I’m not sure how The Duchess managed to get chosen as the venue for The Union’s only festival warm-up gig this Summer but I’m glad it did because they are rapidly becoming one of my favourite live acts.
The (specially invited) support tonight came from Leicester’s hard-rockers Skam, a band who know how to connect to and, from the way that the space filled in around me a few songs into the set, draw in an audience. Seemingly with influences as relatively diverse as Whitesnake and Black Sabbath and occasionally sounding like a heavier version of York’s own 98 Pages, Skam played an energetic set of quality rock. Vocalist and guitarist Steve Hill punctuated songs with forays away from the microphone for some slick guitar solos while bassist Matt Gilmore’s facial expressions gave the impression that he was either in pain or, perhaps, was experiencing slightly too much pleasure. The band are rounded out by (X)Ray Peverill, who plays drums with energy and gusto. All three supply vocals and, it has to be said, a nice line in synchronised head-banging. The set comprised of songs from their debut album – It’s Come To This… – and included the single No Lies, which can also be found on the cover-mount CD which comes with the latest issue of Classic Rock magazine. The band not only stayed around for The Union’s performance but, afterwards, seemed to be selling a fair few copies of the album, as well as taking time to sign them and chat with new fans, always nice to see. Hopefully, they will be back this way soon. Peverill told me that they would play at any venue that would have them. When I pointed out to him that that smacked slightly of desperation he replied with, “That’s because I’m a drummer…” Very self-effacing.
With a slot at Download (or, given the atrocious Summer weather, should that be Downpour?) the next day, The Union came to York in two pairs – one managed to arrive ahead of time and, apparently, sat sipping tea before tonight’s gig while the other broke down on the motorway and had to wait to be rescued. Not that it showed in the performance, which included The Union staples – cool and calm bass from Chris Childs; bombastic drumming and, eventually, t-shirt removal from Dave McCluskey; brilliant guitar from Luke Morley; and superb vocals, which managed to be powerful without being overbearing, from Pete Shoulder (once again sporting his pseudo-Victorian urchin/toff combo of waistcoat, undershirt and top-hat). The set came in at just under an hour – slightly disappointing – but, given the usual lack of banter between songs, still managed to comprise of a good selection of songs from both albums, including Blame It On Tupelo, Siren’s Song, Saviour, Easy Street and an encore including a cover of Proud Mary. As usual, The Union gave a no-nonsense, highly enjoyable performance. There was a feeling, after they played here earlier in the year, that it wouldn’t be too long before the band moved on to bigger venues, so The Duchess should be applauded for managing to carry on attracting such relatively big-name bands. Long may it continue.