Home Gigs Gig Review : HRH SLEAZE 2021 – o2 ACADEMY SHEFFIELD – DAY 2

Gig Review : HRH SLEAZE 2021 – o2 ACADEMY SHEFFIELD – DAY 2

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Review by Darren Smith for MPM

So after a good nights sleep and with the sound of Tigertailz still ringing in my ears after their scorching headline set last night it was back to the hallowed turf of the o2 Academy for Day 2 of HRH Sleaze 2021.

I arrived refreshed and buzzing for the day ahead as over the next 10 or so hours there lay ahead the opportunity to catch some bands that I love, who are really creating a buzz around the current scene as well as some new bands to experience for the first time and then one of my favourite bands of all time.

Just like yesterday, the stage times seemed to overlap almost to the minute on both stages, which is unfortunately how things had to be to get everything in, so a decision was made to make sure that all the sets were covered in their entirety on the main stage.

I know I missed some great sets from Todd Michaels and The Screaming Hearts, Silverjet and the Circus Junkie Rebels but alas that was the way it had to be, something had to give as such and to them I apologise. I am sure I will get the chance to see them in the future and look forward to that whenever it is.

After the success of yesterday and the dazzling array of live music on offer, my appetite had been well and truly wetted for another few hours of glittering performances from the bands that lay ahead. A Sunday spent in the company of a room full of fellow Sleaze lovers is my kind of Sunday and for me there was a real sense of excitement about todays line up and the event in general. First up were two bands, new to me, but ones that I would approach with open eyes and an open mind, namely Sweet Teaze and The City Kids. After them were Black Roze, who had also made the arduous journey up from the South East and I knew from previous experiences would put on a great show.

They would be followed by South of Salem, who released one of the most exciting albums I heard in 2020 and I firmly believe one of the best debut albums I have ever had the pleasure of hearing and then She Burns Red, who I knew nothing about as I arrived at the venue.

The day would be rounded out by The Mercury Riots, who I believe were the first USA band to play a live show in the UK since our lockdown ended and then the finale of all finale’s as The Quireboys, one of my favourite bands of all time would bring today and HRH Sleaze 2021 to a close. I mean, come on, who could not get excited at the prospect of watching all that on a glorious sunny Sunday in Sheffield. This is what I had missed, this is what I was here for and I was going to bloody well soak up every god damn minute of it and create some fantastic new memories to take back down South with me.

With some time spent catching up with fellow reviewers, photographers and fans, over the feast of music that we had dined out on yesterday, so to speak done, it was time for the first course of todays hypothetical culinary delights to be served. That pleasure lay in the hands of UK sleaze rockers Sweet Teaze, who are making something of a spectacular comeback in 2021. Originally formed in 1989, the band have reformed after 30 years, initially for a one off hello and goodbye gig, but such was their reception and demand they have continued, appearing at some of the UK festivals that have taken place this year amid all the Covid chaos.

At the time of writing, this was however, their last gig of the year and what a place to play it. Sweet Teaze are made for sleaze, they are everything the genre is about with charismatic frontman Dean Foxx holding court with a certain aplomb that just whisks you back to bygone days where you could roll up in a sweaty rock club, pretty much any night of the week and enjoy a similar musical treat.

Clearly influenced by some of the giants of the scene, the crowd are, despite the early afternoon slot, absolutely lapping this up from the off. Screams and cheers, welcome the band onstage and throughout opening number ‘Violence’ and then the raucous ‘All My Love’. The Sheffield crowd clearly have a soft spot for the band and on those opening two numbers, you can see why.

This is just sensational! Dropping an early cover into their set, was a real winner winner chicken dinner moment as a riotous version of Faster Pussycat’s ‘Bathroom Wall’ sent the already electric atmosphere into orbit. Swashbuckling guitars aplenty from Raz White and Steve Fitz along with a thumping beat from the rhythm section made sure that this dirty sleazy party was off to a winning start. ‘Dirty Looks’ led into ‘I’ve Had Enough’. Written about an ex-girlfriend of Dean’s who he desperately wanted to get away from, it is catchy both lyrically and musically and has a divine sleazy/bluesy riff running through it.

