SKAM / THEIA / BLACK WHISKEY - The Underworld, London 20.11.18
It is a cold, wet Tuesday night in London, the kind of weather that the Scottish have a whole extra lexicon for, but thankfully on entry to the underground environs of Camden’s Underworld you are immediately none the wiser. However as BLACK WHISKEY take the stage it seems that few have braved the weather to see them. They launch themselves into their latest single ‘Cheat The Hangman’ with gusto regardless and a steady trickle of fans start working their way from the bar to investigate. BLACK WHISKEY play an easy-on-the-ear brand of hard rock with hints of grunge and a touch of ‘Alter Bridge’ thrown in for good measure. Singer Simon Gordon's voice ranges from a Layne Staley like hum to some full on classic rock high notes and as they rip through songs such as the hooky ‘Bitter Pill’ and ‘The Devil Rides’ they warm the crowd up wonderfully and set the scene perfectly for the bands to come.
Black Whiskey are:
Simon Gordon - Vocals
Kev Ingles - Guitar
Rich Bannister - Drums
Craig Nabbs – Bass
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Despite what the Camden Underworld’s website may tell you THEIA are not an exciting electro-pop-meets-sultry-R’n’B singer-songwriter from New Zealand (although that would be an interesting little curveball on the bill, to say the least) but instead they’re a full-on hard rock power trio from Burton-on-Trent. They also possess the smiliest frontman in rock, Kyle Lamley. Recovering from a chest infection that saw the band have to miss the previous show of the tour, Lamley is resplendent in a red jacket that matches his guitar and while he is typically self-deprecating about his voice if he’s struggling it doesn’t show.
They have an easy going charm and an infectious energy and the blend of melody and rock crunch makes songs like ‘Throw Me A Bone’, ‘No Crisis’ and ‘Just Go’ stand out. The entire set is strong and you feel Theia are just one big rock anthem away from becoming deservedly huge.
With a chuckle, Lamley refers to the people watching from the raised level at the rear of the venue as standing in ‘the executive area’ and while you suspect he would prefer to have them join the crowd in front of the stage, there is no hint of remonstration or recrimination in THEIA’s inclusive and relaxed between song chats. The charm offensive pays off as they launch into their final song - and live favourite - ‘Whoop-Dee-Fucking-Doo’ the crowd happily singing the titular line as Lamley weaves his way through the audience, guitar in hand, every bit the smiling, happy face of rock.
Kyle Lamley - Vocals and Guitar
Paul Edwards - Bass and vocals
Jake Dalton – Drums
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And so it’s left to headliners SKAM to round off the evening. It is a task they take to with energy and consummate ease. There is no one hanging back in the ‘executive area’ for this set. The crowd have come to see SKAM and they’re going to be front and centre to watch them. They enter to the spoken word intro to their 1935-set concept album ‘The Amazing Memoirs of Geoffrey Goddard’ and with frontman Steve Hill sporting a military style jacket, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re about to enter some sepia-tinted, nostalgia fest. The notion is blown away within an instant of the first riff kicking in, this is a band that may look to history for inspiration but they are very much part of the here and now.
It’s been said before, but for a trio these guys make one hell of a noise and they seem to fill the stage more than either support band. Their head-bang inducing riffs get a big response and it seems the whole crowd get involved in a singing along when they launch into ‘Iron Cross’.
They introduce ‘Fading Before the Sun’ as their favourite from the new record and in song writing terms it’s certainly one of their strongest numbers, driving but with a melodic groove, before they up the ante with the blistering ‘Dead From The Waist Down’ from their first album.
‘The Wire’ slows things down briefly but SKAM are confident and assured enough that there is no drop off in energy, instead it adds an extra layer of texture to their dynamic set. A big, fat rock riff is never far away though and it’s clear the band revel in them as much as the crowd do. There is a solid metallic crunch to most of their songs, the pounding drums and meaty, bowel-liquefying bass making you feel the songs as much as hear them. And yet they still manage to ramp it up even more for ‘Take It or Leave It’, drawing whoops of joy from the crowd and then deliver one final blow with the hard and heavy ‘Massacre’.
They leave the stage to the Dambusters March - rounding off the military theme of their show - but in truth there was never any war to be won here tonight, the crowd had all willingly surrendered to SKAM’s charms long ago, and the applause rings long and loud for their conquering heroes.
Steve Hill - Guitar and vocals
Matt Gilmore - Bass
Neal Hill - Drums
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