22 November 2018

The Dead Daisies + Massive Wagons

The Dead Daisies are currently one of the busiest touring bands in the world – seemingly only stopping for long enough to record an album, or spend a couple of weeks on their individual projects. They returned for Winterland, their second UK tour of the year, with 8 headline shows plus a handful of autumn/ winter festivals, interspersed with a few dates on mainland Europe. I caught up with them at the first of their two London shows.

Daisyland

On this tour, the shows have all started with ‘Daisyland’ – billed as an intimate acoustic set, for limited numbers. early enough on a Sunday afternoon for 50 die hard Daisy fans to get to the venue, and watch the five superbly talented musicians strip back some of their tracks. The vocals are handed to Marco Mendoza, Deen Castronovo and David Lowy for different tracks, giving the lucky 50 the chance to see them working differently. Watching  Daisyland is like having the guys play in your front room. They aren’t on the stage – they are in the middle of the space that will later be packed with bouncing rock fans. Perched on their stools, laughing, chatting, and totally relaxed, they play four or five tracks- different each day, but taken from a selection including Lock ’n’ Load, Maggie May and Let it Be. The band follow the set with an informal meet and greet session. They are well known for their desire to meet fans, sign anything, and love having their photo taken. However, with doors about to open, the room is vacated, and readied for the waiting crowds.

Massive Wagons are one of the best emerging bands in the UK. Even as a support band, there were many people there just for them. The band appear on stage to welcoming cheers, which turned to a roar as Barry Mills (Baz) appeared. Starting off with ‘Back to the Stack, a tribute to the late Rick Parfitt’, they spend 30 minutes bouncing across the stage, entertaining the crowd.  It would be easy to watch Baz for the whole show, and pay scant attention to the 4 superb musicians behind him, such is his exuberant and mesmerising stage act. Adam Thistlethwaite (lead guitar), steps to the front of the stage and delivers riff after riff as well as some screaming solos. Stevie Holl on guitar keeps the rhythm going, as he and Baz spark off each other – both obviously enjoying themselves.  With Adam’s brother Alex on Drums, and  Adam Bouskill on bass, they have a unique sound and songs which are tongue in cheek, down to earth, and, frankly, barmy. They are absolutely brilliant, and, judging by the amount of march they sold, they made a lot of new friends.

The Dead Daisies

The Wagons rolled, and the stage was cleared to make way for the main event. Completely uncluttered – not a monitor in sight, and only one microphone stand – the anticipation in the packed venue was palpable.  Exploding onto the set, they struck up with their cover of Alex Harvey’s ‘Midnight Moses’. With Doug Aldrich (Lead Guitar) lapping up the attention, his fingers moved with lightening speed as his gold top echoed round the room, delivering riffs and solos  as though the guitar is part of him.

With almost two hours of well practised moves, the band cover every inch of the stage, including the drum riser, performing their brand of classic rock to hoards of delighted fans. John Corabi, with his gravelly vocals, is flawless as he sings from the front, often stepping back to let the others take centre stage. Tucked away at the back, behind the massive kit is Deen Castronovo (greeted by his fans as ‘Deeno… Deeno…) his slight frame hiding the power in his thunderous, crashing drum technique. It is just one year since he joined the Daisies, replacing the talented Brian Tichy. Castronovo brings a different dimension to the band, with his background as vocalist in Journey. At the mid point in the set, stools and bongos appear and the pace is slowed for some acoustic tracks. We are treated to 4 tracks, including Maggie May, for which Castronovo takes lead vocals. It is a sublime performance and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

Picking the pace back up again, we are treated to tracks from each era of The Dead Daisies. David Lowy (guitar) technically excellent as he takes the occasional lead, and one or two solo slots. The audience encouraged to join in, clap and cheer as it becomes an experience for everyone, rather than a show to be watched. Lucky people in the audience are on the receiving end of guitar picks as the band launch the souvenirs.

No Daisies review wold be complete without a mention of the maestro bassist, the charismatic Marco Mendoza who seems to sport a new tattoo each time I see him play. He flirts with his audience as the deep tones from his bass fill the spaces left by the guitars.  He draws you in and you would be forgiven for thinking you are the only person he is playing to as he supports Corabi’s vocals with his distinctive voice that has so much range. They are an evolving band – they try to make each set fresh and different, so those who manage to get to more than one gig will get a variety of tracks. Although the have only been going for about 5 years, they have an enormous back catalogue and are not afraid to use classic rock tracks which they ‘Daisyfy’.

I was lucky enough to be able to return to the O2 Academy the following night for the second show to find a set list that was very different, with both Marco and David Lowy taking a turn on lead vocals. The Dead Daisies are a band that I will never get tired of seeing. they are fascinating to watch and listen to, and so obviously love what they are doing, appreciating the support they get from fans worldwide, and taking time to speak to as many as they can. They give a brilliant show, well worth getting to if you can.

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