Live Review : Blaze Bayley + Aonia + Hollowpoint @ The Tivoli, Buckley on August 23rd 2019

The night didn’t start well. The Creamfields Festival was on the same weekend in my home town of Warrington, and I forgot. This meant that I spent a whole lot more time than I had planned for sitting in barely-moving traffic on the M56, resulting in me completely missing tonight’s first band Hollowpoint. Bah. Sorry Hollowpoint, I’ll catch you next time. The next thing I realised was that my “proper” camera, which had been on the coffee table in my living room while the battery was charging was….. still on the coffee table in my living room. Damn. So I apologise in advance if the pictures aren’t up to our usual standard, the bands were great, the lighting was great, your reviewer is a fuckwit. Onwards!

I did manage to get in and settled in time for Aonia though. The first thing I noticed about them was that the stage seemed quite crowded – there was a drummer at the back and then 2 guitarists, a keyboard player, a bass player and two singers. Not a lot of space left although they did manage to not actually trip over each other. The two vocalists are both female and both sing soprano, so the comparison to bands such as Nightwish is, I suppose, the inevitable and easy option. The music was technical and fast-paced, with epic lyrics telling tales of battles and general derring-do. There were lots of time changes, lots of widdly guitaring, lots of interesting keyboard sounds. There were songs about legends, long instrumental breaks, fast songs, slower songs, and also corsets. Hair was flying, headbanging was synchronised, fists were very much pumped. I’d have to be honest and say it wasn’t perhaps something I’d normally go for but I actually really enjoyed it! There were a couple of standout songs that I really liked, one with swirly hammer-horror keyboards called ‘If You Dare’ and their final anthem for the misfits, moshers and freaks “Still, I Rise” and with a flash of LED lights on those aforementioned corsets the set was over.

I’m sure I don’t need to give you much background about tonight’s headliner Blaze Bayley. We all know how he fronted the much-missed Wolfsbane, rose out of obscurity for a couple of years when he was picked to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden when Bruce went off brucing elsewhere, then was unceremoniously let go when Bruce came back. Don’t think that was much of a brucie bonus for him! Anyhow since leaving Maiden he has worked solidly, releasing several albums and touring regularly.

Tonight’s show was one of the last handful on his current “Eagle Spirit” tour, and wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Last time I saw Blaze, he offered a kind of greatest hits package with songs from throughout his career but this current tour is focused entirely on his last 3 album releases. The albums, known collectively as “The Infinite Entanglement Trilogy”, are a concept project telling the story of one William Black. This tour brings together strands of the story into a single event – a concept show if you will. Blaze told us during the course of the night that it will be collated and released as a live album in the near future, so there’s something to look out for.

Blaze was ably backed by his band, which is ¾ of Manchester’s Absolva, and they go straight into the first song ‘The Dark Side Of Black’. It was hard and fast, and seemed to involve a lot of pointing. As the night goes on I found that pointing was Blaze’s “thing”, he did an awful lot of pointing and it really helped the audience get involved with the various chantbacks. In fact, there was quite a bit of pointing back at Blaze. Which was nice. There was some spoken narrative between songs which was obviously part of the concept thing. It didn’t really help me get the gist of the story but it did make me smile as Blaze. Tells. The Story. In. Best Dramatic. Tones. With. Pauses, just like. James T Kirk!

The music was great, being a mixture of clean classic rock and dirty NWOBHM vibes. Guitarist Chris Appleton can shred like a kitten in a toilet roll factory and really is an extremely talented and under-rated player. Blaze was joined on stage for one song, the ballad ‘Together We Can Move The Sun’, by Jo from Aonia. Her soaring operatic voice worked well with Blaze’s more gruff tones, and the whole thing was surprisingly beautiful. The show continued with some more traditional Metal, including the Iron Maiden song ‘Virus’ I’m not sure if that was part of the concept or not but it sounded pretty good! Blaze was down in the pit shaking hands with his crowd, and showing that he really is a man of the people. No paid meet & greets here, you just know that after the show this man would be out there by his merch chatting, signing and doing photos and sure enough he was. Before that though the songs continued to burst out, harder, faster, softer, slower, whatever your favourite style of metal is Blaze chucked some into the mix.

There wasn’t an encore as such, the band only went off for a brief moment then came back to play 3 songs that definitely aren’t part of the concept, Blaze’s ‘Stare At The Sun’ followed by 2 from his Maiden days ‘Man On The Edge’ and ‘Futureal’. I’m still not sure what the actual story behind the concept is, but that didn’t really matter because Blaze’s impeccable vocal delivery alongside his excellent band made for a really good night out anyway.

Complete setlist for the main set (for those who need to know) was: The Dark Side of Black, A Thousand Years, Dark Energy 256, The World Is Turning the Wrong Way, Human, Together We Can Move the Sun, Solar Wind, Virus, Life Goes On, Fight Back, Watching the Night, Sky Silicon Messiah, The Day I Fell to Earth, Eagle Spirit, Calling You Home.

Words and photography by Jo Crosby