LIVE REVIEW! Ugly Kid Joe - O2 Institute, Birmingham

May 2, 2018

Summer has hit Birmingham early, the heatwave spreading across the country has brought with it a wondrous tour of rock and fucking roll at its very finest. The Ugly Kid Joe bus has rolled into town bringing with it former Motörhead man Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons.


The O2 Institute in Digbeth is the venue, and the house is packed to the rafters. Even after all these years Whitfield Crane and his gang can still pull a huge crowd. 


Opening affairs are an unknown four piece named Yellowcake. It’s their third gig ever and you won’t find a page for them on facebook (I tried and failed). As the band kick into the opening number a bluesy sound comes forth but it’s not until the singer comes out that the pieces fall into place. The front man is none other than UKJ vocalist Crane himself. A trick he has pulled on past tours, bringing together a musical ensemble to open for his headline act.


The old school rock and blues sound the band driver is fantastic, and Cranes vocals suit this perfectly. Stand out though is the drummer a whirlwind of flailing arms produces a stupendous back drop for the band to build from.


The name Phil Campbell is synonymous with hard rock having been a key member of Motörhead for many years. Tonight, performing as Phil Campbell and The Bastard Sons, the ensemble are a group young musicians, three of whom are Campbell’s sons, with Phil as their figurehead.


The set is a joyous hour of hard rock, not as heavy as Motörhead but one any of their fans can enjoy. Vocalist Neil Starr puts on a triumphant performance and really melds the whole group together. A cover of Born To Raise Hell gets the pulses of the older crowd racing which Crane makes an appearance in stage for.


The groups own material fills the gaps between the Motörhead cover, and really the covers do a disservice to their own work. Their song writing is extremely strong in its own right, good friendly head banging tunes, Get On Your Knees and Ringleader the standouts of the show.


As we await the arrival of the headline act I am always surprised at just how big of a draw Ugly Kid Joe still are. Whilst they may have had only one or two populist hits, looking around the room, even 20 years on, its packed, people waiting in anticipation.

The band play their intro before Whitfield Crane takes to the stage for the third time this evening. Opening with familiar hits Neighbor and Madman, has the crowd bouncing and singing along like it’s the mid 90’s. A couple of newer tunes are thrown into the mix, No One Survives and Devil’s Paradise meld well with the older numbers.


But from here on in its all classics, Crane’s unique voice is joined by the 500-strong crowd through Cat’s in the Cradle, but it’s really the encore, Everything About You, where the euphoria in the room hits its peak. The band might not be the spritely young upstarts they once were, but they still provide some of the best entertainment around.



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