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Review & Photos by Manny Manson for MPM

What a night at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton! Tom Jenkins opening for Cardinal Black, a young man I’d not had a chance to experience live, turned out to be a delightful surprise. Dressed in double denim and Mario’s cap, this sheep farmer from South Wales captured the audience’s attention from the moment he stepped into the bright spotlights.

Tom’s casual banter about Tom Hollister “f@$king it up for the rest of us” set the tone for a night filled with genuine humour and raw storytelling. His opening line, “hello, how is everyone doing, let’s get the party started,” followed by a toot on the mouth organ, kicked off the night with an infectious energy.

“Maybe I’ll” was the perfect opener, and Tom’s announcement that he’d be playing sad songs set the mood for an emotional journey. “Misery in Comfort” and “Underlying Pain” had the crowd hanging on every word, and the absence of annoying chatter showed the deep respect the audience had for this enigmatic singer-songwriter.

“Be There for You” revealed Tom’s personal experience as a contract sheep shearer in New Zealand, when he was so remote from his partner, added yet another layer of authenticity to his performance. Each song came with a captivating narrative, like “When the Coal Dust Settles,” a poignant tribute to his coal miner and sheep farmer grandparents.

This included a nod to his Welsh heritage with his Granddad’s name, Noah ‘Glyndwr’ Griffiths, Glyndwr being the Last Prince of Wales who was a mighty slayer of English men, which Tom apologises for, showcased his ability to blend humour with introspection. The mouthorgan and the comparison with Dylan added a unique touch, with Tom’s engaging voice drawing listeners in where Dylan might have grated.

The banter about Tom Jones and the dream of a karaoke competition was a humorous highlight, leading to the heartfelt song “Tom Jones.” The set ended on a high note with “Back Roads,” featuring a guitar change to a silver-blue SG.

As Tom wrapped up his remarkable set, the crowd erupted in applause and whistles, appreciating the gem they had just discovered. The quick stage clearance only heightened the anticipation for Cardinal Black.

Tom Jenkins proved that sometimes, the undercard is a hidden treasure. His authenticity, storytelling, and engaging performance left the audience in awe. This unexpected journey through sheep farming, remote life, and Welsh heritage was a true gift to the Wolverhampton crowd, making Tom Jenkins a name to remember.

As the stage cleared, the chatter erupted, Cardinal Black were up next, Tom Hollister with his silky-smooth voice would soon be caressing the ladies in to crowd tonight .

On time, the lights dimmed and the crowd cheered, loudly, as the band walked on stage. Huge smiles beamed back as they took up their instruments and settled in for a night of soulful rock from this gargantuan voice that is Tom Hollister, two Toms on the billing tonight. Chris Buck gives us a bit of Pink Floyd inspired guitar as the opening track, ‘Terra Firma’ kicks the night off. Toms voice full of early show vibrato was particularly spine-tingling, the crowd quietly respectful. The bright-coloured lights that bathed the stage intensified the emotive atmosphere, creating a visual symphony that complemented the music perfectly.

Hollister’s voice soared to new heights, with each note hitting the audience right in the feels, as it’s syrupy goodness warms up to the room. Alice, the ‘new’ girl now adding backing vocals, providing an extra touch of magic to the performance. Her harmonies blending seamlessly with Hollister’s silky vocals, elevating new songs like ‘Where I’ve Been’ with its groovy drum and jangly guitar intro and ‘Run’ with an outrageous guitar sound from Buck, to another level.

The setlist is a journey through Cardinal Black’s first album, ‘January Came Close’, with standout performances of ‘Jump In’, ‘Ain’t My Time’, and the anthemic ‘Rise Up’. The crowd being hooked from the first chord to the last, singing along passionately when prompted and soaking in the raw emotion of each song. The Set continues with ‘On My Own’, the first single ‘Tell Me How It Feels’, which has the crowd singing in response. The bass rumblings of Sam Williams are called out during ‘Warm Love’ with its extended instrumental and crowd answer and call, as the band effortlessly drop into set closer ‘Where Do You Go’, a balls out rock song that slams out hard, the band seem to enjoy this one as much as the crowd.

Notably, the encore featured the heart-pounding ‘I’m Ready’, which was previously recorded during a one mic session, when Tom eventually managed to get the band back on stage, he compliments Mike Blanchfield, on keys, for standing in for his brother, “he’s cheap” adds Hollister, he adds a fresh dynamic to the sound, and has had Hollister teasing him throughout the night, creating more fun moments.

This leads into a scorching instrumental, as Buck revels in a sea of fingers and strings. Hollister shouts “Let’s Take You to Church” with repetitive ‘AMENS’ and Rhodes organ, it leads into Adam Roberts showing his prowess around the drum kit, each groove followed with a squeal from the crowd. Buck, stood on his combi amp, provides encouragement as the thundering percussive wave slams around the venue.

“This, really sad blues song”, which gets a muffled giggle from the crowd, “sadly finishes the night off”, whispers Hollister. The absolute banger ‘Tied Up in Blue’, starts off with the sultry big man’s voice and Bucks sublime guitar tone. Alice’s voice wrapping itself gently around Hollister’s smoky offerings as it moves on, has the crowd in silence. With its blistering outro performance leaving everyone on a high that lingers long after the final notes have faded away. Another magical performance from this Welsh sextet, one that has put smiles on everyone’s faces as they head off into the Wolverhampton night.

Chris Buck’s guitar solos, aside from Hollister’s ridiculous voice, were a highlight, with sublime execution and a stunning tone that resonated through the venue. However, even the best can have their moments, and Buck caught Tom Hollister off guard with an unexpected intro to ‘Warm Love’, by being unsure what chord came next, A or B, creating a charming and spontaneous moment that endeared the band to the audience even more.

The cheers from the crowd have been deafening after each song, a testament to the emotional connection forged between Cardinal Black and their fans. Tom Jenkins, spotted in the crowd, became a humorous anecdote when Hollister mentioned they might not bring him on tour again due to his 1000-head sheep-tending responsibilities.

Cardinal Black, have yet again proved the bands popularity with a performance that was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster leaving the audience both exhilarated and yearning for more

In the end, Cardinal Black’s gig was more than just a concert; it was a shared experience of music, emotion, and camaraderie that left everyone eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the band’s journey, the promise of the new album, which Tom mentioned that the band will be recording in Zurich, he added to expect the album in around 5 years. Let’s hope it’s not that long before Cardinal Black are out on the road again.

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