Live Review : Towers of London + Takeaway Thieves + Johnny Quadrio @ the Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool on May 31st 2019

I’ve been watching the Waterloo evolve over the last 18 months or so, and it’s been quite a sight to see. It started as a run-down pub used mostly by the local bowls club, with a tiny room and a tiny stage in one corner. Gigs got booked, bands and fans came. Walls got knocked out, the loos got renovated, a decent-sized stage was built, a new floor installed, a PA arrived, and now there is even a barrier to create the tiniest photo pit in the world. It’s all good, and kudos to Ian and his team who are grabbing some really great Rock and Punk bands to play and putting on some excellent nights of live music these days.

Tonight was no exception. We started with Johnny Quadrio, a Liverpool band/artist that I wasn’t familiar with. He/they are quite hard to pigeonhole in musical terms, kind of indie folk punk with a bit of ska thrown in, an occasional nod to the blues and just a hint of social conscience in the lyrics to boot. They were competent but not really rock enough for me. I did note however that the Towers Of London guys obviously have quite a history with them and came down for a bit of a dance and to show some support, which was good to see.

Second band the Takeaway Thieves are starting to turn into a bit of a house band at the Waterloo. Being local they are picking up a lot of support slots for all kinds of bands and also garnering quite a reputation amongst the regular clientele. This is because they are a confident, competent Hard Rock band and, like many of the people in the pub tonight, I like them very much. This is no-nonsense driving Rock, and it’s bloody marvellous. They have a singer who pouts and screams like Jagger, a sleazemeister bass player, a hairy Metal lead guitarist, a bandana’d hippy rhythm to complement him and a drummer who looks way too normal and sensible to be part of them! They take a pinch of sleaze, a swagger of blues, chuck in some melody and roll it all up with some killer power riffs. Kind of like a massive Rock burrito. Yum.

There are a couple of minor technical issues, but they’re playing to a packed house who either don’t notice or don’t care. They blast through a repertoire of their own songs, from the bounce-along opener ‘I Wish You Were Dead’, through the rocktastic ‘Backstreet’, past the singalong anthem ‘Slippin Slidin, turning left at the bluesy Honky Tonk and ending with the spitting, snarling, punk-inspired ‘This Is Rock & Roll’. The latter sees rhythm guitarist Neil leave the stage and play on the bar, much to the delight of the assembled throng. There is an EP due to drop any day now, and I strongly urge you to get your hands on it because trust me, this band are going places.

On to headliners Towers Of London. I’m sure you all know their history? They exploded onto the scene in 2004 with a series of decent glam/punk singles, all included on their first album “Blood Sweat and Towers”. This was followed by notoriety when they were followed by a TV crew for a year, resulting in a reality show that showed a warts-and-all version of their life on the road. They got some great gigs and pretty much screwed it all up with their bad-boy behaviour and fuck the world attitude. A shedding of guitarist The Rev (who went on to work with Ginger Wildheart among others) and drummer Snell resulted in a disappointing second album, and despite more TV appearances by singer Donny Tourette and a rather interesting if icky mention in a famous groupie memoir they had disappeared into obscurity by 2009.

10 years later and here we are in 2019 with a new version of Towers. Yes, it’s the original line-up but they are older, and possibly just a little bit wiser. I wasn’t a massive fan when they first came on the scene, and despite seeing them support The Wildhearts in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and being slightly impressed I would have to admit to going along tonight with fairly low expectations. I was wrong. They came in with one of their best-known songs ‘I’m A Rat’, and it was all high-energy rock and roll from there. They play loud, fast music to break stuff to. They give no fucks. They wear boiler suits and white socks. But most of all, they entertain. They play the crowd like another instrument, and rarely have I seen such an enthusiastic mosh pit for a non-thrash band! There was beer flying everywhere, there were people flying everywhere, it was brutal and it was amazing. Donny Tourette in the tiny photo pit, he’s on the bar, he’s hanging off the PA, he’s carried aloft on the shoulders of his people. And these ARE his people. The old songs go down a storm, the new songs fit in seamlessly and the whole gig was a joy to be part of.

There is sweat, there were probably a few tears too. I used to look down my nose at Towers back in the day, thought they were a mediocre bunch of pissheads who got a lucky break. Nope. These guys can play, they write fist-pumping, oi-oi anthems and most of all they entertain. This is not armchair rock, it’s in-your-face Punk and it’s great.

If you haven’t yet caught the new-old Towers Of London, I strongly urge you to check them out. You might, like me, be pleasantly surprised!

Setlist: I’m A Rat, Beaujolais, Get Yourself Outta Here, Air Guitar, Free Your Love, Good Times, On A Noose, How Rude She Was, I Lose It, Love You Lost, Northern Lights, Shot In The Dark, Seen It All, Fuck It Up.

Words and photography by Jo Ctosby