The timing of this gig was not ideal for me but as this show was the nearest one to me on this, the first full UK tour from Luke Morley and Peter Shoulder's new project, I was keen to go along. I was a massive fan of Thunder, Morley's previous band and was also well aware of the talent of Durham's Peter Shoulder, having seen his old band Winterville on many occasions until their sudden, unexpected split in early 2007.
The turnout at the Academy 3 was respectable, if not totally packed and I arrived in time to catch the last few numbers from openers Voodoo Six. Based on what I heard, they're a fine hard rock band although I thought the vocalist was perhaps not at his best, he seemed to be battling with a throat problem. I'd see this band again if they are playing anywhere near me, it's old-school hard rock of the sort I used to enjoy in the 1980s.
The Union came on some time later, to the sound of the Strawbs' song of that name; the irony of hearing that old song in an era when being 'part of the union' means nothing like it did when it was recorded wasn't lost on me (not to mention the fact that the first of the 'election debates' was taking place across town at the same time!)
That's about as political as this blog gets, on with the show!
Although billed as a collaboration between the former Thunder guitarist and the young gun from the North East, the live line-up is a four-piece which includes drummer Phil Martini and former Thunder bassist Chris Childs. The atmosphere at this gig was noticeably relaxed; even from my spot a few feet from the stage there was never any possiblilty of a moshpit developing! Peter Shoulder is no longer the slightly starstruck kid he was back in his early Winterville days, he's now matured into a confident frontman with a very easygoing stage presence. I'd almost forgotten just how good a singer he is too, he has that rich bluesy tone very much in the tradition of great singers from his part of the world.
I was unfamiliar with much of the material presented tonight, although they have made one or two songs available on MySpace or as downloads, and apart from the cover of 'Proud Mary' in the encore all the songs played were new. So, no Thunder or Winterville covers! That was probably a good thing, as this is a totally new project and although the rockier songs played certainly do display some of the Morley songwriting trademarks, there were also more acoustic/bluesy ones which were very suited to Shoulder's vocal. The band did note how quiet the crowd were in between songs (although the reception given to each song was warm); that may have been partly due to the audience's unfamiliarity with the songs but also it may have had more to do with the informal atmosphere. It was more of a club gig than a big production, though no less enjoyable for that.
If you were a Thunder fan then this band is well worth your time; however do not expect it to be Thunder Mk 2. There seems to be more scope in this band to explore different avenues, and I look forward to hearing the finished album and seeing the guys again soon.