Review By Woody
Photos By Rob Stanley
Tonight’s opening act Liberty Lies were amongst one of the first bands I reviewed for Midlands Rocks and I’ve managed to see this young Black Country band a few times over the years. I remember thinking their brand of classic rock infused rock n roll showed promise they just needed a few stand out songs to really make it. The band has evolved over the years and become a solid live act with their constant touring and live performances. Admittedly this is this first time I have seen them live with the current line-up with new guitarist Matt Nickless and Bassist Adam Howell and if I’m honest I barely recognised them as they took to the stage.
Although the band had continued to evolve steadily tonight it felt like I was watching a totally new band in many ways! Gone are the Classic Rock and Led Zep influences that once drew me to the band, they now have a more contemporary sound which could be likened to bands like Shinedown. If I’m honest the musical direction the band has gone in has lost me anyone who knows me knows I detest Shinedown with a vicious passion. That said I was left slacked jawed at the five piece as a live act, energetic and powerful and all the live experience has made them a very slick live act. Liberty Lies are very much heavier now but the few changes the band has made seems to have pushed them naturally into a direction that suits them far more than the retro-vibe their earlier material showed.
Sadly Vocalist Shaun Richard’s seems to have lost his prominent Black Country accent but he’s lost none of the power in his voice or his enthusiasm as a front man. I’ve always enjoyed Josh Pritchett’s guitar work and stage performances and tonight he seemed very much in his element and the heavier material saw him let rip through-out the bands short set. The new guys also seem a perfect fit and definitely push the band in a direction which should see them break out of the local scene!
Now it’s time for major fan boy time for me as tonight’s main support is Black Country AOR heroes Dante Fox! I’ve been a big fan of this female fronted rock act since purchasing their debut album ‘Under Suspicion’ back in the mid ‘90’s. The band have just released a mini-album entitled Lost Man’s Ground and have been plugging away on the live front in recent months including a slot supporting the mighty Night Ranger down in London! Tonight see’s the Fox introduce a heavier clutch of songs into their set-list in preparation for their upcoming performance at Hard Rock Hell!
I haven’t seen the Fox live for a few years now so I’m overjoyed this support slot popped up so I could get another opportunity to sample their AOR goodies live! I’m also witnessing the current Fox line-up for the first time tonight too which see’s Pete Lakin on Keyboard’s, Andy Perfect on Drums and local bass man Al Mills (Eden) joining the core Dante Fox writing partnership of Black Country duo guitarist Tim Manford and Vocalist Sue Willets.
They delivered a fantastic half hour set, which was warmly lapped up by those who had come to see them tonight. The band as a whole was really relaxed and everyone seemed to be really enjoying their time on stage and it showed in a near faultless performance. Tim obviously loves the heavier material and it allows him to be more expressive on stage. The Fox came across really well and although the Slade Rooms isn’t the most ideal venue for melodic acts the sound was good enough for the band to showcase their intensely melodic brand of rock n roll!
Sue has always been a consistently strong live performer vocally and any fan of the band will never dispute that Sue always delivers in that department, and tonight’s no exception in fact bar a few minor boo boo’s in the first song I’d actually argue this was the best I’ve ever seen and heard Sue! I think some of this was down to how relaxed and at ease she was on stage tonight, sometimes in the past Sue has come across as quite shy and quiet on stage but tonight she was jovial and charming. I’ll probably be biased and say it’s cause it was a hometown show for her and therefore there was less pressure, but whatever the reason it was great to see Sue smiling and mucking about on stage.
Even when her mic packed up she made light of it and I had forgotten how strong Sue’s Dudley accent is and it’s always great to hear a REAL accent from stage! My one gripe would be that when Sue was telling us about the bad day she’d been having she mentioned that she’d brought a new dress that was too low cut.....errr....there’s no such thing as too low!
Sue has a really evocative and emotion drenched voice and vocal style and it was a real pleasure to witness her performance tonight, she may not bounce round the stage like a kid with ADD who’s just discovered a six pack of red bull, but her stage presence draws you to her and she conveys so much passion through her eyes as she is singing!
The Fox opened with the powerful rock punch of ‘Lucky Ones’ and ‘Breaking me Down’. New song ‘Who Stole The Innocence’ came across stunningly well combining the heavier rock stance of recent Fox songs with their out and out AOR roots. Of course it was the AOR joy of ‘Firing My Heart’ which drew a smile to my face but it was the heart stopping performance of ‘I Can’t Sleep’ which really stole the show for me, the band seemed to go into overdrive on this track with Sue going all out and totally immersing herself in the song and her passionate rendition of the song was really jaw dropping, the best five minutes of the entire night for me!
They finished with the song they always finish with a cover of Stevie Lange’s ‘Remember My Name’ and it was a powerful way to end the set, I have to admit it’s never been my favourite song of theirs but tonight it just felt right and a perfect way to say goodnight! It was great to have The Fox back in the Black Country here’s hoping it isn’t too long before they return again!
I saw Swedish funk rockers Electric Boys support Thunder a few years back at Wolvo Civic Hall and to be blunt thought they were absolutely abysmal that night! I thought I’d give the band another go when I saw they were coming back to the Black Country after all the recent reports of how good the band were at the moment on the live circuit. It was like a polar opposite to my previous Electric Boys gig, the band were on fire and I think the band’s sound lends itself better to a small club atmosphere than big arena’s and halls.
Unlike so many bands who lose or replace members over the years the Electric Boys line-up gracing the Slade Rooms stage is all the originals – Conny Bloom on Vocals, Franco Santunione on Guitar, Andy Christell on Bass and Drummer Niclas Sigevall.
They delivered a full on no holds barred rock n roll show without taking too much time to breath in between songs which added to pump up the atmosphere of tonight’s rambunctious performance. Tonight’s attendance wasn’t going to break any records, but the fans made their voices heard and when asked to sing along they did so with gusto! There’s a really great sweaty atmosphere tonight reminiscent of many nights spent in JB’s Dudley over the years!
I’m sure all the Electric Boys fans went home with huge grins after the band gave us 90 minutes jam packed with groove and energy, with highlights like ‘Groovus Maximus’, ‘Knee Deep In You’ and encore ‘Lips & Hips’ really standing out tonight. The band as a whole threw themselves into the performance and Conny Bloom is an impressive front man reveling in the spotlight. My only minor problem with tonight’s performance was they tended to drift off into mini jam sessions on occasion which just flew over my head, I think you have to be a musician to truly appreciate this style of impromptu musicianship.
All in all a pretty good night of varying musical style’s wrapped up in a fantastic laid back and enjoyable atmosphere. We shall not talk about my fat ass breaking the lift *Cough*...
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