Freeway

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THE FREE CONVENTION 2014

Saturday, November 8: Tynemouth Park Hotel – Freeway, Deborah Bonham Band, Simon Kirke

Reviewed by award-winning journalist and TV presenter Bill Bradshaw

There’s something about the bond between British blues-rock pioneers Free and the North East that is hard to define. The band that brought us All Right Now and a handful of truly memorable albums were assembled in London from disparate parts of England… but the band and the region are inseparable.
This was true in their heyday more than four decades back and it remains true now. And that’s why the annual Free Convention, splendidly put together by organiser Bill Flynn, more often than not pitches camp on Tyne or Wear.
Free first developed into headliners in the North East. Backed and promoted by local booker Geoff Docherty (lovely to see Geoff there on the night - Ed.), they built up a huge following first in Sunderland and then Newcastle before All Right Now made them national and international stars. On the first Saturday in November, Flynn lit the beacon again in Tynemouth, just down the Tyne from Newcastle and only a short further hop from Sunderland where the flame was first lit

Flynn had set the bar high for himself after the 2013 Convention. Then he persuaded Andy Fraser, founding member, song-writer and bass player, to appear during a rare UK tour and Andy played a fine set. He also took to the stage with trusty tribute band Freeway to cap a splendid night (in fact, some of us had only just recovered from it when this year's convention kicked off - Ed.).

But on a crisp autumn night, Flynn managed to trump it this year. This time he had a couple of top-drawer attractions with Fraser’s old rhythm-section partner from Free, Simon Kirke, flying himself over from New York just to appear at Tynemouth. And the other rabbit (no, not that Rabbit - Ed.) from the hat was Deborah Bonham, blues-singing sister of the late John “Bonzo” Bonham from Led Zeppelin, plus her fine band.
Deborah had appeared just a few days earlier at the Royal Albert Hall with the man who has built a 40-year career on the back of Free, Paul Rodgers. He headlined the famous London venue to showcase his recent soul album The Royal Sessions but – sadly – could not make it up north for a reunion with Kirke, his drummer not only in Free but also Bad Company.
That would have been more than nice. But, no matter, Kirke sat in for the closing numbers of the sets with both the DB Band and also Freeway. They were cameos – but what barnstorming, powerhouse cameos they were (BOOSH!!!! - Ed.).

The evening kicked off with Freeway unplugged – well, virtually… we’ll excuse a little power in Rick Hunt’s bass. The acoustic set was the perfect hors d'oeuvre to whet the appetite of a packed Park Hotel audience for the musical fest ahead.
The first two songs, Travellin’ In Style and Bodie set the tone nicely – songs that are rarely heard played live, even at these gatherings of the converted. It was good to hear them.
Then Deborah Bonham gave us a preview of her own set by joining Freeway vocalist Bob Davidson on Oh, I Wept. They meshed superbly (agreed - Ed.) with Bonham restrained on this mournful Rodgers-Fraser song. The Marshalls were muted but the song roared.
She was later replaced by Freeway guitarist John Buckton’s lady, Elaine, who provided Bob with a sublime, haunting backing on Soon I Will Be Gone, Mourning Sad Morning and especially Blue Soul – excellent stuff (and who would definitely never have agreed to get up in the first place if she knew she'd be following Deborah Bonham...just saying - Ed.).

And then Deborah Bonham stepped up with her ballsy band. She was still in primary school when big brother Bonzo tragically died back in 1980 - but the musical gene lives on. She’s an old-school blues singer – think Janis Joplin crossed with Bonnie Tyler and maybe a touch of Maggie Bell thrown in.
A backstage dicky-bird told me afterwards than Debs was nursing a virus but whatever medicinal compound she took, or called for over the bar (we could never reveal such information - Ed.), did the trick. She was in brilliant, belting, Joplin-esque mood.
Ably supported by the band, notably Peter Bullick on both lead guitar and mandolin, she was particularly impressive on tracks from her recent Spirit album; Take Me Down, I Need Love and Spirit In Me.
There’s a nod and a wink in her more than occasional references that Bonzo and her late father provide legacies that she always carries with her. It’s transparent in the feeling and depth in her voice. And it shone through too in Need Your Love and No Angel. Her tonsil-twisting vocals were matched with impressive stage-craft. This was a compelling set that suited the occasion of honouring Free without having to reproduce that band’s work. But she did manage that too.
Notably on The Stealer, originally the follow up to Free’s rock anthem All Right Now, Deborah prompted a great reaction from the audience, especially with Kirke guesting for the closing songs (I thought her version of Be My Friend was unforgettable and absolutely tremendous - Ed).

