“We are, for those that don’t know” says singer Nik Taylor-Stoakes, “Voodoo Six, the eternal support band.” He’s got a point. VS formed almost 20 years ago and they’ve always been better than they’ve been given credit for. This show is special (they were late additions to this tour) as its their first gig for three years. A global pandemic will do that to a group. As “Falling Knives” begins the set, a couple of things happen. First, you can almost see the group in front of you getting their confidence back, but there’s a second – a more personal one. I remember how much I love the band, all the times I’d seen them years before and tipped them to be huge. Heavy on stuff from the brilliant “Fluke?” album, “Little Something For You” and “Take The Blame” are further reminders of its skill. Then there’s 2020’s “Simulation Game” record. A cracker, but if this the Voodoo Six’s first gig for years, then they never played it. “Gone Forever” therefore becomes the first song ever performed from that record, and it’s superb. MV favourite Matt Pearce and Tom Gentry (usually of Gun) are a fine duo on guitar and “Lead Me On” and “Electric” showcase their oft-overlooked mid-period work. In amongst it all main man Tony Newton grins his way through and drummer Joe Lazarus is a fine sticksman and this is an outfit who deserves so much more. “Your Way” plays them out, but not before Taylor-Stoakes has offered that they are the foreplay while “British Lion are the full penetration”. Maybe, but there was plenty here to get ….excited….about.
So, the “full penetration” then. Not really a kneetrembler these days, either. British Lion offer a full 90 minutes of action.
You know the back story so let’s not bore each other. Let’s just deal in brass tacks. British Lion are a fine live band. Arguably a better one on stage than on record, and the fun they have playing these songs is evident from the start.
Back out a little over a year after their last jaunt, “This Is My God” is typical of what they do. Hard rock played just because, but delivered with a real skill.
Along the way there are some fine moments. “Judas” and “Father Lucifer” are amongst them, but there’s such a refreshing reality about them. Singer Richard Taylor reckons they “sing about real life, that’s probably why the songs are so bleak!”, he laughs, but it works. “The Burning” is one rooted in truth, “Spit Fire” deals with the loss of parents and “The Chosen Ones” roots for the underdog – and it might be odd to say it, given some of the personnel here, but there’s a bit of that about them.
The band (and make no mistake about this, British Lion is a band) have a chemistry, guitarists Grahame Leslie and David Hawkins are a fine pair (the lead work is from the top draw throughout, while the rhythm section of drummer Simon Dawson and bassist Steve Harris are as good as it gets.
Along the way “Bible Black” injects some energy, there’s a live debut for “Wasteland”, which fits in well alongside the mid-paced “Us Against The World” and “Last Chance” offers the opportunity for an arena style singalong. They don’t disappoint.
“Eyes Of The Young”, which is essentially a masterclass in melodic metal, ends things as it always seems to and whilst there’s been some brilliant music tonight, what there isn’t is an encore. That’s too rock star and there’s no ego here. Not one.
In fact, as the grinning band take the adulation of the sold-out crowd, it surely wouldn’t be too much to suggest that when, a decade ago Steve Harris recorded songs for a then solo package, it was exactly this type of night he was craving. Job done, then, on every level, but British Lion are more than just fulfilling a need, they’re developing into a classy rock band.