My attitude is like the old adage about the 60’s: if you can remember a Wolfsbane gig, then you weren’t really there. My last Wolfsbane gig was a very long time ago, but just like old times I’m already quite refreshed by the time I arrive at The Dome. But what has changed? Well we’ve all got a lot older, frighteningly so, although we can take comfort that none of us are as old as Quartz, tonight’s support act. Still, if they’re still rocking then there’s hope for us all, right? And rock they certainly do, playing a mix of classic British metal and doom that has everyone from the kids in hoodies down the front to the old farts in denim and patches at the back nodding their heads and whooping. Guitarist Michael Hopkins looks like he should be doling out Werthers toffees to cherubic grandchildren, but here he is producing classic riff after riff with consummate flair and ease. No surprise really as these guys are contemporaries and touring buddies of Black Sabbath – they were there when this stuff was invented in the Black Country and they still carry the torch. Vocalist David Garner is a newish recruit, but is an excellent front man, with a voice forged from the same heavy metal fires as Biff Byford and Rob Halford. The set ends with a cover of ‘Heaven and Hell’, in tribute to Ronnie James Dio and missing band member Geoff Nicholls, an off and on member of Sabbath for many years. It is a note perfect rendition, vocalist Garner Is easily up to the job and the already enthusiastic crowd lap it up.
Soon the PA is pumping out ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon, oh so waggish, oh so clever, oh so Wolfsbane!
Jase, Steve and Jeff troop on stage and the crowd subconsciously holds its breath, waiting for the entrance of the main man. And here he is, Blaze Bayley, eyes popping, fist pumping and leery grin all intact (even if the hair’s long gone) as he leads us through a bullish ‘Steel’. Blaze is without doubt one of the best front men metal has ever produced and by the end of the opening number it feels like he’s looked every audience member in the eyes, checked they are with him and then silently entered them into a pact to have a good time and make a lot of noise for as long as Wolfsbane are playing. We do.
Now of course Wolfsbane are a party band par excellence, with their cartoonish image, crazy singer and songs like ‘Paint The Town Red’ and ‘I Like It Hot’ they can always be relied upon to put a smile on your face, as you spill your beer in furious fist pumping sing a longs. But if you actually listen to their back catalogue you will find that they can also write sophisticated rock songs replete with brains as well as heart. ‘Black Lagoon’, ‘Smoke and Red Light’ and the marvellously wiggy ‘Kathy Wilson’ maintain the fun, whilst at times having the eccentric complexity of Devin Townsend numbers. Actually, listening now to all these tracks tonight, plus many more, you are struck by how brilliant their 1990 EP ”All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place” is – Fuck me, it’s chock full of classics!
The band pack in tracks from their entire back catalogue in a set without an ounce of fat or a dull moment. Blaze treats us to a couple of amusing/rambling introductions, slagging of Def American unsurprisingly and then at one point claiming the CIA is trying to shut them down, as the band crack up around him. Oh what a joy a Wolfsbane show is!
The most brilliant thing of all is, as I stagger away I’m unsure who had a better time, the fans or the band. And hey, I may be drunk, but this will be hard to forget.