Thunder stormed the charts with their latest album and this was the chance to deliver it live. HRH Mag’s Simon Rushworth caught a band reborn.
On the 41st anniversary of Paul Francis Kossoff’s death it was fitting that one of the Free guitarist’s greatest fans delivered a masterclass in British blues rock. Luke Morley was just 15 when his hero passed away but even then the seeds had been sewn and the spark ignited: fast forward to 2017 and if the majority of a capacity Newcastle City Hall crowd didn’t know it, then this was a spectacular tribute to a legend of the genre.
Such is Morley’s fascination with – and respect for – all things Kossoff that he was the first to sign up to 2015’s Spike’s Free House project. A celebration of the music of Free and Frankie Miller, it allowed Thunder’s songwriter to live out his boyhood dreams and revisit many of the iconic riffs that underpinned a diverse musical education. Of course the day job is no place for such joyous self-indulgence but in his own way Morley grasped the opportunity to celebrate Kossoff’s work with a faultless performance worthy of the man himself.
No One Gets Out Alive immediately hinted at something special from one of British rock’s classiest lead guitarists. From the off Morley was afforded the time and space to let rip: the expansive opening track from Thunder’s brand new album showcasing an immersive talent at the top of his game.
The bar set and the appetite whetted, it was time for an individual steeped in blues rock authenticity to seize the day and deliver what could go down as a career-defining performance. Sharing the limelight with the livewire Danny Bowes is no easy task and it’s not in Morley’s nature to jostle for position with Thunder’s feverish and frantic frontman. He doesn’t need to.
Those tuned in to the delightful eccentricities of the electric guitar don’t require any encouragement to turn their attention back to Morley and the emotive Resurrection Day upped the ante again. The rebooted Thunder boast many attractive qualities – not least an ambitious approach to fusing their innovative present with a glorious past.
Devoting more than a third of their set to Rip It Up was brave, bordering on the foolhardy. Or so it might seem. In reality, such is the quality and consistency running through the band’s new material that all six songs culled from their latest long player fully justified inclusion – standing toe to toe with classics spanning four decades.
And Morley’s musicianship is at the heart of Rip It Up’s finer moments. If the title track evokes the band’s anthemic early 90s heyday – and it was neatly juxtaposed alongside Don’t Wait For Me and Love Walked In – then The Enemy Inside and encore surprise There’s Always A Loser bring the band’s trademark groove bang up to date. The inevitable post-gig complaint that this was a set too reliant on new music missed the point: Thunder’s latest album is like a Greatest Hits collection in the guise of original material. All 11 songs could slot seamlessly into the band’s set on any given night.
Morley has long been a master of his songwriting craft but almost 30 years after Thunder’s inception, the 56-year-old’s rich vein of live form often belies belief. Writing songs with conviction is one thing. Playing those songs like you mean every note, night after night, is an entirely different challenge. On the anniversary of Kossoff’s death, Morley met that challenge head on.
*Exclusive Images By HRH Mag Chief Photographer John Burrows