Reviewed by Paul Quinton, photos by Rich Ward
This appetising double bill followed hard on the heels of FM completing a lengthy trek around Europe in the company of Saxon and Raven, with FM having stepped in when Y & T had to pull out, and was the first in a short series of UK gigs prior to Christmas and their appearances at the GB Rock and Blues and Giants of Rock festivals. It certainly drew a sizeable crowd into the Robin, which was good to see, and fair proportion of them were there early enough to see Hand of Dimes.
Hand of Dimes are fronted by former Skin vocalist Neville McDonald, who also shares guitar duties with Martin Rosser, last seen here in the Robin playing with Magenta. No prog here, though, as HOD are a solid hard rock band, with more than a dash of the blues. Obviously HOD featured their debut album, ‘Raise’, heavily in the set, opening with ‘Looking At You’, and including a terrific ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ and an exhilarating ‘Pinstriped Arrogance’ that went down a storm.
Naturally there was also a nod to Neville McDonald’s past, with a fiery rendition of Skin’s ‘House of Love’, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the best received song in the whole set, although sadly there wasn’t a similar look back to his time in cult AOR band Kooga with keyboard maestro Neil Garland. If I have a quibble about their set, it was that it seemed to be a bit broken up by some lengthy gaps between songs, while Nev tuned up, and this broke the flow a little, but there’s no denying that they’re a fine live band and they got a great reception, one that even seemed to surprise the band somewhat.
And so, to the UK’s Greatest Melodic Rock Band. The month touring with Saxon seems to have fine tuned the FM machine to a ridiculous degree, The band have always been as tight as the proverbial, but their performance tonight verged on the telepathic. Opening with a brisk ‘Black Magic’, from their most recent album, ‘Atomic Generation’, the band moved through their set with a great combination of style and smooth power. They had said that they’d thought it best to tailor their set for a Saxon crowd, putting more rockers in, and combining that with their normal fan favourites gave tonight’s set a new impetus, although perhaps Steve Overland was pushing it a little when he advised the crowd that they now regarded themselves as a metal band.
However, apart from a couple of tweaks, this seemed a very similar set the one the played at the River Rooms in Stourbridge earlier this year. Among the many highlights were ‘That Girl’, greeted with a huge roar of appreciation from the crowd, and ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, which increased the level of audience participation by several notches, and included the blistering guitar intro from Jim Kirkpatrick. This guy really ought to be a lot more well known on the UK scene than he is. The band also continue to include ‘Someday’, which, although it’s a big fan favourite, is a bit of a surprise as Steve Overland has said several times that he doesn’t enjoy singing it as it puts a strain on that immaculate voice. I was reminded of this in ‘Someday’ when a couple of times he actually sounded as if the European trek had taken a little away from his usual brilliance, although you would have had to listen very hard indeed to realise it.
The additions to the set compared to the Stourbridge show were the return of the pristine AOR of ‘Does It Feel Like Love’, a pounding ‘Wildside’, and, best of all, the return of the mighty ‘Crosstown Train’, for my money the best track they’ve recorded since reforming a decade ago, and much missed from the set list for the last few tours. The set ended with ‘Killed by Love’, which was a bit of a surprise, as it’s not one of their best known songs and it did lack a little punch compared to ‘Crosstown Train’ and a terrific ‘Tough It Out’, which preceded it. Still we did get a lengthy encore, beginning with Overland’s heartfelt performance on the ballad ‘The Story of my Life’, then onto a thumping ‘Over You’ and finally ‘The Other Side of Midnight’, with Jem Davis wielding his Van Halen-striped keytar along the front of the stage, and the crowd almost drowning the band out on the chorus.
A great bill, an excellent support, a packed Robin generating a great atmosphere, and our finest melodic rock band delivering the goods as always. That will do nicely.
1. Bad Magic
2. I Belong To The Night
3. Bad Luck
4. That Girl
5. Life Is A Highway
6. Let Love Be The Leader
7. Someday (You’ll Come Running)
8. Closer To Heaven
9. Does It Feel Like Love
10. All Or Nothing
12. Crosstown Train
13. Tough It Out
14. Killed By Love
1. The Story Of My Life
2. Over You
3. The Other Side of Midnight