Live Review : Stone Broken + Those Damn Crows + Hollowstar @ the Arts Club, Liverpool on February 20th 2019
A quick glance at the ‘Fans also like’ on Spotify for any of tonight’s three bands tells you how coherent a line-up this is. Yes, you guessed it, they all feature in each other’s lists. Other bands that they supposedly share common ground with are, according to the algorithm-loving app, Mason Hill, Massive Wagons and Wayward Sons. But to be honest these three bands have very different sounds and potential paths, even if they all have classic rock at their core.
I half expected this gig to be held up in the loft, but I'm pleasantly surprised to find that it’s been put on in the theatre. I really enjoy gigs in this part of the venue as it's a unique setting, almost like a mini-me version of the Apollo or Brixton. First on are Hollowstar. Their frontman is something akin to a fedora wearing Chris Cornell who swallowed a groovy funk-rock pill. The rest of the band look more like they should be in a metalcore act, and it serves to bring your attention firmly back to their white shirt clad vocalist every time. He's a chirpy fellow and immediately strikes up a good relationship with the crowd. It's all very safe and easily accessible classic rock fun in the vein of Black Stone Cherry, but a little melodramatic in places for my taste. For example, it’s always impressive for a first-on band to get the crowd doing singing-backs, but there's definitely something lacking in the layers of the songs and specifically the guitar performance.
Those Damn Crows are a band with multiple personalities. Some of those personalities I like and to be honest, some I don’t. They switch between a multitude of genres, at times even within the same song and the cohesion is sometimes lost. The punk and grunge influenced songs are excellent; heavy and energetic without being unnecessarily brutal, but the country and classic rock ’n’ roll tunes come across a tad too generic and dated, like a lumbering Kid Rock or KISS tribute. If anyone remembers a band called Janus Stark (Gizz Butt the 90’s live guitarist for Prodigy’s band) then their brand of punky hard rock is when Those Damn Crows are at their best. Frontman Shane Greenhall’s country-twang sometimes encroaches on the more impressive straight-up power vocals, but he’s a great frontman with real presence, charisma and characterization in his voice. I think Those Damn Crows could be onto something great here, but they will need to decide what stylistic path to follow before they can truly make their mark.
This gig is part of Stone Broken’s short headline homecoming tour supporting second studio album ‘Ain’t Always Easy’. The Walsall-based hard rockers have just returned from a successful debut tour across the US supporting Fozzy. Now that’s got to be a great gig to secure, right? It’s no surprise that they went down a treat in America, as their brand of heavy melodic hard rock is tailor made for that market. ‘Worth Fighting For’ or ‘Not Your Enemy’ could easily be WWE pay-per-view event theme songs. That’s a money-maker that Nickelback have happened upon at least a couple of times and there are obvious comparisons to the Canadian rockers. I’m not a massive fan of Nickelback, I’ll be honest with you but they do have a very precise professional sound and Stone Broken follow in a similar suit. They also have that difficult to teach skill – catchy as hell songs. They shoot out earworms that you simply can’t shift. ‘Follow Me’ is a great example of the way they can bolt an anthemic chorus onto a catchy hard rock verse that you just have to bang your head to. If anything, their recordings simply don’t convey the bombastic clout that this band delivers on stage.
They are the best parts of Theory of a Deadman and Alter Bridge, and in frontman Rich Moss they have an outstanding vocalist with a gloriously resonant and rounded voice. The guitar work is also deceptively excellent and Chris Davis’ fretwork layers perfectly into the song writing so as to not be intrusive, but when shone a spotlight on really is superb. They even progress through the arena-rock tropes with aplomb - keyboard-piano solo by Rich, acoustic guitar introduced rock ballad by Rich and frenzied drum solo by Robyn Haycock. It drifts into country-pop-rock on occasion but when they stick to channeling the spirit of Mark Tremonti and keep it heavier, they are undoubtedly engaging and dynamic. The future’s bright for Stone Broken and if they can build on that tour support with Fozzy then they’ll surely win over plenty of fans on their way to the top.
Words by Matt Fraser
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki