Live Review : FM + The Quireboys + Bad Touch + Vega @ O2 Ritz, Manchester on April 7th 2019

This evening's gig at Manchester’s 02 Ritz is all set to be somewhat of a cracker; a double header of 2 bands celebrating 35 years since their inception. Both The Quireboys and FM have endured a rollercoaster of a ride or two over the past 3 and a bit decades, and these days FM are greying gracefully, yet still releasing quality material and touring regularly, so with support from Vega and Bad Touch, it promises to be a great night in store.

It’s a Sunday evening, it’s early, and the Ritz is fairly empty as Vega takes the stage. They’re the perfect band to warm the arriving crowd nicely, delivering catchy, punchy songs like ‘Gonna Need Some Love Tonight, and the receptive crowd cheering them on enthusiastically. Vega possesses a charismatic and dynamic vocalist in Nick Workman, and a great guitarist in Marcus Thurston. This 6 piece put on a blistering performance, playing some tracks from their latest album “Only Human”. ‘Every Little Monster’ and ‘White Flag’ from the previous “Who We Are” album are both instant radio sing a long, featuring some excellent vocal harmonies and guitars. With 5 albums now under their belts, Vega certainly needs checking out further!

Bad Touch enters the stage shortly after, and it’s like watching a gigantic ball of hair move frantically around the stage in singer Stevie Westwood. They’re energetic, and in your face and feet from the moment they strike the first chord. Grooving like a mix of Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and The Black Crowes, their songs are infectious, groovy and heavily blues soaked. Songs like ‘Movin’ on Up’, ‘Too Many Times’, ‘Hammer Falls’, flow effortlessly. ‘Dressed to Kill’ is a great cocky swagger about being who you are. The band finish with the Planet Rock favourite from last year ‘99%’, the crowd loved them. It says proudly on the bass drum; ‘Norfolk Rock and Roll’, well, there aren’t any turkeys here and as Bernard Matthews would say- ‘Bootiful!

The lights go down, a cheer goes up and The Quireboys burst onto the stage. Having both the moves and vocals like an 80’s Rod Stewart, lead singer Spike immediately goes for the throat. Throwing the mike stand around like it's a rag doll, he and his band of hobos deliver exactly what it says on the tin; sleazy, Stonesy, Faces embedded rock n roll from the minute they hit the stage. ‘I Love This Dirty Town’ starts it off, quickly followed by ‘Misled’, ‘There She Goes Again’, and ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ from the new album “Amazing Disgrace” follows on seamlessly in the same vein as their older material. It’s like a party on stage, the band clearly enjoying the way the audience are warming to them, even ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’. Then the chant along ‘Hello’ follows into ‘Whipping Boy’, and then a nice tribute to the late Bernie Torme with the rousing ‘This is Rock n Roll’. ‘Hey You’ follows that, then another recent song with ‘Original Black Eyed Son’. The tempo drops beautifully for the superb ballad ‘I Don't Love You Anymore’, again taking you back to that excellent first album “A Bit Of What You Fancy” from 1989, We’re left with ‘Sweet Mary Ann’, and before we know it, ‘7 O’Clock’ ends perfectly. Time for a party? It most certainly was!

FM are one of those bands that could quite literally play a different set each night for the next 6 months. With such an array of class AOR anthems under their belt it would be impossible to pick a playlist to suit everyone’s favourite songs. They open with ‘Breathe Fire’ from 1992’s “Aphrodisiac“ album before gremlins threatened to ruin the show by getting into vocalist Steve Overland’s amp. Luckily like the true pros they are they carried on until a replacement amp saved the day and they continue to deliver a blistering set. . The breakthrough single from 1989’s “Tough it Out” that should have been, ‘Bad Luck’ follows, the catchy ‘Life is a Highway’, from their recent excellent album “Heroes & Villains”, ‘That Girl’, ‘Let Love be the Leader’, the beautiful power ballad ‘The Dream that Died’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘Someday you’ll Come Running’, ‘Face to Face’, and from 2010’s comeback album after their 11 year hiatus, the infectious ‘Over You’ featuring some great guitar harmonies from Steve Overland and Jim Kirkpatrick. ‘I Belong to the Night’, ‘Tough it Out’, continue the frantic pace before the single ‘Killed by Love’ from their last album “Atomic Generation” closes the show. They do return however to deliver the amazing ‘Story Of My Life’ which shows not just what an amazing singer they have in Steve Overland, but their perfectly crafted blend of song writing. Like a fine wine this band have matured wonderfully with age, and with ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ closing the night in emphatic style, what better way to end a weekend?

Words by Phil Beswick
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki