|Steve Harris British Lion / Wild Lies – Belfast, Limelight 1 – 6 December 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen|
|Saturday, 10 December 2016 16:00|
As I wrote on my Facebook page on the afternoon of this gig, it’s not every day that you get to see a living legend, one of the founding fathers of heavy metal as we know it today, playing down your local pub… OK, it’s the rather more substantial club next door, but let’s not split hairs because here we are, on a cold Tuesday night in December, preparing to worship at the feet of the maestro that is Steve Harris, albeit not in his more generally recognized guise as the driving force behind the mighty Iron Maiden (Belfast, after all, once again has been omitted from the band’s 2017 UK tour) but as the leader of his side project, British Lion, on the last night of their latest off-season European jaunt…
The Maiden connection is forged right from the off, as openers Wild Lies after all feature guitarist Adrian Smith’s son, Dylan, in their ranks… and, to be honest, it’s not hard to spot the paternal link, as he’s the spit of his da (as we say in these parts): but, let’s lay that aside.
The Wycombe quintet possess a middle-of-the-road sleaze-edged hard rock vibe which sounds something like NWOBHM might have done if it had been born in LA rather than the back streets of the UK, and then transported straight back to the post-punk alleys and dives of Soho town. Apart from a couple of dozen diehards who have staked their place on the barrier early, there initially is a largely apathetic response from the small crowd – but, their riffs have enough meat on their bones to keep the local metallians chewing on their marrow and, by the time they bow out with current single ‘Can’t Carry On’, and largely thanks to frontman Matthew Polley’s rampant enthusiasm, their energy and commitment has a large proportion of heads nodding down the back as well.
Almost as soon as the Lions take to the stage, Harris adopts his characteristic foot-on-the-monitor machine-gun-bass stance, in between traversing the stage in the typically energetic fashion that belies his 60 years. At the same time, he’s mouthing every word of every song, encouraging the audience to do the same – although it is obvious that many present are unfamiliar with the band’s repertoire and are only here because it’s a rare chance to get up close and personal with “Steve Fuckin’ Harris”, as was overheard several times in the adjacent bar before the show. By the same token, however, an equally large proportion who raise their own voices to join in on every song.
For those who are unfamiliar with British Lion, they play deliver a classy melodic hard rock sound built on well-worked guitar harmonies: think Magnum or Ten without the keyboard pomposity but with the bombastic power.
The focus of most present is inevitably on Harris himself, but the band try hard to divert it – and succeed to a large extent, as they are a tight unit and singer Richard Taylor is a strong and charismatic presence, a frontman who knows how to work a crowd and get the best reaction from them, and confident in his ability to do so. However, it’s an extremely intimate stage, and so the bassist’s personality is omnipresent.
The songs, which are all taken from the band’s self-titled 2012 debut album, are solid, heavier in the live arena, beautifully crafted and delivered similarly. But, what would happen if you took Harris out of the equation? Well, you’d have a bloody good rock band who know how to put on a bloody good rock show, as they’ve certainly got all the right ingredients – but, having a genuine rock god in your ranks can’t help but add that bit of extra spice, can it?