With Support From Skarlett Riot and Buffalo Summer.
The Cavern Exeter 16th July 2013.
Sometimes… Just sometimes… All the planets in the Rock ‘n’ Roll firmament align in such a way that a holy trinity comes into being. Imagine. Three bands, all with fantastic debut albums doing great business, all with cross-generational appeal, all winning new fans on the festival circuit, all on top form. Such an alignment occurred recently, when Heaven’s Basement were joined on tour by Skarlett Riot and Buffalo Summer. The tour has been a resounding success, with many of the shows selling out. The subterranean Exeter Cavern was no different, selling out on pre-sale!
The doors hadn’t been open long, but there is a very sizable (and rapidly expanding) crowd waiting for Scunthorpe’s Skarlett Riot when they take to the stage. They hit the eager crowd with a barrage of well-crafted, melodic rock songs, mostly taken from the current album ‘Tear Me Down’. Skarlett wastes no time, getting up-close-and-personal with the front row, whilst Danny lunges, arches and swings his guitar around. Tom is on the left, pounding out the groove, bass slung low, either prowling the stage, or foot up on his monitor, head down. At the back, holding it all together, is Luke, the baby of the band. Skarlett Riot perform with the confidence of a band that not only know each other very well, but also believe in their music. They’ve got confidence and self-belief, but never does it spill over into cockiness or arrogance. They know they’ve got a great set of songs for you, and they know how to play ‘em! The younger faction of the crowd, in particular, were lapping it up. A fantastic start to the evening.
A quick change-over of kit on stage, and it was time for a bit of a change in style and direction. From the straight-ahead rock of Skarlett Riot, to the blues-infused groove of Buffalo Summer.
The Welsh quartet set out their stall early with album opener, ‘She’s All Natural’, which hits you from the off with so much groove it’s corrugated! ‘A Horse Called Freedom’ followed in a similar vein. The eager crowd was already enthralled. Hair and fists fill the air, while on stage Andrew Hunt dressed in flares and floral print shirt, struck the best Plant-esque poses since the great man himself!
Elsewhere on the stage, Jonny Williams was every bit the Rock God guitarist. Face obscured by tousled hair, Les Paul held almost upright, back arched whilst slaying with a riff, or throwing out a solo with more feel than a blind octopus! To the left was bassist, Darren King. He was mesmerising to watch. Cropped hair and face fuzz so luxurious, it makes Brian Blessed’s effort look like that of a prepubescent schoolboy.As soon as he hit his groove, he was stomping on the spot, face to the roof. When he’s completely lost in the rhythm, the head came down, and shook like a dog with a rag (with a few ‘chord faces’ thrown in, for good measure!). At the back, providing the heartbeat was ‘quiet man’ Gareth Hunt and you know what they say – you’ve got to watch out for the quiet ones. Behind the kit was a mess of sticks, arms and hair, all flailing around with equal ferocity.Most of the (eponymous) album got an airing tonight, and why not. In the main support slot, you’re still winning new fans. Why not hit them with the best stuff they can buy? From the people I spoke to, there were more Buf-fellows (see what I did there?) leaving the venue, than entered it.
The club was a sweatbox. Not just from the oppressive heat of the day, but from the shoulder-to-shoulder capacity crowd, crammed into the Cavern, unable to resist the urge to shake their heads, wave their arms, jump around and join in with the fantastic performances they’d witnessed so far… And we still had the main attraction to go!
Heaven’s Basement kicked Exeter in the face from the off, commanding every inch of the stage and hitting us with the high-tempo, and highly contagious opener ‘Welcome Home’. This was followed by ‘Can’t Let Go’, with it’s “Whoah-a-whoah’s” and a chorus that’s catchier than chicken pox! The crowd were definitely there for the band, but if there were any doubters, they were won over by the time current single “Fire Fire” rang out. Aaron Buchanan, every bit the archetypal frontman with the presence, the swagger, and the skills to back it up, made the first of two excursions into the crowd. I say ‘into the crowd’, but to be precise, he was over the crowd, floating on a sea of hands to the back of the venue, and back to the stage.
This was no one-man-show though. Sharing the front of the stage was guitarist Sid Glover. He worked the front row with every trick in the “How To Be A Rockstar” handbook! From holding his guitar aloft, through pointing it out at the crowd, to the whole gamut of guitar-playing faces. Actually, the faces deserve a spacial mention as I have not seen anyone pout and lick their lips this much since Steel Panther’s Lexxi Foxx!
We were treated to a whole raft of songs from the ‘Filthy Empire’ album, including ‘Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch’ and ‘I Am Electric’, before an older song came out. ‘Paranoia’ from the ‘Unbreakable’ EP made a welcome appearance. It wouldn’t have been a ‘proper’ rock gig without the obligatory ballad. It came as a welcome relief from all the balls-out, high octane rock ‘n’ roll so far. The crowd were far from flagging, but the inclusion of ‘The Price We Pay’ served several purposes as it allowed the audience (and the band!) a chance to catch their collective breathes and added another layer to the band’s repertoire. They performed it exquisitely, too. As if to ensure everyone was refreshed and ready for the final push, Buchanan came to the front of the stage brandishing four bottles with pierced lids and doused all within reach with icy water. At least I think it was a gesture of refreshment. There was a group of attractive young ladies near the front in vest tops who appeared to receive slightly more of the ‘refreshment’…. or maybe that’s just how I remember it! Anyway… after a brief teaser of the intro from ‘Billie Jean’ we were back into full on rock mode, with ‘Jump Back’ and another oldie ‘Reign On My Parade’, during which, Buchanan made another journey deep into the crowd (almost getting toppled!) and back, and that was that. The hot, sweaty, wet, jubilant crowd weren’t satisfied quite yet, and Aaron, Sid, Rob and Chris came back and duly obliged with a superb rendition of the album closing track, ‘Executioner’s Day’. And that really was that.
A fantastic finale to a heavenly evening in a basement club!
Words and Photography by Rob Nankivell (Shoot Plymouth)