And if ever an act warranted a 61-track live retrospective then the chaps formerly known as Terraplane are that act.
Thunder, as anyone who ever saw the band on stage, belonged to the live arena. Slick performers and consummate entertainers they barely played a bad show and with the release of Live At The BBC (1990-1995) that point is well and truly proved. Read on for the full review.
Thunder – Live At The BBC (1990-1995) (EMI)
There are certain bands born to play live and others better suited to creating studio masterpieces. Thunder delivered their fair share of cracking albums over the years but there is absolutely no doubt that the Londoners fall into the former category.
When news of the band’s decision to quit (for a second time) filtered through in 2009 it was an announcement which moved grown men to tears. For in two triumphant spells, separated by two long-lost years, Thunder established themselves as one of the best live bands British rock has ever produced.
This six-CD retrospective covers the glory years when, as a new and exciting blues rock combo, Thunder rode on the back of the hair metal years before surviving anything and everything that grunge could throw at them. For the five years covered by this cracking collection Danny Bowes, Luke Morely et al were driven by a burning ambition to realise their potential and a steely determination to conquer the rock world.
Annoyingly, in this day and age of technical wizardry, the failure to package together the band’s defining December 1990 Hammy Odeon set on one CD means a stilted start to a bold project. Ten tracks into a cracking gig you’re forced to flip to CD2 to hear the closing Until My Dying Day and Dirty Love – after that you get four tunes from Wembley Arena’s Great British Music Weekend a month later. Bizarre but let’s not be overly critical too soon.
Once that little blip’s past a fantastic array of live jewels awaits. Thunder’s Monsters Of Rock appearance in 1992 is simply awesome and, at a time when second album Laughing On Judgement Day was just two days away, tunes from that disc are prominent. Low Life In High Places, in particular, is spine tingling stuff and Everybody Wants Her isn’t far behind.
Moving on to the summer of 1993 and another of Thunder’s finest moments is captured in all of its raw glory. If this is a remaster of the original recording then it’s difficult to imagine how poor the original tapes really were but the band still sound remarkably accomplished at a sell-out Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.
On a bill with Terrorvision and Ugly Kid Joe, before headliners and hometown heroes Def Leppard, the boys were on top form on a sweltering day, rifling through a 12-track set wrapped up by A Better Man instead of the traditional Dirty Love. A change from the norm but a positive one nonetheless.
CD5 brings the band back to London and a very different set from that which marked their second coming. Tracks like River Of Pain, Moth To The Flame, Ball And Chain and Stand Up rarely rank among fans’ favourites but right here they sound as good as anything Thunder ever rolled out. The recent deluxe reissue of top five album Behind Closed Doors (home of the above) has forced critics to re-evaluate a record never truly appreciated but always worthy of note. This live set does wonders for its reputation.
And so to the final disc of session rarities and a chance to hear Thunder slumming it in the BBC studio environment. Three versions of Low Life In High Places (Tommy Vance 1992, Nicky Campbell 1992 and Johnny Walker 1993) do start to grind but other than that the session versions of Backstreet Symphony (three of these too – but we can never get enough of this Thunder classic) and a brilliant romp through Castles In The Sand (Kevin Greening 1995) make CD6 a fitting finale.
If Thunder’s your thing this is a nostalgia trip worth reliving time and time again. And even if you were never truly taken in by the unique charms of Mr Bowes this is a rare study in live perfection which every rock fan should hear. And right now this is the closest you’ll get to a much missed UK institution.
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Live Forever