Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
Route 44 debutants Silent Jack were tonight’s opening band. A four piece also from Birmingham, Silent Jack is a band that likes to mix hard rock with a bit of sleaze. Expecting a live wire performance, I was a little disappointed that things seemed just a little laid back, although the music itself was ballsy, rocking and well played. I was particularly impressed with Scott Carson’s drumming style, the likes of which I couldn’t quite work out. Was he left or right handed? A quick word with him after the gig prompted “I like to mix it up!”
In vocalist Rich Mason, Silent Jack have some high calibre ammunition. Adam Carson contributes with his rocking guitar licks and Dickie Spider’s bass gives a thumping spine to the whole group. As well as tracks off their recent EP Snakebite, the guys threw in a couple of covers including the classic Velvet Revolver tune ‘Slither’. Highlight of the set was ‘Hot Luvin’’ off the EP and also their first single release. Top drawer sleaze rock which reminded me so much of another Brummie outfit Lovebite. Although in my opinion lacking a little charisma on stage Silent Jack earned an encore not the norm for Route 44 supports.
Route 44’s Head of Operations, Kite, was having a casual conversation outside his venue one evening. Next thing you know he has booked the legendary Quartz to play a couple of weeks later!
Not gigging quite so much these days, the Brummie rockers are scheduled to appear at the upcoming Live Evil event at the Dome in London and were billing the Route 44 appearance as a “warm-up gig”. Maybe so, but a hometown gig of any sort was sure to draw lots of interest, especially as the line-up is now the original 1974 unit barring the frontman/vocalist David Garner, now filling the gap left by Mike “Taffy” Taylor.
Although a quickly thrown together gig, there appeared to be a fair amount of interest being shown and as predicted, Route 44 hosted a substantial turn out, many of whom would no doubt have been taking a trip back down memory lane.
So here we are, Back in the Band they were, and fittingly that was the title of the opener, which warmed the crowd and the lads in readiness for two of my favourite Quartz tunes, ‘Street Fighting Lady’ and ‘Mainline Riders’. I have to admit to being temporarily taken back in time to Bogarts and Digbeth Civic Hall.
Dave Garner is not one to shy away from talking to the crowd between numbers and leads the band energetically and passionately. His vocal delivery is an aural delight. The rest of the band weren’t too shabby either. A couple of minor dodgy guitar moments aside, they were almost as tight as the proverbial banjo string. I thought Malcolm Copes’ drumming was bang on (sorry). No flamboyant sticks in the air playing from this guy, he doesn’t need to. In the guitar section, Geoff Nicholls, Mick Hopkins and Derek Arnold proved that experience does count!
Quartz 1974 and Quartz 2014? Only thing that’s really changed is a few more wrinkles on faces. The sound hasn’t aged at all, such is the quality of the music. Route 44 got 14 of the best, and 3 new numbers, ‘Zombie Resurrection’, ‘Fear No Evil’ and ‘Dead Man’s World’ proving that the writing skills have not diminished.
Quartz were thought by many to be at the front of the queue when the NWOBHM boom hit the late 1970s. I’ve also read that they were a band that didn’t know whether to fork left or right. Sure the Sabbath influence is obvious in some of their songs; why wouldn’t it be when you consider the close connections the band have had with the likes of Tony Iommi and with Geoff Nicholls being a Sabbath band member for twenty odd years.
A packed Route 44 left Quartz in no doubt as to what they thought! Come back soon appeared to be the message. It was also good to see the great Tony Martin in the crowd, although any expectations people may have had of a guest appearance were sadly dashed as he was there purely to appreciate the music on offer.
And so Quartz head on to the Smoke for their next live appearance on 19 October. Good luck guys and show London what Birmingham rock is all about!
Set list included:
Back in the Band
Street Fighting Lady
Fear No Evil
Stand Up and Fight
Heaven & Hell