Rushonrock caught the first date of Bad Touch’s UK headline run and returned to catch the Shake A Leg Tour three weeks down the line…
Slap bang in the middle of a thunderous three-band bill, a typically bullish Aaron Buchanan could barely hide his disappointment that so few fans had taken the opportunity to support live music on a Tuesday night on Teesside. Scratch that: he didn’t hide it at all. And why should he?
If Buchanan’s irritation was clear as he conversed with a paper-thin crowd, it’s credit to the former Heaven’s Basement man that his performance was that of a consummate professional. This was a typically frenetic and familiarly charismatic display from a frontman who belongs on far bigger stages. Why he’s still stuck on the unforgiving UK club circuit is one of rock music’s greatest mysteries.
Sadly, it was a case of déjà vu for the hardy few who’d ushered in the first date of this hotly anticipated tour at Newcastle University in the middle of October. That poorly attended concert hinted at a wider malaise within the gig-going community and three weeks down the line another North East show – or should that be no-show – proved a serious problem does exist. On paper Buchanan, retro Swiss rockers Daxx & Roxane and headliners Bad Touch represented ridiculously good value at £18 a pop but even a tempting ticket price and the best of rock’s new breed didn’t do the trick. But enough of the problem – what’s the solution?
Perhaps an ambitious bill was simply too diverse. Daxx’s 80s-inspired feelgood riffs juxtaposed with Buchanan’s angsty pop metal and the headliners’ retro rock never looked like a natural fit even if it turned out to be a belting night out. Perhaps it’s a case of divide and conquer. Pooling fan bases clearly didn’t pay off. And on this evidence three-for one won’t pay its way.
Maybe the problem runs far deeper than apparent apathy from stayaway fans. The congested autumn circuit takes no prisoners and focused promotion is the key. Bad Touch, Buchanan and Daxx & Roxane are passionate musicians prepared to give 100% every night – the least they can expect is equally ardent support from those pushing shows locally.
Of course it doesn’t help that austerity has played its own stifling part in piling the pressure on emerging bands. In isolation, paying £18 for the pleasure of watching three trailblazing acts seems like a steal. In the context of a packed month of live music it’s not unreasonable to expect hard-pressed punters to pick and choose.
But, in this case, those who chose, chose well. Openers Daxx & Roxane are celebrating the reissue of debut album Ticket To Rock on sparkling red vinyl and an adrenaline-fuelled set featured frequent forays from the stage and generous helpings of Tequila. The London-based band comfortably fuse booming 70s tradition with eye-catching 80s-styled swagger and in Cédric Pfister the Swiss quartet possess a Lemmy for the next generation. In the search for polished party-starters Bad Touch could hardly have chosen better.
As for Buchanan and his Cult Classics? Quite simply there is no better live band right now. And for all his quick-witted cynicism and occasionally jarring self-belief it’s impossible to dislike Buchanan – a performer who lives for his art and looks the part (squeezing into an impossibly tight outfit pitched somewhere between James Bond and a Cyberman for this show). Left Me For Dead was a leftfield choice to kick things off but a set that switched between Basement’s ballsy back catalogue and choice cuts from the Cult Classics captured the essence of live music at its affecting best.
Bad Touch had a tough act – or two- to follow. But Norfolk’s finest are in the form of their lives on the back of brilliant new record Shake A Leg and frontman Stevie Westwood is fast evolving into David Coverdale’s heir apparent. Teesside knows a thing or two about talented blues rock vocalists and Stockton finally bore witness to one of the best. In 2018, Westwood wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Coverdale, Paul Rodgers et al. and it’s almost criminal that his band haven’t gone further following the release of 2012’s flamboyant first EP. The glorious Good On Me/Sharp Dressed Man mash-up has become a firm live favourite and Hammer Falls hits hard as a thumping mid-set highlight. Bad Touch – like Buchanan – have been rock’s next big thing for far too long. But it can’t last forever. And when Westwood sings Take Your Time it’s impossible to avoid the sense that time’s running out for the best of British rock’s homegrown talent. Something has to change. And fast.
Exclusive Images By John Burrows