Giants of Rock, Minehead
February 9th 2014
Roger Berzerk Fauske: Photos by Noel Buckley
I had been trying to get to see this lot for a while and seeing as how I was doing some security work not a million miles away it would have been quite frankly rude not to go to this one.
Guest list sorted, I just had to get there which given the flooding between my location and Minehead was no mean feat – where there's a will, there's a way (often a death too).
Logistics out the way, back to the matter in hand. As an ageing rocker of a certain vintage, I of course remember the heady days when Whitesnake were, well, to put it mildly, one of the greatest bands to grace this planet, back in the day when blues and musical content got the nod over commercialism, perms and suntans. There have of course been several bands in the same vein, The Snakes, Company Of Snakes and of course M3.
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This version started life as Monsters Of British Rock and features two M's, Murray and Moody, and whilst obviously the Whitesnake connection is there, this is not a band surviving on just the Whitesnake classics. Their own material more than stands up alongside the 'Snake tracks and that is what makes this incarnation very different.
Aside from messrs Murray and Moody, the assembled musos are all at the top of their game – this is a band in its true sense not just a vehicle for two of them. Harry James, of Thunder and Magnum, is just a damn fine drummer, Laurie Wisefield on guitar has a pedigree including Wishbone Ash, Tina Turner, We Will Rock You musical and has played with just about everybody who is anybody.
Keyboard player Adam Wakeman is best known for his work with Ozzy, as well as a slightly well known father (to say he was born into a musical family is about as much of an understatement as saying Coldplay are a bit bad) and last, but by no means least, Chris Ousey takes the vocal duties. He is probably best known for Virginia Wolf back in the day and strangely is a guy that long term musician friends of mine in Manchester told me about more than 20 years ago but who I hadn't seen perform until now.
I arrived in plenty of time, sauntered into the bar, embibed briefly then wandered to the stage area just as Snakeharmer hit it (the stage that is). 'Guity As Charged' and 'A Little Rock n Roll' were the first gems on offer and as if to prove a point about it being a true band, people's eyes weren't just gazing on the two former slitherers.
The whole band grabbed you by the short and curlies and on top of that they were all having fun – strange though that sounds, but there are far too many bands out there who give off all the vibes of a tedious chore whilst on stage.
Laurie Wisefield, taking on a lot of the lead duties, is a supreme guitarist, almost understated in his approach, Harry James doing what Harry does best and laying down the concrete for the track, breaks and intricate fills a plenty but he is so good you sometimes don't even notice, Magnum keyboard wizz Mark Stanway, who was guesting at this gig, doing what good tinklers do and adding a whole load more than mere melodic backing and I must say his Jon Lordesque sound in places was a fitting reminder of the man himself (there was also a never ending bottle of beer involved).
Chris Ousey is quite clearly born to be on a stage and better than that he has a voice to match – stagecraft and voice, pretty much sorted then. So to the other two, Micky Moody, he of much changed headgear over the years, is quite clearly content in the band, doing a more than passable impression of a Cheshire cat on more than one occasion.
Musically he has all the glorious technique that were evident years ago and is just as happy wowing the audience with his fantastic slide guitar as he is playing second fiddle to Laurie's six string musings – a complete musician.
And for those guitar spotters in the audience there were more changes than a gender reassignment clinic to keep them all happy. Neil Murray (I keep forgetting just how big he actually is) makes playing a bass look the simplest thing on earth, the perfect rhythm foil for Harry's drumming. He always was a musician in the higher echelons of the craft (not to mention his past ligging glories) and the fact you expect it to be perfect every time with him says it all, and you know what, it always is.
His melodic bass is perfect for Moody's guitar, a combination Mr Coverdale knew all about and that hasn't changed – this band isn't an old friends act, it is one of musical belonging.
Next up was the first of the Whitesnake tracks 'Ready An' Willing' complete with crowd interaction in the middle. We all know what to expect with it and it didn't disappoint. 'Accident Prone' and 'Falling Leaves' were the next two in line, both from the band's album entitled 'Snakecharmer' and for anyone who hasn't already heard it, go out and get a copy at once, without any further delay and immediately as well.
'Accident Prone', probably more than any of their tracks, could have fitted very well on one of the vintage Whitesnake albums whilst 'Falling Leaves' was introduced by Ousey as the closest thing to a ballad off the album and in truth it is a ballad but a throwback to the days when ballads still had testicular content.
'Moody's Blues' was to me and I would think most others the highlight of the set – I don't think I need to tell you what this song contained but in case you get concerned that Micky is getting a bit down in the dumps, it is all about him and that thing called slide. Think the gorgeous slide on the live version of 'Lovehunter' years back, add in some humour and room for even more expression and this is the result. Sheer genius, never dull, full of inspiration and you never quite knew where he was going next.
As much as I love your axe hero types, some individualistic guitar extravaganzas can get a little tedious and self absorbed but with this one it could have gone on for an hour and I wouldn't have lost interest. Humour injection as well with an, errr, interesting piece of dancing in the middle. Credit too to Harry for managing to keep up with Mr Moody and adding the perfect ratio of skin banging.
You would think that after that it would be hard to keep the standard so high but with this lot, no sooner said than done as Moody goes straight into the unmistakeable beginnings of the second Whitesnake song of the night 'Slow 'n Easy'. Complete with full blooded singalong – they are generally on safe ground assuming everyone knows the words to the old classics.
Another off their self titled album, 'Nothing To Lose', is the last one of the originals and is a fitting way to close the new ones, meaty, twin guitars coming at you, throaty, venemous vocals before they finish with probably the two best known 'Snake songs 'Fool For Your Loving' and 'Here I Go Again'.
So there you have it. I had high expectations and as isn't always the case, the gig exceeded those expectations. I have, it is true, mentioned Whitesnake more than once in this review, but Moody and Murray, whilst they have done a whole load of other fine music, will always be associated with that once great band. This is though a new band, a band with its own sound and its own definition and that is what shines through.
A quick word about the venue and event as a whole. Although I was only there for a very short time, the atmosphere was incredibly relaxed, friendly and everything you would expect from a rock gig – hopefully next year I can make it for a little longer. Having said that, I did manage to see the first few songs from the next act on stage and I have to say it was a privelige.
The man in question was Wilko Johnson. We all know about his health but credit to the man, he was on fine form and ludicrously looked fairly well. If it turns out to be the last time I see the great man then I am left with great memories and for the life of me I still can't work out how he plays those riffs during that strut.
A big thank you too to Mark Stanway for sorting out the guest list at incredibly short notice.