FOREVER YOUNG: A TOUR DIARY
Ant Heeks follows Tyketto around the U.K. to celebrate their 25th Anniversary
(all photos taken at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, 22nd March 2014. Photos by Marty Moffatt)
I’ve never made a secret of the fact I think Tyketto are the greatest Rock band of all time, I even sport a tattoo of their logo on my right arm in acknowledgement. Live performances by my heroes these days are pretty scarce though. There’s a line in the song ‘Sail Away’ that goes “we may not ever be coming back this way” that has always struck a chord, so with that in mind, when they announced atour to coincide with their 25th Anniversary as a band, my wife Izzy and I decided that the best way to celebrate would be to attend all four of the headline shows, and to document our experiences with a tour diary.
Vocalist extraordinaire Danny Vaughn very kindly invited us along to a rehearsal to get the full behind-the-scenes experience, a wonderful opportunity that was gratefully accepted. On Sunday 16th of March, Izzy and I headed down to the band’s hotel in a rural area of North London to meet Danny and his fellow original members and New Yorkers, drummer Michael Clayton Arbeeny and bassist Jimi Kennedy. Guitarist Brooke St. James was unable to commit to the tour, so the Tykes turned to English virtuoso six-stringer Chris Green (Furyon, Pride, Rubicon Cross), probably the only man who could play the guitar parts better than the guy who created them in the first place. I admit I was a little disappointed when I first found out Brooke would not be present, but when I found out Chris would be taking his place it made me even more excited about this tour, as I’ve been a huge fan ever since I first saw Pride many years ago. Keyboard duties are undertaken by another Englishman, Ged Rylands (Rage Of Angels, Ten), who first appeared with Tyketto at Firefest in 2012. A softly-spoken gentleman, Ged possesses a strong voice that is perfect for the majority of the vocal harmonies.
After a warm welcome and chat, we all took the short walk to the nearby studio that the guys had been using for rehearsals. Once the guitars are plugged in and the keyboards and amps are fired up, Izzy and I are treated to an exclusive run-through of the complete set-list for the tour. As huge fans, I have to admit that standing in a tiny room and watching your favourite band within touching distance running through a selection of their finest tunes is one that is truly special, Izzy and I agreeing afterwards that it was one of our most unforgettable experiences to date. As Chris was standing opposite me, I caught his eye numerous times, while he had a huge grin on his face as he relished peeling off those amazing solos, the grin on my face must have been as wide as Ged’s keyboards that were next to me.
It’s fairly gentle volume-wise to begin with, but Danny smiles at us and warns “wait until he starts enjoying himself”, in acknowledgement of his extremely hard-hitting drummer. He’s not wrong, but luckily we’re just out of drumstick shrapnel range! It was also wonderful to see the other side of the musicians and witness the camaraderie between the guys that most people never get to see, when considering Ged and Chris are fairly new to the set-up, everybody gets on like a house on fire, which demosntrates an immensely strong bond forming. The Brooklyn-isms soon start flying thick and fast between Danny, Michael and Jimi, the bassist referred to as “Jimi Two-Straps” when he reveals he needs to get a second strap before the tour starts. An amusing anecdote ensues when Ged finds out that both Jimi’s basses are identical in appearance, though tuned completely differently, and the only way he can tell them apart is by the scratches on the headstock of one, the result of it once smashing into the dashboard of his car – the bass survived, the dashboard didn’t!
Though there is much between-song merriment, the music is taken deadly seriously. Jimi only arrived from New York that afternoon, so this is the first time the full band has rehearsed together, yet they are astonishingly tight, even when the bassist’s jetlag begins to take effect later on. Chris Green has slotted in perfectly and is firing off the guitar licks like he has been a Tyke all his life, but is not taking anything for granted – when I ask him if he will be playing the guitar parts as they were originally done or adding his own twist to them, he admits that he will be staying respectful to the songs and that it would be difficult to improve on perfection anyway, and like the true professional he is, following a run-through of ‘Meet Me In The Night’ Chris listens to the original track on his iPad to make sure he is bending the notes exactly like Brooke does. Much time is also spent on perfecting the backing vocal harmonies, Ged, Chris and Michael all contributing various vocal lines, while we also find out that the drummer will also be performing some lead vocals on the selected cover tune for the tour, which will be ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful, first recorded by Soul Brothers Six, but theTyketto rendition is based on Grand Funk Railroad’s version.
It’s actually the newer material from the ‘Dig In Deep’ album that is causing the most problems, Danny ruing that he did himself no favours with the amount of lyrics in ‘Dig In Deep’ and ‘Sound Off’, while Ged and Chris struggle with the backing vocals of ‘Here’s Hoping It Hurts’ due to its three different choruses. I’m not complaining though, as I get to hear the song three times in succession while they perfect it! After about three hours of running through the selected songs that will make the setlist for the tour and ironing out any rough edges, the rehearsal is complete and Izzy and I head home completely buzzing from what we had witnessed, our appetite well and truly whetted for the start of the tour.
The Garage, London: 18th March 2014
Two days later we’re back in London, this time Islington. It’s the first time we have visited The Garage, likewise it’s Tyketto‘s first time playing here and we’re all impressed by the smart venue and the size of the concert room and decent stage. Izzy and I decided we would get to all the venues early to give us chance to hang out with the band, for me to get some interviews, say hi to some Fireworks colleagues and to experience everything that is involved with organising all the equipment and the soundcheck. Not being a musician myself and being a touch naïve about such things, it was interesting to see and hear how the different set-ups are organised, not just what the audience get to hear through the P.A., but also everybody’s individual monitor sound – “more keyboards please” or “less lead vocal but more of Michael’s vocal please.” Odd that nobody needed more drum sound in their monitors though…
Danny shows us a wonderful memento that an unknown person has left in his dressing room, it’s a combination of the Stars and Stripes and Union Jack flags with the Tyketto logo and “Forever Young, 25 Years.” printed on it. Unsurprisingly, it becomes the backdrop for the stage. The excitement builds gradually throughout the afternoon, and when the doors open at seven o’clock we take our place directly in front of the stage as the Garage fills up, not quite to capacity but a very good attendance nevertheless.
It’s a great value-for-money three band bill for this tour. The opening band is the young up-and-coming British band Summers, while also appearing are Germany’s Bonfire, who are always guaranteed a good reception. Though Summers are unfamiliar to much of the audience, their brand of highly melodic rock goes over extremely well with the London crowd, the mid-tempo ‘Superhero’ and ‘Rock Machine’ (their ode to Phil Lynott) particular highlights. As for Bonfire, admittedly it will be hard to condense their extensive repertoire into an hour-long set, but, lesser known opener ‘Bells Of Freedom’ aside, it’s greatest hits all the way, with no less than four songs pulled from the classic ‘Fireworks’ album. The only downside to their set is the inclusion of a drum solo from Harry Reischmann. At one stage Harry has three sticks and is juggling and playing at the same time which is very neat and skilful, but at nearly ten minutes is way too long for an hour set, which closes with ‘Sweet Obsession’ but has no room for the expected ‘Hard On Me’.
On to the headliners… Normally Tyketto shows start with a bang, but for this tour it’s a new opening number that starts a little more gently and proves very effective. Ged Rylands is first to appear on the darkened stage, a keyboard pulse building to the majestic chords that signify the intro to ‘Burning Down Inside’ as the rest of the band arrive on stage, Danny greeting the crowd and looking very smart in a grey three-quarter length jacket. Inevitably, as soon as that amazing voice pours out the Tyketto Choir accompany him, signifying that one of the greatest strengths of Tyketto‘s music is the way it lends itself to huge crowd sing-a-longs, which seem to get louder as the song builds to the chorus – I’ve always maintained that if you don’t leave a Tyketto show without a hoarse voice then you haven’t enjoyed it. ‘Rescue Me’ follows, then Danny picks up his acoustic guitar for a succession of songs, which includes ‘Faithless’, one of the newest songs that proves very popular, while in another demonstration of varying the setlist, numbers like ‘Seasons’ and the immense ‘Sail Away’ would normally appear much later on.
Chris Green, though far from nervous, is extremely focussed on the task at hand, his first gig as a member of Tyketto going very smoothly, but you could tell he was intent on ensuring thus was the case. Though he stays very faithful to the solos, he has somehow added a new dimension to the sound. He gets a short solo section in the spotlight at the end of the awesome ‘Dig In Deep’, then he and Michael tease us with the intro to Guns N’ Roses ‘Paradise City’ which then cleverly segues into another crowd favourite ‘Lay Your Body Down’ – it’s a section of the show that progresses as the tour continues. My two favourite Tyketto songs, ‘Standing Alone’ and ‘Catch My Fall’ are aired together, Michael and Danny trade vocal lines on the cover tune, then the awesome ‘Wings’ sing-along closes the main set. For the encore, Michael appears at the front of the stage to lead the audience clap-along to ‘The Last Sunset’, then inevitably it’s the Tyketto anthem ‘Forever Young’ that sends the Garage crowd home happy. A fantastic performance, everything has run smoothly throughout the day, all that’s left now is to pack up the gear and head down to Southampton for part 2…
The Brook, Southampton: 19th March 2014
It’s a beautiful day down on the South Coast and everybody seems to be in high spirits as they arrive at The Brook. This is a great venue with a very homely feel, the concert room feeling very much like a pub but on a larger scale, with a balcony that offers great views of the stage and numerous seating areas throughout. It’s becoming a regular stop on any tour that Danny is involved in, including The Ultimate Eagles. The backstage area is set out just like a flat, with a few relaxing rooms, dining area and a kitchen with a washing machine that the band immediately queue up to use! The feel-good factor is only enhanced by ‘Auntie Babs’ cooking!
