at The Innisfree Sports and Social Club, Newcastle, U.K., August 19, 2023

FRANCK CARDUCCI AND THE FANTASTIC SQUAD (Live at The Innisfree Sports and Social Club, Newcastle, U.K., August 19, 2023)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Quite what the locals in the adjoining bar made of this is anyone’s guess but those lucky enough to be in the know, experienced something rather special in a small, intimate social club on the outskirts of Newcastle probably more used to cabaret singers and old school comics than a flamboyant, visual and musical extravaganza by Franck Carducci and the Fantastic Squad all the way from France.

An arena sized show crammed onto the small but perfectly formed stage featuring lasers, smoke, an array of lights and dazzling costumes and props brought a dash of Vaudeville pizzazz to a warm evening in Newcastle.

Musically Franck Carducci straddle multiple-genres from Prog Rock, Pop, Rock and sprinkling of avant garde magic all wrapped up in stellar musicianship, exquisite five part vocal harmonies and melodies with more hooks than a butchers shop. Imagine a collision of prime time Bowie with Styx and Queen at their Progiest with a hint of Rush and Genesis not to mention a snatch of Alice Cooper and KISS and that still would only scratch the surface of this fascinating act.

Opener “Slave To Rock ‘n’ Roll” sees the band at their most direct with an insanely catchy tune before the dreamy melody of “A Brief Tale of Time” soothed and caressed with velvety harmonies.

Mary Raynaud took over lead vocals for a haunting take on Morricone’s “The Ecstasy Of Gold” and then brought the wonderfully bizarre Theremin pitch antenna to add some spacey atmospherics to the harmony heavy “The Betrayal Of Blue” as lasers fired overhead through swirling plumes of smoke.

“Sweet Cassandra” was a beautifully simple acoustic piece with Carducci stripping it down to the base melody before flipping the show on its head for “The Angel” with some heavy duty Prog Rock with a stunning combination of lasers and Reynaud with illuminated silk angel wings. This was truly a “wow” moment.

The theatrics stepped up a notch during the epic “Alice’s Eerie Dream” with Reynaud playing the fallen lady leading the band astray while Barth Sky delivered a master class in guitar.

A surprise inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” brought the show to a close, well almost. With the amps off, the microphones off and all five members standing at the edge of the stage with Carducci on acoustic guitar they delivered a stunning, stripped down five-part vocal harmony acapella version of “On The Road To Nowhere.” Total class from start to finish.


  • 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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