Five Nights in London #5: Bernie Tormé

Bernie Torme with Rusty G’s

The Borderline, London
October 31, 2015

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #5

I was in London for five nights and planned to review one show each night. I accomplished that goal, and this is a review of Night #5. I wasn’t sure where to go on Saturday night as recently as yesterday, but after a bit of research, I stumbled across Bernie Tormé’s gig at The Borderline and thought a night back in my original genre would make a good end to the trip. As a few of you may know, hard rock/heavy metal has always been my “home” as a genre, and one of my earliest writing gigs was for Tough Tracks magazine “back in the day.” So reviewing this show was sort of like going back to my roots.

In fact, The Borderline reminded me a lot of Axis, which was one of the clubs where I spent a lot of time in Boston way back when I started as a rock journalist. So yes, you’ll find me “going there” from time to time. It’s still my music, even as my tastes have broadened with so many years of reviewing every type of music sent my way.

Rusty G's

Rusty G’s; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Support Act: Rusty G’s

It seemed rather odd seeing just two band members on stage, and the powerful wall of music the power duo puts forth is incredible. The band opened with a raw hard rocker with a surprisingly tuneful vocal. The next tune was rawer with a little punk influence and great, manic drumming. Rusty G’s then proceeded to open its next number Blue Oyster Cult-ishly, more raw but with nice tempo changes.

Overall, Rusty G’s are a solid rock band. I still can’t get over the fact that such a full, catchy hard rock sound comes from a 2-piece. Musically, the band is really good at finding and maintaining a rock ‘n roll rhythm in its songs — or for stretches of songs, as Rusty G’s will change the rhythm sometimes within a song. They’re an impressive live band, and not just because of the drummer’s flying hair.

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Headliner: Bernie Tormé

Wow! It has been a long time since I’ve seen a guitar god in action, and Bernie Tormé has the pedigree to accompany his flying fingers. The dude’s an axemaster extraordinaire! I’ll let you look it up for yourself if you don’t already know him, and though this style of music hits my sweet spot of music knowledge, I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with him until I checked out his résumé before deciding to attend this show.

Oh, but the packed club knew exactly who he was. They knew all of his songs back through his musical history. Many even helped crowdfund his new album, Blackheart. And I was about to experience what they already knew. Bernie Tormé can shred with the best of them.

Indeed, right from the start of first song “Wild West,” Bernie and his power trio were obviously in the big leagues. That was followed by a straight-up rockin’ tune with a bluesy-ish vibe and a catchy rhythm… and oh my god, the guitar licks!

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Just about every song had some amazing guitar and was driven by trademark heavy metal rhythm section. The vocals and song styles were well-structured yet raw-feeling, as if your favorite band in concert, without any of the bells and whistles that cleaned up the sound in the studio. This was a rawk and roll concert, baby!

There were a couple of songs whose opening rhythms were reminiscent of a cross between the rhythms of Scorpions’ “The Zoo” and George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” Bernie pulled out a harmonica on another hard-rocking tune. Many of the songs marched along full steam ahead, but Bernie can throw in some hooks, too, to get fans singing or at least moving to the song on the first listen. And there were, in fact, a couple of songs with audience-participation vocal parts.

Just past the midpoint of the show, the band took a seat on the front of the stage, Bernie grabbed an acoustic-electric guitar, and the group treated its crowd to a one-song change-of-pace.

In all, if my count is correct (and it may not be), after 14 songs (15 if you include the drum solo), the band left the stage, only to be recalled enthusiastically for a two-song encore. The first, which Bernie began with the phrase “you should know this one,” was rocker “No Easy Way.” He and his band followed that with mellower “The Party’s Over.”

And with that, a real rock show ended, and Bernie and his band left the stage to mingle with their throng of supporters. I can think of no more felicitous end to my five nights in London that a return to my roots by covering a guitar god-driven hard rock/metal club show.

What’s Next?

Certainly, at least for a while, the flurry of articles will subside. I have some ideas for review but will also continue to set up the behind-the-scenes items, including getting some other writers up and running for the blog so it isn’t just me doing all the writing anymore. Also, I’ll be back at work again, so I’ll lack the free time I’ve had that has allowed me to write 14 articles in the last two weeks.

