Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gig review - Steve Harris British Lion in Brighton

Just recently I have been concerned that Steve Harris may feel like he is stuck in some kind of Groundhog Day scenario. Having just completed the latest run of the Maiden England tour with Iron Maiden he's gone straight back out on the road with his other project British Lion, playing the Brighton Concorde club last night (Wednesday 9 July). Having said that, any amount of repeat gigs is a better investment of time than making music videos. The British Lion offering is poor.

Which gives me a good excuse to include this:

First indulge me in a brief Iron Maiden observation. We were promised a new album this year; then we were told there would be a brief tour to visit the places missed in 2013. But there would be changes to set list to make up for it, in the end they dropped Afraid to Shoot Strangers and SONG, replacing them with Wrathchild and Revelations, two of the most unimaginative songs they could have picked. There were at least 8 other songs that could have filled the hole, which haven't been played recently. But I'm digressing.

Back to Brighton. The Concorde club is right on the seafront and after a 30 minute stroll downhill from the station we gave our names at the door and in we went. It's the first time I've had to give my name rather than a ticket, it made me feel very exclusive!

The set out of the hall is slightly odd. In the front half a bar, with a screen so you can watch the band (obviously able to hear) and then through a doorway to the section with the stage. About 10 metres across and 40 long, the traffic of people back and forth to the bar and inevitably toilet is brisk. The atmosphere was slightly reduced by the fact that a) it was still light halfway through the set and some of the blackout blinds hadn’t been pulled right down and b) someone had overheated to the point that the door on the side of the building was opened, which led to bemused locals staring in as they walked along the prom.

Support band Raven Age were already on stage when we arrived, which was unfortunate, because it would have been better to miss them. It's a cruel booking for them, giving them hope of kind future in the music business. They could have been virtually any other generic metal band. No fizz, no spark, not great presence. I think this might be the last we hear of them.

Then on to the main event. The immediate difference from last time I saw British Lion in London is the t-shirts. There is a mix of bands, but Maiden still dominates. A couple of British Lion 2013 tour shirts are available to buy from the merchandise table, clearly not selling as well as hoped. Having said that, from the start there is a hard core at the front who are really into the band, not in a way dissimilar to how Maiden fans behave. Whether that’s the British Lion effect or the Steve Harris effect I don’t know. A new addition from last year is a chant of “British Lion ole, ole, ole” to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

The band has only been together for a few days after Maiden finished the latest run of their tour, and it shows. The instrumentals aren’t tight, and during Lost World especially at the start of the show it sounds like passages have been forgotten and are being improvised. There were other moments where especially the blonde guitarist seems to have lost his way slightly. The singers voice was also a concern, as he introduced the band towards the end of the show he is noticeably hoarse, which would be a concern for the following night in Folkestone as well as moving forward on the tour.

It’s hard to gauge the quality of the sounds, because the layout of the room, curved ceilings, pillars and the location of the sound desk mean that it’s never going to be great. Having said that the mix was muddy throughout, it was hard to distinguish between the guitars, and the bass at times was overpowering everything else. There were also real issues with the acoustic guitar, which the singer uses during a couple of songs. Half the time it wasn’t clear that it was actually plugged in!

Having said all this, it was still a good evening. Good songs, played in front of an appreciative audience, with passable acoustics. If the singer can make his voice last and Steve’s fingers don’t fall off from too much plucking off strings, it’ll be another successful tour. And even if they can’t, around 50% of the audience only go so take picture and video of Steve Harris, so I doubt they’d care or even notice.

And anyway, you never want Harris to read a bad review, in case he gets angry!

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