Local support always have a rough time of it, though there are certainly a few things they can do to make it easier on themselves – things that Semper Fi are sadly unaware of. Adopting the seldom-tried (for a reason, as we’ll find out) three-guitar approach to hard rock, they neither have the weight nor the complexity to warrant it, a pratfall that is doubled by the beefy 7-string that one of them is packing. Their first song strives for a dense, metallic crunch that seems odd given who they are supporting but as they push on, it gradually fades out into a more familiar blues groove, backed up by a frenetic drummer throwing in flurries of double kick to up the pace. It’s here that they begin to warm my cold, dead heart, making the most of a talented guitarist who knows his classic licks and how to use them, even if half the band seem to struggle to back him up.
Flitting between an older, more classic tone and the blunt bluster of modern metal, they’re in a musical no man’s land, although judging by the reaction they receive when they opt for more soulful fare, the broad Glaswegian twang of their young vocalist lending a unique slant to the vintage riffage, it’s pretty clear the direction they’d be best going in. Alas, he then goes and fucks it all up by not once, but twice, asking the crowd to stick around for Scorpion Child. Whilst it was undoubtedly well-intentioned, it reeks of arrogance and, in my mind, they will forever be remembered as the local band who requested a room full of people to grace the headliners with their presence, mistaking a handful of friends who had turned up to see them for a half-full venue of ticket-paying punters.
It’s not a great start and the soon-gained knowledge that Blues Pills have cancelled their set tonight at the last minute is the cherry on the shit sundae. Thankfully, Scorpion Child are around to save the day and, like long-haired, denim-clad Supermen, they do it with no shortage of flair or power. Aryn Black cuts a striking figure, a lithe living testament to the rock & roll sexuality of Robert Plant and the exhibitionist flair of Steven Tyler, right down to the too-tight jeans and borderline falsetto vocals. It’s like a timewarp built just for those who missed out on Altamont the first time around as the Austin, TX quintet barrel through epic stadium rock with the cocksure bravado of Bonham and co themselves. ‘Polygon Of Eyes’ certainly keeps the rock anthem spirit alive, the fist-pumping chorus and melodically-inclined soloing making the most of Audio’s deceptively beefy sound to tap into the air guitarist in all of us. ‘Liquor’, meanwhile, keeps more to the r’n’b leanings of Lynyrd Skynyrd to deliver the goods, though faith in humanity is somewhat diminished when no-one decides to hoist a lighter or two for the honeyed ballad ‘Antioch’, Black cradling his mike like a long lusted-after slow-dance crush while emphatically proclaiming sweet nothings in his tender tones.
It’s not just Black that has the moves, though – the entre band seem to have every Madison Square Garden concert from ’67 to ’82 committed to memory, leading to an entertaining walk-through of rock god poses. Guitar thrust into the sky? Check. Soloing inches from the faces of the crowd? Double-check. Tom ‘The Mole’ Frank and his trusty moustache are worth the ticket price alone, peppering his performance with intricate slides and distortion wizardry to demonstrate a mastery that extends way beyond the requisite hard rock fare yet passionately throwing himself to his knees when it’s time to break out the guitar heroics; the ‘tache is content to merely exist and increase testosterone in the room by 20%. It’s a smorgasbord of star-jumps and spinning drumsticks, and it’s a great throwback to a time when it wasn’t just the tunes that people came out for. Rock stars were larger than life rock and roll machines who were untouchable and, were this 35 years ago, this Texan fivesome would’ve been up there with the best of them, a few thousand dancing to the strident battery of ‘Paradigm’ rather than a few dozen. As I leave, I feel nostalgic for the greats, for Thin Lizzy’s fire and even for Aerosmith’s arrogant swagger, but I’m also grateful that someone else appreciates them and is willing to give them the energy, and the voice, to bring rock back in all its sometimes ridiculous, but always heartfelt, glory.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes