Review: FM/Hand of Dimes – Exeter Phoenix

Exeter Phoenix
Sunday 19th May 2024

Review and photos – Rob Wilkins

A sunny evening, a laid-back SW City, a venue that is as much an art gallery as it is a music auditorium, a crowd that rushes to the seats when the doors open as opposed to the front row, and two bands that are as smooth as silk makes for a perfect night out in Exeter on FM’s “Old Habits Die Hard” tour.

Just two bands on the bill, but quality beats quantity every time.

Opening the evening are Hand of Dimes. Led by ex-Skin vocalist Nev MacDonald and his partner in crime from Kooga, Neil Garland, they effortlessly win over the crowd. I have seen Nev both with Hand of Dimes and playing with Bernie Marsden at Steelhouse several times now and his voice never fails to remind of the great David Coverdale, full of passion and soul.

With a band consisting of a solid rhythm section of Mark Maybry (bass) and David Stephenson (drums) alongside Colin Edwards composed lead guitar their set flies by. Nev always looks so happy to be on stage and it isn’t surprising when you can deliver material such as “Bad Reputation” (with some glorious slide guitar from Edwards and harmonica from Garland), the immense “Jacob’s Ladder”(where Nev ends the song with a drawn out note that gets a deserved rapturous response), the blues strut of “Guilty” and a crowd singalong to “Pinstriped Arrogance”. The set closes with the anthemic “Sail On” and leaves a very much warmed-up crowd

After a brief reset, the lights drop and the well-known cinema music for “Pearl and Dean” brings FM to the stage one by one. For the next hour and three quarters, we are given a masterclass in beautifully crafted and performed melodic rock.

Steve Overland possesses one of those genre-defining voices that is both smooth as silk and full of power. Beside him Jim Kirkpatrick makes the art of the guitar look simple as he cranks out riff after riff (ably assisted it has to be said by Overland). The front-line trio is completed by bassist Merv Goldsworthy, loving every second of life and full of smiles. Behind them, enough computing power to launch a mission to Mars surrounds keyboard player Jem Davis, and keeping everything on track with metronomic precision is drummer Pete Jupp.

The material for this tour consists of a huge 19 tracks, drawn from an incredible ten albums (and one cover), truly showcasing just how long this band has been on top of their game. Only two songs come from the recently released “Old Habits Die Hard” which is unique when out promoting a new album.

There is some genuine emotion in the set when Overland introduces “Say It Like It Is” as being co-written with late brother Chris and rarely played. At the end of the song, Steve loses his wireless pack, prompting a degree of panic as the next song “Closer to Heaven” features his guitar playing and soloing more than any other in the set. At the end of “Does it Feel Like Love”, Overland launches into a stunning held note that leaves the audience open-mouthed. Truly one of the great rock vocalists.

The three-song encore starts with possibly my favourite element of the set, as Davis plays a classy keyboard solo and is then joined by Overland for “Story of my Life” raising hairs on the back of the necks of everyone present. “I Belong To The Night” and “Other Side of Midnight” complete an evening of sheer class and style and I head out into the balmy evening.

Remaining tour dates:

Special Guests: Brave Rival*

Special Guests: Brave Rival*

Special Guests: Collateral**

Special Guests: Collateral**


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