Innisfree Sports & Social Club, Newcastle
Tuesday, 21st November 2023
A Tuesday night in North Tyneside, why not go and see some live music? So off to the Innisfree, a working men’s club located right next to Longbenton Metro station, and appearing on this late November evening were Tanith, all the way from Brooklyn, New York. You’d likely think this to be an unusual place in which to hold such an event, but as their guitarist/lead vocalist is from this part of the region, this gig held a lot of local interest.
The core of Tanith is bassist and lead vocalist Cindy Maynard, fellow New Yorker Keith Robinson on drums, along with UK guitarist and lead vocalist Russ Tippins. Russ spends his time between both countries, but has managed to make it work so that this outfit have made a couple of albums since their formation in 2017. Their first album, In Another Time, was released in 2019, and it was very well received with some excellent high-praising reviews. A four-piece outfit back then, their second guitarist decided to leave the band on the eve of recording the follow-up album. Despite being recorded as a trio, the songs for Voyage, the finished result released in the spring of this year, are still twin-guitar based, with Russ playing both parts in the studio. Tanith have just played a series of European dates in support of the album.
This evening was the final show of the European leg of the tour, and in front of a home audience for Russ too. The present touring band has the addition of Dino Destroyer (Daniel Freienmuth) on second guitar, sharing the lead duties in this twin guitar band. It was good to catch up with Russ as I’ve known him for many years, with him playing on the local scene back in the late ’90s with The RTB (Russ Tippins Band), and then in the late noughties onwards with The Russ Tippins Electric Band, who released a couple of blues-based albums. Yet to many outside of the North East, Russ is best known as being a guitarist in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Satan. Despite being inactive from the late ’80s, Satan saw a proper reformation in 2011, since when the band have completed many tours of Europe and both North and South America, releasing a further four albums.
It would be rude to call Tanith a side-project, as I know Russ is as fully committed to this as he is with Satan, yet this vehicle allows him to stretch his musical tastes to something less heavy and more melodic in structure, allowing him to share the lead vocals to make this a twin-vocal/twin-guitar band. Just as I’ve never been that familiar with the music of Satan (even though I once saw them play in their very early days, when I was in my teens), I was equally unfamiliar with the music of Tanith, so this evening was going to be my first ever experience, but I had no doubts as to the quality of the band, as Russ is a very fine guitarist and has always worked alongside top players. And of course I’d heard some people speaking very highly of this group, so I was curious to see what Russ has been up to in recent years.
The support for this evening came from Ma Kelly’s Boys, who are a Status Quo tribute band. When I use the word tribute, I don’t mean that they are a look-alike band with bad wigs and double-denim, where the image is just as important as the content. No, this lot are a lovely bunch of local lads, whose two remaining original members are really big fans of classic ’70s Status Quo, and as such are merely paying homage to the music, keeping the material to strictly no later than the Quo Live album from 1977. This was a ‘rock’ era Quo set, that went right back to songs like In My Chair through to Rain, and many other great tunes from the Frantic Four’s most beloved period.
It was lovely to catch-up with brothers/guitarists Mick and Chris Davison from the band, as well as newer members Adam Forster on drums and Duncan Emerson on bass. An unusual support act for an original band like Tanith, yet the ’70s vibe connecting both of them worked seamlessly, and as such Ma Kelly’s Boys went down a storm.
Tanith’s music is surprisingly refreshing and different to what I’d anticipated, being very strongly rooted in a classic British rock style of the ’70s, with the emphasis on them being ‘rock’ as opposed to heavy metal. You have influences going back to early Wishbone Ash, with the twin-guitar parts in particular having that style, that was later adopted by the likes of Thin Lizzy. Even with two guitars, neither of them was heavy with distortion, in the riffs or the lead breaks. They kept them nicely under control to allow space in the music for the joint lead vocals and bass to move around. Some of the compositions are quite melodic in nature, and songs like Flame really shone though with great hooks and catchy guitar lines, also including a tastefully thought-out guitar solo that wouldn’t be too far removed from something Bill Nelson produced back in his prime. Definitely one of the highlights in the set for me.
There were faster rockier tunes too, like Snow Tiger, which definitely has echoes of Di’Anno-era early Iron Maiden, with its galloping pace, busy bass work, and harmony guitar work. It also has a mid-section slower change of pace, which eventually goes full pelt again with trading guitar solos, and finally twinning up again for some more harmony sections. Olympus By Dawn is another great song that stood out for me in this set, another well-written tune with the most gorgeous mid-section and a fabulous structure, very mid-’70s in feel, to the point where you really think it could have been originally written back then. However it has its own originality and distinctive charm.
Falling Wizard is another fabulous song, yet another feel-good rock tune with strong catchy hooks and great melodies. With two albums to choose from, this was a very strong set, and well structured too so that you never feel that it got too samey in nature. All four musicians performed the material really well. Dino imposes a great image over on the left hand side of the stage, with his huge main of red hair. Cindy in the centre is small in stature but certainly owns that spot. And Russ over on the right, swapping lead vocal lines and accompanying harmonies, depending on what the song requires. The joint-vocal element is one of the band’s strong points. Each of them do a great job individually, but when they come together then that’s when they sound at their very best. Also, Russ has a superb upper register, and when he uses it, his voice really pushes through with laser precision.
Even though the music they play is totally original, and there aren’t that many newer bands playing in that kind of style these days, you can still hear those ’70s influences. Cindy’s bass playing undoubtedly has plenty of Steve Harris attributes. The breakdown mid-sections are often opportunities for her to fill out with some tasteful bass licks, very much in the style of early Iron Maiden. The guitar work has plenty of influences, as I know Russ has a vast variety of musical heroes, through Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and lots of other iconic British bands of that period. Even though Tanith’s music could never be instantly identified as sounding anything like Thin Lizzy, I still think that the Brian Robertson era of that band and the music they produced back then does echo in some of these compositions.
Tanith are proudly ‘retro’ in their outlook. Not just with their song stylings, but also with their entire approach to how they want their music to sound. Latest album Voyage was recorded in Brooklyn in a 24-track studio, straight onto analogue tape. All the sounds came from miked up drums and amplifiers, with no digital plug-in processers used at any stage during the recording or mixing. Also, the total running time is around 43 minutes, allowing the music to comfortably sit on two sides of vinyl and still sound great. They are defiantly old-school in their methodology, and aren’t about to change that stance.
Tanith played for around 75 minutes in total, promoting a lot of material from the latest album, yet still allowing for plenty of inclusions from the debut. I really enjoyed their performance. They are a band that totally know what path they want to go down, as even with a four year gap between albums, the material remains firmly in a similar vein. Lyrically, it’s very ‘hero-rock’ (is that even a term, or have I just made it up?). Themes focus on fantasy, imaginary kingdoms and bygone times. If they had sung about riding on the back of a tiger, past a rainbow, to go and see a wizard, then that wouldn’t have felt totally out of place, but as lyrics have never really held much importance to me and it’s always the music that I focus on, musically this was very tasteful and highly entertaining.
The band were flying back to New York the following day, while Russ remains in the UK until just after the new year. It must be tough to have a working relationship in a band with well over three-thousand miles and an ocean between them. At least modern technology and the Internet can keep them in contact and allow them to send musical ideas back and forth. I’m sure Russ won’t burst into flame for using modern tech, even if he definitely is a ’70s/’80s kind of guy. But in all seriousness, I am glad that they are making this work, because this is a band that is worthy of putting that amount of effort into. I hope that Tanith will be back in the UK performing at some point in the near future. Check out Tanith on Youtube, as there are various promo videos from their latest album, Voyage, plus various fan-shot live footage of this recent tour.
[Live Photos by Chris Simmons]
Mother of Exile
Olympus By Dawn
Architects of Time
Cassini’s Deadly Plunge
Wing of the Owl (Galantia Pt.3)
Seven Moons (Galantia Pt.2)
Never Look Back
Citadel (Galantia Pt.1)
Under the Stars
Cindy Maynard – Bass, Vocals
Russ Tippins – Guitar, Vocals
Daniel Freienmuth – Guitar
Keith Robinson – Drums