39 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

So, the FOZZY road train slams into Nottingham’s, ROCK CITY, no, not the loveable Hat wearing comedic Muppet but the American Heavy Rock band fronted by the enigmatic wrestling showman that is Chris Jericho, he, along with his band of musical cohorts, founding member, Rich Ward on Lead guitar and war paint, Billy Grey also on guitar, P.J.Farley on bass guitar and beanie and topless, tattooed Grant Brooks on drums have brought their Spotlight UK tour to Nottingham.

The band have been around since 1999 having been formed in Atlanta Georgia by guitarist Rich Ward and ex drummer Frank Fontsere. The were originally an Ozzy tribute running by the name of FOZZY OSBOURNE, but as they grew in popularity, and having released their first two albums of covers, ‘FOZZY’, (2000) and ‘HAPPENSTANCE’, (2002), they started writing their own material and having long they dropped the OSBOURNE part of the name, played as the Heavy Rock band FOZZY, with the legendary WWR wrestler Chris Jericho, fronting the mayhem.

Chris still wrestles today, and has been in the sport professionally for a good number of years, since 1990. He joined the great wrestling family of WWF in 1999 headed by entertainment mogul, Vince McMahon. His feuds with fellow wrestler Shawn Michaels are what legends are made of.

Having never seen FOZZY live in all the years he’s been touring the UK, I’ve never managed to catch a show, so I’m eagerly looking forward to what this band has to offer, the hype around him and the boys has certainly gotten my attention.

As we all know ROCK CITY is a special venue here in the East Midlands, it has had the greats tread its boards over the years so its no surprise that this isn’t the band’s first time here, in-fact, Jericho later tells us that he played his opening night of his debut UK tour here in the Rock City Basement to a handful of wrestling/rock fans nearly 20 years ago, February 10th 2005, the band played Download later the same year, and the small Princess Charlotte in Leicester, in the October. They returned to the Basement at the end of January 2006.

With him we have two bands on the undercard, PISTOLS AT DAWN, another new band to me and one I’m looking forward to catching as they have had great things said about them on this tour. This relatively new band, having formed in 2015, again in Atlanta Georgia, have had a hectic few years. The original band consisted of Adam Jaffe on drums, Devin White and Mike Buffa on guitars and after an initial high energy start the band lapsed into a state of ‘inactivity’. Unfortunately, during this time, guitarist Mike Buffa unexpectedly passed away.

The band reformed later that year as a tribute to Buffa and in 2019 released their debut album, the self-titled PISTOLS AT DAWN. There were a few more band line-up changes, a release of an E.P. in 2021 and the sophomore album ASCENSION being eventually released in 2022.

The band have toured extensively and seem to be a fixture on the FOZZY road train. The current line up is Gabriel Cuevas on bass, The stunning Will James on guitar, Jon Sookdew on vocals and founding member Adam Jaffe on drums. They have been given the hardest spot of all; they get to break the ice as the openers for the night’s events.

The lights dim and a scorching solo screams out of the darkness. the stage is dark and so far, empty. Then, 23-year-old Will James enters in a flourish of bends and pinched harmonics his silhouette outlined by the pulse of bright lights; the edge of his guitar body highlighted in neon yellow.

He flamboyantly makes his way across to stage right and continues to assault the respectful crowd in at early doors, with licks flying from his guitar faster than a speeding bullet you cannot help but be caught up in it all. There are unmistakable EVH influences but what the hell, that is how you make an entrance as the rest of the band, eventually join him on stage and they drop into the hard hitter ‘Under the Surface’ from the sophomore album, Ascension (2022).

A heavy head down driving number that see’s new frontman, Jon Sookdew digging in deep with a “oh okay didn’t see that coming” kinda frayed vocal. Adam Jaffe sits behind Josie O’Toole’s rainbow swirled Natal drum kit and is slamming out some dark grooves, I’m sure the kit is enjoying not being beaten to within inches of its life by Josie for a change. ‘The Truth’, the 2022 single, keeps this wall of sound coming at us.

Their sound is a mash up of Pantera, AC/DC, Van Halen and Breaking Benjamin and strangely, it works extremely well. Will James on Guitar is loving it as he shreds like a veteran, The tight punchy bass of Gabriel Cuevas is hard hitting as he throws the shapes whilst bouncing around the stage like Tigger on speed. ‘The Bones’ keeps the energy pumping.

The guitar solo has Sookdew on his knees in front of James as he scorches out another blinding run or two up and down his guitar neck. The band now breakdown into a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Bulls On Parade’ WoW! Is Tom Morello in the house, no its young Will James killing it on the guitar. With very little encouragement the crowd are off and loving this rendition of a classic. The Ice is well and truly smashed with this gem.

Will James then follows it up with yet another scintillating solo, while the band catch their breath. His fluid style is EVH all over but when you can pull it off who cares, its face ‘rippingly’ good as the band join in with ‘Fly’, from the latest album, and yet again it doesn’t disappoint, it’s more melodic but still hits hard and is getting the approval of the sizable crowd in tonight.

The solid backline pumps this banger along as the heads are nodding in unison along the front of the crowd. This new band has caught the attention of those in so far and judging by the looks on the faces, I think they have garnered a few new fans, myself included. The final track of the set is ‘Voices’ from the Nocturnal Youth E.P. (2021).

Its dark and brooding, the bass and drums driving the song hard as the chainsaw riffing of the guitar adds a filthy texture to the proceedings. Jon Sookdew’s vocal is on point giving a lyrical richness that provides a haunting element to the proceedings.

The obvious solo is a clever construct as it adds atmosphere to this song that’s already dripping with attitude, without being superfluous. A great finish to their all to brief a set. No doubt this band are certainly one to look out for going forward. Drummer Adam Jaffe has said it may be the fifth regroup, each one being better than the last, but this is definitely the best, and I have to agree, stunning set boys, Mic Dropped!

Up second is the rainbow-tastic ‘The Hot Damn’ a kaleidoscopic super group made up of Gill Montgomery (Amorettes), Josie O’Toole (Tequila Mockingbyrd), Laurie Buchanan (Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics) and Lzi Hayes (New Device/ Sophie Lloyd Band). Together they bring a blindingly impactful slam of colourful chaos to every venue that they grace since forming in 2020. Previously, the band had been touring as an amalgam of two former bands, The Amorettes and Tequila Mockingbyrd, their set consisted of music from both bands. Bass player, Jacinta Jaye’s departure from the band left an opening, and so the band reformed with LZI HAYES as the new, colourful four stringer.

Needless to say, in doing this the band has exploded into a tie-dyed extravaganza of fun and colour ever since. With a four track E.P. already to their name, released in 2023, featuring the single ‘DAMN,DAMN,DAMN’ as a follow up to the previous singles ‘Dance Around (2021), ‘I Didn’t Like You Anyway’ (2021) and ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ in 2022, (all of which are included on the E.P.), this fun-loving quartet are actively putting the fun back into rock.

With a couple of, dare I say it, Life-Sized, blow-up Unicorns strategically positioned on stage, (anyone know just how big a mythical Unicorn is?), the colourfully dressed girls hit the stage running, Gill asks the crowd how they doing as Josie is killing her kit with a groove that thumps hard. Laurie and LZI have locked into it and they’re up and running into ‘FIZZ BUZZ CRASH’ the opening song to a set full of vibrance and energy.

With pic slides and dirty riffing Gill laments about ‘you’ being an Ass hole, thanks for pointing that one out Gill. ‘Dance Around’ continues with its vibrant upbeat sound. The girls are settled in and rocking hard, in fact as the song plays out Gill high kicks as Laurie is screaming on her guitar, she ends up, unceremoniously on her ass, on the floor, needless she styles it out, gets helped to her feet by Neil, and then makes a comment about being drunk far too early in the night, don’t worry Gill no one noticed.

Anyway, the band quickly move on and into the third song of the set, ‘About Last Night’ full of harmonised backing vocals. Gill asks the crowd how many in have seen the band before, before mention that they have finally finished their debut album, the next song ‘Jukebox On The Radio’ is from the album. It’s a foot tapping little number that is sure to get plenty of radio time.

The latest single and the title track from the E.P. ‘DAMN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN’ keeps the crowd bouncing on their toes, the cow bell intro and fuzzed guitars let you know this is The Hot Damn on fire. Gill in her blue denim boiler suit is pulling faces at the crowd as she sings this pacy number. The girls are having fun and its infectious, smiles and bouncing bodies, pulse through-out Rock City.

Next up they give us that old favourite ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ the embodiment of what the Hot Damn stand for, a rocking upbeat guitar riff from Gill and Laurie and massive thumping bass line from LZI locked into a driving groove from the tiny whirlwind of a powerhouse, Josie on the kit.

