Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
So once again I make my way to the hallowed venue that is Nottingham’s Rock City, and, again Waldorf is sitting this one out due to work commitments, the poor fella has had to work 12hr shifts all over Easter.
Tonight’s mighty offering is Leeds Gothic/Alternative Rockers the Mission. Formed in 1986, initially as the Sisterhood, by front man Wayne Hussey, and bassist Craig Adams, they soon added drummer Mick Brown and guitarist Simon Hinkler to the line-up. Over the years the line-up has changed and despite Mick Brown turning the offer down the other three are now back together, Alex Baum was a last minute replacement for Kelly who pulled out last minute, At 31 he brings a youthfulness back to the band.
With the band’s roots being firmly in the Alternative/ Post Punk/ Goth scene, including The Sisters of Mercy, Dead or Alive, Spear of Destiny and Red lorry Yellow Lorry, the genre of music being coded in its very DNA from the start. Interestingly this sound seems to be something that emanated North of the Watford gap, but travelled very easily, Leeds being a melting pot for this new emerging sound.
In 2020 the Mission started to tour their United European Party Tour which began on the leap year extra day, February 29th, in Birmingham. However, this was curtailed due to the out-break of COVID-19 and the world being forced into lockdown. The rescheduled remainder of the tour was postponed until the summer of 2021, however with the world of uncertainty and the general uneasiness that was around the tour was rescheduled for the spring of 2022. By now the tour was down to just 9 dates, culminating in two nights at the Shephard’s Bush Empire in London on the 22nd and 23rd of April 2022.
The Rock City night kicks off with a great support band in The Rose of Avalanche. A band I’d not previously heard of, but researching them it would seem that they have been around in one form or another since 1984. Another Alternative/Gothic band from Leeds. They supported The Mission on their 1986/87 World Crusade Tour this gave them huge exposure and they released their first studio album ‘First Avalanche released in 1986.
The band released a further two albums ‘String of Beads’ and ‘I.C.E.’ in 1991 before permanently breaking up. In 2019 a reformation was announced and the band played at the Tomorrows Gothic and Alternative Festival at the Whitby Pavilion in April 2020. With a short intimate tour in 2021 and shows in Belgium and France the band were about to embark on tour with the Mission, this as we know was cut short due to the pandemic, however here in 2022 they are back on the road, supporting the Mission on the final nights of their brief UK tour.
Hitting the stage on time, the five piece walk on, big smiles on their faces and a bigger cheer from the crowd. The begin their 45-minute set, starting off with ‘Don’t Fly to High’ from the 1989 album ‘Never Another Sunset’. Full of crashing guitar and hammering drums, the opening builds nicely and introduces the band and their unique sound.
The melancholy style of lyrical delivery is there but it’s wrapped around a raw almost punk guitar sound. To be fair, having never heard it played before it’s certainly gotten my attention, love the guitar ‘squealies’ that breakup the song.
Great start guys, next up is ‘Too Many Castles in The Sky’ from ‘86’s album ‘Always There’. A steady chugging guitar intro and nice solo riding over the top marks the opening to another classy sounding tune, how have these slipped under my radar I’ll never know! This has an almost talked vocal, as the guitar interplay between Schultz on stage right and dad dancing Berry on stage left, takes over the show.
‘Not Another Day’ is third up, this is from their 1988 album ‘In Rock’. with its decidedly more genre type start, blue and pink lights flash as guitars crash along to the bass line, Berry’s guitar has a very vibrato laden lick as he mimics the vocals. The bass and kickdrum are perfectly locked together as, Berry, again rocks out by the Morris on vocals and then moves on to Thompson the drummer, he’s never still, no wonder they’ve given him the entire left half of the stage to perform like a dressage pantomime horse. Fan Favourite ‘Velveteen’ from 1986’s album ‘Always there’, is up next. A more deliberate but familiar sounding tune.
