(Photo Credits: GAVIN ROSS)
It is a sobering thought that the new wave of British heavy metal is in its middle age, but there are a number of stalwarts who are keeping the denim and leather on the road - gracing venues large and small across the world. The lack of record company money to finance tours these days means only those who work hard and cherish their fan base can survive and keep live music alive.
Blaze Bayley is a fighter and a survivor. His early days with Wolfsbane led to the much discussed Iron Maiden front man slot, and these days he continues to tour both with Wolfsbane and with his own band. His commitment, passion and talent are as strong today as they have ever been and his respect for those who come to his gigs and buy his albums is second to none.
That commitment is in evidence at Glasgow venue Ivory Blacks on a cold March evening following a cancellation of the gig at the beginning of the month due to unprecedented weather. On the days leading to the planned gig, Blaze took to social media to give the bad news about cancelling the show but provided the silver lining in this rearranged date.
Venue staff are happy that ticket sales had lifted following the weather issues and the punters slowly filter in to this dark and basic room to shake off their cabin fever. Keeping the focus on the main act, there is no support which makes for an earlier start for those worrying about the inevitable school night issues. The band mingles with the crowd before the subtle waft of dry ice floats across the stage to herald the arrival of the man himself. Choosing to ignore the microphone, he speaks with the crowd and exchanges laughs asking “Is this Edinburgh?” much to the amusement of those at the barrier.
Bayley’s stage presence is arguably more befitting of an arena despite the small stage he commands tonight. His crowd interaction is engaging and he has all-present holding their hands in the air, singing along and at times - receiving sweaty hugs up close and personal.
Opening with ‘Redeemer’, the first track on his newest album ‘The Redemption of William Black’, Bayley is on fire. His singing range and power are arguably stronger than ever as he soars and broods, painting the lyrical picture of this track that forms a part of his trilogy of albums.
Bayley is obviously proud of his recent work and many of the songs in the set are drawn from the trilogy. Strong tracks such as ‘Immortal One’ and ‘Escape Velocity’ are frantic and delivered perfectly and work well alongside more introspective songs like ‘Infinite Entanglement’.
Bayley’s works is accomplished and fresh in structure and content. He proudly but humbly references his solo work between songs, reminding the crowd that he isn’t mainstream and that he is free from contractual obligations that can stifle creativity for so many in the industry. His band are part of this positivity and Chris Appleton (guitar), Karl Schramm (bass) and Martin McNee (drums) are impressive and more importantly - appear to love what they are part of.
It would be easy to anchor the set with Iron Maiden tracks from his two recorded albums but these are included as a nod to that period in his career rather than as the main course. Bayley mentions his Maiden legacy fondly and does so with respect and again - pride. The reaction of the crowd to classics ‘Futureal’ and ‘Man on the Edge’ is palpable as every word is bellowed back at the band. What is noticeable is that Bayley’s own material works seamlessly with the Maiden tracks - a reflection of how he left a true mark through those two albums.
This isn’t a crammed venue but there is a connection with everyone in the room. Appleton works the stage well too, and shares the energy as Bayley steps back to let the band take the limelight. It’s not often a band with one guitar and no keys create such a big sound. The power and presence of the band isn’t confined by the low ceiling or by the up close crowd, with no pit separating the band from the barrier. These factors make the experience altogether special and intimate.
As the night builds to its conclusion, the crowd is satisfied and has witnessed a passionate performance that has spanned decades of material. For those who were unsure of what to expect, this has been a rewarding night and the opportunity to meet the main man after the show without an expensive ‘meet and greet’ package, only cements the fact that Bayley is a man of the people.
With photographs taken and merchandise bought, it is clear that Bayley’s work ethic is strong. Many younger bands would do well to watch him in action and listen to his words. They are honest and wise. Who knew that rock n roll could be so enlightening in its advancing years?
Are You Here
Prayers of Light
Dawn of the Dead
Calling You Home
The Angel and the Gambler
Man on the Edge
A Thousand Years
Dark Energy 256
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