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Airrace @ The River Rooms, Stourbridge (6/8/09)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 13:35 by Paul Woodward

The Rock Café 2000 in Stourbridge has been refurbished and renamed The River Rooms & I bet it cost a small fortune ‘cause I hardly recognised the place! Obviously with everything been brand spanking new it looked really posh - I had to fight the temptation to ask the bar staff if I was still in the Black Country or whether Stourbridge had defected to Worcestershire! Thankfully a few local accents were about which reminded me I was in still in Dudley, so I could breathe a sigh of relief!

Rockstar

Not the obvious choice for a support band, I would have thought, but Rockstar have an extremely good reputation as one the best tribute bands in the country. I’ve meant to catch these guys live for a good while as everyone says how entertaining they are; tonight gave me a good chance to have a taste of Rockstar! I was expecting a tight, short set compromising some of the most well known rock songs of the 80’s. The band actually played a set just short of an hour and also threw in original Rockstar material.

I have to give the band major kudos on using this opportunity to air some of their own songs; it would have been far easier just to have stuck to the covers as you never know how your own songs will come across to a crowd unfamiliar to them. They kicked of their set with 3 of their own songs “Pack Of Dogs”, “Towers Of Babylon” & “Reunite”. The songs were far heavier than I was expecting - 80’s style metal but with an even harder heavier style, more akin to more modern metal acts. They are a band that could have a wide appeal & could please both young and older metal fans. Personally a little heavier than what I normally listen too, but I was impressed by “Reunite” which was probably the most melodic of their songs but without relinquishing its ‘heavy as hell’ stance.

The rest of the set consisted of covers, and it was plain to see why these guys have such a good reputation and play as often as they do on the local scene. The rest of the set-list consisted of, WASP “Wild Child”, Whitesnake - “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, Whitesnake “Give Me All Your Love”, Tyketto - “Forever Young” , Bon Jovi “In & Out Of Love” , Skid Row “Youth Gone Wild”, Poison “Nothing But A Good Time” & Billy Idol “Rebel Yell”.

I noticed after the set, people were frantically messing with the River Rooms PA, I think Rockstar may have blown the speakers - a thing I’m sure the band would be very proud of!

Airrace

Airrace released one album way back in 1984 “Shaft Of Light”, considered by some AOR connoisseur’s as a classic. They managed to get on a few high profile tours including Queen & Def Leppard back in the day. They are probably well known for having Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, as their drummer. Jason also went on to drum for the rather excellent Chris Ousey (Heartland) fronted VirginiaWolf. My attention has only recently been drawn to the cult AOR rockers & whilst I think their one and only album is a great slice of British AOR, I don’t think it’s a classic as there is a few songs on there that leave me wanting.

Unfortunately tonight Jason Bonham couldn’t be here due to a family emergency in America and also Toby Sadler , keyboards, was unable to make it. They drafted in two very competent replacements Simon Dawson on drums and unfortunately I didn’t catch the keyboardists full name all I caught was Chris and he’s from Cannock (which brought a few cheers from a local crowd!). Given that the band has been AWOL for the past 25 years I was expecting the band to be a little weary and quiet on stage, but it hasn’t taken them long to get back in the swing of things with a few headline gigs and a handful of shows with Thunder before tonight. The band were well up for a good performance , one thing that hit me was all the band were wearing smiles from ear to ear they were obviously really enjoying themselves and they put all that excitement into their performance!

The crowd were a little bit shy at first but as the band hit the stage, Laurie Mansworth encouraged everyone to come down the front (of course I was already there!) as they kicked off with “Caught In the Game”. It didn’t take long for the band to warm the crowd up with Keith Murrell getting the crowd to clap and wave along throughout the night.


What surprised me tonight was it was the songs that I don’t really like from their album that grabbed me by the throat and slapped me about, like “Not Really Me” & “Open Your Eyes” which really came to life in a live setting - becoming really ballsy rockers.

Keith Murrell’s vocals were faultless throughout the set, I was really impressed with Laurie Mansworth’s guitar work, which was far more impressive than on CD especially during the solo’s. The only downside I would say to the sound was the keyboards seemed a little low in the mix and I would have preferred them to be more upfront.

Of course I really enjoyed the songs I like from their album, which also went down well with an increasingly appreciative audience, the infectious “First One Over The Line”, “All I’m Asking”, the epic “Brief Encounter” and encore “I Don’t Care”. They started “Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya” slightly differently than on the album with a slow ballad intro-section before kickin’ into the song all guns blazin’. This, along with the Brian May approved, “Promise To Call” went down particularly well with the increasingly vocal crowd!

Tonight we got four new old songs (as Keith called them!), which were due to be on the second album way back when. If these songs do not end up on the band’s new album, they will hopefully end up as bonus tracks on the upcoming Rock Candy re-master of “Shaft Of Light” - it would be a crying shame if these songs never see the light of day. I was really impressed with these songs, although Shaft Of Light has a very in your face British feel, the new songs have a more guitar orientated sound and stylistically put me in mind of a lot of American AOR bands of the mid 80’s. We got “Wrong Way Out” , the survivor-esque “So Long Coming” , “One Step Ahead” with its guitar solo intro which Laurie obviously had a whale of a time playing and was really impressive. The song that impressed me the most was “Keep On Going”, which was pure- Journey at their best - Total AOR ear Candy!

Over the course of the night the crowd got louder and more involved. Was it the beer as I wasn’t the only one indulging in some Mom & Dad dancing! When did we stop being cool, hey? After the encore it seemed to get louder still and the band re-emerged for a second time which Keith apologised about stating we had caught the band with their pants down, so they treated us to a repeat of “Promise To Call” before calling it a night. Both Keith and Laurie thanked the crowd profusely for coming out, making themselves heard and having a good time!

The entire band seemed to enjoy the performance, with all of them exchanging smiles and laughs throughout – not forgetting Dean Howard (guitar) & David Boyce (bass). Performance wise, they were tight and it was as if the band had never been away, all the band made the most of the space on stage especially Laurie who gave a virtuoso performance on lead guitar. Hopefully the band will take this excitement and energy from these recent shows, get another album out and get back on the road! I’ll be there!


Woody
for Midlands Rocks

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