Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
It’s not very often that a debut album comes along and is so very strikingly good that the dynamic shifts on a sizeable scale.
Recently such offerings have sprung forth from the likes of Revival Black and South of Salem; inaugural introductions rammed full of killer with absolutely no room for filler of any description. Released on the final Friday of November one can now add Kira Mac’s ‘Chaos Is Calling’ to that list.
A bolt from the blue late addition to the highly vaunted Steelhouse Festival this summer Kira Mac have been in unstoppable form in the second half of 2022. Eyebrows were raised by the creation of an extra slot to accommodate this then relatively unknown quantity.
However, the faith shown by Steelhouse organisers Max Rhead and Mikey Evans was repaid in absolute bucketloads as KM’s performance on a sunny Friday afternoon went down a veritable storm. A memorable set packed with powerful gritty Southern output with the beating heart of a soul-soothing country blues vibe showed that this quintet was on the billing totally on justified merit.
Fast forward a few months and Kira Mac are celebrating the release of their firecracker debut with an eleven-date tour stretching from Edinburgh to a prestigious slot at Planet Rock’s Rockstock. Seven dates in and the mellifluous festivities roll into Crumlin’s well-regarded Patriot venue, just a few miles south of the Steelhouse site. The previous couple of nights in Stoke and Birmingham have sold out with the other dates being packed to the rafters.
It’s a chilly Sunday evening here in this small former colliery town, nestling in the heart of the valleys, and it’s another sell out gig. Expectations run high, even more so with the announcement that former Revival Black vocalist Dan Byrne is to join the tour with Myke Gray, of Skin and Jagged Edge repute, accompanying the genial Liverpudlian.
This is a partnership that has flourished from its inception. This summer Dan was part of a collective who Myke gathered together for what were touted as his final shows before retiring from touring. Just a few months later and with Dan announcing his stepping forwards into a solo career Myke offered his support and six-string services for the dates.
It’s some three years since Dan last performed at the Patriot, well before the venue’s transformative expansion. Looking around the room he’s clearly not forgotten; a wide swath of the crowd is transfixed from the very off. The new single ‘Death Of Me,’ that according to Dan “Isn’t quite yet out,” opens. Myke, impeccably presented as always, smiles knowingly, knocking out a rocking edge from his trademark black and white acoustic. There’s a sincere, proud satisfaction in his respect for the talent alongside. A voice that parts the very heavens above Dan’s soaring flammable vocals possess a smoky gravelly edge, a bourbon quite literally upon the rocks.
The packed Patriot feed off the soulful emotion with devoted fans singing along with those commodious lyrics with complete reverence. By way of introduction to ‘Nothing At All’ explaining “The next one Myke wrote literally five days ago” Dan jokes “I Think we’re getting better at it!” He’s clearly moved by the support shown and there’s a collective enthrallment of hearing a track in its infancy. It’s a late 80s style ballad with Dan on another level as he sings “For the heartache I cried my tears” with Myke adding backing vox. Another loud cheer surely settles any nerves that might have been felt.
Having aired some new material a degree of retrospection is offered with a choice selection of material from the back catalogues of both begins with Jagged Edge’s ‘You Don’t Love Me’ being stripped right back. The desert sands shift under anhydrous breezes; a relentless granular abrasion that lifts this track to lofty heights.
Two tracks from Revival Black sandwich the ethereally infused Red, White and Blue’s ‘Counts For Nothing’ with Dan sagely observing “I didn’t realise until earlier this evening that we’re actually playing a song from each of Myke’s bands!” ‘Hemispheres,’ which holds a special place in Dan’s heart, is so very emotive in its acoustic re-working as is the signature track ‘Wide Awake’ with a word-perfect crowd singing their hearts out.
Stepping out of the shadows stage left Myke offers his thanks emoting “What an amazing reception! Can’t believe I’ve not been here before. You’re incredible!” Here’s hoping he returns. The classic Skin track ‘Tower Of Strength’ concludes a truly memorable set.
The dry ice swirls about the stage as Dan and Myke take to flight above the tops of the highest cloud soaring as gracefully as the eagle upon the wing. “C’mon the Welsh!” rallies Myke with Dan beckoning the crowd “Wales one more time!” The duo’s delight as the chorus is reciprocated in fine Valley’s fashion is clearly apparent. It’s a moment in time as the Patriot is enthralled.
