The Bedford Esquires is a small compact venue perfect for up and coming bands and in particular rock music, with a merchandise stand along one wall and a bar along the other everything is perfectly at hand.
First up were Skarlett Riot, a young 4 piece rock band from Scunthorpe who has a similar style to Halestorm, with a strong female lead and fast, loud hard hitting metal music. Formed in 2010 they are fronted by Skarlett on vocals, Danny on lead guitar, Martin Shepherd on Bass and Luke on drums.
They were a great live band. There were a large number of Skarlett Riot fans there, the majority of whom were wearing the band’s t-shirts and they made sure that the band felt welcome. Skarlett interacted with the fans throughout the performance getting them to clap, cheer, shout and high fiving them. It was great to see a lead so in tune with her fans and clearly wanting them all to have a great time which they would remember.
They played seven tracks in all, ‘Break’, ‘Empty Inside’, ‘Voices’, ‘Outcast’,’ Calling’, ‘The Wounded’ and finished off with their new single ‘Warrior’ which was my personal favourite; four of which came from their recent album release Regenerate. Their music is heavy and Skarlett sings powerfully through all the tracks, the drums are hard hitting and crash through all the tracks with lots of cymbals. The guitar playing is fast and the bass deep. During many tracks there is plenty of synchronised head banging and Skarlett encourages her fans to join in. She also entertains the audience by getting them to provide a choreographed series of chants. I enjoyed their latest single ‘Warrior’ the most. It showed me that they have developed themselves during their 7 years together and have a great future in front of them. It was a much more rounded and fuller track with an awesome riff, balanced guitars and drums, melodic vocals and a great chorus.
All in all, a really good live band lead by Skarlett who is able to front the band with personality, fully entertaining their army of fans throughout their set.
Toseland were the headliners and it had been over three years since I last saw them at the Portland Arms in Cambridge. Since that time, they have released a second album and are certainly now recognised as one of the best new Rock bands in the UK.
The band is fronted by James Toseland on vocals, the brilliantly named Zurab Melua on lead guitar, Ed Bramford on guitar, Roger Davis on bass and Joe Yoshida on drums. Toseland are an awesome live band. James is known by many with an interest in sport or motorcycles as a double World Superbike champion, a feat on its own not matched by many others and one of only two to have won it for two different motorcycle manufacturers. He then married the super talented Katie Melua and in 2013 formed the band Toseland. The absolutely brilliant front man with his powerful vocals, energetic moves, a constant smile with perfect white teeth and his wonderful Yorkshire humour, who you can’t fail to be absorbed into everything he says and does on stage. Roger and Ed join James in jumping around the whole of the stage inter-changing positions and interacting with the fans. In fact they all move around so much even James commented in one of the gaps between tracks that Roger had been constantly crashing into him.
James explained this was his first visit to Bedford which he thought was famous for vans. Not sure why but it drew some laughs. They played an extensive set list of 18 tracks in total, a full mixture from their two albums and Hearts & Bone EP.
They introduced themselves onto stage with what sounded like a song from the Blues Brothers which immediately lightens up any performance. They then opened up with the hard-hitting ‘Puppet on a Chain’ and followed up with ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Burning the System’, ‘Singer in a Band’, ‘Good Eye Blind’, ‘Gotta be a Better Way’, ‘Nothing You Can Do About It’, ‘Never Love Another’, ‘Just No Way’, ‘Fingers Burned’, ‘Living a Lie’, ‘Hearts & Bones’, ‘Too Close to Call’, ‘Life is Beautiful’, ‘Living In a Moment’, ‘Renegade’, ‘We’ll Stop at Nothing’ and finishing up with ‘Crash Landing’.
The set was well balanced and showed they can mix it up with energetic tracks and slower more melodic rock songs. The balance was good between guitars, bass, and drums, and didn’t overpower James’ vocals. When it came to the part to play the melodic tracks, ‘Just No Way’ and ‘Fingers Burned’, an electric piano was wheeled out and James showed us his grade 6 Piano skills in full. I wonder who wins the best piano skills when he is home with Katie. It would be a tight contest. The success of these two tracks, one off each album, has meant that they have become more of anthems for the band and the fans sing along with James throughout.
James took the opportunity to let us know that we won’t be seeing the end of the band for some time yet as they had just signed a 7-year, 4 album deal with Frontiers Music which was brilliant news and you could see just how much it meant to him personally. We can expect a new album next year which I can’t wait for.
There were two particular highlights for me. Watching and listening to James perform my favourite Toseland track ‘Just No Way’, and then remembering what an absolutely fantastic riff their first single, ‘Life is Beautiful’, has. It was these two very different tracks that launched the band to the success they are now experiencing and show us just how talented they all are. I had a great evening and I hope it I don’t have to wait another three years before I can see Toseland again. Absolutely great band and brilliant performance!
Find out more about the bands on the links below:
Skarlett Riot: https://www.facebook.com/skarlettriotuk/
Bedford Esquires: https://www.facebook.com/bedfordesquires/
Frontiers Music srl: https://www.facebook.com/frontiersmusicsrl/
**PHOTOS ARE NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT OF DOWN THE FRONT MEDIA**