32 min read

Review by Darren Smith for MPM

I always look forward to a trip from the Sussex coast to Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend. Not only because it is a venue steeped in history, nor because I have made many friends there who make any night there a great night out but because, without any shadow of a doubt, it creates one of the best atmospheres around for bands to perform in.

The attendees at Leo’s are hardened gig goers who know how to welcome bands and never fail to do that with open arms. Tonight would be no exception.

Every time I set foot in the bar, to buy a pre gig drink I always, always take a few minutes to admire the photo’s that adorn the walls of the iconic venue of the legendary acts that have graced the stage of the building which is tucked away in in an industrial part of Gravesend.

The amount of photo’s is forever expanding as more and more bands add to the history of Leo’s as they tread the boards on this intimate and archetypal rock establishment. Owner Terry Lee should be very proud of the history he has created in the town and tonight’s promotors The Rock Co-Operative know they are very lucky to have a location of such standing to put on their bands. The whole package together makes this a venue that every discerning rock fan should visit for a live performance at least once in their life.

First up tonight, on this outrageous triple act line up were Matt Long & The Revenant Ones. Called in as last minute replacements after the original openers Gallows Circus were forced to withdraw due to Covid issues within their ranks, the powerhouse trio put on a show of grandiose proportions.

They made it very clear from the outset that they weren’t here just to make up the numbers and it wasn’t long before Matt Long treated us to a scintillating guitar solo during the hard and heavy blues rock of opening number ‘Have My Say’. A beastly brilliant opening riff welcomed ‘Take It All’, which carried on delivering the meaty feast of delectable rocking blues that the band are becoming renowned for.

Such is the enormous beat to the track, it gives Long and bassist Adam Pyke, plenty of opportunity to get in some onstage headbanging, a regular theme throughout the set. Matt Long himself, is without doubt a mercurial talent and quite rightly he displays those talents frequently to much adulation from the crowd beneath him. The night may be only a few songs old but I can honestly see why The Rock Co-Operative added him to the bill and also booked him to play here, in a gig which was cancelled by the Covid crisis. This is absolutely friggin immense!

Stone Bones’ keeps the pace of the set flying at full speed. Drummer Kev Hickman is just a blur of flying hair and twirling drumsticks as he pounds out a super-colossal beat at the back. This is monstrous stuff and the intensity and momentum of this performance has left Long dripping in sweat after just 3 numbers. This is the venue where the band played only their 2nd ever gig and they are glad to be back!

Wild Animal’, a song about sex, the announcement of which, gets one vocal audience member very perky is up next. It has a punishing and pummelling beat to it and a quick look around makes me realise how much the crowd have bought into this performance as they look stage ward. Matt Long & The Revenant Ones have certainly brought the heat with them tonight and they are putting on a show that is turning Leo’s into a sauna. That is followed by the dirty, grimy, heavy blues laden rock of ‘Feel Like A Saint’, the 3rd single to be taken from the bands debut album ‘The Other Side’ which was released on the 16th July. It’s so lucky we are right in the middle of industrial Gravesend as this is ear bleeding loud, just how it should be.

The band bring their set to a close with ‘So’, a slightly slower paced number but one that offers no let up in power, intensity or in the monstrous sound that has been present all the way through. This is just insanely good and I wonder why I have not witnessed these talents before.

The calming break, mid-track, gives Matt a chance to show a different side to both his guitaring and vocal skills and that leads perfectly into a delightful all band “jam” that finishes things in sublime fashion. Let me tell you something, and with thoughts of food going around me head, if Matt Long and The Revenant Ones music was a pizza, it would be the meatiest, hottest, spiciest Meatfeast pizza ever created. That starter may have been only just over 30 minutes but it was a succulent and tasty first course that has set the evening up impeccably.

After that blistering start from Matt Long and The Revenant Ones, it was now time for Daxx & Roxanne. The four piece Swiss rock outfit who now reside in London are a more than welcome sight on the Leo’s stage and their arrival on stage is greeted with rapturous applause.

The opening riffs of their set are played out with frontman and bassist Cedric Pfister alongside lead guitarist Cal Wyman atop the venues drum riser with stick beater Luca Senaldi. They build the power before arriving stage front where Cedric kicks in with his gritty and powerful vocals. The twin guitars of the bands own Mr Cool, Simon Golez and the electrifying and enigmatic Wyman are just to die for.

