For the time being, I shall be posting my gig reviews on here instead of on Last.fm. Last.fm has decided to roll out a broken new website that is missing the majority of the features the previous one had - including journals. I cannot even scrobble at the moment, which is Last.fm's main function, which just shows how much of a mess the team have made of the site. My old gig reviews should still be accessible as the old pages are archived, but a 502 error might sometimes prevent you from accessing the old reviews. I may, depending on what happens with Last.fm going forward, re-upload all my concert reviews on here to replace the links to Last.fm.
Steve Harris is, of course, extremely well known for being the bassist and main songwriter for legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden. His career has been almost nothing but dedicated to Iron Maiden since the band's formation in 1975, and he always comes across as the band's unofficial leader. This changed in 2012 when he released his first solo album British Lion. According to history, British Lion were a band Harris was mentoring and looking to produce in the early 1990s, but the band fell apart. When some downtime appeared in his busy Iron Maiden schedule, Harris decided to resurrect the material he had been working on with the band and brought back many of the original songwriters and musicians to participate in the recording. The resulting British Lion album was one that owed much to Harris' 1970s classic rock and prog influences. The album's production was very weak, but after repeated listens the material shone through and it gained quite a few fans. While the album was released under Harris' name, the 'band' now seems to be called British Lion also, which suits the situation really as the musicians that are part of the band all helped to write the material too. The band played a handful of shows previously, but this year saw Harris and the rest of the guys undertake a fairly extensive UK tour, hitting many different cities. It is just a shame that this logic is not also applied to Iron Maiden, as no doubt when The Book of Souls comes out, the UK will only be treated to a single London date (if we are lucky!). The Hub in Plymouth is a great venue that over the last couple of years has attracted some great international acts and finally getting some decent music down to the West Country. Hopefully this trend will continue, as the crowds are always great and the bands always seems surprised by the reaction.
Support came from British metal band The Raven Age, which features Harris' son George on guitars. They played for about half an hour, and in all honesty failed to make an impression on me. Elements of their sound were great, but the songs lacked any really memorable hooks to make them stand out. Frontman Michael Burrough does not possess a great voice - in my opinion - and his melodies just are not strong enough. All too often the songs failed to pack a punch when the chorus came around and this really hampered my enjoyment of their songs. Some of the guitar interplay was great however! George Harris and the band's other guitarist (a stand-in who's name I did not catch) had a good chemistry, and some of the twin-lead guitar moments were the highlight of The Raven Age's set. Despite my feelings towards them, the large crowd seemed to really enjoy the band's set, which is always great to see. The Raven Age just are not really my thing, but good luck to them.
Steve Harris and British Lion hit the stage not long after The Raven Age's set, and hit the ground running with the opening two numbers from the album. This is My God is not their best, but Lost Worlds is a real rocker that got the crowd going and set the tone for the rest of the set. While I feel that frontman Richard Taylor's voice on the album is quite weak, he came across much better live. He still sounded a little thin, but he is a captivating frontman and a good asset to the band. The set also featured other songs written by the band that were not included on the album. A couple of them were real killer tracks, and these were Spitfire, which could have been an Iron Maiden song, and the ballad Last Chance that provided plenty of opportunity for the crowd to sing along. Speaking of the crowd, they were amazing all night. Their reaction to the band was always excellent, and they were singing along loudly to every song and constantly making their appreciation known. The band seemed to continually gain momentum as the set progressed, and their performances constantly improved. David Hawkins (guitar) played the lion's share of the solos, and each one was spot on and really complimented the song it was a part of. The final three songs of the main set were probably the best, with Us Against the World and A World Without Heaven standing out the most. There was still time for a couple more after the main set finished and the crowd was treated to a cracking rendition of UFO's Let it Roll (who are one of Harris' favourite bands). The evening then came to and end with the anthemic Eyes of the Young which saw the biggest crowd sing along of the evening. The crowd was still singing the main refrain after the band left the stage, which was pretty impressive and the sign of a good evening. The setlist was:
This is My God
The Chosen Ones
These are the Hands
Guineas and Crowns
Us Against the World
A World Without Heaven
Let it Roll [UFO cover]
Eyes of the Young
Overall, this was a good night out in Plymouth featuring some good music from a bona fide metal legend. With the new Iron Maiden album out next month, and a huge world tour planned for 2016, I suspect British Lion will take a back seat for a while now. I do hope we get to hear recordings of the non-album songs at some point though, as a couple of them are very good indeed. The band's tour is nearly over, and it seems like it has been a successful one.