Eleven, in Stoke and support for Friday’s Romeo’s Daughter date, came from accomplished melodic rockers White Skies.
Eleven – 15 September 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: Jason Samuels
Announcing themselves late last autumn with a well-crafted, critically acclaimed debut album, Black Tide, as a collective, they are still in their relative infancy. However, they each have a wealth of experience in their previous outfits.
They comprise Mick White (ex-Samson & First Strike) on vocals, ex-YaYa Ray Calcutt on guitar, Pete Lakin (ex-Double Cross and Dante Fox) on the ivories, ex-Blood Red Saint Rob Naylor on bass and Daz Lamberton (ex-Red White & Blues) on the skins.
This being only their fourth gig, it was discernible how far they had advanced from May’s live debut. Chatting to other attendees prior to the performances, many stated just how much they were looking forward to catching them.
The atmospheric intro tape gave way to Daz’s huge booming drums as Ray’s guitar soared gloriously atop Pete’s lavish keyboards as they launched into What Do You Know About Love?
It’s pretty much a template that all that followed, and let’s not forget Rob’s propelling yet flowing bass.
Initially, Mick was pretty low in the mix, but the sound engineer was on the ball and by the time we arrived at the first of many huge choruses, the vocals were back where they rightfully belonged, loud and proud, leading the rich three-way harmonies.
The driving rhythm of A Love Unjustified certainly grabbed the attention of the continuing flow of (late-ish) arrivals. The stage became bathed in a swirling mix of incandescent dry ice enveloping Ray as he unleashed a simply breathtaking solo.
Things eased up on the third single, Emily, but still peaked on each huge emotive chorus.
The impelling riff of album closer Sleeping In The Fire saw things reignite.
My oh my, did Mick let rip here. Live, he has a tone similar to Steve Overland, but to my lugs, I would say with the capacity to reach even higher. The number continued to build, with Ray surpassing his previous efforts as it powered towards its eargasmic conclusion.
Having got their ears in, the audience were now digging this.
“This one’s a ballad.” Pete’s lush piano on the gargantuan Kiss Me (As I Say Goodbye) transports you back to the halcyon of the ’80s. By its title alone, I’m sure a good few of you can already imagine just how it sounds with a hook so enormous you can plant a flag on top of it and call it Everest.
One can imagine many musicians across the genre thinking, Damn, wish I’d written that.
The titular Black Tide sees things take a darker turn. A slower traipse that ventures into harder territory as the subject mandates. The grinding riffs appear to ‘hang’, the delayed fade accentuating the menacing mood.
“This is one of our favourite songs off the album.” I would imagine those who have invested in or streamed the album feel the same.
Referring to my notes, in which I remarked, “Too Busy”. Too busy relishing and losing myself in the fabulous melody of Midnight Rendezvous to make any more notes, that is.
Upon its close, however, I did manage to scribble ‘Adored the way the keys and guitar combined in the most sumptuous coda.’ You’ve gotta live in the moment haven’t you?
Acknowledging the infectious nature of the majority of their songs, Mick quipped, “You’ll be singing this.” Sure enough, set closer, One Step Forward was my overriding earworm, even a good few days after the event.
I would say that the evening’s song order contributed to this more impacting set. That, plus the increasing musical familiarity and chemistry of the individual talents, greatly increased their cohesion.
A perfect choice to open for Romeo’s Daughter, White Skies grasped their opportunity, delivering a most impressive 45-minute set and making a host of new friends in the process.