Sunday, 8 January 2017

Fragile Things - Plymouth Review

Back in 2008/2009, my favourite 'new' rock band were Heaven's Basement. I had their debut self-titled EP not long after it came out, and played it regularly. They were one of the first young bands I heard that were playing classic rock-style music with new and youthful energy and they opened my eyes to a whole pile of other new bands and helped to set me on the path I am still following when it comes to new music. One of the things I regret was that I never got to see this influential original line-up of Heaven's Basement live. Their concerts eluded me for a whole host of reasons, including a Plymouth show that was cancelled when original bassist Rob Randell left in 2009. Part of the band's early success was the voice and charisma of frontman Richie Hevanz who left the band in 2010. Heaven's Basement continued on with vocalist Aaron Buchanan, and I finally saw the band live at his first ever show with the band in Leicester in 2011. They went off in a slightly more modern, alternative rock direction and made a sizeable fanbase with relentless touring and the excellent debut album Filthy Empire that was released in 2013. As seems to be the norm with Heaven's Basement now however, they are going through yet another frontman change and they are yet to reveal their plans going forward. Despite still being a big fan of Heaven's Basement through all their changes, I always wondered what Hevanz was up to. I knew he was in a band called Endless Mile for a while but this was a band I never really followed, and it was not until sometime last year when I came across his new band Fragile Things. I knew very little about their music, but saw they were playing a show at The Junction in Plymouth early on in 2017 so I put the date in the diary and decided to go and check them out. The Junction was to be the site of that ill-fated Heaven's Basement gig back in 2009, so it seems fitting that I would finally see Hevanz in that venue which is only a short walk from where I now live.

This show in Plymouth was part of a little run of two shows in the South West of England supported by South West-based rockers All Guilty Parties. They were on first and played for around half an hour to a small but appreciative crowd in The Junction. All Guilty Parties' sound was very riff-based and with a strong bass groove (apart from one song when technical difficulties meant there was no bass!). While I thought some of their music was quite strong, I felt that the vocals and vocal melodies were fairly weak and lacking in any really memorable tunes. In fairness, the lead vocals were quite buried in the mix, so this did not help, but there were not many songs that stuck out to me as being particularly memorable vocally. Being fairly local however they did have some fans in the crowd and they received a genuinely warm reception throughout their set.

Fragile Things were headlining the evening, but it felt like they had to work harder than All Guilty Parties to get the crowd going. The show in Ilfracombe the night before had seen them perform without a singer, as Hevanz' car had a puncture on the way down to the gig, so they seemed raring to go in Plymouth and had a bit of a point to prove. Again the set was fairly short, probably no more than 40 minutes long, but they packed a lot of great music into their show and made a strong impression on me from the off. For the most part, Fragile Things' music is fast and hard-rocking, with strong riffs from guitarist Mark Hanlon that really drive the songs. The opening number, Enemy is I epitomised this sound, with drummer Hugo Bowman really adding a whirlwind of fills throughout the song to really emphasise the band's classic rock influences. Hevanz' was a bit of a different frontman that what I expected him to be, and much more reserved than in those old Heaven's Basement videos. In fairness, that was 9 years ago now and he looks very different to the lion-maned rocker he was then! His voice is still the same however, and he really was the focal point throughout the set with his high-pitched strong vocal display. Some of the songs had shades of his old band, but mainly the set felt more modern with a strong alternative rock feel and plenty of grooves from bassist Steve Lathwell. Despite not knowing most of the songs played, the ones that stood out the most to me where Memories and Wine and  Better Than This, both of which are unreleased as of yet. They both had big choruses and a great performance from Hevanz that showed he is still a force to be reckoned with in the rock world. Another song that stood out was Angry, a song that mixed heavy choruses with a slow, slightly grungy verses. It sounded different to everything else in the band's set but it worked well and showed some diversity in the songwriting. The set came to an end with the only song of theirs I knew, Broken Sun, which is a song that really could have been an old Heaven's Basement tune with an anthemic chorus and a great classic rock strut. By this time the crowd seemed to have warmed up to Fragile Things, and I am sure they made a few new fans in Plymouth with this performance.

After the set copies of the band's debut EP, also called Broken Sun, were for sale. It will see a general official release later in the year, but pre-released physical copies are currently available at their shows. Needless to say I bought one and I look forward to giving it a proper listen sometime soon. Fragile Things got 2017's gigging calendar off to a fine start, and I hope to catch them live again soon.

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