Wandering nonchalantly on stage and picking up his guitar with barely a glance towards the room - which, for the record, is disco-balled theatre that looks like it’s been dragged here from somewhere in the mid-70s - Kyle Seely kicks off Sheer Mag’s live return to London with an extended guitar solo that sounds disarmingly similar to the Hollyoaks theme tune. Of course he does. Leaving pockets of quiet for a hilariously bad call-and-response that the audience doesn’t ever quite cotton onto (in typical British fashion, most people yell variations of “oggy, oggy, oggy!”) it’s a beginning that sets the precedent for the rest of the show.
Chucking aside any sort of mindless stage chat, and eventually playing the most reluctant of one-song encores, rare pauses between songs are reserved strictly for passing around a quickly emptying bottle of Buckfast. Drummer Allen Chapman plays from the lofty reaches of a comically high drum riser, a sheet bearing the band’s shamelessly retro logo flapping behind him. That’s about the extent of tonight’s ‘production’ - instead, Sheer Mag cram everything they can into an all-too-brief and unrelenting 45 minutes, combining all the swagger of the Bee Gees with riffs ripped straight from the Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s all incredibly odd to witness, but it’s also refreshing.
The pivotal thing with Sheer Mag is that - for all their vintage-minded touchstones - their eyes are firmly facing forward. While ‘Suffer Me’ unquestionably thumps along in a twanging burst of Southern rock, Thin Lizzy twin-guitarmonies leading the march, it remains an anthem for the outsiders assembled today, placing 1969’s Stonewall riots alongside a continuing need for revolution. ‘Need To Feel Your Love’ shimmies glammily, and ‘Meet Me In The Street,’ rallies the troops, Tina Halladay roaring her way through a belter than champions the importance of compassion and kindness in a world that often seems all too bleak.
These days 70s proto-metal might get a bit of a cheesy rep, more readily associated with yer Da’s cassette collection than one of the leading DIY punk outfits of this year. Yet, oddly, that’s what Sheer Mag are. Cast off the historic associations, the casual sexism of 70s rock the first time around, and forget about those greying rockers playing endless stadium shows while you’re at it. This band transport you back to what it always was in the first place; a ridiculous, riffy escape for the misfits.
Photos: Robin Pope