WORDS & PICTURE CREDIT : DAVID THROWER
As a rule, Geordies are hardy folk, you need only witness the shirtless NUFC fanatics on a cold, wintery day at St. James’ Park, so it was something of a surprise to find The Cluny apparently running its heating bill through the roof. The result of which caused not only the crowd to drink copious amounts of alcohol (ah yes – suddenly it all becomes quite clear) but also Stevie Stoker, the lead singer and guitarist from Durham band Twister, the evenings support act, to sweat like it was an Olympic sport – the polite, bleach-haired young man even apologizing to the front row after the set for any liberal dousing that may have occurred.
Playing an infectious set of pop/rock angst complete with a sharp punk edge front man Stoker, along with bandmates Matthew Whittaker, Jake Grimes and Joe Major, won over a largely ‘older’ crowd with songs such as the wonderfully catchy ‘Feeding Frenzy’ and ‘Monroe’ from new mini-album ‘Designed State of Mind’. Delivering a sound The Used and My Chemical Romance brandished in a bid for teenage domination Twister packed enough enthusiasm, energy and melody into a set that was short, sharp and, above all, memorable. No wonder Kerrang! recently added them to their playlist.
These days the Tygers of Pan Tang are not all 100% North East born and bred, vocalist Jacopo Meille, for instance, regularly travels from his home in Italy to join his band mates, but regardless of where they lay their respective hats playing The Cluny in Newcastle is rightly classified as a homecoming gig and therefore something a bit special for the band and fans alike with tonight being no exception. Scheduled to coincide with the release of probably their finest album to date, the eponymously titled ‘Tygers of Pan Tang’, the band were also debuting ‘Tyger Blood’ a deep red IPA beer crafted by local brewers Box Social Brewing that is as warm and welcoming as the band themselves and was handily available on tap at the venue’s bar.
When finally, the lights dipped, the crowd edged closer towards the stage and the opening gallop of ‘Only the Brave’, first single and lead track on the new album, got the headline show underway. Part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal the Tygers stuck to a set of songs plucked mainly from their classic early releases – the debut ‘Wild Cat’, its follow-up ‘Spellbound’, the under-rated ‘Crazy Nights’ and best-selling ‘The Cage’ – all issued during this formative period in metal history. It was, frankly, a winning recipe. So, while we were only treated to one track recorded during the preceding thirty-year period and the current album (namely ‘Keeping Me Alive’ from previous release ‘Ambush’) we lapped up hungrily songs that sounded brighter and fresher than back in the day thanks to the Tygers abundant confidence.
‘Gangland’ pulsed with youthful vigour, ‘Love Don’t Stay’ surpassed the under-produced original by a country mile and the classic ‘Suzie Smiled’ had founding guitarist Robb Weir grinning from ear-to-ear with enthusiasm and pride as he traded solos with relative new boy Micky Crystal. Added to the mix were some excellent tracks from the new album such as the insanely catchy ‘Glad Rags’, the title of which required some explanation to the Italian singer when the lyrics were penned, the end result being an evening where the Tygers could do no wrong in front of a crowd that appeared to be filled with friends more than mere punters as people shouted and waved hello to the band on stage. At one point a female member of the audience lent across a monitor speaker to ask bass player Gav Gray if he wanted a pint. What do you think?
The Tygers of Pan Tang may have suffered during the eighties due to management issues but 2016 looks set to be their year thanks to an undying passion for their art, a great back-catalogue of ‘Dorian Gray’-like material that appears to have grown fuller and spirited over the decades plus a fantastic new album finally showing the cat not only has claws but may finally have gotten the cream. Or should that be the red IPA?