Sadly, another music venue bites the dust. Next month, the Royal Standard in Walthamstow will be closing its doors one last time. Many bands have started their careers here over the past few decades and it will be greatly missed. Stray, led by the charismatic Del Bromham, have been regulars here and it is only too right they are the last 'professional' band to tread the boards of the Royal Standard.
It is a shame to see the venue's closure, as everytime I've attended there has always been a healthy turnout. In fact, there are more punters here tonight than when Stray last played The Borderline in Central London.
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There was more history in the making for tonight's support act, Good Thinking, who were playing their first gig since 1975. Back in those days, Good Thinking could be seen gigging in the East side of London supporting such acts as Thin Lizzy, The Groundhogs and The Steve Gibbons Band, before calling it a day before releasing any product. Good Thinking originally featured a young Mark Evans on drums. Evans would later go on to join American badass rockers Warrior Soul and played on their first three albums. Tragically, Mark Evans was murdered in 2006.
The remaining members of Good Thinking have re-united and recorded a new album, 'Turn The Clock Back', featuring some new compositions and five tracks originally recorded with Mark Evans. A new song, 'Warrior Soul', was a nice dedication and I did like the earlier lightweight rock of the eponymous 'Good Thinking' and 'Inside Of Out'.
Stray are one of the hardest touring bands on the gigging circuit. Playing up and down the length of the country keeping original music alive and well. A lot of younger bands can learn a lot from Stray. They really should be bigger than they are. Maybe it was because they didn't have the pretty-boy rock star look, or simply because they were too good, that bands like Black Sabbath and Status Quo refused to have them as their support band back in the seventies although, bizarrely, they did support Kiss and Rush.
Stray are now a fine hard-hitting three piece. Joining Del Bromham were Stuart Uren on bass and young animal on drums Karl Randall who, together, made a cracking album in 'Valhalla' in 2008, many of those songs standing up to the classics of old.
Stray seem to get a little heavier everytime I see them, as on the bone-crushing 'Move A Mountain' and 'Free At Last'. 'Our Song' and 'Only What You Make It' got rare outtings, with the latter being played for the first time in fourteen years.
Today was Remembrance Day, so it was rather poignant to hear '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue', a song about politicians making decisions that lead us to war, and the track 'Harry Farr', about a comrade who was shot in the First World War for cowardice. Older songs such as 'Time Machine' and the anthem 'I Believe It' are real classics that everyone should own.
Singer Pete Dyer was invited up onstage to perform two songs from his time with the band (between 1975 and '77), with 'Houdini' and 'Take A Life' being performed for the first time since he was last in the band.
There were some guitar heroics from Del Bromham in 'All In Your Mind', with feedback aplenty. This was the song that Iron Maiden would later cover (Steve Harris is a big fan of the band, and even his daughter Lauren Harris has covered tonight's opener 'Come On Over').
Del Bromham is a loveable English rogue who has a cheeky-chappy approach that warms to everyone. Stray played another blinder tonight, so check them out for yourselves and spread the word because the masses are missing out on Britain's best-kept secret.
Come On Over
Only What You Make It
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Free At Last
I Believe It
Take A Life
All In Your Mind