Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
Two bands with one plan; that plan being a socially distanced co-headline tour across England weeks before the projected lifting of the final pandemic restrictions.
Ambitious? Certainly. Achievable? Most definitely based upon what MPM has witnessed on tour opening night in Southampton and, a week later, in Bristol. Live music is 100% back; a little bit different
This tour was the brainchild of Route One Booking – a fledgling but rapidly growing booking agency based in Cornwall, the brainchild of Jules Chenoweth (King Creature manager) and Ben Ward (Orange Goblin) – whose roster includes both bands.
The focused efforts and determined drive of this agency, combined with those of the venues and promoters, has reaped handsome rewards.
Thus ensuring that this 18 legged, 8 wheeled metal rocking machine has hit the road thundering through five packed venues in the seven days leading up to the Bristol date. Nestling in the heart of the city centre, on the edge of the shopping district, The Lanes is an eclectic venue comprising of a 5 lane ’boutique’ bowling alley along with a diner and bar. Curiously it’s well suited to fully seated event.
There’s a palpable excitement coursing through the collective veins of the gathered crowd; a touch of anxious nerves, understandably, as we all take our first steps back into the arena of live music.
There’s the pandemic related restrictions – fully seated, socially distanced crowds at reduced capacity; efficient table service catered through an app and so forth – all capably and effectively managed in a considered and sensitive manner by the venues. Live music is 100% back; a little different but 100% back and that is what is most important.
Both bands released well-received albums in 2020 but found themselves with nowhere to tour with them; the pandemic’s effects were felt in many ways. Throughout the proceedings it’s clearly evident the emotions being felt, by those on stage, in being able to play their new material in front of an actual live in the flesh crowd.
Those emotions are, in equal measures, reciprocated by one and all watching; following such an extended period without the live music it’s wondrous a thing to witness this massive positive step towards what was once normality.
It’s a warm Bank Holiday Sunday and outside the buses and public pass by on Nelson Street as if it’s a Friday; the clement weather and the prospect of a day off have drawn people outside. A loud, rumbling intro and King Creature have landed; announcing their arrival in typically rousing fashion; piledriving straight into a full-blooded ‘Live Forever’ lifted from last year’s ‘Set The World On Fire’ long player.
It’s an unusual set-up on stage with the band in a linear formation; drummer Jack Sutton-Bassett pounding a furious beat out front stage right and frontman / bassist Dave Kellaway flanked by guitarist Matt Karl Vincent and new six-stringer Mike Stennett.
The near-capacity crowd give a great reception to the Cornish metallers as they roll straight into the monstrous ‘Wrath’ with Vincent leading the way with an excellent lead riff. Early sound issues are resolved quickly along with a disconnecting cable all in time for the sensitive mid-song section which is delivered rammed full of ardour before a prodigiously loud outro.
Following a balls-to-the-wall conveyance of ‘Beautiful Fatality’ Kellaway dedicates ‘Desolation’ to the sizeable traveling contingent from Cornwall who have made their way out of the county to join the ranks of the local Bristol crowd. “You’ve come to Desolate!”
Aptly entitled belter ‘The Storm’ ensues powerfully with some quite frankly stonking twin guitar work from Vincent and his new partner-in-crime Stennett, who has seamlessly fitted in to his surroundings, before the collective Creature plough straight into ‘Demon Within’.
In a recurrent theme, which typifies the overwhelming joyous feeling of the return of live music, Kellaway dedicates crowd favourite ‘Lowlife’ to the organisers, promoters and venues who are making these events possible. The crowd are in fine voice responding to sing back to Kellaway; “We’re no lowlife!”
‘Falling Down Again’ and it’s high soaring chorus comes next as the Creature prepare to ‘Power’ up for the finale of a fine 50 minute-long set. ‘Never Get Out Alive’ closes the set in a muscular manner,replete with some additional wording, before the Kernow quartet deservedly take the plaudits with Kellaway exclaiming “We love you all.
It’s f*****g ace to be back!” Amen brother it’s great to have you back and with a set that neatly highlights the evolution and general beefing up of ‘The Creature’; seven tracks being lifted from ‘Set The World On Fire’. A new chapter, a change in direction.
Tour co-headliners Blind River follow after a rapid changeover that any Formula 1 team would be proud of and the briefest of sound checks. Credit to the sound engineer as the balance was pretty much on the money given the limited time.
This five-piece are not as familiar to me as King Creature are but their powerful, energetic performances are ensuring that they are really growing on me. They possess an amiable frontman in the form of Harry Armstrong who happily chats between songs with passion and fervour; qualities which he delivers in bucketloads with his vocals too.
His four compadres are happy for Armstrong to take the front but are nonetheless energetic and strong in their musical output. Guitarists Chris Charles and Dan Edwards lay down a six-string twin groove that’ll knock the pigeons out of the venue’s launders whilst the bare-chested duo of hyperactive bassist William Hughes and fireball skinsman Andrew Esson effortlessly match these efforts.
‘The River’ are an intense package that neatly complements their co-headliners; they set out their stall, as the streets outside darken, with set-opener thumpingly-good ‘Going Nowhere’. An infectious, incendiary groover of an earworm that reverberates out widely from the epicentre of this ten-legged piledriving mechanism.
They draw collective breath before rolling into ‘Made of Dirt’ whilst Armstrong reflects upon the restrictions currently in place “But no rule-breaking tonight as we’re delighted to be playing live”. The band are in full flow with an intensity of delivery that carries through into the dark overtones of ‘Bonehouse’ with Armstrong requesting all present “Raise a glass” to all who have made this evening happen and for King Creature having the vision of the original concept of the tour.
The curiously named ‘Horsehead’ is along the lines of Motorhead crossed with Sabbath all melded together with a highly contagious groove in a machine-gun delivery; such is the affect of this that pummeling four-stringer Hughes breaks out in some impromptu dance grooving of his own.
The week’s touring is paying dividends on many fronts as it’s just prior to the fifth song ‘Acid Tongue’ that Armstrong confesses to being ‘out of shape’; this being some three songs later than the opening night in Southampton. Evidently fitness levels are improving! His expressive vocals in ‘Acid Tongue’ combine elegantly with the song’s Southern edge.
Two further tracks, in the form of ‘Waste of Life’ and ‘Burn The Sun’, from 2020’s release ‘Made of Dirt’ are given an outing with the latter rumbling bass intro leading into deliciously whining six-strings take the song into an acidic-groove that was given life at a Sabbath gig.
Just ahead of running into the closing three songs of the night Armstrong dedicates ‘Freedom Dealer’ to all the venues leading the fight against closure; a fate sadly dealt to many over the last few years. ‘Freedom Dealer’ is a thundering beast of a tune that’s got a twist of NWOBHM with a touch of Dio in the vocals. It’s followed up swiftly by the sweet, sweet Southern-infused intro of ‘Home’ in which Armstrong’s gravelly-edged vocals bring great fervour to proceedings. Set-ender ‘Can’t Sleep Sober’ is dedicated to the drinking abilities of ‘The Creature’ and this ‘true story’ provides a fine ending to a cracking, powerhouse of a set.
Live music is back 100%; yes it’s a bit different currently but it’s a massive step forward and one that is much needed as the music industry strives to get back on its feet in all quarters and at all levels. Full credit here in Bristol to both bands, Route One Booking, Omega Live Events and The Lanes who all contributed to presenting live music in the very best light.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM