Brian May & Kerry Ellis w/ Vintage Trouble at the Sage

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May 9, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe

If you’re looking for authentic, honest, down to Earth rock and roll on Brian May’s latest tour, you want to look for Vintage Trouble.

The L.A four-piece are joining May for their first full UK tour and from the look of things they’ve hit the ground running. They’ve exploding almost over night thanks to an explosive performance on Jools Holland a couple of weeks ago. What they gave then was a high tempo, jive-filled slab of motown meets rock and tonight they deliver the same but for a full forty minutes.

They ooze confidence as they backing back play while showing off some funky dance moves while playing songs such as Still And Always WIll, but frontman Ty Taylor is the star. Never standing still for a second, he has the kind of moves that you only see in old video of motown greats. His gospel routes shine through, with a huge voice and the charisma to match, the crowd take to him instantly and are clapping and woo-ing on demand.

Considering the size of the stage at the Sage and the fact the pace is all but sold out, Vintage Trouble give the feel of playing in some small basement club. They rarely stray from their square in the middle but not because they’re shy, but because they don’t need to, their presence fills the whole room and what really tops it off is they look like they’re having the time of their lives.

Brian May could learn a thing or two from Vintage Trouble about keeping it simple yet effective. The Anthems tour is promoting May’s latest venture with We Will Rock you singer Kerry Ellis, and what w’re given is a lesson in cheesy, theatrical and over the top musical rock.

Not to say Brian does anything wrong, far from it. He rocks the power chords as hard as he ever did and he still looks and acts pretty much the same, aside from a few grey hairs. But it’s everything that just pushes it from Queen-esque pomp over the edge to X-factor meets We Will Rock You. The backing singers, two keyboardists and the constant outfits changes just distract.

At the best moments it feels like a less authentic take on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (hopefully the trend of ageing rock stars making music with girls half their age won’t take off) but these moments are few and far between.  But Kerry Ellis isn’t a bad singer by any means. She’s got a big voice it’s clear she’s great in musicals, but she never quite does the Queen songs justice (very few can) and the rest of the songs can’t match the quality of May’s back catalogue.

The crowd lap it up, there’s We Will Rock You Flags and standing ovations at the slightest prompting with plenty of smiles around. It’s the kind of crowd that all watch Strictly Come Dancing and vote on Britain’s Got Talent and will no doubt all be watching Eurovision next and surprised when we lose.

If you like musicals and don’t mid your rock with lashings of pomp, Brian May has created the perfect night for you. If you like your rock simple and authentic, you’ll find Vintage Trouble drinking in your nearest seedy bar.

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