Veteran UK rockers Vardis were always best consumed in a sweaty, beer-soaked hole in the wall, so it’s fitting that they chose the greatest sweaty, beer-soaked hole in the wall of them all, Oxford Street’s 100 Club, in which to record this rather endearing live document.
The band always occupied the boogie end of the NWoBHM, somewhere between classic Status Quo and early Saxon, and they were a byword for storming live performance in their pomp. Those days are long gone, of course, but the band still gets the scent in it’s nostrils on occasion here, meaning that old fans are going to love every moment of this. Vardis newbies, if such a class of citizen exists, might need a little more persuasion.
The trio – stalwart Vardis mainman Steve Zodiac was augmented here by bassist Roly Bailey and drummer Joe Clancey – are, of course, tight as the proverbial Duck’s rear end; Bailey and Clancey regularly lock into a hypnotic rhythm and blues groove whilst Zodiac launches a variety of six string fantasias, and whilst this sort of improv can be a highlight of a live show, it often lets down live albums. You simply have to be there, avoiding the sweat and dandruff of the oaf in front of you who’s having rather too much of a good time, but it’s pleasing to report that here these extended versions augment the originals rather than detract from them.
Curiously, newer number Head of the Nail is probably the highlight, although a pounding Learn How To Shoot Straight (which strangely interpolates some riffs from Blackfoot Sue‘s Standing In The Road) comes close, whilst a Hendrix and Pistols-quoting 100mph (I Won’t Go To Hell) will bring a smile to the dial wherever it gets airtime.
Old chestnut If I Were King gets a rousing night out on the tiles, natch, closing the set in style, and I have to say that as a fringe Vardisian through the years, this live run through is far more enjoyable than I’d expected it to be. If you ever had a Vardis patch on that old denim cutoff, this’ll bring a lot of cIder-drenched memories flooding back. Give it a spin and reel back the years – you’ll love it.
100 M.P.H. @ 100 Club is out now.