The Union with support from Ajenda
Friday 15th February 2013 – Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill
The first star of this show is the venue itself. For those not in the know, the DRC is a gem of a place. It is the labour of love of Derwin McFarland as he somehow manages to attract some ‘names’ from the annals of rock history interspersed with some of the brightest and best local acts. It is a purpose built club; only open for business when Derwin gets the acts he wants. It is a long rectangular room with a few booths up each side, a bar at one end and stage at the other. Nothing else is required; we are here to rock after all.
Warming up the crowd for the main act is local band Ajenda. They play an infectious brand of modern rock that is neither too heavy nor too lightweight and in Jenny Walker (the ‘jen’ in Ajenda) have an absolutely top class singer and focal point for the band. She is a superstar; the world just doesn’t know her yet. The biggest tribute I can pay the band is that they dragged the crowd away from the bar to see them. Catch them as soon as you can.
The Union is former Thunder guitarist, Luke Morley and Peter Shoulder (vocals & rhythm guitar) assisted by a solid rhythm section. They have just released their third album ‘The World Is Yours’ and this is their third date of a UK Tour. They are already a slick, tight unit and their set list is dynamic and quite varied while still within the blues/hard rock style. They kick off with the rabble-rousing ‘Step Up To The Plate’. A perfect show-opener it is followed by the equally unstoppable ‘You’re My Jesus’ and the crowd, who needed little persuasion, have already got their hands in the air. ‘Tangled In You’ takes the pace down a notch. A mid-paced blues tune reminiscent of The Black Crowes. ‘Cut The Line’ is a genuine slow ballad. If we weren’t already aware of how good a singer Shoulder is, his dynamic vocal on this tune leaves no one in any doubt, as he goes from soft & sweet to powerful blues rasp and back again effortlessly. His voice reminds me of the late Ray Gillen (Badlands).
‘Perfect Crime’ romps in with its choppy riff and dual vocal and the crowd are rocking again and then the band turns it up a notch with the title track from the new album. ‘The Word Is Yours’ is an absolute monster of a song. The riff is enormous, and while it’d be easy to throw a name like ‘Kashmir’ out there, it actually reminds me more of Soundgarden. The band already knows the song is epic and they play about with the riff, extending it beyond the studio version and the crowd lap up every beat. It absolutely blew me away. ‘Obsession’ completes the trio of rock-out tunes with its sing-along chorus before we once again get a breather with the acoustic ballad ‘Saviour’. The new single ‘Tonight I’m Alive’ is a slight departure from what has gone before, with a feel that is somewhere between Tom Petty’s ‘Learning to Fly’ and the Foo Fighters’ ‘Wheels’. It deserves to be a hit, though knowing our charts it probably won’t, but it is definitely a hit with the DRC faithful. The crowd are on a high and ‘Black Monday’ keeps them there for another 4 minutes before once again the band slows things down with ‘Fading Out of Love’. This is the song Bon Jovi wish he’d written instead of the wretched ‘Always’. It’s a wonderful tune, you can tell that even from this first listen and once again, Shoulder’s voice soars.
We are nearing the end now. The crowd know it and they raise their game to match the band as ‘Black Gold’ and then the searing ‘Siren’s Song’ end the main show. Shoulder once again has the crowd in awe with his vocal gymnastics as the song reaches its climax. The crowd chant all the way through and those chants do not end when the band finally leave the stage. We all know they’ll be back and the return moments later to blast out ‘Watch the River Flow’. The only disappointment is that it’s the only encore.
“You guys we’re amazing, we’ll be back again soon,” say Shoulder with a broad grin and Geordie accent. I very much hope they will but, judging by this performance and the quality of their new album (which I immediately bought and haven’t stopped listening to since), when The Union returns to these shores, they may need a bigger venue than the DRC. But for now I feel blessed to have seen this band at such close quarters. The DRC comes up trumps again!
By the way, the DRC normally run a bus (for only £10) from Katy’s Daly’s (and back) for each gig. So there’s no excuse for you city slickers not to get out to the DRC and check it out.