LIVE: Lords Of The Riff Vol. 1 – The Underworld, Camden 26/03/2014
Featuring: Monster Truck, Scorpion Child and Buffalo Summer.
The mid 70’s. Some would say it was Rock’s heyday, a time for bands playing iconic riffs with a bluesy feel. A time when vinyl ruled and the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zep and Deep Purple were all at the top of their game. Life was decidedly analogue, the only thing digital was a red LED Timex watch (only readable at night). Some would say the rise of the digital age was to turn bands like ZZ Top and Whitesnake into something just a little too clinical, that it’s a shame bands don’t make music like they used to in the ‘old days’. Well, some bands do… as seen on the ‘Lords of The Riff Vol. 1 Tour’ which rolled into a sold out Camden Underworld tonight. The tour featured Monster Truck from Canada, Scorpion Child from the US, and Britain’s own Buffalo Summer who opened the show …
The last 12 months had already seen Buffalo Summer touring with Skid Row, Ugly Kid Joe and Heaven’s Basement among others, but their slot on this run of dates would seem to be more apt in terms of musical style. The benefit was apparent right from the start with opening track “A Horse Called Freedom” being greeted with enthusiasm from a crowd who knew exactly where the band’s influences came from. It’s a song typical of their sound, reminiscent musically at times of an early Aerosmith. The busy Joe Perry styled guitar licks were followed impressively on the bass to lay down a tight groove, while rock solid drums gave the whole shebang a real stomp. They raised the tempo with “Ain’t No Other” providing proof they could rock it out too, before returning to familiar strutting territory with new track “Overrated”. Debut album tracks “Roll On Through” and “Down To The River” both highlighted singer Andrew Hunt’s easy confidence and showed Buffalo Summer as a band who certainly have the musical chops without ever looking like they are trying too hard. Keep an eye on these guys, they look set for an interesting future.
Before Scorpion Child even took to the stage it was clear from the air of expectation that this would feel more like an event rather than a regular gig. Their sound comes with a darker vibe, not restricted by three to four minute song structures. So, with a band given some space to musically express themselves, and feeding off the buzzing energy from the crowd, a heady mix bordering on the psychedelic was served. Standard setlist conventions took a backseat when, after only the second song (“Liquor”), a storming solo from newly acquired drummer Jon Rice acted as an introduction to “The Secret Spot”. It blended the two songs together and encouraged the audience to become fully immersed in the whole ‘experience’ of the gig. Their Zeppelin feel came to the fore in “Salvation Slave” and again in “Kings Highway” with it’s ‘Plant-esque’ vocal stylings. Si nger Aryn Jonathan Black was on mesmerising form throughout, impressing not only vocally but also with his casual use of mic stand flicks and tricks. “Polygon Of Eyes” and “Paradigm” lifted the crowd to new peaks and “She Sings, I kill” provided a fine rousing finish to the set. Awesome.
And so it came to Monster Truck to close the evening, having alternated headline duties with Scorpion Child each night of the tour so far. Their particular brand of Rock leans proudly towards Bluesy roots, with a swing infused groove or bouncing boogie shuffle never far away. They opened in style with “Old Train”, the audience chanting the hookline immediately from the off. The sound was all encompassing. Jeremy Widerman’s guitar punched out the notes with just enough fizz and buzz to enhance it’s already considerable power, while Jon Harvey’s warm bass tone blended with Hammond organ and drums to d rive the bouncing groove all the way home. It was no disadvantage having half the band sitting to play their instruments either. Brandon Bliss on the aforementioned Hammond and drummer Steve Kiely didn’t seem the types to hide away, but in any case Widerman constantly drew the attention towards their areas of the stage every time he paid them a visit… which was often. His movement was relentless, tirelessly skipping and jumping his way through the songs with all the energy of Angus Young’s schoolboy, had he grown out of his uniform and put on some denim. “Righteous Smoke” and “Seven Seas Blues” were both big crowd pleasers but it was in the slow blues of “For The Sun” that Harvey’s soulful vocal was really allowed to shine and the full extent of Widerman’s ‘feel’ could be heard in the guitar work. Classy indeed. “My Love Is Tr ue” had the spirit of Joe Cocker’s “With A Little Help From My Friends” and the 12 bar boogie of “Call It A Spade” had a touch of ZZ Top’s “La Grange” about it. Not a bad thing at all. Monster Truck had all the ingredients and the recipe to bring the house down.
Tonight, three bands all promoting debut albums sold out Camden’s Underworld venue. According to the poster they are Lords of the Riff. No argument here. Noble bands for a noble craft and all worthy of the title.
Photos and words by Greig Clifford.