Artists: The Damn Truth, Empyre
Venue: Blackpool, Waterloo
Date: 23 July 2023
I find the band’s music intense, moving and thrilling and I’m happy to see that the crowd feel the same way as I do by the time the last song of the evening arrives.
The expression “odd bedfellows” was invented for this lineup. Empyre produce beautifully dark and melancholic music while The Damn Truth are renowned for high energy, upbeat Rock and Blues tunes. I was genuinely interested to see how both sets of fans would take to the other artist on the bill due to the huge difference in style between the two outfits. The rain was absolutely belting it down in Blackpool as we arrived at one of the best music venues in the country and after a quick gawp at all the amazing music memorabilia on display it was time for the first band of the night, Empyre.
Unless there is an outstanding new album released in the next five months, ‘Relentless’ from the band Empyre will be my album of the year come the end of December, there’s no question of that. Dark, brooding with massive songs that are brilliantly performed it had its hooks into me from the very first listen. This was the first time I’d seen the band since the release of ‘Relentless’ so I was interested to see if they could possibly replicate the big sound from that record in the live arena. I needn’t have worried a bit because they absolutely smashed it tonight.
Video screens at the back of the stage display constant images of the band both past and present as the opening bars of ‘Waking Light’ begin the bands set proper. It’s already evident that the band are amazingly tight and disciplined, probably due to a punishing touring schedule over the last couple of years. Singer/guitarist Henrik Steenholdt is as far from the traditional extroverted Rock star as you will ever find. A wicked line in self-deprecating humour is combined with amusing banter with the fans that had me laughing out loud at times, while vocally he is pitch perfect on the night and produces an amazingly strong performance on every song. ‘Parasites’ is up next and it’s immediately clear that the band already have the audience fully on board as they are clearly appreciative of the unique Empyre sound. This band know exactly what they are doing. They each know their own roles within the unit, from Did Cole’s cool guitar playing to Grant Hockley making the bass look effortless, all the while augmented by Elliot Bale providing a huge drum sound during ‘Relentless’. That combination produces a wonderful sound in this venue for a great set of songs.
“Did anybody hear our new record,” asks the singer. “This is the fifth track on the album, if you managed to get that far,” he jokes, before the band produce a fabulous version of ‘Hit And Run’. The highlight of the set though is the amazing performance of ‘Only Way Out’ from the ‘Self Aware’ album. From the opening bars, Henrik’s stunning vocal performance is completely in tandem with the delicate but heavy main guitar break and it’s becoming clear to the audience that this band write arena quality songs that are impeccably performed.
I find the band’s music intense, moving and thrilling and I’m happy to see that the crowd feel the same way as I do by the time the last song of the evening arrives. As the band finish the set closer ‘New Republic’, there are loud groans from the audience when they realise that the band’s performance is over and you can’t ask for higher praise than that from a crowd. I, for one can’t wait to see them on their next headlining tour.
The Damn Truth are tonight’s headliners and while I enjoyed their last album ‘Now Or Nowhere’, it’s probably a bit more Blues orientated than my usual fayre so I was probably expecting to like, rather than love their show. How wrong could I possibly be. Sometimes everything comes together to produce an almost transcendental experience at a music venue. The Waterloo was packed and hot, the crowd were incredibly lively all evening and The Damn Truth produced one of the best performances I’ve seen in years, fully connecting with this audience while leaving every drop of energy and sweat on the Waterloo stage.
Opener ‘This Is Who We Are Now’ starts things off with a bang and is way heavier and more aggressive than its vinyl counterpart. It’s immediately apparent to me that The Damn Truth are a proper Rock and Roll band and that all of the musicians in the group are incredibly gifted and of the highest quality. This stunning opener is followed with ‘Full On You’ and ‘Too Late’ which sends the audience into raptures, and the crowd are already dancing and singing along to the songs with an almost feverish atmosphere in the air at times. The band immediately pick up on this reaction and are glancing at each other smiling, before it becomes clear that they have accepted the audience challenge and they up their game even further - if that’s possible.
Dave Traina’s drums and PY Letelliers’s bass are a back line to die for as they drive proceedings on for the whole show, never letting up for a second. Tom Shemer is an old school guitar maestro, his red silk shirt brightening up the room as he struts the stage effortlessly producing seemingly impossible sounds out of his guitar before joining the crowd at one point without missing a note. So it’s onto singer Lee-la Baum. She is the focal point of the whole show and is mesmeric. A voice to die for, a fabulous artist and a personality that really connects with the crowd that by this stage is eating out of her hand. Lee-la has an amazing range, switching from all out rockers like ‘Look Innocent’ to slower blues based tracks such as ‘Lonely’, then switching to the seventies hippy sounding ‘Only Love’.
The initial set closes out with the bright and breezy ‘Tomorrow’ and the band are quickly back to perform the U2 cover ‘Love Is Blindness’ and set closer ‘Heart Is Cold’. The band then spend the next hour chatting and laughing with the fans in the back room and it’s clear that there has been a real connection made with people tonight by this band. For me it was a privilege to be here and witness this show and these artists and I will hopefully reacquaint myself with the band when they support Glenn Hughes on tour later in the year. A perfect night.
Review and Photos: Graeme Wright