First up tonight was a quick dash into town after work to see my daughter and her schoolmates, along with children from three other schools, sing in York Minster. I have to say I was very impressed. The children, all aged around seven and eight, performed something in the region of fifteen songs (each school had one song to themselves and the rest were joint efforts) the vast majority of which were in foreign languages. It went some way to explain why Elizabeth had been walking around the house singing gibberish for the last few months. The whole thing seemed to go off without a hitch and everybody involved deserves masses of plaudits for the amount of effort that went into the event.
Then, after a quick tea with Elizabeth and Debbie, normal musical service was resumed with a trip to the Duchess for something a littlebit louder.
First up tonight was Scream Arena, a full on heavy metal band from the York area. I’ve not come across these before and lead singer Andy announced that this was their first gig of 2010, after a somewhat radical change in line-up. Everything about this band is big – big lads, with (for the most part) big hair and a very big sound. The fact that they were laying in front of tonight’s lead act’s equipment made them look like they were filling the Duchess’s stage. Unfortunately we had, for some reason, decided to stand at the back and this made the vocals and, indeed, the music a bit indistinct which, possibly, gave me the impression that this band were more style than substance. The fact that some of the members seemed to have gone out of their way to dress like some of the more fanciful characters from metal was also a bit distracting from the act itself. The only song that stood out for me at the time was set ender House Of Pain, with incredible druming from Stix. Nothing else in the set really grabbed me and they are, perhaps, just the wrong side of too heavy for my tastes. (That said, I’m typing this while listening to the tracks available on MySpace and quite enjoying what I’m hearing – it’s a lot more melodic than I remember tonight’s set being.) I don’t think I’d be first in line to see Scream Arena headline a gig but, on the flip-side, their being a support act wouldn’t put me off. Scream Arena are currently recording their debut album and an E.P. is already available. It’s entirely possible that more familiarity with their output could change my mind about their live act.
I have to admit that I was feeling a bit nervous as Morpheus Rising took to the stage. This would be the third time I had seen them perform (which surprised me – I thought it was more) but the first time that Roj had managed to catch them. I was afraid that I’d done too much of a job of bigging them up and that Roj, who I would say has similar musical tastes to me but much wider appreciation and knowledge, would be disappointed. We had moved slightly further forward for this set and familiarity of the music certainly helped in this case – I recognised most of the songs from previous outings gigs, although I did have to check whether the last two were new as they didn’t ring any bells with me. It turns out they weren’t and that it was possibly just the better sound in the Duchess made them sound different. (Alternatively, my memory is finally failing me…) There was a moment of slight panic when I realised that Andy Smith wasn’t playing bass – given some of the recent musical news around York, I was hoping that another band weren’t going through a line-up change. However, it turned out that Andy was at Cheltenham for the races and Stealer’s Andy Gooby was just filling in. Not that I noticed any difference, you understand. The full, although too short, set was made up of Save The Day, Brave New World, the soon-to-be-classic Fighting Man, Lord Of The North, Gypsy King and, my favourite of the night, Hold On. It’s getting harder to find things to say about this band (particularly as I know that at least one member reads this blog regularly) but suffice to say that, as usual, the music was superb and the vocals were a lot better than the last gig down the road. An excellent set from an excellent band who I hope will be around for some time to come.
(Did Roj like them? Suffice to say, he was checking his pockets to see whether he could afford an album. Unfortunately, the debut has yet to be recorded. Come on guys – get a shift on…)
Headlining tonight were Gun, appearing in York for the second time in nine months and promoting their new mini-album (EP by any other name?) Popkiller and with a new drummer, Paul McManus. I saw them at the previous gig and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite not knowing any of their output. To this day I can’t say for certain whether I remember them performing Word Up or the original version by Cameo. If Morpheus Rising weren’t quite as heavy as Scream Arena, Gun continue the trend downwards – more rock than heavy. They are masters at what they do, though and have the audience (which seemed to mainly consist of hardened fans who knew all the back catalogue) fully engaged in the bands performances – arms were waving, hands clapping and lyrics being sung back at the band with gusto. Again, not too many of the songs rang bells with me but the new stuff sounded good – I particularly liked Seraphina and Let Your Hair Down (something I can no longer do, sadly…). Toby Jepson’s vocals were clear enough that you could hear the lyrics even if you didn’t already know them and the songs are catchy enough to dance (bounce?) along to. It may not be metal, but Gun certainly rocked the Duchess tonight.