Spine-tingling throughout it’s been a total delight to witness the return of Dan to the stage. Throughout there’s touches of the greats such as Plant, Bowes, Tyler, and Cherone but Dan is blessed with the gift of being himself. A talent unique that without a stage would be a complete travesty.
Police and air-raid sirens wail as the band file on to the Patriot stage, first up drummer Max Rhead jr. settles behind his kit before supplementing proceedings with a tribal percussive. Guitarists Joe Worrall and Alex Novakovic along with Rickenbacker wielding bassist Bret Barnes join the band’s youngest and newest member on stage as the crowd wait on the last member of the band.
With a burst of bright light so stunning vocalist Kira Mac turns heads much in the same manner that turned Will-I-Am swiftly on The Voice earlier this year. A lone emboldened coyote, drawn by lunar forces, howls skywards in anticipative blitheness.
With its rough-edged southern charms ‘Dead Man Walking’ – the second single released back in early May – sparks wildly with growling guitars and a pummelling rhythm rolling with a sleek continuity into the up-tempo countryfied rock of ‘Downfall.’ With a menacing ZZ Top roar, the pulsating V12 fires up the Nevada interstate with as the good times roll with a Jimmy Barnes’ groove. In amongst the piquant grit there’s a complementing soulful fringe Kira Mac can sure turn heads.
Just two tracks in and it’s a safe bet to say that this is an outfit that is destined for grander things; larger tours beckon with support slots with The Sweet and Dare before the year end. 2023’s diary is already beginning to fill too. Bringing the Texan prairies right into the valleys Kira reveals that Stonesy vibes of ‘Back For More’ was one of the last tracks to be written for their top 20 UK Rock Chart debut ‘Chaos Is Calling.’ With an amalgam of Skynyrd wrapped about the aforementioned Rolling Stones is a guarantee of returning for further cuts. Nobody is going anywhere for a good while.
Kira loves a natter with her soft charmful Northern accent she cheekily enquires “Has anyone seen the video with the snake in?” Her long blonde hair blows as she smiles broadly as her sidekicks bring in the strongarmed countrification of rattlesnake rocker ‘Hit Me Again.’ For good reason, the ‘festival up a mountain’ holds a special place in the band’s collective heart with Kira asking, to a very loud response, “Did anyone see us at Steelhouse? Anyone going next year? It’s our favourite place with Charley being Charley!” The warmest of welcomes awaits up the fabled mountain for Kira Mac in ’23.
A “Max, Max” chant, in laudatory recognition of the drummer’s hometown show, erupts from the crowd. With good reason they love a local hero around abouts. ‘Imagine What We Could’ve Been’ stalks the night with predatory instinct before Kira reveals that Dan Byrne assisted with the vocals of the following track ‘Hellfire & Holy Water.’ Highly infectious its teeth fully bared it does what it says on the metaphorical tin. Simultaneously dunking the unwary into molten lava and delivering a rock n’ roll baptism. “I’m my father’s daughter” snarls Kira.
Nickelback’s 2005 single ‘Animals’ is a surprising foot to the floor addition to the set with KM showing they can ‘rock it up’ with the absolute best of them.
Herein is a multi-faceted diamond with many perspectives to its splendour. The darkened storm bringer of the maelstrom raises its axe glinting in the twilight, the Viking gods awaken. ‘Chaos Is Calling’ with hellfire and brimstone raining down. Ever the ringmaster Kira gets the noisy crowd going even further.
‘Never Going To Stay’ is introduced as “The only ballad upon the album.” Lifting dust into the atmosphere the Washoe Zephyr, of Twain notoriety, whips across the arenaceous Nevada plains with its slick despatch. With sashaying hip-swaying licks the bayou rocking charisma of ‘Mississippi Swingin’ serenades the alligators lazing in the oppressive afternoon heat. It’s highly appropriate that the band roll right into a showstopping rendition of ZZ Top’s anthemic ‘Tush.’
“Any Metallica fans?” questions Kira eliciting a raucous reply. In a most welcome reprise of Kira’s initial appearance on The Voice (check out the Youtube videos) the Bay area metaller’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is served up with consummate accuracy. Watching from the shadows Kira gives centre stage to the twin guitarists Joe and Alex for a mesmerising solo. It’s captivating in its sublimity.
Thirteen is unlucky for some but not this outfit. The committed hi-energy of ‘One Way Ticket’ wraps up a fine baker’s dozen which has borne witness to the debut album in its entirety. The crossroad’s deal has been struck “I’ve signed on the dotted line” confirms Kira. A lifetime in rock n’ roll is now underway.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM