Red Dragon Cartel - LIVE: Islington Academy, London 2014

World Tour
June 6 (20:50 - 22:00)
Capacity 800
Full tour

Starting off the first date of a UK tour via Islington Academy, Red Dragon Cartel were joined by Jupiter Falls and rejuvenated Swedes Syron Vanes for what should be an energetic, steely evening of heavy rock.

Jupiter Falls started the proceedings, and although they opened to a crowd that was relatively small in size, they were still welcomed with applause. Things kicked off with Awake before shifting into Bitter and Where Are You Now? Given that those first three tracks were generally in the vain of a modern metal band, it was understandable that crowd reaction is lacking somewhat, given the likely tastes of those attending. However, things are shaken up a fair bit with hard rock stompers To The Point and Chasing The Dragon, which prove to be much more popular with the crowd. Jupiter Falls hardly put on a poor performance, and do show some good potential, however their set arguably lacks some balance, as it almost feels like a struggle between two different genres in the mixture of modern metal and hard rock numbers.

The venue began to fill out a touch more when Syron Vanes took to the stage. Their set opened with Hellion Child before launching into King of It All after pausing for applause. Front-man Rimbert Vahlstroem and co. showed their years of experience with relaxed looks and casual smiles to each other and the audience throughout the set. They were also the heaviest band of the night with the pummelling riffs of Bringer of Evil or the chugging chorus of the closing End of The World. Unfortunately, the quality of the sound was lacking at times, resulting in riffs and vocals losing definition and articulation, as well as guitars sounding a touch too shrill. Yet regardless of this, the band still performed tightly as unit and heated things up nicely for Red Dragon Cartel.

A suitably large audience had filled the room before the lights come down low and the malevolent, classic riff of Ultimate Sin blasted from the stage. The opener was tight and fluid while the quality of the sound seemed to have improved drastically from Syron Vanes. From there, Red Dragon Cartel fired on all cylinders and flew like a wrecking ball into Deceived, War Machine and High Wire. A good mix of material had the crowd singing along to every hook and chorus, while front man D.J. Smith moved across the stage with vigour and authority. The rolling grooves of Badlands' Shine On sounded perfectly rehearsed while Shout It Out was met with fist-pumping and fan voices during the chorus. It has to be said that Jake E Lee was certainly on fire, moving across the stage like a man possessed, every riff and solo was note perfect, while his sound sat perfectly with the rest of the band.

'Those Badlands songs man' mused D.J Smith, and he's wasn't wrong, although the majority of the setlist comprised of them, there were no complaints from the audience. In A Dream is performed beautifully, before the metronomic blues charged Rumblin' Train arrived. The track was performed excellently and kept to some of the nuances of the original piece. Mr. Lee also took his lengthy solo here, but it was a welcome piece of playing that demonstrated both musicality and technical ability. It was an enticing affair, which was just long enough to be accessible for those not too interested in guitar playing, but still offered enough for it to be appreciated. Sun Red Sun went down rather well, and was followed by the closing track Feeder. At first glance it was almost a little surprising how well every Red Dragon Cartel number was known by the audience, but when reviewing the way in which they were delivered by the band, as well as blended with a healthy mix of Badlands numbers, it didn't seem so surprising after all.

A single encore of the ever classic Bark At The Moon finished the night, which was delivered with stinging energy and provoked the kind of response expected. Overall Red Dragon Cartel's performance was a rather good one as they tore through a number of popular hits and fist-pumpers. The rhythm section of the band is solid, the vocals are versatile enough to cover the wide range of material, and Jake E Lee really was on point. All night he tirelessly glides and shuffles his way across the stage, presenting his signature style of playing. Unfortunately, the setlist is only just over an hour's worth of material, while Rock N Roll Rebel was also dropped from the list that made the band's other European dates. Perhaps the reasoning behind this may be the venue's 10 o'clock curfew, though that's hardly an excuse given the amount of time designated to instrumental sections. Still, minor complaints and nit picking about song selection does not detract from the charismatic charm of D.J Smith's ability as a frontman, nor the way in which Lee and co. perform with drive and flair.

Finally, it's nice to see Jake E Lee back doing what he loves, and doing it so well. He genuinely seems like a good guy, posing for pictures with fans before the show while his manager literally had to prise him away, or pointing to and thanking every single fan at the barrier for their support, and so it's certainly a positive that he and the band in general are both performing and being received so well. Regardless of the complaints about the support or the set, Red Dragon Cartel put on what can only be described as a great rock 'n' roll show.

Jupiter Falls setlist: Awake / Bitter / Where Are You Now? / To The Point / Someday / Chasing The Dragon

Syron Vanes setlist: Hellion Child / King Of It All / Only Hell Remains / Bringer Of Evil / God's Gift / End Of The World

Red Dragon Cartel setlist: Ultimate Sin / Deceived / War Machine / High Wire / Shine On / Shout It Out / In A Dream / Rumblin' Train / Sun Red Sun / Feeder // Bark At The Moon

Written by James Abel
More: 2014, Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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