But please enjoy these first 14 articles, look back through them if you haven’t already and discover some great music spanning several genres. And do subscribe so you’ll get them delivered directly to your inbox. (There’s probably an option to do that in the bottom right of your screen, at least if you’re viewing this on your PC.) Now that we’re launched, I do promise not to clog your inbox. My rule of thumb will be no more than one a day, a rule I’ll possibly never break now that we’re up and running and actually have subscribers. Indeed, I’m glad to be back writing about music again, and I hope you will continue to enjoy reading what my team and I share with you on Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog.

Five Nights in London #4: Tom Lukas

Tom Lukas

Upstairs at The Distillers, Hammersmith (London)
October 30, 2015

Tom Lukas

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #4

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. For Friday night, Night #4, I had a few options, but the one that sounded the most interesting was going to take two trains and a bus to get to and from. Typically, I’d like to see more than one band on the bill, and I had really planned to focus on original music this trip, but I made an exception. The Distillers is a room multiple people I respect have played. Therefore, I opted to see a show there just so I will have seen the room in person next time I see or hear it mentioned. Plus, I checked out Tom Lukas’ music online before the gig and thought he’d be worth seeing in person.

Live Review: Tom Lukas

Tom Lukas

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Tom has a gravelly, expressive voice (though he surprised me by losing the gravel on one tune in particular), a range that allows him to perform well across a broad spectrum of styles, a variety of guitar tools that help keep the guy-with-a-guitar thing fresh longer. On this evening at The Distillers, Tom put those to use across three sets of cover songs.

He selected a fun track to open the night with, The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” absolutely nailing the song with and emotional, rough edge to his voice. Hey followed that with one that engaged the night’s early crowd a bit more, Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble.” In fact, the theme throughout the night was Tom’s gravelly vocals, good vocal range, and ability to vary his style of music and tempo well.

Speaking of varying styles, and because I’ve already described his style, I’ll just mention a few of the more notable songs in Tom’s repertoire. On his rendition of Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” Tom rounded some of the original’s rough edges but added a few vocal flairs of his own. Vance Joy’s “Riptide,” meanwhile, is a song that really suits Tom’s voice, and he delivered it with great energy and a bit of a modern style.

Tom showed off his tempo change skills with Jack Johnson’s “Better Together.” His version of “Every Day I Have the Blues,” meanwhile, was relatively clean, crisp version but still with a bit of his cool rasp. Tom got a bit funky later on with a cover of Blackstreet’s “I Like the Way You Work.”

Tom’s cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” was a subtle departure, in that he showed off deeper vocals without his trademark gravel — a great choice for this song, one that impressed. His interesting arrangement of Pharrell’s “Happy” came across more rocking and rootsy than the original. And it took me a few seconds of Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit it” before I decided his cool rendition was worth gettin’ jiggy wit.

Indeed, it was a smorgasbord of great songs all night, also including Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” the oft-covered “Brown Eyed Girl,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and a rendition of “Summer of ’69” that could almost have been Bryan Adams himself.

So in spite of the fact I caught a cover night performance, I was treated to a talented singer-songwriter (sans the songwriter portion of his repertoire) performing a broad range of songs, varying his basic style just a bit to fit each of them.

What’s Next?

I have an idea for Night #5, but I’m not sure if I’ll change my mind, and then I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it posted the next morning because I need to check out of my room and fly back. So if Night #5 gets posted quickly, great. If it’s delayed, well, know you’ll know why.

Five Nights in London #3: Sonya Titus

Saraswati, Sonya Titus, and Bradley

The Troubadour, London
October 29, 2015

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #3

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. Last night, Night #3 was an evening at The Troubadour. A few days after I booked my flight, this became the first show on my docket when Sonya Titus announced she was booked there. As you may have noticed, I’ve written and tweeted a lot about Sonya. Indeed, I’ve urged you to get out to this show. If you made it, you saw a great performance and heard one of the voices I most frequently recommend.

