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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Lionize & Planet Of Zeus (Live Review By Paul H)

Lionize and Planet Of Zeus, The Fleece, Bristol

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Washington DC outfit Lionize. Their back catalogue reeks of awesomeness, with their 2017 album Nuclear Soul easily the standout release of last year for me. Their set at Bloodstock was another 2017 highlight, with their powerful blend of hard rock, reggae and numerous other musical ingredients hitting all the right notes with me. To make things even better, the tickets for the gig had been provided by frontman Nate Bergman, who had corresponded personally with me after the order of Nuclear Soul had been delayed. The tickets were an unnecessary but superb compensation for a band who take their fan base very seriously.

This tour was billed as a co-headline with Greek stoner rockers Planet Of Zeus, another band who go down very well in these parts and who have bludgeoned their way through Bristol several times before. The bands are obviously rotating the slots and tonight it was Bristol who got Lionize up first. With both bands sticking to their advertised slots to the minute, the Fleece, one of my favourite venues in the entire UK was slowly filling as Lionize (10) kicked off with Face Of Mars, one of several tracks from Nuclear Soul. With Nate in fine form, his sequined leisure suit sparkling from a distance and maybe suffering a little from the collective aroma of the nightly use (certainly for those of us on the barrier a light hum was detected), it was bassist Henry ‘Hank’ Upton who was causing the frowns, his bass and vocals low in the mix for much of the evening, much to his displeasure.

With stand in drummer Tobias Strandvik from Swedish band Kamchatka not missing a beat, Lionize ripped through their allotted hour in breathless style. Chris Brooks’ soul filled keyboards once again underpinning everything the band did. Brooks is one of the real dynamos in the band, his unassuming style in contrast to his frantic finger work and harmonious backing vocals. Once Hank had got a satisfactory sound he moved into the more usual frenetic bass work we’ve come to expect, his dexterity combining with Tobias to cement the sound. But it was hard to take eyes of Nate, his sublime guitar work, fine vocals and all-round enthusiasm making it impossible not to warm to. Shedding his Les Paul for Election Year and Blindness To Danger, he became even more animated, in true Neil Fallon style before ripping it up one last time on the enormous Fire In Athena. Another magnificent show from a truly underrated band.

Following such an impressive set wasn’t going to be easy but Athenians Planet of Zeus (8) didn’t appear to mind one bit as they roared through a thumping loud set which left the ears ringing. The volume appeared to have been cranked up even higher and contributed to a slightly muffled sound. It didn’t stop Planet Of Zeus, who were roared on by a good number of Greeks in the audience. The band’s no-nonsense stoner rock doesn’t resonate as easily with me as their co-headliners but rip-roaring tracks such as Loyal To The Pack certainly sufficient meat filling. Somewhat static on the admittedly smallish stage, the band certainly were the heavier of the two outfits, with the duel guitar work of vocalist Babis Papanikolaou and Stelios Provis adding heft to the proceedings. With their set whizzing past in a blur, all that was left was for me to reflect on a superb evening and to marvel at two bands who are worth every penny, every time.

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