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ConcertsS.O.T.O., StOp sToP, Scarlet Aura; Edinburgh 4th September 2019

Posted on Saturday, September 07 2019 @ 14:41:26 CDT by Steven Reid
Concert Reviews

With three albums under their belt S.O.T.O., the band led by singer Jeff Scott Soto who you might know from Sons Of Apollo, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, W.E.T, Talisman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey (I could go on…) are now a fully established outfit and one keen to stand on their own two feet, rather than the extensive catalogue of their frontman. Tonight in Edinburgh they were joined by the eclectic blend of Bulgarian classic/power metal quartet Scarlet Aura and the tongue (and much else) in cheek party sleaze rock of StOp sToP, who hail from Barcelonigham…. or maybe not. Something for everyone? Sea of Tranquility’s Steven Reid was there to find out.

A chilly early autumn Wednesday night at 7.40pm is never going to be the easiest slot to fill but to the great credit of Scarlet Aura they hit the stage (after sauntering through the sparse early revellers to reach the performance area, as you have to in Bannerman’s) as though a show at a sold out Madison Square Gardens awaited them - although it did take them the best part of their opening song to get the guitars working. With a look and sound that would suggest that the 90s haven’t quite reached Bulgaria yet, the fun and energy on stage certainly made an impact, even if the stage raps of singer Aura Danciulescu didn’t always quite hit the mark. Thankfully she’s one hell of a singer, and with a look reminiscent of a young Doro Pesch, her voice blends the Metal Queen with the throaty howl of Biff Byford seamlessly, and there’s no doubt that her attack plays a large part in informing her band’s sound. With three albums under their belt, if there’s one real chink in the chunky riffed attack it’s that each and every song aired tonight is all about getting to the chorus and then repeating it over and over. Although a new song aired from an album mooted for next year suggests this band may be maturing into something a little more refined. Kudos to Scarlet Aura, because they made a good fist of a what was an undoubtedly hard task and ideally it would be good to see them on an occasion that was a little more in their favour.

By the time that Spanish/Bulgarian throwbacks StOp sToP hit the stage the crowd had at least filled out somewhat and while they were a new name for me, the pre-show talk from JSS himself was that the antics and vocals of the double S’s frontman, Jacob AM, were not to be missed. And how right Mr Soto proved to be, Jacob, who also tickles a bass guitar with strings so low strung that you fear they might simply slip onto the ground, a gloriously ridiculous whirlwind of hip thrusts, leg kicks and on the spot spinning. Thankfully the guy can also sing like someone wired Kip Winger’s scrotum to the mains and all while morphing his face into all manner of bizzare grinning gurns and a constant barrage of good/bad taste one liners. There’s no getting away from the fact that this band are playing things as much for laughs as they are for thrills, with drummer Danny Spasov looking like a hard hitting reject from The Hair Bear Bunch and guitarist Vega surely coming into the band straight from a John Corabi look-a-like competition, although he’s also clearly stolen Bret Michaels’ battered cowboy hat. However, what matters is that the threesome are tighter than the braces holding up Jacob’s ironically worn grey slacks and more eye catching than the huge teased mop of hair atop their sticksmith’s head. Adding a dash of the (even more) ridiculous to their set, StOp sToP closed their show in the crowd, Danny even playing a marching snare drum as the trio strutted round the venue, dragging people into their party and making a whole load of new friends in the process. It’s virtually impossible to call throwaway cock rock like “Join The Party”, “Renegade”, “Lola” or “In’n’Out” classic fare and yet there’s no point in pretending that StOp sToP aren’t the most fun I’ve had with a support band for a very, very long time.

S.O.T.O. are a band and don’t you forget it. Jeff Scott Soto going to great pains to explain that when you come to see S.O.T.O. you’ll hear S.O.T.O. songs, not solo Soto. Other than when they plays cuts by his (one of many) other bands W.E.T, or of course his early outfit Talisman, or indeed an occasional solo Soto number! After all, the main man has a hell of a career, so why not celebrate it through stunning songs like “Watch The Fire”, “One Love”, “I’ll Be Waiting” and “21st Century”? However, after technical issues had been fixed by the band themselves just minutes prior to them hitting the stage, there’s no doubt that the main purpose of tonight’s show was to celebrate the hard hitting, full force melodic metal of the likes of “Hypermania”, “Wrath”, the lethal explosion of “Detonate” or whip-crack of the title track to the band’s most recent album, Origami.

JSS himself is a vocal tour de force, howling like a banshee, yet as controlled as can be and whether laying down the law on “Cyber Masquerade” or weaving the vocal intricacies of “Eyes Of Love” it’s difficult to think of a more engaging vocal presence in the live arena. That said, his long-time guitarist BJ trades vocal lines just as assuredly as he and his six-string partner Jorge Salan exchange licks, riffs and solos. In fact every single member of this band can sing with equal intent; add in the rock solid drum display from Edu Cominato and the blistering six-string bass work from S.O.T.O’s most recent recruit, but long time associate and songwriter with the band, Tony Dickinson and right across the board, this outfit are just devastating.

Unfortunately, tonight the crowd didn’t quite match the heady heights being played out onstage and as they thinned out due to the later run time of the show on a ‘school night’, so JSS’s frustrations at the lack of interaction during the sing-alongs and also at a couple of guys constantly talking, in between shouting out for obscure Takara songs became more obvious - the imposing frontman virtually challenging those in the darkened recesses of Bannerman’s corners not to scream out when he demanded, before asking the serial shouters if they wouldn’t rather have a duke-box on stage.

Still, these moments were blips in an otherwise faultless set that surely left (nearly) everyone in attendance delighted with both the phenomenal level of musicianship being delivered and the fantastic, eclectic song choices that had been made. Hopefully we’ll see S.O.T.O go from further strength to strength from here and remain a strong focus for this ever busy singer. Maybe, however, next time S.O.T.O grace Scotland with their presence, they should head to Glasgow instead of Edinburgh where the crowds tend to be just a little larger and a touch more raucous!

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