Throwing together Voodoo Six and Santa Cruz (pictured) for a quick jaunt around the UK didn’t seem like the brightest idea when this bizarre double bill was first announced.
On the one hand fans could check out Iron Maiden’s arena support and the UK’s answer to latter-day Clutch – on the other a band firmly rooted in 80s hair metal right down to the perfectly coiffeured barnets and blazing solos.
However, what Voodoo Six do share with Santa Cruz – in addition to their record label – is a burning desire to entertain. Neither band turned up to go through the motions on a night when both delivered performances tailor-made to put smiles on the most cynical of faces.
In the pop metal corner Santa Cruz pushed the boundaries of cliché to the limit – imitating everyone from Appetite-era Guns N Roses to Skid Row and Poison. Johnny’s ridiculously overblown guitar solos, featuring an old school axe balanced brazenly on his bulging left thigh, were a joy to behold.
It was possible to overlook the apparent contradiction in the band’s best material – We Are The Ones To Fall and Aiming High suggest a difficult road ahead for the flying Finns – due to the sheer energy of a sensational set.
Frontman Archie evoked the spirit of a young Sebastian Bach and Bret Michaels at his endearing best with a flawless lesson in rock and roll showmanship. As a unit Santa Cruz were tighter than Johnny’s sleeveless tee – he band’s harmonised vocals were breathtaking.
Waiting in the wings Voodoo Six had it all to do. Eschewing image for biting reality and syrupy choruses for anthemic power, their furious set was the very antithesis of Santa Cruz’s addictive silliness.
Matt Pearce, last seen at the Cluny doing an acoustic turn alongside Mark Curran, went about his business in typically efficient fashion. Beanie pulled down and brow furrowed his was a performance screaming dedication, concentration and pure class.
At the opposite end of one of the tightest stages in Newcastle fellow guitar hero Chris Jones was far more flamboyant: this monster of a man ripping through the riffs that made Maiden sit up and take notice ahead of last year’s massive world tour.
Of course frontman Luke Purdie remains the focus for a band on the brink of becoming Britain’s best hard rock act for decades. Each word is worth listening to where Voodoo Six’s charismatic singer is concerned and his evolution into one of the UK’s leading performers gathers pace.
If Tony Newton had spent a little too much time aping Steve Harris it’s a minor criticism. Too many bass players remain content to stay in the shadows but Voodoo Six boast a genuine gem in the crazy-eyed rhythm king.
Take The Blame and Take Aim, from 2010’s visceral debut Fluke?, were the standout tunes on a night when the headline act refused to dip below the incredibly high standards that make them a must-see band in 2014. New single Lead Me On boasts one of the finest, brooding riffs you’ll hear all year – the live version offering a stunning contrast to the clean-as-a-whistle radio mix currently doing the rounds.
Voodoo Six have been on the brink for so long now that it seems ridiculous to reference an impending breakthrough. Those in the know already rate the bullish Brits alongside the likes of Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge and Clutch as leaders of the new breed of hard rock hero. It’s time the rest of the world caught on.