6 Feb 2023
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Gig Review: By The Power of Rock @ The Thirsty, Auckland - 22/07/2022

23 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Just a week after being at The Thirsty for Swamp Song XII, I was back for By The Power of Rock featuring three bands, two of which were new to me. First up were Living State, a band whose single One Sided I put in my Top 10 last year, but I had only seen them play live once before so was looking forward to this. In fact, last Friday they were supporting Coridian at Ding Dong while I was here. They kicked off with Black White Man, showing that melody and hard rock can work well together in the right hands without losing any impact. Cam drives from the back, switching the patterns, while Lex lays down a foundation which often is providing a counter melody to Peter’s guitars and then at the front is Marissa. She has undoubtedly gained in confidence since I last saw her, really getting into the music and powering through the noise with strong clear vocals.

They have a way of making hard rock really interesting without losing any of the edge and maintaining the energy so even those metalheads who could justly argue this wasn’t really metal could be seen nodding the noggin. Pseudo Halo is another where they really mix it up with different time signatures and melodies as they move through its sections. The whole band felt tighter than the last time I saw them – there really is no alternative to playing live, and the more bands get out there the better they get. Stalker saw Marissa pick up a guitar to add a few nuances here and there, but it was her vocals which were having the larger impact, as she is undoubtedly one of the strongest female singers on the rock circuit at present. Having clear high vocals cutting through the bottom-heavy sound makes them sound quite different, and she really is a singer as opposed to a shouter.

Peter’s guitar is rich and thick, often sounding like more than one, while Lex is tight in behind him and Cam is hitting the kit hard while providing the fills and the result is complex simplicity which gives a strong multi-faceted base for the vocals to be placed against and it is the combination of all these elements which makes this band such a delight. If they had been playing with confidence up until then then they suddenly lifted the game with One Sided, as everyone relaxed into this blaster, with Lex and Peter throwing shapes, and Marissa enjoying herself as she hit all the notes with ease. It also got the biggest reaction of the night, which made me think that possibly they should consider the position and move it to be the set closer? This was followed with the complex Vantage, but it did feel a little flat after what had gone before as while it turns into a groovy belter with different sections and melodies, it does have a somewhat slow beginning. No-one could say that of You Do You which commenced with Lex dishing out some chords before switching to a normal approach as Peter stuck into the riffs, and Marissa keeping on top of it all. They ended with Snakepit, with Lex providing some backing vocals for the first time – it adds another element to the sound – but given he is singing in a low register it does somewhat take away from the impact of Marissa whose cut through is one of the highlights. Yet another great set, and I can only hope I see them again soon.

Next up we had the trio which are Only The Valiant, I was looking forward to them as I had been told beforehand by someone that they played charismatic rock, whatever that is, and on their band profile they say, “Like being slapped in the face with a wet fish held by a sexy mermaid .. these guys will leave an impression”, which is cool you must admit. One thing I noticed straight away was that Jay (lead guitar, vocals), Just Joe (bass, backing vocals), and Jake (drums, backing vocals) were all wearing hats which is somewhat unusual to say the least. Sartorial elegance might be their thing, but their music is in the dirt, filthy and full of swagger, and good time rock ‘n’ roll really hits the spot. This is music from the Seventies, when bands like Taste ruled the stage and Rory Gallagher’s guitar was it.

Jay hit the strings so hard from the off on Good Love that he immediately broke a string, much to Joe’s delight, but unlike virtually every other guitarist on the circuit he had another to hand so instead of changing the string he just changed to the spare, which looked to me like a Gibson Les Paul! Dem Games had the same approach but had more of a Sixties pop vibe combined with Ramones, and just two songs in I was already having a blast. Dirty Disgrace climaxed with a fine guitar solo, lifting the belting number to a new level. Jake and Joe keep everything locked down, which allows Jay to just go nuts. He is one of those musicians who looks like a rock god from the minute he strides onto the stage and then proceeds to make it his own. Musically it was solidly from 50 years ago, while also grabbing in some influences from later in that decade. Candy Man sits more on the rhythm section with the guitar just adding some somewhat offkey chords, but one knows it is going to be more than that, and the chorus just rips. By now most of the crowd were standing, and quite a few dancing as this really is music which makes the body want to move. We had yet another guitar solo in this one, followed by the bass taking control until everyone got into it again with everybody settling in for a for a devil take the hindmost approach with Jay demonstrating he is quite a shredder in the blues tradition, more Rory than Vai.

