Review: Thunder @ The Armadillo, Glasgow

When bands from a previous era tour in current times it tends to be on a lesser scale to diminishing crowds. Not so in Thunder’s case. One of the most loved British rock bands of the last few decades, their appeal has gained steadily to near legendary status, resulting in last years ‘Wonder Days’ album gatecrashing the Top 30 Album Chart. Still able to pull the crowds in after 27 years, Thunder are a formidable force to be reckoned with and it’s commendable that they paid it forward by giving the opening slot on this highly anticipated tour to a young up and coming band.

Another day another dollar, or in this case another arena. King King have been working hard and, just two months after playing the iconic Glasgow Barrowland supporting Gun, they are back and playing the much bigger Armadillo. When I heard the boys had pulled off the support slot for this tour I was delighted for them. Not only are they massive Thunder fans but this I believe will be a game changer. It was a piece of genius getting on the tour, no matter how short it is. King King will make no bones about it, they want to be recognised by the rock world. They have that many blues awards they probably use them as doorstops but when you speak to any of them you can sense they just want more and this is why this one was so important to them. It is no secret I have been singing the band’s praises for some time and over the previous few weeks I have been beavering away at the Thunder fan Facebook page telling all and sundry to get to the show early as they must not miss King King.

Then the tour started and the praise began to flow. I sat and read all the comments like a proud father, chest puffed out and a massive, ‘ I told you so’, grin on my face. I can be completely honest and say I did not see one bad comment or statement on those pages night after night as the tour rolled on. You could not get near the guys as they signed CDs and promoted their upcoming headline tour of the UK. Alan and the boys were on early and that is always a worry in a Glasgow show as there are usually far too many people in the bar but luckily at £4 for a bottle of beer a few people may have had to venture into the hall for a seat at the shock. Alan’s opening words “where are they all, I warned them”, but the venue was just starting to fill and as soon as that guitar was plugged in and the husky soulful vocals started it was time to shut up and take note. I felt the crowd took to King king much quicker than at the Gun show(the beer was cheaper and you don’t have to leave the hall to get it!!) but that I put down to Thunder fans being far more steeped in blues and in love with great guitar work.

With only 30 minutes to work with they got straight into their stride and I loved the new sing along on “Rush Hour”. This was a slice of intelligence and shows they done their homework, as we all know how much Thunder fans love to sing! After “Rush hour” we had the run in of “Crazy” and an amazing set closer of “Stranger To Love” and for me it was way, way too short but this show wasn’t for me, it was for all those people who had never seen King King before and I know the job was done when the lights came on and the standing ovation ensued. You nailed it guys, from beginning to end and I know there will be a whole host of newbies at the headline tour.

I’ve always held the opinion that Bradford’s favorite upstarts Terrorvision were the fore-fathers of “Lad Rock”,the difference between them and acts like Kasabian or The Libertines being that they don’t seem contrived in any way,instead being genuinely cocky in a fun way.Frontman Tony Wright seems the kind of guy that wouldn’t mind you puking in his car; a real lad’s lad.

It’s easy to forget just how many bangers Terrorvision have in their arsenal and the guys take pleasure in re-aquainting the suitably lubricated audience with peaches like ‘Discotheque Wreck’, ‘Pretend Best Friend’,’My House’ and ‘Alice,What’s the Matter’. Tony Wright uses every inch of the stage and it’s hilarious watching the photographers at the front trying to keep up with him as he runs from side to side performing some of the laziest and shittest star jumps that you will ever see a grown man attempt. Yes,this is a set steeped in nostalgia but it’s hard to argue when the nostalgia is this enjoyable and the crowd lapped it up, none more so than the two inebriated ladies moved along by the stewards for committing the crime of really bad Mum dancing in the middle of the aisle.

Catchy slices of Pop Rock are what made Terrorvision famous and ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Perseverance’ are two welcome trips down memory lane.In fact the only thing missing was of course their biggest ever hit ‘Tequila’,the Number 2 hit single divides the fan base with it’s novelty-single vibe but in this atmosphere it would have been perfect.It’s a shame that this gig was in an all seating venue as Terrorvision would have had the crowd bouncing in a general admission venue.