For the rest of you, let me tell you about the show. Now, you might notice the review of Sonya’s set is in quite a bit more detail than that of the other terrific artists on the bill tonight. No apologies. I was getting familiar with the other singers this evening, so I’ve written my usual brief live review summaries. However, I was already so familiar with the songs in Sonya’s performance I opted to chronicle them accordingly. Now let’s dive into what turned out to be a full evening of top-shelf vocal performances.


Saraswati; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First Set: Saraswati

Saraswati performs an interesting style of music. She accompanies her sweet, high voice with strumming guitar. She sings all around the song’s melody, offering up her own delivery style — a distinctive, engaging style that pervades everything she performs, including making cover tracks seem like her own. With exceptional execution of her stylistic delivery throughout, overall, Saraswati’s set was an enjoyable one.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Set: Sonya Titus

Indeed, Sonya’s performance — the first time I have seen her perform live — was much-anticipated, and she didn’t disappoint. She kicked off the set with “Hypnotize,” proving she was in top form this evening. Second song, “Mamma,” showcased the richness of her voice as well her power, while also throwing in some high notes. Sonya followed that with a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Guilty,” an interesting rendition in that most vocalists struggle with clarity on this cover, offering more rasp than in the original in order to find the emotion, while Sonya instead was able to deliver it with crystal clear power much more similar to Bonnie’s version. That takes a special talent.

The following song, “Now,” is the song that convinced me about Sonya two years ago due to the strength and delicacy required. This would seem to be a difficult song to match the studio precision in a live performance, yet Sonya pulled it off, including all of the song’s intricacies. She followed it up with her newest song, her first-ever live performance of “Resurrection”; if it’s possible for a song to sound bluesy without actually being bluesy, “Resurrection” does just that, while throwing in a bit of a haunting vibe for good measure.

Next up was another cover, Sonya’s rendition of “Stay With Me,” which is also available online. This is a widely covered song right now, and strong voices always make it sound good. She followed that with her second relatively new song, “The Other Side,” which suggests she may have added a little soulfulness (not a lot, just a little) to her trademark style in recent writing sessions, and it really fits the subject matter of “The Other Side” well. This new song also features an especially catchy rhythm, perhaps the reason it proved a crowd favorite.

Sonya Titus

Sonya Titus duet with Azu; photo by Geoff Wilbur

After that, Sonya brought vocalist Azu onstage with her to cover “Lost and Found.” She had told me about Azu before, and she’s right, he is quite a talent with his great, high, strong voice complementing Sonya’s as a nice duet pairing.

Then Sonya closed her set with a cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a song that shows off her lower register a bit. Worth noting is the nice arrangement that sped things up later in the song, giving an interesting flair to this number.

There’s a reason I’ve written and tweeted about Sonya Titus so much. It’s because, with performances like these in addition to her stellar recordings, she makes me look like a brilliant judge of talent. So glad to have been fortunate enough to catch a set like this while in London.


Bradley; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Third Set: Bradley

So how can someone follow a set like that? With his powerful, gravelly vocals, Bradley did a fine job. The first song utilized a build to power, and his vocals were able to sound emotional while still hitting all the notes, showcasing his talent immediately. Through Bradley’s set, he showed off his highs and lows over all tempos, slow and fast, while moving between loud and soft. Indeed, he always had that gravelly thing going on, which allows him to add a kind of bluesy edge to what might otherwise be considered straight-up pop/rock tune. He closed his thoroughly engaging set with “Carolina,” the best of a very good set of songs. During “Carolina,” power built during the song, while being exceptionally vocally emotional. Overall, Bradley’s set proved an exceptional end to an evening of fine performance.

Five Nights in London #2: Blurred Vision and The Bedford

Blurred Vision

 229, London
October 28, 2015


Joel Bailey, Alice Gullick, Velvet Engine, Sherika Sherard, and The Lemmingtons

 The Bedford, Balham (London)
October 28, 2015


Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #2

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review one show each night. My slow, cranky travel computer and slightly dodgy internet reception may make it a little difficult to post each day, but I’ll do my best to post as promptly as possible. Night #2 featured a special treat, an invitation-only industry showcase for Canadian band Blurred Vision at 229. I then headed out to Balham to catch live music at The Bedford, where five acts were featured, each playing two two-song sets.

