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Bonfire @ JB's Dudley (20/9/09)

posted 25 Jul 2011, 13:42 by Paul Woodward

First up tonight is Sacred Heart, a small British AOR band, who have their third album out this autumn, called “Darkness Falls”. As the band take to the stage, I notice only Paul Stead (Vocals) & Mark Stephenson (Guitar) are present, Paul quickly apologises profusely for the absence of the bands rhythm section who had broken down in Bournemouth! So the band attempts to play a set, purely with an acoustic guitar & an electric guitar only. Risky move and it could go oh so badly……maybe a full on acoustic set would be a better idea, well that was my initial thought. Paul & Mark pulled it out the bag though and played an excellent set, and went down amazingly well with the audience; it shows the talent within the band and the quality of the songs that it could work so well!

They kicked off with “Lay It on The Line” from their debut demo’s album, which very quickly showed the band could give the songs justice even in a stripped down format. They then kick into two songs from second album “Shake”, “Tonight” & the title track. Whilst I was disappointed with the second album after all the promise shown with their debut album, both the songs work well and seem to keep the cheers coming from an increasingly impressed audience.
But it’s the new songs where Sacred Heart finally blows everyone away as they finish their set with 4 new songs. Having heard a few songs from the new album, I already know that the band have recorded their best stuff to date and are finally fulfilling their initial promise. I have no doubt that “Darkness Falls” will win the band a whole new set of fans!

“Top of the Class” is the first new song delivered and is already a personal favourite of mine as in your face AOR tune with a killer chorus, which showcases Paul’s excellent smooth vocals. Next up is the slightly harder edged “On My Way” & “Best in Me” which garner the band a great response from the crowd. They finish the set with “Music Man” their tribute to err….Music…!

A great band whom I hope to see again soon, check them out @
and save your penny’s for the new album it’s gonna be a killer modern British AOR album.

Surprisingly this is my first review for Midlands Rocks at my favourite venue JB’s which always pulls an enthusiastic crowd and creates great atmospheres. Some of the best gigs I’ve ever been to have been inside the hallowed walls of JB’s. So I always look forward to seeing bands there! Hopefully tonight will be in keeping with the usual high standards!

Bonfire have been going for over 23 years and whilst the highlights of their career probably reside with their early work during the 80’s and early 90’s, they have continued to keep release quality albums. Bonfire were never the biggest band back in the day, but due to their infectious melodies and energy packed rockers, they remain one of the best & most popular Melodic Rock bands going. As time starts ticking on before Bonfire take to the stage I start to worry that tonight’s set may be a short one, thankfully I was wrong and they deliver a near 2 hour set!

They kick off with the rabble rousing “Bells of Freedom”, from their latest album “The Rauber” which is part of a stage musical the band have created and tour around theatres in their homeland of Germany. Don’t believe me? Remember Google is your friend!

Claus Lessman, Bonfire vocalist, likes to talk in between songs (maybe that’s a bit of an understatement!). Whether it is a story or just to share some humour with the crowd, it created great interaction between the audience and the band. The way the night went, if you weren’t cheering or singing-along, then you were certainly laughing! Claus mentions that the band haven’t played live much in the UK in recent years, and that hopefully it will not be too long before their back in Dudley which got a huge chorus of approval from the JB’s crowd, including some extremely vigorous clapping and head nodding from myself! Claus also creates some light hearted banter about his English and how in Germany they learn the Queen’s English, where as in his experience its very different to how most people in England speak. With the help of an audience member Claus learns the best way to speak like the royal family is to add please to your requests… so later in the set we get a “please fucking show me your hands!!!” Claus also causes some laughter as he tries to do the Dudley accent, and fails miserably, so he asks the crowd to help him out and they duly assist with a call of “Dudley”!

The band obviously enjoys playing live and makes full use of the stage and dance the night away as they share smiles and nods. The band manages to create a high energy set and put on an extremely exciting performance. I have to say the set list was well chosen and kept the night rockin’. It also helped that the band were obviously on form and the sound at JB’s was spot on for them!

So we then got “But We Still Rock”, “Never Mind”, “Hot to Rock”, “Don’t Touch the Light” blasted at us. Next up was “Under Blue Skies” from the Strike X album, a song which I’m not fussed about on CD but LIVE the song explodes with its full on swagger and fist punching chorus, and is definitely one of the highlights of an already amazing performance. They quickly follow this up with “Tony’s Roulette” which gets an insane reaction from the fans, as one of my favourite Bonfire songs I’m glad it got aired and also thoroughly enjoyed it as the night seemed to go from strength to strength.

Claus gave us a quick introduction to “Proud of My Country” and it’s meaning to the band, perhaps the only serious moment within the evening’s entertainment! Next was my highlight, or at least so far that is, the Kiss/Desmond Child written “Sword & Stone” which Bonfire did for a film soundtrack - Wes Craven’s Shocker - back in the day. Claus treats us the story behind the song involving a rather disturbing confession of his love of Miss Marple and actress Margret Rutherford!!! They delivered the song with a powerhouse performance from Hans Ziller (guitars), while Uwe Kohler on bass swaggered around the stage. It has that HUGE chorus that hits us all right in the face and had the crowd singing along as loud as they could!

The band takes a quick break and leave us with a tub thumping drum solo from Dominik Hulshorst. They burst back on stage with “American Nights” before delivering one of their biggest hits and well loved songs “Sweet Obsession”, which the crowd lap up and sing along to the infectious chorus. Claus also treats us to a quick adlib in the lyrics stating “Take me to the fire, DUDLEY” before he decides to jump into the crowd and shake hands with as many people as he can! They keep the night on a high with “Ready 4 Reaction” as the set closer, keeping everyone bouncing and singing.

They return for the encore with the only ballad of the night “You make me feel” and as guitarist Chris Limburg quickly tries to tune his acoustic guitar; we are treated to more of Claus’s humour as he takes the mick out of Chris dubbing him “The Artist”. A couple of fans in the crowd take this opportunity to break out the sparklers and wave them along to the song. With the smell of burning and flames in the hands of people who may have had a wee bit of a drinky poo’s, I do have to admit to checking for my nearest fire exit! Haha! We then quickly got “SDI” and the hook ridden sing-along of “Bang Down The Door” which I mistakenly think is the end of the night, cause the band come bounding back on the stage to huge cheers and whoops to finish the night with another of the bands biggest hits the killer “Hard On Me” which see’s the audience go nuts!

Without a doubt I have to say this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to this year. Everything just seemed right - the set list, the sound, the atmosphere and the band played a blinder. There may have only been a small turnout, I believe around 100, but you would have thought there was a thousand in the house the noise they made throughout the entire night! Another fantastic gig at the excellent JB’s, a venue which I think suited the band and its audience; hopefully they’ll be back again soon!

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