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Stonewire + Four Wheel Drive @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton (12/1/14)

posted 19 Jan 2014, 08:36 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 20 Jan 2014, 16:24 ]

Review By Woody

I’d never heard of either band until their co-headlining tour announcement but it was cool to see a couple of unsigned bands getting out there and playing nationwide. As I’m a big supporter of live music it was nice to see venues giving this tour a chance as it’s a hard sell getting fans out to see two unknown acts on a Sunday evening, as my mate pointed out going toe to toe with ‘Sherlock’ on the box wasn’t a clever idea! Given the small gathering for this show it may have benefitted the bands to play a smaller capacity venue; The Robin was above double the size of all the other venues booked for this tour. That said though there is not many decent 300 or less venues in the West Midlands and certainly nowhere which could give the bands the stage space and excellent sound quality we are used to from The Robin. Personally I’m glad they went for the Robin as I love the place and although the crowd weren’t squeezed to the front in a pub they definitely benefitted from a cool stage to perform on and quality sound system. I think turn out would have been a lot better on a Friday or Saturday, when locals out for night out may have given them a chance. As unlike established acts people are not going to have a late night or night on the piss on a school night for bands they are unaware of.

I had done a bit of research on both bands before tonight and was suitably intrigued and excited to see if they could bring it on the live front. First up was female fronted classic rockers Stonewire who obviously love the ‘70’s hard rock sound. They really benefitted from the super sound quality and it’s a testament to the skill of the band as live musicians as I often thought to myself am I listening to a CD! I may never have heard about them before but they have obviously performed live a lot and were not only totally at ease on stage but quite active on stage which is always pleasing but so rare in inexperienced bands. Guitarist Gaz was quite impressive with some low slung classic rock riffs which gave the band an enticing groove and bass player Steve pumped out a steady rhythm whilst bopping energetically to every note. Lead singer Sky dominates the limelight though with her extremely powerful and evocative vocals which I was stunned by I really didn’t think the voice I heard on CD would match that live and certainly not for a whole set! I’m sure I will be accused of lazy journalism in my comparison of Sky’s vocals to Janis Joplin, but that comparison in vocal style is really obvious, a gritty strong rock vocal. Performance wise I can’t knock these guys in the slightest.

BUT the songs didn’t always match what I was watching, if I’m honest it was very fifty/fifty for me in which songs I enjoyed. The songs I did enjoy I really enjoyed and I loved the retro Zeppelin-esque vibe the band had and of course Sky’s vocals were stunning. Although I found myself losing interest on a few tracks mainly ones with a slow drive or sluggish mid-tempo rhythm and those songs failed to hook me in as much as the full on classic rock anthems they have in their arsenal.

For a cover of the Led Zeppelin classic ‘Whole Lot of Love’ they invited up the members of Four Wheel Drive up – and whilst I’ve seen many bands do this in the past and enjoyed it, tonight it just didn’t work! It was just plain old too many cooks spoil the broth and the song was just a cacophony of noise and to put it bluntly they murdered it. They then covered UFO’s ‘Rock Bottom’ which didn’t really hit the mark either, thankfully they returned to their own songs for the end of their set which included a great set closer in ‘Fix You’ and along with their opening salvo of ‘Walk The Line’, ‘Why Me’ and ‘Bitch’ were highlights amongst their set.

Both bands had a good stage presence and we got some banter from them both discussing their on the road antics. Although attendance must have been disheartening for both bands it was great seeing them look past that and enjoying the show and doing their best to entertain those of us who were there. It has to be said most of the fans in tonight were very familiar with these acts and that was shown in reactions from some fans and acknowledgements from the bands from stage.

I was probably the most intrigued by Four Wheel Drive before tonight, drawn in by the rambunctious care free beer soaked rebellious rock and roll. Like Stonewire they obviously have a lot of live experience as it shows in their stage presence but as their lead singer points out they haven’t played in the Midlands before. I was really disappointed tonight though, it wasn’t their vocalist’s finest hour and the songs all felt to similar, riff’s blending into riff’s and it became just a little too noisy. It didn’t seem to stop many in the crowd enjoying it, seemingly enjoying every second of the bands set and gradually taking to the dance floor and dancing like loonies as their set progressed – I’d say it was a safe bet I wasn’t the only one enjoying a pint of tramp juice tonight!

You can guess their style just from their song titles they played tonight like ‘Fuel & Alcohol’, ‘Ride It Like You Stole It’, ‘Incinerator’ and ‘High Roller’ so a cheeky grin crosses my face as that oh so familiar riff to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstuck’ was thrown at us. They seemed to light up on this cover and that promise that had intrigued me was actualised in their performance of this song. I had been hoping to be blown away by these guys and was sad that they didn’t, but with their closing song ‘Hammered Again’ I saw a glimpse of a really great band and in this song they have a ‘Hit’ a song fans will get behind and enjoy night after night. I think they need more songs that can capture an audience in the same excitable way that this one does.

Perhaps a little bit of a hit and miss night musically, but I had a great night supporting original artists. Hats off to the tour organisers, venues and bands themselves for taking a big risk and unleashing some original music on us on a club scene trudging dangerously towards becoming covers and tributes only. Thank you and hopefully see you again!