All of which left the crowd well in the mood for the climax of the night. Freeway were back – and now wired for sound. The excellent PA crew were in no mood to moderate the noise level. This was loud.
And though Freeway did not have to hold the stage for a long set after Deborah’s sterling efforts, their 12-song main set was just about spot-on. Topped off, of course, with another appearance from Kirke to cap the night.
Their first three songs from the early days of Free’s recording career were perfect for the band’s aficionados; I'll Be Creepin' is a much-underrated Free song, always reminding me of a Film Noire soundtrack with its splendid sense of doom and menace. Then I'm A Mover and the switchback rhythms of Songs Of Yesterday which pointed to a new maturity in Free’s music. Davidson was roaring on the mic (Tyrannosaurus Bob!- Ed.); Buckton in quite blistering form on Les Paul (phwoooarr, yeah - Ed.). There were undisputable echoes of Rodgers and Kossoff respectively.

Nigel Stawart joined Freeway on keyboards (*waves* Hi Nige! - Ed.), a luxury not usually afforded when they gig as a four-piece, but it worked a treat on some of the later Free material, filling out their sound. Heavy Load in particular worked well as did the excellent Heartbreaker and Wishing Well. The boys even threw in a piano-spiced My Brother Jake for an old-fashioned pub sing-song.

And then came time to flick the switch. Bringing on Kirke was like lighting the after-burners or slamming the car into turbo mode. Anyway, Simon – more smartly attired than we ever saw in his T-shirt and cowboy-boot days with Free – belied his office-boy image with thundering, eye-popping contributions to Fire And Water, All Right Now and, of course, The Hunter .
Kirke was never flash back in the day and drum solos were thin on the ground. But he usually reserved one for Fire and Water – and so he did here. Not overly long; not overly flash – but maxed-out on power, timing and feeling. He is a player!
When he eyed his kit, he did so with a sense of fiery purpose, if not menace. This was not a good time to be a crash cymbal within Kirke’s orbit. He was pulsating (check out some of the clips on YouTube and marvel at how hard Simon bashes those drums - Ed.).
Stawart was back on keyboards to add tone to the perennial showstopper, The Hunter, with Buckton now flying on Koss’s famous riffs. It looked like being the classic set closer until Flynn managed to steal a little more time for an encore; Mr. Big, with the excellent (and very lovely - Ed.) Rob Dunn back on the kit.

Rick Hunt, who had provided a fine backdrop all night on bass along with Dunn’s earlier drumming, stepped up after Buckton’s searing guitar work to give one of his best Mr. Big bass solos (high-five, Rick! -Ed.).

As he left the stage, Kirke thanked the throng and pointed to Buckton: “John Buckton on guitar!” he shouted. “Wow!”
Wow indeed. In an interview earlier in the day, Kirke said Buckton would be his pick on lead guitar if ever a Free line-up was put together again (HANDS UP EVERYONE WHO AGREES WITH THIS STATEMENT...THERE ARE SO MANY OF YOU...I HAVE RUN OUT OF NUMBERS TO COUNT YOU ALL WITH - Ed.). Over to Mr. Rodgers, then… oh, and by the way Paul, I have the directions to Tynemouth if ever you need them. That flame is still burning – straight on and follow the beacon.

