Playing gigs a day before the biggest rock festival in the UK can often be memorable affairs. Whilst usually designed to allow bands to flex their musical muscles ahead of the big crowd, there can often be a spirit of seeing a real one-off moment. For Deadland Ritual that spirit was, whilst not a ‘you had to be there’ affair, one of relaxed fun for a bunch of musicians with precious little to prove. 

Kicking off proceedings, Gin Annie proved a confident reminder of why the grassroots UK rock scene is currently in such fine rude health, adding their name to a growing list of bands to keep an eye on. With so many exciting bands coming through the ranks, many influenced by the likes of UFO, it put into context just how heartbreaking (but not entirely unexpected) it is to see Pete Way stumble on stage; flanked by a band of solid and no doubt extremely tolerant musicians. 

Way dedicated his set to his former bandmate Paul Raymond. He opted to pass over the bass duties, for which he is renowned, and focus on frontman duties instead. It’s as logical as, say, Steve Harris deciding to give Maiden vocals a go for a couple of gigs. With a set list littered with undeniable UFO classics, the overall result was one of very mixed feelings. Partly tragedy for one of rock’s true survivors clearly attempting to keep things together and nostalgia for the heady days when these songs provided a shot in the arm to the 80s rock scene.

However, no such problems for Deadland Ritual, though! With some new bands containing high profile members (sssshh, don’t say the ‘S’ word) it can sometimes be a curious blend. On paper, the sum of its parts not always reaching its full potential in reality. For Ritual, featuring Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, Billy Idol side-kick Steve Stevens, GnR and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum and Apocalyptica singer Franky Perez, it clicks together well.

Delivering the expected crowd-pleasing juke-box set-list of their respective impressive back catalogues, the result is one of feeling like you are watching a gang of legendary musicians let off steam, kick back and really enjoy themselves. The gig, though, also offers some unique and almost surreal moments. None more so than watching Sabbath legend Geezer Butler playing Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. I’m sure it’s something that fans didn’t ever expect to see.

Kicking the set off with Symptom of the Universe, the band paced the setlist well interspersing new original tracks with stone cold-classics. This acted as a gentle introduction to a band who, one suspects, will eventually start to address that balance as they get traction and their new material becomes more well known. 

Kudos should also go to Franky Perez. Being the front man, but also the least recognised in the band, must be, at times, an odd one! Nevertheless, whilst not possessing a startlingly memorable voice he acts as the glue in the band with a vocal tone that somehow doesn’t seem out of place on any of the legendary tracks that he interprets.

Time will tell if fans take to the new material but, in the meantime, this live gig is a no-brainer night of great music and a chance to see some of rock and metal’s journeymen up close and personal.

Neil presents The Neil Jones Rock Show on TotalRock, Cambridge 105 Radio and KLFM   

Words: Neil Jones

Event Date: 13-June-2019