashback, but it’s when ‘Change’ kicks in that people are high fiving each other and beaming… simply beaming. Martin introduces the song by saying that 1993 was “A fucked up year… actually it wasn’t that bad… unlike last week in the US…”. The song might be over 20 years old, but damn, it still has the effect of a jab to the gut, mainly due to the guitar work of Brian Quinn and the gloriously named Island Styles. This gives way to another cut from the four times platinum debut album. ‘Blossom’ is dedicated to “all the beautiful ladies who listen to Candlebox because your boyfriends told you to…”. A slow-building gem that smoulders, until the band crash in with a wall of noise, and Quinn just totally nails his solos. The debut is well represented with ‘Arrow’, ‘Cover Me’, and ‘You’… all received like returning heroes. Standout moment was arguably ‘Far Behind’, again from the eponymous debut. A heartfelt tribute to Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, which followed a few words from Martin describing how much Wood meant to him and how missed he is. Check out any of Wood’s body of work, and you’ll see how much of a tragedy his death was.
The latest album ‘Disappearing In Airports’ is a welcome return, and the set ends like it started, with a new one. ‘The Bridge’ is one of the heavier moments on the album, and this transfers to the live stage. It has real bite to it, thanks to the stellar work from the engine room team of Robin Diaz on drums and Adam Kury on bass. Again, the guitar work from Styles and Quinn is stupendous, as they unleash solo after solo, riff upon riff. Martin soaks up the applause and beats a hasty retreat, only to reappear a few moments later at the merch stand. After such a lengthy wait, we can only hope that the band don’t leave it too long for a return trip. Classic rock Sunday at Download Festival? Why not? These guys know how to work a crowd, and are no strangers to the bigger stages. If they do come back, then get yourselves down to a gig. You won’t regret it.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Dave Jamieson