Saturday, 19 March 2016

HRH on the Road - Bristol Review

HRH on the Road is a new tour being put on by the organisers of the various Hard Rock Hell UK festivals. Headlining this tour is the legendary English rock 'n' roll vagabonds The Quireboys, a band famous for their excellent live shows. Over the past few years, The Quireboys have become one of my favourite live bands. Frontman Spike and Co. always deliver live, and are extremely hard working. They are on tour somewhere more often than they are not, so have perfected their live shows over the years. It was over a year since I had last seen The Quireboys live. A spur-of-the-moment trip to Rushden from Luton last March, while the band were on an acoustic tour, was my last live Quireboys experience, so I was due another hit. Bristol seemed the obvious choice from Plymouth, and making the trip to see the band is always worth it. Joining The Quireboys at Bristol's O2 Academy were Swedish sleaze rockers Hardcore Superstar, fellow Swedish rockers Bonafide, and the Welsh blues band The Texas Flood. There were different opening bands on different nights of the tour, but Hardcore Superstar and Bonafide are ever-present as far as I can tell. Hardcore Superstar's slot was originally filled by Faster Pussycat, but the Americans dropped off the bill without much explanation a month or so ago to be replaced by Hardcore Superstar. This was a good swap. I saw Hardcore Superstar supporting The 69 Eyes back in 2011, and they put on a good show. Faster Pussycat seem to be a very strange band these days, so I cannot say I am too disappointed not to see them.

An early doors of 6pm meant that there was a very small crowd assembled while The Texas Flood were playing, which was a shame as the band were quite decent. The power-trio format is tried and tested, and The Texas Flood made good use of it with plenty of raw power and energy. The band's riffs and solos were very strong, as were the vocals. There were probably not enough really catchy melodies to make a true impression, but the band's energy was certainly infectious, even with a small crowd. The band's bass player was particularly skilled, and used an array of playing styles to keep things interesting.

Bonafide were scheduled to play, but a puncture on their van meant that most of the band could not make the gig. Pontus Snibb (vocals/guitar/percussion) had made the show however, and proceeded to play a one-man show that was a little strange but worked under the circumstances. Armed with only a guitar and a bass drum, Snibb played a set of blues that consisted mainly of old standards, and a couple of his solos numbers. One old Bonafide number was thrown in, but their back-to-basics rock does not really suit this sparce format. Kudos has to be given to Snibb for his never-say-die attitude, and the crowd really got behind him as he was playing through his make-shift set.

Being a late edition to the bill, Hardcore Superstar did not really have the best time, initially. I am not sure how well advertised their appearances on this tour were, and there only seemed to be a handful of Hardcore Superstar t-shirts around. By this point, there was a reasonable-sized crowd in, but lots were still loitering around the bar area and not really getting into the music. This slowly changed during the course of Hardcore Superstar's set, as more and more people became interested in what the band were doing. They only had about 45 minutes on stage, but they made it count with a stellar, anthemic set of some of Sweden's finest sleaze tunes. Sadistic Girls and My Good Reputation were a good one-two punch to get things underway. Frontman Jocke Berg is a real livewire, and was constantly pacing the length of the stage and standing on the monitors. Nearly all of the band's choruses are huge, filled with gang vocals, and made to be heard live. One of the highlights of the set was the foot-stomping Last Call for Alcohol, which has one of the band's best choruses. Another highlight was their best-known song We Don't Celebrate Sundays, introduced by Vic Zino (guitar/vocals) with a powerful riff. By this point, most of the people in the venue had taken an interest in Hardcore Superstar and the floor was filling up. The crowd sing-a-long was loud for a crowd who not long before had seemed fairly uninterested in the band, and the raw Above the Law made for a perfect ending. Due to the tight schedule, roadies were dismantling Magnus Andreasson's (drums/vocals) drum kit while he was playing it, which was pretty funny. Berg also came out into the crowd, close to where I was standing, and partied with the crowd. This was a great set from the band, and I expect they made themselves a few new fans. The setlist was:

Sadistic Girls
My Good Reputation
Touch the Sky
Last Call for Alcohol
Wild Boys
We Don't Celebrate Sundays
Above the Law

By the time The Quireboys came onstage, the venue was holding a decent-sized crowd, although one that was still slightly disappointing for a Friday night. That being said, the atmosphere throughout was excellent, and the band played a blinding set as always, despite some initial sound issues. Every one of the band's studio albums was represented in the set, which is always good to see, and the mix of old and new was well-balanced. Two newer numbers, the raucous Troublemaker (Black Eyed Son) and the modern classic Too Much of a Good Thing were the perfect opening numbers and were well received by the crowd. Spike was his usual magnetic self, and the perfect guitar duo of Guy Griffin (guitar/vocals) and Paul Guerin (guitar/vocals) was on fire. Their loose chemistry is part of what makes The Quireboys special, and they always play off each other perfectly. Nick Mailing (bass guitar) has grown into his role a lot since the last time I saw the band, with is funky basslines adding an edge to the band's live shows. The Finer Stuff and Gracie B, two songs I had not heard the band play live before, were early highlights; as was the oldie There She Goes Again which saw the first really big sing-along of the night. Elsewhere, the ballad Mona Lisa Smiled was as well received as it always is, and the newer rootsy rock of St Cecilia, another number I had never heard the band do live, was another stand-out. The song translated well from it's original semi-acoustic arrangement into a big live rock one, and had heads bobbing everywhere. Lots of classic songs where wheeled out towards the end, including the boogie rock of Tramps and Thieves, a personal favourite of mine, and the 'big' single Hey You which was performed on Top of the Pops back in the day! The main set ended with the band's most famous song, 7 O'Clock, which was the climax of the evening's party atmosphere. There was just time for one more before the strict 10pm curfew was reached, and the epic ballad I Don't Love You Anymore, with some perfect piano from Keith Weir (keyboards/vocals), led the evening to a fantastic close with some more loud singing from the crowd and extended solos from both of the band's guitarists. The setlist was:

Troublemaker (Black Eyed Son)
Too Much of a Good Thing
The Finer Stuff
There She Goes Again
Gracie B
This is Rock 'n' Roll
Mona Lisa Smiled
St Cecilia
Tramps and Thieves
Hey You
Sweet Mary Ann
7 O'Clock
I Don't Love You Anymore

Despite the fact that the larger bill meant that The Quireboys had to play a shorter set than they normally would do, and the absence of three quarters of Bonafide, the evening of rock in Bristol was excellent. The Quireboys rocked as they always do, and Hardcore Superstar delivered a winning set to a room of apathetic concert goers who were won around eventually.

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