This was turning out to be a real hangover shifting, cobweb shaking set for anybody that was there. There was no place to hide from the eye-catching performance occurring on stage.

A thunderous ‘All I Wanna Do’, with some emphatic onstage banter being aimed at the crowd from Foxx, took us to ‘Rock n Roll Queen’, which was sadly, the last song of their set.

Sweet Teaze may have been 30 years in the making, but I really hope the love they have been shown around the country this year, means they will stay together and keep putting on performance like the one I am witnessing. The world needs bands like this and quite clearly from the reception they got as they drew their set to a close, I am not the only one that thinks it. What a way to start the day, I would have loved a second course or bigger portion of that starter for sure.

Any band that uses Twisted Sister’s ‘The Kids Are Back’ as their intro is sure to garner my attention and that is exactly what The City Kids did and got. As the intro tape came to a conclusion a crunching guitar riff reverberated through the PA and boom, I was hooked.

This was eye catching and ear pleasing from the off. The bands line up of JJ Watt (vocals and guitar), Dennis Post (guitar), Berty Burton (bass) and Dave Saunders (drums) will be familiar to most from the other acts they are in, which includes The Main Grains, Tigertailz, Warrior Soul and The Falling Red. Those links and that familiarity meant that the arena was packed and the band were given a rousing reception. Going from ‘Best of You’ their opener, straight into ‘Before You Fall’ and then ‘Filth’ was a no nonsense, energetic and awe-inspiring start.

This was truly captivating stuff and I could not take my eyes off the stage. This is what I really love about festivals, you know what you are going to get from some of the bands and then boom, unexpectedly you got caught with a right hook from an act that knocks you to the floor with the power and precision of their music. This was one of those moments!

Alone’, ‘Left Behind’ and new single ‘Heartbreak’ followed before the punk fuelled, trashy guitar driven rock of ‘It Should Have Been You’ with its crunching riff and pounding bass line filled the o2 air. If that wasn’t a moment to savour then a rabble rousing version of The Wildhearts ‘Mazel Tov Cocktail’ sure was. The band, singing in unison and the crowd, who have clearly brought their singing voices today, are taking this to the next level.

Oh man, what a moment! That is followed by a fast and furious ‘All I Want’ before bassist Berty Burton, resplendent in a NWOCR t-shirt takes centre stage to bring a moment of calmness and reflection to proceedings. He uses the moment to raise a glass and get heartfelt applause for the heroes we have recently lost, namely Charlie Watts, Dusty Hill and Joey Jordensen to name a few. As the crowd raise their glasses as one, the band play ‘No More Heroes’, a poignant and heartfelt moment for sure.

After that beautiful few minutes of calm, it is time to get back to the business of rocking out in serious fashion and boy do they do that with ‘Scars’. There is some serious riffage in the tune and man alive the work from the rhythm section of Sanders and Burton is just insane.

The song may be under 4 minutes but is such a frenzied attack of punk fuelled rock and roll heaven , my legs are tapping so ferociously, at the end of it, they feel like they have been on a decent run. You should dance, proclaims Watt as the band play ‘You Wanna’ another number built around a solidly infectious beat that is chest melting and leg controlling.

Billy T from the Suicide Notes joins the band onstage for ‘Rats’, which he forewarns is a very sweary song. He delivers the angst fuelled lyrics with real punky aggression. This is trashy, sleazy rock, the like of which just gets inside your head and your body. If anybody in the venue was not properly awake before that, they sure were now. ‘You Get Nothing’ leads into ‘Round and (A)round, the bands final song.

The power in the set closer must surely have put a serious drain on the national grid and as I sat watching I wrote down three words, “Fuck, Fuck, Fuck”. The set from The City Kids was insanely good and they instantly found at least one new fan. I hope it is not too long before I get another dose of The City Kids draw-dropping rock n roll, but whenever it is it will be too long. They are on tour with The Suicide Notes on October, take a chance and go check them out. It will be hot, it will be sweaty, it will be loud, it will be raucous but it will be bloody good.

So, after that balls to the wall, no nonsense, formidable set from The City Kids, it was time for Black Roze to take to the stage. I have had the pleasure of seeing the band on a number of occasions so knew that what I was about to witness was a high class hour of music and one that would be, in many ways the polar opposite to the last hour of my life. In Viixen, the bands focal point and frontperson, they have a lady who is not only a skilful and incredibly talented singer but one that also puts on an eye-catching performance.

