Review by Richard Henry for MPM
Tonight’s gig is held at the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill, a cracking venue that should not be overlooked by any Rock and Metal fan in Northern Ireland, a venue that has seen everyone from Enuff Znuff, Doug Aldrich, Quireboys, Blaze Bayley, Love Hate, Uli Jon Roth, Tyketto, Tigertailz and many more play there, and any wonder, always a great crowd, great sound and fantastic atmosphere, it has been going for years with the main man Derwin McFarland at the helm, again if you haven’t been, get yourself there!
Support tonight comes from local boys Divides/Unfold, given a decent 9 song set and a chance to show everyone what they are about, initial impressions, if you like Alter Bridge and you like the heavier end of Tremonti, you’re going to love these guys, I was really impressed with them!
Fire of the Sun was the set opener, a nice heavy riff to open leading into a really brooding verse, some soaring vocals on display as well, you could see the crowd starting to get into this one
Losing Time was next up, this one gave me a sort of Soundgarden vibe to kick off with before it builds into a riff that kicks you in the teeth, great hook as well for the chorus, really strong track and one that Alter Bridge would be proud to write, very strong!
Far Beyond is another groover of a track, mid paced tribal drum verse, with an almost trashy vibe then again, we lead into what seems to be a strong suit for the band which is a great chorus and vocals!
Distain and Find Your Peace up next and a great one two punch of tracks, again if you haven’t checked these guys out, I highly urge you to do so, it’s just strong track one after another, great light and shade, more heavy riffs and catchy chorus, some nice playing in there as well, it’s well seen these guys have had a good few shows under their belts!
Tonight, and In the Dark next, the former is as laid back as they have gotten all night, still heavy as expected but definitely a different vibe on this track, In The dark is again a bit more thrashy vibe with great hooks and definitely more on the Tremonti solo band vibe!
Gravity and Saviour are the last two of the night from the guys, Saviour in particular stuck with me after the gig, great track! This was my first time seeing these guys and I would recommend going out to see them if you can, next up is Saturday 12/12 in the Limelight 2!!
Next up we have the main man or should I say Mean Man, Chris Holmes!!
I was here last year when Chris played and in the space of that year, Chris had battled cancer and came out the other side, and I have to say there was a certain venom in his playing tonight! His backing band are vocalist/guitarist Ollie Tindall and bassist Lex Gifford from, The Wicked Jackyls, from Watford in the UK and drummer Stephen Jackson.
We kick off with a classic, On Your Knees from the W.A.S.P debut album, its high energy right from the off, the whole place shouting the chorus back to the band, Ollie handling all of the vocals with great aplomb, tough one to start with, Chris does what he does best and plays a paint stripper of a solo, what an opener!
Get with it, is up next, this is more a mid-tempo driver of a track and it’s great to see this year more of his solo material in the set, with Ollie handling the vocals and Chris doing backing, this is a proper punch in the face of a track live, great solo and then we have everyone singing better get with it to close out the track
Let It Roar is up next and another Chris solo song, thumping bassline and driving drums, it still harkens back to his metal roots but has a lot more heft to the sound, especially live this one really hits hard, bass player Lex playing some nice stuff in this under the solo, breakdown after the solo, then back into that chorus that won’t leave your head for the rest of the night!
Love Machine, I mean what can I say, it’s a classic track and everyone in the place was singing along with the chorus with front man Ollie encouraging everyone to get involved in the chorus, and if you’re like me, getting to watch up close and personal Chris peeling off those classic solos effortlessly is something to behold!
Sleeping in the Fire, it’s the one two punch again, one classic into another, tough one for any vocalist and yet again Ollie pulls it off, with Chris singing the middle section of the song just before hitting that classic solo, he hits all the runs that he played, tapping part everything, just fantastic to see so close up!
Devil Made Me Do It, from the Under the Influence Ep, is up next, this one is an instant headbanger of a riff, and as I mentioned, his solo stuff live has a different feel but a lot heavier than the WASP material, the place is full and everyone singing back the chorus refrain with the band!
Am What I Am, starting this one off with an ode to Phil Taylor from Motorhead who without him we might not have had a solo Chris album, it was a touching tribute, just a gritty heavy, driving riff on this one, it just grinds and keeps going then into the chorus that builds with the call and response vocals, as always a great solo from Chris, you know its him as soon as he plays, again his solo tracks are the standouts tonight!
Blind In Texas, this is the first track from The Last Command album, the boogie begins, the solo at the start is exact to what the original was, a lot of crowd participation on this one as expected, the way the set was done really was well worked as there was a great balance between the solo material and the classic songs!
Had Enough, a song I am sure we can all relate to! Like a lot of the solo material, it’s a lot heavier and I love that, great mid-tempo driver of a track, everyone signing along “I’ve Had Enough” for the chorus along with the band, this one really digs in and gets the heads moving, great solo and back into the chorus only this time it stops for everyone to sing the words back for a bit more audience participation!
Born Work Die, if you have heard the original it starts with an acoustic feel and then kicks in, this is a song that live really benefits live sounding much stronger without the acoustic verses, I mean the chorus I am sure some of us have felt at times, drummer Stephen gets to rip a bit on this one before the solo kicks in, and on a side note, solod drummer providing great backing vocals all night as well!
Wild Child, as the previous song holds on the last chord you hear the intro of Wild Child kicking in, another classic off Last Command, again Ollie getting the crowd to sing along and help out, great front man, demanding more from the crowd and really keeping the energy going for the whole show while looking like he is having a ball up there
Animal, is it even a controversial track anymore? The last track and this one keeps the energy going and the crowd participation, and it’s a nice coupling of songs from the back catalogue, again the set was well split up and it really kept the crowd going the whole time!
So, the last three songs of this evening are covers and some very cool choices here!
Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf classic
Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Rockin In the Free World, Neil Young
This is a band having a good time as they deliver their own versions of these classic tracks, each with Chris improvising a solo over the top of them, definitely a very cool way to end the night with all the songs getting sang by the crowd, so that was it……. well no
We had one more to go, Highway to Hell, with the promise to make someone famous a brave soul said he would come up and sing this classic with the band, and fair play to him as well, a fun ending to a night of great Rock and Metal! If you have the chance to see Chris live then do it, he is playing his ass off at the minute and it is a great show!
Photography by David Stewart or MPM