Southampton is also home to the opening act on this tour, Summers. Led by the Summers brothers Crash (vocals) and Ricky (bass), along with guitarists Jase Sepala and Joedy Rose and drummer Andy Pope, their debut album ‘364’ is a cracking melodic rock affair brimming with huge melodies and amazing vocal harmonies. These guys could easily make a healthy living as a Def Leppard tribute act, demonstrated by excellent renditions of ‘Animal’ and ‘Hysteria’ during their soundcheck. Ged Rylands even commented that he thought somebody had just put a Def Leppard album on through the P.A., such was the quality of their performance. But Summers aren’t just the support band, as Crash reveals. “We are providing all of the back line for the guys, if we can help them out in any way we would bend over backwards, but they’re so easygoing it’s not a problem. It just means that we’ve got to get to the venues earlier so we’re losing more sleep!” The guys first got to know Tyketto when they supported them here two years ago. “It was a bit of luck, the original support band dropped out. We were trying to get on the bill and The Brook phoned us up because we play down here regularly and asked us to do it. Danny mentioned there was a possibility of doing it again, then we got a call asking if we would like the opening slot for this tour and we jumped at the chance. Obviously it was an honour.” I let Crash go back to distributing copious amounts of Summers flyers throughout the venue, something he gets to do “just because I have the least equipment to set up!”
I also had a quick chat with Bonfire guitarist Hans Ziller about their set the previous night. He reveals that they had to cut their closing song as they were running over time, but insists it was the fault of the soundman arriving late and Summers playing too long. I diplomatically keep my comments about over-long drum solos to myself, but I’m looking forward to hearing ‘Hard On Me’ tonight as they will be definitely performing their full set as planned…
Tyketto run through their regular soundcheck numbers ‘Faithless’ and ‘Seasons’, and Chris in particular is impressed with the sound quality of the venue, pleading with the soundman to “Don’t touch anything!” Once the soundcheck is completed, Izzy and I are invited up the Tyketto ‘green room’ so I can do some interviewing with the guys, but we end up sitting with them for nearly two hours, which I have to admit was great fun and very relaxed. The guys were in and out of the room at various times while taking care of important business like laundry, equipment, telephone calls and of course food. Michael, Danny and Jimi were reminiscing about the early days of the band, and what it was like for them when the Grunge explosion destroyed the music scene, which was fascinating not just for Izzy and I, but Ged and Chris were also extremely interested in the guys’ stories. That particular conversation about Tyketto‘s history can be found elsewhere….
I was interested to find out how the new guys had become acquainted with Tyketto. Guitarist Chris has crossed paths with Danny several times in the past. “We did the Firehouse, Vaughn and Pride tour together, we did shows in Ireland where Pride supported Danny’s acoustic shows, and at the last Gods festival Danny was doing an acoustic set and Pride got up and did ‘Strength In Numbers’ and ‘Forever Young’ with him. But really it was hanging out on the tourbus, Danny actually came and stayed with me when I was still living with my mum! So we always kept in touch and saw each other at various gigs, then last October I got an e-mail asking me to do this tour. I was like “what?!””
“I didn’t expect that,” admits Danny. “Chris had moved to America and was doing a lot of work, I wasn’t entirely sure that it was any longer up his alley because he’d done much heavier, guitar orientated stuff. When I told Michael when we realised we weren’t going to have Brooke, I said “I know the guy I would get, I doubt he’ll say yes but you might as well start with the guy you really want.””
However, the music was never a problem for Chris. “I still have a real passion for this type of music, I may listen to some real heavy music now but as far as what I love getting up and playing, it was a no-brainer for me. I never really thought about it, I just said to my wife “Danny’s just got in touch with me and asked if I fancy doing guitars in Tyketto“, and she said “oh okay, when are you going?” So I was like “yeah, I’ll take it!” Even before I knew Danny, there was this Rock club in Brighton called The Hungry Ears, I’d been going there before I was even old enough to go in there, and ‘Forever Young’ was one of the tracks that was on rotation all the time, so it was always a track that I’d be getting up and dancing to…” To which Danny quips “This is where we start to feel old!”
“Funnily enough,” continues Chris, “last night in London, the old singer in one of my bands called Southside from back in the day came to the show and I introduced him to Danny, because he’s the first person that ever played me Tyketto, I was listening to some amazing music like Pretty Boy Floyd and Tigertailz (he says with a cheeky smile) and that kind of stuff, but he introduced me to bands like Tyketto, Hardline and Danger Danger, bands that hadn’t really got as much notoriety as they deserved. And last night playing that show, and knowing all my friends were out there and that we’d all grown up together listening to that music, and now they were out there watching me be in the band, it was amazing. And playing those tracks and watching the crowd going mad for these tracks, it was like “shit, I’m one of the five people up here, I’m part of this! This is great!” And when the drums drop down right after the solo in ‘Forever Young’ and it’s just me playing the riff, I’m like “THAT’S what it feels like!” I try my hardest to emulate everything that Brooke had done on the record, not just out of respect for him and the band but also for the fans that want to hear it how it’s done. Luckily we’ve thrown some Monster sections in between the tracks where we can get the chance to jam and get a bit of character for all of us out within the set.”
