There’s a wild rumour sweeping the nation that sleazy British hard rock is making a comeback. This show suggests it’s much more than a rumour.
Jettblack are the self-styled stadium giants fuelled by toned torsos, a major label deal and a bucket load of singalong hair metal anthems. They may still be playing clubs but had this crew come to the attention of cash rich A&R men 20 years ago their tunes would be plastered across MTV and they’d feature on Kerrang! covers for fun.
2011, however, is a tough climate for any aspiring rock gods and if Jettblack are going to justify the hype – and their Spinefarm deal – then they’re going to have to do it the hard way. That means delivering flawless sets in front of sub-100 crowds with all the enthusiasm of arena staples twice their age.
And Jettblack do just that. Mixing prima donna pouts, the cheesiest lyrics this side of a Steel Panther demo and an energy which could drive the National Grid, the oh-so-cool (in a retro 80s way) quartet are supreme showmen worthy of a bigger stage.
Sleazed-up crowd favourites Two Hot Girls, Slip It On and Get Your Hands Dirty deliver on every count, fusing pedal-powered riffs with choruses any teenage girl could recite in a flash (or with a flash). The pastiche on hair metal’s glorious heyday gathers pace whenever these guys reel off power ballad Not Even Love but Jettblack’s finest moment must be the way-too-silly When It Comes To Lovin’.
If you like your rock meaningful and serious then genuine stadium rockers Rush play a series of mammoth UK gigs this month. If you’d prefer a rock n’ roll party then watching Jettblack squeeze their (half) naked ambition into the local club is where it’s at.
More serious, more experienced and yet, inexplicably, less revered than their tour buddies, the rock n roll sob story that is Heaven’s Basement are still battling on gamely as the most talented and exciting nearly men of the cruel UK scene.
Three years into their latest – and some would say greatest – incarnation there may only be one original member from the Hurricane Party days but the original vibe, vitality and virtuoso songwriting is still there in spades.
Perhaps a band once named after a particularly strong wind deserves a whirling dervish of a frontman and latest recruit Aaron Buchanan burst onto stage with a Scott Weiland-style flourish, maintaining his tempo from start to finish.
Lacking predecessor Richie Hevanz’ physical presence, there’s a feeling Buchanan’s featherlite frame could collapse under the weight of expectation every time he launches into the latest Basement standard. The opposite was true on Tyneside as he emerged stronger for the experience of taming an initially tough Trillians crowd.
Why Heaven’s Basement/Roadstar/Hurricane Party have been British rock’s next big thing for quite so long becomes so much more difficult to answer in the context of the band’s incendiary live shows. This set, like so many others, was founded on tight musicianship, cracking songs and charisma en masse. Axe slinger Sid Glover might sound like the local school janitor but he looks like every Sunset Strip wannabe’s dream and plays like a pop metal demon.
Reeling off Unbreakable right from the off backed up the belief that this is, finally, the end of the beginning for Heaven’s Basement. With that fabled debut album due for release later this year and a line-up that looks capable of building upon a sparkling legacy this could be the year that potential is finally realised and long-term success secured.
Tear Your Heart Out and Reign On My Parade have become familiar statements of intent to rock fans across Europe in recent years and here they sounded as slick and relevant as ever. But it was Buchanan’s delivery of Executioner’s Day which confirmed this band isn’t finished yet.
If medals were handed out for triumphs in adversity then Heaven’s Basement would be weighed down by precious metal. The only prize they’re seeking in 2011 is a chance to break into the big time.