Review: Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons – The Garage, Glasgow

After a bout of guest slots earlier this year alongside Michael Monroe, and Black Star Riders, as well as a busy Summer festival period, Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons are back in full headlining mode with a brand new studio album tucked under their arms. Studio album number three, ‘Kings of the Asylum’, is the first to feature new vocalist Joel Peters and as good as the 2018 debut album ‘The Age of Absurdity’ and the 2020 follow-up ‘We’re the Bastards’ are, ‘Kings of the Asylum’ arguably goes one better and tops both.

Guitar tech for Alestorm, previously known as CJ Handsome of Bootyard Bandits, Peters is a great fit for The Bastards and looks at home alongside Phil Campbell and his three sons Todd, Tyla, and Dane Campbell. Almost like he has been there since day one. And The Bastards are a stronger and more cohesive live unit with the still-handsome Peters at the mic. This is just as well because perennial road dog Phil Campbell still has the Motörhead work ethic and The Bastards find themselves out on a punishing 11-dates-in-12-days schedule that includes a date in the Campbell’s homeland for a main stage headlining appearance at the 4-day year-end Planet Rockstock blowout in South Wales. And on the evidence of tonight’s show, Trecco Bay won’t know what’s hit it when The Bastards crash into town.

Making it a fantastic value-for-money ticket, Mr. Campbell has enlisted the help of two cracking support acts for the jaunt; one of which features a well-known name for fans of NWOBHM, and the other features a name that had there been any justice in the RnR business, would have been much more of a household name. With the Paul Quinn-led vehicle The Cards to follow, the job of opening the show fell to Aussie-nutter Brad Marr (now residing in Germany) and his livewire new outfit Sweet Electric.

Marr’s previous band Massive were unlucky bastards. One of the best unfiltered live acts that you could have encountered, they always had a knack for coming to town at the same time as a major act; clashing with Glenn Hughes in 2018, and a year later, playing Scotland the same night as not only Black Stone Cherry, but some geezers called Kiss. If Brad Marr was a character from The Fast Show, he would be Unlucky Alf. But, he’s a tenacious bugger, and, never one to shy away from a scrap, Marr is back with some like-minded individuals and is having a blast playing some fun, party anthem-filled rock and roll that is guaranteed to cure you of what ails ya. Having a bad day and just remembered 5 minutes too late that your banger of a car doesn’t meet Glasgow’s new LEZ guidelines? Then here’s Brad with his cowbell because, as you well know, the only prescription that you need is more cowbell.

For 30 minutes, the 5-piece takes the audience to a place where life is better; life is good, and it’s colourful. Really colourful. It also features lycra. And glitter. And damn, it is good to remember that music can still be fun. From the moment that octopus-like drummer Nico Stallman begins the show with a short drum-filled intro that seeps into the totally bonkers riff-fest that is ‘Heir to the Throne’, to the cowbell-fuelled strut of ‘Leading the Blind’ and through the Aerosmith-tinged ‘Livin’ it Up’, to the final strains of set-closer ‘Hard Times’, Sweet Electric (loving the SE old-school football scarf – on sale at the merch desk – that Marr sports as he crashes onto the stage) are a blur of energy as they set out to ensure that everyone who made it in early enough is searching “Sweet Electric” on social media once the whirlwind set ends. Songs to look out for: Every. Goddam. One. Of. Them. Sweet Electric are that good time that you’ve been seeking out for a while now.

After announcing earlier this year that he would be stepping back from the relentless touring schedule of Saxon – the band that he co-founded with Bif Byford almost 50 years ago – guitar maestro (and a mean blues harmonica player) Paul Quinn is back on UK stages with his international power trio The Cards. Consisting of Quinn on guitar, NYC singer/bassist Harrison Young (of Doro and U.D.O.) and Dutch drummer Koen Herfst (of Vandenberg), the trio have just released their sophomore album ‘Generation Jukebox’, which is a rather apt title considering the eclectic nature of the material found within. As Herfst is away busy getting wed, the vacant position behind the drumkit for these dates is filled by (and continuing the Saxon connection) Rod Fearnley of Graham Oliver’s Army. And like Sweet Electric before them, it’s the drummer that gets the party started with a short, glam-tinted burst of drum fills before the other guys take to the stage.

Sounding a million miles away from NWOBHM trailblazers Saxon, The Cards offer a different side to Quinn’s guitar playing, with the blues being very much at the core. ‘Bandit on the Run’ comes with a bit of a Deep Purple vibe here and there, and if you imagine a bluesier version of ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ then you are on the right track. It’s great to see Quinn expressing himself more, and although they don’t drop his lead vocal performance of Cream’s ‘White Room’ into the set; everything goes through the guy with the EVH Striped Series electric guitar in yellow and black. However, when the new track ‘King Kong’ is aired, Quinn turns to another guitar legend for inspiration as he casually unleashes some Iommi-sized riffs as Fearnley lays down some monster hits. Keeping it in the Sabbath realms; ‘The Gamble’ is a fuzzy, trippy beaut of a track that features a gorgeous warm tone (and a killer solo) from Quinn, and a vocal performance from Young that at times features a mix of both Ozzy and Anthony Kiedis. Add a stunning cover of Saxon’s ‘Princess of the Night’ and it was pretty much a perfect set. Pick up a copy of ‘Generation Jukebox’ at the merch desk, or check it out here.

Once the last strains of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ fade out (it never gets old being part of a crowd trying to recreate Gillan’s high-pitched screams of ‘I love it, and I need it, I bleed it…’), an air-raid siren kicks in, and Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons take the stage and blitz through set-opener ‘We’re the Bastards’. The room that was relatively busy for both opening acts has now swollen considerably, pints are flying skyward, and middle fingers are raised in the air in the traditional manner to welcome PCATBS to the stage.

Always a pleasure catching Mr. Campbell and his offspring (plus one non-family member) onstage because they all play with such obvious joy in what they do that it spreads to the crowd. Having to an extent grown up onstage, it’s great witnessing how proficient they have all become over the years, and during ‘Schizophrenia’ (the first visit to new album ‘Kings of the Asylum’) it is Dane Campbell behind the drum kit that impresses the most. His footwork is especially noteworthy and that kick drum is taking one hell of a beating. Once ‘Schizophrenia’ fades out, Phil Campbell takes to the mic to introduce the next track as “…quite danceable…” and Motörhead’s rockabilly-tinged ‘Going to Brazil’ drops like a ten-tonne jackhammer stuck on turbo power…“Steve, Clem, Hobbsy, John, Crazy Dil, and Pappy had to travel second class, they ain’t too fucking happy…” and again the work of Dane Campbell especially sticks out. The guitars from Phil and Todd Campbell are set to stun, and Tyla Campbell has perfected a low, bass rumble that rattles free the dental work in your mouth. It’s loud, but not distortion-loud, great job by the fella on the sound desk.

Coming into an established band is difficult enough, but when it is in the role of frontman and lead vocalist then that becomes doubly hard. Not for Joel Peters though. Slotting in seamlessly, Peters is equally at home performing previous Bastards material as he is on the new material he put down in the studio. He also crushes the Motörhead material aired, with his job on ‘Born to Raise Hell’, ‘Ace of Spades’, and an insane version of ‘Killed by Death’ ticking all the boxes. A confident frontman – well, you would have to be confident or insane (or both) to take on Lemmy’s vocals as well as Bowie’s – Peters expertly controls the crowd, telling them when to cheer, when to wave their arms, and during ‘Born to Raise Hell’ he splits them down the middle for a good old-fashioned sing-off. He can also sing and is comfortable with the slower songs (‘Dark Days’ is immense) as he is with the faster, harder, heavier moments such as ‘Hammer and Dance’, ‘High Rule’, and the utterly gonzo set-closer ‘Maniac’ which comes with a gorgeous RnR guitar tone from Phil Campbell.

A lesson in how to construct a well-thought-out set that perfectly blends original material both old and new (the new material is bloody amazing) with some stellar nods to Phil Campbell’s previous band, as well as a cover or two. Speaking of Mr. Campbell, he performs in such a non-fussy way that he makes it look effortless and perhaps doesn’t quite get the recognition as a guitar player that he deserves. Find out for yourself on one of the dates below:

29.11.23 UK – London / O2 Academy Islington
30.11.23 UK – Porthcawl / Planet Rockstock
01.12.23 UK – Southampton / Engine Rooms
02.12.23 UK – Birmingham / O2 Institute2

29.03.24 NL – Arnhem / Willemeen
30.03.24 DE – Hamburg / Uebel & Gefährlich
31.03.24 DE – Weinheim / Café Central
03.04.24 DE – Freiburg Im Breigau / Crash
04.04.24 DE – Lindau / Club Vaudeville
05.04.24 DE – Telfs In Tirol / Rat Haussaal Telfs
06.04.24 IT – Assago / Mediolanum Forum (Supporting Judas Priest)
07.04.24 DE – Augsburg / Spectrum
09.04.24 DE – Bochum / Matrix
10.04.24 DE – Osnabrück / Bastard Club
12.04.24 NL – Sneek / Poppodium Bolwerk
13.04.24 BE – Kortrijk / DVG Club
14.04.24 UK – Dover / The Booking Hall
04.05.25 DE – Andernach / Andernach Metal Days

Tickets for all shows are available now from philcampbell.net

Review – Dave

All images – Dave Jamieson

 

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