Review by Andrew Manning
Picture this………. The circle of life for Kee Marcello has taken him from playing air guitar with a tennis racket at home in Sweden where his dream was born to now fronting his own band at The Robin. But hold on a minute what about the intervening period which saw him forming the band Easy Action to suddenly receiving a call from Joey Tempest inviting him to join Europe at the start of ‘The Final Countdown’ tour. Was he dreaming or did it really happen? With the song topping the chart in 26 countries he was suddenly catapulted into the spotlight with his big hair and tight leather pants. And what a journey he had as a guitarist in Europe from arriving at the airport in Japan to scenes of Beatle mania with 6000 fans waiting to greet them to playing to 50,000 Indian rockers in a cricket stadium to a 65,000 crowd at Milton Keynes when they supported Bon Jovi. Not surprisingly this normal guys life was overtaken by drugs, alcohol and sex addiction before departing the band in 1992. Fast forward to the millennium New Year’s evening and he was enticed back to perform 2 numbers with Europe as they all reportedly picked up a cool million each. After declining to rejoin the band in 2003 he has subsequently gone on to forge out a career with 4 solo albums alongside such extreme hobbies as horse racing. Even making the news when he was not allowed to participate in a celebrity race due to failing a mandatory pre-race alcohol test. Spinal tap or what!!!!!!
Before the faithful welcomed the headliner onto the stage the evening kicked off with fast rising melodic rockers Iconic Eye who hail from Wolverhampton. They have started to gain some momentum via a support slot with Magnum on their recent Scandinavian tour and being earmarked as ones to watch by Planet Rock radio. Fronted by the bubbly Jane Gould on vocals they delivered an energetic set with plenty of fast paced rockers featuring memorable choruses and some fiery guitar solos from Neil Fraser. Their latest album ‘Into The Light’ shows that Greg Dean (guitars) and Gould are both capable of writing pacey numbers alongside more reflective slower songs such as ‘Black Country Lady’. This was a real emotive moment written about Gould’s late Nan and her struggle with dementia. The track has just been released as a single and all Spotify income from the streams is going to a dementia charity. So why not support a worthy cause and listen to a piece of excellent music at the same time. The other highlights of the set were ‘Better Place’ and ‘Black Heart’ with its accompanying strings and orchestration. It was good to see and hear the enthusiasm of this local band who provided good rockin’ entertainment.
Following a warm up gig in London the previous evening this was the first official gig of the UK tour for the Kee Marcello Band and with a double shot of ‘Ready or Not’ and ‘Let The Good Times Rock’ celebrating the 30th anniversary of Europe’s ‘Out of This World’ album the show was underway. When it comes to catchy hard rock from the hair metal era, the music doesn’t get better than this and why not celebrate something that Marcello was very involved in. Reflecting early in the show on the sparse attendance Marcello thanked the 4 people for turning up. The reality was that there were a few more present but it is not good to see such a poor turn out to hear a full on blast of some classic rock music.
Marcello has written and released some excellent solo music and ‘Scaling Up’, ‘Fix Me’ and ‘Don’t Miss You Much’ showed tonight that his latest output sits perfectly alongside the 80’s classics. Blending a combination of melodic hard rock, with a taste of blues and more than a little AOR accessibility the toe tapping and head nodding was visibly evident within the venue. Ken Sandin (bass) has stood toe to toe on stage with Marcello since 2003 and the bond between them was clearly evident as he pranced around the stage injecting that pulsing force of nature on bass that gives the background lift to the live sound.
To quote Marcello “shit happens” and it certainly did during the Europe classic ‘Girl From Lebanon’. As he stood centre stage slickly picking out all the notes on his guitar the gremlins took over and suddenly his amp failed. This was no great advert for Marshall Amplification but in the true style of the show must go on proceedings were restarted after a 10 minute break. After the brief interlude the enthusiasm of the band pulled them through and they shimmied through the rest of the set with consummate ease.
Tonight was all about unashamedly celebrating the past. Never more evident than with the power ballad ‘Carrie’. With PO Nilsson on keyboards, who has previously appeared alongside Glenn Hughes and Joe Lynn Turner, adding some nice texture the song packed real emotion. Marcello reminded all that it was numbers like this that generated super stardom but at the end of the day “it’s all bullshit and it just boils down to the music”.
A couple of Europe filler tracks in the form of ‘Tower’s Callin’ and ‘Just The Beginning’ were aired towards the end and it was a shame that the opportunity was not taken to play some more of his solo output at this juncture as there are some great catchy rock tunes in his back catalogue. Fan favourite ‘Superstitious’, the opening track from the anniversary album, returned things to order as it closed the main set with bang. It was then time to finish the show as they squeezed out every last cheer possible during the encore with ‘The Final Countdown’.
For a show to be truly great a healthy atmosphere always helps and tonight the band were up against it but left with their heads held high. To quote the final song “Will things ever be the same again?”……..Let’s hope so.
- Ready or Not (Europe)
- Let The Good Times Rock (Europe)
- Scaling Up
- More Than Meets The Eye (Europe)
- Fix Me
- Don’t Miss You Much
- Girl From Lebanon (Europe)
- Drum Solo
- Sign Of The Times (Europe)
- Carrie (Europe)
- Amazing Grace (John Newton)
- Tower’s Callin’ (Europe)
- Just The Beginning (Europe)
- Superstitious (Europe)
- The Final Countdown (Europe)