All photos by IAN JENKINSON
Saying the word “debut” in the same sentence as “Phil Campbell” still sounds strange. After all, the man has been in the business for more than four decades and spent 31 of those in Britain’s finest rock ‘n’ roll band Motörhead which broke up following the sad death of founder/frontman/icon Lemmy in 2015. While former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee filled the drum stool position for Scorpions, Phil Campbell was always going to strike out on his own and formed a band with his three sons, Tyla, Dale and Todd, along with former Attack! Attack! vocalist Neil Starr to create Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons. The band released an EP in 2016 before their still-on-the-turntable full length The Age Of Absurdity arrived January 2018 and prior to the album’s release landed support slots with Guns ‘n Roses, Saxon, Hawkwind and Airbourne.
Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms is rammed and everywhere the eyes fall there is a Motörhead shirt. Even Motörhead’s Snaggletooth mascot itself is high on the stage backdrop, casting an eye over proceedings and there is that weird feeling that Lemmy could be in the room.
During the closing strains of Deep Purple’s Highway Star, the band walk on the stage to a roar of approval and it is smiles all around as they blast into The Age Of Absurdity track Step Into The Fire. From the off it is impossible to miss the enthusiasm of vocalist Neil Starr who not only has a superb voice but is a born frontman, if he is not headbanging, he is playing tug o’ war with the mic stand. On a storming Freak Show, the stand goes over and the mic hits the stage, fearing a bollocking, a quick glance at ‘the boss’ just reveals a smile rather than a grimace and Starr gets back on track rocking out like nothing happened. The whole band are on point though, bassist Tyla is rooted to the spot but those bass lines are prominent, solid and rattle the rib cage while guitarist Todd has a confident and showy style, holding his instrument aloft, foot on the monitor, ear to ear grin on his face. It is revealed half way through the gig that drummer Dane had twisted his ankle and the band had spent some time in A&E but there was no way of knowing because the drum work was absolutely spot on. Any attendees needing their Motörhead fix were not left disappointed with six covers, the first of which being Rock Out. Campbell released a solo album Old Lions Still Roar in 2019 and Nottingham was treated to two songs the anthemic These Old Boots and Straight Up.
The whole set was so well balanced with The Age Of Absurdity material being so finely tuned and feeling like old mates and following the bluesy swagger of Dark Days, it is a bit of a cliché, the left side versus the right side during the singalong for On Your Knees which was great fun with the crowd practically blowing the roof off with the response leading Starr to comment that “it didn’t feel like a Monday” night – the band seemed genuinely taken aback at the reaction and the songs being sung back to them. With a of Ramones cover in Rockway Beach and Motörhead’s R.A.M.O.N.E.S. to punk it up, there was another singalong in the perennial cover of Hawkwind’s Silver Machine – a bonus track on the album that Dave Brock contributed guitar to on The Age Of Absurdity album. Then there was THAT bass line which kicked in Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades and did the Rescue Rooms lose its collective shit? A fantastic Ringleader from the album closed the main set with the encore taking in Big Mouth from The Bastard Sons’ EP and then ending the whole night with two more Motörhead covers in Lost Woman Blues and an outstanding and strangely emotive Killed By Death.
Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons has to be one of THE gigs of 2019, they have come on leaps and bounds since yours truly saw them supporting Airbourne in 2017 and prior to the release of The Age Of Absurdity where the reliance was on covers and not playing songs that no-one actually knew. You would not expect someone of Phil Campbell’s stature not to have confidence in the new songs but with them not even being known that lack of familiarity can be a downer. Not tonight. The whole set was familiar, even Campbell’s solo songs went down a storm. The band is absolutely solid, it sounded amazing and each member is neither overshadowing Phil nor is Phil being overshadowed. Of course, it is cool to see Phil, his licks and mannerisms are just so laid back but with a lot of good humour – Campbell asked “for no spoilers as to what happened in Eastenders” and when introducing the band inclusive of surnames introduced himself as “Mr Campbell” – and clearly having a good time, there is a realisation that these sorts of gigs are not that common, the complete package and as an audience member being left wanting more and the sore neck in the morning.
The Age Of Absurdity is less than two years old but the songs are now part of the fabric and with Phil Campbell’s solo material sounding so good in the set as well, the future is looking bright for the Campbell family and it will be interesting to see what comes next for The Bastard Sons. For now, an incredible gig and with plenty of new material bearing Phil Campbell’s name, plenty to dive into. So…what are you waiting for?