Cinderella/Houston/Voodoo Six - London, Shepherd's Bush Empire - 25th June 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Matt Phelps   
Saturday, 02 July 2011 05:00



Bar a one-off appearance somewhere down the bill at Download 2010 and stuck on pitifully during the middle of the day Philadelphia's finest bluesy rock export, CINDERFUCKIN'RELLA, hadn't troubled UK customs officials since the early Nineties. So when this special one-off headline show in the capital was announced earlier in the year as part of a 25th anniversary world tour it was obvious that it was gonna be a night to remember. I had to be there. So being the kind of new age guy that I am, full of thought for others before myself, I ditched my girlfriend's tickets to see Bon Jovi in Hyde Park the same night as quickly as someone who was embarrassed to have had them in the first place and lovingly replaced them with two shiny new tickets to see one of MY all time favourite bands instead. I know, I'm all heart! 


So with London wilting under the midday sun it was of course necessary to indulge in a little friendly banter and liquid refreshment with some fellow Uber Rock Soldiers in the bar next door to the Empire before the show. Unfortunately though, having spent a little too long having those pre-gig drinks and then finding out we had queued in the wrong place to get into the gig meant that opening band Voodoo Six had virtually finished with their set by the time we'd made it onto the floor after all the merch scouring and more booze buying had taking place.


If it wasn't bad enough that I missed Voodoo Six it got considerably worse when I realised Swedish AOR new boys Houston were up second. Good fucking God!!! Frontman Hank Erik hit the stage in a silky black kimono which raised as many eyebrows as it did questions about his sense of humour. With Wimbledon in full swing in South London I didn't expect to find myself shouting "You cannot be serious!!" in Shepherd's Bush. Hired guns make up the remaining poodle troop alongside Erik and fellow founding Houstoner drummer Freddie Allen and the guys threw themselves into a deluge of toe curling power pop with little or no consideration for their own safety. Most of the songs sounded much the same as each other to me and I was soon heading for the bar again for a little something to numb the musical pain I was experiencing at the manicured hands of Hank and his handsome beasts.


A song that could have been something about a mystery added more to my misery as stage moves that would've made Freddie Mercury look like Kerry King were carried out with alarming frequency. Three headbands, an afro on a white guy and the most dodgy looking moustache this side of Justin Hawkins littered the stage like stereotyped rubbish. Like a sanitised version of the already mediocre Steel Panther diluted to the maximum and free of offence to anyone the Houston boys left me feeling like I hadn't got the jokeCinder1use, even though there wasn't ever supposed to be one. Like a bad acid trip Houston live have plenty of colour but you will wake up screaming in the night when the flashbacks of that Kimono hit.


In fairness I was taking notes on this diabolically drippy display whilst wearing a Motorhead shirt so I guess it goes without saying that Houston were never really in with a chance of bowling me over with their pleasantly permed tunes. However during the final parpdown of their set a large proportion of the audience were definitely on the silky smooth Swedes' side, a phenomena I can only explain by saying that it was getting late in the night and drink had been flowing steadily for several hours. Judgements must have been severely impaired! In short I couldn't have experienced a camper situation even if I'd attended a Torchwood convention dressed as John Barrowman. 


The clock ticked on and glasses were refilled, then finally at 9.45 the Empire fell into darkness and an eruption of deafening cheers engulfed Shepherd's Bush. 'Once Around The Ride' rattled out around the Empire with all the delicacy of a runaway freight train,  banging over the heads and heaving bodies of the surging crowd that were now pushing for position as close to the stage as possible amongst the sweat soaked faithful. 


Throwing down the 'Shake Me' gauntlet barely three minutes into the night's set was inspired. A venue packed to the rafters and already at combustion point exploded into insanity. Bodies jumping, fists pumping and booties shakin' the Empire was alive to its very core with the soul of rock 'n' roll. Tom Keifer's much publicised voice troubles that have been responsible for Cinderella's lack of activity over recent years seemingly nothing but an unpleasant memory for the man and fans alike. The soul stirring gravel laced tones that Keifer sent soaring over their Glam fused Country, Gospel and Blues tinted rock classics throughout the night truly ignited every last soul in the crowd and when he introduced "....a song about a train" 'Heartbreak Station' lit up the first big singalong and gave the man with the golden rasp a chance to rest his voice and break out some slide guitar for the mid section solo.


The crunchy bite of 'Somebody Save Me' quickly followed and got the whole place bouncing again before 'Night Songs' swept in with a grinding wall of sound and power expending enough heat to strip the paint off the walls. Immense! A gentle teasing of 'Bad Seamstress Blues' lulled everyone into a false sense of direction before the band threw the points at the last minute, switching tracks and hurtling straight into 'The More Things Change' to a rapturous response. It was clear by this point that the night was going to be focused solely on the first three albums alone and that anything from 1994's 'Still Climbing' was to be sadly left untouched. That said I don't think too many people minded as the roof raising singalong to 'The More Things Change' certainly testified. Like a hot smokin' pistol on a SaturdCinder2useay night in Shepherd's Bush Cinderella were truly going for the throat and taking no prisoners, focusing solely on their '86 to '91 heyday.  What the people wanted the people were getting and everybody was fucking loving it.


A few more dips back into 'Long Cold Winter' territory for 'Coming Home' and the storm of riffs that is 'Second Wind' before a brace of tear jerking ballads had grown men and women teetering on the brink of emotional breakdowns. 'Don't Know What You Got (Til It's Gone)' saw the broken hearted joining hands in pain for another soul searching singalong before the equally emotive 'Nobody's Fool' took the tension level well up to 11. Without a pause the opening riff of 'Gypsy Road' knocked everyone for six and the tears of regret and fractured love were replaced with cries of joy and some serious dust kickin' and heel stamping rock 'n' roll. Hammering the final nail into the main set 'Gypsy Road' must've lifted the Empire roof a good few feet as well as all the roofs of every other building surrounding the it. A devastatingly precise delivery that was ecstatically lapped up by feverish crowd, Keifer again proving that when in top form he can still nail those incredible notes he first laid down well over 20 years ago.


The temperature inside the Empire for the last hour had more than equalled that of the sweltering sun that had been beating down on London for the best part of the day, so the luscious icy chill of 'Long Cold Winter' was a well received opening to the encore as it sent a refreshing wave of blues charging through the capacity crowd. With the clock about to strike 11 it was left to 'Shelter Me' to take the crowning glory and seal the show. Tom Keifer switching instruments to dazzle with some serious saxophone love while intermittently continuing to encourage everyone to clap, sing, stamp and sway their way through the finale. I kept turning around to glance around the Empire, the spectacle of so many people so in tune and in love with the music of these four country loving rockers was just as enthralling as witnessing the band themselves.


There was a unity of band and crowd that seemed to have, just maybe, brought a few tears to the eyes of a certain over the shoulder guitar throwing member. Even three tiers up, high alongside the Empire's now visibly loosened roof tiles arms were waving and cheshire cat grins beamed down like spotlights onto the dying embers of the show. To see the place so busy and enthusiastic for a band that most of the mainstream rock press would have you think everyone had forgotten about was certainly something special.


I don't think that there can be any argument that Cinderella left the UK well and truly reminded of just how much they mean to their legions of loyal fans that had converged on London from all over the country. Hopefully they won't leave it so long until they return to these shores again but even if they don't come back for another 20 years you can believe me when I say it will be more than worth the wait.


Photo kudos to Suzie Wildman