Saturday evening saw Myke Gray make a welcome return to Wolverhampton, but this time, his focus was entirely on Skin, and he was suitably assisted by a most accomplished collection of musicians.
Myke Gray – Skin
KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 19 August 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
There seems to be a special atmosphere at KK’s weekend gigs. Thus, it was no surprise to discover that a flurry of late sales saw the event upgraded to The Big Room.
As the intro tape of Francis Albert’s take on the Cole Porter classic I’ve Got You, Under My Skin rolled, the expectation level noticeably increased.
From the instant they launched into Money, it was evident that this was going to be a forceful charge through the Skin songbook and all the treasures contained within.
It struck me during Spit On You just how expansive the sound was, and at this intensity, I fear for the structural integrity of the more compact venues on this short tour.
With a foot atop the drum riser, Myke puffed his cheeks out as he cued up Born To Rock ‘n’ Roll. That brief respite was essential as the number became an adrenaline-fuelled sprint.
House Of Love finally saw the audience hit the same stride as the band, not only in the vocal accompaniment but they were now ‘dancing in the aisles’.
“You sound fantastic,” remarked Daniel as another hit in the form of Raised On Radio was aired. Some audience members latched onto Neil’s mid-song drum pattern straight outta ‘We Will Rock You’, his face illuminating as more joined in.
It was quite appropriate that they should now slow things down. “Many of these songs have different meanings for different people. This is one of them.” Stronger had a beautiful, subtle, contemporary country feel to the arrangement.
Maintaining that theme of interpretation, Which Are The Tears saw Myke wring every last drop of emotion out of his solo. Soul was declared as one of the band’s favourites to play live.
“Have you brought your singing voices with you?” As if Look But Don’t Touch needed any introduction. For many, I’m sure, it is the highlight of the set.
Colourblind led into Take Me Down To The River, which culminated in a galloping finale. The emotive Don’t Give Up On Life was performed live for the very first time.
Tower Of Strength was one of those incomparable occasions whereby the band and the audience were swept along in the impassioned intensity of the number, each feeding off the other. The Wolverhampton choir was in mighty fine voice. As Dewey Finn might say, “The Majesty of Rock.”
Restoring the momentum, Shine Your Light brought the main set to a close.
Myke returned to the stage and performed the sincerest introductions, and thanks to the remainder of the band, the crew and, of course, the fans who had stood by him down the years.
A friend remarked that this would be a four-song encore, and sure enough, he was spot on.
As power ballads go, I would go so far as to say that Wings Of An Angel even surpassed the earlier Tower Of Strength. Dan pitched this perfectly with so much clarity in his voice, with Myke unleashing another soaring solo that a song of this magnificence merits.
How Lucky You Are and Perfect Day followed before the evening’s proceedings were brought to a frantic close with the totally gonzo Unbelievable.
Myke has assembled an exceedingly talented, tight-knit and settled unit that injected a renewed vivacity into a 1-hour 45-minute set full of classics and rarities, transporting much of the audience back to the ’90s in the process.
In Daniel Byrne, he has found a ‘soul brother’ who is not only increasing in confidence as a frontman but as a vocalist is fully at ease with all the material while his voice is unfaltering right across the range.
Stood before Glenn Quinn on rhythm guitar, I can testify that he is the perfect foil for Myke, providing the unheralded but essential crunch and the link to Colin Parkinson’s flamboyant, propulsive bass.
Drummer Neil Ogden’s synergy with Colin and Glenn provided so much oomph that you could feel all those lower frequencies impacting your sternum.
While I had high hopes for this event, the reality saw these expectations surpassed in stunning fashion. The sight of the cheesy grins all around at the close led to the realisation that many more felt the same.
One wonders what the future may hold for this chapter and whether a new one will be created. On this form, it would be a shame if there wasn’t.