1986 will be remembered by many readers of Classic Rock as the year that Europe and Bon Jovi conquered the British charts with The Final Countdown and Livin’ On A Prayer. Now in their mid-twenties, the members of H.E.A.T. appreciated this glorious era retrospectively, though it would influence them profoundly.
Hailing from Upplands Väsby (the same Stockholm suburb as Joey Tempest and company), their first two albums were a joyous hybrid of Europe, the Jove, Whitesnake and Dokken, though in the three years since recruiting Erik Grönwall, a former winner of Swedish Idol, their sound has gradually taken on some tougher elements.
Since reinventing himself as a rock star (though he sang songs by Iron Maiden, Europe and Skid Row on television), the charismatic, livewire Grönwall displays boundless potential, shadow boxing, pogoing and throwing every fibre of his being into the show. There’s a gritty side to his character that brings to mind Sebastian Bach, especially when he spits up in the air only for the phlegm to drop back onto his forehead, causing him to grin and consume it.
Inferno, featuring the did-he-really-just-say-that? line of “I like to drink and masturbate”, personifies their new-found grit, though Grönwall gets to prove his vocal proficiency when delivering the poignant, lighter-waving ballad All The Nights with just keyboard accompaniment.
The message is spreading… slowly. From a grotty pub in the Holloway Road back in 2010 to the Borderline and onto the Garage, the Academy is their biggest headline show in London thus far. The place isn’t sold out, though this is their second time in the capital in 2014, and of course theirs is a notoriously tough genre in which to carve a career. It’s perhaps a case of two steps forward and one step back, though the crowd devours a show that’s delivered with heat-seeking precision.
H.E.A.T. are a fantastic live band, and they know it. This evening they don’t quite scale the pinnacles of clinical greatness that saw them wipe the floor with just about all comers bar Danger Danger at the Firefest back in November, but for first-timers the effect remains jaw dropping. You can almost see them gawp: “Nobody makes music like this anymore, surely?”
Well, some bands still do.
The truth is that H.E.A.T. make the type of records that Jon Bon Jovi would now probably hate.
What they must do now is break out of the niche that’s so far embraced them.
Over to you, Mr Copping…