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Rod Argent is Featured Artist (May 2012) at Get Ready to ROCK! Radio

ARGENT
Manchester Academy 3, 27 January 2012

 
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The entry above the Argent listing in the Academy gig guide was somewhat tragic. Jackie Leven had been booked in to play less than a week before. R.I.P. Which makes band reunions all the more poignant these days: rock's getting old.

Argent, for a long time fondly remembered as much as for the songs they 'gave away' as those that they had hits with, finally got it back together in 2010 at High Voltage. A tentative set maybe but the guys must have got a taste for it as this short tour now proves.

 


...for some reason I've still got my 'Sounds' poster of Russ with his guitar that looks like it's hewn out of some off-coloured Emmental.
 


Having been a fan of the band since the early seventies I always admired their eclectic blend of melody, hard rock, funky rock, and frequently tinged with prog. I had never seen them back in the day when in Rod Argent's words they could blow Rainbow off stage. But for some reason I've still got my 'Sounds' poster of Russ with his guitar that looks like it's hewn out of some off-coloured Emmental.

So it was with a certain amount of middle-aged excitement that I made my way to the opening gig on this all-too-short tour. Academy 3 is frankly not befitting of a band who once frequently graced the pages of the music press and the TV studios of the BBC but it was a terrific opportunity to witness true rock craftsmen at close quarters.

Rod Argent and Russ Ballard

 


If it was 2011 this would have been one of the gigs of the year. As it is, it sets the bar almost at Olympian levels for 2012.
 


And in terms of craft they don't come much better than Russ Ballard. Always an excellent if underrated guitarist Russ has had a lucrative life as a songwriter par excellence. Rod Argent on the other hand has maintained a gigging profile most recently with The Zombies, whilst bassist Jim Rodford has worked consistently with The Kinks and The Zombies.

Together with Bob Henrit there is a certain magic and I think the band must sense this as well. If it was 2011 this would have been one of the gigs of the year. As it is, it sets the bar almost at Olympian levels for 2012.

Jim Rodford, photo by Noel Buckley

Opening with 'It's Only Money' (Part 1 and 2) we were immediately drawn in to one of several utterly superb Hammond solos from Argent. But progressing through a set list that included also some of the musicians' finest individual moments - such as a humongously good 'She's Not There' (Argent) and 'I Don't Believe In Miracles' (Ballard) - this was a triumph of wonderful musicianship and durable songwriting (And due credit to Chris White who co-wrote some of the earlier material).

Rod Argent, photo by Noel Buckley

Throughout, Rod kept us informed about the songs and provided a context and whilst the audience were  of a certain age and probably reasonably well versed in the band's history it was a really nice touch and embellished as necessary by Jim or Russ.


I mean Russ Ballard doesn't need to lift a guitar again and I am sure he was last heard of peeling grapes (or having them peeled for him) somewhere exotic. It will certainly be warmer there than Manchester in January.
 


There has been a lot of recycling and reinvention in rock over the past couple of years but to my ears Argent sounded as good as they probably were back in their heyday, right down to the dual vocals of Argent and Ballard and trademark harmonies, with even Jim Rodford adding his vocal support.

Argent

In a show that would have satiated any lost or relapsed Argent fan, the band saved their biggest hitters for last. 'Hold Your Head Up' - with an exhilarating audience call and response before the final section of power chord and pneumatic bass - was simply magnificent, whilst 'God Gave Rock And Roll To You' must have kept Ballard in some grandeur since he wrote it back in 1973.

Russ Ballard, photo by Noel Buckley

There is a certain good spirit about this enterprise. I mean Russ Ballard doesn't need to lift a guitar again and I am sure he was last heard of peeling grapes (or having them peeled for him) somewhere exotic. It will certainly be warmer there than Manchester in January.  Rod Argent keeps busy with his own projects and The Zombies. But as they said tonight, this reunion gives them the chance to play songs they never played on stage back in the day. ('Sister Mary', 'Be Free')

There must now be an incentive and - dare I say a momentum - to carry on. A new album, maybe? The only tragedy is that they didn't play 'Tragedy' but I am sure there is still time for that.

Setlist: The Coming Of Kahoutek/ It's Only Money I & II/ Keep On Rollin'/ Be Free/ Rejoice/ I Am The Dance Of Ages/ Sweet Mary/ She's Not There/ I Don't Believe In Miracles/ Liar/ Since You've Been Gone/ Hold Your Head Up/ God Gave Rock And Roll To You


Review by David Randall

Main photos by Noel Buckley

Great British Rock & Blues, 28 January (with photo gallery)


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