The crowd has packed into the venue like moths around a flame, tightly huddled and all gasping for the best view of what has drawn them in. Having seen the band at the last ever gig at the sadly now defunct Borderline and then at HRH Sleaze in 2019, it is brilliant to see the band drop south of the capital and treat Gravesend to nearly an hour of full throttle rock n fecking roll. Their 10 song set is action packed, full of explosive drumming, sumptuously divine guitaring and from their eye-catching frontman a performance that is mouth-watering and reminiscent of Glenn Hughes in his prime.

After that dazzling opening combination of ‘Sugar Rush’ and ‘Girl Next Door’ they tear through an electrically charged version of ‘Ticket To Ride’, the title track of their debut album during which Pfister takes every opportunity to whip up the more than responsive crowd. Wow, the atmosphere is amazing, the band have taken it up more than a notch and if they are not careful they will blow the roof off of the venue with such ferocity it will end up in the nearby Thames Estuary and send it on its it way towards the North Sea.

A blistering hot version of ‘Strange Woman’ followed, with lead guitarist Wyman, who may well have plugged himself into a Tesla charging point on the way to the show, wowing the crowd with a stunningly vibrant display. ‘Heal’ drops the pace for first time tonight and gives everybody a chance to catch their breath in the desert like temperature that is developing inside Leo’s.

Watching Daxx & Roxanne onstage, it is clear that this is not just a band, these are four brothers up there, they are family and there is a clear bond and love between them all. The track itself is a powerful number though, with strength in the vocals, the playing and contains guitar work from Wymann that would have any air guitar enthusiast in attendance, reaching for their own weapon, to imitate the man in front of them.

Almost immediately, it is pedal to the metal time again with ‘Wildchild’. A real foot stomping number if ever there was one. It has an eloquent time change mid-song that opens up into a beautiful bluesy guitar section before the track burst back into life and heads off into the sunset like that proverbial bat out of hell.

A thundering beat from Senaldi welcomes ‘Lust & Love’. A really gritty, bluesy number with the band all taking a back seat as lead guitarist Wymann takes centre stage to showcase what a talented and multi-faceted guitarist he is. This really is an outstanding show these Swiss boys are putting on and that is added to with the sweet sound of the harmonica resonating from Simon Golez adding something extra special to an already emotively special track.

The bands chemistry really comes to the fore during the opening of the 100mph guitar driven rock of ‘Fast Lane’ where Wymann and Golez enjoy some guitar buddy interplay with the former on his knees, strumming the latter’s trusted blade. The fun the band are having is a joy to behold and despite the stage size Wymann manages a running jump over a crouched Golez as well. I can only imagine the stage show these guys will put on when they hit bigger stages.

Good Vibes’ is another plundering, pummelling slice of delicious rock that charges along with a gigantic beat and rhythm and full of harmonious vocals. This really is music to stomp your feet to, bang your head to, clap your hands, throw your fists in the air to and sing your heart out to. Daxx & Roxanne are so full of energy you cannot take your eyes off of them for one second for fear of missing something.

That takes us to the last track of their set, ‘Hard Rockin’ Man’. This is devastatingly ferocious and ramps the pace and atmosphere up even more. Riffage aplenty, it brings their 50 minute set to a close in monumental fashion. The power and speed of that last track would have sapped the last bits of energy out of the fittest and most gig hardy in the crowd, so with the fans as well as the bands still getting gig ready after the Covid break, lets hope the audience can recharge themselves for tonight’s headliners in about 20 minutes. That was just sensational from Daxx & Roxanne and as they leave the stage I look forward to hopefully seeing them back at Leo’s soon.

So here we go then, it is time for The Dust Coda. I have listened to their ‘Mojo Skyline’ album so much since its release and have looked forward to seeing them live since this gig was announced. Well, that moment had now arrived.

Kicking off their set with ‘Demon’, they gave themselves the perfect platform to showcase to the uninitiated what they are all about. Bassist Tony Ho is a flurry of swirling hair as he lays down the bass line for this more than formidable opener with frontman John Drake setting the tone early for the power packed performance ahead with some captivating vocals. The sound and vigour that drummer Scott Miller gets out of his kit really causes your chest to get battered as the band rip through a masterful ‘Jimmy 2 Times’. Guitarist Adam Mackie gives an early glimpse of his virtuoso ability with a skilful solo. This is catchy, soulful, infectious but above all a real monster of a track and one of my favourites from the album. What a start!

The Dust Coda are clearly happy to be back playing in what is their first indoor post lockdown gig and Drake exudes joy as he tells the crowd “Its good to be fucking back in a roomful of people”. They continue with the beautifully soulful ‘Dream Alight’ which starts out as a more sedate number before kicking into another monumental rocker and continues the scorching tempo superbly. The quality of the musicianship and songwriting on display so far makes it so easily apparent what Earache Records saw in them to snap them up.

