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Leicester Rocks, Leicester Arena 18/08/18

Leicester Rocks, Leicester Arena 18/08/18

Welcome to Leicester Rocks, a brand-new indoor event put on by Solid Entertainments showcasing nine of the best talents in rock and blues at the moment. Starting off the proceedings were four lads from St Ives, Cambridgeshire: Joe Bonson lead vocals and bass, along with brother Jack on drums, and Phil Haines and Tom Collett guitars. Hollowstar formed only three years ago and these guys are setting the music world alight at the moment: they unleashed their six-track ep Some Things Matter just under a year ago and have never looked back. Planet Rock spotlighted them on the ones to watch and they have shared the stage with the likes of Toseland and Stone Broken and are soon to tour on four support slots with the Graham Bonnet band and later to open for the Dan Reed Network. Having to kick off an event is never easy, but this lot showed just why they are getting all the high praises with Joe’s impressive pure classic rock voice reminiscent of Paul Rodgers and the like, bone crunching riffs and heavy pounding drum beats; this talented quartet are going a long way: a great start to the day and with their relentless touring, I’m convinced it won’ t be long till they are playing the big arenas. With their new single All I Gotta Say and Joe announcing they are working on an album to be released early next year to huge cheers, look out Hollowstar are coming for you.

Next up Gin Annie, Wolverhampton rockers formed in 2013 by cousins Dave foster lead vocals, and Byron Garbett lead guitar, along with Jack Ryland Smith drums and newly appointed guitarist Brian Green and Bassist Phil (Hammer) Burrows: this band play hard rock but with a melodic vocal style. Having released their single ALL I Want in June (only their second recording with the new line up), they have a terrific tight sound with the charismatic bouncing Byron complete with porkpie hat never standing still for a minute; the hard and heavy drum poundings terrific deep bass, and some brilliant hooks. They are always being requested on Planet Rock and Hard Rock Hell radio, and with a debut album to come things are looking good for this band.

Third Band Bad Touch: having seen these guys a few times before, they only get better and better. With a huge fan base this Norfolk five-piece Stevie Westwood vocals, Rob Glendenning lead guitar, Dan Seekings guitar vocals, Michael Bailey bass, and George Drewry drums and vocals, have been entertaining fans now since 2010 when they were still in college, since then they have had two albums and have gone from strength to strength. They play a mix of rock and what I like to call outlaw blues with the flamboyant Stevie’s excellent vocals, they don’t only sound great they look great on stage too: they say themselves “it’s about drama, Swagger, Guitars, and hair” and these lads have it all in spades with a new album ‘Shake A Leg Out’ on the way in October. All their influences: Aerosmith, Little Angels, AC/DC, Led Zep, all come out in their performance. If you haven’t seen them yet, then you must: you won’t be disappointed. Catch you again soon lads.

The next band have a story behind them: Xander And The Peace Pirates, Keith Xander was born with only with one arm and was told by his school music teachers he would never play a two handed instrument, he of course proved them wrong and has become a virtuoso guitarist. Brothers Keith and Stu Xander formed the band in 2010 in their home town of Liverpool and had been playing a regular slot at the famous Cavern Club; discovered on YouTube by the CEO of Gibson brands, Henry Juszkiewicz, and playing many performances at international events for the company they drew the attention of not only an army of fans but the likes of Eddie Kramer, the Stones, and Kiss who offered to produce their first album. Keith the one-armed wonder plays guitar with a prosthetic arm with a hook adapted to hold a plectrum and to watch him is to be amazed: he has been hailed as England’s answer to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Skip five years to 2015 and just finished being the resident band at the Cavern they are now supporting Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Bernie Marsden, and so many more. Along with brilliant slide guitarist Mike Gay Stu guitars, Joel Goldberg Bass and Adam Goldberg drums they play a haunting sound of blues, soul and rock with outstanding riffs and melodies and the beautiful charm and charisma; not forgetting the guitar skills of Keith: he exudes his musical passion with his performance. This was the first time I had seen them, but it definitely will not be the last: in fact, I shall see you at HRH Blues next year and look forward to it.

Next a young man I had seen before and have reviewed at HRH Blues hailed as a sensation, Aaron Keylock. I wasn’t impressed at HRH and was hoping to be entertained, especially after the blistering performance of the Peace Pirates, I’m afraid it was the same old story: I’m sorry kid you just don’t do it for me and a lot of the crowd felt the same way, the crowd dispersed. I gave you a chance and listened to three songs, sure you play the guitar really well but you need to brush up on your stage presence man, you look like you’re playing in your living room most of the time! There was hardly any crowd interaction and you started off very flat. I went for some food and listened to your set from there but it was a lack lustre performance I’m afraid and it wasn’t just me who thought so.

