Trucker Diablo supported by Nasa Assassin
The Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill, on Saturday, 8th February, 2014
From the outside looking in, being in a band looks like a blast. And, it is true, it can be. From that first practice, first gig, first original song right through to bigger gigs, hearing your name on the radio, having a piece of plastic with your name on it – it’s all a tremendous rush. I’ve been there, done that and would do it all again in a heartbeat if I had my time over again. But, once being in a band becomes more than just a lark with yer mates, then all-of-a-sudden each moment of wonder involves hours of hard work, dedication and no little sacrifice to achieve. To get a group of human beings to all agree on a common objective is difficult, but for them to be able to manage their lives to fit in with that common goal is even more difficult. The younger the band is, the easier it is. When you are young, you haven’t the ties that inevitably come with age. You also have the freedom of knowing you have time to change course should that need arise and your dream not work out. The older you get, the less time you feel you have to do that.
It’s no myth that being in a band helps you attract the opposite sex (even for bass-players). But once you have found that special someone and want to share a life with them, being in a band becomes much harder. You are not just sacrificing your time, but now he/she will say that time you are using for the band is ‘ours’. So when you use up holidays, days off etc to head off with the band in the back of a transit van and not on a plane to Majorca with her, then that sacrifice is that bit harder to make than when it was just you. Double it, treble it, quadruple it even when kids come along. Every trip away means leaving your kids. Every penny spent on your music is money not spent on them.
Why am I saying all this instead of doing a normal review of tonight’s gig? Tonight, one of the country’s best rock bands, Trucker Diablo, plays its penultimate gig with founding member, Simon Haddock, in its ranks. Simon announced last week that, regrettably he had to retire from the band for family reasons. In short, he could no longer commit to the sacrifices even being in a reasonably successful outfit like Trucker, involves. Again, I’ve been there. I’ve had those discussions (arguments) with loved ones. They are heartbreaking, no matter who comes out on top – band or family. Everyone ends up feeling they’ve lost somehow. Someone who is into music, doesn’t just turn that off like a tap and I am very mindful of all of this as I take my place at the Mecca of Rock that is the Diamond Rock Club tonight. None of the bands tonight have fresh-faced 18 year-olds in their ranks. There are ‘experience lines’ on faces, wedding rings on fingers and a few miles on the clock. In short, to get to this stage tonight, choices were made. Hard choices.
And how lucky we are that we have such committed and talented bands in our country! It’s incredible really. Nasa Assassin and Trucker Diablo are very different in vibe and sound – Nasa are a space-age Punk-Rap-Metal fusion while Trucker Diablo are a straight ahead Heavy Rock band – but what they have in common is their quality and credibility. At no time in either set do you get the feeling that either band are boys playing at being musicians. This isn’t blokes pumping out tired cover versions to wedding guests, oh no. Both Nasa in their way and Trucker in theirs, deliver their music with no compromise or apology, but with total belief in what they are doing. In short, they look like they belong on stage, full time.
This is my first time seeing Nasa Assassin, having always been a band I wanted to see, but somehow kept missing. I was not to be disappointed. From the first chords to the last, the 5 lads belt out their wacky/wonderful brand of metal fusion with energy and humour but also tremendous levels of musicianship and showmanship. Frontman ‘The Watcher’ is unlike any frontman I have ever known. Part geek, part goofball maybe, but full-on entertainer he definitely is. To see someone really put themselves ‘out there’ and lose themselves in the ‘character’ really takes some belief. But while The Watcher does his thing, the rest of the band are no less striking, but in a different way. Musically they are nothing short of phenomenal because, for every ‘Janet n John’ punk chord, comes a Sabbath doom groove, or tricky timing signature or change – all played with breathtaking aplomb and energy. It’s very hard to pick out a favourite song, but ‘One Man Crime Wave’ sounded exactly like the name-suggests, ‘Nasa City Rockers’ had everyone grooving and ‘Super-Collider’ finished the show on a high. I will definitely not be waiting so long to hear them again. Their new album ‘Area 69’ is a fabulous album, well worth £8 of anyone’s money.
And so to Trucker Diablo and Simon. How they replace Simon and will Trucker ever be the same, are not questions to be asked or answered tonight. Tonight we are here to celebrate, because boys like these don’t do tearful goodbyes, they just do Rock n Roll celebration. Trucker Diablo always hit the stage pumping from the off, but it seems to me, there is an extra intensity, an extra edge as ‘Freewheelin’, ‘Red Light On’ and ‘Year of the Truck’ come and go in, what seems like, the blink of an eye. Tom (Harte’s) vocals are strident and visceral and the tempo of each tune just that little bit quicker than the studio versions. The opening guitar lick to ‘Drive’ illicits a huge cheer from the crowd and again is played at breakneck speed. There is no let up as ‘Voodoo’, ‘Not So Superstar’, ‘Black & Blue’ and the immense ‘When’s It Gonna Rain’ come bursting forth from the D.R.C. speakers, straining them to breaking point.
Trucker Diablo don’t really do ballads as a rule, but when they do, they do it with style. ‘Maybe You’re the One’ sent a tingle down my spine and seemed to have an added poignancy. It may be about a man & a woman, but you could equally view it as being about anyone you are close to and feel a special bond with – like a bandmate for instance. But enough of that luvvy duvvy stuff! The tears in the corners of eyes are blown away by Trucker’s ultimate party song, ‘Drink Beer Destroy’, played at its most destructive best followed by the deep resonant riffing of the magnificent ‘The Rebel’, the unrelenting ‘Shame on You’ and well, ‘Juggernaut’ needs no explanation.
The band make to leave, but we all know there is more to come. It really is party time, what with Simon making his Diamond farewell and Diamond hostess, Fiona, reaching the milestone of 21 (ahem). So Trucker rework their Christmas anthem, ‘We’re Gonna Rock’ into a birthday song. ‘I Want To Party With You’ maintains the party atmosphere until, all too soon, we are at the climax of the evening. In introducing the final track, ‘Evil Marie’, Trucker Tom explains that it was the first song he and Simon wrote together for the band – the song that signposted the musical direction of the band from that point onwards. Simon swops his regular spot on Tom’s right hand for centre-stage as he assume singing duties. What a fitting end to a fantastic night, with the Lizzy-inspired twin guitar assault closing the show. The man of the moment steps offstage briefly to hug some long-term supporters, only to be picked up and crowd-surfed back to the stage (just about safely). He hugs his brothers in Rock one more time and that’s that.
What an emotional and enjoyable night the Diamond Rock Club faithful have been treated to, for the unbelievably low price of £6!! Cheap at twice the price!!
Trucker Diablo’s final gig with Simon in their ranks is at the Inler Blues Club in Comber on March 1st. Don’t miss it if you get the chance to go. Next up at the Diamond Rock Club is an acoustic performance from 80’s Rock legends, The Quireboys (with local stars Ajenda supporting). Unsurprisingly, this is a sold out show once more. Remember I said you better check the Diamond out soon while there is still room?
PHOTOGRAPHS ⁞ Colin Price ▶