Blaze Bayley - Fuel Cardiff
Iron Maiden are headlining Download this year in what is their sixth year at the festival (starting at the Monsters Of Rock) while this will be amazing, it's always nice to have the ability to see a former member of the band (who in my opinion has the most consistent and best solo material of all the Maiden mothership) in a small club for £12 is always something a bit special.
Now I've seen Blaze fronting Wolfsbane and that was an hour and a half of non stop heavy metal fun, Blaze is ever consummate frontman, he has a knack of getting the crowd onside from the first five minutes. So after witnessing Wolfsbane my appetite to see him again fronting his solo band was strong, happily being able to see him in Fuel proved to be the ideal. This tour was in support of his latest album, the sprawling Sci-Fi concept piece Infinite Entanglement, meaning that a fair share of the set was devoted to the album although we were treated to choice cuts from the back catalogue encompassing Blaze, Wolfsbane and of course Maiden. Over the years Bayley has had a lot of members to his solo band but it's current line up is probably the best as drummer Martin McNee, bassist Karl Schramm and guitarist Chris Appleton also tread the boards as British metal upstarts Absolva, who are one of the most gifted bands on the current metal circuit. The three men are the ideal foils for Bayley's gurning, swearing, heavy metal Uncle Fester, they came out to the stage first and the intro to the latets albums title track kicked things off strongly as the riff kicked in and Bayley stormed to the stage dramatically delivering the powerful vocals in his own inimitable style. Blaze has always known how to right a chorus and the hook on Infinite Entanglement is excellent, the pace was kept up by A Thousand Years also from the new album and saw Appleton and Schramm shredding like mad while McNee smashed the hell out of the drums.
What I will say from the off is that the sound was actually pretty good you could hear all the instruments perfectly and Blaze's voice was clear and booming, the set progressed and we got the first Iron Maiden cover with Futureal coming from the Blazes years and getting some of the Maiden fans up and rocking. Following this was the chugging Kill And Destroy, where Blaze playfully teased the crowd for not being loud enough noting that the owner of Fuel told him that the crowd would be all for killing and destroying and after a bit of coercion the partisan crowd of Head Banging Bastards (to give them their official name) were louder than they were at the beginning of the set. The set was slowed with Solar Winds and the mini epic Calling You Home which blended well with Stare At The Sun while the set was ramped back up by Human which deals with the same machine meets Descartes as Robot which kept the pace after the thrash-like Watching The Night Sky. Blaze was on fire rapidly raging through the songs, allowing Appleton to take centre stage to show off his incredible guitar prowess when needed, in what was a bit of a curveball the band played Virus which was a never played, Blaze fronted Maiden song that featured on their Best Of The Beast album, he and the band ri-jigged it and if you didn't know it was by Maiden you wouldn't. Blaze's between song speeches were entertaining, funny and enlightening, especially when he said about his struggle with previous record companies, which ended in Blaze now owning all of his previous releases (victory for the little guy!)
After this came two from Silicone Messiah Blaze's debut album with the title track and Ghost In The Machine speeding things up yet again. A break an introduction and we were getting near to climax, it was now time to go really old school with Wolfsbane's Man Hunt that had the old school members of the crowd shouting at the top of their lungs, as Appleton took to centre stage to solo Blaze tried to come back on to finish the song but no the solo wasn't over, this swiftly turned into a drum solo and then a pantomime of Bayley the comedy villain trying to take back over the stage usurped by his young backing bad, as Appleton and Schramm duelled playing each others guitars, McNee filled with power. Finally Blaze reclaimed the stage and introduced the band to applause and the end was approaching, another Maiden cover this time Fear Of The Dark which Bayley did a lot of justice particular kudos to Appleton who became Murray and Gers in one man. The set came to a close with Man On The Edge and the crowd erupted at final moments of it. This had been a blinding set, the band were tight, technical and disciplined in making head bang, Blaze himself was funny, filthy and in fine voice showing why he is criminally overlooked as a frontman. A great night with excellent sound, fine performances and metal madness all round, I urge you to see Blaze in person you will not be disappointed. 8/10
*One last thing: If you are watching a live band in a small venue, when that band play the quiet bits your drunken conversations are very audible to those around you, especially the band on stage. Everyone there has paid for a ticket, including you, if you want to have a conversation about something other than the band on stage, or indeed if you want to make stupid noises, go outside the venue. I'm all for people having fun at a gig but if you want to be obnoxious to the point the staff notice you, kindly for the sake of the performers and the punters in attendance shut the fuck up no one wants to hear you!*