Blaze Bayley – Babylon Fire – Faith in Glory: Sound Control, Manchester

 

Faith in Glory are a hard rock band from Bolton. They played a decent set and were musically very tight, no doubt helped by the core of the band being brothers Jack and Aiden Collins on Guitar and Bass respectively. By the standards of many an opener they were damn fine, playing with energy and solid groove they were certainly welcomed by the decent crowd.

As with many a younger band they did show a lack of direct interaction with the crowd, and could do with developing their stage presence a touch. Despite that they’re obviously having a lot fun on stage and were more than ready to ham it up to the camera.

I enjoyed their set and having spent some time the following day listening to their latest release Opia I think that we might be seeing more of these in future, especially as they’re through to the quarterfinals of Manchester’s Metal to the Masses.

Next up were Babylon Fire a band I’ve been looking forward to seeing again after first hearing them at SOS fest 2016 and being blown away. That being their first gig with their soon to be new Vocalist Dan Buxton: who was on form tonight. Their album Dark Horizons has been a regular on my morning commute to work ever since.

Tonight, I was not disappointed as they played an absolute blinder of a set, there was a great energy on stage. The older songs sounded fantastic and they even showcased new material which has left me wanting to hear some new material soon. Highlight of the set had to be the guitar work between Rishi Mehta and William Reece: who was playing his 100th gig with the band tonight.

If there was to be any criticism it would be that the 30-minute set was too short, especially considering blaze had 90 minutes coming up (which ironically felt like 30 minutes). I was left wanting more and judging by the crowd reaction I wasn’t alone in wanting more either.

Playing a set with songs from his latest album, solo classics, combined with Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane greats, this set showcased Blaze Bayley for what he is, a great and massively under-rated showman. Blaze forms easy rapport with the crowd in a way which makes it look effortless. To see someone who’s capable of grabbing stadium crowds so intensely playing such a small venue is utterly spellbinding. Throwing himself around stage, as well as into the packed crowd, with enthusiasm with a huge smile on his face making it clear to everyone that he was clearly loving every minute.

The band consists of Chris Appleton on guitar, Karl Schramm on Bass and Martin McNee on drums (effectively the 3-piece version of Absolva) are as ever fantastic to watch. The rhythm section of which is genuinely world class with Karl’s Bass providing rock solid lines with plenty of snap combining expertly with Martin’s rock solid, groove-laden drums.

Topping all of that off is Chris, towards the end of the set Blaze would describe him as one of the finest guitar players in Europe and watching the way he plays tonight it’s easy to see why. Great riffs, mixed with blistering and yet seemingly effortless guitar solo’s, especially during ‘Stare at the Sun’ and ‘Manhunt’.

The interaction between Blaze and Chris brings a fantastic charisma to the set with both hamming up their performances with an infectious enthusiasm which kept the atmosphere of the crowd at fever pitch.

Towards the end of the set they ripped through a truly epic rendition of the Maiden Classic ‘The Clansman’ made me look around the crowd and wonder why on earth this wasn’t a much bigger venue with a much bigger crowd. Blaze taking time at the end to thank the support bands, and their professionalism in a way which made you know it wasn’t just lip service. The gratitude to the crowd mixed with humour highlighted the tremendous atmosphere in the crowd.

Taking a bit of time to announce he’d be headlining the fantastic 10th anniversary SOSfest 2017 which got a huge pop from the crowd. They then launched into easily the best version of ‘Manhunt’ I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a fair few since the 80’s. The onstage comedy slapstick wrangling between Blaze and the rest of the band for the spotlight was both hilarious and inspiring in that not one beat or note was missed: it even featured one of those rather rare events known as the enjoyable drum solo.
Finishing the set with ‘Man on the Edge’, Blaze informed the crowd that he’d finished work now and would see everyone down the pub next door and he’d be propping up the bar until it shut.

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE