Sunday, 30 March 2014

Gig Review: Heaven's Basement, Electric Ballroom 27 March

If you’ve so much as glanced at a few posts on this blog you might have gleaned that it’s rare for me to get excited about bands who formed after I was born (which was quite a long time ago now, if truth be told) but Heaven’s Basement are a definite exception. I first stumbled upon them within a couple of months of landing in the UK in 2010 (at a time when they were between lead vocalists) and became an instant fan.

By the second time I saw them (at the second and, seemingly, last High Voltage festival) they had found that elusive permanent frontman in the slight, but energetic, form of Aaron Buchannan and since then it's been fun to watch them developing from support band to headliner, particularly following last year's release of their full-length debut Filthy Empire (officially my most played album of 2013, as it happens). Thursday's gig at the Electric Ballroom seemed to confirm that this transition is on the ascendant - the last time they headlined in London was a sold out gig at the 100 club, but this time they were in a much bigger venue and it was pretty packed, to the delight (and apparent surprise) of the band.

I would guesstimate that the average age of the crowd last night was a good 15 years younger than that at that 100 club gig last July, so either the band's continued commitment to play wherever and whenever anyone will have them is paying off - or perhaps they'd gained these 'new' young fans already and they were just a bit slow to book tickets last time! A small, selfish, part of me is hoping that they don't get too much bigger, though somehow I've a feeling we won't be seeing Aaron as the token rock coach on The Voice too soon. Phew.

The setlist was pretty similar to shows from last year, comprising most, but not all of Filthy Empire (bizarrely there was no Lights Out in London in London. Criminal!), as well as a couple of favourites from the old days, namely Paranoia (guitarist Sid Glover's chance to take the lead vocal demonstrating again that if they hadn't found Buchanan they could quite credibly have carried on with Glover fronting the band as a 3-piece) and Reign on My Parade. They also threw in Straight to Hell, which was new to me, but turns out to have been the b-side of Nothing Left to Lose (so a download is imminent).

(still) My personal favourite Can't Let Go (which has finally been granted an official video - see below) was an early highlight as always, but even I Am Electric - the only song of theirs that I'm not so keen on - is incredible in a live setting, so there were only highs and more highs throughout. Uncharacteristic ballad The Price We Pay provided a lighter's (and phone/camera lights) aloft moment, but the rest of the set was comprised of full on hard rock energy from start to finish.

Aaron's always had a reputation as a chronic crowd-surfer, and he's recently developed a new hobby - the crowd-surfing handstand, which he took the chance to try out again during Jump Back. For a moment it didn't look as though it would be successful this time, but it happened and it was pretty impressive.

Executioner's Day provided the obligatory 'suitable ending' to the night's entertainment. All that was missing was new material, so hopefully there will be some of that on the next tour. Despite the familiarity of the set, this was definitely the best I've seen them - and that's saying something. They've never been short of energy or confidence but both qualities seem to have gone through the roof in recent months. Drummer Chris Rivers continues to thrill and Glover and bass guitarist Rob Ellershaw also only continue to impress - make no mistake, these guys can really play.

Earlier on South Wales-based band The Dirty Youth had gotten the evening off to a fine start. Featuring, amongst other benefits, a fantastic rhythm section, and an excellent (female, no less) vocalist - not to mention some cracking songs, their set was god enough for me to part with some cash and grab their album from the merch desk before the end of the night.

Glamour of the Kill were up next, and while they were just that bit too heavy for my tastes, they did have some solid songs, with Second Chance and The Only One standing out mid-set. They also managed to swiftly incite some serious moshing. Despite my ongoing campaign against the dreaded, yet increasingly common, *shudder* all-seated gig, I have to admit I've never seen full-on moshers close up in their natural environment before - it was quite an eye-opener! While managing to keep out of harm's/mosh way in the front corner of the crowd, I've a feeling I might be inclined to stand a little further back than usual at future HB gigs (damn young people enjoying themselves and ruining things for us old farts - ah, for the days where I was always the youngest person at a gig!).

Overall then, we got three fantastic bands in one night for a tenner (value for money if ever I saw it) - seems only fair to rate the evening a 10/10.