Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
Tonight, I’m making a beeline to the best venue in the East Midlands, yes, I’m back at Rock City. Sadly, my trusty gig buddy Pete isn’t with me, tonight, Statler is going it alone, or is it Waldorf? No matter it’s a night I’ve been waiting for, for nearly 50 years
So, tonight’s headline is the Sweet, or Andy Scott’s Sweet as, sadly he is the only surviving original member of the band. Original singer and some would say driving force of the band, Brian Connolley passed back in 1997, Mick Tucker in 2002 and Steve Priest the most recent in 2020.
The band formed back in 1968 and at first went by the name, ‘The Sweetshop’, their first hit was ‘Funny Funny’ in 1971. During the early 70’s they went on to have several top 10 hits including ‘Block Buster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ & ’Hell Raiser (’73), ‘Teenage Rampage’ (’74). A style change brought ‘Turn it Down (’74) and ‘Fox on the Run’ (’75). The last hit was in 1978 with ‘Love is like Oxygen’. Connolly would leave the band in ’78 and the trio would carry on until ’81 in their own various versions of the band.
Tonight’s tour has Welshman ‘Troy Redfern’. Hailed as Britain’s ‘King of Slide Guitar’. He Is dressed as an extra from the Magnificent Seven, in support, I’m keen to see this set as I have tried but failed to catch him earlier in the year.
I know he sports a Plateau style hat made famous by the late great SRV, Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV’s hat was made by Manny Gammage of Texas Hatters, Lockhart Texas. A bit of trivia, inside the hat of all SRV’s custom fit hats, the leather band is stamped ‘To Stevie Ray Vaughan from the Texas Cowboys’.
Troy’s hat is the ‘Redfern Rambler Signature’ hat by Vera Black, a quality piece, available from Troy’s online shop, have a look it’s the real deal!
Playing a short set, sadly, of only 5 songs, he set about rocking the house single handedly. Starting off with ‘Scorpio’ from his latest offering, The Fire Cosmic, we are treated to a full-on acoustic version, but, despite the repetitive intro it drops into something dark and dirty, just how I like it. A voice that surprised me, strikes out. I’ve purposely not listened to him beforehand as I’ve heard so much about him, I wanted the full ‘surprise experience’.
A gritty guitar lets loose down in the dirty end, sending soaring highs as this tune smashes you squarely in the face. Plenty of show boating as his 1935 Dobro guitar cries out under the onslaught and my knees go weak, yes SRV style hat but the guy can play, oh yes! In-fact I forget to take pictures as I’m locked into the guitar. Brrr a quick shake and I’m good!
This is quickly followed with ‘John the Revelator’. Redfern, a black shadow, is rocking back and forth as he digs deep, only standing to give the lyrics an airing then he’s crouched down, face hidden from all by the brim of his hat, he throws his head back as he slides down to the dirty end again, and his guitar is screaming like a banshee. Jesus what’s the guy doing to that gorgeous, vintage piece, keep doing it, screams the guitar, as he stamps his feet, his face contorted as he feels every word being sung!
Words are spoken as he apologise for the absence of a band, really, I hadn’t noticed he was un-accompanied, yes, I could see he was solo but the sound was that big and full bodied nothing else really mattered.
It’s great to see an accomplished player completely unmasked, not hidden by a claustrophobic wall of sound. It’s been terrific so far. A quick guitar change to a 1929 National, a lovely, distressed looking piece but sound oh so happy! And a happy little intro see’s ‘Waiting For your Love’. This cowboy style tune flourishes into a fast bouncing tune which drops into another epic display of slide guitar, gradually building to a grinding climax.
Sanctify’ is next, again from the latest offering. Another stunning piece has Troy rocking back n forward as he smashes this one squarely at the back of the net. Again, he takes time to thank the crowd and offers them the choice of the last song. ‘Blues or Glam ‘, he ask’s, he then gets the crowd to pick with a show of cheers, ‘Glam’ wins and he’s straight into a distorted slide rendition of Marc Bolan’s ‘20th Century Boy’.
This is greeted with huge cheers from the crowd as they sing along. Troy’s set was a revelation. Slide guitar can be a bit samey, but not tonight, the dynamics he manages to throw at you is beyond belief, the man is really that good and worthy of his ’King of Slide Guitar’ moniker.
