Cast your minds back to those long despairing days of Lockdown when the gift of technology provided us with streaming services to brighten the gloom. Many of us discovered a new TV Series or musical artists as a result. Kickin’ Valentina was mine. Now, with them touring the UK, it would appear to be a start of a love affair between the band and this country.
Tivoli, Buckley – 2 June 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: Jason Samuels
To the uninitiated, imagine the scene in your stereotypical Hollywood Blockbuster. The ‘hero’ walks into a ‘Dive Bar’ and demands someone’s sturdy footwear, cowskin coat and two-wheeled form of transportation. In the background, a band is playing. Well, Kickin’ Valentina are that band. A raw, gritty, swaggering, uncompromising band of brothers who are proud to play heavy, dirty, straight-down-the-line, good-time rock ‘n’ roll with a groove often imitated, seldom bettered.
Having already caught them once on this whistlestop tour, Friday presented another opportunity in an ‘Official Capacity’, in the comparative expanse of The Tivoli in Buckley, an oasis in an otherwise rock ‘n’ roll desert.
Any band that uses Twisted Sister as an intro tape – in this case, You Can’t Stop Rock n Roll – has to have something about them. They immediately showed that they meant business and raced out of the traps with On My Side. Like so many in their arsenal, it has a hook that instantly burrows itself beneath your skin.
“We came a long way to party with you tonight.” Already motoring as they raced into Sweat, you feel that you are hanging with the coolest cats on the planet. It struck me just how on top of their game they were. Jimmy’s powerhouse drumming, Heber revelling in his riffing and soloing while bass ace Chris Taylor was locked into the rhythm. As Heber soared, Chris’ deep pulsating tones came to the fore.
“Freak Show, Freak Show! Welcome To The Freak Show. Freak Show’s Here Tonite. It’s The Scream Show, Drink Show, Party’s In The Front Row. The Freak Show’s Dynamite.” D.K. is mesmerising to watch as the momentum is maintained. His swagger and intensity is akin to a hybrid of Brian Johnson and ‘Cyco’ Miko Muir. Wasting no time in getting to the barrier, he pretty much stayed there for most of the set – right down there among the freaks.
Two new compositions were aired this evening, the first of which was Takin’ a Ride. The chorus is an instant earworm, and if this is an indication of what can be expected on the next album, then I am salivating at the thought. Along with the sheer mass of its riff, it is the kind of song that best be avoided while driving through places such as Staffordshire with its forests of speed cameras.
Somebody New comes across way more incendiary than the studio version and is invigorated still further by the crowd participation. The mass “woooooooaaahhh-ohhhh-ohhhs” reverberate around the spacious roof space of this old theatre.
I do like it when a band mixes up the setlist as the tour rolls on, and this point saw the addition of Easy Rider. “She’s a Bad, Bad, Bad Easy Rider. Rolling Like an Angel in Black, Got The Devil Beside Her.”
One may suspect that this number may appeal to many of the ladies in the audience, and you would be absolutely correct. There is no such thing as a forgettable KV chorus, and it was a joy to see a lady called Henri cavorting at the barrier while Helen was bopping without care to my front. Not to be outdone, many of the gentlemen were a moving and a grooving by this point too. (FYI, Shakedown had made way in the set for this).
“You’ve only got so many Friday Nights left, so let’s make this a good one”, was the introduction to the introduction of the second and final newbie. “This is a song for all your enemies and sums up everything you want to say, but we’ll say it for you”.
Fire Back has that typical KV swagger but is delivered so much more aggressively with the intensity of punk while retaining its hard/sleaze rock roots. With D.K. still working the barrier, the stage was clear for Heber to throw any shapes he wished, and boy, was he enjoying himself.
“A wise man once said that if you ain’t got chicks, you ain’t got a band. This one’s for the ladies.” As Turns Me On was the song that launched my interest in Kickin’ Valentina, naturally, I am overjoyed that it is not only a regular inclusion in the live set but a genuine crowd favourite now. A simply irresistible number, there was probably more audience singing on this than any other tonight, with the mic being offered out and appreciatively used.
“We know that you like to hang out, but the truth is that we cannot wait to see you” – a sentiment I know is genuine and comes straight from their hearts.
The Revenge Of Rock is a song that really should be heard in all its majesty in a stadium, or an arena at the very least, just by the namechecking alone. Musically it has the energy and bravado of early Skid Row.
Set finale induced Get Ready induced mass “woooooooaaahhh-ohhhh-ohhhs”, chant and singalongs with the crowd now firmly in the palms of their hands. Hell, there were even crutches being waved about in the air. A miracle!
“What do you say we keep this party going for one more song? This is an oldie but a goodie…for The King.”
Like Turn Me On, their take on Burning Love, made famous by Elvis naturally, is now another essential inclusion and brings this adrenaline-fuelled set to a close. I always loved the classic version, but the boys take it to another level and make it their own.
There are some evenings where you feel the band has only been on stage for 15 minutes, such is the combination of the breakneck delivery, the choice of material and the sheer joy that it generates. This performance was very much one of those nights.
I would go so far as to say that, right now, they are the best straight-down-the-line rock ‘n’ roll Band on the planet.
I believe a return to the shores is pencilled in for later this year. For those who have seen them and concur with any of the above, as they themselves said, “Tell your friends, and your enemies, about us.”
Once stricken, Valentina is a habit that you’ll never want to kick.