is not definitely NOT Dead!

So in January I made a resolution to try catch up on my gig reviews which has been woefully sidelined by life, the universe, and everything else other than this site.

Now I’d like to think I held true to this personal promise by posting 13 reviews dating back over 3 years. Whilst it’s true that I am not formally up to date with the present, but virtue of going to 9 (!) gigs this year, I’d say that from the moment the resolution was made, I’m certainly caught up.

In 2019 I vow to continue in order to finish what was started to make it back to present day, and with 4 posts in various states of draft, I can say January should be a fruitful month.

It has been a particularly good year for new music in my world, so please stick around for the annual best of list which will be also coming soon…


G3 (Joe Satriani) @ Hammersmith Apollo

25th April 2018

A life’s ambition was fulfilled tonight as I finally got the opportunity to witness one of live music greatest and enduring travelling shows. The epicentre of guitar virtuosity that is the G3 rocked into Hammersmith for a special evening of the finest six sting exponents in the world. The three guitarists on show tonight each have their own style and history, performing in some of the biggest bands in the world.

Uli Jon Roth

Out first was the eccentric psychedelic melody maker of former Scorpions fame, Uli Jon Roth. His aging hippy vibe shone through his bandana and long flowing white hair, waving his super cool custom guitar with style and flare. His playing style was certainly the most expansive of the night, combining progressive ventures with hook heavy melodies that ran though the heart of his songs. Some could be seen as generic AOR, but they had a technical difficulty which way exceeds the ordinary. He has a real feel for emotion and impressive string bends, letting the guitar flow as an extension of his soul. An assured performance from a wizard who took us on a spaced out journey of melodic phasing.

John Petrucci

John Petrucci is much more likely to be found flexing his guitar chops in the giant progressive metal band Dream Theatre. Giant band, Giant man. Super buff with muscles upon muscles and a lusciously incongruous dwarf-ish beard. He was so broad that by contrast it made the guitar he was playing look like a kids toy in comparison. Appearances aside, this was much more of a metal performance with more fuzz, more overdrive and more speed. In fact the shredding was sublime and lightning fast mostly without losing focus on a unifying melodic theme. Less progressive than you’d imagine he played the part of a guitar virtuoso with his tight playing and dizzying picking. It was heavy, loud, brash and wrecked havok but he still retained that accessibly with the guitar loving crowd that made this a success.

Joe Satriani

With all the variety on show, there is only one monolith that stands unchanged across the G3 franchise, its creator and headline act the one and only Joe Satriani. Strutting on stage with his trademark sunglasses (indoors!), shiny guitar and shiny head, the godfather of guitar virtuosity was ready to upstage all who came before. And that’s exactly what he did. He was able to marry the evocative sweeping atmospheres of Roth and the shredtastic heavy metal of Petrucci often within the same song. His stage presence was probably the greatest differentiator as he actively boogies and bops whilst still retaining perfect precision on the fretboard. You feel he’s having the time of his life on stage which makes everything more engaging.

Having recently released his 16th album What Happens Next, these songs took most attention. But far from a drag, these were really good! From the damn funkiness of “Catbot” to the warm loveliness of “Cherry Blossoms”, right up to the exhilarating “Energy”. These slotted in nicely among a subset of his classic jams “Satch Boogie”, “Summer Song” and the unspoken love song “Always With Me, Circles Always With You.

The G3 Jam

As Joe picked his final string, as most G3 vets would know…that is merely the beginning. Joe then invited his tour mates back on stage for “The G3 Jam”. Oh yeah! All 3 virtuoso’s on stage playing extended cover versions of classic rock songs. Tonight it was the turn of Led Zep’s The Immigrant Song and my personal highlight, Deep Purple’s Highway Star. They each played off each other’s energy and thrived in outdoing each other in a titanic guitar battle. It was simply incredible to witness the inherent connection they each had in combining their individual styles with so much grace and ease. Man they rocked!

So tonight was a truly magnificent showcase of the finest guitar playing. I can also safely say this was not a gig. Rather a concert. A show where the onlookers where here to appreciate the music, the craft and the legends who graced the stage. Far more than the usual collective gig consciousness and associated antics. I do feel a little more grown-up tonight, and all the better for witnessing a trio of wonderful performances.


The Darkness @ Cliffs Pavilion, Southend

7th December 2017

Oh yes, back to the seaside for another arena tour for the glam band that the 70’s forgot. If past history has anything to measure tonight by, it will be in laughs, decibels or most likely…both.

Out first was a total unknown entity, owing to me not conducting any homework. But with a name like Blackfoot Gypsies, it was fairly clear they would meet my appreciation criteria. As hoped, they sound exactly as their moniker suggests. A countrified electric blues band who love a good ol’ ho down, whilst adding a little wooziness to cloud the journey. Their overtly American deep south Tennessee drawl was both engaging and energising, seeming to be awestruck by people turning up to watch them. Each song was packed with melody and their guitar strings twanged with a true American heritage spirit. Wholly enjoyable and entertaining.

