Sunday, May 19, 2024

Thunder Live in Islington 08 & Live In Leeds 2015

Thunder remain one of those enigmatic bands who have come so close to mainstream acceptance yet, for whatever reason, have never quite made it to the big time. Nevertheless, they’ve certainly left their imprint on the scene, and these two live releases, with their mix of bluesy-tinged tunes and melodic, spirited classic rock, show just what they were capable of.

The gig at the Islington Academy was recorded back in December 2008, after the band had been invited by Planet Rock to perform before an audience for the station’s Xmas bash, as they’d been touring to support their latest album release, Robert Johnson’s Tombstone. A crowd of around 800 was thus surprised when Thunder took the stage because, as singer Danny Bowes said, “They didn’t know we were coming”.  As the crowd recovered from the surprise, Thunder opened up with ‘Loser’ and then proceeded to play a cross-section of songs from right across their career with songs taken from six albums, with two from their latest, including the blues-based title track, which asked the question ‘Did the devil really buy your soul?’ and also ‘Devil Made Me Do it’, which featured some nice use of slide.

‘Low Life In High Places’ sees the crowd getting into the party spirit and singing along with the chorus, as they also do with the upfront rocker, ‘Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’. We’re then treated to three from the Backstreet Symphony album, the title track, the quieter ‘Love Walked In’ and ‘Dirty Love’, which closed what was a rousing set.

Just before this though, they said the words women would most love to hear, ‘I Love You More Than Rock ‘n Roll!’  At this time, Thunder were ‘match fit’ from continuous touring and this show sees them powering their way through a set those who’d turned up to a radio event hadn’t expected to hear but clearly enjoyed.

The Leeds gig from 2015, which comes as a double CD, was recorded on a very short tour, mainly because Ben Matthews was still in recovery from throat cancer. The tour was to support their latest studio album, Wonder Days, which was regarded by fans as one of their best for some while. Leeds saw Thunder perform six songs from the album and for this reviewer, they perform a much stronger set than the Islington gig.

The crowd’s reception to the powerful opener ‘Wonder Days’ suggests they’re pleased Thunder were well and truly back after a 6-year hiatus, and the band feed off this with a rousing set. From that album, they perform up-tempo rockers ‘Resurrection Day’, ‘When The Music Played’ and ‘The Thing I Want’, which would’ve made for a better single than the title track. The cheer which greeted Ben Matthews’ name when he played the piano intro to ‘Broken’ was nothing short of heartwarming. 

The aforementioned audience faves ‘I Love You More than Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Low Life In High Places’ get the crowd singing along before they conclude with a lengthy version of ‘Dirty Love’.

Taken together, Islington and Leeds demonstrate just how potent Thunder are as a live act. They pack a heft when they rock out, but they’re also capable of equally effective slower tunes, and both these sets go some way to enhancing their rep.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Thunder remain one of those enigmatic bands who have come so close to mainstream acceptance yet, for whatever reason, have never quite made it to the big time. Nevertheless, they’ve certainly left their imprint on the scene, and these two live releases, with their...Thunder Live in Islington 08 & Live In Leeds 2015