(PHOTO CREDITS: MB PHOTOGRAPHY SCOTLAND)
Scotland’s capital city enjoys a strong international reputation among global travellers, history buffs and those who seek the cultural fix only an international festival can provide. Underneath that polished facade of tartan and tourist trinkets, lies a dark history of body snatching and treachery that oozes from dark alleyways and ancient graveyards. It is in the shadows of Bannermans Bar where The Rocket Dolls find themselves waiting expectantly on the inhabitants of Edinburgh and surrounding settlements on this, the fifth night of their UK tour.
Bannermans lies in the heart of the city and enjoys a prime position in an area where the student population mix with locals and upward-gazing tourists lost in the atmosphere of a cold, gloomy spring evening. The venue is small, dimly lit and in the midst of ongoing renovations that add a gritty edge to the already exposed-brick arched walls. As if to add to the macabre aura, the temperature is cold - almost too cold for a musician’s digits.
The punters slowly arrive knowing the headline act have been let down by their support for the night. This hasn’t affected this three piece band who are in a buoyant mood as they excitedly swarm around their modest merch stand. Frontman Nikki Smash grins broadly to all comers with the glint in the eye of someone who knows this band is a true prospect.
Walking through the gathered crowd, Smash proclaims, “Shall we play a gig then?” Taking to the stage, newcomer Joe Constable dons his bass guitar and stares out with a steely determination that is only matched by drummer Benji Knopfler’s titanic presence behind his kit. The first track ‘I Can’t Go Back’ from the band’s first album spews from the intro tape at a furious pace. It is abundantly clear that this is a three piece who fill the space many struggle to. Smash has range to burn and smiles, pulls shapes and exchanges encouraging nods with his stage mates as the songs flow.
There is an early Foo Fighters feel to the material with tracks like ‘She’s Starting Something Now’ and ‘None of This is Right’ from new album ‘DeadHead’ which are gloriously powerful and emotional with the added grit of a heavier ingredient. New single ‘Last Thing On My Mind’ takes a different direction with a slower more melodic approach where clean guitar floats behind Smash’s wistful lyrical delivery. The power isn’t lost though with Knopfler’s trademark feel for attack lifting the track tastefully, combining well with the string section backing that elevates the song into radio airplay territory.
‘Stop the Dead Men Crying’ is a gloriously gloomy track that moves from stabbed rhythmic verses to a melodic chorus that feels loose but focused. Moving to the final track of the night, the band proudly admit Edinburgh is their favourite place to play. Title track of the new album ‘DeadHead’ flows with a Nirvana-soaked picked guitar-intro supported by Constable’s growling bass tone. Smash has used an array of honeyed guitar tones through the night and the solo in this track stands out as a signal fire to highlight the sheer musicality of this optimistic trio.
The room feeling slightly warmer and with smiles on every face, the spell of this forbidding venue has been broken. Smash mingles confidently whilst his quieter bandmates say their thank you’s and the punters filter to the bar for a swift chaser before tackling the streets of Auld Reekie once more.
With a few dates left on their UK adventure, the band have a determination borne of the confidence that they can share the stage with the big boys. With slots at Wildfire Festival and Ramblin’ Man Fair 2018, these smaller gigs are going to be the ones people in coming years will proudly refer to, saying “I was there”.
The Rocket Dolls are on the road right now. You can find their tour details and get your hands on the new album ‘DeadHead’ at - http://therocketdolls.co.uk/
Check them out at -
Set List -
I Can’t Go Back
She’s Starting Something Now
None of This is Right
The Last Thing On My Mind
Stop The Dead Men Crying
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Listen to the interview with The Rocket Dolls on Episode 68 of Down The Front Podcast: http://downthefront.podbean.com/e/episode-68-down-the-front-podcast/