|Bad Touch: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
If The Quireboys are right and 'This is Rock & Roll', then sign me up, because I've just returned from the adventure of a lifetime, travelling around the UK on tour with Bad Touch as they supported The Quireboys and Bonafide.
Visiting 11 towns and cities over 14 days, it was a great opportunity to see the country, meet new people and spread the word about this great little rock band from Dereham, a feat I think we all achieved with huge success.
|Steve: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
The piercing lights shone down on them as Seeks started the spine-tingling stage intro on rhythm guitar, closely followed by George on drums as Stevie bellowed: 'Good evening Bristol, we are Bad Touch', there was no doubt that the party had started, and any signs of nerves quickly melted away.
'Waiting on the morning light' was the opening song of choice, a party track which showed off Bailey's effortless talent on the 5 string bass to perfection, he made it look so easy as he threw his head down and let his enviously long locks cover his face – he clearly loves his work.
On their first major UK tour, and their first long stint away from home, the youngsters (in comparison!) were cared for by both Bonafide and The Quireboys, and as the show rolled into Oxford, the boys were honoured to be invited back on stage after their own set by Bonafide to perform their set-closing anthem 'Fill your head with rock'.
|Bonafide: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
Their nightly 45 minute set left your ears ringing to an unmistakable sound of classic 80's rock with a tangible European twist. Tracks like 'No doubt about it', 'Hard living man' and 'Doing the pretty' allowed for plenty of audience participation, and the four-piece certainly stamped their authority on the tour, leaving fans shouting for more.
A day off followed the Oxford show, and so came a chance to reflect on the mania and spend time with the band, who were still taking it all in themselves. Over a very civilised dinner consisting of steak and red wine, the boys relaxed, chatted and joked around. The Playstation was brought out of hiding back at the Travelodge, much to Rob's delight who got his fix of Fifa 14, and the boys prepared themselves for a busy few days ahead.
The O2 Academy Birmingham was a two minute drive from the hotel, so we got there early and watched The Quireboys and Bonafide soundcheck, a pleasure in itself. Paul Guerin, The Quireboys guitarist ensured everything was perfect; 'check, 1, 2, yeah yeah' repeated indefinitely – it had to be just right. Bonafide's soundcheck was the polar opposite; march onto stage, grab your guitar, strum a chord, and a thumbs-up to the sound man, done!
Birmingham was the toughest crowd yet, a fairly good crowd gathered, but without the same enthusiasm and enjoyment as previous nights. Perhaps the Wednesday 'hump day' blues had something to do with it, but the lads still shifted plenty of merch and left a lasting impression with a good number of Bad Touch converts.
We were ready to hit the road again on Thursday morning, heading north through the Derbyshire countryside to Sheffield. The shiny new Travelodge was a welcome sight, as was the close proximity of the venue. There was a buzz about Sheffield, and as the O2 started to fill up and the now familiar sound of the Bad Touch intro filled the room, the crowds were lapping it all up. 'Too Late' adorned the setlist, another high-tempo, sing-along track which went down a treat.
|Spike: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
Promoting their latest album 'Beautiful Curse', The Quireboys have a loyal following, with some of their fans travelling around the country to more than one show. Having performed live for over 20 years, Spike and the rest of the band look completely at home on the stage. As a frontman, he's mesmerising, throwing his mic stand in the air as if it's made of plastic and dancing like there's no-one watching. His stage presence is truly infectious, as is his charming, northern humour and obvious appreciation of the fans' loyal support. Kicking off their headline set with 'Black Mariah', his husky voice envelopes the room and has the audience eating out the palm of his hand.
There was no time to rest, and following a quick toast after midnight for Seeks on his Birthday, we piled into our two vans and headed 250 miles north to Glasgow. We arrived having seen some beautiful scenery on the way, and had just enough time to freshen up and head down to the venue for soundcheck. Setting up the merch in what Steve aptly described as the 'dungeon', I prepared myself to miss most of the gig, but the bits I saw were brilliant. The Garage venue was absolutely heaving, even as Bad Touch kicked off proceedings. The lads had been told they could perform an additional song in their set, so were alternating between 'Water's Edge' and 'Lying and losing' – adding to the high-tempo and high-quality set perfectly.
The Quireboys had a blast in Glasgow, Spike affectionately told me 'We always get a great crowd here and we love playing here, they're always up for a party!'. It was like their second home. For us though, with a long drive the next day, there was no time for partying, just a quiet drink as a group before heading back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
|Bailey: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
Bonafide and The Quireboys clearly enjoyed the capacity crowd's enthusiasm, playing a blinder. The Quireboys performed tracks of their latest album, including a personal favourite '27 years' and the catchy title-track 'Beautiful Curse', a song Spike dedicated to guitarist Paul, who recently got married. Old tracks '7 o'clock' and 'Hey You' had the crowds singing along every single night, and this was no exception.
The Bad Touch family dispersed, all bar Nigel and Lynda, who took over driving duties from Band Manager Mark, taking a well-earned break for a couple of days as the rest of us headed through the dreary northern rain to Newcastle, much to Rob's delight.
|George: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
Quireboys' homecoming show.
As we walked into the O2 Academy Newcastle that afternoon, all five band members had to pick their jaws off the floor when they saw the sheer size of the stage. It was vast, and they were worried they'd look lost. They needn't have, they owned every inch of it, with Steve dancing his way through self-written track 'Good on me' – a favourite of the massive crowd and an inspired insertion to the setlist, with its funky rhythm and cheeky lyrics.
Despite being Spike's hometown, this was not a biased crowd, they were there to watch three great bands and listen to some good music, and the Bad Touch boys went down a storm, with massive cheers from the audience and great merch sales to boot. Clearly though, as The Quireboys took to the stage, the crowd went wild, and when he introduced 'I love this dirty town' about his beloved Newcastle, Spike's audience was hooked.
|The Quireboys: photo courtesy of Sally Newhouse|
A queue had formed. Granted, it was shorter than the line for 90's pop group Blue's concert next door, but plenty of rock fans poured in early to check them out. One lady had been at the Oxford gig and was so impressed with their set, she had to come back. Rob particularly seemed to enjoy the Manchester show, playing a blinder on lead guitar and his enthusiasm shone through on stage.
|Bad Touch live at Bristol O2 Academy|
Bonafide delighted the masses too with their no-nonsense hard rock set, and by the time both bands adorned the stage for 'Fill your head with rock' the room was at capacity. The Quireboys performed a great 90 minute set for their DVD and Spike played the leading role to absolute perfection.
Staying in Surrey that evening meant a lovely drive through the centre of London at night, and a chance to take in the historic sights, including Trafalgar Square, the Mall and Harrods, along with an informative running commentary from George. Another modern Travelodge in Camberley was a welcome destination for a rest, before setting off for the south coast in the morning.
|Bad Touch live at Princess Pavillion Falmouth|
When we eventually arrived, we were all glad to check in and get to bed and prepare (mainly emotionally) for the next day – the last day of the tour and (for us at least) the end of the break of a lifetime. The drive to Falmouth was breathtaking at times, with stunning scenery and gorgeous weather. And when we arrived, the place itself didn't disappoint.
We couldn't have asked for a better venue, or town in which to finish the tour. A walk around the Princess Pavillion gardens, and a great photo opportunity on the hill overlooking the sea made for an inspiring setting, and the gig was no less amazing. The Bad Touch boys completed their set for the final time with the only song they could ever have chosen to say their goodbye, the brilliantly written epic track 'Down' sounded out to a room full of impressed punters.
The boys were happiest when behind their instruments, and they became one, a tight unit of talented musicians able to bring such a great feeling into any venue with their high-tempo funky originals and infectious on-stage rapport, they truly made their mark across the UK.
The party wasn't over yet, as the boys were again invited on stage with Bonafide, and then by The Quireboys to perform their final song 'Sex Party', an absolute honour for Bad Touch, and a great way to finish the tour.
We said goodbye and made the mammoth journey home through the night, back to normality and routine, but I can honestly say that I loved every single second of the experience, and couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend it with.
Bonafide and The Quireboys have now headed off to complete the European part of their tour together, and I wish we could have gone along for the ride, but instead the boys are straight back on the gigging bandwagon with plenty of shows between now and Christmas, including a final showdown in the Marshall Competition for a chance to play Download in 2014; a year which promises to be a massive success for Bad Touch, and I can't wait for the exciting times ahead!