Blackfoot Gypsies

The Darkness appeared from the shadows full of their flamboyant style, all glittered up and ready to rock (eye wateringly tight cat suit and all). They wasted no time and aptly opening with Open Fire the tongue in cheek ‘The Cult’-esque hard rocker. The pace started strong and barely let up with a rip roaring set which showcased the best of their catalogue. From classic jams, the phone waving balladry of “Love Is Only A Feeling”, the best (?) riff ever (as voted by Planet Rock listeners “Barbarian”, drug infused “One Way Ticket” and pop sensation “Friday Night”.

The Darkness

It was however the newer heavier, cheesier tracks which really raised the standard tonight. The epically thunderous “Japanese Prison Of Love” gnarled its teeth with relentless wattage, the raging rant against “Southern Trains” and the fast and furious “All the Pretty Girls” taking the plaudits.

Whilst they played professionally as the finely crafted specimen of rock legend they are, It wouldn’t be the Darkness without Justin Hawkins between song comedic interludes. Between mercury-esque Ay-Oy’s, stories about his conception above a Colchester Pub and the obligatory gimme a “D”, gimme an “..Aaaarkness” there was barely a dull moment.

What with it being December, we also got a huge festive treat to round us out with “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)”.

The Darkness have settled into their position of defenders of the 70’s glam/pop influenced hard rock faith, refusing to resist making a few too many innuendo jokes. But for those crowed into this sea front concert hall, it was everything they hoped it would be. Big, Brash, Bold, Colourful (in many ways), Camp and Classic.

At The Drive In, Death From Above (1979) @ Brixton Academy

9th March 2018

The legends of independent off-kilter nonsensical progressive post-hardcore and their dance-punk sidekicks made for a line-up too good to pass up. So once more we’re back in Brixton rubbing shoulders with other cool kids (Joe Thomas of Inbetweeners fame included), pretending we’re one of them.

Prior to their arrivals we had a suitably left field artist plying their oddity to all those who graced the venue early. Le Butcherettes were damn strange and this can be primarily attributed to their crazed front woman with a lesser heard name, Teri Gender Bender. Her vocals were all over the spectrum and her dancing was like she’d been possessed by a hyperactive demon puppeteer. Their songs repetitive, harsh, scuzzy and rough like a bad garage DIY band whose sole purpose is to annoy the neighbours. Melody was missing, presumed dead. More of a spectacle and an art performance of a set of indie punk blasts.

Teri Gender Bender

We last caught up with Death From Above (1979) back in 2011, whilst on their comeback trail. Since then they have released more new music and have secured their position as garage-dance punk legends, whilst embracing both pop and prog influences. They had come down in excitement and reckless abandon from that earlier show. Tonight the Drum and Bass two piece pumped out their massive riffs complimented by firecracker drumming to shape their high intensity, groove heavy sound. But overall it was a workman-like professional performance that failed to truly spark the onlookers into frenzy…they were far too cool for that. Barely conversing with the crowd they went about their business, slanting a latest album heavy, fuzz fuelled rhythmic onslaught. Good but has been better.

Death From Above (1979)

Headliners At The Drive In, are returning hero’s of Post-Hardcore and alternative rock, who have broken up multiple times, reformed the same amount, spawned numerous offshoot projects are here and are seemingly getting along. A rapture of applause greeted the bands arrival who duly moved straight into their somewhat aloof and distant stage persona’s who barely engaged with the adoring masses. Putting up that barrier and extracting themselves into their craft was well executed as they went about showcasing their new tracks from last years comeback album with vigor and unhinged energy.

At The Drive In

The performance value was exceptional as each track was sublimely executed and expanded with their outstanding musicianship boosted by their progressive tendencies. All night they feasted on the energy reserves of the crowds revelry. Weaving in new jams, alongside older gems worked nicely and the set flowed beautifully through their career highlights. The finest of said songs were the irreverent choppiness of “Holtzclaw”, an non-obvious expansive sing-a-long on “Invalid Litter Dept.” and their almost mainstream bothering Guitar Hero track, “One Armed Scissor”.

Omar Rodríguez-López (Guitar) & Cedric Bixler-Zavala (Vocals)

I’d say it was a feather in the cap kind of show. A night for admiration and less for head first diving. It was clear though, when your as cutting edge, getting excited and jumping about, doesn’t fit the image. Question is, would I return to see them again…yes, in an instant!

Cedric Bixler-Zavala

Bullets & Octane @ The Underworld

15th February 2018

It has been a while since we were standing at The Worlds End. Whist the incredibly loud metal music streaming over the PA hasn’t changed, the decor certainly had. No longer a rustic old man boozer, it’s had somewhat of a hipster makeover which has given the main bar a lift. Similarly its subterranean darker sibling venue Underworld has also had a lick of paint. Premium beer added and years of accumulated sweat wiped clear away means its more welcoming for those without long hair and black jackets.

