38 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Having raced across to Wolverhampton, I remembered to avoid the dreaded junction 10 on the M6, an abyssal blot on the landscape devoid of life, light and movement.

Having spent what seemed like an eternity trying to get on the M6 after my last visit to KK’s, it’s now engraved in my heart as a place to avoid at all costs.

I get to KK’s just in time for the heavens to open, after two of the hottest days in the UK since records began, I’m now sat in my car as rain of biblical proportions tries to wash Wolverhampton away. I should have known it was coming as I passed queues of animals sat at bus stops on the way in, yes, they were sat in pairs.

Finally getting into KK’s, we are met with the big beaming smile from ‘Tice’ the man that makes things tick here at the Steel Mill. Once the ‘crew’ are happy, we’re ushered inside, collecting my pass as I do so. It’s the smaller room to the left of the entrance tonight. Smashing an intimate night, just how such an iconic night should be. This is a night that’s going to be for the faithful, the fans who have followed Myke through thick and thin over the years, it’s going to be an emotional one for many.

After more than thirty years in the music business, Myke has decided he has reached the end of this chapter in his life. A new chapter awaits him across the water in Florida were his wife and the future awaits him. Being the type of person, he is, he has decided that to make his American adventure work then he must give it his full attention, this has ultimately meant putting his music on hold, hopefully for many this is a temporary hiatus so that sometime down the road we will get to see Myke perform again. But for now, this is his final Swann Song. Three nights and then a set up the mountain at Steelhouse in South Wales and that’s it, finished. The chapter closed for good.

Thankfully tonight promises to be something special, so there is a good crowd already gathering in the small room, they peruse the merch stand, adding to their collection of merch, Joe Black is smiling as T-shirts are being passed over, the fans buying in a frenzy, to have the latest attire. The Ashen Reach, tonight’s under card, merch is also moving so that’s a positive for such a new band. Ok they’re a new line up after the original band had a parting of the ways when they returned from touring Russia with ‘Bullet for my Valentine’.

ASHEN REACH are a 5 piece from Liverpool, that great spawning ground for many a stunning band, have been around since just before Covid was a thing, in-fact the latest line upstarted life in early 2019. No sooner had they formed; they were in the studio recording their debut album ‘Homecoming’. They released their first single in November 2019 entitled ‘Tear It Down’, it was well received by the music press and the public in general, a promising start to what will hopefully be a great album from this fresh band, this was then followed up by a second single in January 2020.

Prey’ again received a great reception and life looked promising. Then Covid devastated the world, but not to be outdone the band released its third and final single, ‘Epiphany’ in the October prior to the albums launch in November of 2020.

Making their way onstage to there is a great atmosphere in the room, the fans have started cheering and that has brought smiles to the faces of Joe, Mike and Paddy as they plug in. Jess is making herself comfy behind Neil Ogden’s kit as Kyle swaggers on stage, overflowing with energy he has the band straight into the first song, and opening track from the album, ‘Fighting for my Life’. This has already been heard by those who bought ‘lockdowns’ NWOCR Vol 1 album as it features on there.

It’s a powerful song that has you nodding your head from the get go. With some great ‘Moeller’ technique on the hi hat from Jess the song bangs away, Kyle is up front bathed in a strong pink light as he delivers. The guitars scorch, as hair and dreds fly around. The third single is up next, ‘Epiphany’, but not before Paddy Cummins on guitar has coerced the crowd into singing the three words, “Holding on for”, in fact we get two practice attempts.

It carries on from the last song, soaring guitars complete with harmonics and a thundering backline slam hard as Kyle leaps into the air as the song kicks off. This melodic banger is a darker tune than the opener, the droning backing vocal giving it a Gregorian Chant type of feel. The crowd join in as required. The breakdown has some great guitar that’s shared back and forth, and It finishes with a scream and some serious head shaking from Kyle.

‘Heir to the Throne’ is up next, track 4 from the album if you’re keeping score. This is a bouncing track that has the crowd firmly in their pocket. A darker tune full of drop tuned nastiness. The band are on their toes as this one grinds out. Full of false stops and demonic growls, it wouldn’t be out of place in an extreme metal bands set.

Asking for hands Kyle gets the crowd to clap as they bring this banger to an abrupt end.

