Bernie Marsden / Kris Barras / Hollowstar Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     November 20, 2019    
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Bernie Marsden / Kris Barras / Hollowstar - Tramshed, Cardiff (UK) - 13 September 2019

The Steelhouse crew, who are known for their successful yearly mountain-top Festival, returned to their roots by holding an indoor gig night, as they did in their early beginnings as a Rock Club in Ebbw Vale. This was not just any old gig, being held at Cardiff's prestigious Tramshed venue, with distinguished guitarist Bernie Marsden, one of the original members of British band Whitesnake. As if that wasn't good enough, he was performing one of the band's biggest albums in its entirety. The venue was packed to the brim with excited fans, and it was hot, sticky and sweaty. That was before any band had hit the stage.

Rising band Hollowstar were in the spotlight as the inaugural band for this unique night. After seeing them at the Steelhouse Fest, they have been extremely busy performing nearly every week at indoor festivals, or in support of larger artists. The guys put on a fantastic refined set, confidently fronted by Joe Bonson with his bright red bass and unique vocal style. His bandmates, dual lead guitarists Phil Haines and Tom Collett, both energetically used the stage area to the full, throwing Rockstar shapes, giving the photographers plenty of photo opportunities, whilst slamming out those riffs and solos with style. The guys certainly have their admirers, who sang along joyfully and they ended their set on a high.

Next up was Kris Barras and his band. Kris is another up and coming name, hitting the Blues Rock scene with a hard-hitting punch and as a group the band have been growing in musical stature ever since. This was evident by the number of fans who were emphatically singing along, with arms thumping the air in synchronous rhythm. This was a special night for the frontman and the band, as tonight was the official release date of their new album 'Light It Up'. I can tell you, they certainly lit the venue up with a lively, spot on performance. Kris was on fire, with blistering solos, huge riffs and his soulful voice resounded through the air. He and the band certainly added further excitement with their blistering enthusiasm to the room.

Now, for the highlight of the night. Original and founding member of Whitesnake, Bernie Marsden walked on to the stage with an accompanying roar from the crowd. Joining him was an all-star line-up consisting of Welshman Nev Macdonald (Skin) on vocals, FM guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick along with Nev's bandmates from Hand Of Dimes;, drummer David Stephenson and bassist Mark Maybry. Backing singers Caroline and Alexandra completed the line-up and the classic sound.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Kicking off this evening of nostalgia, Mr Marsden and troupe were performing the iconic album 'Ready An' Willing' in its entirety. Starting with 'Fool For Your Loving', the sound of deafening singing proverbially lifted the roof off the building with the volume. From the outset, Bernie had a permanent smile and you could clearly see he was in his element. The tracks themselves had been stripped back to the retro original Classic Blues Rock versions, which for me personally was fantastic. You could tell from looking around that I was not the only one in this mindset. The faces of the crowd clearly showed that memories were being drawn to the forefront of their minds. This was the band's third night of their small tour, and the members were thoroughly enjoying themselves, bouncing off each other's infectious enthusiasm which reflected in their performance.

I would say that the night was not all about Bernie, however he deserved every moment of adoration. At nearly seventy, he showed that his honed guitar skills, confidence and voice was still top notch. This said, frontman Nev put on a marvellous performance, with his emotive and expressive vocals smoothly hitting the notes, and at times re-enacting those high-note screams pitch perfectly. The time came for the title track 'Ready An' Willing', before smoothly moving onto the gentler and more poignant tracks such as 'Blindman' and 'Ain't Gonna Cry No More', for the latter song both Jim and Bernie donned double necked guitars and symbiotically performed their parts fluidly, emanating a truly fantastic performance.

There was no time for the band to go off stage to make their re-appearance for an encore and the deafening stamping of feet, clapping of hands and shouting certainly showed the crowds demand for more. Bernie plucked "those" opening notes of 'Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City'; immediately, everyone in the room burst into song. Nev clapped and smiled joyfully, Bernie mouthed the words to keep us lyrically on track. The atmosphere was electric and sent shivers through me. I think it wasn't until the second or third verse that Bernie joined in vocally, with the guitar to help those who got a bit off track. It was magical.

'Walking In the Shadow Of The Blues' led on to the song that Whitesnake are probably most famous for; 'Here I Go Again'. As before, the venue was filled with song, well, apart from the chorus when the word "drifter" was changed back to its original of "Hobo", which caught a few people out.

As the houselights came up, the feeling that something rare, unique and special was in the air, and not something that could easily be replicated. Hats off to the Steelhouse crew, and sincere appreciation to the bands that performed, making it a magical night.

Sonia Waterfield

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