HEAVEN AND EARTH/M.ILL.ION
O2 ABC 2, Glasgow
27th June 2014
M.ill.ion are a Swedish five piece melodic hard rock band who seem to have been around forever. Out on tour to support their seventh full album release, 'Sane And Insanity', they hit the stage at a very sparsely populated ABC 2 and decided that the best response to such a poor turnout is to rock even harder than usual.
These enthusiastic Swedes specialise in the kind of radio friendly singalong melodic hard rock heard in the late eighties and early nineties and are unashamedly a good time party kind of band. Working hard to engage the people in the room and generate some atmosphere they power through a succession of songs full of nice melodic touches from the keyboards and guitars but driven along in fine style by a tight rhythm section.
Front man Ulrich Carlsson's vocals are strong and on point and his patter may be a bit cliched but he deserves credit for working so hard to draw the audience in.
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To be honest I'm not sure how strong any of the songs were and maybe the likes of 'Rock And Roll Nation' won't sound so good laid bare for examination on album but they were good enough tonight that I will check the albums out and I don't think I'm alone in that view.
Heaven And Earth are an LA based five piece band who declare that they want to revive the spirit of classic rock and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Deep Purple and Bad Company in bringing old school rock to the masses. Backed by some strong promotion they have come to tour the homeland of their rock heroes for the first time, boldly headlining on their first attempt. Judging by tonight's less than stellar turnout this strategy has backfired somewhat but that in the end is about the process, what about the important bit, the content?
Striding onto the stage in confident mood they ignore the size of the crowd and launch into the epic sounding 'Victorious' from their latest album 'Dig'. Immediately the intent is clear, it's about a classic sound. With the Hammond organ style keyboards and guitar flourishes Rainbow and Deep Purple are brought to mind not for the last time tonight. Singer Joe Retta doesn't look like your typical rock frontman, especially with the tartan 'bunnet' he is sporting for the occasion but he has a fine set of pipes and effortlessly hits all the right old school rock notes.
The first part of the set leans heavily on 'Dig' with 'No Money, No Love' sounding impressive and enjoyable but like something off a Mark 2 Deep Purple reunion album at the same time. 'Man & Machine' is a more uptempo hard rocker and much heavier than on album. It allows drummer Jackie Barnes the leeway to show his power and he drives the song forward in fine style.
I hadn't been aware until this gig that he'd joined the band. Last time I saw Jackie play live was behind his dad, Aussie rocker Jimmy Barnes! I'd say he plays like his dad sings, plenty of talent but full on almost all the time, no slacking!
The middle of the set contained some older material and I thought the song quality dropped a bit although the musicianship never did. Guitarist Stuart Smith shows off some fine playing in the likes of 'Grave Kept Clean' but he looks and sounds like such a Ritchie Blackmore clone he needs to watch he doesn't slide into parody.
For me he is a fine player and Blackmore is definitely someone worth emulating but maybe he could try to look a little less like the man in black in his heyday. The solo in 'Waiting For The End Of The World' when they returned to 'Dig' material was excellent though.
The Deep Purple analogy continued when they chose to cover 'When A Blind Man Cries' but for me they missed the spirit of the song. Purple were certainly often bombastic and over the top but this song is one of their beautiful introspective moments. Unfortunately the Heaven And Earth version is more over the top and the vocal and guitar histrionics didn't really work for me.
The rest of the main set then kind of spluttered a bit with acoustic led rocker 'Good Times' not really working in the live environment. However 'Rock And Roll Does' got back to their default position of musicians crafting something with melody which also rocks and the small crowd were certainly impressed enough to bring them back for more.
Encore time was an excuse for another cover, this time of Free's 'Mr. Big'. It was a nice tribute to another of their hero bands but again I thought they missed the feel of the original and overpowered the song.
Heaven And Earth have a lot going for them, great musicianship, a fine live sound and presence and I liked the way they faced up to an underwhelming attendance and played like there were thousands of people in front of them.
In my opinion they need to be a little less derivative and work on writing more songs as strong as about half of 'Dig' is but overall they are definitely worth checking out if old school hard rock is your thing.