Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
“Once upon a time not so very long ago
There wasn’t such a thing as a rock’n’roll show
You had to sit at home and listen to the radio
Then came a man with a rockin’ guitar
Found himself a beat and he played it near and far
Everybody danced and sang and let the good times roll”
‘Again And Again’ – Status Quo
Letting the good times roll is precisely what both bands, that we have for our rocking delectation this evening in the rural aspects of sleepy Frome, have been delivering for a good while now.
In a combined career of some 30 years the Wagons and Roses have, between them, shipped out eleven oh-so-solid slabs of pure hard rock n’ roll.
The sixth anniversary, just two days prior, of the formation of New Wave Of Classic Rock (NWOCR) is not lost on myself as these two bands have been at the vanguard of a movement that has blossomed beyond all expectations.
In fact, not even the most optimistic of souls could have foreseen nights like this where several hundred fans turn out in force as the underground energies traverse out into a broader realm. Tours like this one and last year’s Mason Hill / South Of Salem coupling are complete vindication that grass roots rock n’ roll is far from dead.
Based on what I’ve witnessed over the last few years it’s kicking serious posterior! Care to rethink Gene Simmons? For sure the music industry has changed beyond recognition from its days upon the ‘grandiose’ drug-fuelled plane it once dwelled but delve beyond the present-day’s mainstream and you will discover the spirit of rock is regrouping and heading to a town right near you. The blandness of today’s chart toppers, like Blunt, Sheeran and Grennan, is being, mercifully, countered by a burgeoning expansive element that worships upon the broad altar of hard rocking!
It’s a general consensus amongst those of us that know of the quality The New Roses possess that they’re criminally underrated here in the UK, back in their German homeland it’s a different story. Their ‘cult’ status upon these shores has been achieved via the good old-fashioned medium of hard graft, multiple festival appearances and several tours have ensured a loyal following.
From the moment of the announcement of this tour there has been an expectation that this could very well be the moment, it is now time for them to break out. It’s an outfit assured in their own levels that brings a band like The New Roses out on tour with them; in my book Massive Wagons are one of that select few.
Emerging from stage right to the timeless Roy Orbison classic chart-topper ‘Pretty Woman’ (let it sink in, for a moment, that it’s nearly 35 years since “The Big O” passed at the tragically young age of 52) shadowy figures assemble afront a filling Cheese & Grain. Seemingly the large percentage of folks attending are here to savour both bands.
With crashing cymbals drummer Urban Berz despatches the rock n’ roll equivalent of F1’s green flag and with a screeching of the guitars hanging about the shoulders of Dizzy Daniels and Norman Bites, returning to the fold a few months ago, The New Roses hit the track in top gear with the feelgood rock of ‘The Usual Suspects’. I suspect this is going to prove perfect fodder for the Wagons’ faithful.
The focus remains on last year’s ‘Sweet Poison’ album with ‘The Lion In You’, a roaring anthem appropriately doing what it says on the tin outer, tumbling and cascading in with dynamic vocalist Timmy Rough enquiring the time-honoured standard “Are you ready for a good time?” of the assembled throng. Bites punches the air with gleeful abandonment, The New Roses have arrived and are being rightfully welcomed.
In a shade just under 45 minutes, in a well-crafted set the main attention is upon their most recent release, but they cast a watchful eye upon their back catalogue ensuring a track from each of their four other albums is aired. This is the efficiency and effectiveness their homeland is well know for. “What a way to spend a Thursday night” expresses Rough with genuine sincerity. Right across the ranks this is an outfit who are clearly enjoying life.
The rip-roaring ‘It’s A Long Way’ tracks back to their 2013 debut ‘Without a Trace’; thundering hard hooves spark. The inclusion is apt given that the quintet has expended over 2000 kilometres to get out on the road with the Wagons; Berz indulges in cowbell whilst Hardy, on bass, delivers low-slung rhythms to accompany the prowling frontline of guitars and prosperous vocals.
