Live Review : The Dead Daisies + Massive Wagons @ O2 Academy, Liverpool on November 13th 2018

One of the most startling developments of the last few years has been the re-emergence of heavy, bluesy rock as a dominant force in our musical world. Classic (or you can call it hard, heavy, bluesy or commercial it really doesn’t matter) rock was seemingly dead and buried ten years ago or at least only worth a dollop of tongue in cheek irony (The Darkness, I’m looking at you). But now there is a virtual Smorgasbord of young whipper-snappers playing the type of infectious guitar-driven danceable rock that was last in vogue before any of them were glints in the soundman’s eye.

Lancashire’s Massive Wagons are very much part of that movement and their support slot with The Dead Daisies sees them riding the wave of a No. 16 hit album in the shape of ‘Full Nelson’. Tonight the sound and, to be honest, the whole performance isn’t perfect, the vocals are completely off in the mix and sound like they are being beamed in from another stage but there is still a rough edge to the band that sometimes tips too much towards imperfection. But Massive Wagons have become such a good time band and Baz Mills is such a charismatic frontman (think of a Lancastrian Diamond Dave but brought up on the Sex Pistols rather than The Beach Boys) that they actually ride above all these niggles and manage to put on a sterling performance that whips the crowd up to a frenzy.

The other thing that Massive Wagons have in their favour is the songs. ‘Back to the Stack' is not only a heartfelt tribute to the late lamented Rick Parfitt, it sounds like a long lost track from the ‘Piledriver’ sessions. Whilst Ratio, is so catchy and infectious you know you are going to be singing along with that chorus before it even arrives. Tonight yes they are bit rough and ready around the edges but the audience reaction is one that a headline act would sell their grandmother for and this proves once again that Rock N’ Roll does not need to be perfect, its just needs to be a barrel load of fun.

The Dead Daisies should be under the dictionary definition of hard work. Ok! They aren’t digging ditches but they have shown that checking your ego’s in at the door and going out there and earning your crust will pay dividends. Five albums (including a live one) in that many years and multiple tours (both supports and headlines) as well as being omnipresent during festival season (I swear I saw them at so many events last year I fully expected to open up my tent and find them blasting through 'Mexico) have seen them build up a committed fan-base of their very own. You see, The Dead Daisies have transcended being a super group and tonight’s crowd is not made up of Whitesnake or Bad English fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Doug Aldrich or Deen Castronovo, it consists of The Dead Daisies fans here to sing aloud to The Dead Daisies tracks. Which makes the inclusion of seven covers (and a melody of another five rock and roll classics during the band introductions) slightly odd, it’s like the band are almost comfortable in their own skin but not enough to lose the emotional crutch of well-known anthems such as 'Join Together' and 'Helter Skelter.

As you would expect from a bunch of professionals who have each been in this business since the eighties, this is slick and highly competent commercial rock. They all know their part and they seem as tight as a nat’s arse but this isn’t going through the motions either. As they express to the audience on numerous occasions they are all grateful to be here and in the collective middle ages they seem to be relishing their position as a new up and coming band. As you would expect from seasoned rockers we get all the trappings, the acoustic set (which bearing in mind the sauna that the venue has become is very welcome), the call and response and the led sing along, all very structured but still highly enjoyable. 

In short tonight is very much the story of the two sides of rock and roll. Massive Wagons are still learning their trade and so have that raw unpredictable almost work in progress feel, conversely the collective The Dead Daisies have all been around the block more times than they care to remember and have this rock and roll business down to a fine art. And do you know what, I loved both!!

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki