September 29th 2012 was an important day for fans of nwobhm music as the Denim And Leather festival staged 5 bands whose musical styles fit the bill. Gaskin, Praying Mantis, Weapon and Stampede were playing when the movement began in the late 70’s/early 80’s but opening band Agincourt, although who formed in 1991 have embraced the spirit of nwobhm.
The festival was put together by promoter/rock dj Roger Fauske and Jeff Summers, guitarist in Weapon and a strong line up it was to! Even though 4 of the bands have been around for over 30 years, Denim And Leather was not just a nostalgia trip as they are still recording and touring. The chosen venue was the Slade Rooms in the heart of Wolverhampton which i thought was fitting as the Midlands gave birth to Led Zeppelin, Diamond Head, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to name but a few bands.
I would say the venue was about half full and considering some fans had travelled from New Zealand, Japan and Italy, it would have been welcoming to have seen more local rock fans there but Rival Sons were also playing in Wolverhampton at the same time so that must have affected the turnout. Anyway, those of us who were at the Slade Rooms were treated to awesome sets from the 5 bands and to make the evening more metal, the living legend that is Krusher Joule was the compere for the evening as well as playing some tunes in between the bands.
First band of the night were Birmingham based Agincourt who played 9 songs from their debut album Angels Of Mons. Led by guitarist/vocalist Richard E. Toy they took no prisoners from opening song Agincourt to set closer Queen Of The Night which had lengthy instrumental breaks with some serious shredding from lead guitarist Paul Anderson, backed up by the strong rhythms of bassist Russ Weaver and drummer Steve Riley. A band to keep an eye out for the future.
Formed way back in 1980, Gaskin were next up, led by effervescent frontman Paul Gaskin, their experience showed as they delivered a strong set featuring songs from their beginning to material from their current release Edge Of Madness. The crowd lapped it all up with deafening cheers. Their most well know song I’m No Fool still sounds relevant 0ver 30 years on but highlight of the set for me was a crushing version of new song The Contract which sounded much heavier live than the studio version. Even though most of the guitar solos were performed by Paul, second guitarist Andy Solomon made his presence felt with some fiery lead breaks and drummer Dave Norman provided some impressive backing vocals.
Praying Mantis were next onstage, who were formed way back in 1973 by brothers Tino Troy on guitar and Chris Troy on bass. They are backed up by drummer Gary Mackenzie, second guitarist Andy Burgess and charismatic vocalist Mike Freeland who looks and sounds similar to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and his delivery was astounding. With a back catalogue of material to pick from, every song could have been an encore which was proven by the opening 3 classics Children Of The Earth, Panic In The Streets and the self titled Praying Mantis but of course the song everyone in the room wanted to hear was saved till last, a first class rendition of the nwobhm classic Captured City! Worthy of mention is the backing vocals of the band as at times Mike was helped out by Tino, Chris and Andy making the band sound huge.
Weapon, another band who formed in 1980 were the penultimate band of the night and i was fortunate to see them that year when they supported Motorhead on their UK tour. Weapon delivered a powerful 11 song set at Denim And Leather with original members, guitarist Jeff Summers and vocalist Danny Hynes turning the clock back with a performance that belie their ages. Fellow members Ian Sweeting on drums and bassist P J Phillips gave a formidable musical backbone. Weapon are famously known for their anthem Set The Stage Alight and the other song on the double A side single It’s A Mad Mad World was also aired.
Bringing the festival to a close were my band of the day Stampede. Led by vocalist Reuben Archer, the Peter Pan of nwobhm, they delivered a 13 song set of melodic metal. They also have a wealth of material to choose from which was proven by opening song, the show stopping Shadows Of The Night, bringing to mind vintage UFO. Of course they had to play Hurricane Town and Days Of Wine And Roses but the 5 songs played from their latest album, A Sudden Impulse, proved they can still write future classics.
So that was that, an excellent evening of nwobhm, a genre with history and more importantly, a future.