Home Gigs Gig Review : Wayward Sons with SKAM: The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, 22 March 2022.

Gig Review : Wayward Sons with SKAM: The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, 22 March 2022.

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Review by Pete Finn for MPM

For a couple of weeks, myself and MPM Tog Manny have criss-crossed the UK doing different things, so after a brief bout of “Separation Anxiety” the two old Muppets, Waldorf and Statler are re-united and heading off together back to familiar ground in Nottingham.

Almost hidden in the shadow of its big sister Rock City, is the side entrance to The Rescue Rooms. An understated archway into a venue that has welcomed some of the biggest names in rock music. In the year before it all went to shit, the likes of Tom Morello, Steve Harris, Vivian Campbell, and Myles Kennedy played here.

Tonight, we have another, Toby Jepson with his band Wayward Sons, promoting their third album ‘Even Up The Score’. Originally scheduled for November last year, but another victim of the ‘Positive Test’ scenario moved the date a couple of times, before landing on tonight, which is the first of five rescheduled dates. Also appearing tonight as special guests, are Leicester’s Hard Rocking trio SKAM.

Once inside the hall, you can queue for a beer, merch and watch the band without really moving, it’s a 450-capacity venue that includes a ‘L’ shaped balcony, from which you can ‘Fist Pump’ whoever is playing stage left, an intimate venue with a massive atmosphere.

Opening the show tonight are SKAM, formed in Leicester during 2011 this trio have been at the forefront of the NWOCR genre since its conception, they also kept the spirits of rock fans up during Lockdown with their live sessions from Steve’s Kitchen.

Renowned for their ‘Face Melting’ shows they have built a loyal following, affectionately known as ‘The SKAM Massive’ from all across the country.

They have independently released three albums including the much-praised concept album ‘The Amazing Memoirs of Geoffrey Goddard’ in 2017. Last year they released a two-part album set, ‘Intra’ and ‘Venous’, with ‘Intra’ reaching No. 6 in the UK Rock and Metal Charts, and when it was released later in the year ‘Venous’ went one better reaching No. 5.

The band consist of brothers Steve Hill (vocals and guitar) and Neal ‘The Hammer’ Hill (drums) with Matt Gilmore (bass) completing the line-up. Looking around the audience in here tonight at the various T-shirts, The SKAM Massive has a large contingent so the atmosphere should be electric.

The band calmly stroll onto stage a few minutes early, a quick jam, then Steve greets everyone “Good evening, how are you doing?” and we’re straight into ‘Green Eyes’ from ‘Intra’, massive power riffs, banging drums and thumping bass, SKAM introduce themselves with a punch to the chest. Neal provides backing vocals, as Gilmore in a striking Hawaiian shirt is prowling the stage mouthing the words. Steve is leaning over the pit as he blasts out his solo.

Without pausing for breath, (us and SKAM) it’s straight into ‘Iron Cross’ taken from ‘TAMOGG’, a hard punching riff, followed by cannon fire drums, propel us into battle. Steve points at the crowd to encourage the bouncing, Matt Gilmore is playing his bass like he’s shooting clay pigeons. We’re two songs in and the crowd is well and truly won over.

Next, we have ‘One Track Mind’ again from ‘Intra’, a more measured start, Neal’s drum beat slower and precise, but the drums know they’ve been hit. Gilmore’s bass is moving the air so much, I can feel it on my jeans legs, this doesn’t stop him ‘Dad dancing’ around the stage. Steve moves to the front of the stage for the solo, it’s a dirty sound, played down the naughty end of the neck. The crowd loved it.

“It’s an honour to open the show for Wayward Sons tonight”, a grinning Steve says. Another track from the recent releases is next, ‘Circles’ which is off ‘Venous’. A crash of cymbals, a quick riff, and drum roll and the track picks up it’s feet and we’re off.

The crowd are nodding and punching the air. Matt is leaning back like a limbo competitor. Neal drives the tempo faster. Without stopping Matt leads the hand claps in time with Neal’s drums and it’s ‘Take It Or Leave It’ from ‘TAMOGG’, the crowd are off again, Steve is bouncing too, the others are adding backing vocals.

The drums in the mid-section encourage the crowd to raise their arms, whatever was left in any glasses is now in the air, and over the crowd. No-one cares, they’re enjoying this.

Steve tells us that he quite fancies getting a cap like Toby’s, he then introduces Matt Gilmore whose massive thumping bass starts ‘Massacre’ from the 2011 debut album ‘It’s Come To This’. The band are enjoying this, it’s a dirty grungy track, as it reaches the mid-point and slows it morphs into the Black Sabbath classic ‘War Pigs’ we’re encouraged to sing the ‘Oh Yeah!’.

Neal smashes the kit as we return back to ‘Massacre’ and Steve continues with a spellbinding solo. Steve asks “Nottingham are you still there?” a huge cheer and ‘Horns’ are raised in reply. The band provide a hard rocking jam outro that gets a great reception.

The final track of the way too short set is ‘No Lies’ again from the first album, it has a drum salvo start, then it’s an all-out assault on your senses. Hard bass from Gilmore, Neal makes sure the drums stay hit. Steve is on the monitors; the crowd are jumping. Steve introduces the band as the track builds to a massive finish, complete with Steve jumping off the drum riser at the end. The Rescue Rooms explodes.

I think I’ll leave it to the bloke who was stood on my left, ‘Dave’s mate’, to sum up SKAM’s performance tonight. “Hey Dave, they were fucking awesome. We’ve gotta see them again.” Hearing the cheers at the end, he was not alone with those thoughts.

Setlist: Green Eyes; Iron Cross; One Track Mind; Circles; Take It Or Leave It; Massacre (inc. War Pigs); No Lies.

Wayward Sons were formed by Toby Jepson (vocals and guitar) in 2017 after a long break from recording and touring. He carefully selected the musicians he wanted to be in the band which included Nic Wastell (bass), Phil Martini (drums), Sam Wood (guitar) and Dave Kemp (keyboard). 2017 saw the release of their debut album ‘Ghosts of Yet to Come’ to much critical acclaim.

Two years later in October 2019 the follow up ‘The Truth Ain’t What It Used to Be’ was released, again this was well received by the music press. During the pandemic work started on the next record, but whilst in the production period of the third album ‘Even Up The Score’, Dave Kemp decided to leave the band for health reasons. It was agreed that the band would continue to tour and record as a four-piece. ‘Even Up The Score’ was released in October 2021.

As the hall lights go out, a great cheer welcomes the band onto stage, quickly followed by Toby Jepson, sporting a ‘Peaky Blinders’ cap. Sam Wood trades ‘Fist pumps’ with the front row.

A quick wave and the riff to ‘Any Other Way’ from ‘The Truth…’ starts the show. Jepson is stood centre stage peering out from under the cap peak, a Martini crash and Wastell’s pounding bass picks the tempo up. The crowd are already bouncing as Sam Wood introduces himself with a screaming solo. Wastell is charging around the stage. A great start.

It’s straight into ‘Don’t Wanna Go’, from the debut album ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’, Wastell’s bass and Martini’s beat bring this in, Jepson is narrating the lyrics. Wood is waving the guitar above his head. The hard beat is felt everywhere throughout The Rescue Rooms.

Subtle riffs and breaks are holding the reins tight on the rhythm section. The band pause and Toby cups his ear, the crowd cheers. We continue until Martini stands up behind his kit and cups his ears, we cheer again as he calls for claps. We finish on a big jam and Jepson is shouting with passion and purpose, “Be a Rock ‘n’ Roller”.

The title track from the new album ‘Even Up The Score’ is next, with a fast tempo, Jepson shows the range in his vocal as he moves up the scale. This is a lot heavier than the record; the backing vocals are adding depth, the drums are relentless. Jepson is playing his guitar down low by his knees.

It’s getting hot up on stage, the jackets are coming off. Jepson tells the crowd “We’ve made it at last, it’s great to be here”, the audience applaud.

‘Land Of The Blind’ is from ‘Even Up The Score’, a more complex sounding track, with harmonies and different layers of sound, it sounds like there’s more than four people playing, riffs and solo blending perfectly. Sam Wood is flicking his hair; Wastell is jumping and swaying. Jepson is rocking out like no-one is watching. I really enjoyed this one.

Jepson removes his cap revealing his shorn locks, after seeing it for the first time his wife told him to grow it back. He’s gracious in his thanks for tonight’s opening band SKAM.

Then, it’s straight into ‘Ghost’, from 2017’s offering ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’ with Jepson shouting “Come on Nottingham!” a heavy and punchy riff start the track, Martini is controlled and deliberate as he strikes the kit orchestrating the others. Sam Wood’s squealing solo is matched by Wastell’s energy around the stage. The track builds to a crashing finale. The crowd are punching the air in time.

It’s back to ‘The Truth…’ with, ‘Punchline’, Wastell is off jumping around the stage as Wood is smiling at the audience. A start/stop riff is trading blows with Martini’s measured beats. Jepson is hitting all the notes, supported with some great harmonies, briefly slowing the pace before a Wood solo, fires it towards the finish. The crowd haven’t stopped bouncing yet.

