The Carouser’s KayleighMG and Michelle Godding make their way over to Islington’s Assembly Hall for a night with Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden and AOR masters FM.
It’s a typical rainy, November day in London Town, but the lack of queue outside Islington’s Assembly Hall means that we can keep dry. Doors have already been open for 30 minutes, however the hall is somewhat empty. Perhaps due to the fact that previous support band No Hot Ashes had pulled out of the bill.
The stage is full of what looks like small mountains covered in a huge black sheet. This creates a very simple, intimate stage set-up for blues master and ex-Whitesnake guitarist, Bernie Marsden who is up next.
After a few beers, we turn around to see that the hall is filling up just in time for Bernie. After a brief and informal announcement, Bernie walks on to the stage. Just one man and his guitar. The crowd applaud and Bernie smiles at the crowd in front of him. He comes across as incredibly modest, but there is no doubt that he’s reveling in the moment.
Much to our delight, Bernie plays a handful of Whitesnake tracks including his version of Bobby Bland’s (and Whitesnake’s) ‘Aint No Love In The Heart Of The City’. Bernie works through a variety of material including tracks that have influenced him as a musician. He then goes onto to play Peter Green’s ‘World Keep On Turning’ flawlessly and the room is filled with the deep and soulful sound of the blues.
There are no over the top thrills or shows of bravado. Then again, why should there be? This is an entirely acoustic, stripped-down set and Bernie’s playing speaks volumes. There is nothing to hide behind and it takes real confidence and skill to completely nail it. Unsurprisingly, Bernie does just that, and with complete ease. The Bernie Marsden experience is one that cannot be missed.
Whilst Bernie meets and greets fans at the merch stand, FM reveal their set-up and we know that we are about to once again experience one of the greatest AOR bands around. The room is far busier now, and we are surrounded by fans who have clearly followed FM from the beginning. One by one, the band enter and they all look as elated as the crowd cheer back at them. Keyboardist Jem Davis takes prime position at his mountain of keys and FM break out with ‘Digging up the Dirt’ from their 2015 album Heroes and Villains.
We are here to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their 1986 classic Indiscreet. One of the greatest and most influential AOR records to ever be released. Unlike most bands, Steve Overland announces that although they will be playing Indiscreet in its entirety, they will not be doing so in order-a good way to please a crowd of FM fanatics.
FM work their way through a fantastic setlist including some of our favourites. ‘Someday (You’ll Come Running)’; ‘Hot Wired’; ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘American Girls’ to name a few. As always, FM play incredibly. Steve Overland is the voice. His range is unbelievable and somehow, he manages to sound even better than he does in the studio. He has the crowd singing along, clapping, dancing and standing in awe, all at the same time.
Steve introduces the next song with nothing but a mere “woo!” We all know it’s time for ‘Otherside of Midnight’. People of all ages are dancing and grinning as Steve Overland takes a step-back. The keytar is then brought to the front of the stage by Jem Davis, and boy does he enjoy his time in the limelight. It feels exactly what 1986 would have been like, except with smaller hair and the buttons on shirts actually being used.
The vibe in the hall is on fire and just as we thought the set couldn’t get any better, Steve welcomes Bernie Marsden back onto the stage. They play the opening melody to Whitesnake’s version of ‘Walking in the Shadow of the Blues’ and the sea of melodic rock fans sing along in unison. The man next to me turns to us and says: “Fuck. This is bloody brilliant.” He’s spot on. Steve, Bernie and the boys seem to agree too as they look as though they could play for the rest of the night.
It has been an absolute blinder of a night. Considering that there were only 2 acts performing tonight, some could have expected to be underwhelmed. However, anyone walking out of that venue anything but high on melody is insane. An utterly brilliant performance from all involved.