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Stray / The Best Of British Rock At Legendary 100 Club

Fresh from a sell-out tour with Steve Harris’ British Lion, we at Metaltalk HQ were stoked when British rockers Stray announced they were releasing About Time, a brand new studio album after a 13-year wait. It was also ‘about time’ we got to witness them live and loud and headlining at London’s West End at the 100 Club. 

Stray

The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023

Words: Sara Harding

Photography: Steve Ritchie

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Stray really stands the testament of time, and their anthems are a true legacy of incredible musicianship and songwriting. 

Having met at school back in the swinging ’60s, these rockers really do have a tale to tell. You can read all about it in frontman Del Bromham’s autobiography, Rock And Roll Survivor.

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

The band is now made up of Del Bromham and Pete Dyer on guitar/vox, drummer Karl Randall, bassist Colin Kempster and keyboardist Simon Rinaldo, who also plays for another favourite band of mine, Pearl Handled Revolver.

A who’s who of rock royalty are all in attendance, including Steve Harris at the Gravesend show, for this highly anticipated gig, and we are all here to celebrate the new album with the band and, of course, some Stray classics.  

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Known as the face of Stray, Del Bromhan is the ultimate performer. His personality, singing chops and prowess on the guitar are unparalleled, and he’s a bloody lovely fella, too. As I mentioned earlier, Iron Maiden are huge fans, and it’s no surprise why, as the excitement builds and the beers flow for this highly anticipated gig. 

Support comes from a foot-stomping heavy blues trio act, Bag O’ Bones, who warm us up nicely with killer guitar riffs, superb singing and a tub-thumper pumping out his beats.

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

As Stray walks onto the stage to rapturous applause, we always expect the usual Del cheeky Chappy quips, “We are going to make a racket.” But this band don’t make a racket. They are consummate professionals, and the wall of sound this group make is second to none. 

One of the reasons us journo’s all love the 100 Club is the sound system. None of that digital nonsense, just great Ampage and proper engineering, which is perfect for bands such as Stray.

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Kicking off with Shout, which is all about freedom of speech, the band encourage us to shout with the lyrics and that we do! This is an absolute anthem with insane bass grooves and keyboard wizardry. And talking of magic, next on the setlist is Houdini, with those dual vocals and two-part guitar riffage. It’s an aural onslaught of a song, and everyone around me is mesmerised. 

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Bromham looks at us all and tells us he is “taking us back in our Time Machine,” and this is what they do. I wish I had half the energy this line-up produces. As I look to my left, fellow journo Andy Nathan (him of the famous mullet – it’s a lifestyle, not a hairstyle) is nodding his famed mullet of approval as this Hawkwindesque banger “turns your mind around.”

This features some of the best vocal harmonies and marvellous musicianship as every member of this band delivers their parts into a stunning crescendo! The backline is immense on this tune and is a real goosebumps moment. 

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Bromham announces the next song. “Here’s one we’ve not played before.” The opening track for the new LP follows, I Am, reflecting his book title being a Rock ‘N’ Roll Survivor. This taste of the new album is a touchstone of what to expect, and I can’t wait to buy it with quality Stray musicianship and the lyrics of a true musical wordsmith. 

Next on the setlist is Better Day. Written during the pandemic, this takes us on the rocky ride that was a horrific time for bands as well as us gig fans. Words and cliches can’t describe this song – apart from it’s bloody brilliant. It’s like having the best pint ever and your favourite snack at the same time. The speedy bass line engines us through to an uplifting chorus. “Tomorrow is going to be a better day”. A mantra for all of us. 

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

An absolute favourite of mine is 1600 Pennsylvania, and this is where Pete Dyer shines. With his rock ‘n’ roll earring dangling and shining in the lights of The 100 Club, his cut-off jacket, and crisp white trainers, Dyer is the epitome of Rock Star. Huge props to Rinaldo, too, for his vintage keys with that modern twist. 

Black Sun is up next, another groove-filled belter of a song. It really is a tour de force of heavy rock blues with a strong lyrical message of “Nobody’s going to live or breathe any more, Black Sun.” This has to go down as one of the best Stray songs ever written.

Then it’s time for Living The Dream, and we are loving it – all augmented by killer keyboards and psychedelic geeeeeetar. This is when Bromham introduces the band to us, and he is clearly proud of this version of Stray. 

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Now it’s time for Bromham to shine with I Believe It. I can remember watching Del climb up the stage rigging like a loon, way ahead of O’Keefe from Airbourne. The solo is in top gear, but he then adds another gear, rising into sheer spine-tingling guitar work. Next level.

After the Storm brings us down to earth as it’s a very cool toooon! It’s so Bluesy, baby, but with a superbly polished tempo and key changes. This band are skilled at making very difficult to perform songs sound simple. 

Del announces a change of setlist, “Because we can,” as he introduces Jericho. A superb and very trippy song with a delicious layer of three-part harmonies.

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

Then, sadly, our trip through Stray, old and new, comes to an end with One Night In Texas. We have all witnessed five new songs and a romp through the Stray back catalogue.  

Stray truly are up there with the best of British rock, and judging by the crowd at this packed 100 Club, they have all clearly been on the same ‘trip’ as me, and we are all Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivors. 

It’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, and I can’t wait for the next outing from these absolute legends. 

Stray - The 100 Club, London - 14 September 2023
Stray – The 100 Club, London – 14 September 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

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