Review by Paul Quinton
This gig was supposed to have been headlined by Ten with Serpentine and Daylight Robbery as support, Ten using this as a warm-up for their appearance at HRH AOR at the beginning of April. However drummer Max Yates suffered a knee injury, the band decided to give him more recovery time before the festival, and so pulled out. Serpentine decided to fulfil the date, with a reduced ticket price, recruited another band and the gig was on.
It was also a chance for Midlands Rocks to make an early visit to the recently opened Lucy’s Bar in Hednesford, who also have Dante Fox, Escape and T’Pau booked during the next few months. First impressions were impressive, very impressive. Really well laid out main room, with a separate bar, the lights and sound are superb for a venue of this size, and it promises to be a welcome addition to the local scene. Unfortunately, no doubt due to the weather, with Lucy’s car park still mostly under several inches of snow, and the late absence of the original headliners, there wasn’t a very big crowd for this show, but all three bands didn’t seem to let the circumstances put them off.
Local boys LIGHTFIRE were added to the bill after Ten pulled out, and after their set, I was a bit mystified as to why. This is not to criticise Lightfire themselves , but their very modern take on metal, with distinct overtones of bands like Tool, seemed at odds with the other two bands on the bill. Having said that, there was a lot to like about Lightfire. They’ve obviously put a lot of work and thought into what they do, but unfortunately they struggled to put themselves over in what was, sadly, a fairly empty hall. They played well, worked the stage, and generally showed an awful lot of potential, and should have many better nights in the future.
Moving up into the second on the bill slot were another local band, DAYLIGHT ROBBERY. Like Lightfire they were blessed with a terrific sound, at least for most of the set, appropriately loud but crystal clear, although it did get a little bass-heavy toward the end, particularly in a new song, Tomorrow Never Sleeps. They debuted a couple of new songs on the night, as well as playing songs from their first album, ‘Cross Your Heart,’ but if they have a fault, it’s that they can wear their influences a little too obviously at times. Real Life is very reminiscent of Skin (the band not the singer) and while singer Tony Nicholl can’t help sounding like Ted Poley at times, it is something they need to be careful of. Still, another highly enjoyable set, and if you’re going to HRH AOR, you should check them out.
SERPENTINE have had a lot of good press over the last couple of years, and seeing them live, it’s easy to see why. Singer Matt Black has made the position his own after replacing Tony Mills, and as a whole, they’re becoming a very exciting live unit. It was perhaps a little surprising that they opened with three of their very strongest songs, Price of Love, Lonely Nights, which included some fine guitar work by Chris Gould, and Philadelphia, which might run the risk of the rest of the set taking a dip, but when you can also call on songs as good as Love from the Future, Cry and Whatever Heartache, you probably don’t need to worry.
For Serpentine this was a chance to run through their own set in advance of HRH AOR, at the end of which, as Matt Black explained, they weren’t going to do the old trick of running off stage and returning straight away to play an ‘encore’. Instead they played the three songs they’d rehearsed for that purpose to end tonight’s set, including a superb Whatever Heartache, but the one song on the night that was perhaps most interesting was Dreamer, which tried out some different ways of including standard melodic rock styles. Some very good playing, particularly from Chris Gould, not to mention Matt Black’s voice soaring to regions most other singers can only imagine, and the high quality material, all meant that this turned out to be a very good set indeed.
A lot of people quote the Scandinavian bands like H.E.A.T., Eclipse and Work of Art to argue that the future of melodic rock is in good hands, but when the U.K. can offer the likes of Vega and Serpentine, it still has an awful lot to offer.