Someone asked me why are you driving all the way to Wolverhampton for a Saturday night out. To me the answer was obvious…….Empyre and that was made even more obvious when Bastette were added to the line up at The Giffard Arms on 18 July 2022.
Now, regular followers of these pages and my radio shows will know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for the music of Empyre, and have travelled many miles to see them over the past couple of years, but those followers may not know that I also admire greatly the work of Caroline Eve Kenyon fronting her band Bastette.
So let’s pick up the story. The Giffard Arms is without a doubt a “rock pub” with a downstairs bar sporting a rock jukebox and that ambiance that you can only get from from true rock pubs. The real action starts in the upstairs room which has a stage, a bar and about enough room for 100 people. And there were the people mostly decked out in leather or band T-shirts, all there to listen to these two different bands.
Are the openers for this evening and they romp their way through a set that covers tracks such as Psycho, Talk About It, Hunter, Rip Me To Shreds, Rollercoaster and a new song called Good Time Girl. Throughout the set Caroline Kenyon prowls the stage making eye contact with the front row of the crowd in smouldering fashion. She is clad in leather and lace and brings those true rock’n’roll theatrics to the set.
It’s not just about theatrics though. The songs are punchy, engaging and full of energy. This girl was made for bigger stages but in the confines of the small Giffard stage she and her band really get the evening off to a great start. The show is really about Caroline’s frontwoman persona but she has surrounded herself with a bunch of tremendous musicians who paint the musical landscape for her to perform against. Trust me if you get the chance to see Bastette take it. I suspect it won’t be long before they leave small venues behind.
And so to the top of the bill. Which in my opinion is where they should always be. I have said it before that their music is really uncatagorisable. One minute you think prog the next you think classic rock. What it remains, however, is intelligent and thought provoking. Sure you can sing along and punch the air to many numbers but there are some deep themes within many of their songs and the audience seem to understand that.
Tonight it was many new tracks with most of the forthcoming album being played. Only Empyre know when it will be released and what it will be called but I’ll tell you something we all know……the new tracks are strong and fit the Empyre cannon perfectly and will make the new album sit easily alongside Self Aware and The Other Side.
As always the boys showed us cracking musicianship with Grants rolling bass, Did’s superb guitar work, Henrik’s soaring and storming vocals and guitars and Elliot Bale working hard at the drum kit. The new song Parasites sees him working extra hard and it’s probably as well it was the near the beginning of the set because if they had placed it nearer the end I’m not sure he would have survived the night!
Alongside the new stuff there was all the favourites from Self Aware., the gig reaching its crescendo as Henrik’s tremendous vocals led us into Only Way Out. For me this song is always a goose-bump moment and I really can’t understand why this is not a classic anthem on all the other larger rock stations there are around. It certainly is down here on Hastings Rock and 1066 Sound.
And so to be having been thoroughly entertained and having shared some good company. I was lucky enough to snatch a few words with the Empyre boys, who were as charming and pleasant as always, as with Caroline from Bastette who was very warm and chatty.
Whenever I have seen Empyre they have never disappointed it’s a shame that there are not more people aware of them. I guess at this stage that works to the benefit of us hardcore fans because we get to see them at close quarters in fairly small venues. As I’ve said before though I don’t think it will always be that way, something will light the spark to propel these boys to the big time. As for me no matter where they play I’ll be there but please boys when you get to Arena status make it Access All Areas for me.
Words: Tony Davis
Photos: Sophie James & Charlotte Handy