Live! Orchid, Scorpion Child and Blues Pills reignite the 70s on the eve of Bonfire night
Occasionally, a gig happens that has the capacity to become a landmark. Naturally, this only becomes obvious in retrospect, but there’s something about this night that could make it far more important that merely offering a trio of impressive performances.
The three bands are radically different to each other. Yet they are linked by being part of a growing, dynamic uprising of young artists who are using the vast inspiration of the 70s not to usurp the greats of that era, but to take their music into fresh, contemporary perspective.
In some ways, this vanguard has a lot in common with NWOBHM, in that there’s a communal spirit helping to bring together disparate sounds, and make them part of a movement which is bringing a collective excitement back to the rock scene. One we’ve not had for years.
It begins here with Blues Pills, a multi-national foursome who owe something to Steppenwolf and Vinegar Joe in their glorious psychedelic blues inflections. They’ve a genuine virtuoso in 18-year-old French guitarist Dorrian Sorriaux, who plays with the expertise of Rory Gallagher and the flair of Michael Schenker. But it’s Swedish vocalist Elin Larsson who inevitably grabs the spotlight. There’s a temptation to compare her to Janis Joplin or Tina Turner. But she’s a lot more in common with great British singers like Jenny Haan and Elkie Brooks in her Vinegar Joe guise. There’s a theatrical polemic to Larssson’s approach, but this is complemented by a devastating intimacy.
Blues Pills only play four songs in their 30-minute set. But that’s enough to convince everyone of their growing pedigree. And Devil Man wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Easy Rider. A sign of their authenticity.
From Austin, Texas, Scorpion Child are very messy in the best possible manner. They are loud, obnoxious rock’n'rollers who nod towards The Godz, Ted Nugent and even very early Motorhead. Much of what they do is the soundtrack of a barroom brawl. Frontman Aryn Jonathan Black has a taut, charismatic insouciance, and is blessed with a voice that can soar when required. But he also has a blue-collar growl which headbutts against the riffs and rhythms of guitarists Christopher Jay Cowart and Tom Frank.
It provides the springboard for an edgy style that’s affecting and effective. And they also clearly enjoy drinking onstage, especially Cowart who not only downs cans of beer, but hurls two of these like guided missiles into the audience, with no heed for the consequences. Yep, the real deal! (Check out Scorpion Child’s Polygon Of Eyes here.)
It’s easy to dismiss Orchid as no more than Sabbath copyists. And you cannot doubt the connection. A lot of the riffs owe more than passing nod to the Sabs, while frontman Theo Mindell has a physical resemblance to Ozzy, although he sounds more like former Trouble vocalist Eric Wagner. But, there are also hints of Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult in their music.
It also can’t be denied that in songs like Eyes Behind The Wall, Capricorn and Black Funeral, the San Francisco band have quality that transcends the shadow of Sabbath. Guitarist Mark Thomas Baker melds Iommi influences with those of Peter Green and Leslie West, adding to the feeling that Orchid are developing individual thrust. And the exuberant crowd reaction backs the theory there are a growing number of people who see beneath the superficial relationship to the Black Country.
So, here we have three young bands, each with an already well developed personality, and linked by a vision to take rock further into the 21st Century. If this is the future, then it’s in safe hands.
Words: Malcolm Dome / Photos: Kevin Nixon