thunderfarewell@ Newcastle City Hall, July 7 2009

If Danny Bowes survives Thunder’s farewell tour it will be some kind of minor miracle. Dodging an on-stage fire during a pyro-fuelled opening, he finished the night by diving into a heaving mass of sweaty bodies with little prospect of making it back on stage. He did, but only just. For a little bloke he’s got a big, brave heart.

This being Thunder’s final show at the Newcastle City Hall venue which has served the band so well during the past two decades, Danny was more wired than normal. Generating more energy than Sellafield on overtime, he nevertheless prevented the extended adrenaline kick from affecting his fabulous blues rock pipes and this was a vocal tour de force befitting such a big occasion. Always the consummate performer, his supreme talent will be sorely missed. And talking of consummate performers, Tyneside welcomed two of their own on stage prior to Thunder’s set as party starters Quireboys kicked off a fine night’s entertainment in typically frantic fashion. Like two kids in a sweet shop, frontman Spike and fellow Geordie Paul Guerin strutted their stuff with smiles on their faces and a steely determination in their eyes. This is a big year for the likeable rogues and City Hall showcases are opportunities not to be missed.

But miss it is exactly what keys man Keith did – to witness the birth of his daughter. And while it was toasts all round for the uber-cool Ulsterman it’s testimony to his quick-fingered class that a Quireboys gig without him lacks a certain spark these days. A rousing rendition of There She Goes Again made light of the missing member but Seven O’Clock needs that special intro – come back soon Daddy-O.

As daddies go Danny Bowes is surely the daddy of modern British blues rock and right from the start he evoked memories of Rodgers and Coverdale at their peak. The unexpected treat of Castles In The Sand allowed big mate Luke Morley to make his belated mark but from that point onwards the axeman morphed into a six-string maniac. Often content to stay in the shadow of Bowes, Thunder’s guitar maestro was in no mood to cede to his band mate at the City Hall. 

With the dangerous duo in the mood for destruction, a heaving crowd wilted in the face of rock anthem after rock anthem. But Bowes possesses a canny knack for squeezing every last ounce of passion from a bunch of rock’s most loyal fans and a rousing version of I Love You More Than Rock N Roll demanded more from the goggle-eyed punters.

A luscious rendition of Love Walked In reminded everyone present that Thunder deserved to be so much bigger than they ever were. But it is the very fact that the band is fast becoming a monster that has persuaded Bowes to walk away.

Or, more likely, run. You don’t imagine this bloke walking anywhere. His decision to mix it with the paying public during the set-closing Dirty Love was inspired, if risky. As middle-aged women who should know better wrapped themselves around the diminutive singer it seemed, for a moment, he might be lost forever. But it was the middle-aged men doing the same which proved particularly disturbing.

Bowes loved it all, lapping up the adulation before wrapping up the set. Nights like this must prey on the minds of a band calling it quits well before their sell-by date but if the aim really is to go out on a high then you can’t get much higher. Thunder claps all round.