The Cart & Horses, London
27th October, 2018
Review and Pictures by Chris Galea
I’m sure that, to some degree, the symbolic meaning of tonight’s gig fuelled the pervasive fervor. And that symbolic meaning had something to do with Iron Maiden.
Doug Sampson, drummer of Airforce, performed with Iron Maiden at the ‘Cart & Horses’ at a time when that band was starting to assert its dominance over the Metal scene. Here was where Iron Maiden played their very first gigs, something that was probably convenient for Steve Harris as he lived just up the road from here. Besides that, Iron Maiden used to rehearse about 5 minutes’ drive from this pub. Chop Pitman and Tony Hatton, respectively Airforce’s guitarist and bassist, remember the first Maiden gig well as they were there (or should I say ‘here’).
This area of NE London is also home of the West Ham football team (from whom Iron Maiden adopted the ‘Up The Hammers’ battlecry). Tonight West Ham were playing away – this meant the ‘Cart & Horses’ was already thronging with punters by the time Airforce started assembling their gear. The fact that this was Halloween night added a further element of fun to the ambience with many attendees dressed in gory costumes and fake blood (yes, there was also someone dressed as Eddie, Iron Maiden’s mascot).
That might have been a long-winded way to put tonight’s show in context but it hopefully helped you, the reader, seep in the atmosphere before the air-raid siren sounded and Airforce finally hit the stage…..
All the four band members wasted no time in immersing themselves into the performance, especially bass player Tony Hatton. On lead vocals was Italian national Ivan Giannini, who has joined Airforce only recently. Previous singer Dilian Arnaudov had to return to his native Bulgaria due to personal matters. Ivan proved to be an incredibly good singer with a phenomenal set of pipes.
On the subject of singers, Dilian’s singing with Airforce is rougher around the edges whereas Ivan’s voice is much more melodic. So for better or for worse, Airforce’s music changes depending on who of the two is singing. At this juncture the band needs to decide which of the two roads to take. But I’ve digressed…
Mid-way through the set Chop started a song with a riff that made me think he was ripping off Accept’s ‘Princess Of The Dawn’. After a few moments, I told myself, “Hold on, this IS ‘Princess Of The Dawn!”. A surprising choice of song to cover but, if I may speculate, perhaps we can take it as an indication of what sound Airforce is going for. That’s a heartening thought. An even odder cover was ‘Eleanor Rigby’ of The Beatles. But luckily both Accept and The Beatles are bands I love so I wasn’t one to complain.
Most of the original songs performed I was hearing for the first time. And what I heard were songs that were lively, mean-spirited and exciting and to be honest I enjoyed them all. Judging from the crowd’s involvement, ‘Finest Hour’ and ‘Sniper’ went down particularly well, in part thanks to the video clips of those songs that were released recently. ‘Life Turns To Dust’ – a catchy mid-tempo song with some cool melodies – also found its way into the set. ‘The Reaper’ was a new song and one which I immediately took a liking to. Finally the band rounded off their triumphant performance with a cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Breaking The Law’.
Special credit must go to Ivan for learning the Airforce songs at very short notice. He hardly spoke except of course to sing and most of the crowd banter was left to Chop. That was perfectly understandable but still I think it would have looked better if the Italian were more loquacious.
From the currently active musicians with roots in the NWOBHM, Airforce are one of the bands I am liking most these days – they seem to be one of the few bands of the NWOBHM generation that I feel are coming up with quality material that hasn’t mellowed too much with time. On top of that, as evidenced by tonight’s performance, the delivery of that material is dynamic and convincing.
So although the band’s future is not yet written in stone, tonight I sensed some very promising signs. The diversely composed audience of the ‘Cart & Horses’ would probably second me on that.
Life Turns To Dust
Son Of The Damned
Faith Healer/Princess Of The Dawn
Band Of Brothers
Why Has It Come To This?
We Wanna Rock
Breaking The Law
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