Track 6 from the album is up next, ‘Prey’, a jolly number about a man obsessed with a woman, oh and it was also the second single to be released. A softly sung intro soon gives way to a righteous howl and all hell breaks loose as the band fire up on all cylinders.

A walking beat and jangled guitar flow as the song thrusts forward, an instrumental moment breaks up the pace of the song before normal service is resumed. Kyle is back with the guttural growls as thundering drums and a chest slammin’ bass punish the crowd. Paddy’s solo is tasteful as the song again features more than one quieter phase, the final one seeing the slow conclusion of the song.

‘Here I go’ has a gentler start again with multiple voices and a sparkling guitar. The intensity of the song builds and is a change from the previous hard-hitting numbers. With a guitar battering during the break down, a tasty melodic solo over the top doesn’t mask the great structure of this song, as it fades out.

Changing the vibe yet again to a ‘nice song’. ‘Hole in the Sky’ is up next. A single guitar howls as the other strums a repeated pattern before a cavalcade of drums and cymbals see’s Kyle bouncing on his toes. Hair is flying as this song of help and positivity chimes out. The held notes sweep in the background of cymbal crashes. This heavier song has plenty of crowd participation, as looking around the hands are in the air, as the song moves from the heavier elements into those softer moments filled with great guitar riffs and the interplay with Joe and Mike, as his bass gently rattles out as they bring the song to an end.

‘Broken Column’ is another face paced face ripper, its anthemic guitar start has the band nodding their heads as they rip into it. Kyle joins in along with his vocal growl friend who pop’s his head into the proceedings during throughout the song. A stomping backline smashes its way inside your head and rearranges the furniture. This is a solid track, number 10 on the album. The energy hasn’t dropped throughout the set. As tempo’s change the intensity has, if anything, increased.

‘Homecoming’ is the title track of the debut album. An almost eastern sitar sound is coming from Paddy’s guitar. Arms are being waved as the song warms up gently before dropping off a cliff into a head banging frenzy of chugged distorted guitar notes and thundering bass riffs. Joe O’Sullivan takes the lead solo on this one, His ginger dreds swirling in the air as he pulls the ‘guitar Face’ as he eventually brings this song and the set to an end.

It’s been a set full of variety showcasing why this band is proving to be popular on the circuit, for a band with only the one album to their name they have been solid and worthy openers for Myke Gray and his band.

Ashen reach are:-

Jess Stanley – Drums; Kyle Stanley – Vocals; Paddy Cummins – Guitar;

Mike McCarroll – Bass Guitar; Joe O’Sullivan – Guitar.

Set List:-

1. Fighting for My Life, 2. Epiphany, 3. Heir to The Throne, 4. Prey, 5. Here I Go, 6. Hole in The Sky, 7. Broken Column, 8. Homecoming.

After the usual quick change over we are ready for Myke to take to the stage. The night has been brewing slowly and it’s now reached a point where someone needs to take control, before it boils over.

The crowd cheer mightily as the band come out, Simon is already stood in the window with Myke’s trademark white flying V guitar ready for him to walk into. I can’t help but notice a big crack on the neck, a typical Gibson guitar headstock wound, hopefully it’ll hold out for the night.

Myke walks out to huge cheers and applause. He’s beaming like the proverbial cat who’s got the cream. Acknowledging the crowd, he dons his guitar as Dan Byrne kicks the night off with ‘Stand Up for Rock ‘n’ Roll’ this is a banger of an opener from the Red White & Blues era. Classic riffs and thundering drums are the only way to open the night. Dans voice is on point as he welcomes us to their show.

Myke, dressed in 1/2black and 1/2white jeans and denim cut is stage left and rockin’, the smile firmly planted on his face as he bounces about. ‘Money’ follows on. This is a song from the ‘SKIN’ era. A crunching tune which has the crowd singing along from the get go. Dan is smiling as he enjoys the feedback. He enjoys a great relationship with Myke who is rocking out next to him, his foot on the wedge.

90’s driving rock banger, ‘Turn It Up Louder’ is up next and is proving a favourite with those familiar with the ‘Shades of Gray’ era. Myke’s been in the business for more than 30 years so has constantly evolved during that time, but, he has always remained true to himself and his fan base. This Arena Rock fun piece reminds us not to take ourselves to seriously and just enjoy life to the full.

