The Las Vegas-based rockers have played several support slots in the UK before, most notably when opening for KISS last year, but this is the first headlining tour they've done. This tour sees the introduction of new drummer Carlo Mazzone, who replaced previous skinpounder Alan Doucette late last year.
There was a small but very enthusiastic crowd at the smaller University venue, frontman Chris Babbitt had a very easy job getting the hands clapping and fists pumping. The band stand defiantly for old-school heavy rock; with long straggly hair and dressed in regulation denim cutoffs, from first song to last they set out to blast away the notion that only 'alternative' rock should be listened to. So it was up on the monitors for Babbitt and his cohorts, guitarist Mikey Cross and bassist Andrew Cushing, wielding their guitars like weapons and generally coming across like the bastard sons of Guns 'n' Roses, W.A.S.P. and Skid Row. Their material was traditional heavy metal, bordering on thrash in places, with moshpits a regular occurence. The band seemed pleased with the reception they got, even indulging in a little humour when, just before performing a cover of KISS's 'Black Diamond', they got the bassist to introduce it in the style of Paul Stanley. However, according to the frontman, he sounded more like (South Park's) Mr Hankey!
Not content with merely jumping on the monitors, Babbitt actually abandoned the stage when they played their last number, a gonzoid rendition of Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain'. Any idea of playing the lead solo went out of the window as he jumped into the crowd, and was lucky still to have his guitar in one piece by the time the song finished! The fast bit was performed essentially as a three-piece; the frontman was so busy being mobbed he couldn't play anything. This band really do not hold back; like Aussie contemporaries Airbourne they are strictly old-school, and that is a welcome sight after years of being force-fed indie and alternative rock. Not that I'm saying all that is bad, it's just that when you've not heard a REAL Heavy Metal band for a long time, you soon realise how much you miss it when one comes along. After their set, they immediately gathered at the merchandise stall (no CD on sale, bummer!) to meet and greet the people they'd just played for. That was a nice touch, all four guys were there as the crowd exited and happily posed for pictures, signed ticket stubs and chatted. It was rude not to have a word, so having spoken briefly to the other guys I got the chance to speak to Chris Babbitt, to say how refreshing it was to have a group like his on the scene again, when all we are usualy subjected to is the aforementioned 'safe' indie music. To my surprise, he told me it was worse in America! To my further surprise, he complimented me on my 'Thunder' T-shirt and praised The Union, the band formed by their former guitarist Luke Morley.
With their incendiary live sound and a great attitude, Taking Dawn will win many friends on this UK tour. Whether or not they can revive the Metal scene and rescue it from sinking deeper into a sea of strictly-defined sub-genres remains to be seen, but they certainly deserve to go a long way. Catch these guys when they come back.