Finally, after two weeks of waiting, the Black Star Riders ‘Another State of Grace’ tour stormed into Cardiff. We were lucky enough to have had tickets to the first show on the tour - Bristol - and a couple of others in between so it was great to see how the three bands had gelled and developed on the road. With all three bands showcasing work from newly released albums, (in Stone Broken’s case, a re-release) the tour was bound to get major attention from all sides.
The gig, originally billed to take place in The Great Hall was moved to Y Plas which was a better choice, given the ticket sales. The queue built outside by 6:30 with fans of all three bands desperate to get in and bag their spaces - either at the barrier, or on the balcony - to get the best view. As we went in, the hall was already filling up, and the stage - small anyway - was filled with three sets of gear.
First on tonight’s bill was Wayward Sons. Fronted by Toby Jepson, it was hard to tell that he’d had to cancel a couple of gigs only a few days ago, having picked up a chest infection. He was in fine voice as he led the Sons through a short set which kicked off with ‘Any Other Way’, the opening track from the new album ‘The Truth Ain’t What it Used to Be’, which had been released at the beginning of the tour. They were visibly cramped, as they woke up the audience with sound that was right on the edge - as loud as the equipment and ears can take it, without distortion.
Nic Wastell (Bass) does not stand still. He is visually brilliant to watch, and one of the most active bass players around. He seemed to struggle on his side of the stage - wanting to show off his moves, but unable to. On the other side of the stage, Sam Wood (guitar) delivers screaming solos, riffs and grooves from his Les Paul with a huge grin on his face - he is clearly loving it! He steps forward to the very front of the stage - the only space he can get to and commands the attention of the crowd.
Despite being first on, in a three band bill, the crowd that fills the place absolutely love the mix of tracks from both the new, and the first album. Toby doesn’t talk much between tracks, preferring to fill the 30 minutes with music, until, finally, they finish with ‘Until the End’ - from the first album ‘Ghosts of yet to come’. It was a fantastic set to kick of the night with, and I am sure that Wayward Sons picked up new fans, who will get out to see them on their headline tour next year.
The main support for the first part of the European tour was Stone Broken - a hard hitting rock band from Walsall. They have a huge following in Cardiff, and most of them seemed to be in Y Plas last night - and in fine voice they were too!
With Rich Moss (Guitar/Vocals) out front, they gave us 9 of their finest tracks, picked from both albums. Opening with ‘Stay All Night’ the crowd are instantly jointing in, although Rich’s smooth, voice can’t be beaten. Behind her drum kit, Robyn’s face is lit up with her smile as she pounds away keeping band in perfect time.
They follow with ‘Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘Heartbeat Away’, both from the second album ‘Ain’t Always Easy’ before Rich talks to the cheering fans. He talks of the recent re-release of their first Album ‘All in Time’ which was recorded in Cardiff a few years ago. With many fans not being able to get hold of physical copies, the 2019 version includes extra tracks, and re-worked originals.
Rich has his ESP, and Chris Davis, who is brilliant on his Strat, together they give the music a solid feel and Chris gives each solo a unique sound with riffs and bends, taking the rock to another level. Between Rich and Robyn is the other half of the rhythm section, Kieron Conroy. With well practised moves, he uses every inch of the stage, laughing, smiling and picking out friendly faces in the crowd as he delivers a solid baseline.
Mid way through the set, Robyn, Chris and Kieron leave the stage, and Rich is on his own. Acoustic guitar in hand, the waiting fans know what is coming - ‘Wait for You’ is a song that means so much to the band and their fans. His bandmates return for the final part, and pick the pace back up with ‘Worth Fighting For’ before finishing on the anthem ‘Not Your Enemy’. The foursome are a tight unit, and their set is flawless. Rock fans who had come to see the headline band will surely go away as new Stone Broken fans too. They are set for a bright future, and we eagerly await their third album , which we hope will be early next year.
The excitement builds in the crowded room as the lights dim, signalling that it is finally time for Black Star Riders. They have a 90 minute set, crammed with 19 tracks taken from all four of their albums.
First on the list is ‘the title track from the brand new record ‘Another State of Grace’ swiftly followed by two older tracks ‘the Killer Instinct’ and ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ which instantly get the Welsh crowd singing and bouncing along. With a set full of their finest songs, there isn’t a great deal of time for Ricky (Vocals/Guitar) to chat - except about the important stuff. Buy the records, sing the songs, enjoy the rock.
Christian Martucci (guitar) fits in brilliantly with his Dean. This is his first tour as a Black Star Rider - replacing founder member Damon Johnson earlier this year. He has a completely different playing style, and he brings a new dimension to the older tracks, and his connection with the BSR crowd is instant.
The classic dual guitar work with the legendary Scott Gorham works brilliantly. Gorham has a long career behind him, and brings that experience to the stage in every track. There is a sharing of solos, between Scott and Christian, and with three guitars on stage, they work a magic of their own which encourages singing and dancing by the well-oiled crowd.
Robbie Crane (Bass) cover the left side of the stage picking out his solid baselines and backing harmonic vocals. he is a highly skilled bassist bringing expressing bottom lines, giving the BSR sound its uniqueness. Tucked away at the back is Chad Szeliga (Drums). He watches everything and misses nothing as he keeps his beat - complex and hard.
As the set draws to an end, Ricky introduces the band. He has obvious bonds with each of the men who share the stage, both musically and personally. He pays tribute to the two support acts, and the crowd who have so thoroughly enjoyed the nights entertainment.
BSR do not do encores. They prefer to just carry on and perform another song. The final two ‘Kingdom of the Lost’ and ‘Bound for Glory’ are raucous and loud. Fans show their appreciation by joining in the climactic finale.
This is a gig that will be hard to beat. Three bands, all giving exceptional performances, thoroughly enjoyed by everyone who was there.