Starz/Leaf Hound - London, Highbury, The Garage - 18th December 2013 Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Saturday, 21 December 2013 04:01

Starz posterThere’s not many bands that will get me doing a midweek up and back trip to the big smoke this close to Christmas, but then not every band are Starz. Never heard of them? Well shame on you, because tonight is not only the band’s first ever UK show, but the upgraded venue (the original intended venue of The 12 Bar having sold out in minutes) is also packed out with a veritable who’s who of the UK music industry, but more of that later.


So why all the fuss about this band? Well let me just start by telling you that if the MC5 or The Stooges were the unsung heroes of punk rock, then Starz really were the same for ‘80s glam rock/metal. Okay they might also have crossed over into more classic rock and powerpop territories at times, but trust me when I say that the band’s classic line up of Michael Lee Smith, Richie Ranno, Joe X Dube, Brendan Harkin and Pete Sweval really should have been megastars, releasing four vastly different yet mostly superb studio records in a little over two years (Harkin having moved on to pastures new for album number four ‘Coliseum Rock’ to be replaced by Bobby Messano), the standout of which for me being 1977’s Violation’, and in particular their US chart smash ‘Cherry Baby’.


Of that classic line up it’s three of them that make it the stage tonight, namely singer Lee Smith,, guitarist Ranno and drummer Dube, Alex Kane stepping in on second guitar and Ginger Wildheart taking up the four string duties for one night only.....


But before all of this it’s the chance for British cult rock outfit Leaf Hound to get proceedings underway with a full 60 minute set that simply oozes class via the band's hugely influential take on the art of bluesy heavy rock.


The fact that The Garage is about three quarters full by the time Peter French’s mob take to the stage speaks volumes for just how highly regarded the Hound are in these parts, and glancing around the nodding heads during numbers such as 'The Man With The Moon In Him', 'Stop Look & Listen' and the band's take on Atomic Rooster's 'Breakthrough' I predict the band’s upcoming 'Live In Japan' record will do some healthy trade when it sees the light of day via Ripple Music in January 2014.


Leaf Hound 1


Sadly there’s no new product for me to pick up from the merch stall from tonight's headliners, but there is a splendid stars and stripes classic Starz logo shirt that will be making its way back to Wales with’s a shirt I’ve been after for a long long time and just like seeing the band live it’s something I never thought would actually ever come my way. So excuse me if I go all fan boy for the next 90 minutes or so as I'm literally in seventh heaven standing directly in front of three of the band I never thought I’d see live, whilst classics like '(She’s Just A) Fallen Angel', 'Tear It Down’ and 'Detroit Girls' turn the largely middle aged male audience into teenagers once again.


Michael Lee Smith might joke that the reason the band haven’t played in the UK before is due to the fact that the audience wasn’t born first time around, but the fact I actually feel like I’m at a school reunion tonight pretty much condemns this theory to an early grave. Not many of tonight’s audience will ever see forty again that is for sure.


Starz 1


Of the band themselves they also seem to be more than happy to be back in (the) school of (hard rock) as tracks like 'Nightcrawler', 'Cherry Baby' and 'Live Wire' simply roll away the years, something that has definitely benefitted guitarist Richie Ranno who looks younger now than when Starz were at their prime...and you know, I'm not exactly sure how that is humanly possible.


As 'Violation' gets an airing I'm mindful of just how tight this version of the 'band' sound, something which after just 2 rehearsals could have turned into a bit a shambles in the hands of lesser mortals, but Lee Smith is quick to thank his new band mates via the gifts of a Hellcats shirt for Ginger and a 1978 ‘Coliseum Rock’ tour jacket for Alex Kane, without whom it transpires, this show would never have thank you too Mr Kane.


'Boys In Action' finishes off a set that harks back to an age when bands were proper (or so says Michael Lee Smith), a time when guitarist used leads (not wireless packs), played twin neck guitars and allowed their cavalier moustached drummer to take his moment in the sun during the last number of the night. Yeah fuck convention this is rock ‘n’ roll baby.


Starz 2


Returning for encores of 'Loveshit' (sung by Lee Smith), ‘Rock Six Times’ and ‘X Ray Spex’ (which along with an earlier totally sublime version of ‘Third Time’s The Charm’ almost stole the show) it is during the latter that I suddenly become aware that David Ryder Prangley is the person stood alongside screaming his lungs out to this wham bam thank you glam number, a song sooooo great I actually hang around to see things right to the end, and what the hell if I miss my train back to Wales.


It’s not just me with a long trip home tonight though, people are here from all over the UK and from much farther afield too, and just like I said in my introduction the crowd also contained a veritable who’s who of the UK rock scene too. Why? Well this was the first UK gig by Starz, and I’m so proud to say “I WAS THERE!"


To visit the Starz store on Amazon - CLICK HERE