When I first encountered Bang Bang Romeo, I had no expectations of them, as I was supposed to be reviewing another band. That night they absolutely blew me away and I’ve been relentlessly enthusiastic about them and their stunning We Were Born EP ever since.
A few weeks later and I’m back in The Leadmill to ensure that my previous encounter with Bang Bang Romeo wasn’t just a one off. This time I am accompanied by my long-suffering girlfriend who had had to put up with my unfettered enthusiasm about this band she’d never heard of. This is a risky move, as I had raised my other half’s expectations and she was now trying to manage her expectations to the point where she half-expected to be a little disappointed by the band.
When we arrived, the opening band Two Skies were already on the smaller of the two stages in The Leadmill. The trio had already got the small but enthusiastic audience transfixed with their psych-rock workout and it wasn’t difficult to see why. Two Skies sound is one that I found oddly familiar, as they seamlessly transitioned from an upbeat shoegaze sound, to something that was only Dik Mik, a dancer covered in body paint and an epilepsy inducing lightshow away from Hawkwind. While it wasn’t fully-fledged space rock in full flight, they were displaying more than enough potential to hint that such things are well within their grasp in the fullness of time.
Two Skies were followed by a band that actually had to request applause from the dwindling audience. As my other half succinctly put it, if you have to do that, you’re doing something wrong.
Bang Bang Romeo do nothing wrong, from the moment that they hit the stage and launch into “Carnival” the population of the audience exponentially increases and for good reason. That unexpected encounter I had a few weeks ago wasn’t just a one off, Bang Bang Romeo are a magnificent live band and this performance was even better than the first time I saw them. I glance across to my girlfriend and Bang Bang Romeo have already won her over. At these close quarters the band’s powerful dynamic is inescapable. A thunderous yet solid rhythm section, an understated and utterly in control treble-heavy guitar player creating a glorious contrast against it and all fronted by a woman whose inescapable charisma is only surpassed by her phenomenal vocal talents.
On the previous occasion I’ve seen Bang Bang Romeo live, frontwoman Anastasia Walker was an aloof, brooding and formidable stage presence. Tonight she seems considerably more relaxed and easy going, joking with her band mates and being in total command of her phenomenal stage craft. Walker absolutely dominates the small stage, an utterly compelling figure of thrashing hair, unearthly vocal prowess and proper stage craft.
To Walker’s right is bass player Joel Philips, who some how manages to avoid braining his bandmate with the head of his bass, as she morphs once more into an unstoppable whirling dervish of energy. He manages to do this while also maintaining a psychic link with drummer Richard Gartland, and gives the band their relentless drive. On the far side of the stage is Ross Cameron, whose trebly telecaster sound slices through the avalanche of rhythm and Walker’s soulful vocals. You wouldn’t expect it to work, but it really really does.
Throughout their set Bang Bang Romeo revisit some of their old favourites and reveal some well-received new material to a receptive and enthusiastic crowd including my now utterly enraptured other half. By the time the band rip into “Reach Out”, Walker is now in full flight rock-goddess mode and the whole band are underlining exactly why widespread success isn’t just a possibility for them, but a seeming inevitability as long as they are capable of such lightning-in-a-bottle performances. By the end of their set, anyone in The Leadmill that night that wasn’t a Bang Bang Romeo fan 45 minutes ago, certainly is now.
Fifteen minutes later, me and my girlfriend are waiting for the last bus home. She admits she had had her misgivings about the Bang Bang Romeo before this evening and had expected to be vaguely disappointed after I had raised her expectations to apparently unobtainable levels. This evening they had not just met her expectations, but had comprehensibly exceeded them.
Of course they did. They are Bang Bang Romeo and they are one of the best bands in the country right now.