Making a most welcome return to NWOCR Live Fest after their previous appearance’s curtailed set and pyrotechnic near misses were Llanelli’s favourite sons, Scarlet Rebels. Laurence Jones also provided one of the most satisfying sets of the weekend.
Rising out of the ashes of VoiD with the addition of flamboyant riff machine Chris Jones, they now have a brace of outstanding albums under their belt, the latest of which smashed into the UK Album Top Ten.
With a knack for composing crunchy, hugely melodic, infectious and anthemic tunes, I consider them to be at the vanguard of the new breed. One may consider the final VoiD album the blueprint for what was to follow.
“I’m assured that there are no flame bombs or time curfews,” says pyrophobic Singer/Rhythm Guitarist Wayne Doyle as they kick off with I’m Alive.
The quality tuneage keeps on coming. To my mind, there is no such thing as an average Rebels song. Each chorus is so hugely inviting, and of course, we have the uber-flexible flamboyance of CJ, whose playing style at times is most reminiscent of Slash. You Take My Breath Away is a case in point; it has it all, plus throw in an explosive solo from CJ.
Wayne, still alluding to his SFX wariness, says, “It’s fine, they are cold sparks. Notice the lack of reaction from myself,” after those silver fountains erupted during The Storm.
Everything Changed, one of the standout tracks on sophomore release See Through Blue, preceded Heads in the Ground. “Inspired by the likes of Trump and Brexit, it was the first politically motivated song I’d written.”
“Who fancies a singalong?” CJ teased the intro to a classic that generated the most participative accompaniment of the weekend in Wanted, Dead or Alive before it segued so seamlessly into another set highlight, Part Of Me.
Discovering the current 40-6 scoreline in the Rugby World Cup’s Wales-Australia clash seemed a perfect time to play I Can Sleep Now. “Even with my limited knowledge, I reckon not even Wales can fuck that up”.
The final quartet were just a joyous romp through some of their finest numbers. These Days, not to be confused with the Bon Jovi song of the same name, but equally as good, Save Me with its Long Way To The Top mid-section breakdown before the twin encore of the soaring VoiD number Let Me In and the therapeutic Heal which echoes sentiments we can all relate too.
It was noticeable just how much of the audience had remained until the very end, truly appreciating the quality of the band and the material that they had just witnessed. The Rebels demonstrate that they have the material and charisma to close the festival in style.
With gig appearances relatively sparse over the coming months, apart from the small matter of a short tour with The Winery Dogs, work will soon begin in earnest on writing and recording that all-important third album.
Wayne’s earlier quote of, “We do have some new songs, but we’re not allowed to play them,” together with the knowledge of their recent songwriting collaborations, whets the appetite for what may soon emerge.
The set that I was most looking forward to was that of young blues maestro Laurence Jones.
Presently in the midst of a creative purple patch, I had the pleasure of reviewing his latest Bad Luck & The Blues platter, describing it as “A blueprint for 21st Century Blues Rock.”
It was no surprise then that the album’s ‘Put 3 Men in a Room and Just Play’ approach was utilised here, with the vast majority of cuts being culled from said album.
Many would consider this the first appearance at the festival of a bona fide guitar hero. One that is not reliant on histrionics but a player that makes his instrument positively talk to the audience in the tradition of all those legendary blues masters.
Kicking off with You’re Not Alone, one instantly had the sense that this was very much going to be a ‘current’ set, showcasing the consummate songwriting and the synergy between the players.
The rhythm section of Jack Alexander Timmis and Alan Taylor are so locked into the dynamism of the vibrant groove it permits Laurence to take things in whatever direction he chooses to fly.
The pace was breathtaking, so difficult to pick out individual highs, but the ones that truly hit the spot were the pummelling I’m Gone which exhibited even more potency in the flesh, the positively motoring Lonely Road, the slow blues grind of Don’t Leave Me This Way and the glorious ZZ/Glam Stomp of the closing Woman.
My earlier expectations were met, then exceeded, and upon reflection, this was one of the most satisfying sets of the weekend.
NWOCR Livefest 2023 was held over the weekend of 23-24 September 2023. MetalTalk’s Sophie James reports from KK’s Steel Mill
All Photography: Jason Samuels
All MetalTalk’s NWOCR Livefest 2023 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/nwocr-livefest-2023.