A couple of years ago Thunder did a few acoustic gigs around the UK in support of the Wonder Days album, no more than a half hour set followed by a meet and greet. I was lucky enough to be at the Glasgow event and was blown away by the quality on show. There’s something about stripping things back to an acoustic level that really tells you whether a band has the goods or not and that night I was left in no doubt that Thunder has it in spades. Up till now though, I’d never seen a full electric show by them, so it was in a state of great anticipation I arrived at Vicar St in Dublin last night.
Proceedings were opened by Trucker Diablo, who arrived on stage looking far more Southern US than Northern Ireland. Unfortunately no more than the first couple of rows behind the barrier were occupied but the venue filled up throughout their set as people trickled in from the street and the bar and by the time they finished their crowd was decent if not full. They opened with Party like They Started the End of the World and never let the size of the crowd distract them from performing as if to thousands. That was followed by Voodoo, Drive and Murder Ballad as they took us through tracks from their back catalogue as well as newest release Fighting for Everything. By this point the crowd had swelled somewhat and participated enthusiastically in a rendition of CCR’s Proud Mary. There are some songs everyone knows and that one is always guaranteed to get a crowd going. Drink beer, Destroy kept the crowd on their toes. The band then continued to endear themselves to the Dublin audience by announcing the next couple of tracks, Girl in the Photograph and We Will Conquer All were inspired by Thin Lizzy. They closed their set with Rebel, which sounds as Black Stone Cherry as they look. Overall they made the most of the small crowd and put on an entertaining show.
And so to the main event. By this point I was like a cat on a hot tin roof and as the lights went down and Kool and the Gang’s Jungle Boogie signaled the start of the show the roar from the crowd said everyone else felt the same. Things then went from Kool to the epitome of cool as the music gave way to Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules reciting Ezekiel 25:17. The band took to the stage with Pulp Fiction’s most famous speech promising great vengeance and furious anger. What we got instead was ninety minutes of Mary Poppins. The show was indeed ‘practically perfect in every way.’
Opening with No One Gets Out Alive and The Enemy Inside from new album Rip It Up the band set out their stall. It was a set that included lots of new music as well as the classics no Thunder show would be complete without. The show really got going with River of Pain and Resurrection Day, after which a bloke in the crowd yelled out, “I love you Danny!” Quick as a flash Danny replied, “Thank you Mother.” His relaxed relationship with the crowd continued throughout the night as he milked their reactions for all they were worth, often asking for louder screams or more singing. The crowd was delighted to oblige every time. Right from the Start ended with a fantastic guitar solo from Luke Morley, centrestage and bathed in a spotlight. Backstreet Symphony followed. For a song that’s almost thirty years old it sounded as fresh as ever as Danny bounced across the stage and the crowd sang their hearts out. Higher Ground, from the same 1990 album, followed and gave the crowd another chance to join in. The Thing I Want is one of my favourites and didn’t disappoint live. The next song looked as beautiful as it sounded as Danny was bathed in a wide, white spotlight to sing Don’t Wait for Me, possible the saddest song they’ve ever written but stunning just the same. The show began to wind towards it’s end with the title track from the new album, Rip it Up, followed by “the song you’ve all walked down the aisle to,” Love Walked In. As the crowd down below sang every note and couples slow danced around me on the balcony it seems Danny may have been right. It really is a classic Thunder song and was a special point in the show, which ended with I Love You More than Rock n Roll. After a few moments the band returned to the stage for an encore of Wonder Days, Serpentine and closer Dirty Love, which again had the crowd dancing and singing along, encouraged by Danny at every turn.
I waited a long time to see Thunder and it was worth every minute. The band are in fine form after all these years, drummer Harry James keeping things going as guitarists Luke Morley and Ben Matthews, along with bassist Chris Childs often congregate centre stage, fingers flying and striking poses for all they’re worth. The star of the show though is Danny Bowes and that voice, which hasn’t faded or lost it’s range over their long career. It’s simply one of the best voices in rock and at times on Thursday night all I could do was stand back and show my appreciation for a very special performance indeed.
Photos by Steve Dempsey – Down The Barrel Photography