Steel Panther / The Treatment – Glasgow O2 Academy

Steel Panther
Steel Panther (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[sets on Flickr of The Treatment and Steel Panther]

Amazingly, the day before the gig Steel Panther announced another tour in November with tickets on sale on Friday. With their recent opening slot for Def Leppard/Motley Crue and a performance at Download coming up you can’t fault their work-rate. Pretty damn good for a band a lot of people classed as a novelty cover act not too long ago.

Openers The Treatment weren’t too bad. A young bunch of upstarts from down south with all the bottle needed to get a crowd interested in them. They really looked the part with all the poses, bouncing, jackets, flash guitars and so on. The music wasn’t half bad and after the first couple of tracks my foot was tapping. It took me a while to find anything about them online – the name doesn’t make it easy to Google – but if you want to sample some of their stuff then check out their MySpace page.

Steel Panther bounced on stage (despite their creaky ages – Michael Starr‘s 50-ish years is constantly referred to throughout the set) around nine o’ clock and launched into a cracking set of songs from both albums. Starr has a cracking voice and in Satchel they have an incredibly talented guitarist. Drummer Stix Zadinia (*childish giggle*) is no slow poke either, and also a dab hand on the keyboards. It’s always hard to rate bassists especially with the mushy sound you get at the Academy, but Lexxi Foxxx at least looks the preening part.

Steel Panther
Steel Panther (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Despite being just off the lower floor area, we had a cracking view of all the action. They easily had the energy of the younger opening band, and a sense of humour more appropriate for an early teenager. Nob gags, blow-job miming, constant cries of “boobies!”, painful segues into each track – all of this made for a highly entertaining 90 minutes. If there was anything missing it was [name song here].

As ever, when a band has a decent amount of material to pick from, they always have to skip some stuff. In my opinion I’d hoped for “Stripper Girl” and “The Shocker”. Although I bet that there was one guy in the crowd who was more disappointed than me at the lack of the latter – he’d gone to all the trouble of dressing up for it!

The set passed in no time at all, including a couple of songs for an encore. The teenage part of me loved them grabbing girls from the audience to dance on stage for them and – surprise – one of them flashed the audience. I’m sure she’ll love that one cropping up all over Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube…

We legged it right after the gig to dodge the crowd and because Wendi had to drive home. As it turned out, the band left the venue while the crowd were still outside to sign autographs and get pictures taken. Great to hear that they’re still very much in touch with the people who are spending hard-earned cash to put them where they are. There aren’t that many bands that will still do that in this day and age.

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Bowling For Soup / People on Vacation – Glasgow Oran Mor

Bowling For Soup / People on Vacation
Bowling For Soup / People on Vacation (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Full set of pictures on Flickr]

Bowling For Soup are a great band in many ways, but one thing I really love is the way they tour twice a year. Once as a full band, and once as a two-piece acoustic pairing featuring Jaret Reddick and Erik Chandler. This is the third time I’ve seen any band at the Oran Mor and, perhaps as a coincidence, they’ve all been humorous acts. The others were Hayseed Dixie and Amateur Transplants.

Erik opened the night with a solo set featuring tracks from his EP “Writing The Wrongs”, which we bought from the merch stand. A good enough set, and he’s a great guy on stage. Funny, quick-witted and entertaining. There were only a few songs, and it was often hard to hear him over the buzz of conversation from those who weren’t bothered about his set.

The second act were People on Vacation, a side-project of Jaret and Ryan Hamilton of Smile Smile. Again, they’ve got a good line in banter and some decent songs to while away the time until the headliners (that’d be Jaret and Erik again) came on. Their style is a little different from BfS, and it’s nice to see someone stretching themselves a little wider musically. As luck would have it, they were bundling their EP in with Erik’s so we got both for a tenner.

Bowling For Soup / People on Vacation
Bowling For Soup / People on Vacation (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

The two Soup lads were on stage moderately early with a 10:30 curfew (which they ran over), and video cameras poised to record them for a DVD. Whether this was unique to Glasgow or not I don’t know, but the performance was a good one, so fingers crossed they make use of some of the footage at least.

As they stated on stage, Bowling For Soup have a hell of a catalogue of songs. As such, there’s no real set list when they do these acoustic gigs. Instead, the boys have a “cheat sheet” listing all their stuff and they do react to suggestions from the crowd (or at least appear to!). Tracks played went as far back as “Running From Your Dad” and “Emily” and as recent as “Turbulence” which really suits the acoustic sound.

Of course, there were favourites  such as “Girl All The Bad Boys Want”, “Punk Rock 101” and set-ender “1985”. As ever, there are always more songs that it would have been great to hear but with under ninety minutes and some great between-songs banter (including discussion of their discovery of the Scots words “honking” and “pish”), there was no way they’d play every single one.

They were, though, superb. As ever, it seems there will be a full band tour in October to look forward to and if they continue to sell out these acoustic tours then I guess we can look forward to another in a year or so’s time.

Great guys, great music and a great value gig. If you’re not into loud rock music, but like good entertainment from some people who don’t take themselves too seriously, it’s a great tour to catch.

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Black Stone Cherry – Glasgow O2 Academy

Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

[Full set of pictures is available on Flickr]

Four months after their show-stealing support slot for Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry returned to Glasgow to play their own headliner at the O2 Academy. The gig was a complete sell-out as evidenced by the nightmare we had parking in the streets around despite getting there fairly early (8-ish) after a nice dinner out at “ask”.

