||STRAY/PEARL HANDLED REVOLVER
The Borderline, London
16th January 2015
Liz Medhurst: Pics by Noel Buckley
Is it too early to start thinking about a contender for gig of the year? I had been looking forward to tonight, an ideal bill to blow away the dark January blues, and it delivered in spades.
It was an early start at The Borderline, necessitating a hike through the early evening Friday crowds of Shaftesbury Avenue, something that is rarely pleasant but on this occasion completely worth it.
Stray, led by founder Del Bromham, are always a treat live - one of the original and best rock bands, born in the wonderful late 60s period where Heavy Metal and hard rock were formed, and they have yet to stop.
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First up tonight though were Pearl Handled Revolver, who always impress and tonight once again showed their skill blending a mix of influences and styles into a unique and original sound.
The band have been locked away in the studio for the past few weeks putting together their third album so they were very at home in the dark basement of the Borderline. Right from the off with the opener 'Help Me Down From The Trees' we were drenched and infused with blues-psychedelia of the highest order.
With vocalist Lee Vernon's grit and passion, Andy Paris' melodic, punchy and progressive guitar licks and Chris Thatcher's drumming which hits you in the gut and chest at the same time, a portal is opened to the most tasty sounds imaginable. It is Simon Rinaldo's keys though, high up in the mix, coaxing out bad-ass purrs and jazzy interludes that bring everything together and lift the songs to a whole new level.
Del Bromham himself joined the stage for 'Hello Mary', and the epic 'Peace By Piece', the additional guitar adding to the pleasure.
As the band seamlessly gear-changed through tempos and rhythms, the full to capacity venue was unanimous in its appreciation.
As the set drew to a close with 'Rabbit Hole', a wonderful trippy state had been reached with nothing other than the power of the music (and perhaps a small amount of pear cider).
Pearl Handled Revolver are a band of the highest quality. Go and see them every chance you get.
Pearl Handled Revolver setlist:
Help Me Down From The Trees
Into The Blue
Peace By Piece
There was massive anticipation in the air by the time Stray came on. Fans of blues and hard rock and Metal are all equally passionate about Stray, and with good reason; who wouldn't be?
From the opening riffs of 'Come On Over' the place started bouncing and didn't stop. The invitation to "Come on over to my place if you want" was gladly welcomed, The Borderline being owned by Stray tonight. With an interlude from 'Tomorrow Never Knows' minds were indeed turned off from the chaos outside and floaty and relaxed was a good way of summing up the mood.
Don't be under any impression that this gig was on the lighter side though – Stray rock hard and heavy, producing pure honest rock n' roll that packs a mighty punch.
Fortunately this was exactly the tonic that the Editor needed, as part of his rehabilitation following his recent obsession and imbalance with folk Metal which you can read all about it here. Having checked his bowed psaltery on the door, he was soon back with the programme and the few plaintive shouts for more tin whistle gradually died out, so we are getting there.
Pretty much all of Stray's long and celebrated career was represented tonight with the second track, 'For The People', originally from the 'Stand Up And Be Counted' album, making a live appearance for the first time in about 30 years, followed by the not quite as rare but still scarcely played 'Only What You Make It'.
Tonight's line up of Del, Karl Randall, Stuart Uren and guitarist from the mid 70s period Pete Dyer were scorching hot, producing track after track of British rock music at its very best. In a week where the demise of Soho has been headline news and column fodder, this was one corner of the village that was well and truly alive and kicking.
Stray's most recent studio album, 'Valhalla', proved that the band are just as good now as they ever were and thankfully a selection of the outstanding tracks appeared in the set tonight - the hard-hitting trio of 'Move A Mountain' with its forceful and punchy riff, 'Free At Last' and 'Harry Farr'.
One of the (many) things I love about Stray is that it is not just the music that is outstanding, but Del tackles important subjects lyrically too. 'Free At Last' reminds us of the words of Martin Luther King and John Lennon, and their quest for peace which could not be quelled by an assassin's bullet.
'Harry Farr' was written for the memory of the twenty-five-year-old soldier suffering from shell shock who was shot for cowardice – a disgraceful decision by the establishment. Much was made last year of the official death toll of WW1, but still far too many whose lives and those of their families were permanently blighted remain excluded. We are still a long way from true justice - Question Everything.
Anyway, tonight there was no constructed enemy, we were all united in our love of great rock, which just kept coming. Simon Rinaldo joined the line-up to add delicious keys to 'Mr Wind' and the glorious anthem of truth 'I Believe It'. Pete Dyer took over lead vocals for 'Houdini' and 'One Night In Texas', the latter nearly lifting the roof with its Thin Lizzy-esque vibe.
'Buying Time', another mid 70s classic that sounds just as fresh today has astounding energy and a fantastic bit of showmanship with great use of a talk-box.
The showmanship continued right to the end with 'Suicide' and 'All In Your Mind', with Del pulling out all the stops with the traditional guitar heroics, a triumphant conclusion to a stellar set.
There wasn't a single duff moment tonight, just a great show by two of the best live acts around. A perfect Friday night.
Stray Set List:
Come On Over
For The People
Only What You Make It
Move A Mountain
Free At Last
After The Storm
I Believe It
One Night In Texas
Suicide/All In Your Mind
Click here for MetalTalk's review of 'Stray – Live In Japan' and exclusive video interview with Del Bromham.
Click here for MetalTalk’s interview with Pearl Handled Revolver at Cambridge Rock Festival.