Tag Archives: Sub89

Metal Mayhem at Reading Sub89

Fozzy at Reading Sub89

I manages to get a photo pass for a night of metal mayhem with Fozzy & Breed 77 at Reading’s Sub89. It’s not the sort of gig where I’d risk my camera anywhere near the front without a pass for the pit!

Voodoo Vegas at Reading Sub89, opening for Breed 77 & Fozzy

Opening act Voodoo Vegas played some old school rock and roll. Good to see a woman in a rock band who’s not the singer.

Breed 77 at Reading Sub89

Breed 77 were probably the most musically interesting, mixing alternative metal with flamenco and eastern influences to produce something that wasn’t a retread of things we’ve heard many times before.

Fozzy at Reading Sub89

Fozzy were a lot more traditional, rocking like it was 1985, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by their ability to work a crowd. This is a band who really understand the art of showmanship.

Even with a strict “3 songs only” I still ended up with a lot of photos. Plenty more photos from that night on my photo gallery site.

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The Damned, Reading Sub89

Punk veterans The Damned have long had a reputation as an entertaining live band, and have been on my “to see live” list for a long time. After missing previous tours because of clashes with other gigs, their appearance at Reading’s Sub89 seemed to good an opportunity to miss.

Even for a Wednesday evening they still managed to pull a good-sized crowd for a school night, albeit notably older and more male than many a prog-rock gig I’ve attended in recent years.

 The support band was Exeter’s The Computers. Ever had a band’s name and looks sets up expectations of how they will sound, then see them proceed to nuke those expectations? The Computers did precisely that. They came on stage in suits and skinny ties, leading you to think they’d be some kind of 80s new-wave revivalists. But from the moment they struck up the opening notes of “Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster” it became clear they were something very different.

The Computers have one foot in 1958 and one foot in 2013. While there are a whole load of other influences in there, the overall feel is very old school rock’n'roll with a contemporary rock makeover, with Hammond organ in the mix setting them apart from being purely retro rockabilly revivalists. They played with amounts of energy as well as being awesomely tight, with frontman Alex Kershaw adopting the style of revivalist preacher in much the same way as Hayseed Dixie’s Barley Scotch. They have to be one of the best “unknown” support acts I’ve seen for a long while.

After that excitement, there was some doubt over whether or not we’d actually get to see The Damned. As they took the stage, a knobhead in the front row took it upon himself to throw a full pint at Captain Sensible, who stormed off stage, followed by the rest of the band. After a worryingly long delay, with a stern warning from a roadie not to throw things at the band, they did eventually reappear and proceeded to deliver a storming set.

Like many acts of their vintage, The Damned are down to a couple of original members in the shape of lead singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, supporting by three much newer and younger-looking recruits. Their greatest hits set featured numbers right across their career. They played oldies from the punk years like “New Rose” and “Smash it Up” alongside the later goth-psychdelia of “Grimly Fiendish” and an excellent cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or”, even though they avoided their 17-minute prog-rock epic “Curtain Call” (Bah!). Despite Dave Vanian being the only constant factor in the band’s lineup over the years, Captain Sensible seems take have taken on the role of band leader and effective frontman. It was The Captain who did most of the song introductions, and it was his guitar playing that dominated the sound, with more than enough soloing to please any classic rock fan, even on the punkier songs.

Rock’s historians have always looked down their noses at The Damned, a band who never took themselves too seriously, rejecting them in favour of the po-faced posturing from the likes of The Clash. But despite never having been one of the fashionable of the 70s punk movement, their enduring sense of fun makes for a great live band, even thirty-plus years on. The Damned have still got it.

(Photos from Steve Cotton/Art of the State, used with kind permission)

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Mostly Autumn at Reading Sub89

Olivia Sparnenn at Reading Sub89

Mostly Autumn came to Sub89 in Reading on Thursday. For a band I’ve travelled all over the country to see over the past few years, this was the first time they’ve played my local venue, and it felt strange to be able to walk to one of their gigs.

Support was five-piece The Room, playing a short but sweet set with one foot in the melodic rock camp and the other in neo-prog, showing strong songwriting and some impressive lead guitar work. I’d like to hear more from this lot.

Mostly Autumn put in a strong performance with Bryan and Olivia both on very good form, before a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The setlist was more or less the same as earlier in the year, opening with “Winter Mountain” and “Never The Rainbow”, with the whole set emphasising the hard rock side of the band’s music. “Unquiet Tears”, first of the newer numbers came over very strongly. As has been apparent to anyone who’s seen the band over the past couple of years, Olivia has made older standards like “Evergreen” and “Passengers” her own, while the newer songs show the remarkable power and range of her voice. “Questioning Eyes” never fails to tug at the heartstrings, and she pulled out all the stops on “Wild Eyed Skies” and the final encore “Tonight”.

Hannah Hird’s backing vocals as the replacement for Anne-Marie Helder were excellent, although I can’t pretend I didn’t miss Anne-Marie’s flute playing and strong stage presence. The absence of the flute part was obvious in one or two places, and I can’t help feeling that it would have been better to rest songs like “The Dark Before The Dawn” in favour of newer songs from “Ghost Moon Orchestra” as long as the band are without a flute player.

Although it was still a very enjoyable gig, it didn’t quite reach the levels of power and intensity of some of their best shows over the past two years. The slightly mushy sound probably didn’t help, and the chopping and changing the lineup over the first half of this year may have cost the band a bit in terms of momentum. For this weekend’s run of three gigs the band’s regular drummer Gavin Griffiths returned to the drumstool because this year’s temporary replacement drummer Alex Cromarty had other commitments. Both of them are superb drummers, of course, but stability has it’s benefits.

