Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons kicked off their Kings of the Asylum tour in no better place than Stoke, Lemmy’s hometown.
Within minutes of doors opening, the action had already begun with little time to settle and make yourself comfortable, so any latecomers would probably miss a fair chunk of the opening act. Sweet Electric were the first group to get the evening started and they weren’t going to introduce themselves quietly. Unlike most gigs where you would expect the loudest and most energetic phase to be when the headliners come on, they were ready to challenge that norm and turn traditions on its head which they did fearlessly. Playing with full power, their aggressive style certainly put the acoustics of the Sugarmill to the test as noise levels were peaking with unprotected ears at risk of bleeding. Determined to keep the essence of rock n roll alive, the German group put in a spirited performance with lovely riffs containing plenty of crunch, authoritative drumming and raw vocals reminiscent of the 80s.
They also blended in a great mixture of genres ranging from hard rock, southern rock and blues where each and every instrument did solos like the early days of rock n roll containing influences of blues and jazz. Brad (singer) in particular had sky high energy levels with only gravity stopping him from flying. Wearing lit-up trainers, he had a commanding stage presence from start to finish, running up and down, hitting cowbells until a drumstick broke or shaking a tambourine in an effort to activate the musical time machine to trigger the older fans’ memories which was incredibly successful. Although movement from the crowd was low, some smiles of approval gave the impression that it was enjoyable because a performance like that would leave a question mark hanging if the following acts could match the same level of professionalism as the first band.
Special guests The Cards were next, aiming to rival Sweet Electric’s performance and with ex-Saxon guitarist Paul Quinn in the band, you know it’s going to be a satisfying set. Needing a much-deserved breather, The Cards slowed things down by incorporating a blues rock sound, rolling back the years to where one could imagine sitting down in a 1960s American bar, having a beer after a long day watching a blues band when smoking was allowed indoors. With contagious shuffle beats, rough vocals and cheeky guitar licks, it was impossible to doze off regardless of the style contrast as the consistency in the quality of the music never dropped. Inevitably, due to the slow tempos and subgenre, bobbing along and dancing would be difficult but their performance was faultless.
Harrison Young couldn’t have been a better choice as frontman. He has the spirit of a rockstar rooted inside of him with a potent voice that together with the guitars fit in perfect harmony. However, I can’t go without commenting on Paul Quinn’s guitar abilities. He may have swapped metal for blues rock but few at a level like him can remain consistent for so many years and continue to evolve. That evening was no different as not only did he play the guitar, but he whipped out a harmonica a few times to showcase his natural-born talent like when magicians do pigeon tricks that no one else but them knows how it’s done.
After two incredible displays, it only required Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons to put the icing on the cake and they did just that like the way Lemmy would’ve wanted if he were looking down from above. As has been the case in most of their shows for quite some time, they opened with ‘We’re the Bastards’, the ideal track from a group of rebellious rockstars just wanting to have fun and break the curfew rules. Joel Peters (singer) was hyped and ready to get the party started as he entered the stage full of confidence and swagger. His tall figure looking down on the audience like master Oogway teaching kung fu while rocking badass sunshades with a vintage mic meant only one thing, respect your leader.
Motorhead may not be around anymore but Phil (guitar) brought their DNA to his current band with the riffs, solos, beats and texture all resembling that classic sound even though their main style is hard rock. Phil as always was the centre of attention with his outstanding skills on guitar as he and Todd traded solos as smoothly as the Olympic torch being passed before arriving at the host stadium, while Dane’s drumming was on point with a tight sense of rhythm. The way that Phil and his sons can musically communicate with each other makes it easy to see that they were just made to play whether it be the indicative smile that they are enjoying themselves or that it’s time for a solo.
While they did play a handful of Motorhead tunes, particularly with it being in Stoke, they did balance it out with their own material on the setlist. Tracks like ‘Hammer and Dance’ were a great example of how they could intertwine hard rock and metal all in one song as it’s fast and heavy, bringing out the more aggressive side of the band. Joel for sure shows some shades of Lemmy through his gritty voice and strong stage presence which resurrects memories of what it was like seeing the legend back in the day. As he led the line, Phil Campbell and his sons: Todd (guitar), Tyla (bass) and Dane (drummer) followed suit as the family let their musical flair shine. They allow the music to take over their soul and whatever comes out is written in the stars to sound wonderful.
With a performance like this, Phil and the boys can be very proud of themselves and with two amazing bands like Sweet Electric and The Cards supporting them on most of their UK tour, it’s a certainty that no one will walk away disappointed.