As enjoyable as the recent Ritchie Blackmore/Rainbow gigs were, it was obvious to all that the band suffered from a lack of time together, and that playing only a handful of gigs had its pitfalls. Massive, on the other hand, have been on the road since what seems like forever, and are purring like a finely tuned Rolls Royce engine… just don’t mention the van that is transporting them, and fellow Aussies Tequila Mockingbyrd, around the country. Since they landed on these shores last winter, it’s been a never ending cycle of gigs, before heading home to get their washing done and opening for Living Colour on a short tour of Oz. After a run through mainland Europe, getting wrapped up in the G20 riots in Hamburg, the guys are back in the UK for a mixture of festival slots and headline shows… and by Christ, they are on fire.
Tequila Mockingbyrd have undergone a pretty major line-up change recently, with Louisa Baker coming in on guitar and vocals, and bassist Jacinta Jaye becoming a fully fledged TByrd. Thankfully, none of the energy and power that made them stand out in the first place has been lost in the transition. The songs still sound as larger than life, and Baker has easily slipped into the not-inconsiderable shoes of the departed Estelle Artois, so much so, that had you been unaware of the line-up change, you would think that Baker had been a member of the band for years, rather than the months that she has. Fuelled by the powerhouse drumming of Josie O’Toole, Tequila Mockingbyrd run through a blistering set that has the audience massing round the small stage. Playing an infectious brand of power punk/rock n’ roll, Tequila Mockingbyrd have an impressive arsenal of bangers in their repertoire. ‘Never Go Home’, ‘Jagerbomb’, ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’, and ‘I Smell Rock ‘N’ Roll’ are all huge and have the crowd singing along. This is a band that have made a sizeable impression on UK audiences with their music and incredible work ethic. A tough act to follow, that’s for sure.
Tonight, the band with that task are Liverpool’s Black Cat Bones, the British filling in an Aussie sandwich. Going with the classic dual guitar format that works so well within a hard rock band, Black Cat Bones are ballsy and above all, well practiced. It’s easy to see that these guys put in the hours in the rehearsal room. They feed off each other throughout the set, and give off an air of confidence that is always good to see in a young band. Frontman Jonnie Hodson is not short of a quip or two, and the combined Scouse/Aussie backstage banter must make the hair curl. Thankfully, he has the voice to go with the on stage persona. The influence of Guns N’ Roses looms large over the band, and on the week of the 30th anniversary of ‘Appetite For Destruction’, it’s amazing to see just exactly how influential that album still is. ‘Seen Better Days’ is a great opener. A steady wall of noise that builds up into a monstrous groove with more than a handful of delicious guitar licks. ‘Devil You Know’ is another standout. A guitar sound that is tailor made for some head bobbing, it’s hard to resist, so it’s better to give in and just go with it. It’s the swampy sound on ‘The River’ that takes all the plaudits though, and in a sweltering venue, it’s ideal… slow and sleazy, with some cool harmonica work from Hodson. Confident enough to go for some audience participation, the band succeed in getting the crowd singing along on a track perfect for some call and response. A strong set that ended with many turning around and heading to the merch stand to spend some coin. Just don’t call them “hair metal”, okay!
A few things become apparent within the first few minutes of Massive taking to the stage. One is that the relentless touring schedule has turned the band into a well oiled (in both senses!) machine, and the second is how much tighter the band seem with the return of Ben Laguda on lead guitar. They were good last October, but this is an entirely different ball game. They seem a faster and more cohesive unit, that’s for sure. Vocalist, guitarist, and bloody good bloke, Brad Marr tells the tale of how Laguda came to rejoin the band… “We found him lying in the street one night, so we said to him if we get you some shoes and put a guitar around your neck, do you want to tour the world?”. Touring bassist Tommy Sunset (love that name!) also plays a major part in the evening’s festivities. As soon as he took to the stage, he was off it, strolling through the crowd, bass in hand, as the band played on. After a wander and geeing the crowd up, he attempts to get back on stage, trips over the monitor, and goes arse over tit. Marr is still singing, or trying to, attempting to stifle the laughter. As soon as Sunset regains vertical status, he gets a fistbump from Marr for his trouble. Sunset is pure rock n’ roll, bass slung low like it should be, and mic stand way up high, with the mic hanging down in true Lemmy style. He’s here to party, and he has joined the band best suited to this lifestyle.
It’s a fast set played at a furious pace, culled from both 2014’s ‘Full Throttle’ album and the follow up ‘Destination Somewhere’. ‘One By One’, ‘Bring Down The City’ and ‘Hollywood’ fly by in a flash. ‘Blood Money Blues’ (drummer Jarrod Medwin steals the show on this one) has the crowd pogo-ing, and the dandruff flying, ‘Ghost’ is as poignant today as it was on the debut album, and then we have the new track ‘Calm Before The Storm’. Taken from the third album, due in 2018, it’s a snarling beast of a track, with a great guitar sound that leaves you counting down the months until album number three arrives. As the set tears towards its climax, Marr calls up both Tequila Mockingbyrd and Black Cat Bones to the stage for a massive free for all. What else can it be but ‘Highway To Hell’? Drummers take turns behind the kit. Those without a guitar pick up spare drumsticks and hammer away. Marr takes a header into the crowd and gets passed over heads before landing safely and cutting back through the crowd onto the stage. Truly a “you-had-to-be-there moment”. An incredible end to an evening of which there are not enough superlatives to describe. Massive will be back next year with album number three and a subsequent tour. Not to be missed.
Review – Dave Stott
Images – Dave Jamieson