There’s something comforting in a Thunder gig, it’s hard to put your finger on it. It just feels right. Feels like you’re home. The band have been there through the good times and the bad, with guitarist and song-writer Luke Morley managing effortlessly to come up with a song no matter what the mood. It’s like that old advert,”There’s an app for that”, only in this case it’s “There’s a song for that”. Nobody does heartache like Morley and at the same time no British Blues Rock band has scaled the dizzy heights that Thunder have reached. Whilst many of their peers fell by the wayside, Thunder have enjoyed a lengthy career with almost blanket admiration.This was a highly anticipated and a long overdue gig.

The lights dim and the massive video wall flickers into life with the old iconic Thames Television introduction and the realization of , “god I am old”, washes over a fair few of us in the crowd. For the next few minutes images of life in the 70’s & early 80’s fill the screen; some good, some bad. Tommy Cooper,George Best,Benny Hill and Morecambe & Wise mixed with Thatcher, the IRA bombs,the Miners strike etc before shots of the same kids featured on the sleeve for the ‘Wonder Days’ album playing innocently in the street. The opening song is of course ‘Wonder Days’ and the band are treated like heroes finally returning home.

Danny Bowes has one of the finest voices in Rock and I would easily put him in my top three British vocalists of all time alongside Frankie Miller and Paul Rodgers. Age hasn’t diminished his power or his range and he makes it look so easy. The hair might be shorter and grayer but Christ the voice is still there, close your eyes and it’s Donington 1990. Resisting the temptation to stick with a greatest hits set the band play a fair chunk of the ‘Wonder Days’ album.The title track leads into ‘Black Water’ and the crowd are bouncing along with Bowes and his jovial dad dancing. The strength of the album means that no-one switches off during the new songs and the general consensus is that it’s Thunder’s strongest album in decades. The first oldie aired is ‘River Of Pain’ from 1995’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’ album, an uptempo rocker with some great guitar work from the vastly under-rated Morley. Multi-instrumentalist Ben Matthews has recently recovered from a frightening brush with cancer and before introducing ‘Resurrection Day’, Bowes acknowledges his band mate to a rousing response from the crowd. Matthews sits at the keyboards as he accompanies Bowes for a stripped down, goose-bump inducing version of ‘Like A Satellite’ and with no band for the majority of the song it serves to highlight just how strong Danny Bowes voice still is.

Although the show was in a smaller theatre setting we get the full arena production complete with moving lighting rig and said rig was used to great effect during ‘Empty City’. Moving up and down before tilting on it’s side it helped create an atmosphere to match one of the band’s more moodier numbers. As the song fades,a very youthful looking Harry James appears on the screen dressed in full orchestra conductor garb and the drummer signals for the title track for the debut album ‘Backstreet Symphony’ to begin.Along with ‘Love Walked In’ from the same album, this received some of the loudest cheers during the evening. There’s a bizarre moment when during ‘Serpentine’, some old school pin-up pictures flash up on the big screen to go along with the song’s slightly saucy storyline. Nothing too naughty,more suggestive than anything. But the guy in front of me starts recording the screen. I know this because the speed he whipped out (oo-er) his camera and gave the game away. The guy obviously doesn’t have the internet at home, poor sod.

The only way to end a Thunder show is with ‘Dirty Love’ and it’s massive “Na-Na-Na-Na” chorus tailor made for massive crowd interaction. The crowd bounces as one as Bowes perfects his role of ringmaster, having a cheeky laugh with the ladies on the front row. Before you know it the band are taking their bows soaking up the applause and their first proper appearance in Scotland in six years comes to an end. An incredible evening from a band still making great music after all these years and, importantly, still bleeding relevant.Just don’t make it as long next time eh lads?

King King review      Ritchie Birnie

Terrorvision/Thunder review Dave Stott

Images  Ritchie Birnie

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