The Annual Free Convention 2013
Reviewed by award-winning journalist and TV presenter Bill Bradshaw

Free, that beautifully balanced rock-blues-soul band who produced some of the finest music of the post-blues boom that rocked Britain from the Sixties into the Seventies were spirited back to us on a balmy August night in Tynemouth.
This was the Free Convention but not as we know it. The Convention is an annual gathering of the Free faithful, often held in the North East, the band's first trusty stronghold. It usually boasts a lineup of two or three decent tribute acts and offers memorabilia; decent auction prizes often donated from surviving band members.
But this was very different. Here we had Free's original bass player Andy Fraser, playing in the region for the first time since 1975 and incorporating the Convention into his UK summer tour schedule. Fraser playing the UK? Rare. And playing his Free back catalogue? Hen's teeth!
What made this even more of a curiosity, given that Fraser has largely given the cold-shoulder to his Free output during the last four decades, is that he also agreed to play with Freeway, arguably Britain's finest Free tribute band. This was the equivalent of a monk not only renouncing celibacy but then scoring on his first date!
And the packed crowd in the sea-front Park Hotel were grateful voyeurs to Fraser's rekindling of old passions. We all wanted to join in - and we did.
The setting was perfect, Fraser going full circle from the early 1969 promotions at the Bay Hotel in Seaburn just 10 miles down the coast. That ballroom was where Free forged a love affair with the region that helped propel them to fame and fortune and the Park is cut from the same architectural cloth.

The old art deco seafront hotel was packed to the rafters for Fraser's return. These gatherings of the Free clans normally attract 250 or so on a good night. This time it was more than double that.
Jack Bruce's son Malcolm opened proceedings with a nicely-pitched acoustic set of mostly original songs but he wisely tried to get the crowd on his side by opening with Free’s “Soon I Will Be Gone” and “Love You So”. He did just enough to ensure Fraser's introduction by hard-working Convention promoter Bill Flynn was met with rapturous applause.
And there he was, the little fellow all tightly-cropped hair, sinewy body and flashing teeth: "You're looking good!" he shouted to the pension-planners. Not as good as you, most of us mused. (Pension planners?! Speak for yourself, Bradhaw - some of us are only 34 - Ed.)

And he was away, straight into a re-working of Free's mega-hit "All Right Now" which removed the familiar lyrics and allowed Andy to sing an introduction to this 21st Century incarnation of the Andy Fraser Band. Step forward, in particular, lead guitarist Chris Spedding, a 70s hitmaker himself, and rising talent Tobi Earnshaw whose songs were showcased throughout an entertaining set.
Tobi does not have the strongest voice but he is a talent, no question, with good songs and nicely wielded guitar in the right places. Fraser obviously believes in him and, as a kid who hit the big time at 16 himself, why not?

Tobi's highlights came on the aptly titled "I Will Be Free", "Nothing Gonna Stop Us" and the John Mayer cover "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" while Spedding, apart from "Motorbikin'" chipped in with the splendid swamp rock of "Louisiana".
There was plenty of room for Fraser to raid the vaults. Out came "The Stealer" and "Little Bit of Love", both of which got a massive reaction from the fans - the latter featuring the vocals of Bob Davidson from Freeway, caught so short before his call into the spotlight that he dropped his drink!
Back they came for a genuinely-demanded encore. "Mr Big" is arguably Fraser's standout track with Free - has there ever been a better bass solo on a rock track than this?
He rolled back the years with a silky, liquid, fluid run through of the classic and the roars he acknowledged as they closed the set said it all. He was back.

And that was not all. Oh no, no, no. Very far from it.
Although the headliners closed at 10-ish there was no rush for the bars or public transport. The audience knew Fraser had agreed to reappear with concert-closers Freeway and the hall was still packed when Davidson reappeared with drummer Rob Dunn, bassist Rick Hunt and guitarist John Buckton.
They are not known as Britain’s top Free tribute act for nothing. They have already had the honour of Free and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke join them in the past and here you sensed they were ready to raise their game to welcome Fraser on board.
They kicked off with "I'll be Creepin'" which has always sounded to me like a wonderful take on a film-noir soundtrack. Then into "Woman" and it was clear Buckton, possessor of wonderful Kossoff-esque tones and vibrato, was on form.
And he needed to be because Fraser wasn't messing about. He'd barely had time to rehydrate - this room was hot in every respect - before he joined Freeway in time for their third song, the beautifully restrained "Be My Friend". Davidson's vocals achingly hit the spot with man of the moment Fraser re-winding the decades and finding all the right fretwork moves, laying down the platform he’d first constructed all those years ago.
It allowed Buckton the freedom to fly into the haunting solo and it was as if there was a little of Kossoff in the room - and indeed there was. For Buckton's interpretation apart, he had in his hands Kossoff's very own Les Paul. This is the one owned by Koss' old friend Arthur Ramm and the basis for Gibson's recently recreated Kossoff models.
Ramm occasionally passes it over to Buckton and you would want it to be in good hands. It was.

