The buzz around this triple header tour has been immense and the stop in Bolton was no exception. Having been close to sell-out for a number of weeks, The Railway was, once again, playing host to new bands and new fans. The tour itinerary saw these three fantastic bands travel to several of the more well known venues around the UK but tonight must surely have taken some beating. At capacity on a hot, summer’s evening the melodic rock fans that hit Bolton were in for a treat – incredible talent, amazing songs and a venue that is second to none.
First up on the night were White Widdow all the way from sunny Australia. Not unknown due to an appearance at Firefest last year and having appeared in a number of the nations printed, rock magazines (of the “Classic” variety – nudge, nudge, wink, wink), these guys are not your typical band from Oz. If you were expecting traditional, no-nonsense Aussie rock (a la AC-DC, Airbourne, Rose Tattoo, etc) you need to think again. White Widdow produce melodic rock that wouldn’t be out of place in the company of Journey, Bon Jovi and many of those other purveyors of classic 80s melodic rock – yet the manage to make it a sound for now. With a set-list weighted towards their most recent “Serenade” record, these guys truly made an impact on the Bolton crowd. Jules Mills’ voice was strong, and despite admitting to vocal issues, gave an amazing and energising performance for their 30 minute set which highlighted fully their strong rhythm section (featuring new drummer, Gerorge Christy – who had looked forward to experiencing the cold of a British summer….oops!) and highlighting Enzo Almanzi’s stunning guitar work. Ending with “Broken Hearts Won’t Last Forever”, White Widdow have grasped the opportunity to win over new fans and, judging by the White Widdow t-shirts/CDs being clutched, I am not the only person looking forward to their return to the UK.
Serpentine are one of the names that are being spoken of in very high terms at the moment – and on the strength of this tour it is very easy to see why. These young guys have made a brilliant record in “Living and Dying in High Definition” but all could have been lost having lost the presence of Tony Mills on vocals. However, with the arrival of Matt Black, Serpentine can now put this to one side and build from the high water mark of this latest CD. Matt’s powerful vocals match the power and talent of the rest of the band – as with all great melodic rock bands we’re treated to tasteful keyboards that fill up the soud around the more typical rock sound of guitar, bass and drums. As a whole these boys are set to make a massive mark and, judging by some crowd comments could easily have justified being at the top of the bill. One thing that I was particularly impressed with was Mr Black’s showmanship – having spoken with him after the show it is clear that this hs come from many miles travelling around the country with his own band, solo and in a couple of tribute acts. The “cheeky chappie” routine could have been too much aligned to the working mens’ club scene, but Matt has enough nouse to realise when to reign it in and when to let fly – he truly won the crowd over. When Serpentine next come to your town, whatever your plans might be if they do not include seeing Serpentine…change your plans! Plus they have plans to start recording soon and that should truly see them fly.
Last up, the headline act Ten. Formed in 1994 these guys have been around the block and then some. Gary Hughes has fought against time and trends to keep the fire burning for his particular brand of AOR and this return to the touring scene has clearly been welcomed by the very many Ten fans that filled the venue. I have no idea why but for a band with the the longevity of Ten I was, before tonight, very unaware of the history – my musical radar has been switched on since the early 70s and once I discovered the joys of melodic rock in the 80s that has been my main love so this lack of awareness was a total mystery. With a set full of very grand (pomp-tastic ?) songs covering all eras from the first album to the most recent, 2011’s “Stormwarning”, the band steamrollered through their set, winning over new fans and obviously pleasing their loyal followers. Set closer, “The Name of the Rose”, summed up their epic sound – dual guitars, keyboards, bass and drums all working with Gary Hughes’ vocals.
In this time of penny pinching and austerity, this was a brilliant night out with three great band which was even more incredible when you consider that advance tickets were a measily £12.50! With bands like this, offering such amazing value in such awesome surroundings the UK music scene should be in safe hands. As a parting shot I would just like to mention the sound on the night – I have been to The Railway many times and have never heard such a flat sound and that can ONLY be down to the promoters using their own sound technician. Can I advise bands that, unless you are using your own PA, bringing your own sound technician is a waste of your money and time – if the venue has a house set-up use their engineer who will know EXACTLY how to get the best sound for you (unless you want drums to sound like Tupperware pots?).
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Review by David Wilson