Odd Event Reviews... 'Yes' in Concert

Andy Simpkins reviews the oddity that is a "Whole Lotta Metal". Tuesday 1st of June, Croydon Fairfield Hall, London.

If you were to look at photographs of me taken 20 years or so ago, you would not have seen the robustly built gentleman with a rather wide centre parting that readers of our site are accustomed to but a rather lanky, spotty faced teenager sporting what he considered to be the epitome of haute-couture, namely a rather scuffed leather bike jacket with a tatty denim cut-down festooned with metal lapel badges and cloth patches showing the names of my favourite bands of the time. To complete the ensemble would be a pair of ripped jeans and a pair of battered 12-hole 'Doctor Martins' boots.

This is what constituted the height of high fashion for fans of the genre of music known as 'Hard Rock' or 'Heavy Metal' back in those halcyon days of the late 70's and early 80's (cue another heavenly choir for my esteemed collegue, Tony, on this site at the mention of his favourite decade!). Most Saturday nights would see me and my friends of that time at what for many rock fans, was the hub of the universe:the 'Hungry Years'heavy-rock nightclub on Brightons seafront. This establishment, now sadly demised and missed, was the premier night spot on the South Coast for fans of extremely loud guitar-based music. While the suit and tie-clad poseurs of the jazz-funk movement soullessly disported themselves at the other nightclubs of Brighton, 'The Years', as it was commonly called, played music that was loud, gutsy and down to earth, . Many is the time I have had too many Newcastle Brown Ales whilst having my eardrums split by achingly loud music whilst playing 'air-guitar' on a heaving dance floor. By the end of the evening, you were still somehow tottering about on your feet until the DJ delivers the coup-de-grace and puts 'Hi Ho, Silver Lining' by Jeff Beck on the turntable. Upon hearing this clarion call, those people who are still standing and not collapsed in a corner, either by themselves or with a willing partner, then mustered in the middle of the dance-floor in a large circle to perform a drunken combination of the 'Hokey-Cokey' and the Can-Can.

By this time, you would have been drenched in perspiration and you were barely sentient enough to find your way back to the railway station to catch the mail train back home at some ungodly hour of the morning and then collapse in your bed to sluggishly arise sometime the following afternoon. Enough ramblings about those halcyon days , on with the review.

A 'Whole Lotta Metal' is basically a tribute band and tour devoted to showcasing the best British and American rock bands of the 70's and 80's. The band comprised 3 vocalists:Carl Sentence, Tony Martin and Matt Moreton who have an impressive pedigree between them listing such pillars of the rock community as Black Sabbath, Krokus, Bill Ward, Geezer Butler and a few others as well. They had the solid backing of a group of session musicians playing lead, rhythm and bass guitars. This line-up was completed by a very good keyboard player and drummer.

Taking my seat, I noticed that a large majority of the audience were people of roughly my age who had bought their wives, girlfriends and even kids along as well. It goes to show that a lot of people I probably rubbed shoulders with back in those days had, over the years, become responsible and acquired such things as a good job, a company car and a crippling mortgage to boot

The band came on stage and started off with that well know song by Led Zeppelin:'Rock 'n' Roll' from the Led Zeppelin 4 album. As all us rockers are aware, Led Zeppelin were one of the founding fathers of what was to become the British Heavy Rock movementThe vocalist who was taking on the task of imitating Robert Plant did a sterling job and the song was very well received. As for the rest of the playlist, I shall not list them in any particular order but I will tell you all about the ones that stood out in my mind.

As Tony Martin did time with those stalwarts of British Heavy Metal:Black Sabbath, two of the songs that were performed were 'Paranoid' which received a rapturous response and 'Headless Cross' which started off ponderously with one of the vocalists, illuminated by a single spotlight, standing on the speakers behind the drummer with his arms outstretched and head hung low mimicking Christ's last hours on The Cross. One almost expected Ozzy Osbourne to shuffle out on stage and start grimacing at the audience while singing as was his wont when he was performing with Black Sabbath.

Moving on from such doom-laden imagery, during the 2 hours they were on stage, they performed a number of up-tempo and uplifting rock anthems such as 'Jump' by Van Halen, a song that had the audience up on their feet and cavorting in the aisles. The guitarist did fluff a little during the Eddie Van Halen solo but he recovered admirably and carried it off almost note-perfect afterwards. 'Livin' After Midnight' by Judas Priest, 'Highway Star'by Deep Purple, 'Livin' On A Prayer' by Bon Jovi and 'You Shook Me All Night Long' by AC/DC. All throughout these songs, we were being constantly exhorted to stand in our seats, sing and clap along or strip off and for the most part, the audience happily obliged.

The tempo speeded up and got a little darker as the band played 'Ace Of Spades', the classic by Motorhead, who to me always had a very simple idealology when it came to recording and playing live:that of noise now;music later. Needless to say, the vocalist tried to emulate Lemmy's voice which to me always sounded like he had been drinking sand before singing and almost got it off. Only years of substance and alcohol abuse, endless packs of chain-smoked cigarettes and loose women and the diseases they leave behind could aid in replicating Mr. Kilmisters voice. 'Enter The Sandman' by Metallica was another dark track played and they tackled the song with gusto, especially the line'send you off to never-never land' which wished the listener anything but sweet dreams...

A few more up-tempo songs were included in the playlist including 'Don't Believe a word' by Thin Lizzy, a couple of Whitesnake songs were also included in the form of 'Fool For Your Lovin'' and 'Here I Go Again'. A song which received a welcome airing and one I haven't heard since I attended the Metal 2000 concert at Earl's Court was 'Run To The Hills'by Iron Maiden and another perennial Led Zeppelin song played was 'Whole Lotta Love' , complete with a mercifully shortened section in the middle where, on the original recording, Jimmy Page almost contorted his guitar to produce, in my opinion, some very unsettling and disturbing noises from it while Robert plant almost strangled himself to produce the vocal noises accompanying it.

After a well-deserved break, the band came back on stage for an encore and they did not fail to please. Free's'Alright Now'was played along with the most anthemic song that Queen had ever produced, namely 'We Will Rock You' which had the audience faithfully clapping in time. Freddy Mercury may be sorely missed but I am sure he would have been nodding his head in approval at the rendition played this evening and the reaction it elicited from the audience. A momentary lull in the proceedings and then the familiar chords of 'Whole Lotta Rosie'came banging out of the house speakers. On the live recordings of AC/DC in concert, there is always a chanting of 'Angus... Angus'i' between breaks in the opening chords and I was amused to see quite a few members of the audience slightly nonplussed about what to do as the manic schoolboy-uniformed lead guitarist of AC/DC was nowhere to be seen and should have been up on stage, running around like a man possessed and posturing lewdly at the audience while hammering away on his Gibson SG guitar.

By way of summary, all the vocalists and musicians did a sterling job and there was talk up on stage between songs of making this tour a yearly event which I am sure would be very well received amongst the rock music fraternity. My only gripe was that there were no songs played by Rush;a band who are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. 'Spirit Of Radio' is a song immediately recognisable and features on a lot of rock compilation CD's. Saxon, being one of the founders of the new wave of British Heavy Metal, was also missing from the set and a song or two from them would be appreciated. Teutonic rockers:Scorpions' did a lot to make an impact on the UK charts on numerous occasions and could be included in their set somewhere, should a 'Whole Lotta Metal' hit the road again.

As the saying goes:'Times change and so do people'... My musical tastes have changed as I have grown older and I am currently in the thrall of jazz-rockers’S'eely Dan', with their laid-back West Coast groove and that consummate show-man and ex-Genesis frontman, :Peter Gabriel, but all those songs from my murky past, I still get out from time to time and give them a whirl on my CD player.

Rock music is enjoying something of a renaissance at this moment in time, thanks to bands like Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Evanescence but I am sure it would do the new generation of rock music fans some good if some of the stuff my generation listened to were played to them in order to show them where it all started...