Next up, "Songs of Yesterday" featured a wonderful bass line and change of tempo and Fraser and Buckton could be seen exchanging words and nods across the stage. It turned out that Fraser may have co-written it but he was not quite sure of the key! He dismissed it as a "senior moment" but they busked it beautifully. Great work from Buckton, Davidson and Dunn, too.
And then another classic: "Fire and Water", tapping into Free's richest vein. Fraser genuinely looked to be loving it. Where have you been Andy? Don't dare stay away another 38 years!
The original featured a fine Kossoff solo, replicated on the band's live recordings so the bar was set high for Buckton. He did not disappoint, but how could he with Fraser majestic at stage right, nodding, as he fairly throbbed through the song.
And then he was gone. The ceiling almost fractured such was his ovation as he passed his bass lead back to Rick Hunt. The crowd loved everything Fraser gave them.
What followed was, in essence, Freeway's own tribute to Fraser and a thank you for his time with them. A tribute act in the very best sense of the word.
"Ride on Pony" always rocks and "Walk In My Shadow" took us back to Fraser at 15 - the song Free played that very first night they formed in Battersea's Nags Head pub. This was the slow tempo version with Buckton ablaze.

Those wonderful songs kept coming and the highlight for me, and noted by several website posters later, was "Moonshine" which - if neglected - can be a graveyard dirge. Not tonight, no sir. Thank you Mr John Buckton and your Paul Kossoff Gibson Les Paul. A virtuoso performance of Koss' lengthy solo had the room on its feet as his wailing notes ebbed away.
"The Stealer" was a match for the Fraser Band's earlier version and they closed where Andy had started, with "All Right Now" as the audience roared not just the chorus but both verses too. Davidson loved that. Then followed those three-syllable chants that ensured they had to return: "The Hun-ter!". (I think you'll find it's "The Hun-tAH!", actually.....Ed. :) )
And so we got it. In all its crowd-pleasing majesty. Davidson echoing Paul Rodgers' vocals with Hunt (no pressure on your bass playing, surely) and Dunn sketching the perfect rhythm blanket for Buckton to pierce with his searing licks.
What a night. What a gig.
We have now had 40 years without Free. That aches. It hurts like many of the lines in their songs.
But if there is ever to be a belated Free project; if Rodgers and Fraser can ever set aside past insults and fall-outs, then we will all be overjoyed.
Andy looked like he enjoyed this so much…a part of his life he has chosen to put to one side until so very recently. Welcome back.
And if Fraser and Rodgers can work again, we all know a guitarist who might just bounce off them rather well.

Bill Bradshaw

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Cambridge Rock Festival

Your set was fantastic and the crowd were great too. Glad you went down so well, hope you enjoyed it as much as we all did. (Certainly! - Ed.) There are still a lot of people out there who saw Free the first time round - I’m far too young to have done that of course! (Me too! More's the pity *huff* - Ed.).

My daughter enjoyed your set too but, like a lot of people, probably only recognised a few songs. That probably goes for me too, but I’m also picking up some of the other less well known songs (good, good, we love it when the crowd sings along! - Ed.).

To be honest it wouldn’t matter to me what you were playing because you’ve got such a great sound and a great vibe when you play. You’re totally infectious, great to watch!

- Stuart Armour

Cambridge Rock Festival

Thank you for the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING set you did at the Cambridge rock fest on Sat!
 
John your guitar work was breath taking!!! what speakers are you using in that amp (and more importantly how old is that - haha) Think I need to send my Les Paul back to Gibson as it doesn't sound anywhere like yours!!!
 
The whole band were amazing, and thanks again for the fantastic set you played!
 
- Barry 'Baz' Savage

Thanks for the feedback! It was totally amazing to play at the festival to a crowd who certainly knew their stuff! What a crowd. What a weekend! Why oh why is it only once a year?- Ed.

