If I’m honest, I struggled to work out why young trio Mind Of A Lion were on tonight’s bill. More a combination of Indie and shoegazing than any sort of heavy metal or rock, it could just have been that the date fit in with a slot on their tour – they mentioned they were from Brighton and that any merchandise sales would help with their petrol costs. Initially, the soundman seemed to take a little while to get to grips with their mix – either that or the band had everything turned up too loud – and even though Archie Brewis-Lawes’ vocals were slightly clearer during their second, much slower track, it was still difficult to pick anything out of them. None of this is to say that the band were bad, though. The next, longer track started in a lively, indie style and featured a prominent, if never extravagant bass line from the stoic Henna Malik, before going through a couple of changes of not just pace but style as well. As the set went on (and the sound got better) I enjoyed it more and more. The energy increased and the style moved away from indie and towards math-rock, helped along by Jack Brewis-Lawes’ impressive drumming. The energy continued to build and the set ended with a track that seemed to include the use of loops to produce mini soundscapes. Not a bad opening act, just possibly not the sort that this audience were going to provide any petrol money to.
Morpheus Rising, on the other hand, were the reason I was at this gig. Not only had it been too long since I last saw York’s NWOBHM band play live – longer than I thought, actually – but there was a very good chance that if they were the local band that had been asked to provide support then I would like the headliners. Tonight saw a bit of a change in line-up. It took me a minute or two to recognise Martin Durrant standing in for the still injured Nigel Durham on drums (possibly because he looked to be participating in Movember) and, with Andy Smith unavailable, Si Wright doubled up on bass and vocals alongside guitarists Pete Harwood and the increasingly hirsute Daymo Sweeting. Somehow this made the frontline look a bit more “right” and natural, although I wouldn’t want to see it as a full-time change. Limited to just five tracks, the band powered through and treated the audience to Super Human and Looking For Life, with Martin looking very comfortable on drums behind the usual twin guitar assault. Mega City One is still, in my opinion, a much better track live than recorded, somehow losing the cheesiness that spoils the album version for me. Like the previous three tracks, Day Number One comes from Eximius Humanus – “Our late album,” said Si during the introduction, presumably getting “last” and “latest” mixed up. Tonight’s version was great, more subtle than I remembered it, and featured Si’s best vocals of the night. “We’re going to finish with our anthem. Now it’s your anthem,” he announced before Lord Of The North brought the set to a powerful – and yes, anthemic – end. Hopefully it won’t be as long before Morpheus Rising hit the stage in York again.
Broken Chords, another trio, this time from around London, were tour support for Electric Mary. Idiosyncratic frontman Joe Finnigan showed something of a 50s style in his performance, his perfect hairdo already ruined halfway through the first song, in part due to the constant flicking of his head from side to side, usually accompanied by the kick of one leg. The music, though, was more heavy rock than rock and roll. Get Some featured a familiar Led Zeppelin style riff while one track (Rock And Stones, I think), despite Finnigan’s accent occasionally bringing to mind Jilted John, was a mass of crashing and screaming guitars that were just slightly less subtle than those of Morpheus Rising. Finnigan’s vocals, perhaps simply because of his power, proved that you can be heard over loud music, especially during the short, sharp The Real Deal. Given the impending centenary, just two days after this gig, it was appropriate that Tell Them Of Us was introduced as a memoriam to those who fought and died in World War One. I doubt that they would have approved of the style music, though. Pyro ended the very enjoyable set in an increasingly frenetic and style.
Chatting to Pete and Si before Electric Mary took to the stage, I asked what the headliners were like. References to AC/DC and Airbourne had me slightly worried – I’ve never really got into the former and passed on a chance to see the latter when one write-up compared them to AC/DC. Would tonight’s headliners fail to impress?
The set opened with an instrumental section before donkey-jacketed and sunglasses-wearing frontman Rusty came onto stage with a shout of, “Good evening Yoooorrrrrkkkkk!”, launching into Let Me Go, during which drummer Davey Porter managed to break his stool. With a burst of smoke covering up his attempts to repair it, Rusty suggested that he could, “still sit on it without the seat…” With repairs finally completed the set continued. Rusty’s vocals made it easy to pick out lyrics during One In A Million (and, thankfully, were nothing like the high-pitched vocals that put me off AC/DC). Like Morpheus Rising, Electric Mary use twin guitar lines and, like Broken Chords, they are less subtle, but no less enjoyable, than those of the York band. Bass player Alex Raunjak took up a harmonica for the opening to one track whose riff tickled my brain with a familiarity that was lost when the song started properly. The band were speeding through the tracks with barely a pause in between. The audience were encouraged to sing along with a basic “yeah, yeah, yeah” before one track built to a screaming crescendo. Before Hey Now, Rusty paused to thank the B&B which had looked after them so well, but not so much whoever they asked where they could get a meal, who apparently hadn’t shown the more welcoming side of York. The song itself had a more gentle opening than the rest of the set, but that didn’t last long. Back on bass, Raunjak was energetic behind Rusty’s powerful vocals. Right Down To The Bone included a drum solo, which led into a pseudo jam session during which the individual members were introduced. How a group containing an Australian, a New Yorker, an Austrian, a Brit and a New Zealander come to be based in Melbourne has to be a question for another day. Then came the climax of I Fell Out With My Best Friend, with the audience singing along, a superb instrumental section and, for part of the song, Rusty wandering around the venue somewhere behind me. No encore and, as far as I could see, no albums for sale but a great headline band and the possibility (just a possibility, mind) that I might have to give AC/DC another chance.