Gig review: Steve Harris’ British Lion at Warehouse 23, Wakefield

Steve Harris' British Lion
Steve Harris' British Lion
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One could forgive Steve Harris for taking a well-deserved summer holiday to unwind over the past week.

As the bandleader of Britain’s most successful heavy metal export, Iron Maiden, it has barely been a fortnight since he concluded an extensive world tour in Brooklyn, after well over a year and a half on the road.

Yet, the man affectionately known as ‘Arry is not one to pause for breath; at Warehouse 23 in Wakefield, he is finishing off a UK leg of shows behind long gestating solo project British Lion, as they gear up for European gigs and the recording of their sophomore outing.

If not quite possess of the outrageous showmanship and musical synchronicity his day job entails, then it’s a servable side-quest for the bassist; packed with melodic muscle and rawer riffs steeped that infringe upon affectionate homage to his heroes.

Maiden’s musical influences are no longer truly clear, 16 albums on, such is the ubiquity and influence of their own sound. But with British Lion only one record into their career, it is markedly easier to pick out the UFO-tinted squall that blows through Last Chance or the Jethro Tull-shaped shadows cast over Spitfire. Harris’s distinctly propulsive gallop is conspicuous by absence for the most part too; of the dozen-plus songs deployed over a ninety-minute set, only The Burning keels towards his iconic style, with low-slung, mid-tempo menace favoured instead on the doomy This Is My God and Bible Black.

Frontman Richard Taylor, notably softer in his vocal delivery, is sometimes swamped by the heft generated by his bandmates – duel guitarists Grahame Leslie and David Hawkins, plus drummer Simon Dawson – but the five-piece are generally efficient, untwisting the sweeping, sword-and-sorcery metal of A World Without Heaven from outlandish quasi-operatics into a thrilling seven-minute hard rock blitz.

But the rest are all foils to their driving force, whose every gesture is met with cheers.

Spry, rather than creaky at 61, he gurns and twangs with boundless commitment; whenever he props a leg on a monitor to pull his custom machine-gun pose, wild applause breaks out every time.

Long after Eighties-AOR encore Eyes of the Young, he remains on stage, high-fiving everyone who can get near the barrier. He won’t be giving up the stadiums of South America any time soon; but Steve Harris and British Lion look set for a successful second roll of the dice.