After the disappointment of the show being postponed in Pontypridd by snow and a Red weather warning, there were no dramas as we crossed the bridge heading for The Fleece in Bristol for a triple helping of Rock Joy in Bristol. Two bands joining the headliners Stone Broken to create a night of winning combinations of great guitar playing, vocals and rhythms. As The Bad Flowers, Jared James Nichols and Stone Broken took to the stage tonight the last night of the U.K. leg of the tour, it was fitting that the show was SOLD OUT!
First to warm the stage and excite the audience was The Bad Flowers the new band that has roared out of the gigging starting blocks with the firing of their album Starting Gun. With a thirty minutes slot, Tom Leighton kept the verbals brief but still took time out to thank the audience for the support as they played a stylish set. They hit the ground running with Tom’s vocals soaring above the band on the perfect opener Hurricane. The Bad Flowers is a trio that plays with a high energy classic rock style they sound so much more than a three-piece. Tom’s voice has the scope to roam around the lyrics by superb musicianship. The rhythm section is a power base, the combination of drummer Karl Selickis and Dale Tonks on Bass locking in the drive, energy and structure of every number. The guitar swirls with lead breaks that introduce Tom on vocal he is a skilful operator. The great riff ensured that Secrets went down like a storm with the crowd. What an opening set. Closing out a faultless set that left you wanting more with the single that got airplay on Planet Rock Thunder Child and their signature number City Lights. The closing track on the album and is contemporary moody rock with great lyrics. He sings “can’t afford Champagne” – playing like this you will be able to soon, very soon. We want more and we wanted to hear Jared James Nichols who was next on the bill what a wonderful dilemma to be in.
Jared James Nichols trio turns heads whenever they play from the first guitar chord to the last. Jared James Nicholls rock driven by the deepest blues for me was the best guitarist on the stage tonight his playing every time takes my breath away. It was unsurprising he opened his short and what was to be a very special set with the first track, Last Chance from his latest album, Black Magic. Jared whatever he plays shows what an incredible virtuoso guitarist he is by making those six-strings sings, with finger-picking rockin’ blues of the highest order. The Rhythm section laid down by Erik Sandin and Dennis Holm whose bass & drums respectively lay down the shape and groove that is deep and true. Now for the evening treat how to raise the temperature as an opening act. Bring on Bernie Marsden for a spectacular jam. With his signature amp the beast was plugged in tonight Bernie was playing his 1959 Les Paul Standard. Jared and Bernie the smiling gentleman of rock, really complimented each other the two guitars were friends. Throughout the jam, they never crowded each other out or overloaded the sound with too many chords. Jamming is an art and this section of the set was a Jam Sandwich of the highest order, sweet, fruity and aurally delicious. Tasty! The slow Blues in G was perfect Bernie demonstrating that he is no stranger to the blues the foundation of early classic rock. The licks we simply gorgeous. This is the highest class of jamming you could ever hope of seeing and hearing. The shuffles from Dennis set the tone and The Fleece was turned the deepest shade of rocking blues. The set was superb as Jared took control again closing out with his signature Mississippi Queen. Another string set of the highest quality blues, Jared just gets better, what a gig this night is proving to be and we still have the headliners Stone Broken to complete the triplet of joyous live music.
Headliners now the crowd is ecstatic. A grand entrance with flashing lights and coloured smoke announce Stone Broken is in town. With an acclaimed new album, Ain’t Always Easy they have a lot to smile about as they showcase their debut album on Spinefarm Records. The four-piece meant this was not a night of power trios. There is a link with the opening band as they both hail from the well of great musicians that have their roots in the Black Country. The unmistakable flash of red hair and a wide grin, Robyn Haycock is in control behind the drums. Rich Moss was on top form with his PRS guitar and vocals that have power confidence and the ability to shape the emotional texture and tone of every number they played.
Tonight was the first opportunity for many to hear live the music on the new album that Rich was happy to announce that was number 15 in the mid-week national charts #15 (all genres, not just rock) and they deserve to be higher Interweaved through the set were old favourites and tracks from their debut album Not Your Enemy. It was certain that everyone was Stone Broken’s friend tonight tomorrow and beyond. This is rock music that clicks with your inner DNA. It is rock played from the heart with verve and is loud for a reason. The combination of two guitars of Rich and Chris Davis weaves a magic and compelling formula. The Stone Broken sound builds from deep in the heart of the rhythm section with the winning combination of Robyn and bassist Kieron Conroy. Stone Broken are four-musicians who understand the music they play and the interaction between them is superb creating warm tones, stinging riffs and licks that curl around the vocals of Rich. The set was powerful opening with Worth Fighting For. This is a song that has a personal feel as they have fought for recognition through hard work and tireless touring greeting fans with a smile taking time to get to know the people that love being part of the Stone Broken Army.
The many fans were lapping up every note happy to sing the lyrics back to Rich on I Believe. The highlights of the set that displayed why they are headliners now were numerous every number sung and played was fun to hear. The stand out spine-tingling moments was Better the lyrics sung with such emotional connection – the refrain Stop Wishing Your Life Away reflects the trajectory of the band who have followed their dream now working hard to ensure this is their reality. From the new album, Just a Memory and I Believe worked so well live. Then the encore as Rich played acoustic taking the energy down as he sung Wait For You. His fans will wait for him and the band who joined him on the chorus. We will wait impatiently for the next time Stone Broken play Bristol once again.
Once again the gem that The Fleece delivers live music we want to hear night after night. This music venue is too valuable a resource to music beyond the boundaries of Bristol, providing the space, lights and sounds for musicians of this calibre to perform. Tonight Stone Broken conquered Bristol completely.