KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton ~ So, on a very cold and frosty evening, I’d just settled down for the night, the day job was done, and it was time to chill - but then I get an email saying someone was sick and could you cover? Well, I don’t need asking twice, especially when they told me who the headline was, so I head off to a new venue (for me) - KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton - and a midweek treat of three bands.
First up, FM (the British version) with a blistering first set and if this is the sign of things to come - and we know it is - then we are in for a very good night.
There’s no room for idle banter so it’s straight in with ‘Synchronized’, ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Killed by Love’. Biggest cheer of the night though goes to ‘I Belong to the Night’ with ‘Turn This Car Around’ coming in a close second. Overland’s vocals are strong and the back line of Jupp and Goldsworthy are solid, as you would expect from the guys that formed the band, back in the 80’s. The frontline is completed with the relatively new boys, Davis and Kirkpatrick.
Killed by Love
Tough It Out
I Belong to the Night
Turn This Car Around
The people of Wolverhampton were grateful for a good start to the evening and had begun to warm up nicely, and they needed to - not only was it freezing cold outside, but it was inside too. This place used to be a car factory over 100 years ago and has the same heating system in place today, as it had then… none ! ! It’s just one big shed and for future reference, you’re well advised to bring a coat and wear your thermals. Don’t be misled though, this doesn’t detract from anything because once you know the rules, you just get on with it and once the music starts, nothing else matters.
So, with the Stagehands working overtime with so many changeovers to deal with and the first one duly completed, we’re ready to rock again. Next up, rock legend Graham Bonnet with his band.
Bonnet is 74 years young now but can still pull it off, with the exception of one or two high notes, but what do you expect - and what he couldn’t do, Wolverhampton did. Memories of Bonnet’s days with Rainbow and Michael Schenker Group were relived and those memories were good. Tonight, was also a night for drum solos and ‘Desert Song’ saw Bonnet take a step back and let Gaalaas get on with it - and he did, oh, how he did. Subtle support came from Heavenstone on bass, Pesinato on guitar and Bertoni on keys, until the tight was right and then all hell broke loose, and the wall of sound returned as we segwayed straight into ’Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘Assault Attack’, which got best reception of the night and moved us all up a gear. A neat set of time-honoured classics were duly fulfilled and by the time Bonnet left the stage, we were toasty. Cue the Stagehands…
Eyes of the World
All Night Long
Since You’ve Been Gone
Lost in Hollywood
…and then, it was time.
Aerosmith’s ‘Sweet Emotion’ plays out as Aldrich, Lowy and Tichy enter Stage Right. A huge cheer goes up as the first few notes are played, and then… Hughes arrives, no, swaggers on stage, resplendent in a red paisley suit and with all the grace and attitude that a man of his stature is allowed to have. If you’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then this kind of entrance is compulsory, I guess.
The strains of Sweet Emotion is replaced with the opening bars of ‘Long Way to Go’ and any memories of being cold are long gone. We’re less than five minutes in, we’ve reached boiling point and we’re in for over an hour old and new songs, with a few classic covers thrown in for good measure - 70’s rock at its absolute best.
Hughes makes the point on a few occasions that he’s a local boy, and he is, in many ways, as he hails from a dozen miles up the road in Cannock, which makes him a Staffordshire lad, just like me! He also makes the point that people from the West Midlands are the salt of the Earth, which sends the good and kind people of Wolverhampton into ecstasy.
Now, earlier we’d been treated to a drum solo from Shane Gaalaas - a much underrated and missing part of many a set list - but what we didn’t know was that was just a teaser, something to whet the appetite with. Some of us knew it was going to happen because we’d seen the set list, and there it was, in black and white, nestled between Song 8, ‘Fortunate Son’, and Song 9, ‘Mistreated’, the magical words DRUM SOLO. And what a solo it was, all the band retired off stage and Tichy took centre stage, and for more than eight minutes he hit everything in sight, paradiddles, paradiddle diddles, and every other rudiment that had ever been invented was performed with style - and it was just sublime – and with half a dozen 10ft stick bounces off the snare, all caught as if it was nothing. Again, sublime.
Also, worth a mention were Hughes’ vocals especially on ‘Mistreated’. Every last note - and there were many - was hit with absolute perfection, and if Bonnet couldn’t always manage it at 74, Hughes made good use of the three-year advantage he has over him and did. It’s no wonder he’s known as the ‘Voice of Rock’. Truly amazing.
And there it was, a high-octane performance, finished off with ‘Shine On’ with one of the most drawn out and divine endings I’ve heard in a long while, ‘Midnight Moses’ with Hughes invitation to join in, “it’s time for a singalong, you want to sing with me ? I know you do, I know my people”, he says and then ‘Burn’ wraps everything up nicely.
Tour continues through to the middle of next week and if you take my advice, you should make the effort, buy tickets and go.
Written for Rock at Night Magazine
Full set of images coming soon