The celebration of Mott The Hoople and its related offshoots, that is Joe Elliott's Down N Outz, is basically a Rock n' Roll party on the move. The recipe has been simple; record two albums of criminally forgotten songs, have great fun while doing so and bring that joy to stages around the UK. Then, share with like minded souls the vibe and sounds which inspired Def Leppard frontman Elliott and his backing band, which is sprinkled with a liberal helping of The Quireboys, to play music in the first place. Does it work? Well it sure as hell served up some serious "Good Times" tonight in Glasgow!
Having only been 100% sure that I'd be able to attend this debut Scottish gig from Joe Elliott's Down N Outz a few hours before it started, I hadn't thought to investigate who might be opening the show. So discovering Vega t-shirts, CDs and postcards at the merch stall was a reason for early celebration, the UK five-piece proving to be one of the country's best recent additions to the Melodic Hard Rock scene. The band's intentionally cheesy intro, which explained in tongue in cheek detail that audience participation was going to be expected during the evening, certainly got people's attention and raised a few smiles. However, I've never heard a support band describe themselves as the "foreplay before the fuck" as singer Nick Workman did while introducing "Gonna Need Some Love Tonight", something the sparse but enthusiastic crowd was keen to give - and take! Keen to promote their recent third album, Stereo Messiah, "Wherever We Are" and "10XBigger Than Love" (which was actually written by a certain Joe Elliott…) were a perfect example of why this band, driven by the in demand songwriting brothers of Tom (bass) and James Martin (keyboards), have been making strong headway in recent times.
Workman is an engaging frontman and alongside guitarist Marcus Thurston the pair did a superb job of involving everyone in the room; the throbbing "White Knuckle Ride" and good time Rock of "All Or Nothing", where drummer Dan Chantrey excelled, raising spirits and voices, before "Hands In The Air" did exactly what it was written for, the Garage raising their hands to a man - and woman - to applaud Vega from the stage.
By the time Joe and his boys and girl appeared through the curtain at the side of the room, the Garage was only about half full but a storming version of Elton John's "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" kicked things off in fine style, six part vocal harmonies already in full swing and Elliott adding piano to his excellent, if slightly raspy, vocals. "One More Chance To Run" and the shimmering "Rock And Roll Queen" introduced a three guitar attack, Elliott donning a glittering six-string to join the Quireboys twin-axes of Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin in firing out riff after killer riff. "Drivin' Sister", complete with car engine and horn noises, created a killer groove that was only topped by the simply stunning "Overnight Angels".
Although he started well, Elliott was clearly struggling with what he described as a "bronchial infection", frequent drinks (from "diamond encrusted" bottles, no less) and coughs - and even one session of nose blowing! - punctuating songs, yet he only really found the piano, vocal intro to the non-album track "Sea Diver" a stretch too far. To his credit it was one of the few slips in what must have been a tall order for the clearly not 100% front-man. However proclaiming that it was the weirder Mott stuff that really got him going, Elliott put his vocal problems aside - Joe did name this band's jaunt round the UK and Ireland "the boogie-woogie flu and rock n' roll pneumonia tour" - for a scintillating blast of "Shouting And Pointing", which proved to be a highlight of the whole set. Share Ross (better known as Share Pedersen of Vixen) offered not only dextrous bass work, but also superb backing vocals, something Griffin and Guerin weren't exactly shabby at either. At the end of the song the house lights revealed the crowd to those on stage and Elliott suddenly spotted Sensational Alex Harvey Band drummer, Ted McKenna, among the throng, regaling the audience with the story of the night in Sheffield when a 15 year old future Def Leppard frontman had his hand cut by one of McKenna's fallen cymbals - and promptly fainted! Having been taken backstage that night, Elliott was allowed to meet his heroes, resulting in a decade's long friendship with not only McKenna, but SAHB bassist Chris Glen who also made his attendance at the show known by hollering at Elliott from his spot at the bar.
Having traded fantastic, tasteful solos all night Guerin and Griffin romped into "Crash Street Kids", keyboard player (and the third of The Quireboys on the stage) Keith Weir showing how he'd held the whole shebang tightly together all night. "Violence" closed the set, Sinead Madden (the band's production manager!) on violin offering a completely different aspect, Guerin holding perfect harmony with each violin outburst as drummer Phil Martini (ex of The Quireboys) laid down the rhythmic law. Appearing for the encore clutching a Union-flag adorned guitar, Elliott claimed - post Scottish independence vote - that he'd been handed it by accident, before pondering if he could really play the song "England Rocks" in Scotland; instead opting for the one-time only "Glasgow Rocks", which ensured the loudest sing along of the night. All of which left the aptly named "Good Times" to bring a night crammed with good times, great memories, stunning performances and simply fantastic songs to a triumphant close. Down n' Out? Not a bit of it; more like hitting the heights. Roll on album number three and more nights like this…get well soon Joe and hurry back!