Reviewed by Paul H Birch & Photos by Martin Tierney.
As the strains of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ climax over the PA at KK’s Steel Mill you can hear another guitar buzzing in hitting us with its metallic rhythm, its owner being revealed as the five-piece Doomsday Outlaw walk on, plug in and tune up over which the guy’s guitar continues to churn out a wall of sound. They’re all smiles, a bunch of friends but oddly don’t look like they belong in the same band – The singer roams the stage like he belongs in The Stone Roses, the lead guitarist wants to join The Mission, there’s a glam-punk bass player, and two wildly long-haired heavy metal decked-in-black dudes on rhythm and drums. Despite which, the collective noise they make works.
Their set begins with the thumping groove of ‘Into Deep’, ‘Turn Me Loose’ is up next, a little faster but with a dance vibe and the gathering audience are clapping along. “This is for me dad,” chuckles the lead singer, albeit I’ll need to check out ‘If This Is The End’ more thoroughly to deduce how poignant the lyrics might be.
Seemingly well-honed, possibly with a semi-rehearsed stage act, there’s also a certain looseness, as when they discuss if they should do an older number, that’s ostensibly a slow heavy tear-jerker blues with a pop hook. Said frontman’s got a good set of pipes and various among them take on sundry additional vocals and harmonies. More up tempo blues are offered alongside some slide guitar next, and I’m constantly trying to label them in some musical genre but can’t. If anything, they remind me of The Faces, but that’s more about an attitude on stage than musically, as the muscular ‘Runaway’ that follows has them changing track again. The sum of their collective influences, they sound pretty contemporary and probably pretty relevant to those who aren’t old soaks like me. Then, with one more number to go, they should be confident they’ll have picked up a fair, few fans tonight.
Scheduled times are running a little off tonight, but it’s still pretty early in the evening as DeWolff start tuning up on stage, only to walk off again (Oh, for the days when curtains covered such activities, adding suspense, and we wet our collective jeans as they then parted our favourite bands in all their glory and glitter). Still, not a long while later, I realise I’m grunting along to Howlin’ Wolf over the PA, but it’s not until I look to see the band’s Love, Death & In Between album cover spanning KK’s back screen that it clicks with me, and the three Dutch lads who form the band settle in for good, to deliver their unique take on Southern rock with a psychedelic twist.
All three sing, with Pablo van de Poel as the main lead singer and guitar player (with a change -over pretty much every number), his brother Luka plays drums and Robin Piso who plays Hammond organ looks so damn like the other two he’d pass for an elder brother (simply because he’s taller).
Pablo strikes a power-chord, then lets out a stream of notes as he races across the stage, before holding court at the mic like some Baptist preacher more demanding, than asking as he calls out: “Are you ready for the ‘Night Train’? Well, even if we’re not, Luka is; his drums peddling out fast and free with great stabs of organ chiming in. It’s Stax with a turbo in its engine powering this rock number. Whereas the first act looked they’d all dressed blind in a costume shop, DeWolff look they’ve come off the set of Almost Famous.
Going for a more Creedence Clearwater Revival take, ‘Made It To 27’ features some chunky guitar and cool organ, then as they begin to flex their instrumental dexterity it’s more akin to something off Deep Purple’s psychedelic rocking debut, amid a recurring vocal chant of “You gotta work”, next number Pablo’s making out like a young Robert Plant with his adlibbing come-ons between sipping a bottle of beer, then with a “1, 2, 3, 4” count in ‘Nothing’s Changed’ rocks out amid a soul heavy groove before slowing down and entering into another extended instrumental patch with a 60s underground feel, akin to something Side 3 of an old double live album might encompass. Then, pace picking up, Piso’s organ solo proves stirring, taking in semi-classical touches without feeling flash, then the trio kicking back in collectively as the number concludes.
Luka van de Poel gives his cowbell a good seeing to on the rock ‘n rolling ‘Double Crossing Man’, audience joining in as they sing “I know your heart is burning!” and it’s one of the set’s highlights. Putting on a posh British accent, while apologising, guitarist Pablo tells us the next number took up around 16 minutes on their last album, and may run a little longer tonight, say 22 minutes, so it’s not surprising it’s going to be their final number.
‘Rosita’ proves to be a mini-Southern rock opera. Part rock ‘n roll revival show, some glorious gospel harmony sections; sections sounding like The James Gang, Grand Funk Railroad and The Allman Brothers; a little country in there, several psychedelic scatterings of sound and some more profound gumbo-prog, a cowboy hoedown. Constantly going off at tangents but with the rocking hook line: “Let me take you down to Mexico” pulling us back into a main theme, and being another number tonight where I have to sit down and listen to find out what the lyrics are all about. Somewhere amid this epic, Pablo grabs the mic and takes an extended walk among the audience, singing away, greeting people before returning where, power charged, they sing out “The mighty power of love” collectively before climaxing with another preacher-at-the pulpit like climax.
How three such young guys from The Netherlands imbibed on that southern musical scene across the great wide ocean and make it sound like they own that sound, I’m beyond fathoming. That they do, and with such gusto, impressive.
A little later, it’s ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ as Jared James Nichols takes the stage with his rhythm section. A regular visitor to these shores in recent years, it was pre-covid I last saw him live, and by the size of his biceps he’s not been wasting time but working out, and only his wild frizzy lion’s mane of hair is bigger than them. As if they couldn’t miss him, the audience has moved forward collectively, and while it’s full-on rock boogie being delivered in this opening number it’s the almost coy guitar-refrain he applies in the verses that grabs my attention. Bright, brash, they also know when to lay back and let Nichols fingers do the talking as some thunderously heavy blues soloing works its way in.
Heavy downer psychedelics seep forth, developing a deep hypnotic grove through which some particularly searing lead lines bleed through on ‘Down The Drain’, in particular the second guitar solo where it ends in a flurry of feedback, reframing itself into riff form for the crushing deep blues rock of ‘Hard Wired’, that also takes in a more melodic section with jazz keyed notes played delicately in his rather unique right handed thumb picking manner.
Taking time out to tell us about the Gibson he’s playing, for a moment I thought he was going into a sales pitch for his custom version, but he tells us this is an original, and it’s “old and cranky” but he likes it.
Nichols is shorn of his customary denim waistcoat and replaced it with a black leather one, his bass player’s wearing similar but of a decidedly smaller, slim-jim frame – His name is Louise Collins, and comes from Bournemouth, while drummer Ryan Rice hails from Nashville and they fill out the sound like member of a good power trio should. Collins is also apt to run round the stage, place his foot on the monitor, and play cheerleader, raising his hands getting everyone to clap along. There appears a good onstage between the three with jokes shared, and much friendly patter to the audience from Nichols himself – It’s also worth noting, Mr N is mindful there’s a young girl in the audience and twice during the night he defers from using stronger language than might be expected between drinking buddies.
That he’s made lasting friendships here is reflecting in him dedicating the next song to the late Tom Leighton, of The Bad Flowers and Wolf Jaw, who sadly passed away in recent times, and mutual friends are here tonight. In fact, ‘Threw Me To The Wolves’ proves quite magical in its rendition tonight, imbued with the blues in the manner of Free, it’s a great heartfelt vocal delivery we’re presented with, and it’s catchy as hell, suffice to say there’s a multi-coloured wall of sound delivered from the guitar in solo, drums and bass both underpinning and counterpointing it with rhythmic thrust.
The heavy screaming blues rock of ‘Skin ‘N Bone’ is next, its pinched harmonics particularly effective, while including Jagger’s vocal melody line to ‘Miss You’ on guitar was a nice touch that may have got by-passed by a good few. It’s followed by the chugging rock of ‘Bad News’, but it’s the stuttering gritty riff of ‘Honey, Forgive Me’ that proves another highlight, and I’m waiting for someone to half-inch it as the basis for a dance remix. We get both bass and drum solos added to the version here tonight, and as Nichols returns from his stack, bringing a wall of feedback with him he launches into the melody line of The Allman Brothers’ ‘Jessica’.
‘Shadow Dancer’ is next. Balmy sun-kissed heavy blues start proceedings, effects dripping dreamily out of his guitar, a melancholic theme being introduced later. ‘Good time Girl’ is harder and more direct than on record, coming across not unlike early Montrose, while the heavy slow swinging blues of ‘Keep Your Light On Mama’ tips its hat to Cream and Mountain as its natural forefathers. ‘Nails In the Coffin’ proves an audience favourite, its subtle crossover hi-hop elements tending to be diluted in favour of a heavier approach it’s a New Orleans-styled funeral dirge given new life.
Expecting him to encore with a cover of Mississippi Queen’ instead, because we’re in The Midlands they offer us Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’… Everyone always tries to take on the drum pattern straight, rather than apply Bill Ward’s patterns that shift and thrust the whole song, but that aside, the trio give it a good seeing to, Nichols angry vocals particularly suiting the piece, and never has a song felt so regrettably timeless as about us the world’s stage is set for yet another war we pray will not escalate.
Jared James Nichols invites us to join him for a beer and a sweaty hug once they’ve left the stage, but much as the drink sounds good there’s enough rain to wade through tonight before some of us get home. Three pretty cool, and different bands each giving it their all, this has been a decidedly good way to spend a rainy Wednesday night.