Review by Woody, photos by Rob Stanley
It was cool to see a hard working British melodic rock band land the support slot for tonight’s show and I was very keen to see Estrella perform. They bounded onto the stage full of piss and vinegar and delivered a full on rockin’ set, they were really slick and smooth more so than I was expecting based on their debut album which has a rough contemporary vibe. Here though a real pop edge shone through and made me think these guys would go down a treat with a Bon Jovi audience. I know they play the toilet circuit a lot and that live experience shines through not only in their energetic stage presence but also in their confidence and rapport with the audience. I was really impressed, I liked them anyway but I like them even more now based on their fun time live energy. It was a short but highly enjoyable set, definitely ones to check out if they come to your neck of the woods!
It’s not often a band can get a high profile act like House of Lords to support them but given the fact lead singer James Christian is married to Robin Beck I’m sure it wasn’t hard to arrange. So most of us hardcore melodic rockers tonight are getting a super value night out with such a high calibre support act! I’ve enjoyed seeing HOL on a few previous occasions at JB’s in Dudley and was of course looking forward to seeing them again. Christian acknowledges the band performing in the area before and stating he was glad to playing at The Robin which he’d heard had a really great reputation.
Christian didn’t talk too much on stage and concentrated on keeping the music flowing and squeezing as many songs in as possible! He has a friendly laid back stage persona and the band as whole very much let the music do the talking. I’d seen HOL literally a few days earlier at HRH AOR in North Wales and their set was beleaguered by poor sound and a poor mix most notably in Christian’s vocals been drowned out. Tonight was a whole different ball game and the pompous majesty of the Lords struck us from the offset, with the sound spot on!
I found the set list choice a little odd if I’m honest, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed every bombastic moment of their set but it wasn’t what I was expecting. They kicked off with ‘Sahara’ and ran through a lot of new track’s like ‘Big Money’, ‘Cartesian Dreams’, ‘Come To My Kingdom’, ‘Permission To Die’ and ‘I’m Free’. They of course dust of the ballads they are famous for ‘Love Don’t Lie’ and ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’, which seemed to go down especially well with tonight’s crowd. For me though it was actually two new tracks from their latest album Precious Metal that got my blood pumping the most, the epic ‘Battle’ and the delicious melody of ‘Swimming with the Sharks’ which for me really stood out as it is a very different type of track and has a modern edge to it. No House of Lords of set is complete without ‘I Wanna be Loved’ their obligatory live standard, like the Tyke’s ‘Forever Young’ and they wrapped things up nicely with ‘Pleasure Palace’.
Along with Christian on vocals the current HOL line up are a solid live performance unit as always extremely reliable to deliver the goods. Jimi Bell on Guitars, the very smiley Chris McCarvil on bass and the thunderous BJ Zampa on drums. I thoroughly enjoyed their set and they got a loud crowd reaction throughout their set regardless of what song was played. I’ll definitely be the first in the queue when they return!
One of the problems of been a melodic rock fan is the current scene has such a small fan base it makes it really hard for bands to tour so when Robin Beck announced she was playing the Robin as her final date on the UK tour I became so excitable I booked tickets straight away! Beck is one of those artist’s that you just never know if you’ll see them live again so you can’t miss it – So tonight was a unique moment for me to see a beloved vocalist of mine perform. The UK leg of her tour has been very troubled with many dates been cancelled so it was really cool to see a really good turn out tonight, more than I was expecting – sadly maybe a by-product of other dates been cancelled but it must have been warming for Beck to see people making the effort on a Monday night to come out and play!
I had seen Robin at HRH AOR and enjoyed her set but I think the crowd at The Robin tonight were more appreciative and I think the intimate setting brought out the best in Beck’s performance and music. Although to be fair gigs in the Black Country always tend to be the best ones just ask Tyketto, they know we are awesome. Beck’s off the wall humour didn’t come off well at HRH AOR, I think people were just too tired and drunk given her late slot to respond but tonight her quirky charm brought smiles to most of us.
She was backed by three parts of HOL, Jimi Bell (Guitars), James Christian (Bass), BJ Zampa (Drums) and second guitarist Jorge Salan. Anyone who saw Salan backing Jeff Scott Soto last year will know just how talented this guy is and when I saw him come on stage I knew we were in for a treat as he delivered us a faultless performance of pure melodic guitar genius. Beck sounded fantastic and considering this was her last date on a long European tour she was still fresh and delivered a performance singer’s half her age would be green with envy from. The HOL guys dialled it back a bit so to deliver the soft rock beauty of Beck’s music to us is in smile inducing perfection. I would have loved a longer set but Beck chooses her set well and left no one disappointed.
It was actually a newer song ‘You’re The One’ that really shone out as highlight for me but I know most were here tonight for the oldies and we got plenty of oldies! I think most the audience lapped up the beautifully delivered melodic goodness of ‘If You Were A Woman’, ‘Don’t Lose Any Sleep’, ‘Hold Back The Night’, ‘Tears In The Rain’, the bouncy ‘Hide Your Heart’ and set closer ‘I’ll Follow You’. It was cool to hear Beck throw ‘Catfight’ into the mix a more contemporary offbeat pop rock tune which went down just as well as her more familiar standards. Of course one of my favourite tracks ‘Save Up All Your Tears’ got a great reaction and it was one of those moments which I know will stay with me for years to come! Beck also debuted a new heartfelt acoustic ballad ‘Wish You Were Here’ which she promises will be on her next album and for fans of her ballads this one will definitely be for you!
We had been handed little key ring lights with a request to hold them up during the second verse of ‘The First Time’ too surprise Robin. Now normally I hideaway during things like this – crowd participation isn’t my thing although I love the buzz you get from others getting involved – but due to me having a few beers that light gets a serious waving! Thankfully for those around me I was at that less shy stage but not at the stripping naked and finding it impossible to get through doorways stage….although I was well on my way and in a very good mood thanks to Beck’s feel good tunes! It was cool too see the band as a whole smile as everyone waved these lights and Jimi Bell got his phone out to capture it!
It was an excellent gig and one that will definitely linger in my memory; she has an amazing voice and a cool humorous stage persona that I really took too. Beck currently live in Florida so was obviously not enjoying our seriously cold temperatures and she jokes about having to wrap herself around the radiator in her dressing room to keep warm! I can empathise with her discomfort I literally thought I was going to be found frozen to death at HRH AOR and even tonight I’d been previously been cocooned in a blanket with a hot water bottle down my keg’s whilst dry humping my radiator before heading out. It was good to see Beck finish her tour on a high and hopefully tonight we gave her at least one good memory to take back from this troubled tour. Hopefully this won’t be the last time she visits the UK, but if it was at least she gave us something awesome to remember her by!