Home Gigs Trucker Diablo with Sam Millar and The Sass Bandits Patriot – Home Of Rock – Crumlin

Trucker Diablo with Sam Millar and The Sass Bandits Patriot – Home Of Rock – Crumlin

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

“The hammer of the gods

Will drive our ships to new land

To fight the horde, sing and cry

Valhalla, I am coming.”

Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

A chill wind blows through the Valleys. Defiant patches of snow lie about here and there frigidly reminding us that winter’s bony grasp upon the lands isn’t done yet. However, despite the cold the hordes are drawn to the enticing warmth and burning nightlights of The Patriot. The big truck has rolled into town and offloads its precious cargo.

Tonight, for our rock n’ roll delectation, we have the heavyweight haulage of Northern Ireland’s Trucker Diablo with more than able support from the sleek ‘chromework’ of northern outfit Sam Millar and The Sass Bandits. Both bands are on quickfire weekend outings of their own, coming together here to provide the sizzling ingredients of the perfect rocking maelstrom.

Trucker Diablo, much loved, are not common visitors to these shores but have kicked off the new year with a pair of Welsh dates having hit The Tivoli in Buckley first off. Sam and his Bandits are heading back north via Leicester’s HRH NWOCR having graced the Bootleg Ball down west at Butlins, Minehead. A coming together, stars aligning, ducks forming a line you get the picture.

First up, providing impeccable support, are Sam Millar and The Sass Bandits. Drawing four tracks apiece from his two EPs – ‘Holy Sass’ and ‘Radio Gouda’ – the former Bigfoot guitarist and his cohorts deliver a slick 40-minute set. Opening with the easy-feel west coast vibes of ‘Human’, that gleams as brilliantly as Sam’s white Gibson Les Paul, the Patriot ensemble are right onside very swiftly. Alongside Sam the Bandits are a thoroughbred bunch with guitarist Lucy Shevchuck, bassist Benji Faith, keyboardist James Thorley along with deputy drummer Morgan Devaney (ex-Unknown Refuge) putting in a sterling shift.

Hypnotic beats, slick licks and a sprinkling of glitz it’s all in here. This is the sharpened pointed end of hard driving freeway AOR. Demonstrated adeptly in ‘Forbidden’ where Tom Petty willingly collides tempestuously with the likes of Yes and Toto. Sharing a collective smile Sam’s band watch on as he steps forth for a scintillating solo.

Morgan, dapperly attired in his trademark ‘loud’ shirts, applies a pounding beat as Lucy bounces along with Sam’s opening riffs pf the catchy ‘Eyes.’ Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Journey, Aerosmith and Def Leppard sharing a bourbon in a hazy roadside taproom, you get the wondrous picture.

Composed in ‘tween songs banter Sam wryly observes “Ang has told me if I put my foot on these monitors she’ll cut my balls off!” The aforementioned monitors, newly installed this week, are the productive fruits of a gratefully employed Music Venue Trust financial injection. It’s all about progression herein.

Through the reddened haze a single white spot burns incendiary as ‘Lost In Translation’, with it’s emollient intro, soars high ascending unseen thermals to a viewpoint higher than the loftiest of peaks. Guitar strings are bent to their very breaking point within the polished steel and highly infectious grapnel of ‘Sober.’

With a touch of Phoenix Nights Sam introduces ‘Levi’s’ as “A song about me pants!” James’ jaunting keys expedite into scorching solos and head rhythms. Rich in its melodious overtures coupled with the showstopping ‘Strangers’ it brings an effortlessly slick eight track set to a coruscating crescendo. Output that attests to the undoubted potential of this project.

On a whistlestop Welsh mini-tour Trucker Diablo are no strangers to these parts having graced the Steelhouse stage a number of times over the years. In both name and character this no-nonsense hard-rocking Northern Irish quartet are, in comparison, the many axled powerage of the highway pounding juggernaut to the sleek Corvette-like lines of this evening’s opening act.

