Another gig, another multi band line-up, another early doors, and sadly another band taking to the stage with a handful of people in attendance. This time H.E.A.T were in town, along with fellow Swedes Degreed, and Swiss rockers Black Diamonds.
Through the TV monitor at the top of the stairs leading into the venue, Black Diamonds can actually be seen standing on stage waiting for people to come in. After the most thorough of searches ever… and I mean thorough, as in the only thing missing was a request to “turn your head to the side and cough”… we finally got in, and there were five people there to catch the opening track, which rather ironically is ‘We Want To Party’. The band do seem a little thrown off by this, but by the time they end their second song, ‘Judgement Day’, the crowd has got a little larger. Playing an infectious brand of glam rock n’ roll mixed with AOR (more Hanoi Rocks and Hardcore Superstar than Poison), the four piece are big on hooks and melodies. As skilful and enjoyable as the guitar work from vocalist/ guitarist Mich and his six string brother Dee is, it’s when the band (including drummer Manu) all pile into the chorus that they truly shine. ‘I’ll Be OK’ begins with some straightforward riffs, but takes on an extra dimension when the gang vocals kick in on the chorus. Other highlights are when bassist Andi Barrels took over lead vocal duties on ‘Thrillride’ adding a bit of a punk snarl to the evening, and the sheer fun that ‘Vampires Of The Night’ brings. Black Diamonds finished their short set to considerably more people than who witnessed the beginning of an enjoyable set.
Either the searches stopped, or Tim Horton’s ran out of doughnuts next door, but by the time that Degreed took to the stage, the venue had filled up rather nicely. The four piece from Stockholm do not sound like they look. A quick glance at vocalist/ bassist Robin Ericsson and guitarist Daniel Johansson and you could have been forgiven for expecting some sort of Mastodon and In Flames mash up. Big lads for sure, and the drum-heavy intro from Mats Ericsson on ‘Black Cat’ might also have thrown you off the melodic rock scent. With the keyboards of Micke Jansson so high up in the mix, there is really no doubt what would follow, modern melodic rock, par excellence. Even when the pounding drums signalled the introduction of ‘Sugar’, you know that the keyboards and gorgeous hooks won’t be too far behind. Ericsson and Johansson might be big lads but they both love a good melody, and deliver plenty. ‘Captured By The Moment’, ‘Shakedown’ and ‘The Scam’ are all perfect slices of AOR/melodic rock… but with big bloody riffs. Copious amounts of drinking on stage, and lots of shouts of “Skål!” from the band… and they weren’t in fact endorsed by the weak-assed lager with a similar name.
One song was all it took for H.E.A.T to prove the naysayers wrong. Within the first few bars of opening track ‘Bastard Of Society’, any doubts that the band took a step in the wrong direction on new album ‘Into The Great Unknown’ were quickly blown out of the water. The perfect show opener, live-wire vocalist Eric Gronwall has obviously stepped on some lego barefoot on the way to the stage, as he is a man possessed. Whenever School Of Rock reconvenes, they will have a term on this guy, an electric, engaging and joyful frontman who was born to do this. At times it’s impossible to take your eyes off him, but when you do, you realise that the four other band members are no slouches either. As everyone knows, Dave Dalone is back on guitar after a few years walkabout, and damn, he makes it look easy. H.E.A.T ever-presents – bassist Jimmy Jay, the lovingly named Crash on drums, and crucial keyboard player Jona Tee, are old hands at this, and gel together impeccably. The set is expansive, and the impending curfew is treated with the disdain it deserves. On that note, bands survive on the road through sales of merchandise, so when the merch desk is forced to close at 9pm as the venue don’t want anyone hanging around, then surely that is robbing the bands of food and petrol money? I fully understand that the venue has a club night and needs to get that open, but in a multi-floor venue, surely a compromise can be reached? I easily digress. Back to the set list…
It’s an expansive mix of pre-Gronwall material like ‘Late Night Lady’, ‘Straight For Your Heart’ and ‘Beg Beg Beg’, coupled with lashings of fans favourites from his era. ‘Mannequin Show’ is as magical live as it is on the bonafide classic album ‘Tearing Down The Walls’. The same album spits out the bangers ‘Emergency’, ‘Inferno’, ‘Point Of No Return’ and the foot-stomping ‘A Shot Of Redemption’, the latter making the audience bounce like their lives depended on it. From the much discussed current album H.E.A.T. air ‘Redefined’ (much heavier live), the title track, ‘‘Eye Of The Storm’ and ‘We Rule’, which leads into a massive version of ‘Time On Our Side’. Watching the crowd reaction to each of the new tracks, my mind wanders back to the grief H.E.A.T got from keyboard warriors when they were first released. Christ, how wrong were they? As the evening progresses, Gronwall gets even more animated, from spending time standing on the barrier, to crowd surfing from the stage to the bar at the back of the hall, he is everywhere. When he finally gets to the bar to begin ‘Beg Beg Beg’, he quickly pays tribute to yet another fallen hero, by leading the band into a storming version of ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’. A very emotional moment. Another one played out during the intro to ‘In And Out Of Trouble’. Gronwall points out a fan on the barrier, he takes time to mention that Lee has been a champion of the band for years, and then tells him to come up on stage to take a bow. Oh, and bring your girlfriend as well. Gronwall hands the guy his mic, and he only bloody gets down on one knee and proposes to his girlfriend! She says yes by the way. H.E.A.T. then start up the song with Gronwall, and the soon to be Mr & Mrs Lee jumping up and down singing the song very loudly! If ever a lesson was to be learned in interacting with your fan base, then Gronwall and H.E.A.T provide it time after time. After what seemed like the shortest ninety minutes ever, the band take their bows, the house lights come on, and I’m off to see if Tim Horton’s have re-stocked yet. Genuinely, miss H.E.A.T at your peril.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Callum Scott