It's been ages since I saw a band down at The Fiveways and given that it's one of my favourite venues I decided it was time to break the self imposed exile. On the plus side there was a band playing there that I wanted to see in the shape of rock covers band Phoenix.
So after stopping off for a couple of post work Friday drinks Mrs G&B and myself set off for the fabulous Fiveways to experience the phenomenon known as Phoenix. A quick chat with Frank Smithland and the guys beforehand revealed that the set list was largely ad hoc and as the evening progressed the band had loads of fun reacting to the vocal crowd and their somewhat eclectic requests (Dambusters anyone?)
Excursions through rock classics 'Summer of 69' and 'In the name of love' were followed by an AC/DC track that doesn't often make a set list - 'It's a long way to the top (if you wanna rock and roll)". The reason it doesn't get played very often is probably the bagpipe solo part which on Friday was superbly matched by Frank Smithland on his public saxophone, for which he garnered just one of many fully justified ovations for his solo work.
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From the start what became obvious was that the band make no allowance for having a female front. It would be too easy to go down the Bonnie Tyler/Carol Decker route simply by virtue of gender. Instead the band kicked off with 'Rebel yell' closely followed by 'Vertigo'.
A gig photographers' worst nightmare is a band standing about behind their mikes and moving about as much as a stone chess player. In Frontwoman Verena Sherbournes' case this is unlikely to happen any time soon as she gave it plenty, aided by the fact that the four piece had a decent amount of space in the Fiveways raised area. V even tested the strength of the bannisters beforehand so I was disappointed not to see her atop the wooden rails giving it her all during the set. 'Bad case of loving you' brought back teenage memories of Robert Palmer's early videos (gentlemen of a certain age will know what I mean).
Standing in for Bassist Dave Hooper, Lidia Cascarino formed the other 50% of the female contingent and showed that there really should be more women in rock with her ability to play pretty much anything exceptionally well. This was Lidias' third gig with Pheonix in some 5 years although she was a regular in the set up before then and has been guesting with a variety of other local bands obviously being in great demand.
The second half began with a move away from the rock idiom and into more poppy areas with the audience shouting out random songs and we moved seamlessley between genres from 'Get' Lucky' to 'Zombie' via 'You got the love'. If nothing else the guys were getting the chance to show off their repertoire.
Unfazed by the appearance of two random inebriated dancers on stage and urged on by some superb drumming by Kev Moore the band returned to more usual rock waters with an excellent 'sex on fire' and 'highway to hell', provided a great rendition of 'comfortably numb', finishing a highly enjoyable nights' entertainment with 'Sweet child of mine'.
If there is any criticism of the band then I'd probably liked to have seen drum and bass solos (as opposed to drum 'n bass which frankly you can keep) and perhaps the set got a bit confused with the crowd setting the agenda in parts. That having been said these are pretty minor in context of the whole night which was very enjoyable.
Highlight for me has to be Frank's solo's and judging by the crowd reaction I wasn't alone.
Go see this band!