When you combine that with the six string talents and larger than life onstage persona of her partner Baz Roze you have the makings of what is going to be an unmissable hour of stage time. The other two members of the band, Steve Rankin (bass) and Vic Finch (drums) are no lesser than Baz and Viixen but they plunder along, without any fuss, making sure that all the working parts that make Black Roze such a well-oiled machine, do so without missing a beat.

This afternoon, Black Roze entertain the Sheffield faithful with 7 songs from their debut album ‘Spiritual Hell’ along with 3 brand new songs and 2 exquisite covers. As I said, you get a show from Black Roze and from opening tracks ‘Godz n Queenz’ and ‘Obscenity’ it is clear that the band are on top form. Baz is playing to the crowd as he shreds note after note and the delightfully seductive Viixen is not only dressed to impress but is wowing the crowd with a vocal display that is full of power and emotion.

Not Your Whore Anymore’, the bands latest single, which reached No.1 in the Amazon singles charts gets an airing and goes down superbly before a haunting yet sparkling gothic version of the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’. Not only is this a set full of high class music and immense showmanship, it has the odd bit of theatrics thrown in, courtesy of Viixen, who plays out roles onstage to make their performances a spectacle to witness.

Lets Go Wild’, another brand new track, written during lockdown leads into the softer, delectable ‘Snow White Angel’. The drums of Vic Finch and a virtuoso guitar part from Baz herald the start of the monstrously meaty ‘Why Don’t You’ and then it is time for ‘Lost’. Man alive, Black Roze are really buzzing for this. There is joy etched all over their faces and it is so endearing to see how much they are thriving on the energy from the crowd after being starved of performing for so long. It is nigh on impossible not to watch every move Viixen makes and in her, the band have a truly enigmatic performer who has honed her stage craft to perfection to put on a stunning show in her own right.

Viixen tells the crowd that the next song is about “never giving up on your dreams and her dream was to be on this stage” before they play a hauntingly powerful ‘Soul On Fire’ that got a really solid reception from the assembled Sleazers. ‘Burn It Down’ the final new number given an airing, is “about fucking your life up, coming back and then fucking it up again”.

An absolute gem of a number, complete with skilful time changes that not only gives Viixen a chance to act out the emotion in the song as tranquillity turns to power, it really showcases the power in her voice as every note is hit with crystal clear perfection. That just left a snappy and zestful ‘Sleazy’ to take us into the last song of the set, a tantalizing cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, which gives the crowd chance to really get their hips shaking and make sure their vocal chords are still in full working order.

It ends with Baz perched on the shoulders of their roadie, soaking up the adulation from the floor, and why not, they have just put in a winning performance. From the looks on the crowds faces, the looks on the bands faces and the send off the Black Roze were getting, those hours spent on the car park that is the M25 were well and truly worth it.

Now, with no disrespect to any band that has played up to this point, but I was absolutely buzzing to see South of Salem. As I have said, they released one of the best debut albums I have ever heard in ‘The Sinner Takes It All’ and I have been waiting to see them perform live ever since. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to review that album and from that day, it has never been far away from my stereo, ready to be put on at a moments notice.

It has become one of go to albums and the chance to finally see them play those incredible songs had taken far too long to come around. This was going to be epic, amazing, life affirming and a moment in time that I would remember until my dying day.

The aforementioned Sleazers obviously felt the same, as before the band even came close to taking the stage the assembled masses had clearly swelled their numbers. I was obviously not the only one who had caught the hype and excitement surrounding the band and their music. An intro tape of classical/operatic music welcomed the Bournemouth five piece to the stage and as it played out you could just feel the electricity in the crowd about what lay ahead. When the band burst into the incredibly powerful ‘Let Us Prey’ it was just a moment to die for.

This is what I had waited so long for and I was not disappointed. I was loving it, the crowd were loving it and quite clearly the band were loving it. The energy levels of frontman Joey Draper and guitarist Kodi Kasper didn’t drop for one second they were on stage, with Kasper in particular a live wire throughout, taking opportunity after opportunity to jump mid air off the riser the band had at the front of the stage. Draper himself used the riser to great effect to lean out crowd wards on a number of occasions and that just created even higher levels of voltage within the electrically charged throng.

