FOUR STICKS CLASSIC ROCK WEEKENDER 2018 Day 1 - New Cross Inn, London 05.10.18
PHOTO CREDITS: JON THEOBALD PHOTOGRAPHY
New Cross is one of those increasingly rare areas in London that gentrification hasn't engulfed. And the New Cross Inn - home for the next few days to almost thirty of the best rock bands this country (and Australia) has to offer - is certainly an old-school pub, unsullied by the sockless hipster generation. However, the bands are what matters and thankfully there was a hell of a lot of them, so let’s crack on, shall we?
First up on Friday night were ALTERATION, due to headliners DIAMOND HEAD’s extended soundcheck and a few organisational issues at the venue they had to play a shortened set. It seemed to unsettle the band a little and the set felt a tad rushed, however imperious frontwoman Cat Stevenson’s strong presence and their solid, meaty, slightly indie-tinged songs got them through what could have been a tricky start. The crowd were understanding and the band certainly didn’t do themselves any harm on the night.
Following closely behind were NEURONSPOILER whose Maiden-esque gallop and fist-pumping power metal you feel was much more to the crowd’s taste. They blasted out of the blocks and injected a real energy into the evening as the venue started filling up. You pretty much know what you’re going to get when a band introduces a song as ‘Slay the Beast’ but NEURONSPOILER do it very well indeed. Coupling charm, charisma and a knowing sense of fun with an incredible technical proficiency they blow away any lingering doubts that the show might be ruined by the organisational chaos, their dynamic songs and excellent stagecraft need and deserve a bigger stage and by the end of their triumphant set not a head remains unbanged.
Next up, and carrying on the over the top fun, is SAINTS OF SIN. Glammed up to the nines, they blast out a joyous set of big choruses, big hair and synchronised high kicks. It’s gloriously silly at points but beneath all the glitz and glamour is a band that’s as tight as their trousers. And the crowd lap it up. By the time they reach ‘Wasted Nights’ the place is jumping and their hair metal version of ‘Uptown Funk’ is the cover version you never knew you needed. They close with ‘21 Shots’ and a whole lot more fans.
Following those two high energy bands was always going to be a tricky task and BURNT OUT WRECK are wise not to try and compete with the previous bands on that level. Instead, frontman Gary Moat effortlessly controls the stage even if his broad Scottish accent is largely incomprehensible to the majority of the southern ears in the audience. The band themselves have a classic hard rock sound with a solid, bass-led groove and they go down well with the crowd, which by this stage seems to largely contain DIAMOND HEAD fans. In fact, BURNT OUT WRECK’s old school style proves to be the perfect foil for the headliners, preparing the crowd for the NWOBHM legends, and their faithful cover of ‘Highway To Hell’ to end the set goes down well with the crowd, most of whom remember it the first time around.
And so to DIAMOND HEAD. Entering the stage to ‘Mars, The Bringer Of War’ from Holst’s Planet suite, devil horns are flicked and the packed crowd are clearly warmed up and ready for the main act. Of course, the current iteration of DIAMOND HEAD is nowhere near the original line up, in fact only one member remains but when that man is Brian Tatler - the man who wrote the songs that inspired Metallica - then such things are forgiven and forgotten. Current singer Rasmus Andersen prowls the stage as much as possible in the limited space and commands the crowd with practised ease. Every word to every song is sung along to and the accomplished riffing machine that is DIAMOND HEAD doesn’t disappoint as they play a career-spanning set. And in case you were worried this was all pure nostalgia they throw in ‘Set My Soul on Fire’ from their last album and apologise for not being able to play any from the new album they’ve been recording. While Tatler might still be the dominant force this is clearly a genuine band rather than a mere vanity project and they all seem to be having the time of their lives.
They inevitably close they set with a still-great-after-all-these-years rendition of ‘Am I Evil?’ And the floor is shaking under the weight of the crowd bouncing. Anyone still in the basement bar must have been fearing the ceiling was going to cave in on them.
The band return to the stage for the one more song that the crowd demands and Tatler happily solos away in amongst the crowd as fans air guitar furiously. Even passers-by outside stop to watch through the windows and the first night draws to a close as a resounding success.
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