The next act I know I was going to enjoy: New York sensation Sari Schorr with her band collectively known as the Engine Room, guitarist Ash Wilson (Total Guitars 2017 blues guitarist of the year), ex-King King and fan favourite Bob Fridzema on keys, bass man Mat Beable, and drummer Roy Martin.

Having seen them a few times I knew this was going to be special, Sari is called First lady of the blues and when you see her performance on stage you will know why, she has the energy and power of a volcano; and not only a powerful blues rasp but also a beautiful melodic vocal as well: in fact, her range is incredible. Singing songs from her album Never Say Never, which she insisted be recorded live to capture the true energy of her music. Songs like Revolution and Demolition Man, showcase her amazing vocals and the beautiful Aunt Hazel with her magical falsetto. One of the highlights of a Sari Schorr show is her once seen never forgotten performance of the legendary Leadbelly’s Black Betty, this is Sari’s own composition of the song and you can hear a pin drop in the crowd when she performs it. I will always champion this lady and her band as she lives and sings the blues like no other, the chemistry of Ash and Sari on stage is wonderful, and if you see her name on a concert flyer go and see her: it will be worth the admission alone just to witness this lady’s talents.

I missed the next group The Brew four years ago at HRH due to clashes but had heard great things about them from my partner LadyGigger, who photographed them and told me I had missed a really good band. Hailing from Grimsby this three-piece with Jason Barwick lead guitar vocals, Kurtis Smith drums, and his dad on bass and vocals Tim, play sixties/seventies psychedelic rock. Now I am a massive Hendrix fan and was really impressed with the energy sounds and feedback and pedal work that Jason got out of each of his four guitars that he played, loved the way he got the crowd on his side after a slow response, loved the drum solo from Kurtis (Mr Bonham would have been impressed man!) loved the bass sound from the ol’ man, in fact I just loved you guys. I was so pleased that I managed to see your set at last and look forward to catching you on the road again. With a new album Art Of Persuasion due out in October, fans are in for a treat if this performance was anything to go by.

Penultimate band of the night were Rock legends FM: formed in 1984 they have eleven albums to their name and I remember seeing you guys, oohh about thirty years ago and let me tell you, you still rock and Steve Overland vocals guitars, you still have the voice dude! Along with Jim Kirkpatrick (loved you at HRH Blues) guitars, Merv Goldsworth bass, Jem Davis keys, and Pete Jupp drums. They disbanded in 1995 but thankfully reformed in 2007 and released their album Metropolis in 2010 and headlined Firefest IV at Nottingham’s Rock City the same year, playing songs both new and old. The crowd was the biggest it had been all day, many coming out of their seats and coming to front of stage. There was a curfew tonight and I don’t know if it was sound problems or the guys arriving late but it took them a long time to set up and I think both them and the final band were going to have to play shorter sets, despite this they delivered a great set and the fans were singing along with Steve throughout the night and he had a beaming smile throughout.

Final band of the night were King King: formed in 2008 by Alan Nimmo vocals guitar (and always a kilt), and Lindsay Coulson bass along with Wayne Proctor drums, and Johnny Dyke keyboards, they will soon be opening for Europe on their tour September-October. This band collect awards like we collect stamps: three more at the recent UK Blues Awards and all deservedly so, also Blues Hall of Famer inductees. Glasgow born Alan and the guys deliver a mix of rock and dirty blues with Alan’s prowess as a guitarist and the talents of Wayne, Johnny, and Lindsay shining through. Already being hailed as the best blues rock band in the world, Alan himself says “I’m not stopping to smell the roses, I’m going to take this band as far as I can”. With their fourth album Exile And Grace released in October last year no surprise it went on to win classic blues rock album of the year and topped the Amazon blues charts. I had the pleasure to interview Alan at Hard Rock Hell Blues earlier this year, and let me you tell you couldn’t meet a more genuine down to earth guy. With songs like You Stopped The Rain dedicated to his big brother Stevie, Waking Up, and the wonderful Rush Hour it was a great end to a wonderful day of music and fun.

Steve and all the crew deserve praise for their hard work putting on a great gig, one thing I will say though is it was sweltering suffocating heat in there and I was surprised not to see the security or someone passing cups of water to the crowd in the first few rows especially towards the end of the night as the crowd closed in. I myself felt faint and had to grab some air and missed the last song of King King.

Review by Dave Martin, Photos by Carol Henson aka LadyGigger.

Leicester Rocks, Leicester Arena 18/08/18

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