Review and photos by Rich Ward
Opening act The Roz Bruce Infusion were a very pleasant surprise. Bruce herself came across as overly excited and giggling throughout what seemed like a slightly haphazard set. A solid rhythm section kept the show going while broken strings, an admittedly croaky voice, and forgotten lyrics didn’t phase Bruce on jot. She got on with the job in hand and seemed amused by it more than anything else; her giggling being infectious.
Musically they’re not easy to pigeonhole. There’s elements of punk and alternative rock, but the heavy use of wah wah and tremolo abuse, particularly on ‘Social Freak’ hark back to 60’s experimental and psychedelic bands melding together Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and early Fleetwood Mac. Final song ‘Wicked While’ builds and punches home with a driving rhythm section and impassioned vocals, serving to be one of the stand out tracks of their set. The potential here is substantial and I reckon far greater things beckon as her stage craft and songwriting skills develop.
It’s been a while since Stray last played the Midlands, and I’ve not kept up to date with their goings on of late, so it was a nice surprise to see that they are now playing as a four piece, with 70’s member Pete Dyer re-joining the band. Kicking off with a raucous ‘Come On Over’, it’s apparent that the addition of Dyer not only fills out the guitar sound but also makes a difference to the vocal harmonies adding to those of Del Bromham and bassist Stuart Uren.
Bromham himself is remarkably sprightly on stage, with high kicks and jumps from the drum riser – clearly slipped discs and hernias are of no concern to him as they are for some men of comparable vintage. Their most recent studio offering, Valhalla, is now some 5 years old, and it still remains one of my favourite Stray albums, and it’s represented well within the set; ‘Move A Mountain’, ‘Free At Last’ and ‘Harry Farr’ are all more than worthy additions with Del’s guitar being particularly outstanding on ‘Harry Farr’; a song about the execution of wrongfully convicted deserters in the First World War.
With the recent Mothers Reunion day for the legendary Erdington club, Del reminisces about the many times he played there in the 70s. Some of tonight’s crowd were at those shows. Indeed, what is apparent is that Stray have not continued to attract as many younger fans as a lot of the older classic rock bands have done. It is a shame that they are seemingly overlooked by dedicated rock radio and magazines, as when they play the likes of ‘Jericho’, ‘After The Storm’ and ‘Suicide’ they really are up there with the best of them.
Inevitably it’s the extended tour de force of ‘All In Your Mind’ that closes the set. With nowhere to hang his guitar, Del opts to place it on top of the PA so he can begin his trademark whipping of it with the guitar lead before retrieving it to subject it to more abuse bringing the song to it’s climax. Great showmanship throughout and an excellent end to a superb show.