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Vandenberg's Moonkings @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton (23/4/14)

posted 3 Jun 2014, 09:28 by Paul Woodward

Review by Woody

I have a lot of respect for small bands who put so much effort and passion into their music, working hard at getting support slots and promoting themselves and you do have to take your hats off to Shyne in that respect. That said I find myself defending them to almost everyone rather than discussing positively about them. There are not many new bands out there writing and creating eighties style hair metal and I initially saw potential in them, but they have failed to grow and achieve that potential I saw in them that first time and although they have built up a small local cheer squad they are not winning over the crowds they are playing in front off.

Their new rhythm section of Dez Wooton and Jamie Downes definitely bring an air of professionalism and seriousness to the bands live sound, but they pure and simple don’t have the songs to win a crowd over and tonight’s muted crowd response reflected the lack of interest the majority of the crowd had in them. One of the biggest issues is vocalist Toni Gale there is no denying his drive and passion, but he frequently sang out of tune tonight and his vocal style is an acquired taste at the best of times. His vocals were lower in the mix than usual but I think this helped stop his vocals becoming too shrill which a lot of people have complained to me about in the past. Guitarist Mark Wilkins does throw a couple of decent licks out, but with the songs not making an impact on the whole his skills tend to be overshadowed and it’s harder to appreciate his obvious guitar skills.

I think where the band goes from here is totally up to where they want to go with the band, if they want to play the pub circuit locally and have the occasional support slot at small venues then I think they have enough of a local following to continue with that. If they wish to move forward and look too been able to grow to play their own headline show at a venue like The Robin they really need to work hard at various aspects of their band and sound in order to win crowds over. I’d actively look at Mark and Toni working with other writers to bring one or two more hooks too their songs – they know a few local musicians and I’d encourage them to do writing sessions with them. I think they need to increase the use of backing and vocal harmonies to bolster and strength Toni’s Vocals, bass man Jamie Downes was woefully under used and when he did do backing vocals he was well impressive and could bring a lot to the band in that department. Not a great performance from the band by any stretch of the imagination, but there is issues with the band especially vocally that can’t be just written off as a bad day at the office.

 It’s great to have Adrian Vandenberg back and active in the world of rock n roll again and it was really cool to have this opportunity to witness this guitarist for the very first time tonight at the Robin – which was one of only two live shows in the UK from Vandenberg’s Moonkings. I was rather excitable about not only seeing this well respected guitarist but also hearing lots of Moonkings songs brought to life on stage from their rather awesome debut. I was expecting the band to still be on a learning curve live as a relatively new band but I was blown away instantly by what a solid and tight live unit they are. Vandenberg seemed to be loving every moment of his time on stage wearing a huge smile and genuinely enjoying absorbing the love lavished on him from a very noisy Black Country crowd. Any worries of his retirement and health issues affecting his guitar playing abilities were quickly banished as he wowed us all as he tore up his fret board and threw out those driven riffs that got the crowd’s heads bopping.

The Moonkings delivered a flawless performance and sounded fantastic! They played a set predominantly of songs from their rocking debut CD, which was fantastic and I was glad only two Whitesnake songs made the set to prove the point these guys are no a Snake tribute act. Although I do share the disappointment with many other’s that Vandenberg only played one songs from his own solo work, although it was a very good one and all the rock geek’s exploded with joy when we got a perfect version of ‘Burning Heart’ delivered to us. Their style of blues based hard rock is perfect for the live arena and the band delivered us a full on seventies style classic hard rock show and whilst there is a strong Whitesnake vibe to them you really feel their other influences live most notably Led Zeppelin, Bad Company and Free.

They packed their set out with some interesting covers which garnered some mixed reactions, but it was a move I respect as it would have been very easy for them to slip three or more Snake tunes to make sure we got a full ninety minute plus show. Songs like ‘Superstitious’ and ‘Put A Spell on Me’ may not be obvious tracks for them to cover but I salute their imagination and desire to entertain us. It didn’t take the band long to get the crowd buzzing and it was obvious from the active and vocal audience that they love the Moonkings and were singing loudly along especially during the emotional ballad ‘Breathing’ which has captured a lot of fans after they released a video for the song. For me though the songs that stood out for me were the swaggering attitude of rockers like ‘Steal Away’, ‘Feel It’, ‘Good Thing’, ‘Close To You’ and the anthemic ‘Nothing Touches’ which took the roof off as the crowd bellowed along during their first encore! Yes the band came back for a second encore following a still noisy crowd demanding another one as it wasn’t time to go home just yet so they came back and performed a cover of Free classic ‘All Right Now’! This rounded the night off perfectly.

Vocalist Jan Hoving is a real power house vocalist and was a superb and entertaining front man – there is no denying the obvious similarities to David Coverdale in his voice. If you closed your eyes tonight you may have been transported back to the eighties when Cov was in his prime. It was an absolutely awesome show and I hope there is many more albums and live shows to come and judging by the explosive response the band achieved effortless for their entire set would indicate they would be more than welcome if they return to the Black Country! Top night and I wasn’t alone in loving every minute of it!