Bomarsund Social Club nr. Ashington, Northumberland

What an absolutely fantastic night, thanks to you all Elaine, John, Rick & Rob you have blown us all away, music - goes without saying - world class. Bit of advice to people who have not see Freeway yet, WHY?!?! Go and see them as soon as possible! FANTASTIC! BRILLANT!! MEMORABLE!!!! Rock Cambridge to it's core guys......

- Neil Dickinson

Well, what can we say to that? Except that we also had a fantastic time! To see so many people giving up their time to help, donating raffle prizes, manning the stalls, organising the food...etc...etc...really reminds me that there are so many good people around us. Our little region has taken a bit of a battering lately in the national press for various reasons. It's a shame we didn't have the BBC there on the night to show the world what the north-east is really about! Looking forward to our next meeting! - Ed.

Bomarsund Social Club nr. Ashington, Northumberland

My mother died of Bowel Cancer 11 weeks ago and my son and daughter-in-law decided to arrange a Charity event to raise money for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. We were offered a local social club as a venue and my son thought it would be a great idea if we could get a live band to perform. He sent out some emails to a number of tribute bands, within 48 hours he was contacted by Freeway saying they would be honoured if they could play for us.

 What a fantastic bunch of people they are - the world would be a better place if everyone was as genuine as these guys!! Not only did they offer to play for us but they helped us advertise the event and through their help the place was packed (many thanks for that Freeway).

Being a massive Free fan myself since the heady days of the late sixties this was a dream come true for me, the night itself was unbelievable the guys did two sets of pure quality and energy that Free themselves would have been proud of, finishing set one with My Brother Jake (which the guys kindly dedicated to my son & daughter-in-law from me) and Wishing Well… they had the place rockin’ and left the stage to tremendous applause which was thoroughly deserved.

For set two the guys did the original 1970 Isle of Wight set performed by Free and if Free performed it any better than these guys it must have been something to behold; by the time they got to All Right Now the dance floor was heaving and Paul had everyone joining in the chorus (great fun) they finished the night with a truly outstanding performance of Crossroads.

The debt of gratitude me and my family owe these guys is beyond comprehension and with their help we have managed to raise around £2000 for the charity. I hope the guys enjoyed themselves as much as we did and in the process they have inherited many new friends as well as fans from within the Dickinson family.

Many thanks again guys and you will be seeing a lot more of the Dickinson family at your gigs from now on.

P.S Good luck for Cambridge on the 7th August….knock em’ dead!!

- Ralph Dickinson

It really was our pleasure, Ralph. You have a fabulous family and we all had a great night. Looking forward to seeing you again soon! - Ed.

The Arkenstall Centre, Haddenham, nr. Cambridge

What a fantastic bunch you are. It was a great gig last Saturday in Haddenham. Thank you very much for coming all that way to play for us. I never had the fortune in seeing Free live, mores the pity, but Freeway is the next best thing, you were all I expected you to be. Mr Big, Fantastic. Please pass my thanks to the lads. I do hope to see you all again before too long.
Have a good summer.

- Nick Plumb

Thanks for coming to see us! It was a pleasure. Great venue, excellent crowd. Hope to see you again soon. - Ed.

The Arkenstall Centre, Haddenham, nr. Cambridge

Saw you at Haddenham last night and wanted to say thank you for an excellent gig. We thought you were outstanding. Hope you enjoyed yourselves too.

- Ben Meadows

Thanks for coming, Ben, and thanks for taking the time to tell us what you thought of the show. We had a fabulous night! - Ed.

The Arkenstall Centre, Haddenham (nr. Cambridge)

I was at the gig in Haddenham last night and just wanted to thank you for providing such a fantastic evening's entertainment. I've been a Free devotee for longer than I care to remember, but am sad to say that although having seen the original Simon K., Paul R. and Koss, perform in Bad Co and Back Street Crawler respectively, I never saw Free - my biggest regret! They even played at my school, in Essex, when I was sixteen and I missed it :-( (*totally lost for words* - Ed.) However, last night you all but removed that regret with the astonishing quality and energy of your performance, not to mention the atonishing and painstaking attention paid to authenticity!
 
