Concert Reviews

Heaven & Earth / M.ILL.ION / Killing From A Distance Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 02, 2014    
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Heaven & Earth / M.ILL.ION / Killing From A Distance - ABC-2, Glasgow (UK) - 27 June 2014

Sometimes when you turn out early to catch a local band opening a bill for two long term, established acts of the Rock scene, you take your life in your hands; awful would be a kind assessment of the dross I've encountered over the years. However it is the likes of Killing From A Distance that make the support slot Russian roulette worth the risk. Truth be told I'd never heard of these lads before (well, when I say lads, I mean gentlemen of a certain age...) but if this is the sort of performance they can throw together after only three days notice, then it sure as hell won't be the last. Singer Jim Jackson may have been apologising for sounding a little gruff around the edges (he was visibly coughing and spluttering between songs), but his powerful Paul Rodgers meets Biff Byford like delivery was as impressive as it was surprising, while the twin axe attack of Ian Murray and Andy Farrell provided riffs and solos which caught and captured the imagination. Equally impressive was the wide reference points thrown out, with a roar of Saxon here and slither of Bad Company there, blues happily nestling up to NWOBHM and something altogether more commercial and Melodic Hard Rock in flavour. It's a clever concoction, with the likes of 'Killing From A Distance', 'Sleep Alone' and 'Come On In' living long in the memory. A little more emphasis placed on creating something more than a jeans and t-shirt stage image wouldn't go amiss, but in truth if that's the only complaint after an all too swift half hour set, then Killing From A Distance must be doing something right. With excellent musicianship, killer grooves and a classy singer, not to mention excellent songs, I counted at least four things they've got bang on.

So with maybe a little more to live up to than they'd have first expected, Sweden's M.ILL.ION bound onto the stage positively dripping with energy and attitude, a keen determination to get the up till now surprisingly (especially for Glasgow) reserved crowd on their feet. Two songs in and it was almost job done; they were on their feet, but stuck to the back half of the venue, 'Eyes Of A King' and 'Prisoner Of Power' proving that this band are a far more potent, in your face beast on stage, than they are on CD. Frontman Ulrich Carlsson preened and posed for the many cameras suddenly thrust his way, bassist BJ Laneby manically careening across the stage as guitarist Andreas Groule added a surprisingly Metal edge to 'Judgement Day' and 'Dr. Loov'. It was the keyboards of Angelo Modaferri however that drove 'On And On' to new heights, while the perfect collision of keys, guitars, bass and Johan Hall's pounding drums was a joy to behold and made 'Everyday Hero' the intense workout it is. Even with a few late stragglers trundling into the compact ABC2 towards the end of the set, it has to be said the small side-room wasn't exactly crammed to capacity, but that didn't stop the gyrating Carlsson from coaxing out a pretty convincing sing along to final number 'Rock 'N' Roll Nation', before vacating the stage to an ovation many a larger crowd has failed to deliver. M.ILL.ION may not be regular visitors to these shores, but hopefully we won't have to wait too long for a repeat performance from a band who were tonight, right at the top of their game.

If first impressions last, then I'm not sure what Heaven And Earth frontman Joe Retta was hoping we'd remember as he entered the stage bedecked in purple trousers, a bright green t-shirt, purple shades and a green tartan hat. However it only took a few seconds to confirm that even if his dress sense was a little unconventional, it was his unbelievable vocal creations that would stay long in the mind. Opening with a song called 'Victorious' was a strong statement of intent and one thoroughly lived up to, the authentic 70s sounds instantly grooving and moving the crowd as one. Seriously if you're looking for one band among the many who are capable of rekindling the Hammond infested sounds of the 70s and 80s, then Heaven And Earth are it. 'Back In Anger' upped the intensity, guitarist and band leader Stuart Smith (who was not only tutored by the man in black, Ritchie Blackmore, but in the dark lights of the stage, actually looked amazingly like him) delving into a serious bag of tricks, flick and whammy bar licks.


Search YouTube and you'll find a risqué video which has caused some controversy for 'No Money No Love', but take away the jiggling breasts and pleasured gentlemen and you're left with a Hammond driven, courtesy of the excellent Ty Baillie, song that doesn't just hit hard, it positively steamrollers over the top of you and it's fast becoming this band's calling card. 'Man And Machine' gave bassist Lynn Sorensen (also of Bad Company) the chance to shine - he didn't waste it - although all eyes were on Smith for the vocoder sections, before Baillie again took full control for the wonderful 'I Don't Know What Love Is'.

Opening a set with six numbers from a reasonably new album ('Dig') is always a risk, however Retta was more amazed that a few members of the audience actually knew some of the older Heaven And Earth tracks well enough to sing every word, the trio from the band's debut album, 'Heaven And Earth', 'See That My Grave Is Kept Clean' and 'Don't Keep Me Waiting', showing the depth this band's catalogue contains. Smith by now was thoroughly into his stride, the awestruck and awesomely comb-overed chap who parked himself slap bang in front of the guitarist all night and never once tore his doe eyed gaze from Smith's dextrous fingers as they tore through riffs and solos that would have made Blackmore, Ralphs or Kossoff proud, applauding his every fret flurry and vintage stage move. 'Waiting For The End' and the subtly "this song is about sex" introduced 'Sexual Insanity' brought us back to the 'Dig' album once more, before 'It's Gotta Be Love' and the Deep Purple cover of 'When A Blind Man Cries' again revisited the debut in fine style.

Retta is an extremely engaging frontman, his confident stage moves and stunning voice backed up by a host of self-adapted props including a tambourine with long wire attachments for easy pick-up and an "anti-roll bar" to remove the need to bend down to replace it on the floor, a microphone with a metal ring attached so he could twirl it on his finger and an amazing (and H&E logo-adorned) set of "Rock 'n' Roll Steps" (complete with harmonica holder!) so he could tower over the crowd, adding to the singer's captivating charisma. Add to that some wonderful acoustic and electric guitar playing, mean harmonica blowing and an energetic stint on the bongos and it would appear that Smith has definitely found a singer to work alongside him who is every bit as capable of fronting this band as convincingly as previous incumbents Joe Lynn Turner, Kelly Keeling and Kelly Hansen; the joyous pairing of 'Good Times' and 'Rock And Roll Does' bringing a simply amazing set to a close, as drummer (and son of Aussie superstar Jimmy) Jackie Barnes crushed yet another pair of sticks to death as he pummelled his drums and mangled his cymbals with pinpoint-power-precision.

A swift run through of Free's 'Mr Big' closed the show in fine style, the small but hugely appreciative crowd making a noise that completely belied their size, Smith, Retta, Baillie, Sorensen and Barnes more than happy to stand stage front and shake hands, hand out picks and sticks and chat to one and all.

What a night! Three great bands, three great sets and not one poor song or performance to be seen or heard anywhere. What more can you ask for?

Heaven And Earth will be back in the UK for five dates in July, before they perform at Steelhouse Rock Festival in Ebbw Vale. On the evidence of this performance, you should (yes, I'm really gonna say it...) move Heaven And Earth not to miss them!

Steven Reid


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