Blood Heart n Veins brought back the filthy raw swagger, and I found myself being reminded a great deal of The Hamsters, although with somewhat less Hendrix and more Stooges/MC5/Taste/Trapeze. There are few bands around these days who set themselves up as a trio revolving around the guitar, but these guys have that approach nailed. Their next single is Maria and was far more full-on punk with Joe taking lead vocals and seemingly having a million words in the verse and he pushed them out machine gun fashion. It may be more punk, but it still had a groove and room for a guitar solo and one could imagine Toy Dolls doing this and having a blast. This was different yet connected to what had gone before and was a quick blast of fun. The gentle ditty FU had the audience singing the chorus back to the band, but I don’t think anyone really meant it as there were loads of smiles. They invited D2 onstage to sing Mantenha o respeito with them which was a blast with some very quick vocal runs between D2 and Joe sharing lead. It was back to filthy blues rock with Whisky and then they ended with their debut single, Nothing, and convinced everyone to get down to the front and have a dance. These guys were a blast from beginning to end, and I look forward to catching them again soon.

Thunderground are another band new to me and are Richard Giles (vocals), Robert Picot (guitar), Tom Bambury (bass) and James Hoyles (drums). Straight from the off and What You Want, Richard was throwing himself around, putting everything into it, and neither he nor the band missed a beat when the microphone stopped working as they just kept it all going while it got sorted. They then kicked into their first cover with Wolfmother’s Joker and the Thief – they may call themselves a punk/metal band but most of that is down to their attitude as it is obvious they can turn their hands to whatever they want as the musicians all have real skills, and then Richard is one of those frontmen who will do whatever he can to get everyone involved (think Michael Murphy) and just never stops moving. Vocally, Richard may not be as clean a singer as others, but he is so into the music and what is happening that it was difficult for me to equate this with the mild-mannered guy I had been talking to earlier. Peter from Living State was telling me that some time back he and Richard jammed but there was no spark, and now here they are playing on the same night in two different acts, both having a great time.

Musically the band are incredibly tight, throwing in complexity when the time is right or just keeping it simple and blasting out some straightforward American melodic hardcore punk when the time is right such as on Damned. Of course, this number really ripped out which meant Richard ended up sat on the stage doubled over giving it his all. I had to smile when they started Paranoid, as while I knew it was coming, I expected it to be Sabbath, but no, it was their version of the classic Dickies take on that song (I remember buying that on clear vinyl back in the day). I do wonder what others may have thought of this one though.

They were really in the groove now and kept it going with the high energy Get Down which combined punk energy with soul and a real groove – I noticed this got Marissa going as she was right at the front having a blast. Thunderground know how to provide music which has a hardcore edge, yet is melodic, hard-hitting, heavy, and fun, all at the same time. No easy feat. At times it was difficult to know where to look and pay close attention as each member of the band was adding so much to the overall sound. They even took I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor and turned that into something far heavier and far more interesting than the original (Arctic Monkeys).

Even though the band must have been exhausted by now there was no sign whatsoever of slowing down as they blasted into 1111, although during the solos Richard did take the opportunity to come off the stage and sit down and relax on a bar stool. Given the three guys left behind looked and sounded like they could keep going for hours, duelling with each other (they are tight), it was probably a sensible idea. They may have looked like sweaty monsters, but the guys sounded as fresh as when they started. Why Would You Like Me is one of those songs which is packed with hooks and is incredibly infectious, and the same is true of Confident Liar which was a single a while back. This one takes me right back to the classic punk sound of the late Seventies, with energy and stacks of enthusiasm. They finished the night having given their all, and Richard nearly losing his voice as he had just pit so much into it. 

Yet another great night at The Thirsty, and I think tonight the entry was just $10 for some great bands and three hours of fun. What a bargain. It just shows it really does pay to get out and support your local venue!


Photo Credit: Kev Rowland

 

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