The second seriously rocking triple bill to hit Tyneside in three days may not have been on the scale of Alter Bridge’s Newcastle Arena shindig but the potential for another riff-fuelled night of carefree fun was crystal clear.
At least it should have been. But the North East’s rock community turned their back en masse on three of the finest live acts on the circuit. The Academy wasn’t empty but it was nowhere near full – it seemed Monday for Wednesday just wasn’t a good day.
Maybe this was an eclectic line-up too far. The mix of CrashDiet’s Motley Crue-styled sleaze, Michael Monroe’s punk-fuelled glam and Wednesday 13’s generic shock rock was ambitious to say the least and, on reflection, it didn’t quite work.
CrashDiet suffered from a typically muddy Academy sound with highlights from their fantastic Generation Wild album crushed in the face of a nightmare mix.
Only the title track from last year’s career-high record came close to reflecting the finer points of the classy Swedish quartet. Better than this frustrating set suggested, and as stylish as their retro merch, CrashDiet will be back to slay a venue near you very, very soon.
Highlight of the night was the ageless, effervescent and lithe Michael Monroe – his appetite for delivering the perfect rock show undiminished with age and his band both a musical and visual treat.
At times it was impossible to know where to look next. As Monroe wrapped those famous lips around his swinging mic, Backyard Babies guitar hero Dregen marched tirelessly across every inch of the sweat-soaked stage and Steve Conte delivered every chord with trademark effortless cool.
The antithesis to the non-stop pouting of Monroe and Dregen, bass player Sami Yaffa barely moved a muscle but his key role in this punk rock theatre was clear for all to see. Delivering all the familiar grooves and rolling out all of their best rock star moves this eye-catching quintet ruled the stage 60 sensational minutes.
On this evidence it’s little wonder Monroe’s Sensory Overdrive beat some heavyweight contenders to claim Classic Rock Magazine’s 2011 Album of the Year. Set opener Trick Of The Wrist, the superb Superpowered Superfly and the sensational ’78 – all culled from this year’s pivotal release – were the standout tracks on a night when the old classics sounded tame by comparison.
Poor Wednesday 13, occasional Murderdoll and devotee of Alice Cooper, had some act to follow. And he couldn’t quite raise his game with the pressure on.
In stark contrast to Monroe’s blazing band – all big smiles, crazy moves and zealous camaraderie – Wednesday’s sulking cohorts chose to pose rather than play with any passion. It might be part of the faux horror package but nothing beats watching a band enjoying its work. This lot looked like playing live was the biggest chore this side of tidying their rooms.
What Wednesday does bring to the party is some of the snappiest songwriting in rock. Yet like Crash Diet before him the white-faced singer’s best efforts were drowned in the sound of a wholly unsympathetic mix. And without clear intonation what is Wednesday?
Things picked up a tad with the From Here To The Hearse/Under My Wheels mash-up but any revival was brief. At times the headliners appeared to lack focus and keen to rush through their set to make the nearest pub before closing time. And that’s not what those who had bucked the trend – and paid for the privilege of witnessing a meaty Monday night triple bill – demanded.
With time ticking down towards the inevitable encore the appetite was there for one final blast. But not from the woefully below-par Wednesday. Had Mr Monroe popped up to bring us a couple more classics the sparse crowd would have gone home beaming. The realisation that it wouldn’t happen meant many of the better judges had already hit the exit.