Live Review : Midnite City + Devilfire + Atlas @ Eleven, Stoke on June 6th 2019

I love Eleven as a venue, it’s a cracking place. Total pain in the bum to get to in time for a gig start on a week night though! However, I persevered and best efforts of the M6 notwithstanding, I managed to get there in time to see all the bands. This was just as well, as tonight’s bill was a bit of an epic.

The traffic wasn’t so kind to tonight’s scheduled opening act, Devilfire though and a hastily-arranged swap took place meaning Atlas opened the show instead. They are a band I wasn’t familiar with, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from them. First track was hard and heavy classic rock, OK, I’m good with that, it sounds promising. Then the vocals started. Wow. Just wow. Frontman Craig Wells has one of the best voices I have heard in a long long time. If you can imagine what the bastard child of early Rob Halford and early Vince Neil would sound like you still wouldn’t have a proper idea of the range and power of this fella’s voice. Colour me impressed! The band are a 6-piece (2 guitars, keyboards, drum, bass, vocals) so once some minor technical issues with the keyboards get sorted the sound is rich and full. The style is firmly in the AOR camp (in fact they are labelmates at AORHeaven with headliners Midnite City) with some cracking melodies and catchy choruses. According to my notes I particularly liked a song called ‘Cross The Line’ because it had a great guitar solo, and I also enjoyed the new single ‘Flesh & Blood’ which reminded me of It Bites in places. My one little niggle or maybe criticism of them would be that this style of music really needs more backing vocals. Craig has an amazing voice but there were a couple of places where some harmonies would have really made a difference. Still bought their album “In Pursuit Of Memory” before I went home though!

Devilfire were also an unknown quantity to me, I’d heard the name and it seems they have played at several small festivals this year that for various reasons I haven’t been able to go to. Thus far our paths have not crossed. Which is a damn shame, because if tonight’s performance is any guide, they are about to make it onto my list of New Favourite Bands. (I should probably point out here that this list is a very long one!) I think I would have to say that even after tonight, I still haven’t really seen them properly as the whole band weren’t there – instead we got an acoustic set by just 2 members, singer and founder member Alex and one of the 2 guitarists. To my eternal shame, I have no idea which one it was……… My first thought as they started to play was oh my, another amazing voice! But this time there were proper backing vocals too, and it made a huge difference to the sound. The full band have recently released their first album “Dark Manoeuvres” but much to my disappointment they didn’t have any merch with them tonight so I had to wait til I got home to be able to order it. Even acoustic and with just two band members the songs sounded great, so much so that I was inspired to make a note of some of the titles. So we had ‘(In & Out Of Love) All Of The Time’ which was an immense power ballad, ‘Ready For War?’, a tale of a broken relationship, ‘She’s Like Fire’ which was catchy and bouncy and finally ‘Waiting For a Rock Star’ with its unmistakable hook and singalong chorus. If this is how good they can be with nothing more than a guitar and 2 microphones I am really excited to find out more about the full band experience. Watch this space, hopefully I’ll catch them soon and report back!

Midnite City open their set with a song called ‘Here Comes The Party’ and it’s totally apt. This band are very much a party kind of band, they play party kind of songs and most of all, they are here to make sure both you and they have a good time. Led by the irrepressible Rob Wylde (who you may remember from his days as bass player and more recently singer with Tigertailz), this is a band who want to take over the world one song at a time. I’m struck by the thought that tonight has been an evening of fantastic vocalists, which makes me very happy. ‘We Belong’ and ‘Life Ain’t Like This On The Radio’ come next. Atlas take note, THIS is how you do harmony vocals! It’s also how you do catchy singalong choruses, epic anthemic songs and blistering guitar solos, although again at the beginning there seems to be a bit of an issue with the keyboard sound. Rob is the ultimate frontman, bouncing around on stage like a demented Zebedee (only with better hair) and interacting with both the crowd and the rest of the band. The music is light and frothy, sure there’s a hard edge to it but this is music to bounce to. Well except for ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ which is a huge power ballad with more than a nod towards my favourite band in the world. This song needs a stadium, and people waving lighters or the slightly less flammable option of phones. It’s a monster. Check it out, it’s on Midnite City’s recently-released second album “There Goes The Neighbourhood”.

It’s followed by ‘Gave Up Giving Up’, another anthem with lots of opportunity for punching the air and bouncing around. There are fans in the packed venue tonight who have travelled from both Japan and Switzerland just to catch this band live, and I totally get why. ‘Heavens Falling’ is another ballad, reminiscent of a certain band named after a pale legless reptile. It features some stunning work from keyboard player Shawn Charvette, and morphs into a kind of keyboard solo at the end. I’m not a massive fan of the kind of solos where the rest of the band get to leave the stage (probably to go to the loo) and one person stays on and shows off, but in this case I can forgive them because Shawn is just so damn good. A couple more songs and a drum mini-solo from Pete Newdeck at the back and we get to ‘Can’t Wait For The Night’ This is another party song, a good-time singalong rocker.

It leads into what I thought was going to be a solo spot from guitarist Miles Meakin. Miles does all the stock facial grimaces, and also manages to smile as he blows your sock off with some killer notes. Good stuff! But here his solo is underpinned with some more keyboarding from Shawn, making it more of a duet. Or maybe a duel? Either way, it works well! Poor old bass player Josh Williams doesn’t get to do a solo but that’s OK because I suspect that he may well be the glue that holds this band together, and he’s all over the stage tonight having a whale of a time and helping us to have one too! Midnite City keep the songs coming, ‘Tonight You’re All I Need’, ‘Last Beat Of My Heart’ and ‘Until The End’ all have the crowd entranced. There’s no scary mosh pit in Stoke tonight, just a seething mass of happy smiling people having a damn good time. Yes, the look is a little cliched, maybe the songs aren’t the most avant-garde you’ll ever find either, but Midnite City work hard to give you a fun night and you can’t really ask for more than that. Final songs ‘Summer Of Our Lives’ and ‘Give Me Love’ are belted out with as much energy as the first, and the crowd respond accordingly. We sing back the choruses, we bounce up and down, we punch the air and then all too soon, it’s over. As I’m leaving, I see that despite having come off the stage only minutes before all the band are already out and chatting to people, signing stuff and just being themselves. This is what they are all about, and this is why they deserve to be successful. What a great evening it’s been!

Words and photography by Jo Crosby