Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The original ‘Queen of Noise’ brings her particular brand of ground-breaking seismic energy and output to The Valleys tonight, a good seven years since last touring the UK.
Cherie Currie, once the dynamic front of Los Angeles’ pioneering rock outfit The Runaways, now delivers a forceful wave of acoustic kinetics of her own; expectations run high.
Thrust into the broiling cauldron that was the mid-70s music industry Cherie, along with the other four band members, soon discovered the flipside of the glamour and glitz. Sensations overseas, especially in Japan, The Runaways soon experienced broken promises, financial exploitation to counter the trappings of success.
Along with her band-mates, Lita Ford, Sandy West, Jackie Fox and Joan Jett, Cherie lit the incendiary fuse wire wherever they played. From supporting the likes of Cheap Trick, Blondie, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers and Bob Seger to tearing up the likes of Whisky A Go Go and CBGB’s The Runaways earnt a fearsome reputation.
A beating heart to the rhythm of the likes of Suzi Quatro and David Bowie enveloped in a then nascent punked up attitude became the calling card. However, by the autumn of ’77, barely two years after joining the ranks, Cherie parted ways with the band. Forward wind four decades and there can be no doubt Cherie has lived life aboard a metaphorical roller coaster. From her struggles with drugs to her becoming an award-winning professional chainsaw artist this Californian-born force de majeure has consistently rocked in the face of adversity in whatever walk of life she has immersed within.
In so many ways opening act Loz Campbell evokes a 21st Century crossover of punk icons such as Cherie Currie and Debbie Harry. Don’t let first impressions fool you for this is one individual that packs a sure-fire targeted heavyweight potency. A feisty character who produces a rottweiler size bite that’s inversely proportional to her diminutiveness. Roaring “Are you ready” Loz tears into the Patriot from the off With a juicy, powerful chord and a crashing of percussive force Loz and her band are swiftly out of the starting blocks.
It’s a bit cramped on stage but the four-piece don’t let this derail their efforts, far from it. Out front, in the middle, drummer Tom Kirby is living his absolute best life. Savouring the spotlight, hair flying, he puts in one heck of a shift. To his left the dynamic pairing of low-slung bassist Steve Pickles and the effervescent Alice ABomb fizz whilst Loz, stage right, retains a steady hand upon the helm as she manoeuvres to get the vessel’s sails billowing to the max.
The sultry power of ‘Evil’, with a snarl reminiscent of The Donnas, grabs the attention. “I’ve got a bear in my head until the sun comes up” Loz informs whilst Alice menacingly threatens to volatilely explode. This is an outfit that runs on a very short fuse, middle name ‘Danger.’
Clearly revelling in the challenges of their environs Loz and her sidekicks set about structural damage with ‘Back Biting The Bullet’ that with an echo of The Kut gets the senses tingling.
By the time set-closer and howling out of control freight train ‘The World Was Made To Destroy You’ drops a tubthumping depth-charge (think The Donnas crossed with The Amorettes) we’ve been taken on a whistlestop tour through Loz’s career.
Rightfully, we’re taken right across her recent eponymous EP with the detonative ‘Bad Girl’ rammed full of heavy metal soul a particular standout. 2017’s ‘Green Eyes’ album isn’t eschewed with ‘Organised Confusion’ aptly witnessing Alice and Steve bursting out into the crowd, the former finding herself atop the bar.
The raging anti-norm message of “Sod the social acceptances and be yourself” is firmly landed with ‘Generic Girl’, a trademark signature tune if there ever was one. A high bar has been set with the stage afire.
A veritable league of nations, 50% Kiwi and 50% European, Blue Ruin bring a vivid splash of 90s-infused pop-punk to the Patriot. Formed back in 2015, in their native New Zealand, by founding members, and lifelong friends, Charlotte Tybalt (vocals) and Anna ‘Smashy’ Monteith have since relocated to Europe to pursue their ambitions. They’ve since hooked up with Italian bombshell bassist Elettra Pizzale and, most recently, English guitarist Louisa Baker. The latter last seen on six-string duties for Tequila Mockingbyrd a few years prior.
With a ratcheted up punky Avril Lavigne vibrancy there’s an urgency about set-opener ‘Exist’ that exudes that breathless dash for the last bus that’ll get you to work on time. Having had a peek into 2018’s EP ‘Green River Thriller’ we’re grabbed by the extremities and dragged across to last year’s debut album ‘Hooligans Happy Hour’ for a majestic romp through the title track with its punchy teen punk drive of The Donnas and The Linda Lindas.
From album to EP title track we’re next struck by the ferocious onslaught of ‘Green River Thriller’ ahead of a brooding, predatory ‘2AM’, somewhat akin to being tickled under the chin by a heavy calibre ordnance. As the pink tinged Charlotte, mid set, grabs a guitar Louisa notes “Charlotte gonna show her guitar skills!” to which the vocalist retorts “Eddie Van Halen or Billie Joe Armstrong you make your mind up!”
