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Borderline, London 21 March 2011
Facebook before heading out to this gig, I noticed some friends drawing
attention to a site called stillgigging.com. The phrase could have been
made for veteran never-quite-made-it seventies rockers Stray, and in
particular guitarist Del Bromham, who has been keeping the band name
alive through incessant touring, and now a critically acclaimed album
'Valhalla' (GRTR!'s Best of 2009) which has given them a fresh shot in
Wishbone Ash's Andy Powell, as the sole remaining member he now also
takes on lead vocals, and I arrived at a Borderline which was
respectably full for a Monday (with a crowd almost all of whom must have
been there first time around) to find him opening up with acoustic
versions of some early classics like 'Queen of the Sea', 'Our Song' and
'Around the World in 80 Days'.
real fun began when he was joined by the hairy duo of bassist Stuart
Uren and drummer Karl Randall to make a classic power trio, heavier than
previous Stray line-ups I saw a few years back, beginning with the
classic 'After The Storm', with a great riff and some Hendrix-inspired
solos, making full use of the wah wah pedal.
The set went
on to mix some very lively sounding new numbers - 'Move A Mountain',
'Skin', with old classics such as 'Mr Wind', and 'For the People', with
Del playing a 12 string guitar, all topped off with his cheekie chappie
dexterity on guitar, whether memorable riffs or rapid-fire solos, is
quite something to behold and it is a travesty that his name never seems
to crop up in any lists of all-time great rock guitarists.
Machine', with its eastern-sounding riff and Del's fingers burning up
and down the fretboard in a blur of movement, 'Jericho' and 'Suicide',
complete with loads of feedback, all came across as epics reminding us
how the early seventies was such a great time for unbridled freedom of
musical expression, and that the Purples and Zeppelins were just the tip
of a whole iceberg of great heavy rock music.
Yet for a
band with such a history, the new songs were particularly impressive, in
a classic Stray style but still with a modern freshness to them. In the
case of the anti-war '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue' and 'Harry Farr', about
the World War I soldier shot for cowardice, they also explored
interesting lyrical themes, although Free at Last was a touch heavy for
Believe It', which has a slower pace but built into another guitar tour
de force, the equally ‘geezerish' Pete Dyer, Stray's second singer from
the seventies, was brought out from the audience to sing a couple of
relatively commercial numbers from his time, 'Houdini' and the
tongue-in-cheek 'Percy the Pimp', before 'Buying Time' saw Del ‘do
a Frampton' with a talk box.
off the set with 'All in Your Mind', one of the songs that inspired Iron
Maiden, with his guitar left hanging from the ceiling still squealing
were more conventional blistering 12 bar boogies – 'Hallelujah',
segueing into a cover of 'Rock and Roll', and a supercharged version of
'Move It', once made famous by Sir Cliff (or Stiff Pilchard as Kerrang!
used to call him). Incredibly they were on stage for just a tad short of
2 ˝ hours.
and moderately enjoyed Stray a few years ago, to hear them play with
this intensity and vitality was something of a revelation and one I
would recommend others experience.
Long may Del
Bromham continue to rock.
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