TVD Live Shots: Wayward Sons at the O2 Islington Academy, 3/29

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band on the planet right now other than Wayward Sons. I love that classic rock has seen a resurgence of sorts with Rival Sons and Greta Van Fleet, but they throw it back and tend to stick in the ’70s while there’s so much more to explore. Wayward Sons take a bit from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and bring it together in fine form with some exceptional songwriting. Add to that the very capable band, hand-picked by the group’s mastermind Toby Jepson, and you have something extraordinary.

Phil Martini, who’s played with everyone from Joe Elliot to Jim Jones, is a no-frills drummer who hits hard in a style that recalls the great Bun E .Carlos. Guitarist Sam Wood is a tremendous player who makes it look easy to be a virtuoso as the Les Paul seems to be a natural extension of his body. (This guy can fucking shred, but it’s incredibly soulful.) Bassist Nick Wastell holds down the bottom end effortlessly with a massive bass sound delivered via a classic Thunderbird. This guy’s got a style all his own with his signature bass to the sky move as if he’s drawing power from the gods above.

And who doesn’t love a great comeback story to boot? Lead singer and songwriter Toby Jepson was in a “hair metal” band back in the ’80s and early ’90s called Little Angels that had a string of hits here in the UK. It’s not really fair to label them anything other than a straight-up rock band, but they were swept up in that late ’80s wave. I stumbled upon them by accident when someone back in the States gave me a copy of the classic Don’t Prey for Me, which I wore out on repeat. So maybe I’m a bit biased with my love for this band, but I’m not the only one, as was apparent to the packed house at the O2 Islington last week.

The tour has been postponed twice due to the ongoing pandemic, so I was thrilled that it was finally happening. The setlist pulled heavily from the latest record (8 songs!). Highlights for me were “Don’t Wanna Go” (which is one of my all-time favorite songs by any band—it’s fucking genius), “Faith in Fools,” a beauty of a rock song that would make Cheap Trick proud, “Bloody Typical” with it’s an insanely catchy chorus, and of course the face-melting opening belter on the new album “Even up the Score.” Surprisingly missing from the set was “The Truth Ain’t What it Used to Be.” I think this is one of their best songs, and having seen them twice now, I’ve yet to hear it.

As luck would have it, Jepson posted that he tested positive for Covid the day after the gig. Hopefully, he’s recovering and on the mend. In the meantime, he’s got a very cool Patreon that I joined a while back, where he does weekly live videos and chats with its members. It’s a super fun community to be a part of, and you can sign up here.

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