We return to ‘Sweet Poison’ for a further brace; ‘All I Ever Needed’ and ‘Warpaint’ serving fine advert for the long player. The latter’s Nickelback-esque tones, replacing ‘Nothing But Wild’ from the first two shows of the tour in Norwich and Swansea, and delivering a piquant contrast to the honey-sweet acoustic ballad it supervenes. Rough informs “We’re on a serious mission to bring back the rock ballad” prior to this ballad. Judging by the very warm reception the conclusion is of a mission succeeded.
With the crowd right onside, The New Roses crank matters higher ending with a right royal hat-trick that begins with the barnstorming Stateside-infused ‘Down By The River’; a joyful recollect of carefree teenage summers and singalong sunsets. With its swaggering Aerosmith underpinning ‘Forever Never Comes’ proves to be a crowd-winner. Fists punch the air as ‘woahs’ are sung with gusto. Rough cuts a Tyler-esque figure.
Before the set-closing conflagrant ‘Thirsty’ can commence a totally unprompted ‘woah’ erupts from the crowd. The band, as one, pause to take in the moment. This is to cherish, for such is not given freely but earned with shining endeavour. It’s richly deserved and hopefully the juncture whereupon we note that The New Roses have arrived!
Senses gathered “One last question. Are you thirsty?” roars Rough before they launch into the aforementioned ‘Thirsty’ belching fiery rock n’ roll right until the end. Having witnessed these gents storm a headline performance at Love Rocks this summer the roar that greets The New Roses come set end is no surprise, they have fully endeared themselves to the Frome crowd. They surely now possess the foundation upon which to finally, and deservedly, conquer the UK.
With the rock n’ roll bar raised proud Lancastrians Massive Wagons have a job upon their hands; one which suits their grit right to their very nucleus. Having toured the UK in April they could have been forgiven for remaining faithful to the setlist that served them so well from Portsmouth to Edinburgh via Manchester and several points in between.
Not the Wagons though, out goes the likes of crowd-pleasers ‘Triggered’, ‘A.S.S.H.O.L.E.’ and Northern Boy’ to be usurped by the likes of the returning ‘Ratio’, ‘Nails’ and ‘Pressure’. In fact, the adjustments, in true American Football style, are widescale with over half of tonight’s eighteen tracks being rotated on to the field of play.
This, in itself, takes metaphorical sphericals of Brobdingnagian proportions but there’s the not insignificant matter of scaling the bar left behind by their special guests to factor in too. Who you gonna call? Massive Wagons that’s who!
Unseen beasts roar and heart beats thump, getting faster as showtime nears; the atmosphere builds tangibly. A riff from the wild side harks from the darkness and in a flash of blinding light the Wagons appear with enigmatic frontman Baz Mills launching himself from the drum riser.
Not wishing to make the coming challenge as straightforward as they might the Wagons roll right into the show-stopping ‘Back To The Stack’. This is a track that possesses the assured and qualifiedness associated with a roof-raising encore. However, electing to kick-off proceedings is a bold opening gambit. It’s a manoeuvre in the vein of Kris Barras taking ‘Hail Mary’ to the very same slot this year; only grandmasters can pull off such.
Glasses raised in memory of Rick Parfitt the boogie-woogie wrecking machine is swiftly into top form with a fire-breathing rendition. “Getting blue for you” offers Mills in tribute offering his mic to the adoring crowd; the connection is truly palpable. From his Flying V’s (is there every more a hard rocking guitar?) fret Adam Thistlethwaite chisels an early solo.
“He can sing that lad!” praises Mills, in his broad northern accent, of The New Roses Timmy Rough. Not a dissenting voice is to be heard. Mills is the hard rocking fusion of Peter Kay and Ronnie Barker; a talented wordsmith whom with a humorous slant can deliver a serious message with a comical, engaging edge.
