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Tuesday 5 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Paul Di'Anno (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Paul Di’Anno, Noturnall, Electric Gypsy, The Patriot, Crumlin 27/28.11.23

Two sold out nights at The Home of Rock provided a warming start to a cold week in the South Wales Valley. 

Such is the status of the former Iron Maiden singer, that after the first show sold out in a few hours, The Patriot was able to add another which also saw tickets quickly fly out of the door. Both nights saw the venue crammed to capacity, as The Beast Resurrection Tour 2023 rolled into Gwent. This was the mid-point of the tour, with London and Weston Super Mare completing the UK leg before Di’Anno and tour supports, Electric Gypsy and Noturnall head to mainland Europe.

Doors at 7:00pm on both nights saw queues form, with many fans unsurprisingly wearing their best Maiden shirts. The eager ones gathered at the barrier, probably initially willing to get through the two support acts to keep their vantage point. It turned out to be a good move, as both the openers and main support proved to be excellent value.

First up the high energy of Electric Gypsy (8). A vibrant quartet, they play a trashy hard rock style reminiscent of several bands from the eighties, including a mixture of Crue, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. With a hardened edge which gave their songs bite, the band blasted through their set with style. Lead singer Guzz Collins is the central focus. Possessing a good set of pipes, he’s a diminutive figure with a big stage presence. All rock star, he has the moves, the looks, and the voice to carry everything off with ease. 

The band rip through their set, which sees Monday’s crowd treated to a pulsating cover of Burn, whilst Tuesday evening sees an excellent version of Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher get the temperature soaring. They draw mainly from their Mothership album (produced by Thiago Bianchi – vocalist with Noturnall), with opportunity for audience participation on The Devil Made Me Do It well received. Fluid, confident and engaging from start to finish, Electric Gypsy earned many new fans.

Taking the volume higher, and the music at least two levels heavier, the second Brazilian band of the evening take the stage with vocalist Thiago Bianchi informing the now rammed venue that they are recording every show and urging the crowd to make their noise felt. The Patriot crowd don’t need any second invitation, and on both nights ensured that they must have been one of the loudest audiences on the tour. 

Although new to me, Noturnall (8) have been around over a decade and have links with the headliner through bassist Saulo Xakol and guitarist Léo Mancini, who have both played with Di’Anno in the past. The band have also had a certain Mike Portnoy drum for them, a fact which Bianchi is not ashamed to mention in both shows. If you search out their latest album, Cosmic Redemption, you’ll also find Dave Ellefson, James LaBrie and Michael Romeo involved.

Noturnall bring a progressive style of metal which probably isn’t heard too often in these parts. Yet the crowd lap it up, raging in a swirl of fists and arms in the air as the Brazilians power through a 45-minute set. We get a pounding Thunderstruck which is probably the cleverest move of the night. It’s impossible not to sing along to it and by then, the crowd are right on side. With four albums to draw from, they have plenty to offer. 

Try Harder opens the eight-song set, and they can showcase the breadth of their discography. By the time they reach Scream! For!! Me!!! They have the crowd lapping up every note and its little surprise to see several of their shirts being worn later in the evening. At least they should have made enough for the petrol to their next show in London the following night.

It's been a turbulent career for Paul Di’Anno (9). The man who was the voice of Iron Maiden and Killers is now a sad figure. Wheelchair bound, and not in great shape, we are lucky he’s made it after a health scare the night before in Blackpool. Regardless of what you think of him (and I know there have been some scathing reviews of previous shows), you can’t help but admire his determination.

He's lifted onto the stage by four members of the Patriot MC, and it’s clear he’ in a lot of discomfort. On night two, we see him need to stop during Wrathchild, and the fears that he might not complete the show surface. But to his huge credit, he fights on, and gives a strong performance, given the circumstances.

He’s got a tight band who provide faithful replications of 13 early Maiden classics, along with a cover of the Pistols’ Holiday In The Sun. It’s a set lapped up by the faithful in front of the stage, and there are more smiles as the band rip through Prowler, Murders In The Rue Morgue, and even Genghis Khan, which gives Di’Anno time for a breather. The music is delivered with power, those familiar lead breaks remain visceral, the dual guitar harmonies make the heart sing. For those around the first time, this is a journey back in time, but it still feels as relevant today as it was in 1981.

Killers still makes the hairs stand up on the back of the neck, whilst the version of Phantom Of The Opera finds Di’Anno still able to snarl his way through the most iconic of Maiden songs. As he hits the final notes of Drifter, it’s a poignant moment. Will we see Paul again? Who knows. He’s had his problems, but he remains a captivating figure. We can only wish him well. For now, it’s time to reflect on two stellar nights – ones that don’t come along all that often.

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