I hope you will be able to get some more gigs in the South soon - I so much enjoyed last night's atmosphere I want to re-live the experience and bring a few more friends along!
 
 - John Harris

Thanks for this wonderful review, John. So glad you enjoyed the show. We look forward to seeing you (and some of your friends) soon! - Ed.

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Rovers Rugby Club, Hartlepool

A great night at the Rovers last night !
If anyone has seen a better FREE tribute band than FREEWAY then please let me know cos i cant wait to go and see them - ! ! !

For my money the best way to judge any tribute band is to close your eyes and concentrate on the music and ask yourself - are they on the money ?
These fellas are on the money all the time and their sound is SUPERB .
Playing for 2 hours without a break just goes to show how dedicated these lads are, a brilliant night with everyone going home happy - isnt that what lifes about?

FREEWAY are one hell of a FREE tribute band, the best that we have seen, which is why they are headline band at the annual FREE convention this year and have been for a number of years now. Anyone who has seen this band will vouch for their quality and return to see them time after time! Great entertainment !

So if you fancy a dose of smouldering rockin' blues the way it used to be played when we were kids get yersels along to The Rovers and let this band bring the memories flooding back - KOSSOFF and RODGERS - happy days !

- Tommy Wormald

Thanks for another great review, Tommy - always a pleasure - Ed.

Rovers Rugby Club, Hartlepool

Top turn again. These lads get better everytime you see them.

- John S

- Thanks John, short and sweet! - Ed.

Rovers Rugby Club, Hartlepool

Thanks for a great night, we had a blast. Freeway were brilliant, and you couldn't hope to meet a nicer set of lads.

- Dave, from (support band on the night) Split

- Thanks for a great opening set and for your kind comments, Dave - Ed.

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The Inn at Lathones (part of the FIFESTOCK music festival)
Reproduced from The Daily Express website (www.express.co.uk)
with kind permission from reporter Bill Bradshaw

Imagine an idyllic, whitewashed inn in the middle of Fife, the rolling Scottish countryside all around.

This is the beautiful Inn at Lathones, a reasonably short hike from the golfing splendour that is St. Andrews.

Then imagine some of rock's biggest names rolling up at the inn, setting up in the unfeasibly small music room and filling the place with raucous rock and roll which threatens to lift the roof off the old place. It's an unlikely mix but it works wonderfully.

Each year at this time promoter Dave Mundell stages his Fifestock Music Festival here, three weeks of choc-a-bloc gigs at the inn where capacity is 50...you heard it, 50! Yet word has spread so fast that the Inn at Lathones is Music Pub of the Year 2009.

Last week it was the turn of blues-rock band Freeway, dedicated to keeping alive the music of Free, to fill the room with string-bending, blues-guitar driven rock. It was a blistering evening, watched appreciatively by Henry McCullough of Wings and Joe Cocker Grease Band fame whose own band were due to play the following night.

Freeway should not be tagged as a tribute band, they are much more than that. And as Paul Rodgers, founder-vocalist with Free, has vowed not to tour with a band of that name out of respect for their late lead guitarist Paul Kossoff, this is as good as it gets. And it is very good.

So good that Simon Kirke, Free's original drummer who went on to form Bad Company with Rodgers when Free split, has joined Freeway on two recent UK tours and would have been at the Inn at Lathones but for the little matter of rehearsing a UK-tour with Bad Company, Rodgers et al!

Freeway, perhaps out of respect for the confines of the room, began with a short acoustic set. Free are not widely known for their lilting, subdued songs but there are plenty to choose from and the Les Paul stayed locked in lead guitarist John Buckton's case as he plucked away on his Guild 12-string through some fine numbers: "Soon I Will Be Gone", "Get Where I Belong" and "Travellin' In Style" stood out with vocalist Paul Smith doing a good job filling Rodger's sizeable shoes. He was particularly impressive on "Muddy Water", one of the highlights of Free's final studio album "Heartbreaker" in 1973.

After a short break, the latches were flipped, out came the Les Paul (Buckton often plays with a vintage model once owned by Kossoff) and the band were at full throttle. But Freeway, so true to the original, are more about feel than volume-10 thrashing.

