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Monday 7 August 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics

Aaron Buchanan, Florence Black & Those Damn Crows, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Small sweaty venues are where rock n roll really shows it's appeal and it doesn't get much smaller or sweatier than downstairs at Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach. The room is pretty much just that but as with all of the venue the sound quality is always spot on (something a few venues could learn). Seeing three live wire rock bands on a sunny Friday is I think probably the best way to an evening so I hoped on a train with our photographer and we headed to the venue ready for the opening act, arriving at the venue with plenty of time to quaff a few cans of Tiny Rebel brewery's excellent pineapple infused ale Clwb Tropicana.

The opening act were Bridgend band Those Damn Crows (8) whose album was well reviewed on this blog, this was my first time watching the band live and they didn't disappoint, their modern Southern influenced hard rocking were treat to start the evening big crunching riffs, smiles all round and Shane Greenhall commanding the stage playing to the loyal crowd that had gathered for them. They seemed to have brought a lot of support and you can see why as they really play with a confidence of a band twice their size, with songs that sit somewhere between Foo Fighters, Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge the South Wales rockers banged their heads, shook their hips and sang along (Rock N Roll Ain't Dead) with band from the start to the finish of their set which comprised of cuts from their debut album and one new song that sounded huge. A triumphant opening act really encouraging the crowd to stick around and get involved, the strongly partisan crowd meant there were numerous and I do mean numerous selfies taken after their set, unfortunately during the other two bands' sets.

A short change over and Merthyr trio Florence Black (7) took to the stage, a relatively late addition to the set. Playing a set that was almost identical to their Steelhouse setlist a week previously (including their supercharged cover of Budgie's Breadfan) the band have been much maligned over last few months due to outside factors I'm not going into here but they have always delivered on stage, they excel on a small stage with hard rocking a wild solos the order of the day. The audience was noticeably thinner for them than it was for Those Damn Crows and the headliners but they didn't care they stormed through their set heads down and rocking. As the set finished the room was still rolling and rocking keeping the excitement high ready for the headliners.

A longer change over for the headliners but once all the kit was loaded in there was the briefest of soundcheck before Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics (9) kicked off with the storming Mind Of A Mute which was the touchpaper for the incendiary performance to come. Last time I saw The Cult Classics they were in their infancy with songs developing and growing, then they were very good, now they are stunning, everything is fully formed and played with a maturity rarely seen in a small venue like this.

This maturity is to with the confidence and stagecraft exuded by Aaron Buchanan, he is a natural frontman, keeping the crowd eating out of his hand from the off, bedecked in a silver jacket, his look, actions and incredible vocal dexterity are the reason why this band seem like arena headliners already, Buchanan has been there and done that fronting Heaven's Basement, but this project seems more real more natural working his way from the bottom up with just sheer talent.

On his right and left wing are six stringers Tom McCarthy and sister Laurie Buchanan who trade lead and rhythm guitars like the classic rock pairings of Robbo and Gorham or Moody and Marsden. The sweep in and out of dual harmonies and rhythms as McCarthy peels off the solos bringing the Brian May sound to the epic The Man With The Stars On His Knees (something that was confirmed as deliberate when I was talking to Aaron after the gig). Since the last time I have seen them they have had changes in the back room with Paul White battering the kit in the place of Kev Hickman, this gig also saw Fury's Martin Trail taking bass duties which I'm not sure is permanent fixture or not.

The two men provided the groove for Heaven's Basement track Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch and Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem which is the live track only released as a B-Side but kills live especially when it follows HB's Fire Fire, there was a mix of Cult Classic and Heaven's Basement material meaning something for everyone as the largest crowd of the night filled the venue as the fans got involved by carrying Aaron around the venue as he crowd surfed from the 'stage' to the door and back.

The Cult Classics left it all on the stage a superior hard rock performance, in a few years time this gig will be one of those 'I was there' moments and when The Cult Classics are selling out arenas (which they certainly have the talent to do) this night in club will be seen as one of those 'classic' gigs you hear people talk about.

Kudos to Jamie and the team at Pity My Brain for booking this gig, they do seem to be able to get some of the best and most interesting talent in the UK to come to Wales, lets hope they are able to continue for a good while yet.  

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