The resurgence of Vardis has been well documented and to use one of their song titles, 2014 has certainly seen them ‘Steamin’ Along’. I caught them last at their first gig since they reformed in March at Brofest in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Since then they have played at the prestigious Keep It True festival in Germany a month later and have released the remastered Vigilante album, originally out in 1986. So the next chapter is a headlining spot at the Rock And Blues Custom Show. The packed out tent were warmed up by some fine Status Quo boogie by the fantastic State Of Quo, fronted by the ever smiling Ian Hill but now it was time for Vardis’ style of boogie.
Prior to the gig, drummer Gary Pearson promised the band had been rehearsing a special 90 minute set for this gig on the Vardis Reunion page and we were not disappointed as the feedback drenched brief blues jam intro to opening number ‘Let’s Go’ gave way to the main riff showing Vardis’ ballsy boogie style with guitarist/vocalist Steve Zodiac and bassist Terry Horbury locking in with Gary’s drumming, almost hidden behind his custom made kit. ‘Let’s Go’ went straight into ‘Out Of The Way’, still played as sharp as when it opened the live album 100mph almost 35 years ago. Other highlights from their 17 song set were ‘Dirty Money’ built on one of Steve’s finest riffs as the song runs along with a ‘Summertime Blues’ vibe and goes straight into ‘Gary Glitter Part 1’ from the Vigilante album. The second half of the song is made up of a heavy jam with some piercing lead guitar. A thundering ‘Lion’s Share’ saw the band put their feet to the floor for one of their heavier songs which was upstaged by the huge riffs of ‘Move Along’ with it’s quirky reggae rhythm breakdown midway preceding the returning big riff as the song ends furiously.
Set highlight for me as it was at Brofest was ‘Don’t Mess With The Best (Cos The Best Don’t Mess)’ which should have been a hit single back in the day with it’s instantly memorable chorus and a trio from the World’s Insane album followed a punchy ‘Radio Rockers’. The pace was brought down for the laid back title track giving Steve a chance to let rip with some fiery leads leaving ”Love Is Dead’ and ‘Steamin’ Along’ to pick up the pace again. The intro to ‘Loser’, from the 100mph album stretched into another blues jam leading into the laid back blues verses leading into full throttle rock and roll building up to Steve’s wailing wah wah guitar solo. A brief thudding bass solo from Terry was followed by Steve announcing “Lets hear it for the best bass guitarist since Jack Bruce, lets hear it!” and I thought Terry was playing more heavier than at the Brofest gig. It was getting near to the end of the show which meant it was time for a supercharged run through of Vardis’ most well known song ‘If I Were King’. Considering the length of the set, Gary Pearson was definitely hitting his drums harder and faster proving this is no half baked reunion but a serious comeback to the music industry. ‘If I Were King’ was extended here with a longer guitar solo with Steve wringing out the notes from his guitar neck.
Even though they were due to play 6 more songs, the stage curfew only allowed them to play a stinging rendition of ‘Situation Negative’, leaving the stage to a cheering packed out tent. 2 more gigs are lined up for Vardis in 2014, a main stage appearance at the Hard Rock Hell festival in Pwllheli between Nov.13th-16th and a homecoming show at the Unity Halls in Wakefield on Dec.13th.
Big thank you to Simon Dunkerley for use of his photos.
Steve Zodiac- Guitar/lead vocals.
Terry Horbury- Bass guitar/backing vocals.
Gary Pearson – Drums.
Set list :-
Out Of The Way.
Gary Glitter Part 1.
The World’s Insane.
Love Is Dead.
Learn How To Shoot Straight.
If I Were King.
Songs not played :-
Living Out Of Touch.