Graham Bonnet Band Feb 2016
His current tour with The Graham Bonnet Band (sponsored by Rolos?) sees the singer striking out with his new band, looking back over his extensive career more seriously, and forward with a couple of new tracks to their new album which is due later this year on Frontiers.
As we had business in Skegness (looking into the 100 year history of a photographic studio based there), it seemed a good idea to combine this with a trip to see Graham’s homecoming show at the bizarre Suncastle on the sea-front, a mock castle built before the war out of concrete “stones” and decorated with a kitschy display of ye olde armour, banners, meat feast meals, etc.
Blackmore’s Night would love it.
Graham last played on the very same stage exactly 49 years ago, and the show had drawn plenty of his old mates, school-friends and regular rock fans to an otherwise largely deserted out of season coastal resort town.
Rather than the straight ‘tribute’ tours of the last couple of years, the band have taken a sideways look at the back-catalogue and neglected tracks bumped alongside the material you’d expect. He even dusted off his old Marbles hit Only One Woman and reminisced about his band mate (and cousin) Trevor who died not long ago, bringing Trevor’s old guitar on stage to play a track with. I’m not a great expert on Graham’s post-Rainbow work, but some of the Schenker material sounded great and even what I’d had down as AOR Alcatrazz songs sounded good beefed up.
The high ceilinged concrete roof didn’t do anyone any favours sound wise but we both enjoyed the show, so much so that we decided to try and catch another gig at a more regular venue.
This turned out to be the Brudenell, a former working men’s club in a large suburb of back to back housing (of the type my father grew up in) in what is now student infested Leeds. Most of the gigs I’ve been to lately in Leeds have been in the city centre at The Cockpit, but this was a new one on me. Polling up early I stayed to watch the sound-check and hear Graham really let fly without any of the clutter of a full show, amazing. The tidy venue was ideally suited, with a decent stage, a floor area then a low raised balcony round the entire back of the room for the less adventurous rock fan, which is where me and the rest of the grumpy brigade hung out (hello to Tim Summers, bravely wearing his vintage DTE t-shirt, Mike Richards, Steve Cole and others). Great view, but without the hassle of the crowd.
It was good to note Graham’s voice holding up, and the opening pairing of the two Rainbow classics, as well as the closing blast of Assault Attack, Lost In Hollywood and others were top notch. Graham admitted to hearing issues and now wears some hi-tech ear monitors which are controlled from the mixer and filter sound from the rest of the band as required. When they work!
Graham wheeled out a Telecaster for the new tracks (Mirror Lies was one which stood out) which show promise, and with this band also working in the studio, they should be nicely tightened up for the rest of the recording. The drummer was really on the button, and told me he recalled watching Ian Paice when the Cal Jam show went out live in America. Beth on bass did well (but then female bassists are a known weakness for me!) and the guitarist covered all the styles and material, paying homage to some of the greats Graham has played with but without letting them cramp him too much.
And those who watched the support band, Evyltyde (hope I’ve got the correct number of Ys!), may be interested in a Deep Purple connection, as Derek Lawrence was approached to help produce them.
Much of Graham’s new found direction is down to his current manager, who seems to be a real find. I was quite taken aback when he suggested I accompany them back to the hotel on the tour mini-bus for a chat about the upcoming biography*. I think the last time I did that was Whitesnake, and as DC has been slagging me off now for decades you can tell how long ago that must have been.
Anyhow, I made note of the Burdenell’s busy live music schedule and will certainly not mind going back there again, especially as Sheffield now seems to lack a venue of this size and agenda.
All I can say is after a belting Lost In Hollywood I think Ritchie must be barmy not to have Graham reprise a couple of the cuts with him on his Rainbow reunion.
Lighting was on a restricted voltage by the looks of things so my pics had to be pushed and are a bit grainy, but I’ll add a couple here.
*The biography is close to completion and there will be a limited run hardback with a unique cover designed by Graham (who is also signing the book), a CD of rarities, a booklet of his complete concert list going way back and a couple of other odds and ends. You can subscribe to get details on the publisher’s site.