Review by Woody. Photos by Rob Stanley
Well what an amazing evening this turned out to be and a heartfelt celebration of Steve’s songs. I did think the evening may have been tinged with sadness and I’m sure for those close to Steve it was, but for most it was a joyous uplifting goodbye to a rare and much missed talent from the world of AOR. It was cool to see people from all over the country coming out to support this charity show and it was great to bump into some old friends as well as meet some internet buddies for the first time. I’m sure tonight raised quite a bit of money for Brain Tumour UK after a lot of hard work put in by the band and also Steve’s wife Debbie who organised the bumper bonanza Prize Raffle amongst other things!
The first set from Shy featured Black Country vocalist Lee Small and consisted of songs from the final Shy album. Many fans and critics have hailed it as one of the band’s best and this was our first and last chance to hear these songs performed live. Personally I believe that album is an absolute masterpiece, and it’s a record I still play regularly and enjoy.
The current line-up took to the stage – Roy Davis (bass), Joe Basketts (keyboards), Bob Richards (drums) Carl Anthony Wright (guitar) and Neil Hibbs (guitar).
I thought it was a really nice idea to have Steve’s guitar parts played through the PA but I did really worry that this heart warming gesture could actually hinder the set and could potentially fall flat. My worries were quickly swept aside as we were treated to a full on pompous soaring AOR performance, obviously well rehearsed and organised to make everything run smoothly and naturally. It was extremely well executed and the crowd loved every minute of it! It’s a tribute to the quality of these songs that fans were singing loudly to each and every one of them, like they were all well established Shy classics of yesteryear.
Lee is a very natural front man and very entertaining to watch and was completely at home at the front of the stage. It’s a crying shame that it hasn’t been until recent years that Lee has gathered the support and respect he truly deserves as a vocalist. He’s an extremely diverse singer who can handle many different styles and he knows how to sing AOR perfectly and tonight he just blew us away with a faultless and very emotive performance. Hopefully now he’s starting to get more recognition we will hear lots more from Lee!
There were lots of big pompous keyboards on the last album so Joe had plenty to do and as many AOR fans do, we love our keyboards, so it’s no surprise that when Joe was introduced he got the loudest of cheers. It was a bang on performance – delivering all those lush beautiful keyboard moments that have become firm favourites with me. Bob and Roy provided a bit of oomph to proceedings giving the songs more power live. Both perform like old pros and deliver the goods.
This night also saw the introduction of guitarists Neil Hibbs and Carl Anthony Wright who are breathtakingly good and I’m sure Steve would have been very proud of them. It was plain to see Neil and Carl had put a hell of a lot of time and effort into their preparations and both wore massive smiles with every response they received from the crowd.
It’s hard to pick highlights with every song really hitting the musical g-spot, ‘Ran Out Of Time’, ‘Blood On The Line’, ‘So Many Tears’, ‘Only The Night’, ‘Pray’, ‘Over You’ and ‘Union of Souls’. I adored the wonderful backing harmony vocals on ‘Union Of Souls’ – which also saw Lee holding one of Steve’s guitars in remembrance.
Lee spoke about Steve in-between songs and whilst it was sombre it was never overly sentimental and a fitting tribute to the underappreciated song writer.
We had a short interval in which Phil Docker and Ian Danter draw the raffle. I do have to mention Phil as his name was praised from the stage a lot as he had put in so much effort behind the scenes, especially in making sure the first set ran smoothly!
The second set saw legendary front man Tony Mills take the stage to front Shy one last time. Tony was on form and all the diehard fans were treated to an excellent performance from the band’s iconic singer. Having known Steve for almost a lifetime, Tony gave us a few thoughts and anecdotes about the man and kept the jubilant feeling flowing – it was a true tribute – never feeling sad but keeping Steve at the forefront of our thoughts.
SHY kept up their performance levels and we got a fantastic set of classic AOR, it’s a rare thing nowadays to see a pure AOR band live and it was great to see SHY go out on such a triumphant high. We got to sing along to ‘Telephone’, ‘Can’t Fight The Night’, ‘Emergency’, ‘Skydiving’, ‘When The Love Is Over’ and ‘Give It All You Got’.
‘Break Down The Walls’, closed the set and it saw Tony and Lee share centre stage, although Tony made us sing ‘happy birthday’ to Lee first! It was a great combination of past and future Shy on vocals, both men showing with ease what great vocalists they are and why they are so well loved by the audience. As the band left the stage Neil Hibbs grabs Steve’s guitar and places it on a stand centre stage, a really nice gesture and a reminder of why we were there!
There aren’t enough superlatives in the world to fully express what an awesome show this was, pure AOR delivered perfectly from start to finish. A great atmosphere and showering of love for Steve made it a truly fitting goodbye to the man and also the band. Shy may be no more but we still have the music and the memories! R.I.P Steve
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