If you’re a fan of modern hard rock, this is a tour you won’t want to miss. Stone Broken supported by Those Damn Crows, on a Saturday night. And to sweeten the deal for the Scottish and Newcastle dates (yes, plural!), Glasgow’s very own Anchor Lane. As a trio of bands go, this is the cream of the crop in the UK right now and incredibly good value for money. On a Saturday night. It’s every rock fan’s dream.
No strangers to Scotland, Those Damn Crows explode onto the stage following the crowd chanting “’Mon the Crows!” And with the rapidly-filling room, they get an excellent response right from the start and it only builds throughout their set from existing fans and newcomers alike. Drawing from last year’s Murder and the Motive, they refuse to pull punches and show they’re a band with brains and balls, opening with the rousing “Don’t Give a Damn” to get the crowd under control before unleashing a brand new song, “Long Time Dead”. It’s got more of a melodic edge but it keeps the crowd going. Where there’s the typical influences you’d expect from a band of this ilk, there’s other parts to it to bring their own twist with the likes of the inherent sneer of punk and the hooks of Foo Fighters to ensure you sing along – which the crowd are more than happy to do at several points throughout the set.
Elsewhere, “Somewhere Someday” features an interlude of “Pinball Wizard”. The rest comes from the album and as close as they get to a ballad, “Blink of an Eye” before closing with “Rock and Roll Ain’t Dead”. From start to finish, they don’t make a single mis-step. Even the fact that Ian “Shiner” Thomas’ guitar is completely buried to begin with is rectified in good time. It’s a triumphant set from the Welsh five-piece, slick, polished and charisma oozing from each of the musicians, you know that like their fellow bands on tonight’s bill, they’re well into tour mode and they’re only going to get better every night. This is a band that lives and breathes rock and roll, there’s no pandering, there’s no sense of going through the motions. Making no secret of putting every bit of energy into their all-too brief set, they take full advantage of it and ensure that at several moments, they’ve got the hairs on the back your neck standing to attention.
If you were going to add a Scottish band to tonight’s event, there’s only one band worthy of inclusion: Anchor Lane. It’s obvious the hometown boys have been looking forward to getting back after the Edinburgh and Aberdeen shows. Much like their predecessors, they’re not taking any prisoners, kicking things off with “Found Out” before diving into New Beginning’s “Annie”, complete with their own interlude – this time, “We Will Rock You”. The quartet have the crowd in the palm of their hands for the duration of their set, unveiling the fruits of their labours of writing sessions with Ricky Warwick. And with a household name like that working with them, “Dead Run” has all the makings of an instant classic.
Meanwhile, frontman Conor Gaffney makes good use of his wireless microphone to join the crowd at the barrier whilst bassist Matthew Quigley maintains his usual cool composure and drummer Scott Hanlon gives Animal a run for his money. However, it’s all eyes on newcomer, Lawrence O’Brien. Having been part of the band for a few months now, there’s a tangible chemistry with his bandmates as if he’d been there for a lot longer, bringing his own twist to the established material but giving the rightful respect to his predecessor, he’s a more than worthy addition to the band.
Much like Those Damn Crows, they make sure the crowd are joining in for the duration of the set. With plenty of opportunities for the crowd to sing, riffs from the two guitars and the fact they’re tighter than they’ve ever been, they continue to be an unstoppable force as a live band. Naturally, “Finished For Twelve” brings the set to its end and despite playing their hometown, it’s obvious they’ve won over a whole new set of fans and once again proved they’re the best band Glasgow has produced in decades.
Becoming one of the most popular bands in the UK in recent years through constant touring and consistently great performances, Stone Broken march onto the stage, ready to put their own stamp on the night with the powerful “Stay All Night”. Balancing material from both All in Time and Ain’t Always Easy, they manage to excel in blending them together and whilst they have their own respective markers, there’s enough to work with to make it consistent.
Where Ain’t Always Easy’s songs are more mature and aggressive, All in Time benefits from the longevity to beef them up to the same level. However, the best part of watching Stone Broken is their growth. They’ve come a long way from playing to a handful of people in the Hard Rock Café, a fact vocalist Rich Moss acknowledges early into their performance. Not only are they playing to far more people but as musicians and a band, they’ve come on leaps and bounds. They’re far more solid as a live act, confidence dripping from them as much as sweat. There’s roars of approval after every song and enthusiastic applause, the crowd pausing their constant bouncing to give them their due credit.
The band know how to work the crowd, deviating into a tamer moment with “Anyone” but largely keep it upbeat, full of massive, chunky riffs from Moss and Chris Davis. There’s nods to Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge, in their guitar work, winding around one another alongside the grungier moments of Theory of a Deadman. It’s a sheer display of power as the pair of them and bassist Kieron Conroy are constantly moving across the stage, bundles of energy and making full use of their space. Current single “The Only Thing I Need” is far more aggressive in a live environment but even its melody conveys that carefree sense of bygone days we all reminisce about.
There’s also time for drummer Robyn Haycock to have her own moment in the spotlight. Keeping her drum solo short and to the point, she knows how to use it to great effect and keep the crowd’s attention, rather than the designated point to empty your bladder or refill your pint. And once it’s finished, it’s time for the band to go for broke and unleash the last vestiges of energy with some of their grittiest and aggressive material, not that they were holding back in the first place.
As Moss leads the encore with the acoustic-driven “Wait For You”, “Not Your Enemy” leaves the night on a high. With all three bands giving their best performances to date, there’s nothing to fault any of them. Each taking their own spin on the modern hard rock sound, engaging the audience, entertaining them and showing any doubter that with bills like this, rock’s future is in safe hands.
Photos by Gary Cooper