Bad Touch, Piston, Dead Writers

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With hair, patterned shirts, and swagger everywhere, Bad Touch are still a band to watch

Islington, London: O2 Academy2 – 02 December 2021

Call it the joy of getting out of the house, or call it a night of great bands, but the O2 Academy2, Islington, was pretty packed for the first of three stellar bands to take to the stage. Velvet-clad and with whimsical expressions, Dead Writers took to the stage with a reconfigured but faultless line up adding Kayleigh Cheer (drums) and Rachel Still (backing vocals) from band WAHL and bassist Dio Perez-Mavrogenis to join long-time members Paul Shine (lead vocals), Filippo Faustini (lead guitar) and Sebastian Harl (rhythm guitar). With a set tight on time, they cruised through a running order of suave and stylish numbers, including the heartfelt 'December' and the darkly romantic 'Among Spirits', its stirring melody cascading elegantly but with the hedonistic edge of Rock 'n' Roll Dead Writers deliver. Guitars from Faustini and Harl entwine and entangle as Shine croons, gushes and howls his way through mystical lyrics, backed by delicate touches of tambourine. Not to mention the added warmth and glitter of keys across the set. To close was the exhilarating single 'She's All The Animals', a wild and jagged track that simmers with tension as the band do when performing it until they are all unleashed, carousing, exhorting the crowd to join them until they are spent. Rich in style and smooth with class, Dead Writers are the satin of Rock 'n' Roll.

Steaming onto the stage next was Piston, an absolute engine of a band who powered through seven tracks including 'Leave If You Dare' and 'Carry Us Home'. Vocalist Rob Angelico strutted and bludgeoned with a voice stacked with range and soul, while drummer Brad Newlands made sure nobody forgot the drummer with his animalistic, hellraising style. Opener 'One More Day' whipped up the crowd with unrelenting rhythm and guitar from Jack Edwards (guitar), Luke Allatt (guitar) and Stuart Egan (bass). While coming in hard from all angles, there was plenty of variety too. 'Rainmaker' packed a swaggering punch but with an anthem of a chorus, while a cover of 'Proud Mary' started out slow – with plenty of crowd participation – before cranking up the throttle to scorch all the way to the end. Piston delivered with easy confidence and presence, rampaging through their set with a slickness that belied the energy they put into it and that they effortlessly imbued the crowd with.

Having formed in 2010, Bad Touch have become a bit of a welcome staple on the UK scene, taking their soulful Rock 'n' Roll from festivals to pubs and from city to coast. I mean, what's not to like when singer Stevie Westwood is dressed head to toe in a jacquard floral suit? Opening with the grooving 'Lift Your Head Up' before wasting no time ploughing through an exhaustive set of some of their best tracks over the years, including 'Strut', 'Too Much Of A Good Thing' and 'Can You Save Me'. 'Strut' burst out of the sounds system, a classic Rock 'n' Roll riff backed by solid backing vocals and a Soul-laden chorus. 'Twenty-Five Miles' had the rhythm and range to take the quintent one step higher, Westwood showing the stack of Soul in his voice while bassist Michael Bailey and guitarist Daniel "Seeks" Seekings provided all the groove for Westwood to shake it to.
Throughout, lead guitarist Rob Glendinning stepped up to play understated and tasteful solos while Seekings made up for any less movement on that side of the stage by ripping it up on his own. 'Skyman' soared, drummer George Drewry anchoring solidly from the back and there was no let up as they sailed through 'Come A Little Closer' and 'Outlaw', in command of the stage with a flair and poise that was both sartorial and musical. There was also a quick Christmas number – because it's December, right? – complete with hats and a certain coy excitement. Closer '99%' was uplifting, dashed with Country, and packed out with raucous backing vocals. A waltzing, energising end.
Bad Touch have the experience and mastery of their own sound and performance now but it was thrilling to see them in one of the best performances I have, oozing their own brand of soulful, Country-infused Rock 'n' Roll. With hair, patterned shirts, and swagger everywhere, Bad Touch are still a band to watch.

Sophie Brownlee

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