Artist: SAS Band
Venue: Stokes Bay Festival Gosport
Date: 30th July
In late 2006 I came across the SAS BAND by accident. I was casually looking through ebay for tickets selling cheap as I had a few free nights in the following week.
When I saw the listing at first I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had never heard of the SAS Band and here was a line up of artists that read like a who’s who of eighties singers and all playing in a snooker club in Basingstoke! I assumed it must be a set of tribute artists.
I did my research and then began kicking myself for not knowing more about them.
The SAS part of the group’s name stands for Spike’s All Stars. The Spike is Spike Edney who has been the keyboard player for Queen for the past 25 years. He’s joined by current Queen additional touring guitarist Jamie Moses with a few other very talented musicians forming a core band capable of playing any style of music.
For the past few years the SAS Band have been the house band for the Nelson Mandela gigs around the world. Two weeks ago they were all in New York at the Radio City Music hall for Mandela’s 91st birthday party. They were on stage with the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Stevie Wonder.
When I saw that the band were playing the Stokes Bay festival near Gosport I was not waiting for ebay this time.
It must have felt odd for them stepping out on stage in a small tent on a wet Thursday in Gosport compared to a famous venue in New York. Professionals as they are, you’d never have guessed it.
Unless you are a big fan of a band and own all their tracks you are likely to find part of a gig where you feel a little down as you don’t know the songs being played. Forget that feeling with the SAS Band. The reason why is their Unique Selling Point, their guest vocalists.
Tonight’s artists aren’t quite the level of the New York gig but still in their own right are well known with a great back catalogue.
First up was Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann) who got the crowd going with “Blinded by the light” amongst others.
A few numbers in and Thompson was replaced by Tom Robinson on vocals. 2-4-6-8 Motorway got the crowd going some more however for me Tom’s “War Baby” was the highlight of Tom’s own numbers. The other theme running through the SAS gigs is the guest artists doing some memorable versions of other people’s hits. It was very surreal seeing the aging Robinson cover “I Predict a riot”. At first it seemed wrong but it was a stonking version and when I think back to Tom’s burst on the music scene with the “New Wave” it all seemed to be so right.
Next up was the massively tall Fish from Marillion. “Kayleigh” was the Fish hit that was good to hear however his version of “Sweet Home Alabama” really let us see another side to him.
No sooner had we settled into Fish’s style then he was replaced by Paul Young. Paul’s “Come Back and Stay” was his own hit that went down well however his take on the Commordores’ “Brick House” once again showed how the SAS Band can play all styles with aplombe. Young is such a stage showman and really knows how to work a crowd. It’s such a shame his voice is a shadow of his time with the Q tips.
The SAS Band Needed no guest vocalists for one section of the set when they crammed “the history of rock and roll” into one song. Well maybe not a history of the genre but certainly of the riffs we’ve come to associate with it. The song is called 28 riffs and musically it’s a masterpiece. Piecing together some of the songs we’ve grown up with could certainly end up sounding like “stars on 45″. As it is we really get to see why Jamie Moses on guitar has worked with so many stars. To appreciate this song you really need to see and hear it. Not recorded from Thursday’s gig but here’s a version recorded at the Brook in Southampton. (Youtube)
Tonight’s only disappointment for me was Jim Cregan. Jim is Rod Stewart long term guitarist and writing partner who’s currently working with Katie Melua. On any other day having a guest artist of Jim’s stature at any gig would be a highlight, however the others had set the bar so high tonight that he was a let down. His slowed down, blues version of a Beatles classic just didn’t work for me.
By this time the two hour plus set was rushing to a close. The guest vocalists (plus the guest Bassist Neil Murray of Whitsnake) returned to the stage for a rousing Queen Finale including “The show must go on”, “We will rock You” and “We are the champions”.
After a failed Beatles cover earlier, the encore “With a little help from my friends” certainly made up for it and more. The crowd left pleased and singing. You’d be hard pressed to know who had more fun as it’s clear the SAS Band’s rare get togethers are as loved as much by the band and the guests as they are by the audience.
To get an idea on who theses guys have worked with, take a look at the following web page.