PANAMA – Wellington, Shepherds Bush, London

PANAMA, DESPITE the Van Halen-esque moniker, are a substantial hard rock band every inch the younger and fitter brother of, say, Dio or Iron Maiden (not as ‘eavy). With a sense of the epic, big stage, five band members and lotsa lights, they chomped and chewed their way through an hour or so of my precious time without making me wish I was somewhere else. A major factor in Panama’s favour, then, the ability to entertain and hold one’s eye. Oh, and they also happen to have a stack of bloody good songs.

Pulling out the binoculars for a moment it didn’t take me long to recognise that ex-Airrace man Toby Saddler was grappling with the biggest bass I’d seen all week and hey, isn’t drummer Graeme Crallan the same geezer who was once a member of long lost Wimpwire favou rites White Spirit? Yup, but even their relative experience didn’t for a moment threaten to overshadow the colossal might of superhuman vocalist Tony something or other.

So what about the songs? Built on firm riffs, blasted out by two exotic guitar swinging henchmen, each toon, thank heaven, had a slow beginning, a Kerrunching middle and catastrophic finale. Well constructed, superbly arranged and stuffed full of hip swaying melody, I didn’t spot one duffer amongst the lot and made a special note of ‘Loser’, ‘Painted Lady’ and ‘Cold Hearts’ which despite the tacky titles had me grappling furiously with an imaginary Stratocaster.

A good show all right and I’m gonna be checking those Shrapnel pages very carefully for upcoming tour dates because this is one band I certainly don’t want to turn my snotty nose up at any more.


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