After a quick clean-up of the set we have The SWEET, and already the crowd are chanting, the lights dim and they slowly walk on stage to huge cheers, this goes up to 11 when long white haired Andy Scott walks across the stage, smiling as he’s given his battered and worn red Strat, a quick acknowledgement of the crowd and we’re into ‘Action’ a song about the negative treatment they as pop stars received especially by the music press, the track supposedly has a backword vocal which when deciphered are the words ‘Kiss My Arse. The first verse is reputed to also have more than a passing resemblance to Queens Boh Rhap which was released 4 months later. Brian Connolly always referred to it as a ‘blatant rip-off’.
Its keyboard chords strike out and the song grows as the drums and guitars kick in, then its just Scott riffing as Manzi hits the vocal, the vocal harmonies are on point. Its good, just as I remembered it from the 70’s. A regular pulse of drums continues as it drives the song on. The crowd helping with the chorus. A great opening track as the band ease themselves into the night.
‘New York Groove’ is next, the opening track from Andy Scott’s 2012 Sweet album New York ‘Connection, originally penned by Russ Ballard, and a hit for both ‘Hello’ in 1975 and Kiss’s Ace Frehley in 1978. With its stomping kick drum intro and melodic riff work brings in Manzi on vocal. A slower number has the crowd nodding along as we drift into ‘Burn on the Flame’ one of several from the 1974 album Desolation Boulevard to feature tonight, a good year, I was 10. This has a rockier feel to it, the bass is rattling out as they groove this one, Scott has moved into a bit of space as he looks across the stage, stroking his Strat it doesn’t seem like he’s playing such is the economy in his technique, that’s what experience brings you.
‘Hell Raiser’ has the crowd clapping as the intro drums are played out, Manzi is smiling as the clapping continues and we get to the chorus we all join in singing along much to the smiles on stage. Hands thrown to the air at the ‘Yeah’ ‘Yeah’ ‘Yeahs’. ‘The Six Teens’ again another change in sound as this drops into an almost Joplin type vibe from the 60’s, the Harmonies are all on point, a stunning sound.
Andy Scott now tells all of his predicament, he explains that earlier in the year he was struggling to hold his pic, dropping it consistently to the point where he was wasn’t well with what-ever was happening to him. A trip to the docs discovers a trapped nerve, now on medication he says he has mobility and coordination but his hands feel like the big foam pointy fingers seen on tv by the likes of Kenny Everett. He can still do the horns though!
Before we go into ‘Defender’ he asks who bought the album ‘Action’, this gets a mixed response to which he replies, ‘Thank fuck the bloody Germans bought it’! Manzi cringes despite the huge smile on his face. This delicate tune has the crowd swaying as Manzi’s stunning voice croons this slow ballad. Scott’s solo is slow and deliberate, a stunning piece of playing that slots right into this song tastefully.
The intro guitar riff starts up and for a second it sounds like ‘Wild Woman from Tokyo’ but it is in-fact ‘Windy City’ from ‘Off the Record’. Again, Manzi’s voice is superb. Having seen Paul in his previous band Cats in Space I know the man has a phenomenal set of pipes on him, and he’s putting them to good use tonight. This goes straight into ‘Set me free’ from 1974’s Sweet Fanny Adams. This is again another heavier song with a meaty drum beat and great fast guitars introduce this great tune, the vocal harmonies are sublime in how tight and tuneful they are. Manzi is around the stage facing the drums playing air guitar as Scott lets rip on his red Strat’ shooting at the crowd as he does so, Bass n Hands thrown to the air at the ‘Yeah’ ‘Yeah’ ‘Yeahs’. man, Lee Small hasn’t stood still all night, he’s rocking it. Bisland, smashes out a double kick drum barrage almost at will, it’s hard and fast as Manzi throws his falsetto into the mix along with laughter as the crowd go nuts.
‘This next song reached number 2 in the Heritage charts’ Manzi declares, this can only mean that ‘Everything’ is up next, confirmed by the guitar swells coming from Scott’s daphne blue Strat, the guitar fires up in earnest backed by Corley on keys, the drums and bass join in as does Manzi with a slow deliberate thought out vocal. With slow descending slides from Scott and a dive bomb on the tremolo making the end of the song and the start of the crowd chanting.
‘WE WANT SWEET’. ‘WE WANT SWEET’. ‘WE WANT SWEET’ reverberates around Rock City. Bisland beating out time on the kick drum while Manzi encourages the crowd. The drum continues as we drop into ‘Teenage Rampage’ and its guitar strikes which drops into the bouncing riff as Manzi sings so do the crowd, Andy Scott speaks the spoken parts as the crowd bounce along. The atmosphere has just gone up a level or two. There’s some really bad dad dancing going on, just like watching the crowd on Top of the Pops.
