Forever Never/Royal Republic/Theory Of A Deadman – Y Plas, Cardiff – 03 March 16
The problem with living in the far South West of the UK, is that most bands play Bristol and then head East or North, leaving out that long, thin bit that stretches out towards America completely, so to catch Theory Of A Deadman meant a 300 mile round trip to Cardiff, but it was worth every mile of motorway tarmac, and every soggy service station sandwich. Y Plas is Cardiff Student Union, a great little venue, holding about 1,000, but limited to 300-350 for gigs.
First up, was a band that may sound familiar. Forever Never have been around for what seems like, well, forever. The Essex boys describe themselves as “Pop disguised as metal” and put together a short set that was perfectly judged to get the crowd up and moving. Opening with “Never Giving Up” a real headbanger of a rocker, with chugging guitars from George Lenox and Frank Ransom and powerful melodic vocals from Renny Carroll, they move swiftly and engagingly through a mix of songs that showcase their wide range of influences, including a cover of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” that was far better than it really should have been! The rhythm section of Mitch Witham on bass and Sam Curtis on drums were tight, and gave the others freedom to move from melodic pop to pure riferry. Closing with the rather superb chant-along “One Life”, I was left wanting to hear more (which I did when I got home – finding, amongst other gems, a version of “Mr. Bombastic”, with Benji from Skindred, that has to be heard to be believed!)
I will be honest here and say that I now started to get excited. I first came across Royal Republic at Download several years ago, and they quickly became one of my favourite bands. The Swedish foursome, all classically trained musicians, recorded two albums full of catchy, mass-appeal songs, followed by an acoustic album recorded as “The Nosebreakers”, and then… a gap. No tours, no new music, the disappointing feeling that somehow their time had come and gone… then, a new album, “Weekend Man”. The first listen showed that they have lost nothing. Brilliantly catchy tunes, clever lyrics, and a touch of madness that elevates them to something wonderful. Their set tonight was mostly songs taken from that new album, and the strength of the new material is clear when they can confidently leave out “Underwear”, “Everybody Wants To Be An Astronaut”, “Tommy Gun”, “Addicted” and at least another full set of crowd-pleasers. There are two songs that, played live, are simply sensational. “Walk” is a stomping brute of a song. I was there to take photos, but found myself singing along and shooting with a huge grin on my face. The second is “Baby”. Any band that can have me singing “Cheese nachos baby” at the top of my voice has something special. Frontman Adam Grahn, is a consummate performer. Great voice, huge presence, and the ability to swap licks with guitarist Hannes Irengård. Per Andréasson just seems to have huge fun battering hell out of his drum kit, and Jonas Almén was an unusually static performer due to a recently broken leg! The set ended with one of my favourites “Full Steam Space Machine”, one of only two songs from the earlier albums. Royal Republic should be on the verge of something huge. They have mainstream crossover appeal, songwriting ability in abundance, far more musicianship than they take credit for, and a sense of humour that many bands lose. Easily the set of the night, from a band that really seemed to want it, and went out and took it. They return in the summer for Download, and I know where I will be. I hope they come back for a headline tour soon, because even if it means another 300 mile drive, I will be there !
Finally, the headliners took to the stage. Led by Tyler Connolly, Theory Of A Deadman have been around since 2001 and in that time have amassed a catalogue of sing along classic songs. They took to the stage with “Lowlife” and segued swiftly through “So Happy” and “Bitch Came Back”… all crowd pleasers. Connolly is a charismatic frontman, but at times seemed too laid back, preferring a subtle smile to a more ostentatious reaction to the crowd. His two fellow string players, Dave Brenner and Dean Back were also content to let the music talk, and as the set went on, the crowd reaction became muted. Head bobbing and quiet singing along, rather than enthusiastic dancing and chanting. Joey Dandeneau’s drums kept the band moving forward, and he provided a great drum solo mid way through the set after one of the highlights, “Santa Monica”. They kept putting up the hits. “Not Meant to Be” and “Hate My Life” both featuring towards the end. A little tease for an encore, as they returned to “Sweet Home Alabama” and then into “Paradise City” before closing out with “Bad Girlfriend”
It would be wrong to say I was disappointed with Theory Of A Deadman. The songs were all there, played perfectly, and by great musicians. What I didn’t get was what I felt from Royal Republic and Forever Never (and talking to friends who attended other nights, they seem to agree) which was a hunger to leave the crowd wanting more.
Review and photos Rob Wilkins
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