This happy go lucky song leads into a deliberate ploy to get you to buy merch, the aptly titled ‘Merch Song’, sang along to the tune of ‘O’ Lord Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz’ a song made famous by Janis Joplin, it’s a deliberate tongue in cheek advert to get you to visit Heidi on the merch stand, a genius idea as Gill and the girls go through a role call of items and crew, brilliant, it seems to work looking at the tie-dyed tees present in the crowd.

Going Down’ picks the set back up again, with driving guitars and a pulsing beat, The girls dressed in their now trademark bright outfits and bedazzled with lights from the Mirror Balls, rock out whilst the two Unicorns have behaved themselves, standing like sentinels either side of the drum kit, smiling at each other. As the song progresses, we get a ‘Hot Stuff’ twisted lyric from Gill as a dancing Laurie rips the familiar guitar lick from this disco song by Donna Summer.

Their vibrant set finishes with the sing along anthem ‘I Didn’t Like You Anyway’, the crowd delight in joining in with the chorus, of this the final song of a thoroughly enjoyable set. The album is long over-due and I’m sure the presales will no doubt be sky high from the loyal fans who have been eagerly waiting for their debut long player.

As we wait for the set to be cleared for Chris Jericho and his band, the merch stand is again over run. Tonight, its positioned behind the soundboard, a great place as the crowd passes by going to the bar, the balcony and the toilets. So far, it’s been a great night and yet again, I say it every time, the support band(s) have been excellent and a good reason to try and make early doors, right enough said.

The lights have dimmed and we have Smokie’s ‘Living Next Door To Alice’ playing over the PA. this has become FOZZY’s ring walk tune as the band wait flood onto the cleared stage. The crowd obviously sing along using the twisted ‘Gompie’ reworded “Alice, who the F*@k is Alice” chorus line. Jericho greets the crowd as they sing along, loving the reaction this classic Smokie song is getting. The set gets underway amidst cheers from the crowd, Jericho screams “are you ready” as the “Hey”, “Hey”, “Hey’s” reverberate around Rock City.

The crowd are awake and on form singing along from the very get go, their fists punching the air as Jericho parades the stage in his animal print leather jacket, looking every bit the rock star. Behind him the beaming smile of ‘The Duke’, no not the orange one, Rich Ward the bands founding member, is striking the poses with his headless guitar, his face daubed with a single white strike of war paint under his eyes.

We’re only minutes into the set and the crowd are already chanting “FOZZY”, “FOZZY”, as the band continues with ‘Bad Tattoo’ from 2014’s Do You Wanna Start A War. Topless Grant Brooks, on drums has his double kick pedals working overtime as Jericho, atop a riser is singing along with the crowd.

Guitars scream and cry from The Duke and Billy Grey as they cut n thrust their way mid song which leads in to a crowd chanting session before it blasts off again with the crowd happily bouncing along to the beats. Between songs the repeated chants of “FOZZY”, “FOZZY” allow Jericho and the band to bathe in the admiration from the crowd.

The drum slams of ‘Painless’ from 2017, quickly has the crowd nodding along as they once again sing out loud. The volume coming from the crowd matches the amplified sound from the stage, its incredible. This is a partisan crowd make no mistake, as they continue to sing along, word for word with their idols. Why isn’t this in an arena, you have to ask yourself, Its anthemic sing-alongs are worthy of 10,000 voices let alone the fraction gathered her tonight.

More cheers and whistles follow as the sirens mark the intro to ‘You Wanna Start A War’, Jericho is, once again, on the middle riser, only this time he’s got a CO2 gun and is firing a steady stream over the heads of the ecstatic crowd, as this banger from 2014, obviously is hitting all the right places, the crowd are on fire, equally matching the energy from the stage. Jericho and the boys have the crowd in the palm of their hand as yet again the crowd start chanting “FOZZY”, “FOZZY”. ‘Lights Go Out’ from the same album continues with the organised chaos.

The pulsing beat keep this one bouncing along with attitude while the crowd sing along. The roof is lifting as the whole venue pulses to thundering industrial beats and scorching guitar work that keep flooding from the stage. Jericho, once again, leads the crowd in a chorus of “Woah, Woah, Woah’s” to finish out the song, and as expected, the cheers are overwhelming.

The screens on either side of the drum kit flash up “FOZZY Say Relax” which can mean only one thing, yes FOZZY are going to cover that timeless classic from Frankie Goes To Hollywood. It’s a great cover, full of grit and attitude, but staying true to the original. I’m sure Holly Johnson would be happy with what the band have done to this gay anthem.

Part way through, Jericho commands the crowd to go crazy; they don’t need telling twice as this great cover plays out. Next, we jump up to date with ‘Sane’ from 2022’s Boombox and its industrial grind. It’s another heavy hitter, fully supported by the crowd as they sing out strong.

The band are beaming as they play this one. The bouncing crowd are delivering seismic shockwaves up and down Talbot street as they do so. Jericho addresses the crowd telling them that tonight in the big room is the biggest headlining show in FOZZY’s entire career, this prompts the crowd into more chanting “FOZZY”, “FOZZY” much to the front man’s delight.

I Still Burn’ continues this run from the latest long player, it’s about making things happen, making dreams come true. With a more laid-back start, it never the less has the crowd singing along. The thundering kick drum joins in beating time as this FOZZY style ballad has the crowd back on their toes. It’s a subtle as his signature finishing move, ‘The Walls Of Jericho’.

As it plays out, Jericho screams “are you still out there” as the third song in a row from 2022 slaps the crowd in the face, HARD! ‘Nowhere To Run’ with scything guitars and a battering assault of bass and drums, has the crowd pushing and shoving each other as they enjoy themselves rocking out to the industrial rock sound hitting them squarely on the chin.

‘Burn Me Out’ jumps back to 2017’s album Judas. The title track of this album being their best-known track and features later in the set. This song is full of fuzzed out filthy riffage as the break downs have the crowd bouncing around, fists punching the air.

The now der rigour “FOZZY” chants continuing as we rock into ‘Spider In My Mouth’ from the earlier Sin and Bones album from 12 years ago. This opens with the Itsy Bitsie Spider nursey rhyme being played from tape before Jericho counts “1-2-3-4” and then its slaughter time as this one shreds the heads off the crowd with its delivery. Despite now being headless the crowd join in with the faster paced lyrical delivery. Jericho is now wearing an open leather waist coat.

He is tanned and toned, the man has looked after himself, despite having appeared bloated in wrestling some pictures, he’s now back in shape and looking good. Touring must be burning some calories! More taped voices play as the band get into ‘Purifier’ from 2022. The industrial beat is throbbing across the venue as this melodic anthem is sang along to by the crowd.

The thumping bass from Farley is punching you in the chest hard as it powers along, Ward and Grey’s guitars are ripsaw sharp, cutting through the almost industrial back beat. Each song has been greeted with cheers from the crowd, now doubt encouraging the band and Jericho in particular to give it 110%. The “FOZZY – FOZZY – FOZZY Oi – Oi – Oi” chant starts, Chris Jericho quickly remarks, I wonder when this was going to happen, before he again thanks the crowd for being part of the family that has made their dreams come true, He then introduces the next number as old school FOZZY , ‘Enemy’ from 2005’s All That Remains, is the final song of the set.

The crowd are jumping to this one as it plays out, and, naturally they are singing along. The song has a great guitar off between The Duke and Billy Grey, they stand and trade licks back and forth, trying to out play each other. In doing so they show they are both great musicians as they kill it with screaming whale song enriched howls, screams, pinched harmonics and dive bombs.

The crowd start woo-Woo-ing, once more, and I’ve just connected that to wrestling legend Rik Flair, doh. This epic song finishes off the set, and once more the cheering and chanting starts up. The Screaming and shouting doesn’t last for long as Jericho and the band quickly return to the stage, Jericho is resplendent in a black leather jacket the words to Judas are written on it, yes, we have the fan favourite ‘Judas’ kicking off the encore.

The crowd are in full voice singing along to this anthem of all FOZZY anthems. It’s a hard-hitting sing along of epic proportions and the crowd are lifting the roof off enthusiastically. Its goosebumps great. As it dies, Brooks is slamming a hard driving groove on the kit as Jericho encourages the crowd in a last call and return of “FOZZY – FOZZY – FOZZY” before finishing the night of with a blistering rendition of the Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, and even now you can’t keep the crowd down as they sing along, dancing as they do so.

This is a great end to what has been an unbelievable night of live music. The night finished the way it started, fast and crazy, with Jericho screaming goodnight to everyone. It’s been yet another great night in Rock City. If you’ve not caught FOZZY live then make it so, it’s an unbelievable show and well worth the night out!

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