stone-gods@ Newcastle o2 Academy, March 21 2009

If you are a young, upcoming British rock band then be warned. The bar has suddenly been raised. Lifted high above the standard previously set for live shows in this country and close to the ceiling of top quality, well crafted and cunningly catchy music.

They call themselves Gods and on this evidence four frenzied dudes with razor sharps hooks really do hail from rock heaven.

Cast your mind back, for a moment, to a time when the likes of Terrorvision, Little Angels, Thunder and The Quireboys regularly did battle for the hearts and minds of Britain’s rock youth and you begin to understand where Stone Gods are coming from. Those luminaries of the sadly missed early 90s Brit rock scene built their reputations on stages the length and breadth of the country, cajoling crowds and guaranteeing recession-busting value for money.

All four flirted with stadium success, albeit on bills dominated by the true rock monsters of the time and, given a fair crack of the whip in the face of godforsaken grunge, they could well have taken their finer work to the next level. Stone Gods should have that opportunity and it is a chance they will surely grasp with both hands.

Of course the majority of the band have been there, done it and picked up the arena tour shirt during their time with the sadly defunct Darkness. And maybe that’s why Stone Gods are such a class act, such a tight unit and such a shot in the arm for rock music in this country right now. They don’t miss a beat, don’t waste a note and never, ever appear to take their privileged position as headline act for granted.

Which is just as well considering the performance of immediate support Black Spiders. Is the Black from Black Sabbath? It could be. But then there’s as much Purple as there is Ozzy-era Sabbath in their 70s soaked blues rock. This band look like the bastard sons of industrial chord crunchers, sleaze rock slouches, Scandinavian car salesmen and werewolves on heat but throw them all together on one cramped stage and the three-pronged axe attack cuts through to the bone. It’s brilliant. Watch it, buy it, live it. Or at least listen to Woman for a start.

Stone Gods know how to pick the bands to support and now it seems they know how to find the bands to support them. Does everything these guys touch turn to gold? Tonight they not only touched the first crowd of their inaugural UK headline tour – they grabbed them by the short and curlies, tossed them from one humalong anthem to the next and left a group of thoroughly exhausted punters gasping for air.

It’s difficult to know when a Stone God becomes a rock god. And I’m not sure which is the greater deity. But frontman Richie is gradually working his way towards the top of his profession with all the confidence of a seasoned veteran. Late in the show, moments before a raucous tribute to everybody’s favourite Geordie Cheryl Tweedy, the roadie turned entertainer mentioned the likes of (Brian) Johnson, (David) Coverdale and (Paul) Rodgers. It really is no exaggeration to suggest the lead singer of the Stone Gods will one day find himself talked about in the same breath as these charismatic rock icons.

So to the tunes. More than a year old and yet still young enough to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Defend Or Die takes on a new lease of life in the live arena and Magdalen Street may ultimately vie with Lazy Bones (think Little Angels’ Sail Away) as the best British-penned rock ballad of its generation. New single Start Of Something actually failed to start very much compared to the bulk of rip-roaring standards on offer but who gave a f**k? Er, that would be nobody then.

A couple of weeks ago Hot Leg played the same venue and sold it out too. That was a good gig, this was a great one. I’m with this band. You should be too.

Simon Rushworth