Birdwell Venue is a former Working Mans Club on the outskirts of Barnsley South Yorkshire with good transport links, situated just off the M1, it’s easy to find and a has large car park. It’s a reasonable sized venue with a capacity of 350 seated, possibly more if the seats are taken out but they were in tonight, better for the older gig goers anyway! Sound and lighting are good. There’s a well stocked bar at very reasonable prices. Free for me as it was tap water for the driver! There are gigs on most weekends, with a lot of tributes to popular artists, see their website for details of forthcoming shows here. Tonight saw L.A. Guns coming to Birdwell bringing the L.A. sunshine with them.
Support came from local lads Oliver/Dawson’s Saxon. Founding members of Saxon Graham Oliver and Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson are playing the music they originally wrote, so even without Biff you can’t really call this a Saxon tribute band. Saxon have always been Barnsley’s hardest rock export (coal is a mineral!). Oliver and Dawson have drafted in Bri Shaughnessy, on vocals, frontman of Seventh Son a band formed back in 1980, and although similar to Saxon they never achieved the same fame. They opened with Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsy and lots of powerful riffs to get the show off to a good start. There’s nothing like a bit of self promotion and Bri was wearing a Seventh Son t-shirt and black leather waistcoat. Despite being Barnsley born and bred I didn’t see Saxon until 2013, don’t think I’ve ever seen Seventh Son either, although I may well have rubbed shoulders with them in The Ring O Bells or The Portcullis! Graham Oliver was pointing his guitar like a gun. The band all looked happy to playing on home turf! Bri even said ‘Great stuff nice to be back in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley’ and of course I understood the Barnsley accent! Strong Arm of the Law followed with people raising their own strong arms and clapping along. They sounded very like Saxon, Bri’s voice is not quite as high pitched as Biff’s but then his pants aren’t quite as tight either. He has a strong powerful voice and even managed to work Barnsley into the lyrics. Gav Coulson on guitars was doing some fancy fret work flipping his hands over the fret. The song ended with Bri pointing his mic stand at audience before saying that there looked to be some very intelligent people ‘Bet you’ve all been to Technical College’ those us from Barnsley will know Barnsley Technical College well, in fact the original building is still there next to Barnsley Town Hall. A bit of the history of Barnsley for you (courtesy of my Dad). We then went back in Saxon’s history to 1979 and the song Denim and Leather which was dedicated to Lemmy before Bri said ‘Good luck to the reds tomorrow’ and he didn’t mean Man U!
Crusader and 747 followed. Bri then said the next one was about President Kennedy Dallas 1pm with Bri doing lots of gun shot actions with his hands and miming a gunshot to the head for the lyrics ‘life blown away’. Princess of the Night with some great riffage which reminded me of Metallica’s Seek and Destroy in places was next. Bri then took his waistcoast off and left the stage whilst Graham Oliver did a riff laden guitar solo. Bri came back now sporting a white jacket for the rocking Motorcycle Man then introduced us to the band before the popular title track from classic album Wheels of Steel and Bri said ‘It’s your turn, I’m now just about knackered, not bad for 44’ (I assumed he meant for someone born in!) ‘I’m going to sing – she’s got, you sing wheels of steel.’ He hoped we could sing louder than London and Grimsby and added ‘Home town and all that, let’s go for a big finish! Thanks for coming you’ve been fantastic. Thank you’ I reckon we did sing louder but I wasn’t there so can’t confirm one way or other. The band went off briefly then Bri came back and asked ‘ Do you want one more’ and people shouted ‘Yeah’ Bri said ‘Are you sure Barnsley? As it’s a home town gig, go on then And the Bands Played On‘ a great finish and although this band weren’t playing on the crowd was nicely warmed up for the headliners to play on!
Graham Oliver – Guitar
Steve ‘Dobby’ Dawson – Bass Guitar
Gav Coulson – Guitar
Paul Oliver – Drums
Bri Shaughnessy – Vocals
L.A. Guns were founded by Traci Guns in Los Angeles in 1987. The band have seen numerous line-up changes over the years (see here) before we arrive at today’s line-up which features Steve Riley on drums and the ever youthful Phil Lewis from the classic 1987 – 1992 line up, with Michael Grant on guitar and Kenny Kweens on bass. The classic line-up recorded albums L.A.Guns and Cocked and Loaded with most of the songs on the set list being taken from these two albums. It’s a long time since I saw Phil Lewis, in fact over three decades ago at the second gig I ever went to which was UFO, at Sheffield City Hall in 1982. Back then Phil was fronting glam rock band Girl. The next time would have been L.A Guns at Manchester Academy 2, probably in around 1997. Despite the passage of time Phil Lewis still looks good, Ok possibly a little older, but still looking good. The intervening years have definitely shown him some mercy, however L.A. Guns opened with No Mercy with powerful riffs and Phil still able to reach the high notes. Phil was bare chested underneath a black leather jacket with a picture of Lemmy in a cross painted on the back. Kenny all in black with a cool hair cut and Michael in a black leather jacket, American policemans style cap and a red neckerchief. Steve behind his drum kit, again dressed in black.
Phil then yelled ‘Hey Hey Hey’ which got the audience joining in for a Showdown (Riot on Sunset) then he took his leather jacket off to reveal a leather waistcoast and grabbed a guitar for a bit of Sex Action after which he said ‘Are you with me?’ and received a few whoops in reply so he asked ‘Let me see your hands out their birdy’ or was it Birdie sex/golf? The song scored well with the audience anyway, although Phil didn’t seem happy with someone with a camera and was pointing and mouthing ‘turn it off’ and to be fair at any gig with a pit you would usually only be allowed in the photo pit for the first three songs. Photographers should respect that, whether there’s a pit or not, and leave it then for people who have paid to enjoy the show. Next came I Wanna Be Your Man with Phil expressive and for the lyrics ‘I’ll take you higher than an aeroplane’ raining his arm up high. Whilst it may not have been a cover of The Rolling Stones version, penned by Lennon/McCartney, it did have a Rolling Stones vibe. Over The Edge, from the 1991 album Hollywood Vampires followed.
‘We Are L. A. Guns! We are from Hollywood!’ announced Phil in an accent which although American did have a slight Cockney twang, he himself being London born before moving to the U.S.A in the 1980s. Phil was singing to people at the front and managed to do a few hip thrusts too. Phil said ‘Evening guys and girls! How are you doing tonight’ and he told us what a beautiful crowd we were ‘Now we’d got rid of the dick head with the big lens’ then he pointed at someone down at the front, and told him (I think it was he) that he’d got to stop waving his arms about as it was pissing people off and not just him! With there being no photo pit the audience are up close and personal to the band and it’s good that he noticed and said something. One person’s selfish actions can ruin a gig for others stood in their vicinity. The next one was Hellraisers Ball and we were invited! With great riffs and a piercing yell reminding me a little of Crystal Pistol’s Rock Star and leading into a drum solo from Steve Riley.
Phil had left the stage and Kenny asked ‘How ya all doing?’ and went on to say that a major music icon had recently died and they were going to do a tribute to him Purple Rain. He didn’t say the name ‘Prince‘ but we all knew who he meant and the tribute saw Michael singing, by now he had ditched the leather jacket and hat but he was dripping sweat. He turned out to be a competent singer, but he does also front his own band EndeverafteR. After a ‘Cheers, thank you!’ from Michael and a quick microphone change, Phil probably didn’t want a sweaty one! Phil came back on stage now wearing a t-shirt for One More Reason which has Kenny holding his bass aloft. The final song of the main set Electric Gypsy was heralded by a ‘Come on you gypsies, hey, hey, hey’ and Phil was holding the microphone out in an arc to pick up the audience chanting hey, hey, hey back! L.A. Guns then left the stage. After shouts for more the band came back and Phil announced ‘Thank you Birdwell. We’ve never played Birdwell before but we’re going to have great memories! Thank you!’ he then introduced the band before slower, sing along song Ballad of Jayne. Then things sped up for the fast and energetic Rip and Tear a good one to end the show on a high note, which had people dancing and clapping. Phil’s last word ‘Cheers!’
A ray of L.A. sunshine came to Yorkshire this bank holiday weekend. They’re heading over to Finland for the next leg of their tour before an appearance at Sweden Rock Festival and more dates in the UK and USA see here. There are also some Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns reunion gigs coming up see here for more information.
Showdown (Riot on Sunset)
I Wanna Be Your Man
Over the Edge
Wheels of Fire
Purple Rain (Tribute to Prince)
One More Reason
The Ballad of Jayne
Rip and Tear
Phil Lewis – Vocals
Steve Riley – Drums
Michael Grant – Guitar
Kenny Kweens – Bass Guitar