London based Melodic Power Metal quartet Evyltyde kick off proceedings tonight as a trio of bands hit Belfast as the one the only, Mr Graham Bonnet returns with Alcatrazz to bring a bit of nostalgia to the city once again.
Right away you get the quality in the song writing from Evyltyde, intricate guitar work fused with a solid back line and powerhouse vocals from front woman Hannah Delaney make for a strong start to the evening. Big hooks, thrashing riffs and addictive melodies are the name of the game for this quartet and as they have just dropped their sophomore full-length album The Genie, they’re riding the crest of a wave and this quality line up on tour to dovetail the release. The guys close of their set with ‘Bullet In My Head’, and get rapturous applause, Belfast approves this message!
Time to change up a gear with UK classic rockers The Jokers, with poise and a touch of class they set alight the limelight with a bitchin’ set, taking the audience on a sonic journey through timeless classic song writing and a cover or two that got the audience begging for more. A tight ass band, with beautiful guitar work, quality vocals and a solid back line what more could you ask for, as the room filled you could see more and more bodies making their way to the front for a piece of the action.
These guys have a beautiful swagger about them, the groove and air pushing from those Marshall’s bringing smiles as wide as a Cheshire Cat to their faces, overkill ain’t the name of the game but a beautifully weighted subtlety that ebbs and flows throughout their set which just makes for a magical performance, a joy to watch.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and that man is Graham Bonnet – the legendary rock singer appears a little worse for wear as he is escorted to the stage and takes a seat. But that is not going to scupper tonight’s performance or enjoyment one bit as a packed room grows closer to the stage for tonight’s finale. The mighty Joe Stump is the man taking the reigns tonight as six string slinger in the absence or Malmsteen, Vai and co but that won’t deter Joe as his is a blistering maestro himself and within seconds we know exactly where we stand on that front. Mind blowing guitar work not seen since the days of Malmsteen himself fills the room as arpeggio after arpeggio at breakneck speed mesmerises the onlookers, jaws in the floor as Alcatrazz hit after hit gets nailed with precision.
Bonnet is in fine form soaking up the adoration from the crowd, there are more than a few old tome rockers in the room to appreciate the legacy in front of them and rightly so. Having lead from the front over numerous decades Bonnet is rightly regarded and one of the pivotal voices in classic rock today. This evening is filled with glorious timeless rock hits from his days in Rainbow, underground specials from the Alcatrazz days that only the dedicated few understand, and Bonnets solo days, all consumed by a crowd eager for more.
One hour forty-five minutes of unadulterated magic ensued and if for any reason you have been on the fence regarding this tour, maybe you’ve seen Bonnet before, maybe you think you know what you’re going to get? You’re wrong, its like the Hot Tub Time Machine brought us back to the early eighties and the very best of Bonnet, Malmsteen and Co. in full flight. Stump is a revelation and an absolute must to see on this tour, majestic in his artistry, a mind-bending six string cacophony which has to be seen to be believed, all beautifully brought together by a first class band, Bonnet has surrounded himself with the best in the business and it shows.
Review & Photography by Mark McGrogan – Rock n load mag