With doors opening at 7, and me not wanting to miss anything, I actually arrived on time, only to discover that Night Demon, who were first up, were only starting at 8.15 thereby giving me an hour to grab a bite to eat before the show began.
While it would be dishonest to say I’d never heard of Night Demon before, that would merely be because the editor passed on that they would be the support act on the night, rather than because I’d actually heard anything about them, so I went into this with an open mind. When their opening tape came on through the PA, I headed over to a good spot between the pillars below the stage where I could get a good view of the show. My first thought when they kicked into the chorus of “Welcome to the Night” was Misfits, owing to the punchy punky attitude and delivery of the song, while I couldn’t help but be directed to thoughts of Budgie, but with better vocals when they played “Full Speed Ahead”. and immediately thought to myself ‘Fuck me, now they sound like Motörhead, but that turned out to be because they were playing “Overkill”, which became “Dawn Rider” which I was convinced would be called “Stunt Rider” from what I could make out. Their sound however was impeccable, with Jarvis Leatherby’s bass cutting through under Armand John Anthony’s guitars and even allowing leads to be played without a loss of depth while Dusty Squires steady drumming was the backbone of the band, additionally every clearly enunciated word coming from Jarvis was also perfectly audible, meaning you could actually follow the lyrics of songs like “Hallowed Ground” and “Curse of the Damned”. I was impressed that at times it sounded like they had 2 guitars going and there were occasions when they had twin vocals as Armand joined Jarvis on “Screams in the Night”. They were joined on stage during “The Chalice” by a chalice wielding skeleton in a cowled robe adding a little light heartedness to the show. They slowed things down beautifully for “Darkness Remains” and I was actually impressed by how well the stripped down song actually worked for them in a live setting. After a few seconds of darkness and cheering, they returned for their self-titled encore “Night Demon”. Definitely a good show put on by the trio of Californians and not a bad start to the night at all.
I wasn’t expecting Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” to be played start to finish, but it had completely faded out by the time Sacred Reich walked out on stage, and while it was playing I was looking around at everyone gathering up on the floor and it felt very strange to be in my mid 40s and appear to be one of the youngsters in the room. Wasting absolutely no time in delivering new material to our ears, “Divide and Conquer” was belted out with all the energy of a band half their age. But it was the slow groove of “The American Way” which instantly got everyone’s head banging and singing along, while Phil’s cheesy grin just kept growing. What is abundantly clear when he was chatting to the crowd was how laid back and humble he is, as well as being extremely grateful that we all turned up to support them, but by virtue of the fact of how many of us were singing along to “Manifest Reality”, we know the new material too and Wiley’s leads on the song were blistering. Heading to the EP that would cap the evening, we were given “One Nation” with its emphatic cries for world peace. The title track of the new album, and début of new guitarist Joey Radziwill, “Awakening” is a fast and furious song and a welcome return to the fold for Dave where his footwork is only matched by his prowess with sticks. It’s funny how easily the lyrics for songs like “Love…Hate” and “Free” come back to you as you bang your head and bounce around, but the bass line and pace of “Crimes Against Humanity” really had me giving it a good go as the floor erupted, but it’s always “Who’s to Blame” that has me wondering why I knew so much more about being a parent in my teens than I do 30 years later and am worried if I became what I always hoped I would never be suffocating. It’s amazing how little has changed and how pertinent the lyrics to “Ignorance” still are, especially when you consider the ignoramuses we currently have in charge of many a nation. Personally, I think Phil is correct when saying music is “Salvation”, as it has always been such a huge part of my life and there’s nothing more cathartic than being on stage or in a mosh pit. Still one of my favourite songs of theirs, “Independent” has exactly what you want from a SR song… a great bass riff, a catchy guitar rhythm, hectic drum patterns, a soaring lead and a vocals melody you can sign along to easily. Oh and Dave has long hair in the video. The last song they play from their new album is the rather poignant “Killing Machine” followed closely by the one that people kept screaming for throughout the night, “Death Squad” but it was obviously “Surf Nicaragua” that got the most activity out of everyone, with the stage diving and body slamming stepping up a notch to earlier in the evening. An excellent show by an excellent band, and I for one am as grateful to get to watch them as they appeared to be getting to perform.