With the Christmas and New Year festivities fast becoming a distant memory, it was nice to blow the cobwebs of a gig free month away and get back on the horse, so to speak, with a trip up to Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend to catch three bands who are fast building impressive reputations. Revival Black and Scarlet Rebels arrived in the Kent town as part of their 26 date “Rising Tour” which started on the 17th January in Cannock and will see them travel around England, Scotland and Wales before the final date in Llanelli in May. Tonight, At The Sun joined them as opening act and throughout the tour they will give many other fine bands the chance to grab a piece of “The Rising Tour” action.
After ending the last decade with shows from two legendary acts in Thunder and Sweet, I was excited to see some of the nations new blood in action as they undertake careers that will hopefully see them playing venues in 30-40 years with stellar careers behind them and they themselves being touted around as legends of the British music scene.
Tonight’s gig was the second event that The Rock Co-Operative had hosted and once again they had every “I” dotted and “T” crossed as the event ran like clockwork. They are a group of like minded gig goers and music fans who have come together to promote new, up and coming bands that they like and from what I saw on offer tonight and from the reaction of the packed venue, they have certainly hit the nail on the head with the way they are going about their business and the bands they are booking.
In my opinion At The Sun, released one of the finest debut albums of 2019 and having caught them for the first time at Croydon Rocks in November I was keen to see them again. Their performance that night was blisteringly hot and I was hoping for more of the same tonight. I needn’t have had any concerns though as this rocking five piece set the tone for the evening with an electrifying nine song set full of sweat, swagger and soulful blues rock. If any of the punters in Leo’s tonight were moaning about how cold it was outside, by the end of At The Suns set, they might have been complaining about the temperature inside and asking for the heating to be turned down.
This was At The Sun’s first gig of 2020 but they showed no signs of rustiness as they tore through three quarters of Leave Before The Light. Opening track “Preacher” quickly showed any attendees what the band were about, full of bluesy rocky rhythmic riffs before the heavier “Only a Fool” which gave Harry the chance to show us all what an amazing vocal range he possesses.
The band are full of energy and the guitar work and playing from Kieron and Chet is not only scintillating to listen to but captivating to watch. “Bite Your Tongue” and “Lay It On Me” follow and you can see how much the crowd are enjoying the set by the looks on their faces and with their singing at every given opportunity. “Renegade” a track from their debut EP and now album is a sublime track that starts off as a ballad and picks up pace throughout.
“Raise a Glass” sees Harry toast the crowd and dedicate the track to them as he says “they wouldn’t survive them”, many glasses are raised in a return gesture. The band are not losing any of their energy and the vibe they have on stage is just a joy to behold. There are so many smiles on the faces in the crowd and you can feel a genuine warmth between the band and their fans. Penultimate track “Devil In Your Eyes” sees the frontman get his own solo spot as he wows the venue with some unaccompanied vocals that send a chill down your spine.
Slowly the band kick in as this powerful but beautiful song builds and it really does show what a talented bunch of guys they are who are clearly destined to be reputable headliners very soon. “Soak It Up” brings the set to a close and it really does feel like they have only been onstage for about 15 minutes, the music played was exquisite and their time on stage flowed almost timelessly through. I wish they could have played for longer but there were another two bands still to come and so Harry, Kieron, Chet, Alex and Craig had to leave the stage, but they left it to a rousing cheer and with every pair of hands in the crowd clapping them off.
Now it was the turn of Scarlet Rebels to whip the crowd up into a frenzy and boy did they do that and do it in style. Like the opening act tonight, Scarlet Rebels released “Show Your Colours” one of the best NWOCR debut albums of 2019 and they turned up in Gravesend to be fronted by a crowd full of anticipation to see these much lauded Welsh rockers in action. Scarlet Rebels have existed in some way, in a previous life and with different members as Void.
Void released three albums before disbanding and becoming Scarlet Rebels but there are nods to their existence with four Void tracks included in tonights 14 track set. From the off it is nigh on impossible to stop watching lead guitarist Chris Jones who puts in an eye catching performance throughout the bands entire set. The band play high quality, anthemic, melodic hard rock and the blistering guitar work from Jones is at the forefront of that as he almost single-handedly draws the crowd into the bands dazzling performance.
“No One Else To Blame” is a heavy and energetic opening track that straight away generates a dynamic vibe within the venue. Gravelly vocals from Wayne Doyle, Jones swashbuckling guitar, the bludgeoning rhythm section of Wayne “Pricey” Esmonde and Gary Doyle are all accompanied by second guitarist Josh Townshend as they lay down a solid foundation for the next hours entertainment. “Let Your Love Go” leads into “Can’t Open My Eyes” which involves a mass Doyle led crowd sing-a-long. The atmosphere which was already electric is now heading into the stratosphere as Scarlet Rebels make sure they are not outdone by At The Suns earlier performance. The crowd are clearly lapping this up and rightly so as Scarlet Rebels are on top form and are playing the type of rock music that can’t do anything but get you up and dancing in whatever small bit of space you can find inside the packed, hot and sweaty venue.
