Thursday, 2 March 2017

Live Review: High Spirits, Toledo Steel and Seven Sisters at The Black Heart, London

It’s not often that the UK is treated to a visit from Chicago's high energy rockers High Spirits. It’s been nearly four years since they were last here and tonight they return to the same venue to inject some life into a dreary London weeknight.

The Black Heart is already buzzing and it's time for Seven Sisters to take the stage. It’s clear that they’ve been itching to get back up there after a quiet few months. They are bursting with energy as they and the crowd belt out a mix of tunes from their recent debut album and earlier demo hits. The guys are as tight as always with lead guitarist Graeme Farmer on fire, tonight delivering solo after solo- particularly on epic album closer 'Cast To The Stars'. They finish their set with 'No Guts, No Glory', the front row hip swinging and fist pumping along.

Seven Sisters
Soon enough, Toledo Steel arrive on stage and right away have the crowd involved, with vocalist Rich Rutter encouraging us to sing along. It seems to work as there’s plenty of people right down at the front enjoying the NWOBHM inspired tunes that Toledo Steel do so well. The band has built a bit of a reputation for including an excellently chosen cover song in many of their shows and they don’t break the tradition tonight. The set ends with an enthusiastic rendition of Yngwie Malmsteen’s 'Rising Force' with a front row full of air guitarists channelling the spirit of the Swedish virtuoso.

Toledo Steel
It’s a Thursday night and I’ve heard plenty of complaints about the impending doom of work the next day. But no matter, the room is full and there’s excitement in the air. High Spirits are not a band who rely on theatrics to get their point across nor do they need to. All dressed in matching jeans and black t-shirts, they grab everyone’s attention from the moment they walk on to a humble introduction by vocalist and band mastermind, Chris Black. This tour has been promoting the band’s third full length album, Motivator and so opening with 'Flying High' is a fitting start to the gig. Like much of High Spirits' back catalogue, it does what it says on the tin. The speedy riffs and catchy vocal melodies set the show off to a euphoric start.

High Spirits
Personally, Motivator didn’t hook me in as much as the previous two albums but I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it comes across live. The heavier, more aggressive sounds of 'This is the Night' and 'Thank You' allow bass player Bob Scott and drummer Ian Sugierski to really show us their skills.

The band’s debut album Another Night isn’t neglected and some of their most well known tunes have the crowd going crazy. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed crowd surfing, screaming along to every word and dancing until drinks are spilled at a weeknight gig but High Spirits manage to make it happen. The upbeat title track with Chris’ powerful vocals and the rest of the band’s seamless performance really shows what High Spirits are all about – a smooth, catchy, high energy and above all, fun performance.

I’m left sweaty and exhausted when the set finishes with their anthemic, eponymous track. It’s impossible to wipe the grin off my face as I sing along, which I sense, is exactly what High Spirits set out to achieve.

Score: 4/5

Writer and Photographer: Louise Dornan

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