With a mixture of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue (in this case, the appendages of the queue outside on a bitterly cold Edinburgh evening), the triple-bill of headliners The Dead Daisies, along with special guests FM, and The Graham Bonnet Band, offered up an evening full of plenty of opportunities to exercise the vocal cords as well as warming the joints with a jig or two as each band took the audience on a magical trip down memory lane.
Three bands on the bill mean early-ish doors, but thankfully there is a healthy-sized crowd in front of the barriers for the arrival of The Graham Bonnet Band. Knowing that their role is to get the evening off to a flying start, the highly-experienced five-piece waste zero time and put a quid in the jukebox and launch a nostalgia-filled set with the perfect set-opener: the Rainbow classic ‘Eyes of The World’. With Danny Mattin’s majestic keyboard-filled intro setting the scene, powerhouse drummer Kyle Hughes plays the role of Cozy Powell to a tee and brings the remaining band members in with some almighty wallops. As energetic and as enthusiastic as ever (and still wearing shades onstage), Graham Bonnet – Skegness’s best import since bawdy seaside postcards – leads the band through a quick one-two of Rainbow gems as he follows up the opening track of ‘Down to Earth’ with one of the two “biggies” from his sole album with Blackmore – ‘All Night Long’. The crowd knows what is expected of them, and every time Bonnet asks for their participation by holding out his mic, they respond in kind. C’mon, try listening to ‘All Night Long’ without singing along, nope, not going to happen.
Bonnet is of course also known for his short tenure as vocalist with The Michael Schenker Group, and spirited renditions of ‘Desert Song’ and the title track of 1982’s ‘Assault Attack’ album bookend a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Lazy’ and a glorious run-through of the only track that can offer Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ a chase to the podium as best Karaoke track ever: Rainbow’s ‘Since You Been Gone’. A blistering rendition of ‘Lost In Hollywood’ closes the short set and ensures that the audience is not only suitably warmed up, but starting to get rather hoarse with all the singing. The band that Bonnet and long-time bassist (and partner) Beth-Ami Heavenstone have assembled is top-notch, and considering that guitarist Conrado Pesinato and the aforementioned Kyle Hughes on drums are effectively playing the parts that Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Cozy Powell, and Ted McKenna all brought to life; they do an amazing job. Pesinato is a pleasure to listen to, and the octopus-like playing from Hughes will take your breath away, such a flamboyant drummer – all smiles and hair flying everywhere as he batters the living hell out of his kit. Magic stuff indeed from a much-underrated vocalist.
With both Graham Bonnet and Glenn Hughes on the same bill it would be easy to overlook the almighty vocal talents of FM’s Steve Overland, and that would be a glaring error. A performer that has been consistently bringing it since the early 80s, Overland simply defies the effects of Old Father Time and sounds better with each outing. The same could be said of FM who have been on one hell of a run since 2010’s comeback album ‘Metropolis’, and judging by this year’s stunning ‘Thirteen’ album; a run that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Blitzing through a set that features new material as both set opener and set closer, FM are out to prove that when it comes to studio output, they are still a formidable force. ‘Synchronized’ from 2020’s album of the same name is a fantastic opener – thanks in main to the thumping bass drum sound from Pete Jupp – and it only takes an instant to shake the head and wonder aloud why FM are not more highly regarded than they are. Fantastic players to a man, they really do make it look effortless… the ever-smiling Merv Goldsworthy on bass, Jem Davis with his crucial keyboard sound, and the non-fussy guitar work from Jim Kirkpatrick all combining with Overland and Jupp to great effect. Davis gets a special mention for his ivory tinkling on the glorious final song – the Springsteen-like newbie ‘Turn This Car Around’ which thanks to the chorus that is tailor-made for audience participation, is fast turning into a firm favourite. In between these two new additions (and ‘Killed By Love’ from 2018’s ‘Atomic Generation’ album) to the FM arsenal are older classics such as 1989’s ‘Tough it Out’, and ‘I Belong To The Night’ from 1986’s debut album. An all-too-short set, but a lesson nonetheless in how to deliver a set to make the headliners bring their A-game.
“You haven’t come to see us…we have come to see you” so says The Dead Daisies vocalist/bassist Glenn Hughes. Which is just as well because with the amount of smoke coming from the stage during the opening numbers, it’s kinda hard to see the band. The outline of Hughes is unmistakable though; the long-flowing hair back in place after the shorter, punkier hair of the days of Black Country Communion, and California Breed – this is Deep Purple California Jam-era Hughes. Ever the showman, Hughes takes to the stage last and soaks up the applause as he flashes peace signs and makes eye contact with those on the barrier. Flanked by lead guitarist Doug Aldrich, Daises guitarist/founder David Lowy, and with the machine that is Brian Tichy at his back, Hughes is in fine form and constantly hits the dog-bothering high notes that he is famous for, all the while laying down the bedrock bass lines that he is perhaps not known as much for.
With Hughes joining the band in 2019 there was always the danger that the established supergroup/musical collective known as The Dead Daisies would become more of a vehicle for Hughes than the “band” that it was known for. And to an extent that is true. Hughes is such a formidable, overwhelming force that it is always going to be hard for whoever shares the stage with him to be noticed. Unless you are Doug Aldrich that is. Opener ‘Long Way to Go’ passes in the blink of an eye, and features the first of many spellbinding guitar solos from Aldrich, who his looking resplendent in his black leather waistcoat and whose every move is closely watched by the female contingent in the crowd. Every inch the guitar god, Aldrich pulls every shape out of the playbook and at times you could be forgiven for zoning out the others onstage as Aldrich reminds everyone in attendance why he is regarded as a guitar slinger of the highest order.
Save for an encore that features the traditional cover of SAHB’s ‘Midnight Moses’, the lengthy set is made up of material from latter-day Daisies studio albums ‘Make Some Noise’ (2016), ‘Burn It Down’ (2018), and the two to-date that feature Hughes on vocals ‘Holy Ground’ (2021) and ‘Radiance’ (2022) obviously feature the most. And while it is strange hearing Hughes perform material that previous vocalist John Corabi stamped his authority over, such as ‘Burn It Down’ (which comes complete with another stunning solo from Aldrich), the ex-Deep Purple legend does put a different slant on it and make it his own. Of the material aired from the latest album ‘Radiance’, the slow-burning excellence of ‘Hypnotise Yourself’ particularly stands out, especially for the pounding drum work from Tichy on the heavier parts of the song, the faster-paced ‘Shine On’ is another highlight.
The latter stages of the set packs in a handful of covers; ‘Fortunate Son’ always gets the juices flowing; ‘Mistreated’ is the monster that it always is as Hughes puts on a masterclass in vocal gymnastics; ‘Midnight Moses’ is a bedrock of any Daisies set for a good reason; and what else but ‘Burn’ could end the show? Given the very nature of the revolving-door set-up of The Dead Daisies, it is going to be interesting to watch what unfolds over the next few years, for now, though, it seems a settled line-up on a roll. When Mr. Hughes decides to call it a day David Lowy might just call on Dino Jelusić to plug the gap left by Hughes, for the Croatian is criminally underused in Whitesnake.
All photo credits – Callum Scott