The nitro-charged and tongue-in-cheek ‘Pressure’ takes a sideways swipe at the expectations of ‘fans’ decrying the band ‘selling out’ whilst ‘Sad Sad Song’ tracks across the tricky subject of mental health. With its ‘Bark At The Moon’ themed intro the latter scorches along with guitarists Stevie Holl and Adam rocking out flanking Mills.
‘Freak City’, somewhere between the neighbouring Suffragette and Sin, completes a ‘House Of Noise’ triumvirate; Baz delivering the utterly memorable line ‘My head’s a disco full of people I don’t like!” The rollicking piracy of ‘The Day We Fell’ takes to the high seas home to Manowar. Holl and the normally stoical get a heads down boogie going stage right; the exuberant Mills can’t resist plundering the moment, always time for some heartfelt rocking.
A quick breather and the Quo’d up ‘Big Time’ is the initial despatch of seven back-to-back tracks. The Wagons, no doubt of it, are a polished act and this evening serves as a reminder to their expanding stage production and polish. ‘Aeroplane’ morphs from gentle beginnings to an all-out tub-thumper; “Are you still with me? Mills enquires playfully. Ever the high-kinetic the affable frontman toys with the SG wielding Holl during the balls out rocking of ‘Skateboard’, motioning to ‘stroke’ the back pedalling six-stringer before crazily eying the crowd upon bended knee. All in a day’s fun.
The tempo drops a touch for the inquiries of ‘Hate Me’ before middle digits are raised in traditional fashion for the ass-whooping otherwise known as ‘Fuck The Haters’. A rallying call whatever the season Mills revels in the genius irony of “I try not to swear in my songs.” Failed of course. Spines tingled and hairs raised, a standard day at the office for the fiercely sparking Massive Wagons.
As upon ‘Triggered’ so ‘Please Stay Calm’ and ‘Generation Prime’ follow in the mayhemic wake. The Police drenched former neatly dovetails with the metal / reggae crossover of the latter. Footlong subs with extra cheese anyone? “It’s all pizza and masturbation” Mills twistingly adapts.
Remember boys and girls don’t feed your gremlins caffeine; not ever! Not a single eye is raised when Peter Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ is slipped in; a considerable percentage inside the Cheese & Grain unashamedly know the words. Reggae standard ‘No Woman, No Cry’ melds seamlessly as well. Party mood is reached feverously.
With Adam and Stevie returning to their Flying V and SG respectively the main body crescendos towards its finale with a demolition quartet with ‘Ratio’ at the initial helm navigating a place serving cheap beer. A location where the craic is good and is blessed with a non-charging jukebox. Before it’s welcome return to the live fold Baz thanks Helen and Gary for the pies, Ellie for the cream teas and somebody else (apologies for missing your name) for the homemade cookies. “We have the best fans!” he adds.
‘China Plates’ pokes fun at the failings of social media and the troubles it can bring “It’s only F******k official, nothing personal” Mills offers whilst doing his very best Dave Lee Roth impression. It’s full tilt rocking hereon in, it’s ’73 once more for wondrous self-deprecation of ‘Bangin’ In Your Stereo’ which precedes a truly frenetic ‘Nails’. Fabulously technicolour in its passion this is what blood, sweat and tears looks and sounds like! Mills concludes “It’s been an absolute buzz” furthering “support this venue, support live music.” An uncomplicated but highly poignant message.
For the encore we are dished up a brace from 2020’s ‘House Of Noise’ album. A phone rings, the Taj Mahal answers it can only be the riotous celebration of Indian cuisine ‘The Curry Song’. The Cheese & Grain bounces along loudly participating to this Holl-derived monster riff. The buzzsawing ‘In It Together’ brings the curtain down; the Quo-drenched undertow takes matters to a befitting cacophonous finale. Coining their own words The Wagons have brought the big time rock and roll show back to town taking their performance to previously unscaled heights.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM