At O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 1, 2016

LAST IN LINE (Live at O2 Academy, Newcastle, U.K., December 1, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Every once in a while Reality TV actually manages to unearth a real gem. For every Leona Lewis however, there are dozens Jedward’s or Wagner’s. Remember them?

Rock music has been poorly represented with very few even making it onto the shows at all. Erik Gronwal of H.E.A.T was discovered via Swedish Idol and Adam Lambert, who arguably achieved the greatest degree of success by going from American Idol to fronting Queen seem to be amongst the exceptions.

Nathan James appeared on BBC’s The Voice a while back and made such an impression that he was snapped up to tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra before hooking up with UK Rock band, Inglorious.

With heavy rotation on Planet Rock and some key festival appearances, Inglorious have built up an impressive following in a short space of time. Their headlining tour earlier in the year was a sell out and their show at The Cluny was rammed to the rafters. With a highly acclaimed debut album under their belts, Inglorious are heading in an upward trajectory.

Hitting the Academy on the first night of December on a co-headlining tour with Last in Line was always going to draw a big crowd so having to squeeze into a rather snug hall came as no surprise.

Kicking off with arguably their biggest song to date, Until I Day, made an instant impact. James cut an imposing figure and with a voice one part Coverdale and one part Plant was cut from the very heart of Rock’s finest heritage. He has the power, the range and a fine grasp of melody. This guy can’t half sing.

The majority of their set was culled from their impressive debut album with Holy Water in particular highlighting the vocal gymnastics of James. A couple of superfluous covers aside there was much to enjoy and admire from their short but punchy show and with No Good For You from their forthcoming album showing their debut was no fluke, 2017 could well be the year the Inglorious finally breaks out.

When Ronnie James Dio’s stint replacing Ozzy in Black Sabbath came to an end he wasted no time in putting together his own band under the Dio name including fellow Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice, ex-Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain and hot shot Irish guitarist Vivian Campbell from the Metallica endorsed Sweet Savage. Their debut release, Holy Diver is rightly regarded as a stone cold classic of the Metal genre. Following albums Last In Line and Sacred Heart were not far behind either. After Campbell left, the band was never quite the same but those three albums stood as a mark of a band in their absolute prime.

With the death of singer Ronnie James Dio in 2010, the opportunity for the original members to create music together again was gone forever.

Vivian Campbell, who went on to join Whitesnake and has since spent the last two decades or more in Def Leppard, guested on a tour with his boyhood heroes Thin Lizzy, a tour that reignited his passion for Rock music, big riffs and screaming guitar solos.

A reinvigorated Campbell called up Bain and Appice to jam as old friends just for fun. The addition of Lynch Mob singer Andrew Freeman resulted in Last in Line and a few shows grew into a few more before interest grew to such an extent that new material was written.

Everything was going well, pre-release reviews were heaping praise upon praise onto the album. Then disaster struck a matter of weeks before its release when bassist Jimmy Bain tragically died on tour. The shattered band looked over before it had even started.

Yet, such was the love for the album and in recognition of the work Bain had put into the album, Last In Line decided to continue in Bain’s memory recruiting Ozzy bassist Phil Soussan for the subsequent live shows.

A ferocious Stand Up and Shout, Side 1 track 1 of the fabled Holy Diver album was surely the only serious choice to open the show. Campbell riffed like a maniac while Appice’s drums thundered along at breakneck speed. With an opening like that how could they fail?

Well they couldn’t could they? Slamming straight into Straight Through The Heart kept the momentum flowing. Often new songs are welcomed by older fans like a holiday acquaintance taking an invitation to visit literally yet Devil In Me from the recent Heavy Crown release was welcomed like a long lost friend. It sounds great on the album, but live it had an edge to take it to an altogether higher level.

It would have been easy for Last In Line to rely on a Dio greatest hits set and throw in a token new song or two so it’s to their credit that almost half of their latest album was aired from the majestic Starmaker to the riff fuelled Already Dead. Last In Line are no fading tribute band but very much a thriving, forward looking creative force.

Of course they pulled out the big guns meaning the likes of Holy Diver, Last In Line and Don’t Talk To Strangers were all present and correct. Campbell looked positively radiant as he stepped forward to deliver another scything solo in a way that doesn’t fit with his Def Leppard day job while Appice laid down a monstrous, heavy weight groove in his own Godzilla-esq fashion.

Arguably vocalist Andrew Freeman had the toughest job of the night and he pulled it off to perfection. It would have been a safe choice to enlist a carbon copy of Dio but Campbell questioned the validity of that as Dio was a one-off, unique talent. Rather than try they brought in someone with a totally different but compatible approach. Freeman’s powerful, biting voice and impressive range positively dominated the classy material. There was no doubt, Freeman was absolutely the right man for this band.

What made this performance so enjoyable was that no one needed to do this. This was a labour of love. Hitting the road in an old van, playing small clubs and visiting those places that they hadn’t played in years was testament to the love of their craft and it showed on stage. Of course in a few weeks they’ll be playing in enormodomes in The States again but for a moment it was like the old days and they were having a blast.

Ending with their calling card, We Rock, closed the show in ebullient fashion and never has a phrase been so appropriate. Last In Line were one classy hard Rock band that delivered and then some.

With any luck, Last In Line will be more than just a fleeting side project. Campbell indicated before the show that a second album is well under way and a further tour a real possibility subject to the demands of the respective member’s main bands so that hope may just come to realisation later in 2017. Don’t miss it next time. You have been warned.


  • 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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