The week that London's Time Out magazine ran a feature on the émigré Scots in London found me, a Londoner, up in Glasgow reversing that population flow, albeit in a small and temporary way.

Contrary to the most paranoid fears of some of my acquaintances, I didn't get knifed. Nor did I get called Jimmy.

I did, however, get to see one hell of a fine rock'n'roll show, courtesy of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Without Alex) and their zealous fans.

The kids were a little wary at first, of course, this being the first time they'd seen the lads without Alex. (I didn't have that problem as I never saw them with Alex.)

But, by the time Zal Cleminson was Fortie-style crooning 'Big Boy' the crowd was convinced. By the encore, 'Delilah', they were messianic converts, taking over the majority of the singing chores and swaying like the football crowd a good section of them probably were earlier in the day.

For me, Zal was the revelation. From the Alex albums I expected a solid workman; from the group's solo album I expected an individual stylist. What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer power of his playing. Unrelenting slabs of chords and aggressive, edgy lead thrown out with seeming ease but obviously all under perfect control. All so finely honed that he seemed like a rock 'n' roll guitar robot, the brainchild of a crazed scientist, who'd discovered the secret of adding humour and emotion to his perfect machine.

On 'Stay', Zal removed the wisps of sterility that lurk around Bowie's version and displayed an almost schizophrenic relationship with his guitar, alternately sweet-talking it and threatening it with GBH.

'Stay' was about three-quarters through the set. It drew the loudest shouts thus far and from there on it was easy. Through 'Shake Your Way to Heaven' (which rocks out far more forcefully live) and a long dynamically-structured blow on 'Too Much American Pie' to the closer, the theme music to the original 'King Kong' (no, I'm not going to make a bad pun about monsters), both crowd and band got good and well crazy.

There was only one real reservation and, unfortunately, it was the big one. There was a (metaphorical) gap in the centre of the stage (remember I never saw them with Alex), there was no focal point for their undeniable skill and energy to be focussed through.

Still, it was only their third or fourth gig and, like a child leaving home, they will learn to live alone in the world. If they improve as fast as they have from the album (good as it is), that won't take very long.

-- Pete Silverton

Transcribed by Mandy Hathway. Reproduced here without permission.

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