Vandenberg's MoonKings - LIVE: Islington Academy, London 2014

World Tour
April 24 (21:30 - 23:00)
Capacity 800

The new band formed by former Whitesnake guitarist Adrian Vandenberg after a long period out of the music business have kept their momentum appropriately paced between announcing their formation, releasing their album, and setting out for their first European shows, including two in the UK.

Excellent debut album MoonKings has already proven a big hit with the press, and the songs are destined to sit well alongside tracks from Vandenberg's past, but it seems booking the 800-capacity Islington Academy was a touch over-ambitious. After local openers Slam Cartel were done playing to a less-than-half empty room the crowd size didn't swell appreciably as the 21:30 start-time for the MoonKings approached, and they too ended up playing to a disappointingly sparse audience.

The fault however lies with rock fans, and not with the band, and that includes all the ones who attended the show not really knowing the new songs, hoping for a set of Whitesnake covers. The MoonKings albums provides the band with a very strong collection of original new songs to build a set around, and the route they chose to take with it was to not be obvious. So besides the obligatory Here I Go Again, they added covers of Free (Vandenberg's favourite band), Stevie Wonder, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, a song from Adrian's first band Vandenberg, and a song from Manic Eden, the short-lived project he played in during the early '90s.

On stage the fledgling band are lively, full of energy, and made it clear straight away with opener Line of Fire that they're fully able to reproduce their songs live. Vandenberg seems very conscious not to take the lime-light away from his young bandmates, and spends most of his time on his own side of the stage, allowing singer Jan Hoving to command centre stage.

With a 90-minute set to fill obviously playing almost everything from the debut album wouldn't be enough, and it was predictably the more familiar covers which woke up the otherwise placid audience who demonstrated that barely any of them had actually invested any time in the MoonKings album. This was again another failing of the fans rather than the band as apart from the excellent rendition of Superstition, the best songs of the night were their originals, particularly Line of Fire, and main set closing brace Leeches and Lust And Lies, all delivered with a vitality and energy befitting a band rightly excited by their own material.

If this crowd, in the city with arguably the highest population density and catchment area of the whole tour, is anything to go by, Vandenberg and his new band have an uphill struggle ahead of them. So far they seem to have only tapped into late-'80s Whitesnake fans hoping for a set of covers, which really isn't fair. They've done the hard part by making a relevant new album and proving they can perform it to a very high standard. What they need is for their prospective audience to broaden their minds a little.

“ lively, full of energy ”

Setlist: Line of Fire / Steal Away / Leave This Town / Feel It / Pushing Me / Breathing / Superstition / Good Thing / Close To You / Drum Solo / Judgement Day / Burning Heart / I Put A Spell On You / Leeches / Lust And Lies // Here I Go Again / Nothing Touches // All Right Now

Photo(s) by: Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2014, Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock, ,

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