From here we start to see a brighter crowd, the Sanatogen has kicked in and we have a second wind. ‘Wig Wham Bam’ the hands are up in the air as the crowd sing every word, the band are smiling as they let the crowd carry the tune. This segues into ‘Little Willy’. For now, the outside world is forgotten, the band have done it, we are all singing along as one voice, we’re all back in the 70’s Covid is something for another day.
Andy Scott introduces his guitar tech Adam, explains that he broke his collar bone and they’d all hoped it was by doing something sexual, in fact he was playing football with his young son. He announces that they’re nearing the end of the set which goes down like a lead balloon, He says he has to be in bed by 10 and laughs.
He dedicates the next song to his dear friend who had passed the previous day, Terry Uttley, guitarist and founding member of Smokie, sadly passed following a short illness.
‘Love is like Oxygen, the end of see’s Manzi walk off stage, a tap on Tom Corey’s shoulders as he passes and the familiar keys strike up for ‘Fanfare for a Common Man’ by ELP, a fitting tribute as the band play this instrumental. Andy Scott’s guitar is flowing as is his white hair. The band are tight, rocking this one out as the guitar and keys call and return, Bisland smashes the drums keeping the timing spot on! The crowds nodding along in respect as the beat changes the hands start to clap in time and Manzi’s back on stage and we finish off with a few bars of Love is Like Oxygen. The crowd cheer and whistle as Andy Scott holds that last note for ever, Gary Moore would be so proud.
A retort about playing the Boat House in the 60’s and a quick run through the band and we are into ‘Fox on The Run’ as the keyboard strikes up the crowd are singing, they bounce along with fists and hands held aloft, it’s like a good old school disco. Scott’s eyes are closed as he strokes his red Strat and joins in with the harmonies. 72 years old and he can still nail those vocals, Tom Corey gets a solo standing behind the keys, he comes forward as Andy Scott watches him, smiling. The ending is repeated with increased speed and stops on Manzi’s pointed hand.
The band stand and thank Rock City, the crowd are cheering, they know it’s not over, the band are stood there soaking up the adulation and then they exit stage left.
But not for long as the sirens are on and that can only mean one thing, the roofs gone from Rock City as the band come back on stage and are straight into that firm favourite ‘Blockbuster’, it seems that Manzi’s vocal has been turned up so as to be heard over the crowd. We are all kids watching the TV in the 70’s singing at the top of our voices, every single word is being sung, maybe not in key but we’re loving it. Andy Scott speaks the spoken parts except for the third section, he leaves that to us, smiling as we naturally nail it! The song finishes with Manzi jumping, Bisland is on his feet behind his kit and the crowd gets even louder.
Bisland re-seats and starts a marching paradiddle full of accents and ghost notes, you know what’s coming, the crowd know what’s coming ‘Ready Andy’, ‘Lee’, ’Rock City’ ‘Ok fellas, let’s goooo!’ and the atmosphere has gone through the roof as the familiar riff echoes around the main hall. The floor is bouncing as we all sing along. The spoken parts has Andy pointing to the crowd as they take over the singing yet again.
Manzi, ‘it’s it’s it’s’ and points to the crowd, we’re there as one ‘A BALLROOM BLITZ’ is the reply. Manzi stands with Microphone held high above his head bouncing along as the two guitars harmonise the solo bringing the song and the night to an end, Adam, Andy Scott’s guitar tech takes his Strat, and smashes out the last note of the song as he walks off with it. The band collect in the centre of the stage and bow as one, they thank the crowd and wish that they could have taken Nottingham to every night of the tour. With sticks and pics handed out they exit stage left for the final time.
Wow what a great night. I have said in the past that music and certain songs in particular have a way of embedding a memory to them. Tonight, has been another example of this. It brought back memories of sitting on the sofa with my late mum watching and singing along, of collecting the ‘Look In’ magazine and sellotaping the centre pages to my wallpapered bed room wall and getting a good talking too. Of buying my first Athena poster of the band and so the memories go on.
Anything that brings back child hood memories of my mum and innocent times has to be a good thing. Tonight, was another great night of music provided by both Troy and The Sweet. I leave Rock City very happy with what I’ve just been a part of, now where’s my mix tape of 1974? I’ve a 30- minute drive home.