Empire Of Fools/The Merton Archer Band/Richard Gardner - Ebbw Vale, The Steelhouse - 8th February 2013 Print E-mail
Written by Rob Watkins   
Thursday, 21 February 2013 03:20



Love It Live....The Steelhouse rocks into 2013 with some fine rock 'n' roll artists again gracing their stage for what is the start of quite an astonishing year ahead for The Steelhouse Crew...


...but back to tonight. The prestigious Steelhouse headline hammer falls down on Empire Of Fools hailing from the South-West of England and a lauded supporting bill from our brilliant local scene in the shape of The Merton Archer Band and Richard Gardner.



Ebbw Vale's very own musical troubadour Richard Gardner kicks proceedings off with a solo acoustic performance and the former hard rocking Circle Of One guitarist/vocalist mellows the mood with a rendition of his very own composition lifted from the excellent 'Tied To The Machine' album release from the aforementioned CO1, 'Everyday Miracles' banged out uber-powerfully and continuing with the emotionally charged 'Fragile', 'Beautiful Girl' and 'I Don't Wanna Leave Tonight' - beautifully crafted arrangements and I suppose you could utter some angst ridden lyrical content, but for me the jewel in the crown of Rich's set is a cover 'surprisingly' in the form of a countrified version of the AC/DC tune 'You Shook Me All Night Long' that works so perfectly on the acoustic instrument: Credit indeed to Mr Gardner for his re-arrangement and, of course, a singalong if ever there was one for the Steelhouse entourage, leaving the stage to some grand well deserved applause. The local boy done good.


An honour and a privilege for me personally to review the second band on the bill tonight, The Merton Archer Band. The four piece opened their set of blues par excellence covers with 'Bridge To Better Days', originally recorded by Joe Bonamassa, and continued fe

rvantly onward with ZZ Top's 'Just Got Paid'. It really does take time to get groove to this extent, albeit with cover tunes, but the wonderous musicianship on hand this evening is incredible, incorporating the incredible smooth bluesy tones of guitarist/vocalist Kenn Barnes's six string licks and soulful intensive vocal performance. They bound on with such classic masterpieces as 'White Room' and 'Whiter Shade of Pale', all accomplished with vigour, with a kinda Merton Archer form of originality, and musically as tight as a proverbial duck's thang that includes the drum beats of the legendary local muso Biffo and solid bass licks of David Madden. The late '60s scene vibe is pretty evident throughout with the guys concluding their business for the day with Jethro Tull's 'New Daybarnes300 Yesterday' and a neat little rendition of Glenn Hughes's 'Soul Mover': Respect Fellas!!!


The three-piece, or trio or whatever you wanna call it, Empire Of Fools hits the Steelhouse stage performing an intro or snippet of Led Zep's 'Kashmir' before sliding straight into 'Higher', one of those punch-the-air type of tunes and perfection for a set opener with its chanty choral arrangement. A certain element of Muse-isms crops into the musical equation on 'Dirty Mind' though slightly heavier slanted, plenty of metal with a heavy bite on compositions such as 'Down To Earth', 'Ain't Got Your Gun' and 'All Night Long' and, having previously shared stages with numerous illustrious British musical luminaries, something has rubbed off on the group for sure with their stage presence.


A number of cover tunes thrown in for good measure keep the attendees' booties shaking with 'Wishing Well', 'Black Night' and the foot tapper that is 'Hard To Handle', with some super fine riffage and vocalizing courtesy of frontman Mark Pascall, with the guys even being joined on stage by local superstar, Steelhouse aficionado and birthday boy Steve Powis, albeit in the shape of a cardboard cut-out on a rendition of Velvet Revolver's 'Slither' - one for the Steelhouse ladies and that aforementioned booty shaking palaver in da house - ending their entertaining set with 'Unstoppable' before being enticed back into the arena to encore by not only the audience but the Steelhouse's very own Matt for a requested replay of opening number and the rather infectious ditty, 'Higher'.


Another one for the Steelhouse scrapbook....Love It Live.