Two years ago, Thunder played a strange gig in a small park next to Chepstow Castle. It probably shouldn’t have worked, but against the odds a grand time was had by all, so here we are again in the shadow of one of Britain’s most impressive piles of old rubble for an open air gig that makes other open air gigs look REALLY big.

The park in question is pretty small – a narrow little thing that stretches back a fair way. The stage is barely twenty metres wide, the skies are threatening yet more rain (hooray for British Summer!) and there’s a twenty minute queue just to get a beer. Things do not bode well, but this is the little gig that couldn’t care less what does or doesn’t bode, as long as the music is loud and the rock hands are waved with gay (or straight) abandon.

Unfortunately we miss openers Rattlesnake Remedy due to the fact that nowhere in Chepstow will cook you food before half past six. The only place that would normally do otherwise was busy cooking for a party of seventeen from the festival. As we chow down in a ridiculously posh Chinese restaurant (yes, we felt slightly out of place in our jeans and t-shirts), I vow to find the culprits and scold them. When we reach the gig the band are playing their last song, so that’s a shame. I know from past experience that they put on a damned good blues based rock show, and so have no hesitation in recommending them for the future.

After deciding we can't be arsed to queue for a beer, we settle down to watch Toby Jepson. I saw Toby a few months ago in Bristol, and was impressed by his energy, not to mention the new songs he’s come out with. Chepstow is no different, and if anything the large crowd seems to give him even more energy. “Breakdown” starts things off with a bang, before “Kicking Up Dust” stirs old memories, although without keyboards it’s much more of a hard hitting song. “Motivated” from the latest EP just about blows everyone away. It’s a superb song that would have been right at home amongst the best songs Little Angels ever did. The band the backs Toby are no slouches, noticeably Dean Howard, who shreds guitar with the best of them, pulling off some fantastic licks and solos throughout. The sound is pretty darned good, with the vocals coming through crystal clear. Old Angels fans are kept happy with the likes of “Young Gods” and “Too Much Too Young”, but songs like “Overloaded” should allow Toby to finally shake off the ghosts of the past and move forward to the successful rock career that has always seemed to be his right. He’s a natural performer and a great singer, and it’s good to have him back. He may not be a Little Angel these days, but on a wet day he brought us a little bit of heaven. Cheers, Tobe.

Whilst waiting for Thunder, I bump into Harry James, who confesses that it was him and the boys that stopped us from getting a good meal earlier. I go off Thunder a bit, but know that as soon as they play I’ll love them again. Rock and roll is indeed a fickle mistress. Unfortunately, the band no longer roll out to the strains of “Thundeerstruck” (which was perfect for chanting and clapping), but instead stick on some old toss that sounds like The Fun Lovin’ Crmininals. Oh well, it has a good beat and the crowd clap happily along for a few minutes as Harry finishes off his last fag for an hour and a half. Set opener “Loser” looks like being a permanent set addition these days, as it does the job of getting everyone bouncing and clapping like few other songs could. The band look like they’re having a good time, probably because they’re not getting rained on like the rest of us! “Oh you lovely people!” shouts Danny with a grin before launching into “Dirty Dream” and the ironically titled “What A Beautiful Day”. They bounce around the stage, getting in each others way (well, it IS a small stage) and generally having a laugh. This translates well to the crowd, who have a whale of a time despite the continuous drenching they are receiving. Over the years, Thunder’s dress sense hasn’t improved much, and they all look like dads at a wedding, an image Danny’s aerobics-lite dancing does nothing to dispel. For the next 80 minutes, Thunder blast us with quality tunes, from “Fade Into the Sun” and “I Love You More Than Rock And Roll” to “Low Life In High Places” and “Until My Dying Day”. As usual, there is a ludicrous amount of audience participation, with just about every song coming with an invitation to sing along or do odd things with our hands. Danny Bowes comes with more ham than a pig farm, injecting a bit of panto into the proceedings with his over the top gestures and urgings. Not that anyone seems to mind, though, as his every instruction is soggily followed to the letter. Just for a change, they plod off and let us shout for an encore, as if there is any doubt whatsoever that they won’t do one. We all know that they will come back on and do a lengthy version of “Dirty Love”, and this is dutifully done (as well as “River Of Pain”). The lights come up, and as we squelch home through the Welsh mud we think two things: that tomorrows crowd for UFO are going to get VERY mucky, and that we forgive Thunder for stealing our food. Let’s hope we never get fed up of being Thunderstruck.

Report & photos by Alan Holloway

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