First gig of the year, and a really special one too as the Rockgrass legends Hayseed Dixie from Deer Lick Holler, Tennessee arrived in Liverpool on the latest stop on their UK tour. First up were North West rockers The Jokers, a new name to me, but already three albums into their career and already gathering fans far and wide. They quickly drew the majority of the early crowd to the stage and spent the next half hour proving that they just might have enough to live up to the acclaim that they are getting. Each of the four members seemed on top form and were loving every minute, as were the rapidly building audience. High-energy rock n roll with no gimmicks, just damn good tunes. They have a new album out soon and plenty of tour dates coming up, Well worth investigating, the albums have gone straight onto my shopping list.

Main support for this tour is singer Tom Copson. Another new name to me and another blinding set. In a time when bland singer songwriters are filling the airwaves, it’s reassuring to know that there is plenty of talent out there, and Tom is one of the best that I have heard for a while. Joined by a percussionist, he raced through a short but entertaining set, throwing in a couple of covers (Cameo’s ‘Word Up’ and Prince’s ‘Kiss’) and even an impromptu cover of the Beatles ‘Come Together’ after someone in the crowd requested it. After a guest appearance from Hayseed Dixie bassist Brother Jake, Tom finished his set with a couple of new tracks and by the end, the whole crowd was disappointed there wasn’t time for more. A brilliant talent, with an unbelievable vocal range.

Finally it was time for the headliners. It had been a while since I had seen them, but being a band that relies on cover versions, there was never going to be any doubt that this show wouldn’t rock. Right from the very start we were promised an evening of “drinking, cheating and killing” and throughout the 70 minute set, they managed to cover each of those topics more than a few times. As always the between song banter was as good as the song they played, especially John Wheelers line that drinking Prosecco made him feel “like a young girl listening to Robert Plant in 1975”. They also got political for a short while, with the frontman proclaiming “I ain’t try to be Billy Bragg and telling you who to vote for, but if they try and take your NHS away, you should respond with extreme violence. Try living in a country that doesn’t have it, don’t take that shit for granted”.

The set included all of their famous tracks, with their bluegrass flavoured covers of ‘Ace Of Spades’, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ this ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ all featuring before they got to their killing song. I have seen them perform ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ before, at Sonisphere a few years back, but tonight they absolutely nailed it. Towards the end of the set, the crowd were treated to something maybe even more special than that. After the standard ‘Duelling Banjos’ and inspired by a festival meeting with DJ Yoda, they did a “cut n paste” featuring the likes of The Eagles, George Michael, Abba, Britney Spears, Dio and The Bangles, before they launched into a sublime cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb to close a brilliant set. First gig of the year and already going to be difficult to beat.

Hayseed Dixie – Official Website

Photos by Stephen Fallows.