Once again, we revisit ‘SKIN’ who were formed in the early 1990’s, this time we get ‘Trouble’, a rootin’ tootin’ express train of a song which paves the way for Colin’s bass to strike up that familiar bassline as we race headlong into SKIN’s 1994 classic ‘House of Love’. What a cheer this one got, probably one of Myke’s finest songs, as the crowd, who are now singing along triumphantly to this treasure of a tune, would agree. I’m not going to do Dan any injustice as he absolutely nails the vocal, and a big shout out to the crowd who equally help lift the roof of the Steel Mill.

We travel back to another couple of songs from Jagged Edge, ‘Out in the Cold’ and ‘You Don’t Love Me’ both from 1990’s Fuel for Your Soul album. These again see Myke on form as he teases the crowd throughout. Classic 90’s rock riffs fly from his fingers, and, once again the crowd seem to have studied the set list as they know every word.

The next couple of songs are mash ups, we get SKIN’s ‘Raised on Radio’ and ‘Nightsong’ from the 1994 album SKIN, and for these we get a guitar change to a Black Gibson SG, the same as what Angus Young plays, which is followed by Red White ‘n’ Blues ‘Rescue Me’ from the 2011 album Shine which segues into ‘Stronger’ from the reformed SKIN’s 2010 album ‘Breaking the Silence’, both are bangin’ songs and the bands energy would suggest they enjoy playing them.

Looking around the room as these songs play out, it’s obvious the place is full of die-hard fans. In-fact Myke dedicates ‘Rescue Me’ to Clifford Kemp. A diehard fan who came out of hospital specially to catch this gig. Myke tells the room that Clifford has been there throughout his career and he considers him a friend. Clifford is on the barrier front and central, you wouldn’t have guessed he’s not long out of hospital at all as he sings along with gusto.

We stay in 2011 for the Red White ‘n’ Blues banger ‘Counts for Nothing’. Myke’s steady descending run supports Dan and his gentle delivery of the opening lines to this great song. He’s holding on to the mike stand as he digs deep, his eyes are closed. It’s a superb vehicle for his amazing voice. With its smoky Jazz club vibe, this stunning song ranks as my stand out song of the night. Dans voice is sublime, the band are tight and ‘in the pocket’, gritty and full of power as Myke takes over on guitar, he’s back on the Vee for this one as he makes it sing.

He and Dan face each other momentarily as the song powers along, Myke teasing the words as he shreds. The backing vocals of Colin and Glenn harmonise as Dan riffs over the top like the professional he is.

With a final screaming lyric, sonic cymbal swells and Myke’s delicate guitar, the song is brought to an end, this is a belter of a song, Dan, Myke and the band absolutely crushed that one, the crowd loved it, I loved it, we all loved it, stunning!

We carry on with ‘Let It Shine’ again from the same 2011 album. Another absolute banger of a track, which has the crowd clapping along from the first note. It’s almost like it’s been rehearsed.

This leads us into the final section of the night, and it seems to be dedicated to the formidable band, ‘SKIN’.

Myke starts this one off with 1994’s ‘Look but Don’t Touch’ this great song has the crowd chanting out “baby baby baby look but don’t touch” this is followed up by ‘Colourblind’ or rather only up to the first chorus where it changes to the epic ‘Down by The River’.

The sweat is dripping off Myke, he’s not stopped moving all night, in fact the front row could probably attest to that, as I think they have had a sample or two rain down on them during the evening as Myke has spun around and given the night his all.

‘Tower of Strength’ is next with its familiar riff. Its amazing how many bangers were on the original SKIN album, as the set is concludes with ‘Shine Your Light’ and its thundering bass intro and the mighty ‘Can You Feel It’ yes, it’s another mash up of two songs. Poor old Dan that’s a lot of lyrics to remember for the one set, and looking at the set list on the floor, there’s one hell of an encore to follow, as the band exit the stage sharpish, no doubt to get a well-earned drink and a rub down with fresh towels.

The Encore over, sees the band back on stage. Myke is beaming as he asks if we want any more, silly question and he knows it as the band tuck into Myke’s, ‘This Is How We Rock & Roll’ from 2021 which quickly runs into SKIN’s ‘Born to Rock and Roll’ with its great hooks and bouncing melody. The solo was as good as I remember it.

