The Sweet at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight was, I have to admit, a concert that I was nearly not going to go and review, and the reasons for that were entirely personal. For me, out of all the music that I remember in my early teenage years, The Sweet are perhaps my most prominent memories, both musically and visually, and I was unsure after all of this time about having any of those pleasant memories replaced with the band that is now The Sweet.
Obviously, I am writing this review and decided to go to the show, and part of my reasoning was curiosity as to what this version of The Sweet sounded like. Another reason was that for me, although my “The Sweet” will always be Brian Connolly, Steve Priest, Andy Scott, and Mick Tucker, that line-up for obvious reasons can never happen again. Also, the band I remember so fondly from Top of The Pops on television is, like my other memories from this time, safely preserved forever in a place in my mind that the ravages of time cannot reach, or age. The line-up of the band I so fondly remember from my youth may be forever gone, but the music that they created is still there, and more importantly, so is Andy Scott, and tonight it was a pleasure to finally hear live on stage the unmistakable guitar sounds of a man who is still playing some of the most recognisable guitar riffs of a whole decade.
If you are going to see The Sweet anywhere on tour, and you are my age, or older, then you have to be realistic about just what version of this band you are going to see, and what you are going to hear. Of course, the huge hits of the 1970s are included - “Blockbuster”, “Hell Raiser”, “Ballroom Blitz”, Wig-Wam Bam” - and they are still the massive crowd pleasers that they were all those years ago. There were though so many other great songs from this band, and the opening song “Action” is only one of them. Listening to so many of the chart hits over the years it is obvious just what great song writers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn are, and it was nice to hear again perhaps one of the best, but possibly most under-rated songs they ever wrote for the band - “The Six Teens”. There does however come a point in a show when you have to take both the band and the audience with a little ironic smile when a song like “Teenage Rampage” is being played.
Although it would have been nice to hear a little bit about the creation of some of these classic songs from Andy, that was not what we got. Instead, this was a non-stop run through the hit songs of yesterday and newer songs, and I can respect and understand Andy’s choice not to turn these shows into “nostalgia festivals”. I remember so clearly The Sweet from the 1970s and probably up to the “Love is Like Oxygen” period (also played tonight) but, for Andy, the band never stopped playing in one line-up or another and he has never stopped writing songs and playing, so you have to accept that the band have, as they have to do, moved on with time. An interesting observation from Andy though as to how we in Britain view The Sweet from a very British “Glam Rock era” viewpoint and how in other parts of the world the band were, and still are, accepted far more as a serious “Rock Band”.
This current line-up of The Sweet is still interesting, and any guitar lovers were in for a bit of a treat here as the talents of Andy Scott and Steve Mann make a combination that so many bands would want to try and emulate. In Paul Manzee, the band also have, for the moment (let’s hope that they can keep him) the hard rock edged vocals that give the band a very contemporary sound.
This current line-up of The Sweet were everything I expected the show to be, memories mixed in with at times a little bit of musical karaoke and a little humour. Sadly, from where I was sitting, right up at the back of the gallery, the sound was not great at times and often a little bit indistinct (particularly on vocals), but everyone knew so many of these songs so well that that perhaps was less important than it usually is.
Opening tonight’s show was a four piece band The Novatines. The band are Jamie Beale, Tom Cory, Callum Moloney and Tom Turner, and this was a very polished and professional set for a band only formed in 2017. It was obvious though that the band are probably used to performing to a somewhat younger audience demographic and not in a seated venue like this one. Songs like “Medicine”, “Silver Screen”, and “Hate Love” show obvious promise, but perhaps the biggest sign of things maybe yet to come for the band is the fact that Andy Scott is the producer of their debut album “Silver Screen”.
An odd mixture of feelings for this show tonight overall, and I have to admit that perhaps this review is more than a little bit influenced by fond memories of The Sweet from the 1970s, but one thing is clear, they are still playing the old hit songs that everyone expects to hear at a show, but they are not a “tribute band” to earlier glory days and have an identity that has moved on musically over the years.
Review by Tom King