Roadstars UK 2019 Tour, Saturday 5th October The Flapper, Birmingham

One’s initial impression of the dirty rock with a touch of the blues blasting out on stage from five piece band Gorilla Riot is of a joyous aural collision between Humble Pie and  ZZ Top. There are three guitarists, each a lead player we’ll later find out, two adding backing vocals; the front man delivering fine smoky come gravel elivery lines. They’re raw in sound but gel well. They also happen to be a bit of an ethnic mix, making it all the more visually interesting.

Come their second number one hears a more Southern rock bent to their groove, somewhere Blackberry Smoke and Black Stone Cherry meet on a London street corner. The three guitars add depth to the sound, they’re not what you’d call revolutionary riffs but they work, each guitarist sounding unique from the other when they solo; there’s also a number that offers unexpected Arabian textures. It’s followed by a number with a slow elegiac intro before building to an a Bad Company style strut but then you also get long soloing with acid-spiked jazz rock noodling within before  ending their set with a drawn out shuffle over which their front man’s soul-drenched voice stirs nicely.

They make a decidely decent noise, lyrically they may well be worth checking out further. Certainly worth taking a further chance on this lot.

With numbers reduced to that of a power trio on stage Hannah Wicklund & The Stepping Stones tip their hat to Hendrix from the off with a fiery instrumental before the young lady moves to the microphone shrugging her shoulders in time, imploring us vocally. Next up, is what can only be described as a heavy sea shanty blues. She leans deep back to wail on a solo, coyly uses her sex  in an innocent manner. Folk around me like her, and they assure me it’s also for her music.

CSN & Y’s ‘Ohio’ as a hard rock come-on. She sings well, hollering and giving all the right anguish required, her guitar screeching out in sympathy. The audience lap it up; there’s ecstatic applause at the end, it’s just I can’t help feeling a little uneasy about the use of sex as a weapon with a song  about American kids getting shot by US state troops. No one else seems to see the irony, so what the hell.

“I’m going to do a new song for you, if you don’t mind” she offers politely. ‘Can’t Get Enough’ proves to be a song about drinking too much and walking home drunk in her home town. It’s performed with  just her voice and a roaring guitar as The Stepping Stones take themselves off stage. She follows it similarly solo with the seemingly socially aware ‘Shadow Boxes’. “Bostin’” is the local colloquialism heard from several local patrons when she finishes and I strongly concur.

The band return and they lay into another instrumental that not only has her playing with dexterity, time change and effects but a choice application of talk box used musically rather than just as a novelty effect.

Collectively the band turn up the rock and the pace quickens, feedback ensuing and a Zep style riff boogie that’s heavy on the bass drum gets our attention, then shuffling admirably towards fused soul rock they end their set. It’s apparent a large contingent of the audience has come specifically to see her, and rightly so.

In this neck of the woods a little under a month ago, Piston took to the stage and played a similar set list rather to tonight. They’re a strange fit, for what’s predominantly a modern blues rock audience, but that’s okay they’ve brought along their own devoted fans too, so everybody gets to share in the love one way or another tonight.

Piston in fact have a lot to smile about, one tour finished, half way through another and two more set up; one supporting Glenn Hughes another with The Cult. You can tell they’re finding their feet, a sense of confident exuberance to their act, not only using more of the stage but throwing in some zealous rock poses along the way. They also look a little slicker in their apparel, no tour t-shirts of other bands, with front man Angelic decked out in a jacket and his long locks held in a pony tail behind his head, but both get removed with his hair flying wildly free before the first number’s over.

“Come on, come on!” is their bludgeoning ‘Dynamite’ rock call to arms,  then with bass skewered heavy sounds prevailing the audience clapping along with hands raised. Single ‘One More Day’ finds them branching out, the guitarists face off each other mingling round the drum kit, chords ringing in our ears, a stronger melody presiding. Their drummer takes the first of several solos as intros and outros to numbers, and while he’s good they may have to reduce them when they start supporting larger acts. Likewise the AC/DC cover, ‘Gone Shootin’, while not an over familiar number and performed with enthusiastic aggression may have to get questioned as the need to sell their own identity becomes more prevalent.

After ballad come heavy country rock song ‘Go Now’ Edwards replaces a Gretsch  with a  Gibson, soloing away as we’re asked to: “Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care”. The crowd oblige and we entreated to some raw voodoo sweaty rock from the band before they conclude with a speedy and slightly bluesy rendition of ‘Proud Mary’.

Temperatures raised after a good night out we leave to brave the elements, rain pouring torrentially down. Weekend warriors, we may not be waving our hands, but we’re happy and just don’t care.

 

About Paul H Birch

RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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