With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

THUNDER CHRISTMAS SHOW @Wolves Civic Hall 21/12/13

As it's Christmas it might be time for a riddle. How about this teaser: when does a band break up and not actually break up? The answer is when it's Thunder. 

It was 2009 when RTM sat in this very room watching the band on their 20 Years And Out tour. The story goes that frontman Danny Bowes didn't want to sing any more, busy as he was with his other projects, so off they went.

This was the second occasion they had split, but this time it seemed permanent as the guys went their separate ways. Guitarist Luke Morley forming The Union (who we are still trying to like even though we are yet to and they are on their third album) drummer "Harry" James moving to bands like Magnum and Snakecharmer and bass man Chris Childs joining an Eagles tribute act (really).

But in Thunder nothing is forever and in 2011 they were back, for a one off show at High Voltage that became a Christmas gig too,which became two Christmas gigs and is now a Christmas tradition. And if that's not enough the boys had a run round the arenas of the UK this spring and casually blew Journey and Whitesnake offstage while they were at it.

Some split then, right? This is a fact the band acknowledge themselves. "This is our twentieth show this year," says Bowes as an introduction. "Not bad for a group who hasn't released an album in five years....."

It doesn't actually matter though, because for the last 24 years Thunder have been one of RTMs  favourite bands (totally pointless info but they are fourth behind Maiden, The Almighty and The Wildhearts in our affections). In contrast to other groups that break up they didn't do so after rubbish albums - indeed the last time they were at something of a high point both commercially and creatively, and they always seemed such decent blokes that we forgave them because, well, Thunder were ours.

This year, as ever it seems these days, there are two Christmas shows. And, as Wolverhampton Civic Hall is perfect for them, we have looked forward to this for months, as have many other people judging by the fact that the first night of this double yesterday sold out and this one is close to doing so.

The format tonight is the same as the one we saw at Rock City a couple of years ago. After some truly execrable Christmas favourites are played on the tannoy, the band arrive onstage at 8pm for some acoustic foreplay, before returning at 9.15 for the full knee trembler of an electric set.

The 55 minute (largely) unplugged romp is tremendous fun. There are some new versions of Thunder songs, with a funky "Higher Ground" perhaps the pick, there are some covers, "Pinball Wizzard" reaching sing-a-long proportions, while a warm, lilting take on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" is welcome.
Best of all though, is the chance to hear some original stuff you haven't heard before, so the bluesy "Robert Johnson's Tombstone" and the ode to the perils of one-night stands "Carol Anne" take the honours.

So far, so good, of course, but RTM is happy to see the chairs disappear for the second set.

And actually, this is the part that Thunder really deserve credit for. Knowing they are playing to an audience of die hards they eschew most of what might be termed "the hits" tonight and give a very, very interesting 100 minute long electric show.

Although they start with the debut album classic "She's So Fine" there is no "Dirty Love", "Backstreet Symphony", "River Of Pain", "Love Walked In" or "The Devil Made Me Do It" tonight, giving things a real fresh feel. 

In the absence of these songs that you might not have expected to come to the fore do just that.
Right in the middle of the second set, Thunder choose to play "Empty City" beginning with haunting keyboard from the multi-tasking Ben Matthews, it builds and broods it's way to a stunning climax. It would act as a centrepiece for the gig, were it not for the fact that "Fade Into The Sun" follows and is transformed by an incredible twin guitar solo from Matthews and the man who wrote most of these songs, the supremely gifted and talented Luke Morley.

But be in no doubt this is still a conventional Thunder show in parts. So Bowes still dances like a man who can't dance and never could, he insists we clap and scream, a cowbell appears during in uproarious "I Love You More Than Rock And Roll" and Harry still gets a cheer in the encore of "Better Man" and all is well with the world.

Ending with covers of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" (still one of the greatest rock n roll songs ever) and THAT ubiquitous Slade song, complete with festive inflatables, this is all it should have been and more.

The band are augmented by plenty of extra help. Keyboard man Tim Oliver is always here, there are young female backing singers and a young female horn section ("our horny little devils" says Bowes.) All of them do a fine job throughout, but really make Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights" their own.

In every possible sense Thunder are a national musical treasure and this was an excercise in preaching to - and entertaining the - already converted. This show was never going to get Thunder new fans and it wasn't supposed to. If you love Thunder you get it. Indeed if love Thunder this show was there to give you a huge, great cheesy grin. Same time next year? You can bet on it.

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