A sublime guitar intro from Mackie heralds the arrival of ‘Breakdown’ and that is four from four from 2020’s Mojo Skyline album. The chanty chorus gives the crowd a chance to get their voices back in top form and boy do they oblige. “How great is it to be able to smell someone next to you” asks Drake before the band play their new single and latest musical offering, a rip-roaring cover of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’. This is a gargantuan version of a timeless classic and it has been given the full Dust Coda treatment. To say it goes down a storm with the Leo’s faithful is a bit of an understatement. Loud, raucous, ballsy….bloody fantastic.

The band make their first dip of the night into their debut album with ‘Sweet Love’. A more than beautiful and bluesy guitar intro makes your heart bleed and the divine vocal part over it just sends the track into heaven. John Drake may have immense power in his voice but he can also head skywards through his range with notes that most men can only reach with a quick squeeze of the testicles. There is pure emotion and feeling in every word sung as the rhythm section kick in to give the song a really sultry and seductive vibe. A moment of real beauty and a real highlight of The Dust Coda’s set tonight.

All I Got’ takes us straight back into the powder keg of high voltage rock n roll and that continues with ‘Sun Goes Down’, both tracks also from the bands debut long player. Frontman Drake switches from soul to power and back again at the flick of a switch and from my near stage vantage point I can see the veins standing out on the side of his neck as he wrestles every last sinew from those chords in his neck. There is no quarter being given by anybody on that stage in this colossal performance. The heavy and mightily riff laden ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ with mid-song rifling drum beat is just phenomenal. Short, sweet but fecking immense.

Rolling’ is bluesy, emotive and boundless. You know how sometimes, less is more, well that certainly applies to the guitar work from Adam Mackie here which just gets inside your head and creates a more than joyous experience. I found myself transfixed on him at times as he pulls every emotion out of the six strings in his hand. Oh man, how good is it to have The Dust Coda on this stage tonight. The smiles on the faces and the fists punching the air says it all, and that is just the band!

A nod of appreciation to Daxx and Roxanne from Drake as he says they have “had to raise their game after that performance” and also to the nights opening act Matt Long and The Revenant Ones. ‘Bourbon Pouring’ is funky, soulful, blissful and dazzlingly elegant. This clearly isn’t any ordinary Bourbon being poured onstage, this is a smooth to the taste Bourbon, out of a well matured cask, that not every distiller has the ability to create. An exquisite and epic Bourbon that truly needs savouring and enjoying over and over.

Valley Below’ is a full on rock n roller with a fantastically fun vibe and beat to it. If this did not get your hips shaking then nothing could. We get an extended version with some time in the spotlight for Tony Ho, who lays down some wonderfully funky bass lines before a delightfully bluesy snippet of The Doors ‘LA Woman’ gets a roar of approval from the Leo’s crowd. ‘Best Believe It’ sees the band turn the full power back on. Drake gives the track a full vocal onslaught and the crowd, who have helped create one hell of an atmosphere are lapping it up and joining in wherever possible.

It’s A Jam’, which the band appropriately dedicate to tonight promoters The Rock Co-Operative’ is a delicious moment full of funk, soul, rock and some heavenly electric blues. That leaves us with just one more number as Drake thanks the crowd. “Goodnight, its been fucking awesome” he proclaims as the band launch into ‘Limbo Man’ which sparks a spontaneous crowd clap-a-long. This is a monstrous way to bring their set to a close. These songs, although I have never seen the band before, nor have they toured the album, are like old favourites now and I sing-a-long with every word. The track epitomises everything that is good and great about The Dust Coda and in particular the performance we have just witnessed tonight.

The band do have a couple of encores up their sleeve though. The first ‘More It Fades’ containing a masterly solo from the prodigious Mackie that is so hot it sees him dripping sweat over that oh so sweet instrument below him. There is angst and attitude on the number and it raises the atmosphere level even more. As we get to the last song of a stupendously brilliant night, Drake tells the crowd that “if you want one more, you’ve got to blow the roof off and sing a long”. I don’t they needed asking twice and more than did what they were asked, as The Dust Coda brought proceedings to a close with ‘When The Tide Comes In’.

Wow, wow, wow. What an absolutely fantastic night. That was really special. There is always a great atmosphere at Leo’s and tonight was no exception. Insanely good and it made for a great journey home and talking about the great things just witnessed.

Photography by Darren Smith for MPM

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