Normally I hate arriving late to a gig. Tonight, however, a combination of not realising there was an early start time and not being able to find a parking space was a bit of a blessing. When I finally arrived, to find my gig buddy for the night standing much further forward than I usually do (and my usual spot taken up with a second sound desk), there was, basically, a lot of noise coming from the stage, where German duo The Picturebooks had already started their set. Admittedly playing with a whole load of energy, the music did little for me. Philip Mirtschink spent much of the set beating the hell out of his drum kit with the biggest drumsticks I had ever seen, hitting them so hard that, for one track at least, he was playing one-handed and using the other to hold the kit in place. Even before the set ended he was drenched in sweat and looking as exhausted as a marathon runner. Guitarist Fynn Claus Grabke opened the second track I heard with a bit more of a tune and a small amount of vocals but, apart from that, there wasn’t much that was memorable apart from a bit towards the end when he moved closer to Mirtschink and, waving his guitar around in time to the latter putting his whole upper body into his drumming, barely escaped hitting him. By the time the last track was announced I had thoroughly lost interest. Sorry guys, but not for me.
If you have ever wondered what Frank Zappa and Jimmy Page would look like together on stage, Norwich’s Bad Touch could give you some idea. OK, so rock-dapper frontman Stevie’s moustache is more flamboyantly waxed upwards than Zappa’s drooper and I don’t remember ever seeing Page with a nose-ring like that of guitarist Rob G., but that image was what immediately sprang to mind when they took to the stage. The music, as well as at least some of the band’s style of dress, seemed to channel 70s rock. Stevie started working the crowd early in the set and succeeded in getting some response to a first track sing-along. Wise Water, the first single from the band’s debut album, combined a Bluesy sound with harder rocking, while drummer George, compared to Mirtschink earlier, was almost nonchalant as he pounded out the beat and spun his sticks while providing backing vocals. Half Way Home, title track of the album, opened with just guitar and vocals before coming to life with a Blues riff running through it but there was more of pre-NWOBHM sound to Good On Me, a track which had me wracking my brain in vain for what it reminded me of. (And no, it wasn’t the similarly titled Bryan Adams song.) With my ears still ringing from the openers I couldn’t make out whether the last song was called New Day, Blue Day or even, perhaps, Too Late. Whatever it was called, it was a lively track to end an entertaining set with. Shame I had already passed my self-imposed CD limit for the month as there was a good chance I would have bought a copy of Half Way Home from the merchandise desk on my way out because, on the basis of this set, there was a very good chance I would have enjoyed it.
The Answer are another band I know only by reputation and their appearance at Fibbers tonight was the first time I have had a chance to see them. I was looking forward to it, despite somebody telling me they were an Irish AC/DC. The rhythm section of Michael Waters (continuing tonight’s look-alike theme by reminding me of Dave Grohl) and James Heatley took to the stage first, followed by guitarist Paul Mahon and then Cormac Neeson. Opening with Long Live The Renegades, there was definite hint of those high-pitched vocals that I’ve always said put me off the Australian rockers. Once again, though, I feel as though I’m going to have to give them a second chance as Neeson’s singing didn’t put me off. Spectacular upped the tempo before Neeson took a pause to say how glad they were to be back in York where, “even the sex shops look two hundred years old.” Red saw Mahon utilising a talk box, Peter Frampton style, something I don’t remember seeing in York before. Neeson barely stopped moving through out the set, his long hair and beard combining with clothes and wild eyes to give him a look of a slightly deranged (and at times spaced-out) hippy. Demon Eyes was followed by the slower Why’d You Change Your Mind which waited for its chorus before bursting into life. The riff-driven Aristocrat, getting its first even live airing, contained a harmonica section from Neeson but being honest it could hardly be heard. More impressive was Heatley’s drum work over Mahon’s reverberating guitar. After I Am What I Am, Last Days Of Summer featured a superb bass-line and saw Neeson leave the stage as an instrumental section extended the song well beyond its four minute recorded version. With a seated Mahon on acoustic guitar and Heatley encouraged out from behind his drum kit to take up position on a cajon for Strange Kinda Nothing, the audience were given a chance to get their collective breath back. The finger-picking guitar, inevitably quieter, built nicely to a full electric end of a great song. Not content with just thanking the support acts, Neeson dedicated New Horizon to them and then Mahon returned to his talk box for the opening of Raise A Little Hell, which saw Neeson come off stage and into the crowd, encouraging them to crouch down around him. It had the feel of a set-ender and there was little surprise when the band thanked the audience and left the stage at its climax.
At least, most of the band did. By the time the shouts for more had pulled the rest of them back out, after a brief break, for an encore, Heatley had barely moved from behind the drums. The two song encore, comprising Evil Man and Nowhere Freeway, voted back into the set by fans, saw the audience singing along and provided a rousing end to a great set.