Blurred Vision

Blurred Vision; photo by Geoff Wilbur

First: Blurred Vision at 229

The evening started early with a showcase event for Blurred Vision from Canada. Featuring Iranian brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley on guitar and bass and drummer Ben Riley, the brothers had a viral YouTube hit with a video produced by Babak Payami and then, as a band, recorded an album with producer Terry Brown, who introduced the brothers to their drummer in order to fill out the trio.

The video I mentioned, in 2010, was for their version of “Another Brick in the Wall” in which they changed the lyrics to “Hey Ayatollah leave those kids alone.”

Of course, I know these things now, but I entered the show without an awareness of the video, and ironically one of my first notes about Blurred Vision’s sound was that I could detect a Pink Floyd influence. The band’s heavy-though-accessible style also mixes influences of melody, song-driven bands with that Pink Floyd vibe, and one particular song drew on a bit of late eighties/early nineties Metallica vibe, though not quite as heavy.

The band’s “Another Brick in the Wall” rendition (with its lyric edits) was a little faster with a bit more edge and roughness; it worked well and gave the song its own Blurred Vision spin.

In summary, the short set was a sufficient introduction to this talented power trio’s “tuneful heavy rock with harmonies.”

Then: 5 acts at The Bedford

The format at The Bedford was interesting. There were 5 acts, each performing 2 songs in a first set and two songs in a second set, not quite performing in the same order each set. In all, it was an evening of twenty songs, a bit of a sampler of a variety of artists. As it turned out, my journey out to the venue landed me there just as the first artist was about to begin his second song, so I caught nearly the entire night. I’ll summarize each of the five artists in the order I first saw them, though I’ll cover both two-song sets in each performer’s paragraph.

Joel Bailey

Joel Bailey; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Joel Bailey was onstage when I arrived. and I immediately noticed the smoothness of his voice. He’s a polished singer/songwriter whose voice and tone would likely already make him a coffeehouse circuit favorite. And I do mean “favorite,” as what I’ve heard of his music is all relatively mellow, and he has a firm presence onstage; he’s good with the onstage banter.

Alice Gullick

Alice Gullick; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Alice Gullick was next up. She has a bit of a quirky voice with a great, edgy tone. An engaging singer, she’s clearly folky, with a hint of an Irish flair (or, at least, what you’d hear at an Irish pub’s more progressive singer/songwriter night back in the States). Alice is at her best when she utilizes her full range, from her highs to her low and the appealing way her voice cracks with emotion at times (as on her song “Fire”). She comes across still a bit nervous onstage (she’s still young), but she’s perhaps the most intriguing singer I caught at The Bedford, as with her insistent edge and slightly pop sensibility, she quite obviously has the tools to tap a broader audience down the road.

Velvet Engine

Velvet Engine; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Next up was Velvet Engine, a duo with a very old-school folky vibe. Indeed, quite well-suited to wherever folk music on the bill, there is also a bit of an insistent vocal edge at times. Of note, and showing a fair bit of creative flair, Velvet Engine’s fourth song of the night was a cover of Ghostpoet’s “Meltdown,” which they adapted quite seemlessly to their own style. Well done, indeed.

Sherika Sherard

Sherika Sherard; photo by Geoff Wilbur

They were followed by Sherika Sherard, whose voice is strong, tuneful, and crisp with a hint of a rasp. Combined with the sometimes harsh vocal style that weaves around the tune as much as she follows it, her music is catchy and original enough that she could have some broad pop appeal already. Of note during her sets, particularly showing off her strengths, was the song “We Don’t Need a Reason.”

