The Union – The Duchess, 19/10/11

I’m afraid this entry will be a bit brief because, I’m ashamed to say, I completely forgot to review tonight’s gig. That’s no reflection on the evening, though.

I arrived at the Duchess just as Mad Dog, a three-piece from London, were starting and the first thing that struck me was the fact that vocalist (and guitarist) Tommy Smith had more than a slight hint of Robert Plant in his voice. The lyrics were a tad repetitive, but Roj eventually pointed out that they reminded him of York’s own 98Pages so that’s possibly no bad thing. The music, however, was an excellent mix of rock and blues and certainly got the crowd’s attention. Each song was applauded and cheered as though the band were already a favourite, despite this being their first tour and the debut album not arriving until next year. A brilliant opening performance from a band who, apparently, only arrived at the venue just before they were due to go on stage. The van breaking down? Very rock and roll…

Fighting Wolves, on the other hand, seemingly failed to get the crowd’s attention. People were listening but the songs weren’t being greeted with as much enthusiasm. At one point, the vocalist (I’m not sure which one – the above link lists three) commented that it seemed that the crowd wished that they and Mad Dog had played in reverse order. It was a bit of a shame really. Despite, perhaps, being slightly too heavy and the vocals a bit too screamy, for tonight’s bill there wasn’t actually anything wrong with the music. In fact, they reminded me a little of Black Stone Cherry. The performance was a little less slick than that of Mad Dog, with a bit too much messing about and some barely audible jokes (I assume) between songs. I didn’t get many of the song titles but would say that Wait One Minute was a very good end to an under-appreciated set.

Last year, The Union’s debut release was one of my top five albums so there was no question about going to see them again. Touring to promote their second album – Siren’s Song – they gave a no-nonsense performance, letting the music do the talking. Very near to the end of the set, Pete Shoulder commented that he thought that he’d hardly spoken to the audience. Indeed it was so – beyond a “How are you all doing?” and a handful of song introductions, barely a word was spoken. And when the music is this good, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I didn’t buy the new CD until after the gig, so didn’t know most of the songs played tonight but, alongside those new songs were a handful I remembered from the first album. My memory of all the songs played has failed me but Lillies sat comfortably alongside the likes of Siren’s Song and Blame It On Tupelo. Near veterans of the industry, Shoulder and Luke Morley along with bass-player Chris Childs played and sang superbly but special mention has to go to drummer Dave McCluskey – he really does play brilliantly, slamming the sticks down from above head-height and seeming to put his whole upper body behind his performance. It was only two songs in that his incredibly energetic performance necessitated the removal of his top and a head dowsing from a handy water bottle. And he does all this with a near constant grin. Overall, a top notch performance from a band that I can only hope continue to grace York with their presence. 

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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