…and I finally get to see the inside of the newly refurbished and, in some quarters, somewhat maligned Fibbers. Somebody has turned the inside around, made it a bit roomier (although I’m told that part of it was curtained off tonight) and made the decor a bit brighter, with a long bar selling expensive drinks (I didn’t bother) and a sound system that, at least in part, looks as though it has been stolen from the TARDIS. It certainly seems to be easier to see the stage, with random walls and pillars having been removed, but the stage itself seems a bit smaller and I couldn’t help but wonder how some bands I saw at the pre-refurb’ed version, particularly the seven-piece The Reasoning, would fit onto it. But that’s for the future. What about tonight.
I wasn’t too far down the queue when the doors opened but the first act, Boss Caine, had already started his set when I got through the doors. Must be a new tactic, starting the first act just minutes after the doors open (and, personally, I think it’s slightly insulting to any first act). Dan (the Boss) Turbo, arguably the hardest working musician in York, who seems to be everywhere at the moment, performed pretty much the same set that he did in support of Hope & Social a couple of weeks ago. A mix of new and old songs, but with only one, Sweet Sorrow Surrender, from the first album. The few people who had made it in when he started gave him a pretty good reception but as the place filled up and the ambient noise level rose he struggled to make an impression, especially when calling for a round of applause for Tim Fox, who once again joined him on harmonic for Devils On Dean Street. I got the feeling, towards the end of his set, that he wasn’t really enjoying himself. Not that that made any difference to his music, which was as enjoyable as ever. It may simply have been that the crowd wasn’t right for GT’s style of playing – after all most of them would have been hard core rock fans.
Speaking of fans, there seemed to be two distinct sets there tonight. As Ricky Warwick took to the stage, a portion of the crowd stepped up to fill the empty area in front of the stage and we took the opportunity to move with them, ending up directly under the air-conditioning unit. (I can confirm that the leak I’d heard about had been fixed and that the unit itself worked very well, pumping extremely cold air directly onto me for the next thirty or forty minutes…) But I digress.
Belfast-born Ricky is soon to be touring as lead singer of Thin Lizzy (perhaps the ultimate tribute band) and tonight performed edgy, acoustic rock songs at least two of which came from his third album, Belfast Confetti (the title track and Arms of Belfast Town). Jesus Loves You seemed to be a favourite with the audience, but I can’t find it listed on any of his albums and there was an (almost) humourous song which seemed to be based around memories of Dickie Davies and World of Sport. His new single, The Whiskey Song, also featured as did a cover version of Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades. His guitar-playing was energetic and at times verged on raucous, and his voice was superb and a little reminiscent of somebody who I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m reasonably certain that Ricky was originally down to headline tonight’s gig but was dropped to second place simply because he was playing acoustically, while the new headliners were playing full band. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing him again and, while I probably won’t get the chance, would certainly consider catching him with Thin Lizzy.
As Ricky left the stage, a strange thing happened. Most of the audience seemed to move away, meaning thtat we managed to get even closer. I ended up just two people from the front, with an absolutely superb view (and no cold down-draft), something I had never achieved at the old Fibbers.
Last year, Thunder announced that, after twenty years, they were retiring from recording and touring as a band in order to spend more time on their individual activities. The Union is the first of these that I have come across and features Luke Morley (ex-Thunder) and Peter Shoulder (ex-Winterville) sharing guitar and vocals, if not evenly. For the tour they have been joined by Chris Childs (also ex-Thunder) on bass and a drummer introduced simply as “The wee Scotsman”. Playing most, if not all of the songs from their self-titled debut album, they treated us to a set full of rock which proudly displayed its Southern Blues and Country roots. Highlights included the subtle Lillies, which invoked an “Awwww” response from the female portion of the audience when it was introduced and the slow, melodic Saviour. That’s not to say that the ballad-like songs were the best – there was an incredibly epic live song towards the end of the set (I didn’t catch the title) while Black Monday somehow evoked images of Speakeasies. Even the catchy sing-along, This Time Next Year (The Union’s anti-X-Factor song but perhaps their most commercial), somehow managed to stick in my mind. The band’s encore consisted of their own Come Rain Come Shine followed by a cover of Proud Mary, which featured a guitar duel between Morley’s blood-red Gibson and Shoulder’s black Les Paul, during which the two men could, at times, barely keep a straight face. Superb music and a fantastic voice, somehow reminiscent of Springsteen and Clapton at the same time, this was one of the best gigs of the year so far.