Reviewed by Paul Quinton
There was a fair amount of excitement in UK melodic rock circles when this tour was announced, three of the best melodic rock bands around, on a single bill, and doing a fair number of dates around the country. The queues outside Rock City, well before the doors opened, hinted at the anticipation, and the buzz in the hall, with, apparently, well over 1000 tickets sold in advance, was something special.
The three bands are taking turns to open the shows, and rotating the line up for each date, with each band scheduled to play for an hour, and in Rock City it was the turn of FM to open the proceedings, which, with Rock City’s weekend gig curfew, was at the slightly un-rock and roll time of 6.30. Nonetheless the band were greeted with a huge roar, as they opened their set with ‘Synchronised’. The band are such a tight unit, they hit their form straight away, although the sound wasn’t quite right to begin with, Jim Kirkpatrick’s guitar was buried in the mix for some parts of the hall, although it picked up as the set went on. The band mixed old and new songs in their setlist, with a healthy helping of old favourites, including ‘I Belong to the Night’ which had the crowd exercising their voices for the first of many times during the evening, ‘Someday (You’ll Come Running)’, which Steve Overland always claims to hate singing, although he does it brilliantly every time, and, as a result of surveying the fans, they added an old favourite not played live for quite a while, ‘Tattoo Needle’, which drew a cry of ‘God, yes!’ from somewhere near the bar. There was also a nod to their newer work, with ‘Killed by Love’ and, perhaps a surprising set closer, ‘Turn This Car Around’, from their most recent album, Thirteen’. It’s a lively enough song, but you might have expected one of their more well-known songs to round things off. As always, FM were right on the mark, always excellent musically, the crowd are right behind them, and they’re one of those bands that put a big smile on everyone’s face.
A completely unscientific survey of the crowd in the change-over between DARE and Tyketto suggested that Dare t-shirts were in a distinct minority compared to the other two bands, but if Darren Wharton and the band felt like underdogs they certainly didn’t show it. Even having to bring in a substitute drummer, former Ten sticksman Greg Morgan, a short while before the tour didn’t seem to affect them. The sound was again slightly off at the start, with a bit too much of an echo on Darren Wharton’s vocals, and while it’s understandable that they would have wanted to highlight their newest album, Return to Eden, playing three tracks from that and two more from Sacred Ground did make for a comparatively restrained first half of the set. However things really perked up with a terrific ‘Wings of Fire’, with Vinnie Burns showing what a great guitarist he is, with some excellent riffing and fiery soloing, and an equally excellent ‘We Don’t Need a Reason’. This gave the band some serious momentum, especially as they ended the set with four tracks from their tremendous debut album, although it was a slight surprise that they ended with ‘Return the Heart’ rather than ‘Abandon’ or ‘Into the Fire’, which had drawn a great reaction from the crowd. Still a great set, that gained impetus as it went on, so maybe a bit of tweaking as the tour goes on might be worth considering.
Just as an aside, as a fan of the band Ten in their early days, it was a pleasure for me to see half of the band’s early touring line up playing tonight, drummer Greg Morgan and Vinnie Burns in Dare and keyboard wizard Ged Rylands in Tyketto. Now if we can only get Gary Hughes back on the road…
There was another huge roar as the members of TYKETTO entered the stage, with Danny Vaughn musing ‘I had a nice meal today, then a nap, and when I woke up it was fucking 1991!’, going back to the band’s first visit to the UK, supporting White Lion, when he and the band won over a fanbase that has stayed with them ever since. This time around there’s a revamped line-up, with founder member and drummer, Michael Clayton Arbeeny, and the band’s guitarist for the past decade, Chris Green, having decided to retire from touring, plus regular bassist Greg Smith having other commitments. In come Chris Childs on bass, Danny Vaughn’s old Waysted bandmate, Johnny Dee on drums and Harry Scott Elliott, lately of Kane’d, who supported Tyketto many times in the past, on guitar. The band opened with ‘Reach’, then delivered a greatest hits set that lifted and thrilled the crowd in equal measure. ‘Wings’ includes a crowd participation element, and this was as loud as I can ever remember it, even compared to the band’s legendary Firefest set at the same venue in 2012.
The highlights were too many to list for anyone with a wordcount to meet, but to hear 1100 voices singing along on the likes of ‘Burning Down Inside’ and ‘Lay Your Body Down’ was tremendous, there was a superb ‘Catch My Fall’, an emotional reading of the monster ballad that is ‘Standing Alone’ and it was great to see Johnny Dee come to the front of the stage, complete with tambourine, to lead the clapping to begin the awesome ‘Last Sunset’. That only left the band’s theme song, and the unofficial anthem for the entire genre. The mighty ‘Forever Young,’ with Vaughn hitting the high notes at the end as if the last 30 years had never happened. At the close, the band and the audience looked spent, it had been that kind of show.
This really is a tremendous bill, a gift for melodic rock fans, and if you get the chance, including a show at the Steelmill in Wolverhampton on Friday 19th, it’s really something well worth experiencing.