Berry is on acoustic for this one as he continues to pace around his side of the stage, his foot on monitor as he strums along. Listening to the song while writing this there is ‘Cowbell’, I don’t care what genre of music is playing but you can never have too much cowbell! Sunglasses wearing Morris repeats the hook into the microphone while the drums crash and the chorus effected guitars are jingling the melody along, somewhat like a wind chime , using the microphone stand as a support we get more lyrical do do dooo dodo do dos from Morris as the song comes to an end. The crowd and I agree, we like that one.
The striking marching beat of ‘Goddess’ from the 1985 album ‘Rose of Avalanche’ sees more guitar antics being shared as Shultz, on stage right, and his lovely sounding 335, leads us into this melodic bouncer. Davis, on Bass is up front thumping out a great, but simple bass, at time sounding more like a lead riff than the back bone. The crowd are cheering as the band go into the break down, and we get a bit of slow tom bashing as Morris, lips on the microphone, speaks his lyrics slow and deliberately, at times making the words hard to decipher. The tune gathers momentum as the two guitars deliver the jangly fuzzed sound of the genre and bring the song to a close. Another great delivery.
‘Always There’ from 1986 follows and is similar in structure, full of chorus driven guitars and a decisive drum beat, the crowd cheer as the band deliver yet another great tune. ‘Dreamland’ from 1988 is up next with its jangly opening riff, sounding slightly phased and full of chorus delights, tasteful drum fills and a great bass woven over the top making this a truly tuneful track. The guitar sound has an almost Cult tone to it which is no bad thing. ‘La Rain’ again from 1985’s ‘The Rose of Avalanche’, is next, with its decisive bass and drum fill layered with distorted guitars that crash over the melody, as, once again Morris talks into the mic. The delay and chorus on the guitars give it an airy feel as the melancholy lyric continues. The drum beat has an almost clockwork feel to it as it smashes across the venue. The crashing guitars, repetitively left to decay after each strike.
Last song of the set is the 1970’s Stooges Cover ‘Loose’. Full of attitude and distorted guitar. Berry on Pantomime guitar sings into the ambience mic, they’re pointing to the crowd on either side of the stage. The excellent guitar banter back and forth helps bring this Stooges favourite to life and a great tune to finish the set. As this hard-hitting song plays out its clear the band have gone down well with the crowd. I’ve being spoilt tonight. This is why we must all get to the venue early to support the ‘undercard’, I have yet again discovered a band and have loved every minute of their chorus driven, 12 string sounding set. Brilliant!
After a quick change over, as always, done efficiently by the Rock City crew, we are ready for the main act, The Mission. Smoke machines are on and the stage is slowly filling with the awful stuff, thankfully the crew have an idea what they’re doing so it feels controlled. Fingers crossed.
Starting the set off, we have ‘Beyond the Pale’, from 1988’s album ‘The Children’ followed by Hands Across the Ocean from the album Grains of Sand , released in February 1990 .
With a set now full of smoke we have Hussey centre stage, A white Schecter 12 string hanging from his neck, dressed with a combat style olive green jacket, he looks relaxed as he places his bottle of ‘Casillero Del Diablo’ red wine down by his pedal board.
The familiar guitar riff slowly plays out, as engulfed in blue light Hinkler and Adams help to build the intro, with a crack of snare drum, Baum joins in and we’re off and within moments Hussey, with his unique vocal, his arms waving as he joins in, as the chorus is played, Hussey, foot in the air, rocks back and the crowd take over the singing duty’s.
One minute he strumming his guitar the next he’s gesturing to the crowd, this cracker of tune has set the scene for the night, instantly. The hands are up as Hinkler’s repeated strums, sounding almost mandolin like as he shreds out the lead. With drum crashes, Hussey is kicking out, If, only I can grab a picture!
What a great opener as we go into ‘Hands Across the Ocean’, this pacier track has a driving drum beat, the guitars are scorching along as the bass of Adams dances along in time with the kick drum. The crowd are on it, singing hard as Hinkler rips out the solo on his heavily etched metal capped 2007 Zematis MF501 guitar, (one of several Zematis guitars he’s owned since earning a bit of money as the Missions Lead guitarist, I digress) in a cloud of smoke which is back lit by the strobing spots.
