Opening the evening, on a freezing and potentially snowy Tuesday evening, were local band Flowerpot. I have seen the girls (as they were previously an all female band) a few times before, but this was a stage far bigger than any I have seen them tread and they grasped the opportunity with every ounce of their being. Fronting Flowerpot, Steph Kiddle is born to take centre stage. Never still from the off, her powerful vocals and commanding presence quickly won the crowd over. Flanking her was relatively new guitarist Tom Prangley. In the past, the issue for Flowerpot has been a bit of a gap in that position, but his music ability and greater visibility raised the bar considerably. Rhythm came from Morgan Pearce on bass and Jess Hartley on drums, and they laid down a pretty heavy basis for Steph’s show(wo)manship. Their set flew by in a blur of flying hair, crushing guitars, and powerfully delivered vocals and they deserved the warm reaction they got from the Bristol crowd.
The meat in the sandwich came courtesy of London trio City Of Thieves. I have a love of the simplicity that comes with a three-piece, and City of Thieves didn’t let me down at all as they delivered a set of powerful rock played with confidence. Vocal duties were taken care of by Jamie Lailey as he struggled with a recalcitrant bass. It was clearly playing up, but he never let it get to him, and the huge sound coming from guitarist Ben Austwick, coupled with his raw vocal style, meant that often his efforts to solve the problem were the only indication it existed! Will Richards’ drumming behind them kept everything pacy and raced them through the set. Stand out songs that you should give a listen to include; “Reality Bites”, “Buzzed Up City” and “Animal” Listening to their album “Beast Reality” on the drive back to Devon made the journey fly by.
Inglorious are visually different for sure, and when Nathan James joins the others onstage, he is dressed down compared to other times I have seen him, clad in modest black. Joining him on stage were old compatriot Phil Beaver one drums (and surprisingly good backing vocals), along with bassist Vinnie Colla and the twin guitars of Danny Dela Cruz and Dan Stevens. The sound was thickened by a keyboard player, sat back in the shadows, who remained anonymous throughout the set.
The first few songs gave no hint at what was soon to come. Inglorious opened with “Where Are You Now?” from the new album. It’s a great opener, as it shows the new and more mature sound of that album beautifully. The band were tight, and James’ voice sounding strong but more controlled, with the high notes as explosions to savour rather than a continued wall of scream. “Taking The Blame” and “High Flying Gypsy” followed on with minimal interaction with the crowd. So far it was a decent show from a good band playing Classic Rock as many other bands might do. “Read All About It” was the first song I was able to really experience once we left the photo pit, as being that close to whoever you are shooting tends to be the sound you hear, and you don’t really get a proper sound mix. The next song was from the new album and James introduced it as a song he wanted to do early whilst his voice was still strong. The band (including Phil Beaver, introduced by James as “multi-instrumentalist Phil Beaver”) brought acoustic instruments to the stage, the lights dropped to just a few spots, and the next few minutes were truly sublime. I rarely film a snippet of a live gig, but I wanted to share what I was hearing with my partner at home in Devon. The crowd were utterly silent and totally enraptured. The clarity and range of the vocals were astounding, but it was the passion and emotion in the delivery that genuinely moved people around me to tears. There were a few moments at the end of the song where people had to shake themselves out from whatever places they had gone and come back to a cold night in Bristol and the rest of the gig, before a huge ovation filled the air.
“Warning” went the other way with a series of vocal gymnastics that made my eyes water. “Making Me Pay”, “Freak Show” and “Breakaway” followed and highlighted some of the differences between the new and older material, but also the depth of catalogue Inglorious are building up. Then, never-to-be-forgotten moment number two: James introduced something different, a cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited”. It was dark and atonal, full of other-worldly harmonies. The vocals simply soared around the venue. James then left the stage, and the thus far relatively anonymous guitarist Danny Dela Cruz stepped forward into the limelight. Holy Crap! Think Blackmore crossed with Randy Rhoads. The scales were Middle Eastern in that way that Rainbow were unique. The speed of his fingers up and down the fretboard eye-watering, but never at the expense of the underlying rhythm and melody, in the same way Randy Rhoads made his own. I found myself stood there in open-mouthed wonder. James returned (in much more sparkly costume) and lauded his praises, then announced that he is only 19 years old! There may be a hardcore of supporters of previous band members who have been taking out their frustration online, but I can only think that in a matter of a few more performances they will be a distant memory if this was anything to go by.
“Ride To Nowhere” was followed by James spending a little time talking about the departure of former Inglorious members. Describing it as a tough last year, he says how pleased he is to be playing with the new musicians on stage and then, with a knowing smile, introduced the next song, “Liar”. He continued to talk about the challenges of the last year, introducing his family, who were there to see the show, and talking about the fact that he now lives in Devon. He got visibly emotional as he discussed the death of both his grandfather and best friend and then dedicated the song “Faraway” to them. It was another incredibly poignant vocal, and the lyrics were sung with immense feeling and power. “I Don’t Need Your Loving” was the penultimate song of the main set, and led into easily my favourite song from the new album, “I Don’t Know You”. I have seen Inglorious a few times now, and the bluesy, soulful vibe of this song showcases what they should be about better than any other.
Inglorious were immense. The solos were en pointe, and the vocals utterly sublime as they built and swelled with almost painful emotion. There is one note, near the end, that simply beggars belief, and to attempt it live, let alone hit it and hold it, was worth the price of admission alone. Inglorious returned for the encore, and for a while there was confusion at the sound of the vocals but no singer. A bright light appeared at the back of the venue, and James appeared walking through the crowd, slapping hands and surrounding himself with fans as he serenaded them with “Holy Water”. Back on stage for set closer “Until In Die”, and you were reminded again just how strong an Inglorious set is after a third album. James has been given a hard time in recent months on social media. Accusations of rampant ego abound, and his response possibly ill-advised, but some of the best musicians of this genre from the past were accused of similar and had the same revolving door policy with band members. The difference was, in their era you couldn’t drop a plectrum and have it posted on Twitter before it hit the ground. Take Inglorious as they are now. An incredible vocalist who is adding passion and soul (and restraint?) to his formidable range, a tight band of musicians to realise the strength of the back catalogue and, in Danny Dela Cruz, a guitarist of rare talent to work with James and take the new music yet to be written to a whole different plane.
Review and images: Rob Wilkins