Ged’s links with the band happened rather more recently. “When I came back into the music industry after my long break, I got talking to Bruce Mee about what was the Rage Of Angels album, I played him some of the songs that still didn’t have any vocals, and one of the first names he came up with was Danny. I said “he’s one of my favourite singers, if you can get Danny involved in any way that would be great!” He literally sent an e-mail and within a day he came back to me saying Danny was up for doing something with me. So that’s how I got connected with Danny, he did a couple of tracks on the album and we spoke about doing some other things that didn’t quite come off for whatever reason, and it was strange, one day we were having a conference messaging thing on Facebook, myself, Danny and Bruce, and off topic Danny just mentioned that Bobby Lynch wasn’t coming over to do the Firefest show to let Bruce know, and he said ” so do you know any keyboard players?” And I was like “Hello! Hello!” I was almost shouting at him, “there is me!” So Danny said “yeah, of course!” So it grew from that, and like Chris I had bought the ‘Don’t Come Easy’ album as soon as it came out in the U.K., so I knew those songs so well, I had worn that album out. The strange thing was, we did the rehearsals in Holland and it took about three days before anyone looked at the setlist and went “we’ll do ‘Forever Young'”, and you just get that feeling and you get goose bumps and think “holy crap, I’m gonna do ‘Forever Young’ for the first time!” It was very surreal, and like Chris said, you look round and think “is this real?” Very much like last night, you’re in a zone, because it’s a show you’ve got a job to do, but there are certain moments where you go “Holy crap, I’m doing this! I’m not out there looking this way, I’m up here looking that way!””
It’s only in recent years that Tyketto have actually toured with a keyboard player, so I asked how difficult it was for Ged to actually fit into the band. “I was very conscious that this was not a keyboard band and the songs hadn’t got keyboards all over them, so my job is to add a little bit of colour and let the songs do what they do, and not to smother them with keyboards, I looked at it from the guitarist’s point of view, and just try and fill out the guitar parts, that’s the thing, it’s got its own space but it should never be prominent. It’s just about colouring and making it a little bit sparklier than it would have been, but never overtake the guitarist.”
“It helps the guitars out a lot, in terms of what I hear on stage,” admits Chris, but Danny admits that there is another reason for having Ged in the band, “It’s not a secret, it’s really Ged’s voice that is more important than the keys. We have them in ‘Wings’, we have them in ‘Burning Down Inside’ and a few other things, and it’s a difficult job for Ged to find how to fit in without it turning into a mess, but again the experience Ged has with Ten has given him that mindset of how keyboards work in a Rock band.”
As this is tour is to celebrate 25 years of Tyketto, I ask if when the band first formed did they even think that they would be around 25 years later?
“I was thinking about it last night on stage doing my thing” answers Danny, “and it just came into my head, twenty-five years! But I don’t feel twenty-five years older, like “oh, my back” or something!”
“To me, any relationship is a relationship, whether it’s a band of musicians or a business partnership or a relationship between a man or a woman,” explains Michael. “Through better or worse, good times or bad, you’re happily married for twenty-five years, you certainly wouldn’t see yourself married that long, but when it’s right, it’s right and it just cruises along that way. We kind of stumbled on things, we never thought we’d even make a record, we just got together because we enjoyed playing together, and one thing led to the next so quickly. We went through our dark periods when we were kind of done and the band were done with each other, but it’s a real comfortable pace right now. At our age, with bands and kids and businesses, it’s nice to do something simply because you want to do it, that’s why we’re all in a room right now, because we want to be here, and I think that’s going to last for a while. We haven’t killed each other yet, I don’t think anybody’s going anywhere.”
I comment that it seems that everybody is enjoying things just as much now as they were in the early days of the band.
“I think in some ways more” suggests Danny, “because once upon a time it was a mission and you did a lot of things that you hated doing in the name of the mission. Now, pretty much everything we decide to do, we know it’s coming, there’s very few surprises, and if there’s a few bumps or hardships you’re fine about absorbing that because you’re having enjoyment doing what you’re doing, it’s really odd because I’ve stayed close, particularly with Mike all these years, and I don’t know why but this particular trip, I’m not like that but I got real excited, like “I’m going to see Mike tomorrow!” And think about that for twenty-five years with anybody, there’s not that many friends I feel that way about, it’s a short list but it’s a quality list! So you add in Ged and now Chris, I mean Chris came in fairly much on my say-so and everybody took a chance on that, I knew his playing was up to it, but hadn’t been that close to him for many years, and look how it works! Same thing with Ged, we gave him a look in because he was the right man for the job, then thought ” we really like hanging around with this guy, let’s have it go on!” That’s not to disparage anyone that’s been through this camp before, but it is almost ridiculously relaxed right now.”
Michael agrees: “I’m just an old-school Italian guy from New York so I believe in Energy and Karma, and with this mentality of just we’re living what we do and it’s gonna be fun, the travel was all seamless for everybody, the weather’s been beautiful, the choice of hotels has been fantastic, and just to get somebody like Chris, who I knew only very remotely from what Danny sent me, I just knew him as a burner with hair down to his waist, and he nailed it far beyond my expectations! The first rehearsal I was like “this is gonna be great!” My mum said to me about meeting a woman, “you’re going to get it wrong a million times, you only gotta get it right once, that’s it, and when it’s right you’ll know it from a mile away.” From the second he stepped in it was just perfect.”
So as things are going very well within the camp at the moment, I tentatively enquire if there is the chance of a new Tyketto album at some point in the near future.
“I don’t know yet” admits Danny. “I’m thinking very much about doing a solo album next. I don’t know if we’ll do a Tyketto album, or when it will be, and then there’s the question of is it the right thing to do it at home with Brooke if he’s not going to come out and promote it, or should we call time and start working with another guitar player, be it Chris or anyone else? I don’t think too far ahead about things these days.”
The last album ‘Dig In Deep’ came in for a little unfair criticism, mainly because it wasn’t the carbon copy of the debut album that many parties were expecting.
“The label were like “we need a ‘Forever Young'” states Michael. “Well go and buy ‘Don’t Come Easy’ then!”
“I was looking around the room, and there was Mike and Jimi and Brooke and me, so it was exactly like Tyketto!” reasons Danny. “We were very careful not to write songs specifically to change, which I know some bands are guilty of, “we’re not that any more”. If I happened to write a song that had a ‘Wings’ chorus and we liked it, it would have been in, and that’s that. We wrote songs because it’s that many years later and everybody’s got different input and experience and different ideas about music that’s come into theirlives into that time. A musician’s gotta grow, if they don’t grow it’s stagnant water. There’s only a couple of bands that can get away with that, AC/DC’s one of them, they can just be the same band every time, but can you imagine if all bands did that? It would be horrible.”
“The other thing I didn’t like about ‘Dig In Deep’ was we had to hit a deadline and we had to write songs for it” continues Michael, “and there’s one or two on it… to me listening to it there’s obvious winners, there’s one or two that would have been better if we’d had more time to produce them, and I won’t disclose which ones as it’s only my opinion, but I think there’s one or two that don’t belong on the record. The bulk of that record, like ‘Dig In Deep’ and ‘Faithless’ and ‘Sound Off’ and ‘Here’s Hoping It Hurts’ and ‘Love To Love’, it’s a very strong record. But if we do another record I’d like to do it like we do everything else, I’d like to have the songs done and then go and do the record.”
“Usually that’s what leads to it” explains Danny, “I’ll send him a song or two and if he starts getting excited he gets me fired up about finishing it and actually coming up with enough material, because Michael’s always been my number one sounding board for our material or solo material, anything. If I write something that gets his blood boiling then it’s probably time to go and make a new record.”
“And we’d get to make our first record with Ged this time” announces Michael, to which Ged gratefully replies “Nothing would make me more happier, I’d do it like a shot.”
“And I’d love to get Mr. Green in the studio with us too, I think that would be fantastic” enthuses the drummer. “It’s ridiculous, I watch between Danny, Ged and Chris, I watch them like a fan. I’m like “this is cool, I’m in a band with these guys and they’re awesome!” It’s everything, and that’s what makes it so special. I always equate the DVD with the live and the show with the making a record, and the reason we put those more serious-toned bits in around all the silliness, it legitimises it. We have fun in what we do, but there’s also that serious side and that shows when we perform live. Everybody is thinking about their own part, but there’s this communal thought process, which is very hard to do because sometimes when you get in your own zone you forget about the other guys around you, or if you’re worrying about the other guys around you, you get out of your zone. I take ten seconds and I sing the chorus in my head to make sure the tempo’s right out of the gate, it’s just solid and set, and then once I’m in and the tempo’s set I can start listening to everybody else. It’s like fun intensity!”
Ged agrees: “You haven’t got a second to breathe, you haven’t got a second to think. It’s not a panic, you do what you do automatically almost, but once you start looking at what everybody else is doing, that’s when everybody bounces off each other. You can concentrate on what you’re doing and nothing else, but that’s no good for the people up front.”
“Another thing, it wasn’t by design but out of necessity” continues Michael, “all these years of Steve McKenna and P.J. Zitarosa and Jimi and Bobby Lynch and Chris and Brooke, you get this new energy in, I mean Chris is just giddy playing this stuff, he’s so excited to play it that he’s getting me all fired up, I must have played ‘Forever Young’ like a thousand times, and for him it’s the fifteenth time he’s played it, and he’s just jacked up to do it. I like that infusion of energy too. He blows me away, he’s like a technical shredder and proficient, and I usually don’t like guys like that, like Eddie Van Halen, I can listen to it but I don’t embrace it, I’m more of a Jimmy Page fan, that kind of sloppy in-the-pocket stuff, and Chris does that, he just whips it back and forth like crazy. Something as simple as the solo in ‘Sail Away’, it’s just four notes and he plays it like he means it.”
Obviously everybody is buoyed by the prospect of continuing to work together, be it live or in the studio, but it’s still too early to make any decisions. “I think we’ve hit our pace” concludes Michael. “We’re not in any scheduled rush to do any stuff so it’s not like we feel the need to put a record out, when we feel the desire to do a new record again we’ll do one. We like this rhythm we’re in the past few years of like booking a couple of small shows or big festivals and I think those will keep coming in. We’re starting to keep bigger company, which I’m happy with, and to just keep moving at our pace is nice. It weaves in and out of our personal lives great, it’s no longer an inconvenience, we’re setting the schedule, which is great. We’ll just keep doing what we do.”
With show-time approaching, Izzy and I leave the guys and head back into the concert room. The relaxed mood of the day continues into the evening, so we decide that instead of standing in ‘the moshpit’ for tonight’s show, we would grab a table and watch from the balcony, which is still fairly close to the stage, but there’s much less chance that somebody will spill your beer! There is another strong turnout, probably the smallest of the tour, but it is the smallest venue, which makes for a very intimate feel.
Naturally, Summers go down a storm tonight, this being their hometown, coupled with the fact that there’s a hefty number of friends and family singing along with them, which in turn rubs off on the punters who are unfamiliar with the band and encourages them to sing along too. Bonfire also get a very warm welcome, and while Harry’s drum solo is still present in the set, mercifully it’s been considerably trimmed down to a few minutes, making it much more palatable. However, the closing song isn’t the much-anticipated ‘Hard On Me’, but actually ‘Bang Down The Door.’
It’s the first time we’ve ever seen Tyketto perform from up high, which actually is great as you get a completely different perspective. The drumkit is not positioned centrally at the rear of the stage like normal, but slightly to stage right, which means we get excellent views of Michael’s drumming techniques. He utilises a fairly sparse kit set-up, but is no less effective as he just hits them very hard! We also have a great view of Jimi Kennedy, very much the unsung hero of Tyketto. He doesn’t do any backing vocals so very rarely comes to the front of the stage, so it makes a nice change to be able to see him delivering his bass runs. We can even see the scratches on his bass from up here…
The relaxed vibe has permeated through the band too, Chris Green is visibly more comfortable, and now seems to be settled into his role and enjoying himself much more than the previous night. His guitar playing is supreme but very respectful of the music, executing the riffs and solos perfectly. The solo spot at the end of ‘Dig…’ has now developed into an improvised guitar and drum trade off, Chris firing off licks and Michael chasing him with intricate but thunderous fills. Still only a minute or so, it would continue to expand over the remaining shows.
While the likes of the acoustic-led ‘End Of The Summer Days’ and hard-rocking ‘Meet Me In The Night’ are aired, I get to thinking just how many amazing tunes Tyketto have in their arsenal, the ninety-minute set is about as perfect as it can get, yet there is still no room for classics like ‘Nothing But Love’, ‘Walk On Fire’ and ‘Strength In Numbers’. The four selections from ‘Dig In Deep’ are just as well received, with Danny dedicating the stinging ‘Sound Off’, tongue firmly in cheek, to Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and the like. Of course, it’s ‘Forever Young’ that draws the biggest cheer again to close the show – although Danny can just get away without performing it during his solo shows, I think he would get lynched if it never made a Tyketto performance. Two shows in, and things are going great.
The following day, the bands make the long trip up to Pwllheli in Wales for the Hard Rock Hell AOR festival. We had decided not to go to this particular show as we were committed to all the headline shows. Though the show was great, everybody admitted that it was a little difficult as the on-stage sound wasn’t what they had been used to. But a festival appearance is invaluable to boost the Tykettoname again, and following this tour they would head out to Miami to embark on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, then in June they have Download to look forward to…
Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton: 22nd March 2014
Roll on to Saturday and we meet up with the guys again in Wolverhampton, which has always been a happy hunting ground forTyketto. It’s the largest and smartest venue on the tour, it has easily the biggest stage and the best quality lighting rigs, but the sound is also excellent here. It’s always been a special venue for Izzy and I, not just because it’s the closest one on the tour to home, but it’s the first place we ever saw Tyketto live, back in 1994 on the ‘Summer Daze’ tour. I reminded Danny that they did a cover of Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away’ as an encore that night, and that ‘Forever Young’ was actually aired as early as the third song in the set! It was also used as the first date of the 2004 Reunion tour, at the time there was some consternation that the venue was a little too big for the comeback, but a healthy crowd showed up that night. However, today spirits are certainly buoyed by the news that over 800 tickets have already been sold for tonight’s show, a sure sign that there is a definite buzz again about this band.
Soundcheck goes smoothly again, then I manage to whisk Chris Green away to the quietness of the band’s tour bus to chat with him about his other current venture, the debut album from his band Rubicon Cross that features Firehouse vocalist C.J. Snare and his former Pride and Furyon colleague, bassist Simon Farmery – definitely an album to look out for. Interview complete, back into the venue, the doors soon open and the place fills up rapidly, giving the room a great atmosphere.
Summers feed off the vibe and give their finest show of the tour. Though they always move around a lot, tonight they make full use of the larger stage and look completely at home on it, delivering their songs confidently. Guitarist Joedy Rose takes a leap off the stage mid-set and had a wander through the crowd while still playing. The Wolverhampton crowd, many of whom are probably unfamiliar with them, completely lap Summers up.
Bonfire also seem fired up (excuse the pun) by the impressive crowd and also having to follow the energetic Summers. Vocalist Claus Lessmann is always a bundle of energy, and bassist Uwe Kohler is always singing his heart out, but tonight they seem intent on covering every available inch of stage. Even second guitarist Chris Limberg is leaping around and performing guitar acrobatics and constantly throwing picks out into the crowd.
By the time Tyketto hit the stage the atmosphere is absolutely electric with anticipation. The band are clearly inspired by this and deliver what is, in my opinion, not just their finest show of the tour, but possibly the finest show of their career to date, even surpassing their Firefest performance of 2012, it really was that amazing. Anybody who saw this show will know that they witnessed something very special indeed. No doubt fired up by the size of the crowd, everybody on that stage is totally exhilarated which influences the performance, which in turn motivates the crowd again to respond even more, energizing the band yet again – the aura just keeps building and building to phenomenal levels, and being part of that crowd is just totally invigorating. Everybody is singing along to every word, even at the back of the room, as I was reliably informed.
Danny Vaughn is a performer who ALWAYS gives 110 percent, but tonight it’s more like 200 percent! In all the years I have been watching him perform, I don’t think I have ever seen him so fired up, he was absolutely mesmerizing! His amazing vocal talents have never been in question, but tonight that phenomenal voice is positively booming around the Wulfrun Hall. He stalks the stage like a man possessed and throws all the shapes he can, constantly holding his microphone stand out over the sea of people and coaxing them to sing their hearts out – not that we need any persuading! Looking around the stage, it’s obvious everybody else is feeling the same way – Chris Green is now totally at home in the band, foot up on the monitor and grinning from ear to ear while shredding to his heart’s content, Michael Clayton Arbeeny is pounding his drums into submission and singing along merrily, Ged Rylands is also singing more powerfully than before and smiling away at anybody that catches his eye – even the normally reticent Jimi Kennedy is coming to the front of the stage and throwing shapes!
The big sing-along songs are obviously going to be the most memorable tonight with such a partisan crowd, the emotional ‘Standing Alone’ brings a tear to the eye, the “whoa oh-oh”‘s in ‘Wings’ are totally sensational, and ‘Forever Young’ virtually takes the roof off! Some of you might think I’m exaggerating a little here, but if you were one of those lucky people in the Wulfrun Hall that night I’m sure you will agree with me. This was a concert that will certainly live in the memory for many years to come.
The Corporation, Sheffield: 23rd March 2014
And suddenly it dawns on us, this is it, the last show of the tour! Barely a week has gone by since we were in London at the rehearsals, but it seems much longer when we take into account everything we’ve experienced. Each show we have seen has bettered the one that preceded it, but it would take something supremely special to beat last night’s performance. Naturally, tonight’s concert doesn’t in fact beat the Wolverhampton show – but it comes damn close!
We’ve frequented The Corporation many times in the past for some great shows, the Firehouse/Vaughn/Deadline/Pride extravaganza, Gotthard, Wig Wam and our good friends, local boys Crimes Of Passion to name but a few. To be honest, the venue may need a lick or two of paint, it’s “none more black” interior rather gloomy, but some serious effort has gone into improving the sound and lighting recently, and also it’s one of the few surviving Rock clubs left in the U.K., for that alone it should be applauded.
The soundcheck is just a little more subdued than it has been on previous days, it seems the excesses of last night’s performance has taken it’s toll a little – Chris Green walks past with a bag containing “honey and lemon – for medicinal purposes!” Jimi has a few problems with one of his basses, there are some microphone issues that surface throughout the evening, but all are dealt with swiftly and won’t affect the quality of the show. Another healthy crowd fills up The Corporation, supposedly there were at least five-hundred people crammed in tonight. We bump into some old friends, some more Fireworks colleagues, then it’s showtime.
Summers have certainly won over a new army of fans on this tour and made some new friends, myself included – though I’ve liked them since I first saw them two years ago, seeing them four times in a week and getting to know them personally has pushed them right up my favourites list. Even though singer Crash’s prototype chain-link microphone stand cracks in two mid-set, it doesn’t ruin any of the appetite this young band have for entertainment. After their set I manage to grab a quick chat with Crash to see how the tourhas been for them, and he sums it up in one word. “Unbelievable! It’s been one of the best experiences of our lives, we couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. I’m really buzzing right now!” I remark that bands like Summers have to pick up the baton and take this genre of music forward when older bands like Tyketto have called it a day, and the singer is grateful to Danny for giving them the chance to reach a larger audience. “Obviously we couldn’t do it without bands like Tyketto because they’re giving us the opportunity to get out there. We would never be able to play in front of this many people if it wasn’t for them because nobody knows us. One of the responses we’ve had from this is “who are you and where have you come from?” And that is a brilliant thing, but also a very bad thing because it demonstrates how we haven’t been able to get the exposure. It’s very hard for a new band to get out there into the media and try to build a reputation for themselves. Danny and the rest of the Tyketto guys have given us this opportunity, and we’ve just got to build on it and keep producing the goods. As long as we can do that we’ll keep moving forward.” Though the songs aired from their debut album are very well received, new numbers like the harder-edged ‘I Came Here To Rock’ demonstrate that the future is bright for this great young band. Great job lads!
Bonfire continue in the more energetic vein that ran through the previous night’s show, Claus Lessmann attempting to shake hands with the entire front row throughout their set, even Hans Ziller is making more contact with the crowd than before. ‘Hot To Rock’, ‘Tony’s Roulette’, ‘Under Blue Skies’ and the slightly lesser-known ‘Sword And Stone’ perfectly dispatched, while the ballad ‘Give It A Try’ demonstrates some amazing vocal harmonies. A few other people in the crowd are slightly disappointed that ‘Hard On Me’ has not been included in the set for this tour, so let’s hope Bonfire come back over here soon to rectify that.
And so to the headliners. There’s more of an intimate feel to tonight’s show, partly due to the smaller stage and lower ceiling than all of the other venues. But Tyketto hit the stage like they’re at Wembley Stadium for yet another scintillating performance. The crowd is in good voice, Michael seems to breaking even more sticks than usual, which Danny hands out to some lucky recipients in the audience. The guitar/drum duel is absolutely electrifying tonight, and the longest it has been all tour, Chris Green is absolutely shredding his heart out, and it’s obvious Michael is taking just as much delight in watching the guitarist as the crowd are, it’s wonderful to see how this friendship has grown throughout the past week. Danny, Ged and Jimi are standing at the side of the stage also watching with big grins on their faces and enjoying it as much as everybody else, it really is great to see how these five people enjoy each other’s talents.
The quite beautiful ‘Standing Alone’ is always the most emotional experience of any Tyketto show, with Danny pausing and silently acknowledging the crowd for their willingness to sing along and share in this very personal song. But tonight it becomes even more poignant than usual, as after the song, Danny reveals something very private that happened to him last year to his audience for the first time. He makes it known he is not looking for sympathy, and I will not divulge what Danny said here as it’s not my place to. However, it makes the following song all the more poignant also, as ‘Catch My Fall’ is probably the song that typifies the bond between Tyketto and their fans the most – Danny has always treated his fans as his friends anyway. Naturally, the lyrics are sung back with gusto, and the meaning of the song is taken to another level – “Whatever may happen, wherever you go, I will always be with you, you won’t walk alone, if ever I stumble, whenever I call, you will be there to Catch My Fall.” Certainly a very moving moment.
All good things must come to and end though, and once another awesome version of ‘Forever Young’ has thundered into the night, the show, and the tour, is over. Seeing how this new line-up of Tyketto had grown and developed over the last week has been enormously gratifying. Witnessing the camaraderie between the five members over the past week has been a heart-warming experience. Danny has admitted to me that this is the first time in a long time that Tyketto has felt like such a single happy unit, and that this tour was a pleasure from beginning to end for the whole band. Anybody who witnessed even one of these shows will have certainly seen that for themselves.
They have been referred to as “the band who nearly made it”. There is a definite buzz about Tyketto again at the moment, long may it continue. Certainly, as Danny has mentioned on numerous occasions, the guest list for each show is getting larger and fuller, as people are once again waking up to realise what a fantastic band this is. There are appearances at major Festivals to further boost the name again, and a promise of another tour later in 2014, this time to include mainland Europe as well as the U.K. They have certainly learnt it ‘Don’t Come Easy’, but twenty-five years later the energy and commitment is as strong as ever. They’ll always be ‘Forever Young’.
Izzy and I would like to thank the Tyketto guys, Danny, Michael, Jimi, Ged and Chris for giving us their time and making us feel completely welcome throughout the whole week. Also thank-you to Tour Manager John Hardcastle and the fantastic guys ofSummers and Bonfire for adding to the enjoyment of the whole experience.