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Monday, 27 August 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Graham Bonnet Band (Live Review By Paul H)

Graham Bonnet Band, Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd

A three-band tour that is covering the length and breadth of the UK now. Full marks to all the bands whose energy belied the fact that they’d played at The Button Factory in Dublin 24 hours earlier. Whether I like the band or not, touring is bloody hard work. This tour has been in full swing for over a fortnight, so it would be expected that any initial creases had been ironed out.

This certainly was the case for Wolverhampton hard rockers Gin Annie (6) whose stage show was a lively, enthusiastic affair in front of what can only be called a sparse crowd. If there were 30 people in the venue when they took the stage I’d be amazed. Still, Gin Annie ploughed straight into their set, and provided 30 minutes of generic hard rock, very much in the mould of Black Stone Cherry. The band are tight, they play well but the music is just a little bland for my tastes. New single Chains was routine, but the enthusiasm of guitarists Bri and Byron was warming, with lead guitarist Bri throwing all kinds of shapes. Vocalist Dave has a strong enough voice and the crowd, with one punter losing his shit from the off, responded with huge applause. It comes as no surprise to see the band are playing at Planet Rockstock this winter, where I am sure they will earn many new fans.

A week earlier I’d seen Derby based Doomsday Outlaw (8) kick out the jams at Bloodstock Open Air, where their bluesy stomping hard rock had been a decent break from the thunderous death and black metal that had filled the air. I knew that I liked this band live and once again they didn’t disappoint with a swaggering 40 minutes of tracks from their latest release Hard Times and a smattering from their debut album Suffer More. Vocalist Phil Poole swirls around the stage like a bastard mutation of Jarvis Cocker and Robert Plant, with a voice to match. Hard Times, Break You and Bring It On Home all hit the right spot with the talented Stephen Broughton demonstrated some demon slide guitar playing as well as some blistering lead work. His energy increased as the set progressed and by the end he could well have exploded, such was the power. Drummer John ‘Ironfoot’ Willis also impressed, his solid drumming only eclipsed by his magnificent beard. Having seen these guys play twice in a week, I can thoroughly recommend them. Deep, soulful hard rock with a stage performance to match.

A few weeks ago, I was effusive in my praise of The Graham Bonnet Band’s (7) latest release, Meanwhile, Back In The Garage. A superb album crammed full of quality hard rock songs and Bonnet’s voice on top form. So, it was incredibly disappointing to only get one track from the album throughout an evening which was saturated by tracks from Bonnet’s past. Night Games was inevitable, but the numerous Alcatrazz songs, a couple from MSG, albeit a cracking Desert Song, and the mandatory Rainbow tracks from Down To Earth. Hell, he even did a couple of tracks from Impellitteri’s back catalogue, surely not something many want to hear. On stage, the band were a shambles at times, uncoordinated and over reliant on the Mac for the start of songs. Whilst the old school members of the audience, which may have swollen to around 100 by now, were in full voice, the set list was a let-down, as I was really looking forward to some of the new songs. Bonnet still possesses a killer voice, and for a man in his early 70s you can’t fault him for looking after his vocal chords superbly.

Supported by a decent band with his current flame Beth Ami Heavenstone on bass and sour looks (particularly when Bonnet shouts at her, “look at me when I’m talking to you” … not alright Graham), original Alcatrazz keyboard player Jimmy Waldo, Yngwie Malmsteen wanna be Kurt James on guitar (and double sunglasses!) and drummer Marck Benquechea, there was much potential to pull out a stunning show. Alas, it wasn’t to be, with the inter-song changeovers clunky, Bonnet’s narrative somewhat cabaret in style and his Tony Blackburn style delivery perhaps justification of the small crowd. Bonnet has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. ‘Legend’ is probably over-hyping the man, whose superb voice is always tempered by some slightly bizarre behavioural traits. Sadly, I doubt I’ll be rushing back to see him again.

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