They began their electric set with "I'll Be Creepin'", full of film noir menace followed by "Woman" and the ultra-bluesy "I'm A Mover". The audience, small but appreciative, were hooked with drummer Rob Dunn and bassist RIck Hunt putting down the perfect platform for Buckton's evocative blues-guitar riffs and solos and Smith's rough-hewn vocals. The early part of the set was highlighted by "The Stealer", originally the follow-up to monster-hit "All Right Now" and given some extended solo treatment by Buckton - based on Kossoff's known live versions from bootleg recordings. Wonderful.

"Songs Of Yesterday" displayed a stylish change of pace in mid-song; "Walk In My Shadow" had Smith recreating Rodgers' cocksure vocal treatment before Free's live staples closed the show..."Mr. Big" - never were Rodgers and Kossoff in better unison - "Fire And Water" and, of course, "All Right Now" to finish the set. Except the little room demanded more.

It came with the blues standard "Crossroads", a Free live gig must and, perhaps inevitably, "The Hunter", written by Booker T and the MG's, it became Free's show-closer par excellence. Messrs Buckton, Hunt, Dunn and Smith did not disappoint - a searing end to a fabulous evening.

Within moments Buckton was sought out by McCullough at the bar for a long chat. It's that intimate...it's that good.

Fifestock 2010 has showcased, among others, Graham Goldman (ex-10CC) and Mick Taylor, the Rolling Stone who got away. Big names, up close and personal...put it on your Bucket List.

- Bill Bradshaw

- What can we say, Bill? What an excellent review, both for Freeway and for Dave Mundell and his excellent festival, and for the venue too. The Inn at Lathones is a little haven of music heaven! Thank you so much for all your support. - Ed.

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The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

We went to see a tribute band called Freeway at the Brewery Arts Centre on Saturday 20 February. Freeway, as you might guess from the name, are a Free Tribute Band featuring drummer, guitarist, bassist and vocalist. The all hail from the NE of England and rarely make it over to our side of the country.

The gig was brilliant. They really do the Free numbers a great deal of justice. They all clearly are big Free fans and make their sound as authentic as the originals. That is not an easy thing to do from the vocals - where Paul Smith fills the vocal slot with a big voice and personality; John Buckton on a very Kossoff-style Les Paul; Rob Dunn on drums and my personal favourite - seeing a very Andy Fraser-style bass playing from Rick Hunt. It just reminded me of the full nature of his playing in Free. They played all the songs that you will remember and a few more including Mr Big, The Hunter, My Brother Jake, and of course All Right Now.

So if they come back to Kendal, and you like Free then go and see them play.

Thanks to Vince at www.southlakesguitarclub.co.uk for this great review - Ed.

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The Phoenix Theatre, Blyth

I've been a massive fan of Free since the inception of the group, and appreciated the huge talents of each of the band members. I've seen Paul Rodgers live several times (us too - Ed.), and his vocal talents are still awesome (we agree - Ed.). I appreciated that to capture the raw sound of the original band would be a tall order, so I went to the gig in our (tiny) local theatre with an open mind.

This band is awesome, absolutely brilliant, and the set they played was hugely enjoyed by everyone.  Paul Smith is an extremely talented singer, and the talents of the band members gelled perfectly. Thank you for a memorable evening!

- Geoff Seccombe

Thanks for sending in your review, Geoff. Hope to see you at another show soon! - Ed.

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The Phoenix Theatre, Blyth

From the opening line to the encore I was blown away by how good and authentic the sound was; looked good too! - I am 28 and enjoyed it almost as much as my dad, who saw Free at the Isle of Wight festival. If it wasn't a seated venue, then I'm sure everyone would have been on their feet from the off, rather than just for the last few songs, it was a top night........The bass player (Rick - Ed.) added a lot of presence and the guitarist (John - Ed.)was top notch.......Not to mention the mind-blowing vocals from Paul Smith! Paul Rodgers would be impressed, I'm sure.
Definitely up there with the best tribute bands I've seen....and it's obvious how much all of the members love the music of Free.
 
