Words by Woody, Photos by Rob Stanley
I’ve seen tonight’s openers Daylight Robbery a few times in recent years and I’ve become quite a fan of these hard gigging Brummie melodic rockers. The last time I saw them perform at a venue in Brum they were having a real bad night and the utterly useless sound at the venue only compounded their bad form that night. They are normally a quite tight unit live, better than many big names, so I knew all being well they’d be a good bet for an entertaining start to the gig.
I wasn’t wrong; it was a polar opposite of their last performance. The band were on fire and they delivered a delicious set of strong melodic hard rock! The stellar sound at The Robin provided them with a perfect launch pad to assault us with their highly melodic songs from their debut album Cross Your Heart. Front man Tony Nichol has a strong and powerful vocal and he really pushes himself onstage to be as a perfect as possible; tonight he provided a no nonsense let’s get straight to the rock performance and spoke very little in-between songs to make the most of their short set! They surprisingly managed to get seven songs played which was great for my melodic rock loving ass!
Before the gig I wasn’t sure how they’d go down with the Wolfsbane audience, from my perspective they seemed to like it and in the rare moments Tony gave the crowd time to applaud, it seemed exceedingly positive! As mentioned, the band are a real tight and competent live unit and drummer Ben Dixon and Colin Murdoch on bass provided a cool and confident backbone to the band’s performance.
The superior sound at The Robin, which is perfect for Melodic Rock and AOR bands, allowed guitarist Mark Carleton to shine most noticeably with his perfect performances on the two opening numbers ‘Cross Your Heart’ and ‘Shame On You’! Those crystal clear air guitar inducing riffs and licks were outstanding and really drew you into the magic of these songs.
In the past Tony has been the focal point of the band and something he seems to relish, tonight he seemed quieter and less active whilst his vocals remained as impressive as I’ve come to expect. However this did allow me to observe the rest of the band more and they have improved their stage presence greatly since the first time I saw them, most noticeably is Mark’s swaggering confidence and more dramatic performance when throwing out those riffs!
We got live show staples ‘Reunite’ and ‘Real Love is The Answer’ before I’m shocked when Tony introduces a new song ‘Samarah Never Sleep’s’ and wow what a new one to slip into the set, highly melodic with a fantastic big chorus. The sort of rock song that ticks all the right boxes for me. I did spot a few exchanges of smiles between Colin, Ben and Mark so I’m not sure if there were a few hiccups during this premier performance of the song, not that it seemed to matter to my ears! Without a doubt one of the most commercial songs they have written and I’d LOVE even more in this vein from them!
They wrapped things up with my favourite track of theirs the compelling melodic drama of ‘While You Were Sleeping’. A top performance from a great Midlands band, destined for even better, I highly recommend you check these guys out given opportunity!
Next were official support Electric Cake Salad another Midlands band, this time from Tamuff – that’s Tamworth to you who don’t live in the good part of the Midlands! Their debut album was produced by Wolfsbane axe man Jase Edwards. I’d heard the word electronica used in reference to the band so I was starting to get nervous, especially when it became obvious there was no drummer – yeah NO drummer and yes it was freaking me out!
As the band appeared I felt a sigh of relief as the guys were obviously not kids, so no rapping and turntables eased my growing fear. If I could compare the band to anyone it would be bands like Filter and Stabbing Westward, guitar heavy but with strong dance overtones. Honestly they really aren’t my thing and I can’t lie and say I enjoyed them, but as a couple of guys were pogo-ing like their life depended on it and singing every word back at the singer I realised it was best not to say these guys are shit, but to just nod and smile!
So who would have predicted that in 2010 Wolfsbane would reunite record a new album and proceed to conquer the live circuit again, no I wouldn’t have either. These Tamworth lads built up a wild reputation and loyal support in the form of the ‘Howling Mad Shitheads’ in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Wolfsbane split when singer Blaze Bayley notoriously joined Iron Maiden, but a lot of time has passed since then and it seems Blaze has come full circle and returned to the band and musical style that made his name!
I was expecting a mostly older crowd tonight but was shocked to see just how many youngsters were littered amongst the howling mad shitheads, proving that the band and it’s rambunctious beer soaked rock n roll is still very much relevant 20 years later! Although I have to admit I wish ‘the students’ with the world’s largest hand held video cameras in the world would have been more discreet, A+ on getting in the way of my rockin’! The only down side to not having a crash barrier at the Robin is you can’t shove all those pesky photographers out of the way!
Wolfsbane certainly were not treating this as a nostalgia trip with a large chunk of their new album Wolfsbane Saves the World getting an airing amongst all the classics. Wolfsbane may not be the greatest musicians in the world but what they do is put on a full-on rock n roll show packed with energy and excitement with songs that deliver a metal punch but are also surprisingly melodic!
These beer soaked rebellious anthems have the whole of The Robin rockin’ and singing along. Blaze must have found it was like shooting fish in a barrel when encouraging this crowd to join in! The band all seemed to love their time onstage, Jase smiling from ear to ear and Jeff Hateley bounding round the stage with the lowest slung bass known to man like this was his stage, not Blaze’s, not Jase’s, his FOOKING stage!
It has to be said the ‘Howling mad shitheads’ really live up to their name and the crowd adorned the band with yelps of approval at every opportunity. They are all crazy as hell, but it makes for an exciting atmosphere as you witness all these hardcore fans go nuts for their musical heroes. Without doubt one of the most fun bands I have ever witnessed and after a bad run of poor gigs this show had me smiling like I’d just discovered a winning lottery ticket or Simone Simons of Epica had finally agreed to marry me and get rid of that silly restraining order!
Blaze was on real form – vocally very strong and impressive! His banter with the crowd and his slightly unhinged stage presence was highly entertaining and he had us laughing on many occasions. As the leader of the world’s best looking band he explained to us that he is new and improved and he’s upgraded his six pack to a one pack over the past 20 years. I also like his theory on hair loss – Alien abduction! Personally I wish they’d leave my scalp alone and pick on Justin Bieber instead!
It’s always great when bands acknowledge the local area, Blaze referring to the Black Country and some local places on a few occasions – my quest to remove West Midlands from my address to be replaced with the far superior ‘Black Country’ is still ongoing and the more people who call the area by its real name not it’s government given slave name the better! I don’t know what Brum’s going to do when we gain home rule though.
The set list included ‘Live Before I Die’, ‘Black Lagoon’, ‘Smoke and Red light’, ‘Blue Sky’, ‘Loco’, ‘Kathy Wilson’, ‘Teacher’, ‘Temple Of Rock’ and ‘Paint the Town Red’. Highlights for me were of course the commercial beauty of ‘I Like It Hot’ – c’mon lets light up the night with a little kiss!!! The rambunctious energy of the fantastic ‘Did It For the Money’ and the infectious chant of ‘Man Hunt’ complete with roadie in wolf mask shenanigans!
They gave us a four song encore including ‘Illusion Of Love’, ‘Seen How It’s Done’ and the closer the anthemic ‘Money To Burn’ which the howling mad shitheads lift the roof off to!
A great gig, the sort of gig you get elbowed in the face, sweated on by the singer and spend the night getting numerous people head banging their hair into your bald patch and loving every last minute of it! I really hope Wolfsbane continue their mission to save the world with occasional pit stops in the Black Country – just for shits and giggles.
Check out more of Rob’s photos from the night below: