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Gig Review : Tygers of Pan Tang with support Zac and the New Men

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Review by Gary Spiller for MPM

The Tygers are back in town! Formed up in the hardened environs of the North-East back in 1978 the Tygers once rode the NWOBHM for all their worth.

With founder Rob Weir at the helm this classic metal outfit have steered into the roaring twenties of the 21st century with an appetite for the live forum as ravenous as their early formative years. Guitarist Rob revived the band some 24 years ago and has kept the flame burning brightly ever since.

It’s a special occasion this evening as tonight’s gig is to be recorded for a forthcoming live release; the band have been holed up at the venue for a couple of days to rehearse and get the tech side of things absolutely spot on. In the most capable hands of The Patriot tech crew this is a nailed-on thing. Alongside the warmth of welcome always on tap here it’s assured that there is a quality sound to boot also.

We last caught The Tygers in action back in 2017 at Copenhagen’s Nordic Noise festival and are keen to see what the new, post Covid-19 lineup – has to offer. During the enforced lockdown the band has welcomed two new members in the shape of guitarist Francesco Marras and bassist Huw Holding.

A healthy crowd grows on this pleasant early August evening as Swansea lads Zac & The New Men wind their way onto the stage at the stroke of eight. Since catching them at Fuel Club just under a year ago we’ve witnessed much progression from this bunch of Welsh teenagers and they’re rapidly expanding live reputation is making them one of the go-to bands for touring outfits seeking a quality opening act; Geoff Tate and The Damn Truth have already come a-knocking.

Their debut album ‘Reinvent Me’ shook things up and caught the attention of many with festival bookings across the UK landing in their inbox. There’s plenty of tunes in the arsenal nowadays and with a sense of fevered kinetic the quartet storm through an eleven track set that clocks in at a shade over 45 minutes.

Drawing in main from ‘Reinvent Me’ there is time to dip into their debut EP ‘Live In The Shack’ for a couple of tracks along with a pair of choice covers. The band employ, to good positive effect, backing tapes that they’ve been working upon for a few months now. There’s an audible expansion of sound with seamless transitions from track to track and absolutely not one ounce of soul and expressive feeling lost from the mix; this band are too astute for that even at this early stage in their rock n’ roll apprenticeship.

With a tumbling crescendo from Will’s drumkit the band roar into live favourite ‘Birdcage’ with James’ basslines resounding about Zac and Oli’s howling at the moon guitars that gloriously gatecrash matters. It would seem the honey sweetness of The Damn Truth has rubbed off upon Zac as with a slick segue, we’re into Zeppelin’s classic ‘Immigrant Song’. Mouthing an apology, as he bumps into James, Zac is full of smiles. There’s masterful control, beyond their years, afoot.

‘Reinvent Me’ is haunting and melancholic in equal amount; gripping his mic two-handed Zac is full of emotion. To follow we’re invited to join the foursome ‘Watching The World Go By’, the tide ebbs and flows in assured forces. Oli’s six-string powers the vessel out into open seas, breaking free from the mooring, as the hard alt-rock of ‘That’s OK’ eddies and swirls. An edge of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke creeps into Zac’s voice, unexpected but welcome nonetheless.

Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ stampedes into ‘The Lesson’ only for not one, but two, kick pedals to ‘explode’ upon Will. Full credit the band out front recognised the tech issues and cut into free flow impromptu for a couple of minutes. ‘Say It’ nods in the direction of Reef as demons are unleashed.

We bounce along to the infectious ‘Deeper’ before a couple of tracks off the debut EP wind up a dynamic and well received set. We get our rocks off with the foot-stomper ‘Second Chance’ – the first track recorded – and ‘Begging For More’; the latter which answers what happens if Hendrix and Plant were to join Primal Scream! Likened to a collision of Royal Blood and Blackberry Smoke with Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan embroiled in the melee it’s not a difficult task to see an incredibly bright future ahead for these four lads.