It’s pure unadulterated energy with a degree of mischief poured atop for good measure when the Truck rolls into town. Larger than life characters these four gents clearly live life to the max and rock out with a very similar ethos. Including their latest album ‘Tail End Of A Hurricane’ – recorded during lockdown – there’s a catalogue of five albums to select from. It’s a fine arsenal to delve into absolutely no doubt.

With a cry of ‘Alright!” and a godlike roll of thunder Diablo take to a darkened Patriot stage. Above head height, in unison, clenched fists pump with collective fervour. It’s an unrelenting stampede that doesn’t draw for breath throughout the 75 minutes of devilment that the horde devours mercilessly. It’s a symbiotic relationship that transcends between the fans and band.

With an edge that directs the needle of the compass in a southern direction ‘The Rebel’ – craned in from 2013’s ‘Songs Of Iron’ – cracks the whip. “Can you go any faster” enquires frontman Tom Harte whilst a storm rages about. With forces sufficient to bring an end to the world as we know it, quaking the foundations, Trucker rip right into ‘Party Like They Started The End Of The World.’ “Burning at a hundred miles an hour” the monster breathes fire maintaining an industrious maelstrom with ease.

The freight train, fully laden, isn’t stopping for anyone or anything! It’s frenetic for sure yet there’s a reassuring hand upon the controls. “How ya doing?” Tom enquires after the opening brace. “It’s good to be back in our home from home Wales!” he adds. Couldn’t agree more, with our every visit to the Valleys so the draw, personally, grows stronger.

Inspired by their heroes Thin Lizzy frisky rocker ‘Let’s Just Ride’ certainly doffs a cap in that direction assuring “It’s gonna be alright.” Nailing the vibe of Rick Springfield’s US Billboard smash ‘Jessie’s Girl’ TD smash it up with ‘Rock Kids Of The 80s.’ Lavishing a tantalising slice of resonant nostalgia goes down well with the gathering. I’m clearly not alone in enjoying a good old wallow back in that most decadent of decades!

By the time the last notes of the foot-stomping ‘Voodoo’ echo about we have been taken through a logistical exploration of the quintet of long-playing releases that this affable foursome has under their collective belt. A masterful prowl through the low-end in the title track of their 2017 album ‘Fighting For Everything’ trails a hurricane-esque trail of devastation.

With a nod towards fellow countryman Stiff Little Fingers and The Undertones the punked kinetics of the nitro-fuelled ‘Insects’ rattles the windows throughout the valley. The six strings of Tom and his partner in crime Simon Haddock breath fiery licks with the latter indulging in a conflagrant solo. A seriously tight delivery signed and sealed with the not-so-quiet assurance of the resounding rhythms of bassist Jim McGurk and skinsman Terry Crawford.

Simon quips, at track-end, “That song’s a killer to play!” expanding “We should write more ballads!” Tom, joining in on the banter, asks the Patriot crowd “Who’s ready to have their eyebrows melted?” notefully adding “Who needs them anyway?”

With facial hair suitably heat-altered by the uncompromising heat of ‘Over The Wall’ the fortress succumbs to the onslaught with an inner fury unleashed. The Dragonborn call to their offspring. A spanking brand-new track rumbles right out of the basement in the ballistic form of ‘Dig’ is a heavy-order contagion. Full of promise the new lp should ensure continuity for Trucker Diablo; the crowd raises its horns in salute.

The juggernaut’s rubber strides the black top freighting in the heavyweight cargo in ‘Set The Night On Fire’ before the timeless ‘Proud Mary’ is propelled into TD’s anthem ‘Drink Beer Destroy’ which is extended with the wrecking ball bastardization of Metallica’s ‘Seek & Destroy.’ An hour in and the power is undiminished with ‘We Are Forever’ leaving all scorched and blackened in its wake. The Georgia Satellites are ‘heavied’ right up in the southern charms of ‘Drive’ before the furnace is turned right up to the maximum in the, quite literal, showstopping finale of the molten ‘Rock Hallelujah.’ Putting it plainly, one simply doesn’t fuck with the Truck! Haste ye back gents.

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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