It was a freezing, Glasgow March night at The Vale. I was there to witness, for my very first time, Aberdeenshire band Estrella perform a full set. I had seen them perform a 25 to 30 minute set at the Highway To Hell 3 competition last year, but this was different circumstances, their own gig, no pressures from competition judging, and I could actually enjoy watching the performance, rather than taking photos, as I did the last time! Supporting Estrella were local band The Toi.
The Toi came on stage, and visually looked impressive. Guitar and Vocalist Paul Healy had that classic seventies look, tan/brown jacket, printed white tee-shirt, curly long dark hair, Jim Morrison kind of look. Bass player Andy Carr could be said had the eighties look, simply a Beatles tee-shirt, long straight hair, and drummer Stevie McLay had the straightforward clean-cut modern kind of look.
The Toi begin proceedings with infectious “Get On It” and then go into “Come Alive”, which had a kind of classic rock groove but with a Bon Jovi feel to the chorus. At this point it didn’t seem like the crowd were coming alive as such, and the audience did seem a bit subdued, not that it had anything to do with the band they were witnessing. The Toi very early on seemed a very tight 3 piece unit, and vocalist Paul did have that something about him; mystique and presence that shone out into the small venue. But it could be noticed, as I was situated on the balcony in the corner, where I could see everything, the ticket guy at the bottom of the stairs was moving more than the crowd were. Though there were a handful of people who were really getting into it.
“The One” got things moving, this song had a more classic blues feel to it, and I could see Paul Gunn from Estrella, tapping his toes and getting into the groove, as well as a few others in the room. The band were so tight sounding up until “Til the Morning Comes”, The Toi’s next single, where Paul jumped the gun a little with his timing at the start, in which he joked to the audience he had “come too early“. Paul dedicated the song “I Think About You” to a friend from Madrid, which brought the tempo down a bit, and he put what could be best described as a Steven Tyler style of hat on his head for “Cold In the Night”. The Toi ended the set with what was probably my favourite song in their setlist, “Down By the River”, described as a song about true love, sticking together through thick and thin. This had a really nice groove and wonderful guitar solo, a huge song, which has to be said, would have suited a large venue perfectly. It dwarfed The Vale, and just put a smile on my face to cap off a nice tight. A solid performance by this great Glasgow band.
1. Get On It
2. Come Alive
3. The One
4. Water Into Wine
5. Til The Morning Comes
6. I’m Still Crying
7. I Think About You
8. Cold In The Night
9. Down By The River
A recorded introduction played through the sound system before Estrella really let rip to get the party started with “Shout (I Wanna Hear You)“. There’s no holds barred with this band, they kick it off with style. Vocalist Paul Gunn moves and bounces all over the small stage, with guitarist Luke Gunn equally as charismatic, so full of life, and such great guitar playing, standing on the stage monitor. At times the band seemed reminiscent of Van Halen way back in their heyday!
“She’s Got it” followed the proceedings in the same vein. Lots of energy, lots of presence by the band, especially Paul, a natural born performer. With bass player Nathan Gunn and Drummer Leo McPherson keeping the rocking ship so tight in the rhythm section this ship was never gonna sink! “Do It til We Drop” had at least half the place grooving along nicely, although I could see some were a little more reserved. When this song ended though, there was a rapturous applause all around. “Rocker Lily” had the crowd loosening up a bit more, with Leo’s thunderous drumming accompanied by Luke’s great riff work.
Things quietened just a little bit with hard rock ballad “Mona Lisas Smile” before the party began with “Chance of a Lifetime” and the Van Halen influences shone through this one, with again more great riff work coming from Luke. Paul then clinks a few glass bottles fitted to his fingers, shouting “Warriors, Come out to play” as in the scene in the classic film of the same name, which could only mean one thing, “Come Out To Play”, the title track from their album released last year. The crowd did get excited and enthusiastic for this one as energy levels exploded from the stage. You can see the band putting their heart and soul into everything they do, and it spilled over to the crowd. Which quite ironically brings us to the song “Party”, and this party was in full swing now. Paul Gunn stands on what I think was a monitor on stage right, and Luke tries to do one better by standing on the speakers on stage left, getting the crowd going, who responded by cheering and singing along with them.
There was time for one more, and the band, along with the crowd gave a stirring rendition of Loch Lomond before ending with the classic cover, AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” which the band, thankfully, did a great job at covering. Most people in The Vale were moving and singing along to this one.
Paul thanked everyone at the end and said it was time to get a beer! A crate of beer would be more deserved for pulling off that performance, job well done!
Estrella know how to perform, have fun and party on stage. It was like one huge party that barely slowed down. Van Halen haven’t visited these shores for many many years, but who needs Van Halen when Scotland have their very own Estrella! Mission accomplished.
1. Shout (I Wanna Hear You)
2. She’s Got It
3. One Love
4. Do It Til We Drop
5. Rocker Lily
6. Mona Lisas Smile
7. Chance Of A Lifetime
8. Come Out To Play
9. Whatever It Is
11. Loch Lomond leading into Highway To Hell