VENUE – The Boulevard, Wigan
DATE – 8th September 2023
Words and photographs – Graeme Wright
If you cast your minds back to a few months ago you’ll remember my rave review for the new Sam Millar And The Sass Bandits album ‘More Cheese Please.’ It was a pitch-perfect record with a huge eighties vibe, fabulous songwriting and exemplary musicianship with all instruments being played by Sam Millar. Tonight is the album release live event in his hometown of Wigan and Sam is performing with a full band this evening. Many of you will remember the much-loved Bigfoot, Sams’s previous band and it’s interesting to note the big difference in musical style compared to the music produced by that much-missed outfit.
The venue is packed out and we are in the middle of a heatwave so it’s incredibly hot and sticky in here tonight. The audience has already been warmed up by the excellent Heartbreak Remedy so it will be interesting to see if The Sass Bandits can match that level of intensity. The set opens with the first track from the new album, ‘The Killing Floor’ and it’s immediately apparent that this band is full of seasoned, quality musicians and that these songs sound great in this venue. The song is one of the biggest from the new album and it gets things off to a flyer in here tonight.
The song ‘Human’ from the 2020 release ‘Radio Gouda’ is up next and the crowd are already fully on board with this show, both dancing and singing along to the proceedings. The music is a glorious nod to the eighties with a big keyboard sound to most of the songs. If you can imagine Classic eighties hair metal combined with the slightly softer edge of Hall And Oates you won’t go too far wrong in understanding the aims of this band and the whole package sounds amazing tonight.
The interactions between Sam and the Atlas keyboard player James Thorley are highly amusing at times and it’s clear that the band are all having a great time along with the audience. ‘Forbidden’ is up next and is a slightly slower-paced song which shows off the quality of the singer while ‘Fooling Yourself’ is synth-tastic and is both catchy and immediate with a huge chorus. This was probably my favourite track of the night and it sounds heavier here than it does on the album. ‘Lost In Translation’ is the big ballad of the night and the crowd have their mobile phones out to shine a light on the proceedings. Another huge song and another great performance from the band.
‘Forget You’ has a touch of the Gary Glitter crossed with James about its opening (Sorry Sam!) and is insanely catchy, with the audience now bopping around the dance floor like it’s 1999. ‘Chardonnay’ is another crowd favourite while ‘Eyes’ is one of the band’s earlier songs and is another foot stomper. The best song on the new album is ‘Meet Me Halfway’. It’s a glorious throwback to an earlier time and I’ve told Sam on numerous occasions that it’s arena quality. The band do it justice tonight and it’s an obvious highlight of this set for me.
‘Cyber Girl’ is another earlier song with a mellower sixties vibe to it at times while ‘Dancing On My Own’ from the new record has a touch of Phil Collins about the opening before it develops into another bouncy pop-rock masterclass. ‘Sober’ has the place swaying while ‘Neanderthal Man’ has everybody enthusiastically singing the chorus. ‘Levi’s’ is the penultimate song and you realise that the band’s output fits the description “all killer and no filler “ perfectly, with this one having a risqué chorus that has me laughing out loud.
The show closes up with ‘Strangers’ which is a pitch-perfect end to the proceedings. The band leave the stage to rapturous appreciation from the crowd and Sam is happy to mingle with the audience and sign CDs for everyone. You would have to have been there to appreciate how great this show was tonight. Both bands were on fire and Sam Millar And The Sass Bandits are just insanely talented. They will be back out on the road soon and you should make a real effort to get out and see these boys. A class act with big songs and proper stage presence, what else could you ask for?
Sam Millar – Lead Vocals/Guitar
James Thorley – Keyboards
Benji Faith – Bass Guitar
Alex Lacey – Drums
- The Killing Floor
- Let Me Yet
- Fooling Yourself
- Lost In Translation
- Forget You
- Meet Me Halfway
- Cyber Girl
- Dancing On My Own
- Neanderthal Man