Review by Peter Keevil, Pics by Russ Powney
This gig had me intrigued on a number of levels, firstly Voodoo Six were out on tour again but this time after a lengthy support run with metal legends Iron Maiden. And as they embarked on a fresh European headlining tour of their own in order to leverage the reach achieved with Maiden, I wanted to see what effect it had had on them. And they chose Birmingham to open the tour with.
Secondly, I had yet to catch the two local opening bands, Valous & Left For Red, so I made a point of tucking the kids into bed early in order catch the school-night early doors.
Finally, the intriguing aspect that this was the final opportunity to witness Sacred Mother Tongue, who despite attaining critical acclaim for their recent album ‘Out Of The Darkness’ AND opening up the main stage at Download Festival this year, saw fit to knock it on the head and call it a day following this short 5 date UK part of the tour (having pulled out of the whole European tour earlier in the year).
Openers, Valous are an unsophisticated metal band from Birmingham and that’s their charm. Fronted by the enigmatic Mat Shutt, they’re a noisy raucous metal act full of passion and verve. Will they set the world alight? Probably not, but I don’t believe that’s their aim. They look like a bunch of guys who just want to play their shit and have a great time. The home crowd lapped them up and when off-stage the band were giving it back at the front supporting the rest of the bands this night. Quality attitude.
Left For Red are another local band (this time from Dudley) doing it the honest way. They pack the van and travel the length of the M6 corridor, playing anywhere that will take them, supporting all and everyone just for that 30 minute opportunity to entertain – heavy metal gypsies in the best sense. And entertain they do. Vocalist LC has the balls to start a crowd chant within the first few bars of being on stage – and pulls it off, the crowd responding to his instant energy.
Lack of stage space constrains him, but he jerks, leaps, kicks and snarls like a rabid animal needing a fix. If truth be told, he scared me a little, his stare intense yet countered by his lack of rhythm and finesse – pure energy just trying to let rip. The rest try their best to offer a balance on stage and bassist Dan Carter nearly achieves this with some serious neck-wrenching windmilling but eyes soon return centre-stage for LC to hold court and get the fists pumping. The 170-strong crowd catch onto his coat tails and hang on, screaming and hollering when the slight respite between songs allows. Ones to watch.
Word had got around that this was Sacred Mother Tongue’s final few dates and the crowd were keen to take it all in and party with them – celebrating a career that tried its best and by their own standards felt it wasn’t good enough. Rather ironically the room was packed and the R.I.P. t-shirts sold out before their set had begun. It must have been a bitter-sweet moment for the guys from Northampton. But these have been turbulent times for SMT, with vocalist Darrin’s acknowledgment to depression, to bassist Josh Gurner quitting on the eve of Download this summer, it was hardly the best preparation to ride the acclaim gathered by ‘Out Of The Darkness’.
SMT delivered a powerful, professional, performance drawing on songs from both of their albums but it was the more recent ones that cut through and packed the serious punch – Demons, Believe, Pawn, A Light Will Shine et al – showed the prowess that these guys have/had.
The sound was phenomenal but was certainly augmented by backing tracks, both vocally and rhythm guitar, which struck home to me. The production value was that of a bigger band, playing bigger venues but at the Academy 3 it felt a little uncomfortable, lacking integrity even. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being naïve to think that bands shouldn’t use technology to their advantage but having decided to ‘park’ that thought for a while it didn’t stop me enjoying their gig. You also certainly wouldn’t think it was a problem for the young metalheads that sweated in unison down the front.
There are a lot of bands out there striving, starving, clinging to the hope that they could maybe be as big as SMT are/were. I don’t suppose that their demise will stop even one of them for continuing to fight the good fight – and that’s just as it should be.
Voodoo Six are another band at the turning point in their career. Riding in on a high from their mammoth Maiden jaunt across continental Europe, the realisation of an Academy 3 show was sure to keep them grounded. The crowd had visibly thinned to 70 or so punters by the time the theme tune to The Great Escape played in to introduce the 5 rogues from dahrn sarf. But f**k that didn’t stop V6 from laying it on the line. First date of the tour nerves? Nope. Rustiness? Double nope. Firing on all (V6) cylinders? Freaking A, they were.
Luke ‘The Clap’ Purdie struts and puffs, prowling the front of the stage, ably flanked by Tony ‘Corporal’ Newton, lip-syncing to his singer’s every word. He’s mates with Steve Harris and you can see the connection, born from the same earthy, honest to goodness, roots. The school motto… Hard work begets reward – that’s if he attended school in the first place and wasn’t bunking off running errands for the East End crew.
Tonight we were rewarded by a performance of classic hard hitting rock, a modernised UFO for the 21st century. Falling Knives, All That Glitters, Take The Blame, Stop, Sink or Swim, litter the floor like fallen heroes, spent and sacrificed to entertain the loyal followers.
Will their brand of British hard rock be popular enough to take them to another level? Only time will tell but it won’t be through lack of effort that stops these boys from cutting it. They are prepared to work the trenches; lets see if the world is ready to be invaded, on this performance there will be no prisoners.
See more of Russ’s photos here;