(Photo Credits: Linda Flynn / Michelle Flynn)
On a beautiful sunny Saturday evening, there was only one place in Southampton to be; the Planet Rock Roadstars Tour at The Talking Heads. The tour this year features two of the most exciting young bands to hit my ears in the last year; Broken Witt Rebels and Bad Touch.
First to take to the stage were Broken Witt Rebels; a band who have been on the periphery of my radar, so I was looking forward to catching them live for the first time. In conversation, they have always been labelled as ‘blues rock’, but as their set progressed it became clear that this is a band who cannot be labelled so easily. They produce a heavenly mix of soulful, bluesy, southern rock with an alt-rock vibe that’s fuelled by filthy guitar riffs and bourbon soaked vocals.
They pulled tracks from both Georgia Pine, their latest E.P. release and it’s predecessor, Howlin’, also added some new tracks to the setlist, heightening the anticipation for their next release. They opened with Low, and by the time they reached the second verse, I was completely entranced, floating in my own little bubble of soulful bliss which was swiftly burst as the drum beat to Howlin’ kicked in and the crowd began to bounce.
New tracks, including Snake Eyes and the stunningly seductive Turn Me On were well received by the crowd. The latter was the perfect platform for Danny Core to show the depth and rawness to his voice, which are accentuated in a live setting. Not only does Danny’s voice hit you right in the feels (yes, I did just use that phase) he is mesmerising to watch on stage. He puts absolutely everything into his performance and the crowd gives everything back in return.
In sheer contrast, James Tranter (Lead Guitar) and Luke Davis (Bass) just ooze coolness and completely own that stage. Musically, they combine beautifully to give a down and dirty feel throughout the set, but it is most noticeable during Bottom of the Hill. James’ solo during Getawayman is a thing of musical beauty.
Providing the glue that holds everything together is James Dudley on the drums, who manages to be both energetic and subdued at the same time. I’m not sure I’ve seen a drummer caress cymbals the way he does.
They finish the main set with the infectiously bouncy Guns with its nod to ska in the guitar work, then please the crowd with one more song in the shape of the Shake Me Down before leaving the stage to rapturous applause and cheers from the Southampton crowd.
After a short break, Bad Touch sauntered onto the stage. Now, I’m not going to lie, I fell in love with the sound these guys make when I first saw them supporting Kentucky Headhunters and fell even deeper at the Truth Be Told album launch party. There were two key factors why tonight’s performance was going to be different for me; firstly, they would be playing a longer set than previously, and secondly, it would be my first chance to see them play with new recruit, lead guitarist Harry Slater.
I don’t know if either of these factors were an influence, but they were on fire. The new band dynamic certainly seems to have them in a better place as they looked far happier and more relaxed than when I’ve previously seen them.
They opened the set with Good On Me from their debut E.P. Half Way Home. Lyrically it’s a fun song about jeans, but perfect to get the crowd going as they adapt to the change in musical style from openers BWR. Bad Touch have taken feel-good rock and roll that makes you smile and sing along and made it their own, and the next songs, Heartbreaker, Soulshaker and Under My Skin from their latest E.P. Truth Be Told demonstrate this fabulously. Stevie Westwood (Vocals) shimmies around the stage working the crowd as he hits us with his rock and roll vocals. It’s clear he is have a fantastic time up there and his energy completely fills the room. Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings (Guitar), is so laid back he’s almost horizontal as he provides the depth and tone to the songs that allows young Harry to showcase his talents. Or perhaps it’s Harry’s confidence on stage that allows Seeks to be so laid back? Either way, it is a guitar pairing made in heaven. Michael Bailey (Bass) and George Drewery (Drums) provide the rhythm backbone to this rock and roll quintet.
The new recruit falls under scrutiny as he embarks on the slide intro to Wise Water but Harry skilfully works that slide to produce a gorgeous sound. But it there was ever a track to show us what he’s made of, it’s Outlaw. This is my favourite track on Truth Be Told, and as Stevie rightly said, who doesn’t love cowboys? The live version certainly didn’t disappoint; if anything, it completely exceeded my expectations. Stevie’s vocals were spot on, transitioning from soft to powerful with ease and Harry showed maturity way beyond his years in the way he handled that guitar; giving one of the most powerful solos I’ve seen in a good while. I was totally in awe.
I could have done with a breather to recover, but instead they launched into a fantastic My Mother Told Me/Hard To Handle mash up that included an interactive crowd sing-a-long, not that I hadn’t been singing along for most of the set anyway. They finished the main set with the catchiest, feel-good song that is around at the moment, 99%. This track has had great radio play and is a total earworm. At this point, I would like to say that I looked around and the crowd were all dancing along, but truth be told, I was enjoying myself far too much. (And yes, I did that pun).
After admitting they couldn’t be bothered to walk off stage and come back on, they hit us with The Mountain with its stripped back intro, rousing choruses and anthemic guitar solo it seems the perfect song for the night to end on.
Putting these two bands together on the Roadstars Tour was a stroke of genius. They couldn’t be more different but complimented each other perfectly and showcased just how much talent is currently on the rock circuit. I genuinely didn’t want the night to end and I would have done more shows if I could. I can’t wait until I’m able to see both bands again.
The Roadstars tour hits Birmingham at the O2 Academy on Friday 7th April before finishing up in London at The Borderline on Saturday 8th April.