Words and Photos: David Thrower
It was a Friday night in Manchester and ahead lay a weekend of music-related activities (plus shopping – I was with my other half after all) but first there was the small matter of their majesties, Royal Republic, to attend to, a band I had never really given my full attention. I may have been late to the party but I left the venue a changed man, besotted and genuflecting.
Support for tonight’s show was the impressive Tax the Heat from Bristol. Touring ahead of their own headline shows, which begin later this month, the band plays serious, kick-ass rock and roll, born from the 60’s but with the beating heart of a new generation. The setlist was plucked from their excellent debut album ‘Fed to the Lions’ and from the moment opener ‘Devil’s Daughter’ hit the ground running it was hard to believe the band has only been around for five years such was the passion and obvious professionalism on display. As the band left the stage following closer ‘Highway Home’ it was hard to see how their set could have been bettered and on any other day, and tour, they would have stridden off into the sunset with the spoils of a glorious victory.
But not tonight. From the very second, the house-lights dimmed and Royal Republic strode out on a stage, replete with huge lightning bolts flanking the drumkit, it was evident they owned the room. Lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Grahn may well be the centre-piece to proceedings with his swagger and charm but he’s surrounded by three other musicians who pull out all the stops to ensure he at least gets a run for his money when it comes to grabbing your attention on songs that pulse with a fervor their records manage to restrain. ‘Weekend Man’, so-called for the dapper weekend attire sported by the band (none more so than Adam – naturally), had a bounce last seen at Tigger’s arse-end, ‘Make Love, Not War’ culminated in the band silently pointing skywards for what seemed an age and held the crowd captivated while ‘Full Steam Spacemachine’ drew the curtain on a simply electrifying evening of live music, one which gave Adam the perfect platform to let his ego do the talking – sometimes literally.
It’s not often you get a front man who is as relaxed talking to the audience as he is throwing shapes on the guitar but Adam is the exception to the rule, as he indulged the audience with a tale of childhood video recordings and his Batman suit (not an Inspector Morse costume he added – an in-joke with the Manchester crowd with whom he has ‘previous’) that came across more comedy stand-up than between numbers small-talk. He also indulged the crowd with a story regarding sexually-explicit, online fan fiction following a kiss he gave second guitarist Hannes at a music festival which you can research without any assistance from yours truly thank you very much. As the show entered its final straight, and with time to kill as the set managed to under-run the scheduled time allotted, the band penultimately broke into Maiden’s ‘Fear of the Dark’ – despite Adam only knowing a smattering of the words. Thankfully he was assisted by one of the road crew who dashed on-stage with his mobile phone displaying the lyrics and underlined why the band is loved so much. Funny, electrifying and ultimately captivating – Royal Republic rule.
Gathering in the Uni bar before the show we were surrounded by behatted fans of the southern rock giants Blackberry Smoke, firm favorites in my household, and with no prior experience of Royal Republic, I wished I was making the short trip to the main Academy next door. However, having witnessed the Swedish four-piece deliver a set that can easily be summed up in one word – mesmeric – I can honestly say that the place to be, in fact, the only place to be, was stood transfixed before Royal Republic. Quite easily the best live band I have seen in a very, very long while. And probably for some time to come.
To quote their acoustic ode to love – I’m addic dic dic dic dicted..
When I See You Dance with Another
Make Love, Not War
Strangers, Friends & Lovers
Good to be Bad
Over the Top
Here I Come, There You Go
Follow the Sun
Walking Down the Line
I Don’t Wanna Go Out
Fear of the Dark
Full Steam Spacemachine