British Lion, Voodoo Six, Airforce, Live at Islington Assembly Hall, London, January 18 2023

Somewhere had made an effort, sat down with a concept that loosely translates to ‘what if all the bands on the bill could be enjoyed by everyone present?’

Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media

First gig of 2023 and a trip to Islington Assembly hall offered up one of those bills where someone somewhere had made an effort, sat down with a concept that loosely translates to ‘what if all the bands on the bill could be enjoyed by everyone present?’

There’s no “I’m only here for the support” or “we’ll just go in for the headliners” because that ‘someone somewhere’ got it exactly right and gave us three bands that fit alongside each other musically, visually and definitely thematically.

Airforce

Founded over 30 years ago, Airforce had artwork on stage reminiscent of Maiden’s ‘Aces High’ but instead of Eddie we get a skull in a flying cap and a sound that sits perfectly between 80s Iron Maiden and early Judas Priest. A neat connection between the band and tonight’s headliners other than the sound and artwork… the band formed in the North East of London in 1986, when Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, introduced his former drummer Doug Sampson to guitarist Chop Pitman. Tony Hatton, an ex-band mate of Chop, joined forces on bass soon after.

Having never seen the band before, it’s encouraging to see a band that missed the boat when they first formed finally getting some support and recognition. A true case of good things coming to those that wait. Chop, Doug and bassist Tony Hatton remain from the original line up with some added impact coming from the strong vocal work of Flavio Lino who joined the line-up just a handful of years ago. He has youth and energy on his side and knew just how to connect with the crowd. Ever smiling, always moving, and a voice that one Mr Dickinson would likely take notice of, Lino was the icing on a fantastic set from a band who definitely need to be on more people’s radar.

If you need more convincing, check out our interview with the band, here;

Voodoo Six

Second on the bill was London based Voodoo Six, founded by bassist and Iron Maiden’s sound engineer Tony Newton. Like Airforce before them, the stage set and artwork fit the bill perfectly with the military themes continuing. They opened with a thunderous Falling Knives, which seems judging by the audience response one of their more popular tunes so it was a great way to keep momentum going. As with the other Tony, Tony Newton knows how to entertain a crowd and with his foot perched firmly on the monitor, smiles and shapes were thrown out to an eager crowd. We really need to put them, along with Steve Harris in a room together to work out who first originated the ‘bassists can be fun to watch’ style as the trio have it down pat!

Singer Nik Taylor-Stoakes the latest of several for the band definitely feels like the best fit and I hope he’s got several albums in the pipeline to come over the next few years.

They closed with ‘Electric’ and ‘Your Way’ before making way for the headliners. The test of a good bill is ‘if the main act didn’t play could you go home happy?’ The answer on the strength of both Voodoo Six and Airforce is a resounding “Yes”.

British Lion

So onto headliner British Lion. The baby of Steve Harris that allows him and the band to play gigs in smaller club venues. Whilst the buzz of arenas and festivals must continue to be wonderful, it’s clear Steve enjoys these more intimate affairs where he can play a gig and feel like he can truly interact with the crowd.

They opened with ‘This is My God’ delivering a huge 17 song set with latest album ‘The Burning’ getting a good workout. Singer Richard Taylor reminds me of Sisters of Mercy founder Andrew Eldritch, dressed all in black with a very similar hairstyle these days to the King of goth rock. Taylor’s voice though is an altogether different sound and fits the music of British Lion perfectly.

Unsurprisingly there’s a hint of Harris’s other, bigger, band about British Lion. It they retain enough of their own distinctive style to make them worth seeing at every opportunity. The title track of latest album, ‘The Burning’ showcased the skills that the man on the stool, Simon Dawson, has in spades.

Like most dates on the tour, they closed with ‘Eyes of the Young’. A great finish to a great night. A 3 bassist encore, with everyone fighting for a spot for their foot on the monitor was sadly missing as I for one would have paid good money for a proper ‘bass-off’ at the end of the show!

SETLIST

This Is My God 
City of Fallen Angels
Judas 
Father Lucifer 
The Burning 
Legend 
These Are the Hands 
Spit Fire 
The Chosen Ones 
Bible Black 
Land of the Perfect People 
Us Against the World 
Wasteland 
Lightning 
A World Without Heaven 
Last Chance 
Eyes of the Young

Tell Us How You Feel

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