The Lemmingtons

The Lemmingtons; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The final performers of the night were The Lemmingtons. These musicians have a clear sense of who they are and how to engage a crowd with their onstage shtick, and they do it well. An old-fashioned country music styled group that throws in plenty of wackiness. From traditional, straightforward toe-tapper “Hold On” to a clap-along tune whose title I neglected to note and closing number “Wet Slippery Floor,” The Lemmingtons absolutely know how to engage a crowd.

What’s Next?

Tonight (Thursday) I’ll be at The Troubadour to see Sonya Titus perform. She’ll go on relatively early (about 9:00ish), so if you join me (and if you’ve read my blog you’ll know I think you should because Sonya shouldn’t be missed!), be sure to arrive in time. Still deciding about Friday and Saturday nights.

Five Nights in London #1: Bob Malone

Bob Malone with Amy Eftekhari and Loose Moorings

100 Club, London
October 27, 2015

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London

I’m in London for five nights and plan to review each show. I have a slow, cranky little netbook computer that isn’t cooperating (I love it because it’s small, but I hate it because it’s slow), and I fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room last after this first show, so I’m not necessarily going to guarantee I’ll get a review up on the night of each show, but I’ll do my best. And I kick off this series with a night at The 100 Club, featuring powerhouse rockin’ blues piano-man Bob Malone.

Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Opening Act: Loose Moorings

Loose Moorings was the first band on the stage, and what amazing power and energy this band put forth. There’s almost a bit more rock than blues in this band. Hard rocking blues guitars, great vocals that were growling at times, simply powerful tuneful at others. The best description of Loose Moorings, on this particular night at least, would be cross between The Cult and George Thorogood. They set the bar high to kick off the night with their blues-influenced, tear-the-roof-off-the-joint hard rock. Loose Moorings self-describes as “a black denim blues band that rocks!!” I can’t argue with that.

Amy Eftekhari

Amy Eftekhari; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Second Act: Amy Eftekhari

Indeed, that unenviable task fell to Amy Eftekhari, who delivered a more standards-singer/jazz (with a hint of blues) set with her relatively deep, raspy voice, backed by a team of extremely talented musicians, who were given ample opportunity to showcase their skills as well during Amy’s set. It was an odd placement as far as musical progression, nestled between Loose Moorings’ wall of sound and Bob Malone’s… well, Bob Malone. But Amy did yeoman’s work and absolutely earned the crowd’s appreciation and respect.

Bob Malone

Bob Malone; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Headliner: Bob Malone

I’ve known Bob Malone for years. I’ve reviewed his music and even interviewed him for my prior publication, Geoff Wilbur’s Renegade Newsletter, back in 1998. So it was a pleasure to finally see him perform live in a setting such as the 100 Club.

Bob kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Why Not Me,” showcasing his gruff, engaging, sometimes Randy Newman-esque vocal style. Early on, as well, Bob showcased this talented bandmates skills, allowing them to shine. But really, this night was all about Bob, his trademark rockin’ blues sound on The 100 Club’s piano, and the engaging personality and expression he delivers to the fortunate audience at one of his live performances. And even though this was the last date on a grueling UK tour for him, Bob was spot-on tonight.

Early on, as he built the energy up, Bob brought the room down a bit and held its rapt attention with “Can’t Get There From Here,” a favorite of mine that had exactly the audience reaction it should.

Bob had the room rocking regularly, though, with his high-energy crowd favorites, “Rage & Cigarettes,” “Keep a Certain Distance,” and “Toxic Love,” before again bringing the tempo down with the emotional “Watching Over Me.”

The night closed with uptempo “Ain’t What You Know” and a rendtion of “Stay With Me” that would give Rod Stewart a run for his money. As Bob left the stage, however, the crowd reaction was immediate, and he returned for his encore to play the sentimental, heartfelt, passionate “Paris.”

Bob delivered everything I expected — great musicianship, terrific vocals that perfectly fit his well-crafted songs, and a supporting cast of exceptional musicians. Great kick-off to my stay in London.

What’s Next?

Well, show number two will be at The Bedford tonight (Wednesday night), followed by Thursday night at The Troubadour (in particular to see Sonya Titus perform). Friday and Saturday nights are still up in the air. I’ll keep you apprised as I decide, if I decide in advance.