Kings Theatre, Southsea 1985 DAVE DICKSON
EXPLORER HAVE a lot going for them at the moment. They have youth, energy, aggression, financial backing and hard-core supporters who turned out to add their vociferous encouragement at this local gig. They are keen, enthusiastic lads who, given time and the right sort of direction could break their American influenced style of hard rock with the much larger audience they so obviously crave. What they don’t have at the moment is a song.
It’s a well-established fact about the music industry that you only need three songs to get a recording contract and make an album. The Rolling Stones, for instance, have got by producing only two or three goods songs per album for more years than even they would care to remember. But the fact remains that you do need those three songs; presentation, image, musical skill will all, ultimately, count for nothing if you haven’t got the songs. A band can be sold on hype and image but you can’t fool Joe Punter for very long; he wants a song and you have to deliver.
Like l said. Explorer have a lot going for them in all the other divisions; they look pretty good onstage, they move well, vocalist Bob Bruce can actually sing, and keyboard player Chris May adds same very tasteful embellishments when he can be heard. But at the end of the day this can only take them part of the way. Without the essential ingredient of a song they’re going to have a tough time reaching the finish line.
I feel something’s got screwed up in the works somehow when a band puts as much upfront as Explorer have done, particularly on this night. They’d hired a very impressive lighting gantry, which they then used effectively, performing like real stars far beyond their years. They set off an assortment of flash-bombs and effects that, again, didn’t make them look overly posey – as they so easily could have – but rather were executed with a professional deftness and precision.
But, an the other hand, someone told me that this was only their tenth gig together and that they’d already put out an album on their own Indie label; which in itself is all very good and laudable, but rather smacks of a band wanting to run before they can walk. They obviously want success but seem to be trying to grab it all too quickly and are liable to end up with a lot of egg on their faces. Somebody should apply the brakes now before they come a cropper.
I came away from this gig in two minds: on the one hand, I was impressed by the stageshow and the evident ease with which the band coped with a big stage. But on the other, I fear that here is a group with all the form but no substance.