See you soon in a standing venue,
Cheers for a great night

- Ross Teasdale

Thanks for your kind review, Ross, and for supporting the band at this excellent small venue - Ed.

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The Annual Free Convention, Tynemouth

Enjoyed set enormously! Novel way to organise the set! (for those who weren't there, we went through the albums chronologically playing selected tracks off each one - Ed.)  First time I've ever heard Over The Green Hills live. Keep it going!

- David Snaith

Thanks as ever for your support and feedback, Dave. Always much appreciated - Ed.

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The Woodcutter, Hartlepool, 27th March 2009

FREEWAY- gobsmackingly good at everything they did, and as far as FREE are concerned, they need have no worries about this band carrying their brand of smouldering blues/rock and passing it on to future generations (Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser are in complete agreement with you! -Ed.) - far and away the best FREE tribute band we have come across and brought back a few memories for those fortunate enough to have seen FREE live all those years ago.

They must have been good judging by the amount of people that were dancing at the front!

These lads played every popular number that FREE ever made and then some. All Right Now  is one of those song's we've heard over and over and over again, but when it's played to the standard that this band achieves, then it's an absolute pleasure to listen to. Keep it going, lads - you deserve some success at what you do and you'll certainly return to the Woody at some time in the future. (We'll be there on 18th December - bring your Santa hats! -Ed.)

Anyone who likes smouldering blues/rock have got to go and see this band - they will not disappoint you. Just for now, all of us here at the Woody are "All Right Now".

- Tommy Wormald

Thanks for this lovely review, Tommy - we look forward to seeing you in December - Ed.

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The 'Dunelm' reviews are feedback for Freeway's show with legendary Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke at Dunelm House in Durham. This was the opening show of our UK tour with Simon.
 
There was magic in the air tonight! (Dunelm - Ed.)  Took my daughter along and she was mighty impressed - I've brought her up properly!
Great gig. Sound and atmosphere was first class. Superb singer - best yet!

- David Snatih

Thanks for your kind comments, Dave - your support of the band is, as always, much appreciated. Ed.

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The lads put on a top class show tonight.  (Dunelm - Ed.) I am so impressed with all of them.

- Bryan "Jake" Jackson

It was a pleasure to have you there - so glad you enjoyed the show!! Ed.

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Had a great time. Simon and Larry were terrific. It's the first time we've seen Freeway (you picked a bloody good night, then - Dunelm! Ed.) and they were brilliant. Looking forward to the reviews (you've written your own - brill. Ed.) and pics on the website. Good luck with the tour, punters going to the other shows are in for a treat.

- Graham

Thanks for the very positive feedback. We look forward to seeing you at future shows!

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The concert was sensational (Dunelm - Ed.). I've seen a few very good tribute bands; tributes to Queen, Pink Floyd, and some other Free tributes. Freeway are the best I've seen by a street. Just like the original Free, where each member could hold his own in their own special way, Freeway were the same (what a compliment! - Ed.). Drums, bass, guitar and vocals were just sensational.

Another thing that separates Freeway from other tributes I've seen is their committment. They believed in what they were doing, it didn't seem to be any kind of an act (you're right - it's not - their enthusiasm for the music and desire to recreate it as authentically as possible knows no bounds - Ed.). Whereas other tributes appear to be going through the motions, Freeway were totally committed and that was infectious; the audience believed in them. Their authenticity has to be seen to be believed (very true - the term "tribute band" is bandied about far too lightly these days - there are "cover" bands and "tribute" bands and they are two completely different things - Ed.).

For me, it was very nostalgic, being a huge Free fan all those years ago and now continuing with the help of Freeway. The set was excellent, all the favouries were played with one or two nice surprises....brilliant!! (glad you liked it - it's always difficult to know what to include / leave out when they're only playing half a set - Ed.).

Simon Kirke was excellent, both in his own set and drumming with Freeway. Although for obvious reasons, it would be great to see him as the permanent drummer in Freeway, Freeway's drummer was brilliant also (hooray for Rob - Ed.). I wouldn't hesitate to come and see Freeway again,and because of their quality I'd be prepared to travel.

- Maurice Knox

Thank you so much for taking the time to write and send this smashing review, Maurice.  We really appreciate it.

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