Review by Woody. Pics by Alexx Peace.
When FM announced this tour it would be remiss of me not to mention that the prospect of seeing FM in the Black Country left me a grinning, dribbling, fan-boy ball of excitement and anticipation. Then they go and add Vega and Serpentine to the bill! So it is safe to say this melodic rock triple bill at The Slade Rooms in Wolvo, was at the top of my list of things to do in 2013, just below Julianne Moore *cough*.
It would be unjust of me to say Serpentine opened the night with a bang, they did just that but it would be better to state they opened the show in a delicious smooth melodic style. I’ve had some doubts about the sound quality at The Slade Rooms, so my jaw bounced off the floor when the Serp’s sound was not just good but totally spot on. Their sound guy is a genius and I think he should go to every gig I go to.
It’s never easy opening a show but the Serp’s are experienced and deliver a well performed show with ease and a confident stage presence. The charismatic Matt Black really does make the band a full force entertainment unit, with his tongue-in-cheek fun loving humour combined with a powerful voice more well known vocalists would sell their soul for.
They ran through a tight set-list of ‘Deep Down (Theirs A Price For Love)’, ‘Lonely Nights’, ‘Philadelphia’, ‘In My Blood’ and set closer ‘Whatever Heartache’. It’s a pleasure to hear a band playing traditional AOR music so well live. These are young lads with a long future ahead.
VEGA have fast become my favourite band since their debut album Kiss Of Life was released a couple of years ago. Their feel for melody and understanding of the traditional melodic rock sound combined with the desire to embrace a more modern approach, has made me extremely passionate about them.
The small stage space at the Slade Rooms wasn’t really great for a six piece band which did restrict the band’s mobility, but it didn’t take any of the fire out the strong and confident stage presence.
The sound, whilst not as perfect as the Serp’s, was still great and thankfully had James’s keyboards balanced right in the mix enhancing the sound of the band perfectly.
Marcus and Ben are not officially members of VEGA, but given that both work with much heavier bands, it’s no surprise that VEGA sounded a lot harder tonight than I’ve witnessed previously. This didn’t harm the show and really did give the band some forceful impact. If I’m honest, I did miss Nick Horne, who I very much class as part of the VEGA team, it’s a shame he couldn’t commit to this tour!
The band kicked off with established crowd favourite ‘Kiss Of Life’ before the excellent ‘You Can’t Run’ picks up the baton and see’s some sublime drumming from Dan Chantrey. Given the lack of stage space, Nick frequently leans over onto the crowd barrier especially when winding and spurring the crowd on to sing along.
‘Saviour’ came across really well live. The Def Leppard flavoured ‘What The Hell’ got the crowd stomping before the anti- Jovi of ‘Not There For You’ showcases what the band is best at! The familiar intro to ‘Into The Wild’ makes me smile like a seeing an old friend before kicking into what is sure to become a staple of the band’s future shows ‘She Walks Alone’. They then had everyone singing to the radio friendly ‘White Knuckle Ride’ before making the whole of Wolvo put their ‘Hands In The Air’!
It was another strong performance from the VEGA guys in front of a very appreciative crowd. It’s great witnessing the VEGA fan snowball grow bigger with every live show. It’s just a matter of time until everyone else joins the party!
The Slade Rooms is increasingly turning into a sweat box by the time FM come on stage. I’ve managed to see FM twice since their reformation and enjoyed both performances immensely, having never had the opportunity to see the band back in the day it has been great hearing some of my most loved songs performed live. Tonight though had a slightly different feel to it, it felt more like old school eighties FM, more keyboard heavy and there was a strong sense of good old nostalgia about tonight’s performance. For someone who never saw the band at that time it was wonderful experiencing how it would have been then. This was mainly down to the set concentrating heavily on the band’s first two albums.
Steve Overland’s voice never fails to impress and his silky smooth blues tinged tones bring every song to life exactly as he has always done. A better front man you couldn’t ask for – engaging and flawless. Merv and Jim benefitted from the stage space and both made the most of it and although sweating buckets both seemed to be enjoying the vocal crowd response to every song. Drummers don’t really get the appreciation that other more visible band members get, but Pete Jupp’s ever reliable performance provides a great backbone to the bands live performance.
Jem’s performance I think was the most important tonight as he is thrust into the spotlight more often than previously. Something he seemingly takes in his stride and my keyboard loving ass enjoyed immensely! I have to admit I was expecting more songs from their rather excellent ‘Rockville’ album which feels like old school FM to me and many of the songs would have sat easily amongst tonight’s set. No complaints though as they aired songs I never thought I’d ever hear them perform. Of the new tunes ‘Tough Love’ opened the show and grabbed a rather excited audience by the ears; the infectious ‘Only Foolin’ provides one of my highlights of the evening mid set. ‘Crosstown Train’ was the first of the songs in the encore and I think the FM faithful liked it because the Wolvo crowd took the roof off to it!
My highlights were ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, ‘I Belong To The Night’, ‘That Girl’, ‘Bad Luck’ and my biggest holy shit moment was the melodic beauty that is ‘Does It Feel Like Love’! We got a jammed packed almost two hour set from the FM guys and they really didn’t disappoint with a set that kept everyone happy. They also played ‘Love Lies Dying’, ‘Hot Wired’, ‘Frozen Heart’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘Over You’, ‘Burning The House Down’ and they closed the night out with ‘Other Side Of Midnight’. Which see’s Jem don his keytar (all hail the keytar!) and come front and centre for a song which sees everyone sent home with a big cheesy satisfied smile!
Obviously with FM having not played the local area in a long time, they may have been concerned not only with turn out but also crowd reaction and I think they were genuinely taken aback by the loud and obviously loyal crowd who came out to see them. I think tonight’s mob will have put all their minds at rest as to whether they have a following in the West Midlands! Here’s hoping they’ll be back soon! A Great night, if you weren’t there you really missed out!
Tonight proves that not only is their new young talent in the melodic rock genre but also the established bands can still bring it and just as importantly there is an audience for this style of music on the live front. Melodic Rock it lives, IT LIVES!!! And cue maniacal laughter.
View all of Alexx’s pictures below…