A sensational ‘The Hate In Me’ preceded a blisteringly hot ‘Another Nail In My Coffin’. The crowd were getting involved at every opportunity with plenty visibly knowing every word that Draper was singing to them. The reception the band were getting was one of sheer admiration and respect. You kind of got the impression that those assembled knew they were witnessing something very very special indeed. This is undoubtedly music that was made to be played out in arena’s and stadiums. It has a big sound, no a huge sound, the band have a massive stage presence and are performers of the highest calibre. They will not be playing supporting roles to anybody for long!

Made To Be Mine’ and a staggeringly intense ‘No Plague Like Home’ were up next before the bands “sexy song”, ‘Severely Yours’. The excitement I was feeling had reached the pit of my stomach, I truly believe that in years to come, this may well be one of those “were you there” moments.

Not only are the band incredibly powerful performers, there is real heartfelt emotion in the lyrics which are personal and raw and that emotion came shining through during a dynamic ‘Demons Are Forever’ You just know what those words mean to Draper. ‘Dead Hearts Don’t Break’ gets the crowd jumping, dancing and singing. There are arms and fists in the air right across the arena, the crowd are revelling in the majesty of the performance they are witnessing.

Now, when you have created an atmosphere like this, how do you take it to the next level, how do you send it crashing so far into orbit, it will be talked about for years to come. I’ll tell you how, you throw in a molten hot cover of Velvet Revolvers ‘Slither’, that’s how. As soon as the opening notes rang out, the crowd went absolutely and uncontrollably fucking nuts! This is incendiary! I’m not sure what their life is like in Bournemouth but Draper and Kasper along with drummer Pip Sampson, bassist Darren Aldwell and other guitarist Starfish MacDonald have turned up in Sheffield with a performance so immensely monstrous they may just have blown the city off the planet.

The band brought their allotted time to a close with a song for the ladies ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’ and the colossal ‘Cold Day In Hell’. That was one of the best hours of my life for sure. Any doubts the band may have had and I hope they didn’t have any, about how good they are or how they would be received, have just been blown out of the water. As they left the stage I sat there in bewilderment of what I had just witnessed.

I am getting that same feeling writing this the week after the event happened. Had I witnessed a moment of greatness, I sure had, and so had everybody else inside the o2 arena Sheffield. Moments like that do not happen all the time and to be there to lay witness to it a complete and utter privilege that will be with me forever.

How the hell do She Burns Red follow that? It almost felt like a closing the stable door after the horse has bolted moment, or arriving after the Lord Mayors show had finished kind of scenario if you will. I really felt for the Scottish rockers as the time came for their set to start. The performance by South of Salem had been mind blowing and exhausting and there was now a very sparce crowd left inside.

People were topping up their hydration levels, discussing what they had just witnessed and getting their energy levels back up.

That did not deter She Burns Red though as they tore through an energetic and vibrant 11 song set that drew a good percentage of the initial absentees back inside. Having looked into the band since returning from Sheffield I know that they have got to this point in their careers with more than their fair share of health issues so to observe them on stage, with no obvious signs of those, bears witness to the determination and resilience of each band member.

Vocalist and bassist James McCulloch, belts out emotive and personal lyrics throughout with a truly beguiling performance that completely captures the essence of what She Burns Red are about. They play raw, intense rock music that is from the heart and throughout the set it is hard to take your eyes off of them. In guitarist Naz Scanferlato they have a prized possession, a six string wizard who draws real emotion out of his weapon whilst also displaying a character and personality on stage that draws itself from all the golden ages of guitaring and nods itself frequently to many guitar gods that have gone before.

Their set which started out with ‘Gone’, ‘Copernicus Fails’ and ‘Shiver’ is an all action powerhouse affair, with a distinctly bruising beat laid down by McCulloch and drummer Scott Hanlon. They continue with ‘Shiver’, ‘Rise And Fall’, ‘Crosshair’ and ‘My Curse’ which all give guitarist Andy Moore the chance to show the Sheffield crowd that he is an equal talent to Scanferlato. McCulloch, takes time to thank the crowd for watching, and you get the feeling the band are more than appreciative as they continue their set with ‘Out Of Darkness’, ‘Killing Time’ and ‘Tell Me How It Ends’.

