By Terry Marland, Rock At Night Wales
Live Review: Those Damn Crows, Valhalla Awaits, James and the Cold Gun –Manchester Academy 2 February 18th 2023
Record Signing – HMV Store Arndale Centre Manchester
Tonight, the second night of this tour, Those Damn Crows play Manchester Academy 2 , but first they promote their new album “Inhale/Exhale” , released on the previous day, at Manchester’s HMV store. I arrive about an hour before the start time and join the sizeable queue that has already assembled. I would guess the age profile ranges from pre-teens to those who were in school about the same time as Mick Fleetwood, such is the widespread appeal of this band. By the event start time the queue is circling around the various isles and towards the exit door.
There is a loud cheer as the band takes to the performance area to play a few acoustic tracks from “Inhale/Exhale”. They operate as a trio with Shane Greenhall (Vocals and Guitar) and Ian (Shiner) Thomas and David Winchurch also on guitar and backing vocals. They are later joined for the signing session by Ronnie Huxford and Lloyd Wood who respectively play drums and bass in the full band.
They perform ”When will I see you again”, “This Time I’m ready” and “ Man on Fire” that have all been previously released as singles with the crowd gradually helping out on backing vocals with each song. The stripped down versions are in contrast to the album renditions and give the heartfelt lyrics more prominence. There is good humoured banter with the crowd between songs with David Winchurch asking fans to help out with backing vocals.
In the signing session that follows the band members are totally relaxed, unhurried and happy to pose for photos and are obviously very familiar with many of the fans (“The Crow Family”) in attendance.
A mention here for the HMV staff who were well organised and good humoured throughout and happy to take phone pictures of fans with the band.
The Main Gig – Manchester Academy 2
The majority of tickets for this tour sold out over a month ago and this gig was originally scheduled for the, half the size, Academy 3 that sold out in hours. The Academy 2 is packed to the rafters and as it’s very mild for mid-February the atmosphere in the venue is hot and clammy. However the crowd is undaunted and eager to see the band and hear the new numbers live. But before the Crows take to the stage there are a couple of rising bands to watch.
The evening kicks off with South Wales’ hard rockers Valhalla Awaits. Citing influences that include the Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and Metallica they produce a riveting set featuring numbers from their back catalogue that more than meets with the approval of the considerable crowd that has already gathered. They make good use of their 30 (ish) minute slot featuring killer riffs and powerhouse vocals. For me “ Black Waters “ and ‘Skin and Bone” are the set highlights along with the closing track “Diggin’ the Grave”. A compelling start to the evening that is enthusiastically applauded by the Manchester audience.
James and the Cold Gun
Taking their name from a Kate Bush track from the 1978 “Kick Inside” album, James and the Cold Gun is another band with origins in South Wales who produce a highly animated and colourful set. Clearly relishing the, by now, capacity crowd they bang out a series of high energy tracks. The opener, “Chewing Glass”, their latest single, is a fast moving guitar onslaught and there’s more in the same vein with “She Moves” and “Silhouette”. On their Spotify page they claim to be “South Wales’ Loudest” and they certainly push the decibel levels tonight. Definitely ones to watch.
Those Damn Crows
The band take to the stage to their signature tune before the set kicks off at an intense pace with new song “Fill the Void” that features spiralling guitars with a haunting vibe as charismatic front man Shane Greenhall jumps across the elevated stage areas belting out his distinctive vocals with some vigour. Now flanked by the full contingent of David Winchurch (guitar) Lloyd Wood (bass) Ian Shiner Thomas (guitar) and Ronnie Huxford (drums) they are a band at the top of its game who are at last being rewarded for many years of hard work. Another song from “Inhale /Exhale”, “Wake Up “, follows on and the Crow Family is lapping up the new music.
When the crowd finally quietens down Greenhall asks if anyone has got the new album yet to the inevitable response and then he jokes about vinyl being available in “every fucking colour of the rainbow”. As well as playing songs from the new album he promises a selection of “Crow Classics” and the next section of the set features songs from their first two albums that have the Crow Choir in full voice as the band belt out more familiar songs that include “Sin on Skin” and “Who Did It”. Their breakthrough song “Blink of an Eye” sees Greenhall at the piano for a stripped back opening before the full guitar version kicks in. The customary encore closer “Rock n Roll Ain’t Dead” is now embedded in the middle of the set and has the crowd at fever pitch.
For the final five numbers of the set, including the encore, it’s a return to the new album including the three performed as acoustic versions earlier in the day. This might be seen as a bold move but the Crow Family is obviously familiar with the content and it works to perfection.
These are good times for Those Damn Crows and their fans. They have just released their best album to date and all but sold out their tour dates over a month in advance. There are a few tickets remaining for the Swansea Arena gig on 25th February (this coming Saturday), all other venues sold out some time in January. They also have a string of festival dates lined up and a tour with The Goo Goo Dolls this summer.
As a postscript Inhale/Exhale entered the midweek national chart in the UK at number three which in the current climate is a considerable achievement by any rock band’s standards.
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