Hussey’s vocal has lost none of its style as this great song finishes, Hussey, again, is pointing to the crowd, pic in his fingers the crowd sing the last words to him.
‘Serpents Kiss’ is next the tasty riff intro is soon engulfed in drums and bass. Hussey’s melancholy laden vocal is on point as this tune from 1987, soars in its delivery, full of 80’s attitude, in fact, I saw the Mission at Little Johns Farm, Reading, back in 1987 when they headlined the Friday night. This song brings back the memories from that somewhat haze filled weekend of pure substance abuse as Alice Cooper calls it.
The album, ‘Another fall from Grace’ see’s two tracks played in tonights set. The first is ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’ a great tune, classic The Mission from the 22nd Century. With a clanking bass riff opening the tune, a steady build of drums and a nice chorus heavy guitar starts as the lights flash on stage. Hussey with hands on his guitar sings slow and deliberately, pointing as he both sings and strums. Hinkler is back and forth in his delivery. Stood legs apart he smashes out the keyboard sounding solo, skipping forward quickly he deactivates the pedal before he’s back delivering the melody. Beanie wearing Adams on the other side of the stage is, at times, lost in the fog.
‘Naked and Savage’ follows that great tune from 2016. Starting with a heavy drum riff that blasts out moments before the chorus filled guitars join in. The drum, powerful and precise, beat continues as Hinkler riffs out and Hussey sings to the crowd, walking back to the drums then back to the microphone, his dark glasses hiding his eyes as they no doubt dart around the collective in tonight.
He joins in on the guitar, as he writhes and seduces the microphone during his lyrical delivery. The Wuh Woos being sung out by Adams, lost in the smoke throughout the song, is giving it an almost avian Strigidae (owl) type vibe. The crowd, arms stretched out dance to this classic track as the lights change from blue to pink to orange to white.
‘Garden of Delight’ from 1986’s ‘Gods Own Medicine’ has the stage bathed in a sea of green, as it starts up the crowd break into ‘There’s Only One Cheeky Chappie’, Hussey is beaming like the proverbial cats got the cream as he steps back and enjoys the chanting, the drums have started to build so it’s on with the show. With pulsing green and blue spots, a relaxed Hussey’ croons’ the vocal, Hinkler’s distorted riffs cutting through appropriately as he poses like a gun slinger, in the swirling on stage ‘fog’, his guitar hanging as low he rips out the high-pitched repetitive lead as the song continues. Orange lighting fills the stage as hussy hangs on to the last word, Hinkler has feedback then turns to finish the song.
‘Swoon’ from 1995’s ‘Neverland’ is next, the never-ending fog is lit by coloured spots as Adam’s bass, more felt than heard, pushes hard against your chest. The white 12 string is again back in Hussey’s hands as it strikes out a 60’s style riff, ride cymbal play cuts through as blue lights fill the stage once more. Haunting breaks from Hinkler fill the air as this ‘ballad’ plays out. Sounding at times like there’s a full orchestra playing behind the ‘fog’ this classic tune goes down well with the crowd, the tempo change has more hands reaching for the band as Hussey sings in a higher register, I can’t help feeling that there is a slight, early U2 feel to this one, back when U2 were cool.
‘86’s, ‘Severina’ follows on with its surging chorus, harmonised guitar notes. Red lights and white spots bath the stage for this slightly faster song, with hands up the crowd sing along “Severina” they sing. The lights changing from blue to purple, punctuated with white spots as Hinkler riffs out, Hussey’s 12 string jangles along. He’s clearly having fun teasing the crowd from behind his dark glasses.
1990’s ‘Belief’ is up next, the crowd, again, has its arms up as the distorted intro lick is laid down. With a crack of the snare drum the melody line changes direction, Hussey crouches low before standing and growling the open words. The walking drum beat is tightly tied into Adams bass guitar as the song flows. Adams is lost in the haze of fog as Hussey steps back for the lead licks to be played. His guitar, a black 12 string has words daubed on it, if memory serves me right its ‘Compo’, ‘Foggy’ and ‘Clegg’ from ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ fame.
An almost walking drum beat locked into a droning bass note plays as Hinkler controls the feedback on the smoke-filled stage. Two topless, middle aged guys ‘wobble’ past on their way back to the bar as this song comes to a triumphant finish. A guy has been lifted high into the crowd and he stands their head held back arms out stretched. He has strong mates.
‘1990’s classic ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’ continues from the album ‘Carved in Sand’. With its distinctive ‘Duff Duff’ taped drum start, Hussey starts playing the white 12 string Schecter momentarily, as a kaleidoscope of ‘The Mission’s logo swirls across the back drop Hinkler’s haunting Zematis sings out with what sounds like an E-bow being used, it’s hard to see through the smoke being stood at the sound board.
Hussey is picked out as the rest of the band are mere shadows. The crowd take over the singing in part as Hussey stands with his arm around Adams. Hinkler’s haunting guitar note continues as a girl has now managed to climb on the shoulders of her partner? She somewhat tentatively dances along just as the song finishes.
‘Wasteland’ from ‘Gods Own Medicine’ follows. The stage is full of purple smoke as the guitars chime out full of delay and chorus. As Hussey mouths the first words a huge cheer goes up along with arms and heads from a group of fans stood central to the stage. Bouncing in time they sing the words back to Hussey and the band.
This is a die-hard fan group, reacting to every syllable sung’ Hinkler’s haunting guitar scratches along next to Hussey’s whoah’s as the song comes down a level, his vocal is echoed as the crowd cheer out. With Sssh’s and ‘wasteland’ echoing from the crowd, the guitar ebbs and flow in intensity, as its building there’s a loud thud as confetti falls from the overheads, the song continues as the crowd bounce along, the stage fills with smoke as the light pulses and intensity build to the final notes of the song.
The final song of the set is the mighty ‘Deliverance’ again from ‘Carved in Sand’. With its 12 string and chorus layered guitar riff, this pacey song kicks ass. Hussey is singing and pointing to the bearded guy who, on is up on his mate’s shoulders again, he holds a Mission pennant out for the band to see, dropping it, arms out stretched he sings to the band.
The guys is mesmerising as he sings it word for word. Hinkler’s solo rips Rock City a new one as the tick tock of drums crashes onwards. Hussey dances around the stage as he takes his guitar off. The music stops except for the kick drum as the crowd sing ‘Brothers, sisters, deliver us etc’ Hussey picks up his bottle of red wine and says ‘we’ll leave you with Alex, carry on singing’. Hussey, Adams and Hinkler leave the stage and the singing carries on for another minute or so and then the kick drum stops and the singing dies down only to be replaced with cry’s for ‘More’!
The stage is bathed in blue light, the crew are busily sorting things as the mighty Mission logo stands proud on the back drop. Eventually the band re-emerge, Hussey places his red wine down and announces to the crowd about playing live at Rock City. It’s a thing of dreams, so many bands have said that Rock City is on their must play at list. The Mission first played here on October 28th 1986. It has been such a great venue for them over the years that they have decided to play an extra 3 song encore for the crowd in tonight.
‘Sacrilege’ starts the encore off. Another track from the 1986 ‘Gods own Medicine’ album. It fires up with distorted guitars, as the snare snaps in over the top, the bass is low and rumbling again it’s a feeling more than a noise. Arms are raised as the crowd dance along shouting back the chorus to the band. Adams is rocking out on the bass as he thumps out the bounding riff driving the song along as it flies towards a crushing tom tom riff, Hussey has his guitar pressed against his beloved Liverpool flag as he generates feedback with the speaker beneath, the whole performance is in keeping with the studio pressing of the song. Pick up selector switching heralds the songs end, but there’s no let up.