Whilst it has been six years since our last encounter with the Tygers of Pan Tang it doesn’t take long to return to the groove. Most aptly entering the fray to ‘Tiger Feet’ – the first of three chart-topping singles for Mud – the band have time to indulge in a bit of glam-rock boogie beforehand. “That’s neat, that’s neat.”

It’s the foreteller of a high-end delivery of much quality drawing upon the first four albums of the early 80s and the most recent three studio releases. If you didn’t know you wouldn’t realise that there’s over 40 years between some songs. Such is the freshness and nostalgia that go hand in hand herein.

‘Euthanasia’ the opening track of 1980’s debut album ‘Wild Cat’ takes the starting gun; the rock n’ roll machine flickers an eye and springs into life with a bloodthirsty NWOBHM attitude. Expressive vocalist Jacopo Meille proclaims, “We’re back!” before enquiring “Are you ready to rock with the Tyger?” Jumping forwards four decades, not drawing breath, with ‘Keeping Me Alive’; a touch of Dio pervades.

Just a couple of tracks in and the Patriot crowd are captivated and truly rowdy. This is going to sound phenomenal on the live recording! 1981 was a prolific year for the Tygers with albums ‘Crazy Nights’ and ‘Spellbound’ released. The former is represented most ably by the Saxon-esque riffing of ‘Love Don’t Stay’; whilst the rawness of ‘Gangland’ does the business for the latter.

“Think we got the right audience tonight!” remarks Meille before, with a liberal smudging of UFO, we’re embraced and taken to the mountain halls with ‘Edge Of The World’, the opening track off this year’s ‘Bloodlines’ release. “There’s only one” powerfully sings Meille, single finger aloft with a Highlander touch, as Weir steps forward to nail a mythical solo. Marauding rock n’ roll warriors lead towards ‘Destiny’ fusing precise solos from Francesco Marras in timeless honour.

“What a lovely summer we’re having in England” quips Meille to the mock chagrin of the Patriot crowd with bassist Holding swiftly correcting “It’s Crumlin the jewel of the Welsh empire!” Contentment restored the ensemble rallies in fine voice for ‘Back For Good’, which leaves just one question … why does the affable Weir have a plectrum stuck to his forehead? The opulent tones enriched with a Whitesnake swagger. The hot and sweaty confines of the Patriot rock along as ‘Only The Brave’ thunders out of the traps. The harmonious guitars ring of Maiden and Saxon in parts, no grumbles from this perspective.

With many requests, according to Meille, for ‘Paris By Air’ the band elects to give a welcome airing to their first charting single. The slick NWOBHM of ‘Do It Good’ lives right up to the inscription upon the tin’s exterior; the Patriot adulating faithful lapping up every last note.

‘Insanity’ gallops with an intensity that sets fire where its sparking hooves caress. Screeching out of the underworld with cowbell aplenty, thumping rhythms replete with roaring six-string; things sometimes don’t need to be complicated to please. It’s time honoured TOPT; charging hard across the plains.

Following hard on its tail comes ‘Fire On The Horizon’ searing off the recent ‘Bloodlines’ release in its top gear rampage. From here on in the Tygers don’t relent, there’s no shifting out of the highest gear with Wild Cat’s ‘Slave To Freedom’ continuing the joy. ‘A New Heartbeat’ leaves smoke rising from the ruins, structural damage is guaranteed.

Pumped up ‘Suzie Smiled’ is a bonafide NWOBHM anthem with sumptuous twin lead prominent. Meille prophesises “I feel you want to hear some more!” A chant of “Tygers” erupts from the Patriot’s inners and demons are uncaged in ‘Hellbound’ prior to the roof being lifted by the ageless ‘Love Potion No. 9’. A signature track, the irony isn’t lost as it was the band’s stance against the wishes of their then label MCA who wanted more covers following the success of the elixir. Ultimately this created the breakup of the band at a time when much was predicted. Thankfully Weir has endured and bringing the Tygers name back to being in 1999 has proven to be a shrewd manoeuvre. We look forward, with anticipation, for the arrival of the live recording of this cracking night.   

Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM

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