JAMESON RAID, THE HANDSOME BEASTS, AGINCOURT – Robin 2, Bilston, UK, 18th July 2010

jameson_raid_posterNowhere near as famous but no less exciting as many of the bands to emerge from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – Brian Tatler namechecks them as “competition” in his autobiography ‘Am I Evil?’ – Jameson Raid never fulfilled their potential: two EPs and one sampler track that they distanced themselves from were all that they left behind. Pretty much thirty years later, and with just one week’s rehearsal, the classic line-up of Jameson Raid took to the stage once more, and blessed were we that were there to witness it.

More than just a gig, this was a night to showcase some of the best bands from the Midlands, and was perhaps one of the bestagincourt_bilston_2010 shows I’ve seen for many years. Kicking things off were Agincourt, who first came to prominence in the early Nineties just before grunge put a bullet in the head of any bands still daring enough to play traditional British metal. The band was recently revived by vocalist/guitarist Richard E Toy and bassist Russell Weaver, and along with guitarist Paul Anderson and new drummer Steve Riley, they stormed through a forty-minute nine-song set which drew heavily on their upcoming album ‘Angel Of Mons’. The band have a talent for writing easily-accessible but not overly commercial material, hummable yet still heavy, probably best evidenced by ‘Edge Of Paradise’ and set closer ‘Queen Of The Night’ which, one of my colleagues observed, is the sort of song Metallica could cover.   

“I was so happy that it all came together on the night and nothing went wrong,” Weaver told me later. “It has to be one of the most enjoyable gigs we have ever done. And I noticed Terry Dark standing side stage watching most of our set. That was nice! From the feedback I’ve received I think we did ourselves justice. Paul Britton of Scarab and Solstice, who was doing Jameson Raid’s backline, left a comment on our MySpace site saying ‘you kicked my ass last night, guys.’ It was an incredible night for us as a band.”   

the_handsome_beasts_bilston_2010The Handsome Beasts in 2010 are a very different animal from the band that recorded ‘All Riot Now’ thirty years ago. The most obvious difference is behind the mikestand, where in place of the obese Garry Dalway (RIP) there now stands the leaner and more glam Rocky Shades. “How can I fill Flabby Dalway’s shoes?” leered the formed Wrathchild frontman at one point. “Easy. Inside me is a fat man trying to burst out!” Guitarists Alan Nyland and newest Beast Tony Coleman hammered out riff after riff with consummate ease, and the rhythm section of bassist Sean Till and drummer Mick Roobottom kept things rock steady at the bottom end. “We were only booked to do a 30 minute slot,” commented Coleman afterwards, “although it ended up being closer to 40 minutes including my equipment failure, which was nerve-wracking to say the least. We ultimately had a great time, but we were slightly pissed off at being 'side staged' in that we had to cram our gear on stage with Mick being stuck in a corner due to lack of space. The sound on stage was therefore compromised a little, but saying that the sound engineer did a fantastic job of balancing it for us. And the audience were absolutely fabulous! Responsive, energetic… You couldn’t ask for better.” One new song ‘Doomsday 666’ put in an appearance, but it was the closing trio of ‘Don’t Panic’, ‘The Beast Within’ and ‘Local Heroes’ that put the biggest smile on my face. 

Between bands at the Robin 2 a video screen drops from the ceiling to advertise forthcoming events, but even with this obscuring the view it was still possible to see roadies scurrying around with all sorts of props and stage decoration. As the screen scrolled back up Jameson Raid took to the stage with ‘The Hypnotist’ and within a matter of seconds it was easy to see why the band were celebrated as cult heroes all those years ago. The recently-released collection of early material ‘Just As The Dust Has Settled’ proves how exciting and multi-faceted the band are as songwriters, and onstage the four musicians oozed professionalism. Much of the band’s appeal stems from vocalist Terry Dark’s charisma; you can’t buy or bottle it, either you’ve got it or you haven’t, and Dark has charisma by the bucketload, holding the audience spellbound song after song. To his right guitarist Ian Smith moved and played with an effortless fluidity; to his left bassist John Ace, still in peaked cap and military tunic after all these years, looked and acted oh-so-cool; and behind him powerhouse drummer Phil Kimberley made it look all so easy

The sound was full, the atmosphere was electric, and the songs, the songs… ‘The Raid’, ‘Catcher In The Rye’, ‘Titanic’, It’s A Crime’ and, of course, ‘Seven Daysjameson_raid_bilston_2010 Of Splendour’ to name but a few. Of course, it could have fallen flat on its face. But it didn’t. It was a breath-taking return for a band that many people talked about but few had actually seen. “We were nervous, of course, but the crowd was so warm towards us that that went quite quickly,” said Dark a couple of days ‘after the dust had settled’. “We had a few technical problems at the beginning but managed to solve them after a few songs, although it was then difficult to hold the concentration. Still we felt it went well. No gig is ever perfect: you can only aim for it. But it was a wonderful reaction from the crowd, and to see so many people singing the words to our songs after 30 years was just awesome! We are still awed by the respect given to Jameson Raid and can only assume that it's the power of the songs and their presentation by four completely different characters that has created this effect. Realisation of this has come over the last few months leading up to the gigs; we just weren't aware of it before then.”
 
Jameson Raid obviously have unfinished business to complete, and it would be a shame if this reformation didn’t allow them to complete what they started back in the late Seventies. Nothing appears to have been agreed, but nothing’s been ruled out either. “We are taking the time to talk about what we do next,” Dark continued. “There have been no decisions made as yet. One thing we can say though is that it has been a great pleasure seeing each other again and playing together after all this time.” 

(c) John Tucker July 2010