Review by Paul Quinton
The final date of a mini tour for Romeo’s Daughter, in what is possibly the most sustained burst of activity for the band since they reformed for Firefest in 2009. While they released a new album, Rapture,’ earlier in the year, this was their first headlining stint in support of the album and it was encouraging that the Basement wasn’t far off capacity on the night.
Despite the running order on the door of the venue stating that Serpentine would be on at 7.10, the band actually hit the stage before 7 o’clock, which meant a lot of people were still trying to enter the building when they came on. I’ve seen this band a few times since Matt Black took over on vocals, and each time they’ve been impressive, both in the quality of their songs and the performance. Tonight, despite being hampered by an over-loud song that drowned out Black’s vocals at times, they were as good as ever. The only real beef I have with the band is that they don’t have enough new material written for his voice, despite the single new song played tonight, although when the rest of the set includes songs as good as ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Heartbreak Town’, that’s mere quibbling. Serpentine are one of a number of quietly brilliant UK AOR bands who really should be checked out at the first available opportunity.
There’s no doubt that the focal point of Romeo’s Daughter is vocalist Leigh Matty, and tonight she put on a performance that merely served to add to the mystery of why this band never made the big breakthrough in their first incarnation. The songs are certainly there, the band opening with a sprightly ‘Tripping Out’ from the new album, then playing one of their big cards in the terrific ‘Velvet Touch’. It took a while for the crowd to get properly warmed up, possibly a little distracted by some less than attentive followers of Serpentine, but once they left, an exuberant ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ got everyone well and truly into the show. It was expected that songs from ‘Rapture’ would be featured heavily, which was certainly the case for the first part of the set, and there are certainly some fine songs on the album, but it was the older songs that really got the crowd into the show. A sultry ‘Stay With Me Tonight’ warmed things up more than a touch (and yes, Simon, that is the song later covered by, cough, Steps) and a couple of songs later ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ was the genuine highlight of the entire show, absolutely mesmerising.
It was perhaps odd that the band’s second album, ‘Delectable’, was almost wholly ignored when in the set list, with only ‘Attracted to the Animal’ being played tonight, and just as ‘Rapture’ dominated the first part, half a dozen songs from the band’s classic debut album brought the main set to a thunderous close. Certainly the band don’t deal in massive riffs and epic solos, although Craig Joiner’s effort on ‘Colour You With A Smile’ was definitely out of the top draw, but there’s no doubt they can rock when they want to, and with hooks big enough to catch Jaws, this band are a melodic rock fan’s dream. The main set ended with ‘Heaven In The Back Seat’ which, while being almost the rockiest thing the band played all night, was still ridiculously infectious and put a huge smile on everyone’s face.
Inevitably there were encores. ‘Will Be’ took the mood down, played as an acoustic song, but which was spoiled by people having a noisy conversation near the merchandise stand, but the show was finally brought to a triumphant close by ‘Wild Child’. The band seemed to have changed the arrangement slightly, perhaps to put more of their own stamp on the song after it was so successfully covered by Heart, but it’s a sign of how good this band are that I still can’t make my mind up as to whether I prefer Ann Wilson or Leigh Matty singing it.
Romeo’s Daughter may always have been at the softer, poppier end of melodic rock, but in their own way, they’re just as striking as bands like Heart and are very capable of taking their place at the top table of UK AOR. This is one reunion that seems to have legs, so here’s hoping we see this band again very soon.