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.

Friday, 24 January 2014

SNAKECHARMER, Fahran @Robin 2, Bilston 24/1/14

It was a question that barely needs an answer. Nonetheless Fahran frontman Matt Black feels the need to ask: "Are there are any old rockers in tonight?" Given the personnel on show later in the evening, perhaps he felt like shooting some fish in a barrel.

Age, however is certainly on Fahran's side. The young five piece are cut down to four tonight, as guitarist Jake has a hernia problem, resourcefully they replace him with a mop. This seems to be typical of the good humour they find themselves in as they take so break from recording album number two.

Slightly older than The Treatment, they do however occupy the same space in terms of sound. "Take This City Alive", "Stay Alive" and set closer "Ashes" are perky melodic rock numbers with a hard edge. Black - who also fronts a very successful tribute band - says they have some heavier material but have picked the mid-paced ones tonight. They chose well and theirs is an impressive, confident set, with Fahran another one of the new breed of up and coming rockers to watch.

The reason there are so many old rockers in Bilston tonight (seriously the place is heaving) becomes clear when you look at the ensemble onstage. Former Whitesnake men Mickey Moody and Neil Murray are joined by ex Wishbone Ash guitarist Laurie Wisefield, Ozzy Osborne keyboard player Adam Wakeman (son of Rick), Thunder drummer Harry James and Heartland vocalist Chris Ousey. With a cast like that, you have every right to expect good things.

Snakecharmer are essentially to Whitesnake what the Black Star Riders are to Thin Lizzy. That is to say there are a couple of prominent former members and they are going to play some hits, but they are a band in their own right too, as last year Snakecharmer tossed out a rather fine record in the shape of their sef-titled debut, choc full of melodic rock in a similar vein to FM, it is a record that means they can be here on their own terms, rather than being forced to do a tribute show.

Indeed they launch into "Guilty As Charged," one of the album's stand-out cuts, straight away, and follow up with another in the shape of "A Little Rock n Roll," before Ousey says: "I think you'll know this one" and off we go with "Ready An' Willin'" and the pattern is duly set. From here on in it is roughly half and half between original and covers, although Moody does get a mid-set solo slide guitar romp entitled "Moody's Blues" (do you see whist they did there?) but crucially whichever band it is who's tracks they are playing, it is uniformly excellent.

The entire gig is superbly played as you would expect, with Moody and Wisefield trading off each other well, James showing his class being the kit and Wakeman holding the thing together, particularly with his fine Hammond Organ. Murray by contrast is content to stand in the shadows letting his more extrovert colleagues take the limelight. 

Three songs sum up Snakecharmer's hour and a half with us. First their single, "Accident Prone"- a favourite of Planet Rock - is as good you will come across in this area, then perhaps the best two of the Whitesnake songs, "Here I Go Again" and encore "Fool For Your Lovin'" it's difficult to get the latter two wrong, David Coverdale, however has managed to make a dogs dinner of them the last twice we've seen Whitesnake. Here tonight, in the hands of Snakecharmer they sounded superb.

An unexpectedly good evening, and if Magnum and FM haven't quite got rivals for the British melodic rock crown, Snakecharmer, if they can do with album number two what number one achieved, might just run them pretty damn close.

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