Tyketto @ Islington Academy, London N1, 26 Jan 2017
Ah, the joys of gig attendance on one’s birthday- especially when, until five hours before showtime, I’d been sat in my living-room blissfully unaware that I’d be required to drag myself to London at all. As a result of this slight fubar, I find myself in the unenviable position of having missed all but the last two songs of Romeo’s Daughter’s set again: though this keeps happening, I promise I will attempt to rectify it at the next available opportunity, and for what it’s worth, their version of ‘Wild Child’ (which, just for the benefit of any AORsters who didn’t know, they recorded before Heart) sounded pretty damn powerful from where I was standing.
In 1991, despite opening for White Lion on a UK tour that earned them the love of melodic rock fans nationwide, Tyketto were cruelly robbed of their opportunity to become the next Journey, Foreigner, Jovi, Leppard or even Extreme by the arrival of a minor phenomenon called “grunge”. Talk about bad timing. Yet, undeterred, they continued regardless- and even though they’ve since endured numerous lineup changes (most notably the replacement of vocalist Danny Vaughn by ex-Tall Stories man Steve Augeri for several years following 1993’s Strength In Numbers) their unshakeable belief in the music they’ve always played, right from their very inception in late ’80s New York, has eventually led them to an almost-enviable place of reverence and respect in their chosen field.
Naturally, several more reshuffles have occurred ‘twixt 2012’s Dig In Deep and 2016’s Reach: most significantly, though Vaughn and original powerhouse drummer Michael Clayton are now firmly back where they belong, the replacement of guitarist/co-writer Brooke St James and bassist Jimi Kennedy by ex-Pride mainman Chris Green and former Thunder/Union/Then Jerico four-stringer Chris Childs have made them, for the first time in their 27-year career, a partially British band. Which, given that half their most devoted fanbase has always been located over here anyway, seems with hindsight the most inevitably logical conclusion possible- and also explains why, as they hit the stage with the ferocious ‘Kick Like A Mule’, they’re granted the kind of reception usually only bestowed upon this country’s own genre-pioneering heroes. In short, they’re not just a bunch of blokes from NYC any more: they’re ours now, part of the London rock tapestry. Nylon Metal? You heard it here first…
‘Wings’ quickly follows suit, the entire room caught on its throbbing keyboard pulse and soaring chorus: yet rather than rely on an endless stream of oldies, the quintet choose instead to showcase how seamlessly their new material blends with them, their ability to achieve this without saminess soon revealing itself as one of their key strengths. As a result, though the likes of ‘I Need It Now’ and ‘Reach’ itself fit perfectly in and around ‘Meet Me In The Night‘ (surely up there alongside Skagarack’s ‘Somewhere In France‘ as one of the greatest “vague” songtitles of all time) and the anthemic bounce of my own personal favourite ‘Burning Down Inside‘, both are still immediately distinguishable from them.
Then again, that might be because Tyketto always were that good. Sure, nobody disliked the cynical early ’90s hyperbole surrounding grunge and “alt rock” more than me: yet at the same time, I was also broad-minded and objective enough to realise that several bands within that genre (Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins) had genuine genius to offer, and that equally, a number of AOR/glam/hair acts often cited as being “unfairly culled” by the new brooms- Steelheart, Johnny Crash, Tora Tora, XYZ, Baton Rouge, Every Mother’s Nightmare and (worst of all) Bulletboys- were frankly pants.
Be honest, did they possess one single truly classic tune between them? If they did, I certainly never heard it. On the other hand Firehouse, Unruly Child (fronted by the vocal genius of Marc “soon to be Marcie” Free) Hardline (led by the redoubtable Neal Schon) Winger, Warrant and our very own FM were pretty damn fine: Tyketto, boasting not only that rare ability to write (as Vaughn himself says) “songs every motherfucker in a stadium can punch their fist in the air to while still knowing that the words move them” but a singer who knew precisely how to deliver such material, were even better. And they still are.
This is why, as power ballads go, ‘Standing Alone‘ very nearly (though admittedly not quite) pisses on Perry and craps on Coverdale at their respective peaks: it’s also the reason ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Catch My Fall’ have remained two of the few genuinely motivational hard rock anthems to surface during the otherwise relatively dour decade from whence they originated. In turn these skills, which in the words of a certain classic album title, “don’t come easy” have always allowed Tyketto’s reputation to transcend that of a Valentine or a Blvd: thus, if one casts around the room, they’ll find an audience stretching far beyond the usual chartered accountant/computer programmer AOR brigade, with sleazy glammies, power Metallers, patch-splattered’n’bearded fans of far heavier inclination, and even the occasional progger (well, ok, that would be me, but you catch my drift) all lining the walls.
As we build to the climax, it becomes apparent how much fun the entire band are having. When not dispensing acerbically witty comments on everything from his tenure with Waysted to his hatred of “that dumbass orange clown faced fuck we just elected President”, Vaughn bounces repeatedly like a 16-year old at his best ever keg party: meanwhile Green, probably still not quite believing he’s playing in one of his all-time favourite bands in front of his native North London crowd, spends the entire show grinning ear-to-ear. More to the point, and though I never thought I’d ever say this, it’s possibly their best ever lineup to date: sure, the outgoing St James (one of the few hair metal shredders, alongside Dave “Snake” Sabo and George Lynch, with an instantly recognisable style of his own) can never be erased from history, but the nimble-fingered, affable British axeman is more than just a replacement, he’s a re-affirmation of everything this band were ever about, with a touch of his own classic-era influences (UFO, Purple, Queen) providing the icing on the cake.
Inevitably, the encore can only mean “that” song- but when it arrives, ‘Forever Young’ still encapsulates in five minutes everything that anyone who believed in melodic rock ever held dear, especially throughout the dark days when no magazine covered it and no DJ (at least in London) seemingly gave two fucks about playing it. And, though by 1994 even I had decamped from AOR’s blue waters towards the beckoning grey oceans of indie, punk and industrial music, its timeless blend of riffage, melody and dynamics reminds me why I always held a place in my heart for the genre’s finest exponents. Tyketto belong to that select group every bit as much as Styx, Boston or any of their other forebears- and though never a hit per se, the track remains one of the all-time great anthems, belted out tonight by Vaughn as powerfully as ever with not one note dropped nor key lowered. And while some may choose to view it as a “predictable” ending, I can’t think of a better or more apposite one.
After 26 years spent weathering every storm possible, it seems like Tyketto have finally been welcomed home. Come on in, and close the door.