Ahead of travelling up and down the southwest section of the M5 for the second time in as many days and becoming some kind of rock 'n' roll yo-yo, I spent a little time catching up with some Über Röck reading of my own.
Most notable was Johnny H's account of his recent Brighton bash with Bad Company. The opening gambit about the "more 'casual' type of gig goer" and "sweaters" sent me flashing back to what was possibly the worst gig I have ever had the misfortune to attend. Gig in question? Brian May on his 'Back To The Light' tour sometime in the early Nineties. Now there was nothing wrong with the Great Bri himself (how could there be?), or for that fact his band, which was tighter than a Jewish bass player and featured the late great Cozy Powell thumping the tubs, how could you fail to be impressed? No, the trouble was the the crowd! I stood garnished in my finest patch covered denim cut off, a gleaming bullet belt and more boot straps than a bondage wholesalers, ready to mosh it up to 'Tie Your Mother Down' and the like. But surrounding me was an ocean of knitwear clad church wardens swaying like rushes in a gentle breeze and all I wanted was to rock out like a hurricane! One "bloke", and I use the term as loosely as I can, had even brought along some childrens party poppers to enhance his enjoyment of the evening's hard rock proceedings. I stood despondent as miniture streamers fluttered past, promising myself I would never position myself in a vertical graveyard of punters like that again.
So with that in mind you can imagine the feeling of terror I had walking into the Academy 2 and hearing the pre show PA pumping out the ominous sound of every Ford lover's favourite Sunday afternoon cruising anthem......... 'Driven By You'!!! My blood ran cold. Not again, surely. I couldn't take another no pulse crowd, no matter how many years had passed. But following on from a quick sing-a-long-a-Strawbs intro, yeah you guessed it "Part Of The Union, the headliners take the stage. And opener 'Easy Street' quickly dispels any fears of a crowd like repeat of my tortuous Brian May experience. A jubilant reception greets the first track of the night, a proper loud rock crowd in a well packed club, nothing beats it.
Second song in and poor ol' Luke Morley has a gremlin in the mix, something ain't right and he spends half the song, 'You Know My Name', standing in the shadows as his tech desperately tries to disconnect one lead and attach another, yanking and pulling until they're both stuck fast in one giant knot. I'd hate to see what it's like when he gets his Christmas lights out. Still, with a quick shout of "I'm back!" and dragging a reasonably sized bundle of inseperable cables behind him Luke makes it back in time for a solo much to the amusement of his bandmates.
Now Luke should need no introduction to any of you. Having spent the best part of the last 20 years riffing his way around the world with childhood pal Danny Bowes in Thunder and before that with Terraplane, he chose to continue his involvement with bands identifiable by the letter 'T' by forming The Union with ex-Winterville frontman Peter Shoulder following Thunder's break up last year. Now I've heard many people rave about Peter Shoulder, but having heard Winterville's 'Everything In Moderation' album I personally never saw what the fuss was about. It's not until he's singing just feet in front of you that you realise just what a talented guy this mofo is. A voice far too powerful and rich for any normal 26 year old to have naturally I would suggest there's a piece of paper somewhere with "I owe you my soul" scribbled on it. This is nowhere more noticable than on the back to back duo of 'Black Monday' with its jazz like strut and the acoustic tap of 'Holy Roller', shivers down the spine is a much over used expression but this time no other words could come close.
Several of the songs from the short but sweet 12 track set list were introduced by Pete as being "another drinkin' song". I did mean to make a note of which ones they were but I had a pint in my hand and didn't want to spill it, so I guess he speaks a lot of truth this Shoulder geezer. Current single 'Step Up To The Plate' sees off the main set with a raucous run through and the loudest signs of approval yet that the future of The Union is going to be built very securely on the steady foundations laid during this, their first, UK tour.
Taking a quick break, just long enough to grab a few fresh cans, and let the steadily drinking patrons replenish their glasses, the guys come back out to whoops and cheers before knocking out 'Come Rain Come Shine' ahead of a show stopping cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Proud Mary', ending the night on a roll. A short set at just an hour long but a thoroughly enjoyable evening, far more so than I expected if I'm honest. And with fellow ex Thunder man Chris Childs covering the bass it was a top night all in. I'm a convert, and a happily paid up member of The Union !!!
Earlier it had been down to opening act Voodoo Six to turn up the heat previous to The Union's arrival. Four parts metal with one part Lynyrd Skynyrd, they hit the stage roaring more like a V12 than a V6, delivering their own crushing 45 minute set of unpretentious, boot stomping Brit rock. Sporting more pedals than a church organ and with 101% Pantera tribute man Chris Jones shredding his Dimebag geetar the pace was kept with the needle firmly in the red for the full 45. With bassist Tony Newton, permanently on the move, stepping on the monitors, leaning over the crowd, punching the air and singing along like a club level Steve Harris they delivered all 5 tracks from their recent 'A Little Something For You' EP mixed with a few choice others that provided a good kickstart to the night. Maybe it was a little bit of a miss match to have had them opening for The Union but none the less I left feeling that Voodoo Six were the greatest support band I've seen so far this year. Some people love 'em, some hate 'em. You won't know what you think yourself untill you check 'em out, so when they head your way just make sure you do.