Chris Holmes’ Mean Man Live at Satan’s Hollow, Manchester.

The announcement that Chris Holmes was hitting the UK with his “Be Somebody” tour was the source of some excitement here at CBHQ, well for one of us at least. After the “who’s he” questions had been answered the tour dates were checked and.. disaster.. we were in France at Hellfest when the electric circus rolled into Scotland. Still, there’s no bloody way this one was going to be missed so a Friday evening in Manchester was duly organised.

Satan’s Hollow is one of those night clubs that put bands on, as opposed to a dedicated venue but it’s still a great place for a gig. The stage is “in the round” so it also means the Drummer can’t escape the camera eye. Unfortunately as it’s a nightclub there’s a band curfew of 9:30 so it was an early start for support band Alexa De Strange..

Which we didn’t know until we arrived just in time for them finishing. Oh well.

Chris and the band took to the stage in front of a crowd which may have been a bit lacking in numbers but certainly wan’t lacking in enthusiasm. It’s not often you get to see one of your bane-fide heroes in a place like this, and the only potential issue would be the reality not living up to the expectation.

Chris and the band arrive on stage and the first observation is that the big chap is looking good, every inch the bearded guitar hero. The set kicks off with Chris handling the vocal duties for a couple of his solo hits as the place gets warmed up with Shitting Bricks… well if he was it didn’t show.

As you’d expect Chris has brought a big-hitting band to back him up on these shows. Guitarist Thomas Cesario rocking a neat looking twin neck axe while bassist Pascal Bei threw the photographer pleasing shapes while laying down the heavy bottom end. At the back the thunder was supplied by drummer Folkert Beukers.

Chris’ voice suits his solo stuff but during the first three songs we weren’t sure if he’d be able to deliver on the eagerly anticipated tracks from “the old band”. We soon find out when with a cry of “hey Manchester.. all you need is your Love Machine” we’re off down musical memory lane. As it turned out Thomas handled the Blackie vocals, with Chris backing him up but mostly just melting faces with some proper old school heavy metal guitar.

The solo stuff went over pretty well, with songs like Two Faced Mother Fucker being easy enough for the uninitiated to pick up, not entirely sure who it’s about but I’m sure there was a mention of Manimal in there somewhere 😉

The WASP fix is delivered in great style with The Headless Children, which we weren’t expecting and On Your Knees which we probably were. It has to be said Thomas made a fine effort of hitting the high notes on The Headless Children, he certainly made a better job of it than the last person we saw try to sing that one. Definitely no backing tracks or suspicions of miming here.

We may have expected the show to be an unashamed WASP tribute, but as it happens about half the setlist was Chris’ solo stuff. Having said that it was the old stuff that the memories of the night are made of. Hearing the guitar intro to Wild Child played by the real deal brought a tear to the eye, and a massive sing-along ensued. Follow that with Animal and the WASP fan’s itch was well and truly scratched.

One feature of the tour that Chris touted on his social media was that each night he would bring someone out of the crowd to sing I Wanna Be Somebody. The lucky punter was brought on stage, with Chris checking “you know the song? ‘cos if you don’t you’re going to look real bad!!”.

Hmm. Not sure it was, erm, 100% accurate but it was a lot of fun.

Chris rounded off the set by introducing the band and thanking a few folk, in particular Philthy Animal Taylor of Motorhead who encouraged Chris to sing and without whom he “wouldn’t be here at all”.

The night ends with Alexa De Strange & co joining the band on stage for a raucous run through of Rocking In The Free World with a curfew-stretching Highway To Hell finishing things off and send us off into the Manchester night with a smile on our faces.

Hang on, wait a minute… they didn’t play Mean Man!! They’ll have to come back and do it next time !!!