Blue Ruin are hooky and chatty in equal volumes, easy to relate too and bounce about too. They’re serious about having fun whilst being fun in the serious stuff. Apart from closing number, the brattish snot-nosed Ramones/Pistol fuelled ‘Scream Queen’ the remainder of the set see the band draw from last year’s long-player.
‘Undead Nightmare’ juggernauts whilst ‘Sing To Me’ is a perfect slab of bubble-gum punk with a slither of old school, in the form of Vice Squad, rammed in for good measure. The horror barbed capers of ‘Dracula (Out To Play)’ snare contrastingly with the gentle emotives of the ballad ‘These Things.’ Introducing the track Charlotte states “I wrote this when I was seventeen” wistfully adding “I’m thirty tomorrow, here’s a slice of my teenage years.” With a touch of 4 Non Blondes it enthrals with consummate ease.
Spitting venomously ‘Still Not Asking For It’ revs the throttle to the full in its relentless pursuit whilst the summery pop-punk vibes of ‘Sarah Killed Her Boyfriend’ rekindles Blink 182 and Sum 41 energies. In eleven tracks and just over 45 minutes this largely unknown quantity has engaged and triumphed with their punk positivity.
From aspiring successors to the throne to the incumbent of the moment. One time Runaway and still beholden of the Queen of Noise crown Cherie Currie bursts on to the Patriot stage with a swift “How you all doing?” before rocking right into, most appropriately, the distinctive crunching riffing of ‘Queens Of Noise’ that leads right into the high-paced, frenetic glam-rock of ‘California Paradise.’ It’s totally on point with its West coast dynamism with guitarists Danny Raygun and Dennis Post (Warrior Soul & The City Kids) lifting a packed Patriot up into the stratosphere.
This is where Cherie belongs, out afront and centre of a hard rocking outfit. There’s no bitterness or angst from her quarter, she’d be entitled to given the experiences she has encountered. The opening brace of tracks, lifted from The Runaways’ second album ‘Queens Of Noise’, upon closer inspection of the recording sessions show the beginnings of the cracks appearing in the band’s fabric but this evening Cherie, along with her band, brush them aside with marked professionalism giving the music the opportunity to talk.
Embracing her latest release ‘Blvds of Splendour’ pride and pleasure exude in abundance in the infectious hook of ‘Mr. X’ with Cherie fist pumping cheerfully at track end before happily mentioning “One of my dearest friends, Phil Campbell, I met 13 years ago is here tonight” furthering “He’s gonna get up here and I’m gonna get out and rock with you guys!” True to her word, towards the end of her hour-long set, Cherie exchanges places with Phil along with Charlotte from Blue Ruin for a truly memorable uproarious rendition of ‘Ace of Spades’ that brings down the venue’s roof. A pinch yourself moment for sure.
With a punky glam rock groove Cherie and her band slip in a cheeky cover of Sweeney Todd’s ‘Roxy Roller’ – a Canadian glam rock band who at one time had a 16-year-old Bryan Adams in their ranks – reprising primetime Suzi Quatro melded with a touch of The Shangri-Las for good measure.
The Velvet Underground’s seminal ‘Rock and Roll’, penned by Lou Reed and later recorded by The Runaways on their self-titled debut, is faithfully replicated with a fine dash of cowbell from Markus Harzog. My mind is made up as Cherie drops down into the pit for the outro, she is the ‘Queen of Rock n Roll!’
In a set comprised mainly of solo and Runaways material one further cover, Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars, is a complete standout. Dedicated to Cherie’s brother Don, who passed suddenly just a couple weeks prior to the tour, it’s a touching moment without compare. With Blue Ruin’s Louisa guesting on keys it’s a striking tribute with emotions of the highest order.
Recorded with a good percentage of Guns n’ Roses (Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum) and Smashing Pumpkin’s Billy Corgan featuring Cherie’s aforementioned recent release isn’t without trials and tribulations of its own. ‘Blvds Of Splendour’ was intended to be her comeback following the Runaways movie of 2010. Having signed Cherie to Blackheart Records Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett’s manager, elected, for unspecified reasons, to side-track the album for a decade.
Eyes closed, gripping the mic tightly Cherie the gentle down tempo intro of ‘Rock & Roll Oblivion.’ Impassioned for sure but there is a defined inner strength in this recently released material. Also off ‘Blvds Of Splendour’ the buzzsawing of ‘You Wreck Me’ is in the classic Runaways vein and is, naturally, well received.
Turbulent in its approach ‘Is It Day Or Night?’ marauds with a stomping rhythm and a slick Les Paul solo. Cherie, ever connective, offers the mic to a chap on the front row who happily sings the title. The precursive power ballad ‘Midnight Music’ yields a country fringe giving the track a softer and more melodic edge.
Ramping up to the finale ‘American Nights’, from which ‘Queens of Noise’ derives its title, goes down a storm. ‘Ace Of Spades’ is followed up with the barnstorming coupling of the searing ‘C’Mon’ and the firebrand showstopper ‘Cherry Bomb’ quite literally explodes with venomous excitement. “Hello world, I’m your wild girl” hastens Cherie. No argument from where I’m stood; the Queen Of Noise has plenty time left to reign. It’s been one heck of an evening!
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM