Wraith, Snakecharmer, Bonfire
Bonfire are co headlining this event with Snakecharmer but the opening act will be Nottingham’s very own 80’s rockin’ merry men Wraith. The band formed by Greg Russell in 1988 and financed initially at the time by Rhythm guitarist Scott Cary and if my memory serves me well Paul Birch (owner of famed UK label FM Revolver) sent us their self financed debut single “Lonely" to promote. That was back in the day when you put the needle in the groove and fans bought records but if you plant a poppy in a poppy field it’s not gonna get noticed. Uk rockers had quite a task living in the shadows of the US scene but Wraith were a very popular British act with a loyal fan base. They had LEMMY KILLMEISTER (Motorhead) singing backing vocals on the debut album “DANGER CALLING” which was also mixed by Pete Way (UFO) and Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy). Roll on the years and several album releases ,line up changes and major support tours later Wraith reformed and released the “Evolution “ album in 2007. Lead vocalist Myke Barker has promoted this event and we must say for a debutant he has done a very professional job. A brief meeting and a cold beer from the fridge in the dressing room prior to the gig showed a man pretty stressed and in demand for freebie passes but once he took to the stage he became the frontman and back in his comfort zone.
They kicked off with two songs from the 1996 Skizoprhenia album and although a little nervous before the show, on stage Wraith were pretty much rock solid to the ear of the fan. If anything Wraith are better now than ever, maybe it’s the maturity of the members but by the time they had performed “Human Zoo” and “Get What I Want” From the 1993 “Riot” album even those waiting for Snakecharmer joined in with the diehard Wraith crowd to applaud a very competent set so far. Barker looked like he had been influenced by Rod Stewart with his white mic stand constantly been tossed around stage as he continued to throw some cool rock shapes combined with a good rapport with a crowd now swelling. Now they may not be Motley Crue and don’t have a song up there with “Girls Girls Girls” but not to be out done they finish with “Crazy” from the “Riot” album and invite two ladies on stage known as “Hell On High Heels”. Basically these girls specialize in Synchronized pole dancing but nestled in between Wraith they would certainly stand out in any Poppy field and added to the show that was a celebration of Wraith’s history and present. In summary we were pleasantly surprised by Wraith. If you missed them first time around make sure you check them out live.
Having ran into an old friend Pete Dutton of STS Touring (left) we knew the sound quality would be spot on. It would be a challenge sonically in the lower Hertz of the frequency range because you can’t fit an ice cream wafer in between the Kick drum of Harry James (Thunder/Magnum) and the Bass guitar of Neil Murray. That was the first notable quality but something we have come to appreciate over the years. Neil has never been one for trying to be flash or hogging the limelight, infact you could stand him on a beer create and he wouldn’t fall off, he swings from side to side like a pendulum and you could set your clock by both him and James they are so tight. This leaves great head room for the mid range and former Whitesnake favourite Micky Moody exploits it with his slide guitar technique that was a signature on many a classic Whitesnake song. His partner in crime tonight on lead and rhythm guitar was Laurie Wiseman who spent over a decade in Wishbone Ash and occasionally him and Moody would treat us to a few lead harmony guitar melodies, He’s recently been playing with Murray in the long hit Queen musical “We Will Rock You” Or as Neil called it after the show “The day Job”. It was a while before we even got to any Whitesnake songs as Snake Charmer to their credit opened up with some tunes from their excellent debut album, for me this was very instrumental in making this band current; with new songs comes the joy of creativity, there’s a freshness of taking these new babies out on the road and sharing them with the audience. Having not seen Snake Charmer live prior I must say that the moment Chris Ousey (Heartland) belted out “Accident Prone” and “My Angel” you just knew that this rock n roll jigsaw was complete. Very reminiscent of Paul Rodgers both in the look with the vest and the tonal qualities that did give the band a Bad Company vibe and whoever chose him for the band should take a bow - a very smart move. What Micky and Neil didn’t need was a Coverdale clone because that would put them in the tribute act mode, Tawny Kitaen striding across David’s white Jaguar in the video “Is this Love” was a total different era and direction and nobody can argue with the album sales of what’s known as Whitesnake 87 but the likes of Moody, Marsden and Murray had help establish the Whitesnake brand with Gold albums and many world tours and that my friends should never be forgotten. We have enjoyed all that the band had to offer even enjoyed Coverdale in Deep Purple but let’s not go that far back we would need Doctor Who’s tardis to come back.
They may have lost the rights to the name but have lost none of the passion for playing these gems and “Walking in the Shadow Of The Blues” cut through the Nottingham air like an Arrow from Robin Hood. Vocals, although not as ballsy on songs such as “Slow and Eazy” had a sweet spot that was pleasant on the ear. Moody’s slide guitar prowess was unleashed on the audience with a guitar solo and it was a perfect intro into “Slide It In”. A good song will outlive its composer and rather than becoming an anvil you carry around those early Whitesnake gems are still relevant and awesome in 2013. “Here I go Again” was another song that went down well with the Rock City audience who really appreciated this very polished set. We got the feeling talking to the band after the show that this was a band that were loving the music and each other’s company, there was a camaraderie present off and on stage that gelled these guys together. With more festivals to come and speaking with their management it would seem that if the demand is there Snake Charmer will play, so any promoters out there looking for a great traditional rock act should get in touch. The line up was completed by Adam Wakeman on keyboards who really produced an authentic 70’s John Lord Hammond organ sound. He’s a much sort after musician who has been playing with Ozzy and has co wrote and performed on the latest Sabbath album “Scream”. He told us after the show that the record company was so worried about piracy that they flew someone to the studio to collect the master tapes. Snake Charmer are a band we will definitely be checking out again - an excellent set.
Well, halfway through the Snake Charmer set the Bailey Brothers were in agreement that this was gonna be a hard act to follow but after a few fags and Vodka’s Clause Lessmann led the German rockers out to a warm British welcome. Bonfire are playing their only UK date this year and although they had a few big songs of their own such as “ Sweet Obsession” from the 87 Fireworks album, “Ready 4 Reaction” and “ SDI” were two classics but they were always gonna struggle to surpass what had gone before such as “Fool For Your Lovin”. Never the less the set had some classic quotes from Claus as he tried to engage with the fans going on about the war and how they couldn’t compete with those great classic Whitesnake songs but talked for way too long in between songs. At one point the drummer just counted the band in and the song began whilst Claus was still waffling (talking too much).
Bonfire have a large UK following and they were enthusiastic throughout the set that included some tasty guitar from Hans Zilla. Bonfire have a sound that is distinctive to the German rockers, heavy riffs and melodic vocal lines has been a formula that has always been successful for Bonfire and the reason they remain a band worth seeing when you get the opportunity. Prior to the gig Claus told us that the first time we interviewed him he couldn’t understand our Northern Yorkshire accents and that we were laughing and joking all the time, well we still are but he can understand us now as we asked him how the music scene had changed for Bonfire in Germany? “Well we are looking forward to playing to 5,000 fans in our home town, we have had to play more shows in Eastern Europe but we continue to make new Bonfire fans so that is good” he was really happy to be playing to the UK fans again and it was good to see the band have lost none of the charm that won them so many fans over the years. As a footnote it was quite amusing when Claus was laughing and cracking jokes to the audience we could hardly understand him with his German accent but at the end of the day it’s all down to the music and tonight all three acts contributed to a really entertaining live rock experience.
Review and photos by The Bailey Brothers