If this was your first taste of Thunder then you could have been forgiven for thinking you’d just walked into an oversized local where a gang of friends and family were cheering on their old favourites before a whip round to cover the beer.
That’s no reflection on the music because this was arena-quality rock blasted out without a note out of place and a lavish light show to boot. No, why this show appeared so intimate, so familiar and so fine was down to a five-piece who are so in tune with their audience it’s as if they’ve grown up with the people five, 10 and 15 rows back.
Some of us have grown up with Thunder of course. Some of us remember hearing Dirty Love for the first time on Alan Robson’s Rock Show and buying the shaped vinyl the very next week. And some of us just keep coming back for more.
The thing with Thunder is that it’s impossible to recall a bad gig. Whether playing on the same bill as Def Leppard at the Don Valley Stadium in 1993, in front of a few hundred at any number of UK club venues in the late 1980s or in front of a steaming hot City Hall audience in 2008 the quality never diminishes.
Hearing Danny Bowes sing Love Walked In now is no different to hearing the same song live 20 years ago. Watching Luke Morley twist his fingers around the fretboard during Dirty Love now is like watching him tackle his Gibson two decades ago. But then Thunder don’t simply trade on their glorious past – which they’d be perfectly entitled to do.
No, On The Radio, Stormwater and Carol Ann were all culled from latest long player Bang! and none felt out of place alongside the band’s anthemic standards. Incredibly the Thunder family knew these as well as any past triumph.
It wouldn’t be whipping up a storm of controversy to suggest an epic version of Higher Ground was the evening’s highlight. But then this was a gig so surreal that every song was greeted with unbridled joy by a crowd which clearly eats, drinks and sleeps Thunder.
And talking of sleep – does Danny get an average of 20 hours a day? If not it is simply impossible to explain the energy he expends in around 100 minutes of manic showmanship. Not for Mr Bowes the backstage rub downs and regular exits beloved of so many (often younger) rock frontmen. There’s no time in a Thunder set for a drum solo from Harry or a medley from Morley. Why? Because their jack-in-a-box colleague just can’t stop commanding the stage with an almost inhuman presence.
Of course it’s that human touch which makes Thunder and their shows so special. It’s why the band will continue to pack out Newcastle City Hall annually and why we’ll keep on coming back for more. And more. And Morley. See you next time.