Live Review: Spear of Destiny at Retro Bar Manchester 4/12/23

Words and pictures by Andi Callen Photography – All Rights Reserved.

So 40 years on, from the first time I saw the fledgling Spear of Destiny perform at the Lyceum in London, I’m at an underground music venue, on a Monday night with another 120 or so music fans, barely believing what’s about to unfold. In all the times I’ve seen them since 1983, which to be honest is more than a few but less than 10, and certainly not the 300 or so claimed by one of my fellow fans, this is easily the smallest venue I’ve seen them play. Retro is tucked away between the back end of the original University buildings and the Mancunian Way, traffic thundering by throwing up spray noisily on a wet December evening. I’m (always) early and the doors aren’t even open to indicate that I am indeed in the right place. A quick glance in the upstairs bar shows that I am, as a gaggle of 60 somethings sit nursing pints, jabbering excitedly, well as animated as we can!!

The slow laboured start to The Wheel, with the lamenting saxophone and simple drumbeat get us started, heads nod in unison. The sound is surprisingly good for such a small venue and the drums don’t even appear to be mic’ed up! Spear’s sound is B-I-G but nothing is lost on this postage stamp sized stage, all credit to Mr Sound Engineer! Embassy Song keeps the early tempo on an even keel and Kirk sounds pretty remarkable for a man who’s recently had heart surgery, still carrying those high falsetto notes as if the years have fallen away. Unsurprisingly the bulk of the set is made up from 1983’s debut Grapes Of Wrath, with a couple of Theatre of Hate covers thrown in. Roof Of The World still sounds great shorn as it is of The Sisters original backing vocals. There’s palpable sense of relief, that would could have been an evening of terrible acoustics, is actually perfect and the signature drum sound, that almost defines the band, along with the sax have the headspace to breathe and not be dominated. Spear of Destiny shows are expressively sonic affairs and tonight shows that size really isn’t important! The first Theatre of Hate cover, Aria of The Devil slows the pace a little, and it was never one I particularly cared for and Flying Scotsman extends the lull, with its Bonnie Scotland refrain. Again The Sisters backing vocals are absent and slews the dynamic slightly, but hey who’s arguing after 40 years, it still sounds great? The spaghetti western fretwork heralds the arrival of The Hop, after the departure of the Flying Scotsman, another TOH cover version. These songs all sound amazing to my ageing ears and the majority of the crowd are word perfect in their mouthing of the lyrics. I make a mental note to dig out my old SOD albums when I get home and give them a good airing. The main set comes to an end with Soldier Soldier, which seems to jump start the room and things get a little sweaty, before Kirk announces that they would dispense with the charade of heading off stage only to come back a few minutes later, as actually there wasn’t anywhere to go without walking back through the crowd. Kirk solicits requests for the encore but I miss the first of the three due a nature call, but return in time for Rainmaker and the crowning glory Liberator, which has the whole room shaking and singling along. A genuine look of appreciation spreads across Brandon’s face as the obvious love in the room for the band stares back at him. There’s a decent queue at the Merch stall as I leave and head off into the rainy Manchester night, still humming the final tune. It will be several hours before it dissipates enough to enable me to sleep. With The Cult recently playing a handful of sold out shows and Spear sounding as good as ever, I’m hopeful for many more trips down 80s memory lane.

If this has whetted your appetite, there are still some dates left in the tour, but you’ll need to be quick.

10th Dec – Newcastle The Cluny

13th Dec – London 229 Club

14th Dec – Birmingham The Castle & Falcon

15th Dec – Bedford Esquires

Set List:

  • The Wheel
  • Embassy Song
  • Grapes Of Wrath
  • Roof Of The World
  • The Price
  • Solution
  • Aria Of The Devil
  • Junk Man
  • The Melancholy Of Walter Sickert
  • Flying Scotsman
  • The Hop (Theatre of Hate cover)
  • Omen Of The Times
  • Never Take Me Alive
  • Land Of Shame
  • Soldier Soldier


  • TBC
  • Rainmaker
  • Liberator
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