I guess a fair few people had made the effort to get there for doors opening so that they could catch the support act, Rival Sons. Recently signed to Earache after releasing their own debut album digitally, the band seem to have gained a decent following and a good portion of the crowd was cheering each song.

Frankly, though, I don’t know why. They were awful. Slow, boring, widdly, no charisma, no stage presence, dull songs… I couldn’t think of anything positive to say about them. In fact, I thought they’d learned a lesson from Alter Bridge in not having a support band blow you off stage by deliberately getting a crap one.

In fairness, their music just wasn’t my kind of thing. If I had to pigeon-hole them then I’d start throwing band names like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and (someone else mentioned this) White Stripes around. All decent enough bands, but none of which I’d really say I like. As ever, they weren’t helped by the awful sound mix. Every time the singer tried to talk to the crowd, the guitarist would be widdling away. Even quietly, his notes would drown out every word – a common problem at the Academy.

They did seem to divide the crowd. I heard two kinds of comments – “they were brilliant” and “they sucked balls”. Did anyone think they just fell somewhere in the middle?

Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

Anyway, earlier than I’d usually expect a band to appear, Black Stone Cherry strode on stage at nine and kick-started an excellent ninety minute set.

Barely pausing for breath, they must have made it through half a dozen tracks before Chris Robertson talked to the crowd… and then plunged into another medley. Song after song ploughed through the crowd as the band looned about like a bunch of teenagers play-acting in a garage.

Musically, they are simply superb. Incredibly tight, not a note wrong and with a huge amount of energy. Robertson himself was the most stationary (even moreso than drummer John Fred Young who must have spent a quarter of the gig on his feet), though did stand on a monitor now and again. Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon, however, were all over the shop. Name a stereotypical “rock pose” and they pulled it at some point.

I don’t think they failed to play a single good song from any of their albums, although they did – technically – fail to sing one. “Things My Father Said” was performed vocally 100% by the crowd, with the band settling for musical accompaniment.

My facebook and Twitter feeds are full of deserved praise for Black Stone Cherry after the gig and it’s deserved. However, if I may be contentious, I still think that Shinedown pip them so far as “gig of the year”, with the exception of Rammstein which is just on another level.

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Review: The Dead by Charlie Higson

The Dead
The Dead by Charlie Higson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely superb. I found the first book (The Enemy) a little slow going, trying to be a little too large in scale. This second in the series is a bit more focussed and significantly better for it.

There’s no escaping the gore and bad language. This is a young adults’ book with the emphasis on “adult”. Don’t expect all the characters to survive, either. As Higson made clear in the first book, nobody is safe! This makes the book all the better as it’s very difficult to work out who’ll make it to the end.

The final couple of chapters tie up with the first novel (the events in this one take place – up until that point – prior to The Enemy) nicely without spoiling that book too much if you’ve not read it.

A very good read and highly recommended. And as a bonus, you don’t have to have read The Enemy to enjoy it. I’m going to have to get hold of The Fear now!

View all my reviews

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Safe House

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsHaving not been to the cinema for around 2 months, Gillian and I managed to get through enough work at the weekend to free up a couple of hours after we’d put Little Mister to bed. Checking the times, we plumped for:

Safe House

“Time’s a-wasting. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Spy comes in from the cold to a frosty reception

See it if you like: Very slow-boiling spy thrillers. VERY slow.

The quote above is very apt as the film really is a waste of time. Lots of it. Or at least so it seems after the opening 20 minutes or so. I actually thought it was nearer 2.5 hours long than the actual 2 hours when we left.

OK, so step back and what’s it about? Ryan Reynolds – man of the moment – plays Matt Weston, a new CIA employee. In the equivalent role of a filing clerk, he’s charged with looking after a “safe house“; a location that can be used to stash an agent or prisoner away from prying eyes without anyone knowing where they are. This particular safe house is in Johannesburg which acts as our main setting for the film.

The opening is very cloak and dagger as Denzel Washington‘s Tobin Frost sets the scene as the rogue agent with some kind of secret file that the bad guys want to get their hands on. He ends up in the hands of the CIA who place him in Weston’s safe house… which turns out not to be so safe after all.

The film never quite reaches “buddy buddy” status – Weston and Frost are on opposite sides of the table, so to speak – but Frost does spend his time alternating between treating Weston like crap and trying to convince him that his bosses are the bad guys. Thing is, it’s just so damn slow getting to the point.

Weston has a romance with a French girl who lives locally and if anyone can tell me what the film would be missing (other than about 15 minutes of footage) if she wasn’t in it, please let me know. I honestly can’t figure out why they bothered.

The set action pieces are quite good, though the car crashes (bar the initial daytime chase) actually get a little repetitive. The ending, without giving anything away, isn’t exactly a shock either. The plot has about as many twists and turns as a NASCAR track. You couldn’t see the “surprise” revelation of the evil mastermind more clearly in advance if it was spray-painted fluorescent pink and had a big sign above its head.

This may have been better if it ran for 90 minutes instead of 120, but the story would still have been dull.

Not one to scramble to see before it gets withdrawn from theatres for DVD release. In fact, skip the DVD as well.

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