Wolfsbane Live at York ‘Fibbers’
Words: Alex Eruptor
Photos: Suzie Fox
As a long-time fan, tonight was the big one. You see, I was always too young to get admission into Wolfsbane shows the first time around. I joined the fan club. I’d bought all of the records, CDs, picture disks, demo tapes and t-shirts that I could get my hands on. I saw Blaze when he was fronting Iron Maiden, Jase on geetar duties with Ginger from the Wildhearts, and Jeff on numerous occasions with ‘The Jellys’ (his late 90s collaboration with CJ Wildheart). All excellent in their own way and along with The Almighty, Dogs D’Amour, Wildhearts, Quireboys, et al, provided a big chunk of the soundtrack to the first half of my 1990s. But despite their re-grouping a few years ago I’d never seen them collectively as Wolfsbane. Fate had always somehow conspired to ensure that I couldn’t attend. But tonight was different. Tonight Wolfsbane were in town and I was there.
By the time that we arrived at the venue, we’d missed the opening band but had arrived early enough to catch most of the second support-act ‘Scream Arena’. I’d seen them before at a Quireboys show last year, and they seem to be one of the more active of the local rock bands. The line-up looked to be a bit different but the sound was familiar; 80s arena rock with some flashy lead guitar playing. It’s authentic enough and reminded me of early Great White at times. Although playing to a smaller audience this time, a fair-sized crowd had gathered and cheered their appreciation by the time that they’d finished. A solid performance although much of their material tended to be of a similar mid-paced tempo.
After that we walked over to the Wolfsbane merch stand. A quick browse revealed that they have re-mastered and re-released their back catalogue on CD, and more curiously, a collection of previously unreleased ‘live in the studio’ demos of the songs that would eventually be on their final album. There were some cool new t-shirt and hoodie designs too and even a few of the original ‘Clutching at Straws/2am’ single from the mid-1980s which I guess must have been discovered in someone’s attic!
There was still just enough time to get another round of beers (and notice CJ from the Wildhearts hanging out near the bar) before the lights dimmed, the air grew colder, and the strains of intro tape ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’ began to emanate from the PA speakers.
From the first beat of Steve Dangers drums, the first power chord to tear through Jase ‘The Ace’ Edwards speakers, and the first rumble of Jeff Hately’s overdriven bass guitar, two things are very clear: Firstly, that Wolfsbane are back, and secondly that they mean business. Before they’ve even at the first chorus of opening number ‘Lifestyles of the Broke and Obscure’ singer Blaze Bayley has launched himself over the barrier, eyes bulging and screaming into the crowd who try to hold onto him, fists punching the air, as they sing every word back. Fiery hard rock delivered with the conviction of a hardcore punk band.
Tonight’s set is the perfect blend of old and new, proving that favourites such as ‘Loco’, ‘I Like it Hot’, ‘Temple of Rock’, and ‘Paint the Town Red’ are classics, and that more recent material as good as ‘Teacher’, ‘Blue Skies’, and ‘Did it for the Money’, are right up there with them. But that’s not all, a lightning quick ‘Manhunt’, one of their oldest songs, is still as brilliant as it is funny, and ‘All Hell is Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place’ is still one of the weirdest and most imaginative songs that you will ever hear. Finally, ‘Seen How It’s Done' deals with more serious themes to end the show in dramatic style.
Tonight’s form proves that Wolfsbane are one of the greatest bands in British rock. Their mixture of big hooks, Van Halen style hard rock/heavy metal flash, and hyperactive Ramones influenced punk continues to deliver the goods. Their self-belief, imagination, enthusiasm and down-to-earth bond with their audience ensures that Wolfsbane continue to entertain and to inspire.
Above: Alex Eruptor meets Wolfsbane's drummer Steve Danger