@Newcastle Riverside, August 8 2015

It’s not often one of the founding fathers of British heavy metal rolls into town for an intimate club date.

But even those who knew Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris was in Newcastle on a Saturday night (and very few did, judging by the modest crowd) weren’t quite sure what to expect.

British Lion have morphed into Harris’s official side project after the original line-up failed to achieve the success he felt they deserved.

Given the bass player’s patronage – and decision to join them in the studio and on stage – it’s perhaps no surprise heads are starting to turn where this metal/hard rock hybrid is concerned.

But mixed reviews for 2012’s self-titled debut and sporadic touring had killed any hope of gaining serious momentum. As a consequence expectations were surprisingly low in the lead up to this late summer show.

They shouldn’t have been.

Whatever British Lion have been doing in the last 12 months – and the Toon faithful was treated to a couple of cracking new tunes – this is a band reborn. Freed from the muddy mix that ruined their studio work, it’s clear live is where it works best for Harris and co.

Frontman Richard Taylor, in particular, suffered on that patchy debut. This was an opportunity to prove his worth and on crowd favourites The Chosen Ones and Eyes Of The Young the exuberant singer excelled.

These Are The Hands offered Taylor another chance to shine and it’s testimony to the assured vocalist that attention had already turned away, albeit not completely, from Harris midway through a spirited set.

Guitarists Grahame Leslie and David Hawkins demonstrated just why Maiden’s veteran bass player has always shown such faith in these homegrown heroes – the axemen sharing solos and the limelight alongside their coveted colleague.

Those who did turn up with preconceptions based on a very average album were blown away. British Lion are ready to roar – if Harris’s schedule allows.

John Evans

Image courtesy of Gordon Armstrong