As I arrived at JBs I realised immediately that tonight’s turn out was gonna be huge, with the amount of cars on the car park and people milling around the venue. It was clear that people from all over the UK had descended on JBs to witness quite possibly the best current Melodic Rock band do their thing. Hopefully they all understood most of our accents and got out unscathed. It was really good to see a few familiar faces about including Nick Workman (Kick / Eden) , who I got talking to about his new band VEGA with British AOR song writing geniuses Tom & James Martin. I was already really excited about these guys getting together but NOW after speaking to Nick I’m frothing at the mouth in anticipation. Apparently I had just missed a rough mix of a Vega song played over the JBs PA……Bugger…..these guys are gonna be massive next year!
I had checked out the video for THE CRAVE’s new single “High” and thought it was ok and was intrigued to hear the guys live. Talking to others I think the band have fallen foul of the dreaded over exposure curse and for those who don’t like them, they REALLY don’t like them. This was my first experience of the band and I thought they were a far more suitable support than the Metal bands Gotthard have had on with them in the past. Not Ideal in my ears, but getting there.
The guys have a very American sound, along the lines of The Calling & Lifehouse. Musically they were good for what they do although I wasn’t overly fond of the singer’s vocals. The band didn’t really have any songs that stuck out for me and I did find myself clock watching as the set wore on. Although they did seem to get a warmish reception from the audience, I just felt like they were going through the motions and their performance was a little limp, as if they just wanted to get it over and done with. They announced they would be supporting Deep Purple on their upcoming tour.
There was a real electric atmosphere and great sense of anticipation as everyone awaited GOTTHARD to hit the stage. Although the band have been going since the early 90’s I only got into the band when they released their Best of album back in 2004 and this is my 3rd time seeing them live here at JBs since then. The band has arguably released their best 3 albums of their long career in the past 5 years, “Lip Service”, “Domino Effect” & “Need to Believe”. They have really hit their stride and have managed to grow their popularity within the UK. The first time I saw them there were barely 100 people, then 600 and well tonight was even better, whilst I doubt it was a sell-out I’d say there were 800 or so in the crowd. Who would have thought that a genre dominated by American and Scandinavian bands would currently have a band from Switzerland at the forefront! These guys play football stadiums in their homeland!!!!
The band then go hell for leather through thunderous performances of “Gone to Far” and a personal favourite of mine “Top Of The World” which is so upbeat it’s unbelievable, you just can’t help but smile when you hear it. The atmosphere even so early on is incredible and the band is just proving why they are such a well loved live band. Steve Lee is a great entertaining front man and he just draws the crowd into the energy of the music even more so. The band is really tight musically and damn near faultless as all members perform as though they are playing Wembley stadium to thousands!
The band slow things down next and two stools are brought on stage and it’s just Steve Lee & Leo Leoni with an acoustic guitar. Steve then asks for suggestions from the audience, so obviously near the whole back catalogue gets shouted at the pair. What we actually get is! “Angel”, “Let It Be” and “Heaven” an immense ballad which gets a reaction which just raises the roof! The guys have great stage presence but also come across as very likeable and therefore drawing the crowd more into the party atmosphere these guys seem to be able to create so easily!
Next it was back to Rockin’ and the next set of songs build and build an insane atmosphere. It’s a well chosen set list order. “Shangri - La” comes first, which is an extremely good live song far more impressive than on record its melodies just wrapping themselves around you. Then “All We Are” from Lip service, an oldie but goodie that has a fair few hands in the air but it’s too crowded to dance ! Then another new song “I Don’t Mind” before we get highlight of the night “The Oscar Goes To” from “Domino Effect”, which just hits all the right spots for me and I could see it went down very well with others around me, I love the keyboards in that song!!! Then it all goes a little nuts as “Lift you Up” wraps up the night, with everyone jumping up and down, it’s not often you see this at a Melodic Rock gig, well not without the St. John’s ambulance brigade getting a sweat on. The band know how to leave things on high to get everyone chanting for an encore!
Personally this was my Gig of the year, it really doesn’t get much better than this. The two hour long set flew by far too quickly! It was simply a great performance from an amazing band that are currently on top of their game and showing bigger named bands just how it should be done! I highly recommend you catch these guys live - believe me you won’t be disappointed. Could we dare dream of JBs 4 tours on the trot? Personally given the turnout and atmosphere they’d be mad not to!
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