Cradling his cut-price bottle of Carlsberg, propping up the bar and only allowing the very tip of his trademark neck tattoo to creep above his collar, Ginger almost went unnoticed as the Electric Boys rifled through their Think Tank set.
There was no special guest slot for the Wildhearts’ frontman, no desire to be the centre of attention and the South Shields lad almost sneaked out without a word – only for one eagle-eyed fan to grab a selfie prior to the headliners’ encore.
Who knows why the local favourite left before the brilliant All Lips N Hips brought the house down? It had only just gone 10pm, after all. But what Ginger did see confirmed the belief that Conny Bloom and co. are better than ever at delivering their funk-tinged pop metal 26 years after that first, fantastic single caught the attention of tastemakers on both sides of the Pond.
Of course it’s always handy as the headline act if your warm up band is the business. And Bad Touch continue to fly the flag for the new breed of British classic rocker: their bluesy, rootsy rhythms and ear for a commercial killing ensuring they can keep pace with Buffalo Summer, Tax The Heat, BlackWolf et al.
Gently encouraging the handful of fans who’d had the god sense to turn up early, frontman Stevie Sparrows didn’t force it – he didn’t need to. The quality of this Norfolk quintet’s work speaks for itself and by the time Preacher piqued the interest of the growing crowd the floor belonged to the young Brits.
Perhaps lead guitarist Rob G should think about the odd smile here and there – the lad’s a serious player who could lighten up. But it’s a minor quibble. What makes Bad Touch such a bright prospect is their strength as a unit. At times they’re so tight there’s a danger they could snap.
Exit the Bad boys and enter the Electric Boys. Emerging from backstage Ginger’s eyes lit up and if the most famous rocker in the house limited himself to the odd polite clap then it was clear Bloom’s stagecraft had him transfixed. The lanky Swede with a mane to die for might have grappled with a few technical challenges but his heady fusion of neat axe work and a vocal tour de force had the Think Tank faithful wrapt.
Charismatic without holding court – Bloom did speak at some length about the lack of a UK distribution deal for new album Starflight United – the Electric Boys’ singer remains one of the most compelling figures in rock. Dominating the tight stage and hardly missing a note, the 49-year-old delivered a lesson is cool showmanship.
The classic Mary In A Mystery World, the energising Electrified and ripping rocker Rags To Riches provided the pre-encore highlights within a set that successfully spanned the band’s criminally underrated career.
Ginger was long gone by the time Bloom and co. brought an impromptu midweek party to a suitably crazy conclusion. But the man who recently sounded the death knell for Newcastle’s live music scene must have seen enough to reassess his stance.
Exclusive image by Gordon Armstrong