The band should have a stable lineup for the remainder of 2013, and return with an ambitious programme of gigs over the second half of the year, with quite a few of the higher profile shows featuring the talented Chantel McGregor as special guest.

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Firewind – Sub89, Reading, 12-Sep-2011

Sub89 in Reading is gradually building a reputation as a metal venue. Being my local venue, it’s great to be able to see gigs without worrying about travel or accommodation. It also means you can check out unfamiliar bands who you might not have travelled to see. Greek metallers Firewind are such a band; I streamed a few songs on mFlow, liked what I heard, and decided they were worth seeing.

I wasn’t over-impressed with the opening act, but they’re very young and clearly still learning their craft; everyone has to start somewhere. The guitarist with the pink “Hello Kitty” Strat looked rather out of place, as if he’s wandered in from an arty indie-pop band by mistake.

The second support, Sweden’s Wolf were a lot better, playing an entertaining and energetic set. Flying-V wielding Niklas Stålvind comes over as a very engaging frontman, and their music had such strong NWOBHM flavour it was taking me back to the Reading Festival in the early 80s. The song “Kursk”, about the Russian submarine, was very appropriate given the name of the venue.

Headliners Firewind are an archetypal European power-metal band, straightforward melodic songs embellished with the sort of pyrotechnic soloing that people either love or hate about the genre. On this tour they were without lead singer Apollo Papathanasio, although stand-in Mats Levin did such a professional job you’d never have known he wasn’t the band’s permanent singer.

As one ought to expect, lead guitarist Gus G played several air-guitars’ worth of neo-classical shredding over the course of the set, and Bob Katsionis’s keyboard solo was so Rick Wakeman that I thought he ought to have been wearing a cape! The set included no fewer than three instrumentals. On one of them, despite the frenetic soloing, it was the driving bass riff that stood out. Too often the bass gets drowned out by the guitars at metal gigs, here Petros Christo’s playing came through clearly, underpinning the songs.

It all added up to an entertaining evening. Power-metal is never going to be one of my favourite metal sub-genres, but I enjoyed Firewind a lot.  They were tight, played with a huge amount of energy, clearly enjoyed being on stage, and benefited from an excellent sound mix. That’s what makes for a good gig, whatever the genre.

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Wishbone Ash, Reading Sub89, 1 November 2010

After seeing Therion, I was back at Sub89 again the following night to see Wishbone Ash. I’d seen them at Shepherds Bush Empire back in May when supported by Panic Room and Mostly Autumn. The consensus amongst fans was that Mostly Autumn in particular completely stole the show from the headliners. But since this gig was local I though I’d give Wishbone Ash another chance.

By the end of the gig it was clear to me that what happened back in May wasn’t a fluke; While I know I’m a big Mostly Autumn fan and therefore more than a little biased, I still believe Wishbone Ash, despite their higher profile and name recognition ,are simply not in the same league as a live band as their support in May. I’ve seen other veteran bands from Wishbone Ash’s era, most notably Uriah Heep and Blue Öyster Cult who, like Wishbone Ash have just one or two original members left. Those bands can still put on a great show, even now. But sadly the current incarnation of Wishbone Ash falls well short of that.

The biggest single flaw in their sound is that Andy Powell is not a particularly great lead singer. His voice isn’t well suited to the more melodic material from their classic 70s albums. “Argus” songs such as “Throw Down The Sword” and “Warrior” were fine instrumentally, but Andy Powell’s voice sounded strained reaching for the higher notes. This probably explains why the setlist relied rather too heavily on somewhat generic blues-rock material at the expense of many of their classic songs – for example, they didn’t play “The King Will Come”.

That probably sounds unduly harsh – I did still enjoy the gig. At there best, the band could still entertain, and seemed a little more spirited than at Shepherds Bush, We still got some of the lovely twin-guitar harmonies, even if those guitars seldom really cut loose with the sort of stunning soloing of their 70s live albums.

But having seen the Martin Turner Wishbone Ash at High Voltage in August, where it was clear Martin Turner has still got it vocally, I just wish Andy Powell and Martin Turner would bury the hatchet and get back together again.

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Ade Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds, Reading Sub89, 24 Oct 2010

The advantage of living in Reading is that I have a rock venue, Sub89, right on my doorstep. In recent weeks I’ve seen ex-Deep Purple man Glenn Hughes and blues legend Walter Trout tread the boards, a couple of excellent gigs. On Sunday it was the turn of Ade Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds.

The Bad Shepherds were formed by Ade Edmondson, once the frontman of NWOBHM legends Bad News using the name Vim Fuego. But this band play celtic folk arrangements of classic punk and new wave songs, with Ade’s “thrash mandolin” accompanied by Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes, whistles and cittern, and Andy Dinan on violin.

I saw them a year ago in Manchester, playing as a four piece. Now reduced to a trio, they’ve not really lost anything from their sound. Given the similar concept, comparisons with Bluegrass cover band Hayseed Dixie are inevitable, but The Bad Shepherds are more that just a British take on the same idea. Many of the songs are radically reconstructed, with lengthy instrumental intros and outtros of weaving pipes and violin lines. You frequently don’t recognise the song at all until the vocals start, and sometimes not even then. The set includes songs like “Anarchy in the UK”, “London Calling”, and their version of Kraftwerk’s “The Model” played on pipes simply has to be heard to be believed. The whole thing is immensely enjoyable even if you don’t particularly like the original songs; Troy and Andy superb instrumental playing providing the melodic element many of the original songs lacked,

While Ade Edmondson is better known as a comedian than as a musician, the show is all about the music rather than comedy; and while Edmondson may front the band, it’s as much about Troy and Andy, both very talented folk musicians, as it is about him. And like every great live band, they fact that they’re clearly enjoying their time on stage shines though.

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