Dans voice can, just, be heard above the crowds united roar. 2011’s ‘Red, White and Blues’ follows on. This has lost none of its greatness as it powers along. Again, the crowd are all over it, proof that it’s stood the test of time. With its Southern rock vibe. The thundering drums diving this one along. The whole front line harmonise the chorus before Myke ramps up a wah driven solo.

As the 3/5th of the band leave the stage, Myke puts on an Acoustic. The next song was written about Freddie Mercury I find out during my research, although it could be about anyone. It’s full of emotion and Myke suggests it may have him in tears too.

The song is ‘Wings of An Angel’ another from the stunning SKIN album of 1994. The version recorded wasn’t as Myke saw the song, but trusted the producer. Myke says he envisioned it as more of Hendrix type song, think ‘Little Wing’. I last heard this powerful song played in Rock City on the SKIN tour back in 2011. Dan’s voice is delicate and respectful as he accompanies Myke. He does the song justice by making this version his own, the crowd agree as they again help out with the singing.

The Goosebumps have arrived, as this emotional song triggers memories of those who we have lost. My mum would have loved this one.

‘Fuel for The Soul’ follows on and again features Myke on acoustic guitar. A slightly more up-beat tune has Dan singing more relaxed as Myke is beaming away, this hair metal ballad is full of tasty melodic hooks, a belter.

Myke tells us he couldn’t finish without raising the tempo and going out on a high. The band re-emerge and we’re into ‘I Get Up’ from 2020.

This fun track takes us back to the 70’s with a ‘the Sweet’ vibe as it bounces along. The crowd are light in their loafers as they bounce along to the band. As the night rocks along we get ‘Perfect Day’ another from Myke’s latest offering.

The tune romps along, as Myke dances around the stage enjoying the moment. Into the final track of the night ‘Unbelievable’. Yes, we finish the night off with an EMF cover. This short number full of scorching guitar and thudding drums brings the night to an end. A 29song set isn’t bad in anyone’s book, but as a farewell its destined to be a greatest hits. Hopefully the desk will have recorded it for him as it would finish the album collection off lovely.

Myke paid special thanks to the following, I had a more detailed breakdown but sadly my phone picked up the ambient voices around me and killed Myke’s voice. The following got very dear personal messages from Myke, for their help and support throughout his career and this farewell tour.

The Band, Dan Byrne on vocals, Colin Parkinson on bass, Glenn Quinn on Guitar and Neil Ogden on Drums.

The Crew, Simon Warrington – Guitar Tech, Richard Brindly – Bass Tech, Pete Newdeck – Drum Tech, Arthur Anderson – Sound Engineer and Joe Black on the Merch.

Myke points out that they are like a family and the best people he has been around. He will miss them dearly. He thanks the fans for being there for him, he mentions several by name as he points around the small room. He finishes it by saying that he considers us all friends that he will surely miss.

So that’s it. Two further nights, a festival and then it’s over. Leo’s in Gravesend and the Waterloo Bar in Blackpool and a Friday night slot at Wales’s famous Steelhouse Festival is all the Myke Gray fans have to look forward to, apart from a stunning back catalogue of classic bangers.

Myke Thank you for your service to Rock n Roll, it’s been one hell of a ride but what a legacy you leave behind you. Good luck in your future ventures, and if you ever feel the need, there’s a huge fanbase here waiting for your next song!

Set List:-

1. Stand Up For Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2. Money, 3. Turn It Up Louder, 4. Trouble, 5. House Of Love, 6. Out In The Cold, 7. You Don’t Love Me, 8. Raised On Radio/Nightsong, 9. Rescue Me/Stronger, 10. Counts For Nothing, 11. Let It Shine, 12. Spit On You, 13. Soul, 14. Look But Don’t Touch, 15. Colourblind/Take Me Down To The River, 16. Tower Of Strength, 17. Shine Your Light/Can You Feel It,


18. This Is How We Rock and Roll/Born to Rock and Roll, 19. Red, White and Blues, Wings of An Angel (acoustic with Dan), 20. Fuel for The Soul (acoustic with Dan), 22. I Get Up, 23. Perfect Day, 24 Unbelievable (EMF Cover)

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