By STEVE MASCORD
HERE, snaking three blocks up from Wolverhampton Civic Hall at 10 minutes to seven on Saturday, are the assembled underclass of pop culture.
Rock fans, mostly middle-aged, patiently waiting to attend a Christmas show by a band called Thunder.
If this was any one of a hundred plastic, preening dance or hip hop acts, the television cameras would be here and the city probably would have paid to attract them for two festive shows in front of a national fan base that has flung maybe tens of thousands of pounds into the local economy – many for the entire weekend.
But mainstream culture has forgotten bands like Thunder and people like their fans. If you want to know what encourages people in their forties to embrace social media, it’s the fact it’s the only place they can find out about events like this.
There is no opening act. The band, darlings of Britain’s response to the Hollywood hair metal explosion of the late 1980s, are grey, greying or bald. They have “other projects” – including an Eagles tribute act in one case – but to these two thousand people they are pretty much Gods.
There is an upspoken truce: if you ignore the fact the band has aged, you can ignore – for three uproarious hours – the fact you have, too.
“This is our 20th and last show this year,” singer Danny Bowes says at one stage. “Not bad for a band that last released an album five years ago.”
The first set of around and hour and a quarter is acoustic and features – amid the first four songs – The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold”. The band’s own sublime “Higher Ground” is transformed into a funk song – right alongside the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running”.
On paper, it all sounds rather self indulgent but if you can’t indulge at Christmas – and take pleasure in the indulgence of others – when can you?
They are selling beer from the cloakroom. I’m serious.
After a break, the guitars are plugged in and there is compelling evidence that music which was once purported to come from the crotch actually originated in the heart – and for many people, still resides there.
“She’s So Fine” is one of the essential offerings of the entire eighties-nineties rock genre, but once more there are covers – including a mesmeric rendering of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights”, which judging by Bowes’ expressions means as much to him as it does to this writer.
Luke Morley, latterly of the more sedate Union, is as complete a guitar god as a man his age could hope to be. The comparisons with Page don’t stop at the body language.
Axl Rose’s girlfriend once challenged him on why he didn’t write songs like Thunder’s “Love Walks In” for her. The reviewer questions why it wasn’t played at all tonight – but in a room of such unbridled joy, why quibble?
The main setlist finishes with “I Love You More Than Rock’n’Roll” (and if you went to this show, that’s a lot of love), and there’s a three-song encore: “Better Man”, Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and Slade’s “Merry Christmas”.
It’s too much, perhaps, to expect the wider world to wake up and remember rock bands and their fans.
The best we can hope for is that, as on nights like this, they continue to remember each other.
RANDOM PRICE LIST: Beer: Stg4, t-shirt: Stg20, ticket: St25
THUNDER at Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, December 2013
By STEVE MASCORD
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