Usually when I start with the blindingly obvious its to get it out of the way so we can discuss something interesting instead. Not here, though. Grand Slam were the band that Phil Lynott began after the demise of Thin Lizzy. That’s the boring bit. The thing is, though, watching the new look version – guitarist Laurence Archer is the only original left – the spectre of Lynott’s sound is never far away. “Hit The Ground” (their first proper release in 2019) was full of the legacy, albeit with a desire to push it forward too. “Gone Are The Days” is without a doubt their stand out moment, played first here, it is a fine example of what the band can do. Tonight playing as a five piece with FM’s Jem Davis playing keyboards, its clear that Grand Slam aren’t here just for nostalgia. “19” and the title track of “…Ground” are superb, and their take on “Dedication” is lovingly – and well – done. Mike Dyer, the band’s frontman is very much the focal point. A background in the theatre has clearly prepared him for this and he is a magnetic presence. Gelling well with Archer (who has always been an underrated guitarist) on “Crime Rate” in particular. The cover of “Military Man” is rather more prescient than anyone would want, and the dark themes in what they do are shown again in “Sisters Of Mercy”. Grand Slam are a band who have much to say, much to offer and appear ready to deliver on it all.
Being a band like FM must be a tricky thing.
Nuneaton is pretty packed by the time the intro tape they’ve had for years about welcoming the mighty FM” hits, but with that comes responsibility.
What I mean is, they’ve just released “13”. A brilliant record (and I don’t think FM know how to make a bad one to be fair) but they also know what’s expected – and that means a career spanning set.
And, as always, FM deliver. Goodness me, they are simply put, the best band of their type in the world. And for just over an hour and a half in this corner of Warwickshire, they underline that.
“Synchronised” – the title cut of their 2020 record – starts things off and it serves to remind that particular album was never really toured, but from there they are straight into “Bad Luck.” It is MV’s unshakeable belief that “…Luck” is the finest song that Bon Jovi never wrote (and is a damn site better than a lot they did!) and they double up on the classic 80s stuff with “Don’t Stop”.
But in truth it doesn’t matter what they play, they just do it so well. “Crosstown Train” sees Jim Kirkpartrick (and its difficult to imagine FM being so good without their lead guitarist) and Steve Overland do some real Thin Lizzy style guitar. That segues into “Long Road Home”, which Overland says is his “favourite song of ours for a long, long time” and which shows the new album in a brilliant light.
There’s a couple dusted off in the middle that haven’t been played for a while. “Crack Alley” in particular is impressive and shows the depth of their back catalogue, but let’s be honest, “That Girl”, I Belong To The Night” and “Tough It Out” amounts to something akin to a perfect hat-trick.
Their faith in the new album is shown by the fact that “Turn This Car Around” ends the set, and it’ll stay in the set too. Better live than on record, with its “yeah yeah” bit made for participation, this is a band playing better than ever.
And they, I’d wager, are enjoying it more than ever too. Look at Steve Overland, the best voice in rock never stops smiling here, and when he does his calling card of “Story Of My Life”, he gives a masterclass.
“Blood And Gasoline” is in the encore unexpectedly, but “The Other Side Of Midnight” is always there and always welcome.
So yes, it’s a difficult balancing act, but FM get the balance right. In fairness, though, they never get anything wrong and to watch them, honestly, is to watch the absolute Premier League of melodic rock.