That aside, back to tonight’s lineup and having missed Hell’s Addiction, we rolled downstairs to catch Dead Man’s Whiskey. They kicked off our night of rock and roll rather brightly with a fairly good impersonation of a youthful Black Stone Cherry. Full of southern rock-isms despite their obvious britishness, they played their riffs hard and their melodies harder. Simple yet impactful song structures which showcases their knack for a catchy chorus. Their front-man with his low powerful boom was really impressive as he channeled his inner Chris Robertson (Black Stone Cherry). Promising set from a band on their way up.

Dead Man’s Whiskey

It’s been a while coming. Almost 10 years of relative inactivity and at least one cancelled London show have passed since the punk inspired hard rockers Bullets & Octane toured in the UK.

Bullets & Octane

This was not a fact overlooked by their wildly enigmatic frontman Gene Louis when he quipped, “You never know what your gonna get at a Bullets & Octane show. For starters you never know if we’re gonna turn up at all.” Many years of stagecraft were evident here as he continued in his intimate style, making jokes, drinking beer, taking/giving heckles and conversing one on one with the crowd all evening long.

Gene Louis

Unbeknownst to us, they actually had new new material to promote as their first worldwide LP “Waking Up Dead” dropped later in May. These songs rang out with familiarity with more of a hard riff and big chorus combo focus, than pedal to the floor punk infused velocity. It bodes well for the release if on first listen, your already singing and hopping along.

B&O’s back catalogue is a rather shallow in quantity, despite their enduring longevity (enabled by rotating cast members). It did however mean that every one of their best songs got some airplay tonight. The La-De-Dah’ing pop rock crossover “Pirates”, thrash-tastic “I Ain’t Your Saviour”, beer-swilling party tune “Song For The Underdog” and their hard rock classic “My Disease”.

It was all over too soon, but certainly they showed why they are such good value to come and watch. 100% commitment, leaving everything out there on stage every night living and breathing rock and roll hopes, struggles and dreams.

Extreme @ Brixton Academy

20th December 2017

A post Christmas meetup of the faithful congregated back in Brixton for a blast from the past, funk filled, 80’s rock show. We jumped at the chase to witness Extreme, the finest funk metal crossover band and their talismanic six string slinging legend Nuno Bettencourt.

But up first was a lesser known funk/rock band from the 80’s, Dan Reed Network. They played a rather generic form of pop rock that fits nicely into non-offensive electro tilted 80’s radio fodder or the soundtrack to an overly produced day-glo exercise video. Crude comparisons aside, their vocalist (the erstwhile Dan Reed) was seemingly out of kilter with the band, with his rockstar vision of his eponymous group was way above reality. Melodies as you’d expect of the style were strong and ever-present throughout each song, as were the big chorus build-ups. But when it was all played at such a plodding pace it was merely lacklustre, mediocre at best.

Dan Reed Network

Looking round the crowd this evening, the pleasant mix of middle ages metal heads, youthful pop bangers and old school rockers showed the broad appeal of this lesser known but fantastic band from the 80’s Metal scene who stood apart on merits (not just good looks and hair). Extreme!!!


Immediately they showed their flair for melody within the opening bars of the show, as Nuno kick started a night of goddamn funky guitar heroics. Now when the bassline for “Get The Funk Out” kicked in early doors, it was clear they were intending on focusing on their hits. 4 minutes of boogieing and wah-washed guitaring later the crowd were well and truly warmed, vocal chords and all. We continues in obscure, hit, obscure sequencing covering ballads “Hole Hearted”, unhinged rocker “Decandence Dance”, and even more phone waving ballads “Rest In Peace” and “Stop The World”.

Overall they were tight and had heaps of chemistry on stage, however their vocalist Gary Cherone lacked power (sometimes tunefulness) and potential to pierce the wall of sound coming from behind him. This took a little of the edge sheen of this polished performance, but for me the true star of the night was always going to be Nuno Bettencourt.

Nuno Bettencourt

His furiously fast, neo-classical, overtly tuneful and technically mesmerizing fretwork was an absolute honour to witness. He was given centre stage repeatedly on stunning solo’s and entire instrumental tracks that send shivers of excitement down spines. The best being “Midnight Express” a super fast acoustic strummer, the shred masterpiece “Flight Of The Wounded Bumble Bee” and of course Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” sampling classic “Play With Me”.

In summary, a fantastic night of sing-a-longs, funk-a-delia and true guitar greatness.

Oh, and in case you were wondering. Yes they did play their other song too…what was its name again? Something about some Words (or am I thinking of Boyzone or the BeeGees?).