Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
We are in a fortunate place at the moment. After years of classic rock bands reforming, doing reunion tours or playing ‘classic’ albums in full, we are now seeing multiple bands coming through the ranks that are new, fresh, original and offer a shot in the arm for punters tired of hearing bands that were in their heyday over 25 years ago.
At the top of the pile we have have homegrown acts like Inglorious, The Temperance Movement, Tax The Heat and more. Bands like The Amorettes, The Idol Dead, The Main Grains and others offer classic rock tinged with the punk energy of the 1970s. Then we have The Bad Flowers, opening the bill tonight who bring their modern take on the 70s classic rock sound and Stone Broken, a band who the nation seem to have taken to their heart and are destined for greatness.
Having supported classic rock acts like Glenn Hughes and Cheap Trick, Stone Broken delivered a well attended performance at Ramblin Man Fair in 2016 on the Rising (new acts) Stage and were then elevated to the main stage on 12 months later, turning the spotlight very firmly onto them.
This London date at the 850 capacity Islington Academy was pretty packed by the time openers The Bad Flowers took to the stage and encouragingly saw a really mixed age audience in attendance
The Bad Flowers
Crushed velvet, stylish hats, skinny jeans and other tools of the trade to really plant your flag and show off your influences were in full effect as the bluesy, Stones styled three piece rattled through their short set.
As they perform, you quickly realise there’s more, way more, to them than a hard hitting tribute to the Rolling Stones, with hints of early Cult manifesting in the band early on. Combining those two styles with some hard hitting rhythm work courtesy of Dale Tonks on bass and Karl Selickis on drums they hooked the crowd in from the off.
With the band’s debut album only just released, it does actually feel as though they’ve been around a lot longer, courtesy of some impressive support slots and putting in the hard work in the smaller clubs to really raise their profile.
Frontman and guitarist Tom Leighton can move his vocals between real emotive numbers to the heavier material like ‘Thunder Child’ which suggests the band have a few tricks up their sleeves to be teased out over the next few releases as well.
An encouraging set, that ended with ‘City Lights’ that once again changed things around and saw the crowd roaring as the band left the stage. One to watch in the future for sure.
Jared James Nichols
Next act, Jared James Nichols is already on a roll. Having pushed his southern blues style to the masses for a longer time than the opening act, he is very familiar to many in the room. Festivals appearances like Stone Free and Ramblin’ Man Fair will have done him no harm at all and as such the reception he and his band mates receive is one that would normally be reserved for the welcome return of an old friend.
Another three piece, the band feel like a natural progression from Ted Nugent in his prime, just without the drama, outbursts, politics and more that seem to surround Uncle Ted these days. Jared focuses on what matters and, like Ted used to, wraps himself in the sounds and emotion that he wrings out of his guitar. Of note, and something I always have to mention when seeing him play, is the fact that he plays without a pick. Jared’s thumb, which replaces the pick in the way that he plays his emotive blues fueled solos must be as tough as old boots but what he achieves is a unique and fascinating sound.
With the audience hooked in during a groove led ‘Can You Feel It’, Jared finished as always with ‘Mississippi Queen’, the old Moutain song, another nod to his roots and influences. He leads a wave of southern blues inspired bands currently doing the rounds and once again proves that the new blood is here, building a fan base and will gradually push out the tired ‘only in it for the money’ reunion shows.
Stone Broken still have that “how on earth did we get here so quickly?” look about them. Their ascent has been, like Inglorious, very very rapid. Just two full length albums into their career, they are self assured and comfortably filled the spacious stage afforded to them in Islington.
When they first started out, 2016’s debut release ‘All In Time’ felt like a solid album but one that gave the band a slight identity crisis. Cries of Black Stone Broken, Nickel Stone, Broken Back and Cherry Stone Broken (a personal favourite) were all uttered and to be fair warranted. Yes, the band had elements of the both bands. The debut leans a lot towards the sound Nickelback have presented over the years, Rich Moss’s look isn’t a million miles away from that of BSC’s Chris Robertson and as a vocalist \ guitarist, the comparisons naturally have stuck.
Is it a bad thing? Heck no. It’s helped the band cement their place and do it quickly. With solid support from both online and printed media, the backing of Planet Rock radio and in particular DJ Paul Anthony, this is clearly Stone Broken’s time. The new muic now allowing them to get into their own groove and find their own niche in the classic rock scene.
With guitarist Chris Davis and bassist Kieron Conroy switiching sides on stage and making full use of podiums to interact with the audience, it affords Rich the chance to focus on singing \ playing rather than (as the guy front and centre) having to be constantly on the move. That’s not to say he doesn’t move and when the solos ask him to step up, he does just that, playing some great guitar. As the three of them move around the front of the stage, it’s like watching a illusionist perform the ball and three cups trick with you never quite sure which cup will end up where and who’s going to step up to the plate next with a solo.
At the time of performing, the new album ‘Ain’t Always Easy’ had yet to hit the shelves. A good test then of the new material which seemed to land well with the crowd. This is now out if you are a fan, then you’ll agree that set opener and new song ‘Heartbeat Away’ is likely to be come a regular addition to the setlist.
One of the things that makes the band work so well is the camaraderie between the four members, not least because, as Rich puts it at one point “it’s always easier being on the road when your other half comes with you” as he turns and smiles at drummer Robyn Haycock.
After a drum solo from Robyn, ‘Let Me See it All’, ‘Be There’ and ‘Worth Fighting For’ closed out the main set. Ballad ‘Wait For You’ was then performed by Rich with an acoustic guitar using the goodwill and singing voices of the receptive crowd to bring the song to life.
With the band returning to bring it the song to a close, the show ends with ‘Not Your Enemy’, the perfect energised tune to leave everyone with a smile on their faces as they depart.
With a sound that suits the US rock radio market, Stone Broken have a great future ahead of them. If the likes of Nickelback, Black Stone Cherry and more can come over and break the UK with ease, it’s about time we sent one back to do the same on the other side of the Atlantic. Good luck to them, 2018 could well be Stone Broken’s year.
Heartbeat Away / Doesn’t Matter / Stay All Night / Just A Memory / I Believe / The Only Thing I Need / Home / Better / Let Me Go / Drum Solo / Let Me See It All / Be There / Worth Fighting For / Wait for You / Not Your Enemy