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Monday, November 21, 2016

LIVE REVIEW: Graham Bonnet blasts out the hits of yesteryear and looks forward to the next chapter

CLASSIFIED as a veteran of the hard rock Graham Bonnet carries himself as if he was just another singer paying his dues on stage, earning plaudits through performances not posing. When he played Belfast on Saturday (19th November) he was received as if he was the hottest new ticket in town.

Sure he has all the hits, but this was more than a retrospective show, this was a band looking forward to the future.

Before The Graham Bonnet Band graced the Limelight stage there was also a chance to remind ourselves of when the NWOBHM was not just a buzz word but was a real music movement in the rock pantheon.

Chrome Molly were kicking about with contemporaries such as Maiden and Leppard, but it was the late 80s scored a lot of airplay on the likes of The Friday Rock Show. What is immediate from the start is this is a five-piece that retains its hunger.

Steve Hawkins grins throughout and is a thoroughly engaging front man, and while the newer material is well received, 'Shooting Me Down' receives the best reception of their set.

When Graham Bonnet assembled his band there may have been a suspicion that this was a chance for him to tour on the back of his work with the likes of Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz etc. But he is a canny crooner, with plenty of creativity left.

With the release of 'The Book' in September Bonnet proved once again that there is plenty still to come from a man entitled to his bus pass. When he bounded on to the stage he showed an energy many younger singers would envy.

Of course, all the hits that were expected were given an airing, but what might have came as a surprise to some is that tracks from 'The Book', such as the excellent 'Into The Night' were given a warm welcome and a smattering of the audience singing along.

Conrad Pesinato is clearly more than a hired axeman. He is the six-strong foil for Bonnet on both new and old songs, with some nice touches to tweak the sound of classics that could have otherwise been tired.

From 'Eyes of the World' through to 'Lost in Hollywood' there was not a foot put wrong. Amiable and at ease Bonnet banters with the crowd in between a lot of the songs. He and Pesinato, together with Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), have clearly bonded musically and as a band over almost a year of touring.

It was a set littered with highlights including 'God Blessed Video', 'Dancer' and 'Night Games'. However, it was the closing trio that capped the evening off in special style. 'Since You've Been Gone', 'Assault Attack' and "Lost in Hollywood' would stretch any band trying to maintain their energy on the last leg of a set. But The Graham Bonnet Band powered through. One can never tell the strain on the band playing three classic songs, but many a person in the audience would have awoken on Sunday ever so slightly hoarse from yelling almost every lyric.

For some it is easy to write off the likes of The Graham Bonnet Band, but to do so would be a mistake. There is more to come from Mr Bonnet, and one can also hope that many who packed out the Limelight will take the time to come out to see up and coming local acts as well as the bigger names.

When Graham and his compatriots fly back to their respective homes what we can hope is that when their next touring itinerary Belfast will once again be included...and maybe get to hear even more new songs in the set.

Review by Jonathan Traynor

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