Imperial State Electric / Gentlemans Pistols – Camden, The Underworld – 8 December 2016 Print
Written by Jim Rowland   
Saturday, 17 December 2016 05:00

Considering I was a huge Hellacopters fan back in the late 90s/early noughties, I did wonder to myself why tonight was the first time I have been to see Nicke Andersson’s Imperial State Electric. However, that was soon answered when I was reliably informed that this was only the second time the band have played London since they released their debut album back in 2010, so tonight’s show is hotly anticipated.




To be honest, the reason why I spotted this gig in the first place was down to the fact that the special guests were the magnificent Leeds-based retro rockers Gentlemans Pistols, a band whose last two albums have both been Uber top three albums of the year for me, in 2011 and 2015. Last year’s ‘Hustler’s Row’ album was an absolute belter, and tonight the punchy opener ‘The Searcher’ along with ‘Time Wasters’, ‘Personal Fantasy Wonderland’ and the outstanding ‘Private Rendezvous’, prove why, with the influence of Thin Lizzy shining through in places.


It doesn’t go completely smoothly with main man James Atkinson breaking a string within minutes of the first song, and without a spare left handed guitar in tow, there’s an awkward five minutes to kill as a roadie hastily restrings his guitar. Not ideal when you only have a 35 minute set, but momentum is recovered quickly thanks to the quality of tunes like ‘Comfortably Crazy’, ‘Widow Maker’ and the superb ‘I Wouldn’t Let You’. ‘Livin’ In Sin Again’ wraps things up with another second album nugget. Bill Steer adds quality lead guitar throughout, and James Atkinson adds personality with his cheeky chappie persona and distinctive vocal style, but above all what makes Gentlemens Pistols so good is the quality of the songs.


Five albums and two EPs in six years is certainly prolific by today’s standards, and that’s just what Sweden’s Imperial State Electric have managed so far. This tour is promoting latest album ‘All Through The Night’, with several of the new songs displaying a more varied progression from the Cheap Trick/Kiss/Beatles power pop style at the core of Imperial State Electric’s sound on the earlier albums.




‘Break It Down’ is a strong song with a clear country rock flavour, ‘Get Off The Boo Hoo Train’ is some serious full tilt boogie, and title track ‘All Through The Night’ is more straight ahead driving rock. There’s snippets of some of the band’s classic rock favourites cleverly inserted into songs throughout the set, with Kiss’ ‘Black Diamond’, Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Dominance and Submission’, Led Zep’s ‘Black Dog’ and even a bit of ‘Freebird’ all making brief appearances.


Elsewhere, ‘It Ain’t What You Think (It’s What You Do)’, ‘Redemption’s Gone’ and the very Cheap Trick-esque ‘Can’t Seem To Shake It Off My Mind’ provide back catalogue highlights and the band all swap instruments for set closer ‘Reptile Brain’, with Dolf De Borst taking lead vocal. The encore is a high octane affair, featuring a stonking version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic ‘Fortunate Son’ and the very Who influenced ‘Let Me Throw My Life Away’. Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ also features, although I must admit I’m getting pretty tired of bands covering that song, it’s hardly an inspired choice and this particular version is saved by some outstanding drumming from Tomas Eriksson.


Imperial State Electric deliver an impressive hour and a half show here tonight, and although it did lull a bit for me in the middle, that high octane encore produced a satisfactory end result. The band are slick, very professional and deliver the goods, but to be honest purely on quality of style and songs, it was the more rough edged Gentlemen’s Pistols who impressed most for me tonight.


  • Photos by the author.