The revival of more classic rock tones within our scene in recent years has yielded a great number of interesting and successful acts. Aussie rockers Airbourne have brought a fresh twist to the kinds of riffing AC/DC made their name in, whilst acts like Rival Sons resurrect some of the more Led Zeppelin-esque bluesy stylings that’ve seen them share stages with the likes of Black Sabbath in recent years. On the British front, and in a similar vein, former professional motorbike racer James Toseland and his eponymous band Toseland have taken a more scattered approach, with audible similarities ranging from Guns N’ Roses, to Queen, to more contemporary acts like Alter Bridge. Still touring in support of last year’s sophomore release Cradle The Rage, we caught the band on their tour stop at Manchester’s Club Academy to see if they’re still going strong.
Unfortunately, issues with the venue’s box office mean we don’t actually reach the room Toseland are playing in until just before openers Black Rose Cadillac leave the stage. It’s a real shame, because judging by the crowd reaction to their final moments, the Midlands five-piece seem to have kicked the night off with a pretty well received set.
Toseland (9) have always been a pretty formidable live band, and tonight really is no exception. Emerging to a packed out Club Academy, the band kick straight into a raucous Hearts and Bones and everything goes seven shades of wild. By now, James Toseland and his band have more than settled into their live sound, and the resulting meld of classic rock tones with more modern songwriting sensibilities is rarely anything short of an utter joy to behold.
Everything from the riff-heavy stomp of talent-show takedown Puppet On A Chain to the swaggering Nothin’ You Can Do About It sound fantastic through the intimate venue’s PA tonight, and every single note from guitarists Zurab Melua and Ed Bramford ring clear tonight – to the apparent joy of their excited crowd.
If everything up to now has been slightly familiar to these fans however, that all changes with the introduction of recently released new track Bullet – a lumbering giant of a track that includes one of the band’s most impactful rhythm tracks to date, and a passionate vocal to match. That all leads into the bluesy AC/DC-on-speed licks of Burning The System and the relentless pace of Stranger Things.
By the time the band reach the mid-point in their set, cheers erupt once more as the obligatory keyboard is wheeled out and James kicks into the opening notes of heartfelt ballad Just No Way. It’s a refreshing change of pace after what’s been up to now a fairly full-on rock set, and the juxtaposition works amazingly, as lighters and phone cameras all rise in unison. Fan-favourite Renegade soon follows and the pace quickens up once more, as Toseland himself appears to relish in the rows of people singing his lyrics back at him.
Later, the band reach what’s probably their best point in the evening, with a rendition of Singer In A Band so potent it ranks among their very best live performances of the track. The fact they can then follow up such a statement with an equally fantastic run-through of Livin A Lie (complete with some truly brilliant soloing from Melua) really does hammer home just how strong a prospect Toseland are within the current rock landscape.
After the briefest of pauses, during which the whole room begins chanting for the band, the five members of Toseland all return to the stage and the keyboard is once more brought out for the band’s leader. We’ll Stop At Nothing is not only a fantastically inspiring track in terms of lyricism, it also might as well serve as the band’s mantra by now – such is their dedication and seeming continued improvement on a constant basis. Toseland’s vocals here are spectacular from a technical standpoint and affecting on an emotional level as the frontman leads the assembled audience through a lengthy chant that gradually devolves into a hilarious battle of who in the room can sing loudest. Eventually this is followed by the band’s other signature ballad, and recent single, Fingers Burned – a song that once again sees cameras and lighters raised for what feels like the hundredth time in the last hour, although the effect never feels diminished.
The grand finale for all of this, as it turns out, is one final absolute rager of a track. Crash Landing was one of the band’s earliest big hits from their eponymous debut back in 2014, and the three years between then and tonight’s show only serve to highlight this even more. Packing maybe one of the most infectious choruses the band have ever committed to record, it’s a spellbinding way to cap off what’s been a genuine joy of a set to behold. If there’s any justice left in the world of rock music, then Toseland are surely a band set to become absolutely massive.