Though far from sold out, today’s matinee concert at De Bosuil slowly but firmly fills for today’s celebration of Tygers Of Pan Tang’s classic cuts. The NWOBHM act reports back to the European mainland for a stint of gigs in support of their brand new album `Ritual’, an album packing tremendous thrive, `Ritual’ sees the UK band around founding member Robb Weir rejuvenated and off the pitch makes clear the current line up rejuvenated the band’s classic rock sound. More melodic, highly energetic, and with immense charisma the band delivers their new tracks and HBLS is especially interested how this sonic streak holds up and gels with their many classics.
Slick stage props, gigantic backdrops and side fills are not what one usually expects a support act to bring to the stage. Belgian FireForce, much like Tygers in rejuvenated form, open tonight’s show and I am pleasantly surprised by the large number of fans showing up for the 45 minute show chockfull of blistering power metal and thrash. Much to my surprise the band around founding member and former Double Diamond guitarist Erwin Suetens recruited the talented axe slinger Matt ‘Hawk’. Asselberghs of Nightmare fame, to ensure fire on the fretboard. With Suetens laying down the ultra heavy bodywork of the thunderous potion of thrash and power metal, Hawk pitches his fiery solos and chugging riffs with finesse. The man immediately injects a unique vigour into the anthemic battle metal (I grocery dislike the term). The tandem swings their axes up high and the crisp chunky power metal riffs that more than once shoot into drop C groove.
Overall this persistent power vocalist Eric Fox adds his roaring vocals. His stage presence somewhat corky, Fox makes up for that with his pitch perfect high notes and in the lower regions he is the missing link between the power chops and drum rolls. FireForce have never sounded this good and ,,Boys Down Under”, ,,Revenge In Flames” win over the crowd residing in the back of the venue taking in the view. By the time they reach ,,Deathbringer” and the excellent ,,Defector”, the audience made it to the front of the stage to enjoy FireForce giving it their very best. Though it is not flawless the battle calls are roaring and Suetens and Asselbergh attract attention with their great interaction and screaming solos. Enjoying themselves clearly the band lay down a solid performance with the great live crackers ,,Thunder Will Roll” and ,,Coastal Battery” with it war call. Absolutely magnificent is the impressive ,,Thyra’s Wall”, one of the centre points of their `Annihilate The Evil’ album from 2017. It gained momentum with the guitar duels and impressive lead switches, as well as the high quality vocal performance of Søren. ,,Combat Metal” and ,,The Iron Brigade” take the early gig to an end with cannons firing confetti to end this party. Though FireForce is far from original, the addition of Hawk and Fox enhances their solid performance and with the band in studios at present, I am more than interested to hear the outcome.
An outcome that was marvellous is the current new Tygers of Pan Tang release. The band developed their NWOBHM roots and morphed the classic ingredients into a great and energetic cocktail. Especially their sound is on par and radiates the same excitement as their performances. Tygers is a true at heart live act and with a large chop of their classic songs categorizing as classics, it always stunned me to hear the production falling short of their intense gigs. Today isn’t different. From the opening ,,White Lines” onwards, the band fires on all cylinders. Though the sound is not immediately on par, the band most certainly is. The interaction between Weir and youngster Micky Crystal is phenomenal. Crystal runs point with his screaming solo’s often drawing from the more classic Zep-era, shifting into overdrive fired up by his companion. Robb lays low for quite some time taking in the view of the enthusiasm. He is in constant contact with his fans, front to back and radiates the pleasure the band is known for. He walks back and forth, points at photographers and fans, takes time to interact and constantly seeks eye contact. It is a pleasure to see this silver fox swing his axe and his licks are subtle to say the least. His sweep picking is crystal clear and when he takes his guitar going head to head with Crystal, he is pulled off his feet by vocalist Jacopo Meille. It is a great sight to see the guys enjoy themselves and it adds volume to the performance.
With Gas Gray riffing away frequently on bass and Craig Ellis adding power to the plate, the band is a force to be reckoned with. Especially when a force has this many classics up their sleeve. In tremendous pace songs like ,,Take It”, ,,Keeping Me Alive” and ,,Euthanasia” rush by with Weir distorting his guitar with the talk box and roaring like a Lion.. ehm… Tiger. It is all there; catchy riffs, way pedals screaming on the right side of the stage, and pick slides and the dual guitar play off is extravagant, warping you back to rock’s heydays. When TOPT hit the title track of their new album it brings out the best in the band and the vocal interaction between all members is pristine. It simply hits home. ,,Raised On Rock” and ,,Running Out Of Time” represent ,,Crazy Nights” and ,,Wild Cat” is represented by the earlier mentioned ,,Euthanasia” and the following ,,Slave To Freedom” and ,,Tush” (ZZ Top). My personal favourites hail from the `Spellbound’ album, launching the career of a young blonde guitar god, Mr. John Sykes. ,,Hellbound” and ,,Don’t Stop By” perfectly add to the grandiose version of ,,Take It” early in the set, and the ballsy riffs push forward the band. ,,Only The Brave” and ,,Damn You” bring the audience to extract and fists keep flying up.
The band is shouted back onto the stage for their encores of which only ,,Don’t Touch Me There” is the one adding most value. Though the ZZ Top cover is a classic in their set list and ,,Love Potion No 9” (The Clovers) is a solid closer, I always hope for the band to add more of their own. Their back catalogue being this extensive, Tygers can easily fill a 3 hour show with celebrates hymns from their pen.
Oh yes it was all we expected. Sure it is a repetitive circle we find the band in. But Tygers Of Pan Tang never let you down and today they proven to be better than ever. Especially Weir… he is the guy to keep you eyes on if you want to see a true at heart musician enjoying himself on stage. The Tyger keeps roaring!
All photos by Edwin van Hoof
HBLS review new CD `Ritual' here
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