At The Park Hotel, Tynemouth, U.K., August 2, 2013

A warm night on the Tynemouth seafront was the perfect setting for the 30th annual Free Convention.  A celebration of all things Free which has grown in stature over the years to become one of the leading music conventions in the country.

Free and the North of England go hand in hand.  Not only was lead singer Paul Rodgers from the region but their seminal Live album was partially recorded at the old Locarno in Sunderland while the Rock standard “All Right Now” was penned following a particularly disastrous gig at Dunelm House in Durham.  So the love affair with Free and the region runs deep.

Andy Fraser

What made this extra special was Andy Fraser’s first appearance in the North East of England for nearly four decades and the fans certainly turned up in large numbers for what was a night of great music while raising much needed funds for the Northern Brainwave Appeal.

Looking leaner and fitter than most half his age, which is all the more remarkable considering the serious health problems he’s had to overcome, Fraser was clearly relishing being back on Northern turf.

Kicking off with the classic of classics “All Right Now” certainly cleared the most obvious song of the evening out of the way at the earliest opportunity leaving the rest of the night free for fans to wonder what would come next.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Fraser to churn out a set of Free’s greatest hits but this was the opportunity for him to look forward while paying respect to his illustrious past.

With Fraser’s new teenage prodigy Tobi on vocals and veteran Chris Spedding on guitar much of the show was constructed to highlight the soulful, silky vocals of Tobi. With a voice that combines the soulful passion of Smokey Robinson and the incredible range of a youthful Glenn Hughes, Tobi possess a talent that belies his age. “Nothing Gonna Stop Us” and a decidedly Funky “Brighten Up My Day” showcased his talent to perfection and combined with his agility on guitar it’s easy to see why Fraser rates him so highly.

Tobi and Chris Spedding

At times the show was a little too smooth but Chris Spedding’s “Motorbikin’” got things back on the Rock’n’Roll track with some particular sprightly fretwork while Spedding’s tasteful slide guitar work on “It’s Not Easy” was sublime.

Fraser was simply bubbling with energy throughout the show dancing at every opportunity while his unique bass playing was a joy with a fluid groove that few can match.

This was after all a Free convention so it was no surprise that the likes of “The Stealer”, A Little Bit of Love” and an awesome romp through set closer “Mr Big” received the biggest roars of the night.

Andy Fraser

After Fraser and his band left the stage it looked as if that was it, however part way through the late evening entertainment of Freeway, the UK’s leading Free tribute band which featured an inspired performance by John Buckton on Paul Kossoff’s vintage guitar, Fraser returned to the stage for an absolutely jaw dropping performance of “Be My Friend” along with “Songs of Yesterday” and “Fire and Water”. Needless to say the crowd went nuts and with any luck it won’t take Fraser another four decades before revisiting the region again.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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