Review by Steve Dean
Photo by Simon Bamford
This being my first outing to the Underground in Hanley, I was once again truly astounded by the sheer talent Stoke-on-Trent has to offer. The Underground itself, although somewhat stark, has a tremendous sound system, ensuring that the four acts on the evening’s bill are heard at their best. It’s good to see music taken this seriously.
Singer/songwriter Garry Abbott begun the evening; his opening number ‘Hello Me’ immediately grabbing the attention of the steadily building audience. A strong singer and an excellent guitarist, the intricate and well thought out chordwork behind his tuneful and interesting melodies made for an inspired and enjoyably varied set. ‘Never Ending Tango’ had the tiniest hint of flamenco; ‘Something’s Coming’ boasted an extraordinarily gymnastic melody line; while ‘Gutter for an Ashtray’ was just a bloody good song. His influences are many; putting me in mind of performers as diverse as Paul McCartney and Richie Havens at times, but his tunes are all his own. Singing his lyrics with gutsy conviction, he radiated true pleasure at the well-deserved applause he received. He tells me he has a CD available from his Gaz Abbott Myspace site. Get a listen, you’ll see what I mean.
I haven’t seen anything quite like Everything On Red since the David Coverdale period of Deep Purple back in the 1970s. XTC came to mind as well, as did the vaguest hint of Madness (as in Suggs etc, I must add). That isn’t saying that they sound dated; in fact, far from it. This band have taken it all a few steps further. Generally, it seems to me that although the influences of the great bands of that era are heavily permeating the current scene; these influences are being utilised with compelling freshness and restored vitality. Everything On Red specialise in incredibly tight, complex arrangements played with bags of energy, admirable flair and astounding timing. I heard not one bum note or missed beat as their solid songs dodged, dived and weaved here, there and everywhere. To see them is to experience a musical fairground ride of the type that turns your knuckles snow white. Exhilarating, crunchy, and displaying some fine musicianship, it can only be a matter of time before these are a big name - either that, or something very rotten in the state.
The Beehives are something else again. Hailing from Liverpool, they are in a decidedly lighter vein than the previous band, but by no means are they any the lesser. This band perform their stylish songs with bright panache and songwriting is obviously one of their strongpoints. Singer Tom Speight striking up any easy rapport with the appreciative audience from the start, their melodic compositions were given an enthusiastic reception throughout the set. Having taken three months away from performing, this gig is their first since last October and this evening was presented as a showcase for the work written over that period. Commercial and pop-oriented, I particularly liked a new number called ‘See you in July’, which featured at the very end of their playlist. They have a very wide potential audience and we’ll undoubtedly see a lot more of them in time to come, if the fervent applause at the end of their set this night is anything to go by.
In their capacity as headliners The Lies did not disappoint. Since I started reviewing the bands of Stoke-on-Trent, I’ve been particularly astounded by the quality of the drummers there are around these days and Adam Price is no exception. He also contributes to the songwriting, as singer and guitarist Donny Wrench gleefully informed us, and his ‘Watcher’ is an impressive addition to their set. Able lead guitarist Richie Turvey and Bassist Jim Seymour making up the rest of the band, Donny is a performer in his own right when not gigging with The Lies and tonight they put on an energy-packed show to remember. Possessing strutting confidence in abundance, they have some great songs and the Hendrix-like ‘Ballad of Alfie Dale’ had me hooked from the from the first four bars; while ‘Fences’ with its racing guitar line, rattles along at a cracking rate. I loved the poignant ‘White Lie’ too. In fact, there isn’t a dud song in the set. As with every other act on the bill, fortune smiling, I can see no reason why they shouldn’t go from strength to strength. Pleased to report a great night in Stoke-on-Trent yet again.