Black Smoke Trigger haven’t come all the way from New Zealand to die wondering. The four-piece know how to be a hard rock band – and we should probably add the word “Arena” in front of that too.

Everything they do screams “ready”. They swagger from the moment that they start with “Way I’m Wired”. They are confident, they are classy – and in the case of guitarist Charlie Wallace they have some Slash-style poses.

Whether it is from the debut album, like “Proof Of Life” or from the forthcoming new record, like “The Way Down” there’s a swagger. The best way of putting it is Black Smoke Trigger look like proper rock stars.

With proper songs too. One’s like “Blindfolds And Rattlesnakes” or the ballad “Perfect Torture”.

Only given half an hour to impress, Baldrick, the singer in the classic mould, sets about making new friends, and with tracks like “K.M.T.L” it’s not hard to see why they appear to do just that.

With a new album due in the summer, it feels like now could be the time for BST.

Earlier this year Bruce Dickinson announced his solo live return. It’d been a while. He’s been busy.

As far as MV can recall it’s been over 25 years since he’d last played Wolverhampton. The Chemical Wedding Tour had come in that period when he wasn’t one of Eddie’s Boys, and he’d played a few songs from his former- and now of course current – band.

There’s none of that here and if you’re looking for that you’ll be disappointed – and I suspect that Dickinson wouldn’t care.
Not for nothing does it start with “Accident Of Birth”. “Welcome home. It’s been too long” indeed.

And Bruce has the fire. There’s no sense that he’s scaled back for the scaled-down show. He’s a fantastic, theatrical frontman.

“Abduction” is another from his post-Skunkworks era, and if he’d said he wasn’t doing anything from that album then “Faith” proves him to be a liar.

The reason for this jaunt other than “cos I can” is the brand new “The Mandrake Project” album. Its standout moments are here. “The Afterglow Of Ragnarok” underlines its class.

It also underlines that Dickinson’s solo stuff is heavier than you think, “Many Doors To Hell” is all about energy, “Resurrection Men” menace (as well as Dickinson thumping bongos for all he’s worth) and “Rain On The Graves” lurks gloriously in the shadows.

This feels more like a band too. Flamboyant Keyboards Man Mysterio even has a Keytar at points, and they all stretch themselves on “Frankenstein” (a cover of the Edgar Broughton Band).

Brilliantly there’s a delve back to the mid-90s for the ever-glorious “Tears Of A Dragon”, Chris de Clerk handles the solo with ease too, before the “Darkside Of Aquarius” ends the set and proves a mastery of heavy metal which they make seem effortless.

The encore is a long affair. A big ballad “Navigate The Seas Of The Sun” is a pleasant surprise, because it really stands out, and “All The Young Dudes” is dusted off and sees Dickinson caught out in a lie twice as he’d said he wasn’t going to play anything off his first solo record “Tattooed Millionaire” (“well Mott The Hoople are from up here” he smiles).

It improves his mood too. Let’s be honest here, he’d been a bit of a grumpy Bruce and didn’t appear to enjoy the venue too much. That said, “Book Of Thel” is epic and “The Tower” thunders.

Continuing the honesty theme: Bruce Dickinson does not have to play this show. He needs to, though and that’s very different.

This music is in his blood and these songs belong to him, perhaps more than most. He and the other five play them brilliantly here.

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