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Hardline @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton – 23rd May 2017

posted 10 Aug 2017, 15:45 by Paul Woodward

Review by Woody

Rapidly rising local AOR rockers Iconic Eye have been doing their best to make a dribbling fan boy of me in recent times. It is also clear I’m not the only who has taken a renewed interest in the band since the arrival of vocalist Janey Gillard and guitarist Robin Mitchard, as the band have grown their fanbase exponentially in the past six months. There was plenty of Iconic Eye T-shirts in the crowd, with lots of positive and excited talk regarding the band and a nice gathering in front of the stage awaiting their set!

The band have undergone quite a few band changes since the band first came to my attention but the current line-up has really struck a chord with fans and reinvigorated and increased the impact of principal song writer Greg Dean’s songs. Standing in on bass this night was Dale Tonks following the recent sad passing of original bassist Gary Slater (R.I.P).

The current set list selection of songs are all ones come from the band’s debut album and it’s amazing how a few changes in personnel can radically change the impact of a song. Although the album was critically acclaimed upon its release, most AOR fans were a little underwhelmed at the time and left unfussed following luke warm live performances. The songs haven’t been altered or certainly not in a dramatic fashion, so the songs were all loving now are the same – it seems Dean just needed the right musicians to deliver his songs to us.

Iconic Eye have taken on a brasher, slightly harder edged sound which is charged forward by lead guitarist Robin Mitchard. For me though one of the biggest impacts has been Janey Gillard and her vocal delivery, previously I found the vocals quite dispassionate and whilst delivered perfectly they never really touched me. Janey on the other hand delivers these melodies and lyrics with emotion and sincerity and that hits me hard and envelops me in the songs. That emotive connection has always been important to me when it comes to music, to believe the singer feels those words as much as you do – especially on songs which I relate and connect with, and well Janey does this effortlessly.

Iconic Eye got a decent set length to showcase themselves to an ideal melodic rock crowd and there was already a very healthy turn out ready and waiting for them. The band as whole perform with a lot of confidence, Greg Dean far more at ease than I’ve seen in the past obviously loving his time on stage. Guitarist Mitchard is a born performer who exudes rock n roll rambunctiousness in his energetic stage performance. Janey not only has a killer evocative vocal style she also entertains and dances around and interacts with the audience, her stage presence is really natural and you can imagine her dancing around just like this in the comfort of her own home and that actually accentuates the impact of her performance because it doesn’t feel forced or staged.

It was great to hear the crowd tonight embrace and enjoy them, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who the band have won around in recent times. This was highlighted during ‘I Can Feel It’ which opened with the impactful Keyboard intro and Janey had asked the crowd to sing along beforehand so come the final chorus when Janey asks the crowd to sing the chorus her smile and genuine shock at just how loud the crowd was really pleasing and I’m sure the band really got a thrill from knowing how much these songs and performance were been enjoyed.

Tonight’s highlight for me was a passionately delivered ‘You Knew’ which really struck me amongst this set and the chorus melody and in particular Janey’s emotive vocal delivery of it really stuck with me. The only song which has seen any change is ‘Better Place’ which Janey sing’s in a slightly higher key, which I think actually makes the song a little less dark and more enjoyable.

Like I said previously, these songs have been given a new lease of life and the likes of ‘Now I’ve Found Love’, ‘You Make It’, ‘All She Needed’ and ‘Don’t Stop Me From Leaving’ have all become real crowd pleasers. They finished with a cover of Jefferson Starship classic ‘Jane’, which I’m pretty sure is going to become a set list stalwart or at least I hope so!

Iconic Eye didn’t get the best of the sound tonight, which is unusual for The Robin, but the band still came across really well and are really making a mark on every audience they play to. Judging by tonight’s crowd’s vocal response I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one biting at the bit to see them live again!

I was shocked and delighted when legendary melodic rockers Hardline announced this exclusive headline show at my favourite venue! Although the current line-up only features one original band member in vocalist Johnny Gioeli, it was still a dream come true to have the opportunity to see this band and hear lots of songs from their epic debut album Double Eclipse. Although the line-up is different nowadays there is still class in the band with Josh Ramos on guitars and one of the hardest working men in the melodic rocks scene Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards.

Although I know many in the crowd have seen Hardline live before – either back in the day or more recently at Firefest or The Gods Festival, for me this was my first time witnessing this highly regarded cult melodic rock band and I was highly excitable about it! It was also really heart-warming to see such a large turn out on a Tuesday night – near sell out in my estimation!

No one who was at this show will have walked away without a huge smile on their face as Hardline delivered a masterclass in melodic rock to a hungry and boisterous crowd of melodic rock die-hards! As I’ve stated plenty of times in the past the sound set up at the Robin is perfect for melodic rock and AOR acts and Hardline were able to deliver a flawless set which sounded amazing, crystal clear and stunningly impressive.

The set leaned heavily towards the debut album Double Eclipse but they did mix in a few newer tracks which flowed along in the set naturally and maintained an engaging and electric atmosphere! The crowd were vocal and sang along to every song – it made me have flash backs to my JB’s days! A great atmosphere can take a good performance and take it to another level of enjoyment and also leave stronger memories of a show and that is exactly how it felt this night!

Although the groove of the rocking ‘Dr Love’, ‘Takin’ Me Down and ‘Life’s A Bitch’ got heads bobbing and fists pumping it was the one two punches of ‘Everything’ and ‘Hot Cherie’ that really took the roof off the Robin! Betwixt the near perfect performance from the band and the crowds loud and boisterous reactions it made for an extremely memorable highlight in what was an overall stunning show. Both those iconic songs were ones I never ever thought I’d ever see live and ‘Everything’ in particular which has special meaning to me was extremely emotional and it was brilliant to hear done so well and amongst such a great crowd who created an amazing atmosphere for me to be a part of!

Gioeli has simply one of the best voices in melodic rock, powerful and emotive and extremely stirring and damn was he on form tonight! He delivered every song with conviction and the voice he is so famous for came across majestically in this venue and he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. He not only commanded the stage with the performance of a confident rocker straight out the genre’s heyday but he got every last bit of cheer, singing and dancing squeezed out of this crowd with consummate ease! It was amazing to see this amazing vocalist in the flesh and knocking it out of the park with his stunning performance.

I had fully expected ‘Hot Cherie’ to be the set closer, but instead we got ‘Rhythm from A Red Car’ which was just as good and finished the show on a massive rock n roll high! The set flew by far too quickly, which is always a sign of a great night but it’s hard to not want to hear more after such an amazing performance!

The band as a whole were great and highly entertaining – As is the way at The Robin the Keyboards were at the front of stage and Del Vecchio’s keys were well balanced in the mix (as is the way here). Guitarist Josh Ramos delivered those big head bang inducing riffs and it was a genuine pleasure to see Ramos who has been part of so much music I’ve loved over the years most importantly of course his two albums with The Storm, who I absolutely adore and whose second album Eye Of The Storm was instrumental in getting me into AOR when I was a kid.

A tremendous performance from a great band and hopefully this successful show and performance will kickstart further club shows in the future! It was an absolute pleasure to witness this classic band and enjoy those iconic songs that I have been banging out of my stereo for so many years! Oh, and it was at The Robin too, so I may have got a little bit tipsy…as you do….damn I love this venue!