It’s time for Toby to change his guitar, he tells us the next track was written quite a while ago, but it didn’t fit with the previous albums. ‘Bloody Typical’ continues tracks from ‘Even Up The Score’, slightly slower, a more balanced full sound along the lines of Stadium Rock, nice intricate sounds are scattered throughout. One thing that Manny noticed was that the stage lighting tonight reflected the colours used on the album covers.

With a heavy intro it’s ‘Sign of the Times’ is off ‘Even Up The Score’, a bit of a punk sound, again quick beats and riffs, Jepson has the ability to mix the pace and style of his vocal brilliantly. Toby tells us the next track is played in his acoustic set, ‘Fade Away’ follows, it starts a bit acoustically, a slow almost ballad pace, Jepson’s vocal is full of emotion, the band respectful in carrying that sentiment on. It’s an anthem, the arms are swaying. It has a Queen-esque finish. The crowd enjoyed it a lot.

Jepson thanks the crowd for keeping their tickets, and it’s great to be back amongst it again. He continues to tell us the next song is about bullies, and that he was a victim of bullying at school. A punchy circular riff complements Martini’s short drum beat for ‘Downfall’, Wastell has his foot up on the monitor in true Steve Harris style, his pounding bass carries Jepson’s vocal through the track. Sam Wood starts his solo slowly, but it’s not too long before his fingers are a blur on the fret board.

Wood starts the clapping, bringing in another from the latest album is ‘Fake’, a bit of a skater tempo, again a great demonstration of the ability within the band to ‘mix it up’, complete with a 70’s sounding power riff in the background. Clever.

Toby introduces the rest of the band and mentions that he’s been in the music business for 33 years, and it’s time for some dancing. We’re back to the first album for ‘Crush’, a rich riff and melodic beat is accompanied by a smooth vocal from Jepson.

Wood teases the solo out of his guitar, as the track develops the pace builds, Wastell’s bass is thumping your chest. There’s chance for the audience to sing a long, so with arms swaying ‘Wo-oah’ goes back and forth between us and Toby. It’s the turn of the band to applaud the audience for their endeavours.

We clap in the next track, it’s full of heavy riffs. ‘Small Talk’ is faster, Jepson leads the charge, Martini is eager to support, Jepson’s vocal is almost angry. Wastell is off around the stage again almost adopting an Angus Young duck walk. Wood keeps the speed high. This is an obvious favourite amongst the crowd.

Jepson tells us the albums are written as protests against how things are in the world. This next track he says is the one he’s most proud of. Still with the recent album it’s ‘Faith In Fools’, things are slowed down, Jepson is speaking the words, his voice strong and prominent, the track has an up-beat power ballad feel. The arms are swaying, the heads are nodding in time. A calm and measured track.

From ‘The Truth…’ the next track is ‘Joke’s On You’, a quick/slow track where Martini’s beat is the Ring Master. This is getting the crowd jumping again. Jepson easily encourages them to continue. The band are in a line with their guitars in the air, as the song concludes Nic Wastell is ‘windmilling’ his bass like Pete Townshend. The set finishes. The band applaud the crowd and we show our appreciation too.

Encore time, and the band return with ‘Feel Good Hit’ from ‘The Truth…’ high energy and quick, some excellent riffs and thunderous beats. The band are grinning at each other as Toby declares “We might open Download with that one.

Jepson calls out for ‘Jazz Hands’ then clapping for the penultimate track is the aptly titled ‘Until The End’, from the first album. It’s “foot to the floor” classic rock. The Rescue Rooms are bouncing as one. The band are smiling, they’re enjoying this too.

The final track tonight is ‘Big Day’ has a brilliant Quo style, it’s very difficult not to nod and tap along. Wastell is duck walking and bouncing around the stage still, the band finish with their guitars held high. Then line up and take a bow.

Setlist: Any Other Way; Don’t Wanna Go; Even Up The Score; Land Of The Blind; Ghost; Punchline; Bloody Typical; Sign Of The Times; Fade Away; Downfall; Fake; Crush; Small Talk; Faith In Fools; Joke’s On You; Feel Good Hit; Until The End; Big Day

We’ve been treated to a fantastic evening of Rock, played by two groups of great musicians who have both the ability and enthusiasm to entertain. If you’ve not seen SKAM before, you need to fix that as soon as possible, they’re playing several festivals over the summer.

Wayward Sons were polished and precise as ever, they have a catalogue of great tracks, and if you get chance, watch their videos, and not only enjoy the music but the story too, try and watch them in order, it will make a lot more sense.

As a footnote, tonight I’ve probably seen two of the most animated bass players on the road, phenomenal energy, it must be down to something in the water in Leicester…thinking about it, I think it’s called Everards.

Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

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