Soto / Bigfoot / Vanadine - The Cluny, Newcastle (UK) - 11 February 2017
This was my first visit to The Cluny in Newcastle. The feedback I'd received when making enquiries was really positive so I was looking forward to the evening, mainly because Jeff Scott Soto is one of my favourite singers and front-men. It was an early arrival at the venue to conduct an interview but there were already a number of familiar faces in attendance and it also gave me a chance to meet a few new people, including our very own Mick Burgess who was also there in plenty of time to do an interview with JSS.
There were two support bands on tonight's bill, the first being Vanadine. They are a Swiss four-piece who have been around since 2011 and, so far, they have released one full-length album entitled 'Liar'. They have a classic guitar/bass/drums/vocals sound and attitude, and with tracks such as 'Fuck U' and 'Da Boobs' it is impossible to take them too seriously. They warmed the crowd up nicely and were impressive enough to make my partner wander over to their merchandise area to pick up a copy of the album.
Wigan's Bigfoot have managed to make a name for themselves through hard work and great live performances. They are a relatively young outfit who have lots of energy and a fine grasp on how to work an audience. Songs such as 'Come Down My Way', 'The Other Side Of Paradise' and 'Run' came across well in the live environment, showcasing a more mature writing ethos. Their thirty-five minute set went by in the blink of an eye. The two EPs they were selling at the show became another instant purchase for my partner and I'm sure they will go down a storm at the Hair Metal Heaven Festival later in the year.
Jeff Scott Soto has been around the Rock scene for over thirty years now, as part of a band, project or solo performer and I don't think I have ever seen him give anything less than 100% and put on a great show. Soto is not about JSS however, it is a fully-fledged band, featuring five consummate musicians, and JSS was keen to stress in the interview before the show that it is a total democracy. The two albums released so far, 'Inside The Vertigo' (2015) and 'Divak' (2016), are a return to JSS's Metal roots and though the first featured a number of outside writing contributions, the 2016 album was more of a settled band effort. The emphasis tonight was on Soto the band and not a showcase for the JSS past.
The set was based around the two albums and few snippets of former projects were incorporated and given the Soto treatment. Songs such as 'Weight Of The World', 'Final Say', 'Wrath' and 'Freakshow' are by no means overly heavy and the highly melodic structures were still key to their ability to impact. The quality of the musicianship on stage was quite staggering and the fact the sound was clear as well as being loud meant the "in-your-face" proceedings were charged and effective. JSS's natural enthusiasm and showmanship had to be curbed somewhat due to the size of the stage, but his charismatic persona was still as infectious as ever. 'When I'm Older' was dedicated to his younger brother Joey who has been going through some tough times recently and the overall poignancy of the song was lost on no-one. 'Colour My XTC' and 'I'll Be Waiting' stampeded through from the Talisman past and the cover of Michael Jackson's 'Give In To Me', recently released digitally as a single, fit perfectly into the set. 'Livin' The Life' brought memories of the 'Rockstar' movie flooding back and the 'Suckerpunch'/'Cyber Masquerade' one-two showcased some classy guitar work from Jorge Salan. 'The Fall', from 'Inside The Vertigo', came across like AOR on steroids and had me grinning like an idiot as I sang along. The evening was brought to a close with Yngwie Malmsteen's 'I Am The Viking' and 'I'll See The Light Tonight', alongside another visit to the 'Rockstar' soundtrack with 'Stand Up'. It was clear that even though the audience was quite small they had been well and truly entertained. An a cappella rendition of Steel Panther's 'Private Property' was a nice touch and highlighted how well the five guys work together.
The rest of 2017 will see Jeff Scott Soto return to the melodic style most people will associate him with, but Soto the band will continue to release new material on a regular basis before they reconvene to tour again. I hope that is sometime soon as this was a show I want to see again and I wouldn't complain if it was in the same venue.