On what promises to be a very special night on a special tour, former W.A.S.P. guitarist and all-round rebel-rouser Chris Holmes brings his raucous brand of rock to Northampton, and celebrates his 65th birthday to boot. With a warm welcome and a superb live room, The Black Prince is undoubtedly one of the region’s best music venues, and it make the perfect frame for an evening of metal madness that finds the old school colliding with the new, and in cataclysmic fashion.
Opening the evening is a special 20-minute Q&A that finds Chris setting the world to rights on all sorts of rock n’ roll misdemeanours from lip syncing, synthesisers, and his time in W.A.S.P., before regaling us with some of the best stories that heavy metal has to offer. Some questions from the crowd finds him thinking on his feet, and gives us an insight to the man behind the mystique. Such is the cut of his jib, you feel he could undertake a successful spoken work tour, if he so wished.
Tonight’s openers Kaine are no strangers to The Midlands Rocks, having caught their show on last year’s Lillian Axe/Riot Act tour (reviewed here) and it seems that time has only increased their prowess. Attesting to their laser beam focus, there’s no fancy introductions or such nonsense, with the band preferring to get straight down to business, and by second track, ‘Reforge The Steel’, they’re firmly in the groove. They deliver a horns-held-high, foot-on-the-monitor metal fest, and the lyrical realism found on tracks such as ‘A Slave To The Grind’ gives the band an edge that elevates them above the standard swords n’ dorkery fare. Title track from new album After Extinction bodes well for the future, while closer ‘I Am God, The Master Of Mankind’ comes cloaked in plenty of neat time changes and caps an energetic, enjoyable set.
Despite having played guitar on some of the ‘80s biggest rock anthems, it looked for a while that Chris Holmes’ legacy was going to be defined by his hell raising and that interview in the movie The Decline Of Western Civilisation Part II. Sober since 1996, Chris has built himself a new heritage, this time based upon music, and has released a string of critically-acclaimed releases under the moniker Mean Man. The wall of feedback that heralds the arrival of Chris and band soon pulls the stragglers in from the bar, and the opening refrain of ‘On Your Knees’ fills the venue with pumping fists and banging heads. Such is the esteem in which Chris is held, that you can almost feel waves of affection radiating from crowd to stage, and back again. Performed by a tight band ensures that ‘On Your Knees’ is delivered with the punch, and panache, it deserves.
The crowd wants kick-ass rock n’ roll, and that’s exactly what’s delivered as the band blast through a mixture of old and new tracks, and it’s to Chris’ credit that his own ‘Playing With Fire’ nestles next to W.A.S.P.’s ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ effortlessly. The latter segues nicely into a guitar solo which proves that Chris still knows his way around a fretboard, and makes a nice precursor to the haunting ‘Sleeping (In The Fire)’. Just like the Q&A, Chris gives some backstory to the songs, as with ‘Blind In Texas’ and when he screams “Northampton, let’s Party!” in the middle of that tune, a rabid crowd show their assent by holding 100 plastic pint pots aloft in salute. As the set nears its conclusion, Chris revisits some roots on covers including ‘Born To Be Wild’ and ‘Fortunate Son’, and closes the show with ‘Highway To Hell’, featuring a plucky volunteer from the crowd (Alan) who does a grand job on guest vocals.
Thankfully, Chris Holmes hasn’t turned his back on his past and, by extension, lets us relive a little of ours.
Chris Holmes Set List:
- On Your knees *
- Get With It
- Let It Roar
- Playing With Fire
- L.O.V.E. Machine *
- Guitar solo
- Sleeping (In The Fire) *
- The Devil Made Me Do It
- Blind In Texas *
- I Am What I Am
- I’ve Had Enough
- Born Work Die
- Wild Child *
- Animal (F**k Like A Beast) *
- Born To Be Wild (Mars Bonfire/Steppenwolf cover)
- Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
- Rockin’ In The Free World/Heart Of Gold (Neil Young covers)
- Highway To Hell (AC/DC cover)
* W.A.S.P. songs
Kaine Set List:
- Reforge The Steel
- A Slave To The Grind
- Left Behind
- After Extinction
- I Am God, The Master Of Mankind