Alkanes, with support from Daniel Gunn, Fight the Raptor and Pure Grief, at Tooth & Claw, Inverness.

A lot can happen in two years – but one thing that didn’t happen in the past two years was a headline show for ALKANES in their hometown (and our fair city), Inverness.  The last one also featured Inverness’s FIGHT THE RAPTOR in what was their first gig, and local eclectic funk rockers THE HUNT. Tonight however with a slightly different line-up across the board, was to be something of a rebirth for one of the most enduring bands in the North. 

First up to bat was local singer/songwriter DANIEL GUNN, who held the audience well with nothing other than his acoustic guitar and voice.  A well-paced set with a lot of good tunes, topped off with a cover of “Shake it Off” by big ol’ Tay Tay.  Not normally my thing, but this was great and the crowd certainly enjoyed the opener for the evening with a loud reception.

After a short interlude to rehydrate, FIGHT THE RAPTOR took to the stage.  Two years on from their debut, the band look very different now with Aaron Goodall (Bass) and Graham MacDonald (Guitar) joining Mickey Scott (Guitar & Vocals) and Darren Campbell (Drums) after the departure of their long-time collaborator Sean Toye.  They’ve now got a couple of shows under the belt and the band are truly finding a rhythm and have gelled very well – this being by far their tightest show I’ve seen.  Playing an old favourite like “Hipster Jesus” alongside “Life of The Party” and new more aggressive sounding tracks made the set slip past very quickly.  With more of a slant towards early 2000’s metalcore and aggressive hardcore tendencies, the band are evolving and going from strength to strength.

With the venue already at capacity after two bands, this was shaping up to be a night to remember. PURE GRIEF then blasted through a set filled with hooks and some sublime choruses, staples of their music throughout the past four years for Thurso trio.   It’s been some time since I’ve seen them live, and by no means were they bad when I saw them previously, but their confidence on stage and the quality of the song-writing really shone through throughout their half-hour or so on stage. 

Tracks like “Hearse Me” and “Gossamer” really have an anthemic feel to them are awesome live songs.  Thoroughly enjoyable set from a band that always impress, hopefully we can see more of them in the coming year after the recent release of “As Above, So Below” which is a cracking song with one of the best riffs I’ve heard so far this year.

After a short breather for people to get some fresh air and top up their drinks, it was time for ALKANES to take to the stage, the reason all of us were here.  Now a duo following the departure of previous bassist Rory, Dale and Connor took to the stage amongst a very excited crowd – and a legitimate sell-out at that, with people being turned away at the door. Immediately it was obvious that these boys were absolutely going to crush it this evening, with opener “Sixes & Sevens” making a loud and proud statement that ALKANES were going nowhere. 

Despite the loss of their bassist, there was little to no real loss on the low end, thanks assumedly to some technical wizardry with guitarist and frontman Dale’s setup. After the first track was over, the crowd erupted, which wasn’t going to let up for the whole evening.

Some tracks have been slightly reworked, bringing some of the strengths of Connor Meeks’ drumming ability (who in my opinion is one of the best drummers in the north) providing a far more percussive feel to some of the songs, especially coupled with the stabbing guitar playing of Dale really makes for a great sound.

ALKANES blazed through some more tracks which served to cement in my mind that ALKANES are at their best when bringing their Reuban-esque sound to the front of their songs. Joining Dale and Connor on stage, was earlier opener Daniel Gunn – there is history here between the three as they were a band called PURPLE DIVIDE who unfortunately went on hiatus in 2013. (if you are feeling like a trip down memory lane read our 2013 interview with Connor)They got together and played a track from back in the day and the crowd lapped it up – could this be a sign of something to come?  This was a fun nod to the past for the band on a night where they firmly planted themselves as a band to be excited about in the future.

“Death or Glory” was another highlight of the set, which had a video (filmed in the very same room as we find ourselves in tonight) released at the tail end of last year – the video perfectly encapsulates the feel good nature of the song in my opinion and it’s really a joy to hear live.  Slightly changing gears, the band finished their night on a poignant note, closing with their latest “Make it Right”, the artwork for which is a picture of young Dale and his late father, Blair – as the artwork. 

Those of us who’ve lost someone so close to us can understand the heft of this track and how things can hang heavy in our hearts after the fact, this is a cathartic and massive end to a truly emotional evening.  There were tears in the eyes as the cheering continued long after the lads were done – and considering the support Dale gives to the local music scene, it was great to see him on the other end and getting the reaction he and Alkanes so rightly deserve.

Photos of the evening can be seen here.