The amazing quality and superlative musicianship brought to The Staines Riverside Club by ‘Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair‘ this week made me realize that really good ‘covers’ bands should make you think. We all know that these bands are here to entertain us. But – from time to time – it’s nice to be challenged. And ‘Asylum Affair’ put so much effort into bringing you their passionately performed ‘forgotten classics’ that you tend to feel delightfully exhausted when it’s time to go home. They are a power-house of talent and energy.
It’s also refreshing to have some 80’s power ballads for a change. Sometimes ‘covers bands’ do not offer enough fresh ideas to an audience. Party bands should try to entertain and delight – of course – but they should also surprise their audience – perhaps revealing long hidden memories or replaying some cherished old favourites.
So we had “Alone” – the ‘Heart’ hit song - written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. (They also wrote the Madonna hit “Like a Virgin” and The Bangles “Eternal Flame”.) This piece showed off the remarkable talent of Stacey. She is a gutsy, powerful and passionate lady. And we also had the incredible “Love Is a Battlefield” (Pat Benatar) which was released in 1983 in the United States. This song was written by Holly Knight with Mike Chapman (half of the brand “Chinnichap.”) Stacey says that this is her favourite number to perform and we could see why. She brought drama, remorse and extraordinary strength to each word of the song. And the tune has being going around in my head every since!
But although the focus was on ‘The Eighties’ it does not mean that the band did not play some enjoyable hits from other decades. “Handbags and Gladrags” is normally associated with the Stereophonics or with the theme tune of ‘The Office’. But it was actually written in 1967 by Mike d’Abo (vocalist with Manfred Mann) before being offered to Chris Farlowe as a single. Dave Greenslade played the piano riff on that original version. Asylum Affair’s interpretation had everything that we expected from this much loved song. Pathos, the sense of loss and the overpowering nostalgia. It was all there. Ahh! Those bittersweet memories. It was an excellent cover.
“The Boss” was also covered. “Born to Run” (1975) was sung with the same vigorous hard-working energy that you would expect from Bruce Springsteen himself. The ‘Clarence Clemons’ sax piece was expertly executed by Mark ‘Wilko’ Wilkinson, who swapped keyboards for the saxophone. Later we also had “Because the Night” – one of my favourite songs of all time - it was written by Bruce Springsteen for his ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ album in 1978. And it is still Patti Smith’s most popular number.
Stacey Cronin’s voice is often compared favourably with Bonnie Tyler. But I think that her voice has more in common with Steve Nicks than with Tyler. It has that high quality husk – for sure – but it is not so acidic or sand papery. The voice is light, fluorescent and powdery.
So, when the band played their songs from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album, we enjoyed the full range of delicate expressionism – easily spliced with powerful zest and gusto. For these songs, the boys also came to the microphones to provide some beautiful harmonic backing vocals. And the Fleetwood Mac numbers provided an opportunity for John Lawrence (lead guitar) to produce an abundance of perfectly pitched and lavishly adorned solo work.
During one number – the ‘Prince’ odyssey that is “Purple Rain” (1984) - the excellent ‘Giant of the Bass’ Colin Payne moved so far from the stage – (using his wireless kit) – that he more-or-less left the building. John then focussed on the blooms and contortions of that famously extended guitar solo. It was moving stuff!
The Staines Riverside Club has brought some incredible music to Staines over the years. And they can be justifiably proud of hunting down Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair. This is every bit a high quality music act.
So please don’t miss them next time they come around. And support live music locally.
- © Neil Mach May 2013 -
Check http://www.ents24.com/staines-events/staines-riverside-club for the next gig at the Riverside Club