Bad Touch / Mollie Marriott http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/fb/4f/bb/bad-touch-live-15-1511897655.jpg

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Bad Touch / Mollie Marriott - The Empire, Coventry (UK) - 25 November 2017

First of all, I have to pay big respect to the guys at Noble PR for putting their artists Bad Touch and Mollie Marriott together as touring partners because the two bands are perfectly compatible though quite far apart in style. However, it's a big thumbs down to the venue The Empire though; the doors are thirty minutes late in opening, then everybody is ushered in like sheep into a soulless room to wait another five minutes before the door to the upstairs room is opened so the concert can begin. Due to the lateness both Marriott and Bad Touch had the severely trim their sets, yet the opening act still had their allotted seven songs; this was the set that should have been truncated (by about five songs in all honesty), but enough said on that subject.

Marriott's excellent debut album 'Truth Is A Wolf' has already reached the higher echelons of the Blues chart and it's the slinky title-track that opens tonight's show, perfectly showcasing Marriott's quite wonderful voice. With just a three-piece band backing her, naturally the songs take on a much rawer sound than the polished album versions, but also slightly more raucous too, with guitarist Johnson Jay delivering a jaw-droppingly brilliant (and slightly unusual) solo at the song's finale. 'Broken', 'Into Shape' and the Judie Tzuke co-write 'King Of Hearts' follow, and though the tempo never rises above a canter, reflecting the somewhat laid-back and soulful nature of much of the album, it's nevertheless mesmerising thanks to Marriott's stage presence and effortless delivery. If there were any doubters amongst the audience, those doubts were quickly dispelled as they run through a stunning version of Tom Petty's 'I Should Have Known It'. The ballad 'Transformer' with its almost-Grunge sounding guitar work brings the tempo down again slightly, before the all-too-short set comes to a close with the Pop Rock of 'Control' – once again in a far more rougher-round-the-edges version than the original song. I adore the album, but I would really like to hear a lot more of Marriott in this more raucous style in the future; as a possible alternative, hopefully somebody would have had the foresight to record one of the shows on this tour for a live release. Either way, Marriott is a huge star in the making.

"Norfolk Rock 'n' Roll" is proudly displayed on the drum kit and Bad Touch can rightly claim the crown of Norwich's finest (I'm a huge Norwich City Football Club fan, and as my team are hardly setting The Championship alight, I think that's a fair statement!) I first came across these guys supporting Tyketto and have avidly followed them ever since. After putting in an enormous amount of groundwork by touring relentlessly with the likes of The Kentucky Headhunters, Broken Witt Rebels (who are in attendance tonight) and King King, Bad Touch have now deservedly been elevated to a headline band in their own right. Led by the charismatic, captivating, curly moustachioed vocalist Stevie Westwood, the band have undoubtedly grown in maturity and confidence, their take on a Southern and Blues-infused Rock 'n' Roll really coming to life in the live setting. Indeed, so confident are the band in their own abilities that they open tonight's set with a brand-new song, 'Take Me Away', which they swiftly follow with the fun-time Rock 'n' Roll of 'Good On Me (The Jeans Song)' and the funky 'Heartbreaker, Soulshaker'.

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Rhythm guitarist Daniel "Seeks" Seekings has always been the guy with all the cool Rock star moves and slick riffs, but bassist Michael Bailey and lead guitarist Rob Glendinng have really grown in stature and confidence in the few years I've been following this band, in particular Glendinng's six-string work is absolutely enthralling; for a fairly young guy he has such feeling and understanding for the Blues, while his fiery and lengthy solo on the 'Outlaw' or the slick slide work on 'Wise Water' demonstrate the full breadth of his exemplary talents.

Another new song that gets an airing tonight is 'I Belong', a real Southern-tinged ballad with a tough exterior that Lynyrd Skynyrd would be proud of, then it's from brand new to the oldest song in their arsenal with 'Down', written while the band were in their late teens yet clearly demonstrating they had the skill in their song-craft right from the start. They exhibit that skill with two of the ballads in the set, the understated 'Take Your Time' and 'Something Someone', the latter they opt to deliver acoustically and un-amplified, with drummer George Drewry coming out from behind his kit to supply some stunning vocal harmonies. With songs in this style there really is nowhere for Stevie Westwood to hide, but his vocals are perfect. The rest of the band return to the stage to complete the song electrically and Glendinng tops it with another sublime solo.

It was inevitable that Marriott would be returning to the stage with Bad Touch to perform the Planet Rock-endorsed single 'Baby Get It On', their cover of the Ike & Tina Turner chestnut. The vocal harmonies are perfect and there's a real camaraderie between Marriott and the guys as it's obvious they're enjoying their time on stage – I really hope the two artists can work together again in the future. I would have actually liked to see Mollie Marriott remain to sing back-ups on the final song of the set, '99%', the perfect Rock 'n' Roll ending to a great show.

Bad Touch have the songs, the skills and the image, and with youth on their side, they really have the potential to become world beaters. 2018 is going to be such an important year for them, I'll be with them every step of the way.

Ant Heeks

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