CLOVEN HOOF / VICIOUS RUMORS / ASHBURY
I really enjoy checking out new places for shows, it’s always exciting to come to a new place no matter what it is. And it sure was extra cool to visit House of Bards in Tucson, Arizona particularly due a line-up like this. ASHBURY should probably call this their home venue now, as guitarist John Bujak is one of the ones who run the place. The atmosphere at the place is fantastic, super friendly and cosy. But I expected more people to show up for something like this. I assume the fact that this show happened on Monday was one reason to why it wasn’t packed out. But it was cool to see ASHBURY at a smaller place, it always has been festival shows when I’ve seen them so a club gig came in good. ASHBURY sounded their fantastic self of course.
Opening “The Warning” is a fantastic song but I actually didn’t think I’d be as affected as I was by ASHBURY this night. Just face it, having both VICIOUS RUMORS and CLOVEN HOOF on the bill takes focus off of most things. So, I was rather surprised that I reacted as strong as I did for ASHBURY. It’s a very simple explanation to that, they sounded fantastic. Even if House Of Bards is a fairly small club the sound was really good and dynamic. The balance between the acoustic and amplified guitars was perfect. And better here, was the closeness to the band and the opportunity to really study their playing. Everything is absolutely flawless, just take the opening part of “Madman” as an example. The double guitar without rhythm section to back it up is real precision, the Davis brothers are really phenomenal at those things. It was however, John Bujak who became the case of my study. It’s cool with an old-school type of guitarist who incorporates a lot of fines in his playing as well as tone and dynamics. John signs off on all and I find his way of playing really interesting.
It was of course not only the songs from “Endless Skies” that counted this night. ASHBURY released “The Eye Of The Stygian Witches” a few weeks prior to this show and that’s another sample of the band’s geniality. “Good Guitar” worked better live than on record but in general all ASHBURY did sounded really good. Quite an amazing start on my small vacation trip I have to say, and this was just the beginning.
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When “Replicant” the intro from “Digital Dictator” kicked off, every hair on my body stood straight up. The anticipation of what was to come drove that, but this was also a quite nervous event as it was the first VICIOUS RUMORS show with this line-up for me. It’s always quite strange to see a favourite band with new members for the first time. I’d only heard good things about all involved prior to the show but you never know.
It was clear already in the first verse of “Digital Dictator” that I wasn’t going to be disappointed with this show though. Nick Courtney did a very good job both with the microphone as well as fronting the band. It’s actually quite rare that I accept a new VICIOUS RUMORS line-up at the first go. I mean, it has never been bad but it always takes time to get used to change and the setting with Nick Hollemann at the front was a fantastic one. This sure worked too.
It was announced for the 30th anniversary of the release of “Digital Dictator”, the theme for this round and stated that the whole album was going to be played did the set a bit predictable. However, there are a few ones from that album which are not frequently featured in the set. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard “R.L.H” or “Condemned”. So, it was really cool to get to hear those songs live, especially due to the fantastic delivery by the band. Gunnar DüGrey is only 19 but for sure is a mature shredder and he really did these classic tunes justice with his playing, just enough of the original in it while still keeping his own style. That’s the way of doing it. I still hold “Lady Took A Chance” as my favourite from the album and was happy it was a certainty it was going to show up in the set and I sure wasn’t disappointed with the delivery.
After the “Digital Dictator” set a few more songs could be fitted, “Abandoned” was one of them. Another fantastic track that always work well live. No exception this time and it sure was good first experience with this version of VICIOUS RUMORS.
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But the night wasn’t over yet. And CLOVEN HOOF certainly is another fabulous live-act. I love their attitude on stage, it’s cheerful, energetic and cool at the same time. Also how they sound these days; George Call and Danny White is really a great match for the CLOVEN HOOF sound that always has been very unique. Opening “Inquisitor” though gave me mixed feelings; I love the track and, in general, it works very well as a kick-off. It has a great tempo and an easy chorus but the solo in that song is kind of weird and odd which almost makes it sound off. For that as a first impression, I don’t know if that’s the best way. On the other hand, there were a lot of songs left after it to restore any doubt.
“Song Of Orpheus” from latest release “Who Mourns For The Morning Star” sounded fantastic straight though which goes for the rest of the set as well. As this was CLOVEN HOOF’s first North American tour the set was a great mix of the CLOVEN HOOF career. That’s another thing that I really like with the band, it would have been easy to focus on the classic material and the ones recorded with this line-up of the band (ok, to be correct Matt Glover covered for Chris Coss and at the beginning of the tour also Joe Whelan covered for Luke Hatton) and ignore the middle albums. “Highlander” is another favourite from the band and I’m amazed by George’s delivery for each and every song. That he has a fantastic voice it’s no doubt about but his ability to adapt to different styles and still keep his tone and add just enough of fines to make it unique and still keep the right feel. I mean, a song as “Gates Of Gehenna” must have some roughness to it. But that, as well as “Deliverance”, a much newer track just sounded perfect.
But yes, it was the classics that got the biggest response. “Crack The Whip” got people moving and for “Laying Down The Law” the spirits got really high with some great singing from the crowd. Which of course also goes for “Reach For The Sky”. That ended the fantastic set from CLOVEN HOOF. It’s always a pleasure to see them and it was no exception this night. I was still surprised that more people didn’t show up for a line-up like this. Anyway, I had a blast at least, it was a great night.
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