Heavy post-Christmas traffic and foul weather wasn’t enough to prevent a healthy turnout at the Institute for this festive gathering led by Balaam and the Angel that provided the ideal opportunity to blow away the cobwebs and take in some terrific live music from all three bands. Special guests Dawn After Dark share a history with Balaam that began when they were label mates on Chapter 22 Records and saw the two bands tour together in 1988 when the latter were out in support of Live Free Or Die. The Chapter 22 label is now active once again with rising rockers ring ‘O’ roses being the latest addition to their increasingly impressive roster.
Adam Davis (Vocals and Guitar), Dillon Morris (Guitar), Ant Gray (Bass) and Lee Cope (Drums) are all under the age of 21, and playing at the Institute in front of a crowd of mostly veteran gig goers may have been daunting for some but they rose to the task and showed no signs of nerves. The ring ‘O’ roses blueprint is hard-edged rock songs with plenty of attitude and nights like this will stand them in good stead as they further develop their songwriting and stagecraft. One to watch out for.
It has been twelve months since Dawn After Dark finally released New Dawn Rising, their debut album that was some thirty-plus years in the making, and they continue to draw new admirers into the fold. Their allotted set time of just shy of an hour allowed them to perform the whole album along with a couple of older numbers, kicking off with the super-amplified rock and roll of ‘Nothing Can Fulfil Me Without Your Love’. Although neither of them played on the album, lead guitarist Ollie and bassist Drew Gallon are now very much part of the furniture and neither is content to simply replicate the studio versions. ‘The Day The World And I Parted Company’ allowing Ollie the opportunity for a lengthy solo with Drew’s hypnotic bass leading the band into ‘The Shifting Sands of Time’.
Drummer Tony Henderson and rhythm guitarist Russ Frame, the bands very own Malcolm Young, provide a water tight foundation and despite complaining about his journey time, vocalist Howard ‘H’ Johnson looks to be enjoying himself; one moment dancing happily along to ‘Is There Time?’ and then delivering a juggernaut of a scream during the towering ‘Crystal High’. And despite being kept on a tight leash by the venues security, DAD’s loyal following are with the band from the time they take the stage through to the explosive climax of ‘Maximum Overdrive’. If you have never seen Dawn After Dark live then trust us, you are missing out on something very special.
It has been a long long time since we had any new material from Balaam and the Angel yet they can still attract a considerable crowd to come along a few times every year to enjoy all of the old favourites and bask in the warm glow of celebratory 80’s nostalgia. Taking the stage with the minimum of fuss, there is a natural fluidity about the way the Morris brothers go about their business that comes as no real surprise from siblings who have been playing music together since childhood. Kicking off with ‘Don’t Look Down’, the set list was mostly drawn from their first two albums, 1985’s Sun Family and The Greatest Story Ever Told from two years later. The likes of ‘She Knows’, ‘Isabella’s Eyes’ and ‘The Wave’ all still sounded great and, given the added punch and energy of the live setting, more forceful than their studio counterparts.
There is nothing OTT about Balaam and they make it all seem so simple; driven along by Des’ tribal drumming and Jim’s powerhouse riffs that are complemented by Mark’s genial and laid back delivery. Encore time saw them revisit Live Free or Die for the two rousing anthems that pushed the trio further into hard rock territory, ‘I’ll Show You Something Special’ and ‘I Love The Things You Do To Me’, the former of course still being heard in many homes around Thanksgiving due to it’s unforgettable use in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. An early curfew sent many off to Subside for the after show party where we can only assume the fun continued into the early hours. There is the tantalising prospect of Balaam getting back into the studio during 2023 but even if this does not come to pass you can be sure their faithful following will be here again in twelve months’ time to do it all again.
Don’t Look Down
New Kind of Love
World of Light
Two Into One
For More Than A Day
Running Out of Time
Family & Friends
Light of the World
Day and Night
I’ll Show You Something Special
I Love the Things You Do to Me