Cancer Bats forming a Black Sabbath tribute band? Brian Sayle catches a curious, but arresting set.
Friday night for a sold out gig in the Arts Club loft – a curious affair. Canadian metal band Cancer Bats paying tribute to Black Sabbath.
Last time Cancer Bats played Liverpool was a sold out show at the Shipping Forecast, so it was no surprise that tonight is a much larger venue.
The backdrop was adorned with two crossed Bat Sabbath logos. The band took to the stage, with frontman Liam Cormier the last to appear, out of the darkness in a Rick Wakeman-esque cape, launching straight into Children of the Grave from 1971’s Master of Reality. I’ve never quite been sold on the concept of the tribute act – but this felt different.
From Children of the Grave it was onto Supernaut from Vol 4 and Liam was himself drumming on a floor tom at the front of the stage. Not only was that perfect for this track, but Liam was doing his own thing. Did Ozzy ever do that? I’m not sure.
Liam has his own stage presence. At no point did he try to sound be Ozzy Osbourne. It was working. It didn’t feel like they were aping Black Sabbath. Liam spoke like Liam in a unique vocal style and later in the set had a bit of fun pointing out Liverpool didn’t have a music history as rich as Birmingham’s, the birthplace of plenty of heavy metal bands (including, of course, Black Sabbath themselves).
Black Sabbath was followed by Iron Man, perfect for a sing along from the crowd, whose age ranged from young to old and maybe one or two standing at the back who might have even remembered when Black Sabbath were playing venues this size.
It struck me that the last time I saw Black Sabbath myself was back in 1989 on the Headless Cross tour in a half empty Royal Court. It became increasingly apparent as Bat Sabbath played how much the immense popularity and influence of the band has become the stuff of legend. The capacity crowd knew every song; Into the Void, Fairies Wear Boots, N.I.B., and set closer War Pigs.
With so many classics to choose from filling a hour long set was easy but for an encore, even though they never actually left the stage. Bat Sabbath returned as the Cancer Bats and ran through a few of their own tracks, starting with Hail Destroyer.
Black Sabbath didn’t gain any new fans tonight, but Bat Sabbath/Cancer Bats certainly did.
As did openers God Damn, a Wolverhampton duo made up of vocalist Thom Edwards and drummer Ash Weaver from Wolverhampton, but tonight featuring a third member on synthesiser and guitars.
Playing in front of a back drop stacked of their own Orange amps and Edwards’ enormous pedalboard, with which I’m sure John Frusciante would be impressed, the sound was thunderous at times, very powerful and with plenty of creativity. There were obvious influences; Melvins, Pixies, and – dare I say it – Black Sabbath themselves.
Their energy was palpable. Thom and third member James Brown swapped instruments throughout their set, and Thom is more than happy to dispense of his guitar, take to the mic and climb over the barrier into the crowd.
I imagine they sold a few CD’s at the merch stand.
Pictures by Brian Sayle