You can see why Wayward Sons frontman Toby Jepson, decided to produce the bands EP ‘Take Back Tomorrow’, this intensity, this power, this raw emotion is what makes his own music so great and I am sure he would have helped bring that out in the band as they laid down their studio tracks. They brough their imposing set to a powerful and robust conclusion with the outstanding ‘Interstellar’ before waving a fond farewell to HRH Sleaze and I dare say heading home to West Lothian. Job done, I think so. New fans found, for sure. It must have been daunting following South Of Salem, but She Burns Red pulled it off and set the evening up nicely for the remaining two acts, The Mercury Riots and the legends that are The Quireboys.

Who would have known at that point that my time at Sleaze was to then end so suddenly. As The Mercury Riots were performing the first song of their set I was made aware, by the in-house security that I was needed outside because of a family emergency and had to very quickly pack up all my belongings and hot foot it out of the arena and back to my car. I was truly gutted to miss their performance as from the few minutes I did catch they looked like they were going to go down an absolute storm.

It also meant that I would miss The Quireboys, who I have been a mahoosive fan of since before their debut album ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’ came out but alas, family must come first.

From here on in, the words are provided by DeeDee of Rock Media UK and I owe her and Helen Biggs a huge amount of gratitude for penning something for Metal Planet Music. Those and the fabulous photographs from the uber talented Pete Key mean that as a site we are able to give you a complete review of the main stage activities on the Sunday. To you all I am eternally grateful.

The Mercury Riots are the first band to reach our shores from the US since the pandemic and have already wooed audiences on their short UK tour. Earlier they played a rather entrancing acoustic set on stage 2, that wetted the lips for the main event tonight.

Consisting of past members from ‘Bullets And Octane’ they are led by bass player and vocalist Zachary Kibbee, who has the most gracious and divine voices, that only a Californian can achieve. Low and husky with layers of warm tones that sit so well alongside guitarist Felipe Rodrigo’s impressive and creative playing, he’s so much fun to watch, taking to the floor to play among the crowd and standing on the barrier for a few songs, much to the photographers delight.

On drums is Jonny Udell, probably best known for being in ‘Warner Drive’ he is also a superb sticks man, my eyes do pick up his immense power at the back. The band will probably release a debut album next year, but at the moment there are three singles on offer ’Save A Drink For Me’ with a rip roaring chorus and piles of stomping rock, ‘Light It Up’ with its more moody stance and ‘Make It’ a lighter ear-worm of a track. The performance oozes with exceptional musicianship, this is one band who will go on to greater heights, no doubt about that. (DD)

Time for the headliners The Quireboys and it’s all about ‘A Bit Of What You Fancy’, the band celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1990 album, with a slight delay of course. I suppose this band are now embedded in the history of UK rock, as one of the longest running outfits, I know they must be the band I’ve seen the most, from 1989 to the present. Spike is on form tonight, he’s joking and larking about, such a loveable frontman I don’t know anyone who hasn’t a soft spot for the Geordie.

Although the set list is on the floor, it’s not really needed, apart from Spike saying he can’t read it, the songs mostly from the album must be imprinted in the band members heads by now. Kicking off with ‘I love This Dirty Town’, ’Misled’ and ‘Man On The Loose’ it’s not long before the room is buzzing and the party is in full flow.

One thing that the Quireboys do manage is to bring a sense of fun and enjoyment to the table and that’s no more evident than here tonight, as we clap, dance and cheer along to ‘Hey You’, There She Goes Again’ and ‘Whippin Boy’ it’s like a cloud has been lifted.

A rather perfect mix of ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ and ‘Fool To cry’ as a tribute to the recently departed Charlie Watts, is followed with ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ and ‘7 O’Clock’. Even Felipe from the Mercury Riots is seen down the front, whooping it up. An encore contains ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ and ‘This Is Rock And Roll’ before the climax of the evening ‘Sex Party’. Couldn’t be anything else really, could it ? What an appropriate finish to the weekend.(DD)

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