GIG REVIEW: Thunder at 02 Manchester Apollo

Thunder opened their new tour in Manchester
Thunder opened their new tour in Manchester
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‘Everybody, scream!’

And in unison, all 3,500 fans in front of them gratefully oblige.

Thunder may not be household names, but their following is strong enough for the sold out signs to be up at the stylish Manchester Apollo.

Tonight? Same story, at Sheffield. And at Newcastle’s City Hall tomorrow.

On evidence of their opening show of their 11-date UK and Ireland tour, it is easy to see why they continue to garner such loyal support after nearly 30 years in the business.

They are the embodiment of British rock at its bluesy brilliant best.

Thunder's new album entered the charts at No.3

Thunder's new album entered the charts at No.3

On a drizzly night, support band Cats in Space opened with an impressive half-hour set. Their lack of success, you imagine, has nothing to do with talent, but timing; they play melodic light metal which would have been lapped up in the early-80s. Still, the majority of the fans here are old enough to remember that era, and they sit and watch and listen appreciatively.

And then Thunder roll in.

They emerge after an audio clip featuring Jungle Boogie, but everything else for the next hour and 40 minutes is live, pure, unashamed, plug-in-your-instrument-and-turn-it-up rock.

Their opener, No One Gets Out Alive, faithfully follows the blueprint for their best material. A song which starts with a catchy guitar riff, before the drums and nicely-layered medolies kick in, and then the vocals.

And what vocals.

Many rock singers may fade as they age, their range shortening each year, but not Danny Bowes.

His long flowing locks may have gone, but his delivery is powerful, his voice is clear and rich and dripping with bluesy flavours.

As a frontman, he has such boundless energy. He commands the crowd like a consummate showman, controlling the tempo and their participation, and making them laugh with his comic quips in between songs.

Thunder had a little mainstream crossover with their early material - Love Walked In has since found a home on numerous power-ballad compilations.

And, arguably, the three songs from their debut album - the brilliant Backstreet Symphony and their closing anthem Dirty Love, as well as Love Walked In - received the loudest reception.

But this is anything but a throwback nostalgia show, and there are more songs from their latest album - Rip It Up, which entered the album charts at No.3 to favourable reviews - than their most second effort.

Their new songs are more refined, more mature, less commercial, but no less accomplished. They power through The Enemy Inside, River of Pain and Resurrection Day, before the tempo drops for the stirring ballad Right From The Start, which features a soulful guitar solo by Luke Morley.

The principle song-writer throughout the band’s history, Morley - with his cowboy hat, left-hand strat and chunky riffs - seems just as popular as Bowes. But their other guitarist, Ben Matthews, is frequently given a chance to shine, and proves his versatility by taking charge of the keyboards, too.

Rip It Up and Love You More Than Rock N’ Roll are foot-tapping, hand-clapping rock gems, but it is the ballads when Bowes’ voice is at its emotive, spine-tingling best, and two or three more would have been richly received.

One of them, new song There’s Always A Loser, sandwiched Wonder Days and Dirty Love in the encore to a superb show. “You were absolutely bloody marvellous,” said Bowes, as he exited the stage.

The feeling was mutual.

Thunder have 10 more shows this month: Sheffield City Hall (18th, sold out), Newcastle City Hall (19th, sold out), Leicester De Montfort Hall (21st), Glasgow Clyde Auditorium (22nd), Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (24th), Southampton 02 Guild Hall (25th, sold out), Ipswich Regent Theatre (26th, sold out), London Eventim Apollo Hammersmith (28th), Dublin Vicar Street (30th), Belfast Mandela Hall (31st, sold out).