Bathed in red light the band strike up into ‘Blood Brother’ yet another from ‘Gods Own Medicine’. This carries on at warp speed, with Hussey singing and pointing at the sea of hands. As he sings, he appears to go on tip toes as he emotionally delivers to the wealth of fans in tonight. Hinkler is lost in the shadows as he rips out another scintillating solo, as Hussey wishes he could tell us he loves us. The lighting tech has decided to destroy our vision as he strobes the ‘blinders’ aimed at the crowd. With the song finished we’re temporarily blinded as the band finish the 3 song Rock City encore with
‘Crystal Ocean’, this time from ‘First Chapter’ album. It opens with a dominant kick drum, hand clapping from the crowd and some distorted guitar. The bass line is a simple progression that works as its tight to the drums, as Hinkler, on guitar, strums out repetitively like a man possessed.
The song has a familiar edge to it as after a lengthy build up the vocals start, again I find the opening very U2 like, again no bad thing. The air is punctuated by stabbing hands from the faithful in the crowd. As the chorus rings out, the dreaded blinder flash into life, time to look away briefly. The green and blue lighting is extenuated by the fog that’s drifting across the stage. As the song winds up Hussey says “Thank you” as the band exit the stage, it’s lit by neon blue light again.
Hinkler eventually leads the band back on the stage followed by Adams who dons his bass as Baum climbs behind the kit. As the lighting is predominantly neon blue as Hussey puts his Schecter on his lead is glowing the brightest of oranges.
He shouts “you want more”? “new song or old song”? he gets the crowds cheering to decide, ‘Old’ wins but Hussey says “we’re going to play a new one anyway” as they strike up something isn’t quite right so they reset and start up again.
‘Within the Deepest Darkness (Fearful)’ the second track from 2016’s ‘Another fall from Grace’ album on tonight’s set. Cheered on by the crowd a sound of a tambourine fills the air as slowly a guitar builds. The bass is locked into thunderous drums as Hussey talks the vocal.
Hinkler in his hat is bowed over under the foggy spotlights. The song is delivered with a deliberate control as the harshness is soothed with the delicate 12 string jingle. Just as you think it’s going to take off and go crazy it changes tac and goes all proggie and instrumental. The bass is rippling the ground with its biting delivery as the drums crash around the melody. The crowd are dancing to this one in unison, as Hussey bounces back and forth in front of the drums as the song finishes with a super little Hinkler riff.
Again, bathed in red the band start the last song of the night. With its almost tribal beat crashing out, Hussey gets the crowd to sing out “you are a tower of strength”. As Hussy continues to sing from behind dark glasses the crowd sing along with him.
The crowd are enjoying this one, we have 3 up on the shoulders as a fourth, a girl carefully tries to stand high. By the time we get to the second chorus, the drums change their beat and Hinkler’s guitar goes off on another tasty lick. The singing continues from the crowd as Hussey turns away, he strolls around the stage smiling.
The repetitive nature of the song has Hussey crouching down, he briefly joins Hinkler before handing his guitar to the tech and removing the mic from the stand, he now, unencumbered, strolls around the front of the stage as Hinkler cracks out another excellent lick as the song draws to an end, with some wooo whoas the song comes to an end. The crowd cheer and scream for more. Hussey says “Thank you” picks his wine bottle up and says “I need this to go and celebrate” as he walks off, obviously referring to Liverpool’s win in the football earlier.
Well that certainly was well worth the ticket price. A night of greatest hits with a few thrown in extra for the Rock City faithful for no other reason than they like Rock City.
Having seen the band a few times over the years and not really appreciating them in the early days, I can say that they have stood the test of time and have aged like a fine wine. Tonight, was the best I’ve seen them and I would encourage anyone to catch them soon.
Messrs’ Hussey, Hinkler, Adams and Baum I thank you for a great Tuesday night out! Stonking stuff indeed!