Up next is “Save Me” which comes full of heavy, dirty riffs and raises the ante yet again. “Nothing To Say” and “Heads In The Crowd” keep the pace going and the temperature rising, before a brief interlude as the band break into Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, which gets the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. What is obvious with Scarlet Rebels is how much fun they are having on stage, not only playing to the wanting crowd, but with each other, as they interact at every possible opportunity. There is something completely and pleasantly infectious about not only Scarlet Rebels performance tonight, but also their music.
The combination of big catchy choruses, songs resplendent in riffs and solos that make you want pull out your own air guitar, the powerhouse rhythm section that creates tremors through your body with every solid beat and the dazzling way they use every inch of the available stage make this and them a really unmissable prospect for any fan of high quality guitar driven rock n roll.
“Part of Me”, “Let Me In”, a Void track and “Heal” see the band continue through their set. We then get three songs in a row from Scarlet Rebels previous incarnation in “Say My Name”, “Not The One” and “Zero” which brings their set to an all too soon conclusion. The crowd, like me, wanted more and obviously not wanting to disappoint them, Scarlet Rebels gave them the encore they were clamouring for. “Take My Breath Away” was the perfect way for the band to finish this exhilarating performance. Heavy, energetic, guitar laden and full of even more silver-tongued vocals, it concluded a dynamic performance from the band and from what I could see, left every man, woman and child who was their to witness the show, open mouthed in awe of what they had just witnessed.
So we come to tonight’s headline act, Revival Black. The Liverpudlian five piece, made up of Daniel Bryne (vocals), Alan Rimmer (Lead & Rhythm guitar), Adam Kerbache (Rhythm & Lead guitar), Jamie Hayward (Bass) and Ash Janes (drums), knew exactly the performance level they needed to put in tonight to put the finishing touches to a wonderful night of live music from 3 bands at the forefront of the NWOCR scene. In the latter part of the year, they themselves had also released a much celebrated debut album which has it itself been the subject of its share of critical acclaim and they treated the jubilant Kent crowd to 9 songs from it, a brand new song plus a couple of well selected covers.
Revival Black took to the stage, hit the ground running and didn’t let up until their set was finished. They treated the audience to an hour of high energy, no frills 70’s influenced rock n roll that started with the heavy, rocking “So Alive” which instantly showed what fine musicians they are with some sublime instrumental sections in it. With Daniel Byrne covering every inch of the stage like a man possessed and the mouthwatering twin guitar assault from Rimmer and Kerbache ripping though your ears, the band just kept the music coming. “Hold Me Down” led straight into a brand new track “Believe”. This was only the fourth time that the track had been aired in a live environment and Byrnes vocal parts throughout it raised the hairs on the back of my neck and gave me goosebumps.
Next up was “Give You The World”, another heavy, riff laden track that completely embodies everything that Revival Black are about. With a perfectly built set list, the band continued to wow the sold out venue as they ripped through the dirty, bluesy “Midnight Oil”. Yet another powerful track, full of soulful bluesy vocals that showed the band have a versatility to them. After thanking the crowd for being there, for supporting live music and for keeping the scene alive we got our first cover of the set and what a belter it was, Burn by Deep Purple, which meandered gracefully into “The River”. It is clearly evident that Daniel Byrne is a sensational frontman and can play the crowd and the situation with the professionalism of somebody with many more years experience than himself. Seeing him sat at the front of the stage singing to the crowd was a truly special moment. The glint in his eye and the joy on his face was clearly evident as the crowd reacted to him.
“Wide Awake” flowed into “Silver Line” and the atmosphere just kept getting better and better. The crowd, who were lapping this performance up, were singing, dancing and complying with every request from Byrne to scream. The deliciously dirty “No Secret No Lies” took us into the final song of the set, “Step In Line”. A real up tempo high energy way to bring proceedings to a close and the whole crowd absolutely love it. As the band say their goodbyes and their thank-you’s the noise levels keep rising for that all important encore.
I don’t think there is a single person in the venue who wants the night to finish, such has been the quality of the music and the performances on offer. Revival Black had not disappointed anybody yet tonight and were not going to start now so the encore requested was duly granted and it was certainly a track designed to make sure every punter left with a smile on their face. Creedance Clearwater Revivals “Fortunate Son” was that song and it got the whole crowd joining in, Daniel Byrne even managed to get the normally shy and retiring Gallows Circus frontman Ian Day up on stage to join him on it and the two of them combined gave a vocally breath taking and bewitching duet that rocked Leo’s to it’s core. It really was not only a song but a performance that was not to be missed and I am so glad I didn’t.
So that was that then. My first gig of the new year and decade and what a night it was. Three great new bands who clearly showed that the British music scene is alive, well and in some very safe hands. The venue was packed, which considering it was a cold January night, says something for the quality of the music, the great work done by The Rock Co-Operative in selecting bands that appeal to a wide audience and the marketing / promotion they did to make sure this, their second venture went very well. I know they have more events organised for the year, with the next event scheduled for February and in a world where live venues are closing and promoters struggling to sell gigs out, whatever they are doing, they are doing it well and long may that continue.
Review & Photography by Darren Smith for MPM