Twisted Illusion + Midnight Prophecy, Equinox (now Ashen Reach) & John Ainsworth
Manchester Academy 3
21st December 2018
Review by Beth Jones
The 21st of December is always my favourite day of the year, because it is my birthday! So, you can imagine my joy when I discovered that my band of the year was doing a big gig in Manchester on that very day. We had hotly awaited it for months. It got to within one week of the gig and Twisted Illusion dropped the bombshell that Matt McDade and Mark Wagstaff (the brilliant rhythm section of the band) were calling it a day as they felt they couldn’t give the level of commitment that was needed to fulfil their increasing schedule, and frontman Matt Jones got a bad case of laryngitis. I was beyond mortified. I had visions of the show being cancelled and my new favourite band becoming a memory. But being the consummate professionals they are, they insisted that the show would go on!
So off we set to Manchester. Getting there was….err…..fun! If you have never been to the Academy 3 (like me) it is like finding a needle in a very confusing haystack of bus routes and one-way systems. I may have got a ticket for driving in a bit which was busses and taxis only, and I may have ended up on the wrong side of the road at one point and narrowly missed getting hit by an oncoming bus, but Jesus was it worth it when we finally got there! (Rick here – I’m still shaking!!!)
The evening started with a mesmerising solo performance from a young guitarist by the name of John Ainsworth. He is a very slight and unassuming chap to look at, no different from the next person in a crowd, but put a guitar on him and magic happens! What that guy can do with his old, slightly battered semi acoustic is unreal! It is as if he was born with it strapped to him. He makes it sound like a complete band, and his musical creations are as intricate and complex as they are zany and pleasantly disturbing! This blew my mind and reminded me why I love live music so much. What a stunning way to start off the evening.
Next up were Equinox. It turns out this was their last gig with that name, as they have now rebranded and become Ashen Reach! By now the room was pretty full, and the crowd were loving the unique, Hard Rock/Melodic Metal sound that was being unleashed from the stage. Their set was full on, lively and fun, and they were all having a ball on stage. Their female drummer, Jess Stanley, was positioned to the front of the stage, which was great to see. Usually it is impossible to get good pictures of drummers from the front, but not here! She was really interesting to watch as she has a very unusual technique, playing open handed a lot and holding the sticks really high up. They were superb! The vocals of Daniel Moran were soaring, but with a great crunchy, growly tone that fitted their style so well. This was a real party. Everyone was smiling and having a great time, all knowing that this was a special night. They brought it down for their last number to say a farewell to their Equinox days in readiness for chapters new, and it was obvious that this was a big thing for the band, with Daniel getting quite emotional. Deservedly so – it was a cracking performance full of heart and spirit. It will be good to see what Ashen Reach now bring to the table!
Our main support for the evening was Midnight Prophecy. The best way I can describe these guys is good old bacon and eggs British Heavy Metal. They were basically a brilliant, young, Iron Maiden with lead singer, Craig Cairns, having the sound and power of Bruce Dickinson, but a lot more hair! They were flipping brilliant!! One of their guitarists also looks like a giant Viking and pulls the best guitar faces ever! So much energy, so much stage presence, so much charisma! They have a real connection as a band that is old and wise beyond their years. Their set was fast paced and electrifying, and the audience were bouncing. The evening up until this point had been spectacular and had gone by so quickly that I was almost sad that it would all soon be over.(Rick here again – Based on this performance I’m REALLY looking forward to see Midnight Prophecy again at Amplified Festival in July)
All too quickly came the last performance of the evening, and the reason why most of us were there. Twisted Illusion, with the added extra of a young talent by the name of Saxon Davids (ex Kaine) joining them on guitar, and their ‘roadie on the night’ and occasional extra member, Voodoo Blood’s Chris Norris, joining them on upright bass. We had spoken to Matt Jones earlier in the evening and his voice was still a bit spannered, but he was determined to give us a brilliant show, so called on the services of Craig from Midnight Prophecy to sing some of the songs with them, and he sang harmonies an octave lower. It is scary to try and comprehend the talent of Matt Jones, as him on a bad day was still immense! THIS is what music really is; proper music. I found myself just standing, with my head back and my eyes close, letting the music eat me, with a huge grin on my face. There are a very small number of bands that have this effect on me, notably Queen and Devin Townsend; they are the bands that make me just have to stop and do nothing, just let the music in. Twisted Illusion are now on that list. Every song, new and old was an absolute smasher – ‘Excite The Light’, ‘Hatred Is A Virtue’, ‘Medicated Society’, ‘No Compromise’, the brilliant cover of ‘The Spirit Of Radio’ by Rush (EEEEK it was soooo good), I could go on, but I would end up just listing the whole set list! It has taken me a couple of weeks to be able to organise my thoughts on this gig, because I simply cannot put into words how bloody good Twisted Illusion are. Every single note, every pause, every rhythm change is perfectly placed and there for a reason, and it just makes me so happy to be able to experience it. I can’t even make one of my usual quips about it, because it was too good. Whilst it is extremely sad that Mark Wagstaff and Matt McDade are not continuing in the band, Matt Jones has vowed to carry on in 2019, with a full tour announced, and the release of the remaining parts of the Excite the Light Album Trilogy, and I am super excited for this!
My words do not do these four fabulous performances justice. Seriously if you get even the smallest chance of getting out to see Twisted Illusion, or any of the other bands on this bill, do it – you will not regret it. All that I have left to say is thank you – a massive heartfelt thank you to all the acts, for making my birthday a very special night that I will remember for a very, very long time.
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images