The Thunder Christmas Party
21st December 2011
Nottingham Rock City

The usual Christmas festivities in Thunder Towers resumed this year, with the resurrection of what their T-shirts call a great British tradition. And you know what? On this showing, they may just be right.

Status Quo have long held the prime spot for rock based Christmas frolics, but if Thunder hadn’t have taken a break? It could have been them. If they could continue to reform every December for a couple of shows, if they’re on the same scale as the one I attended, they still could lay claim to be THE Christmas band of the people.

It sounds crazy, but Thunder gigs are unlike any other. It’s not all about the music – although the well crafted rock songs that they churn out effortlessly are of the highest standard – a Thunder gig is an event; it’s a party that 5 mates throw on the stage, and just happen to invite 1900 people to come round for a beer and a boogie.

Nottingham Rock City was full to the brim, and the Christmas spirit – and possibly some vodka, whiskey and gin as well – was flowing like nowhere else on Earth that evening. From the opening acoustic set to the very last note of the electric second half, nobody could surely have left the venue with anything less than a huge beaming grin on their face.

The music? Let’s not forget that. Luke Morley is one of the most under praised craftsmen in the business, and every one of his songs that Thunder unleashed tonight could comfortably sit on any rock compilation CD without shame. The acoustic set opened with a reworked version of ‘Everybody Wants Her’ that was simply stunning, and the quality kept on coming.

With Thunder Christmas shows, there’s always some special guests – Helena-May and Katy on backing vocals added an extra sheen to things, as did Tim Oliver on keyboards, and a jokingly introduced Peter Smoulder on “singing hat and guitar” added even more class. Then the songs filed into the party, to steal a line, like a long-lost friend that hadn’t changed and you remembered why you fell in love with Thunder to begin with.

The cover versions, a staple of the Christmas shows, came thick and fast. Tom Petty’s ‘Breakdown’ was cleverly done, a stunning version of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” nearly took the roof off of Rock City and “Live and Let Die” (incredible with the extra guitar on offer beefing up the sound) being the pick for me.

As for Thunder themselves, for a band that have been on hiatus for the best part of 2 years bar a couple of gigs, they sounded as tight as ever, if not more so. Luke and Ben on guitar duelled throughout the show as if they hadn’t missed a step, while Chris Childs’ bass filled in the sound perfectly. Harry on drums, as usual, was the heartbeat of the band – but special mention to Danny on vocals.

Someone smarter than me once said that Danny looks like your accountant, dances like your Dad but sings like a devil… and he certainly did all three tonight. His range and power of singing are incredible when you see it first hand, and he is the ultimate showman and party host at the front of the stage. He really is one of British rock music’s best kept secrets.

All the songs that made them such a powerful band were on show – Loser, I Love You More Than Rock n Roll, The Thrill Of It All, Like A Satellite and easily one of the greatest rock ballads ever, Love Walked In.

Amongst all of this, however, it was an acoustic ballad in the encore that provided one of the highlights as the man behind the drums became lead guitarist and vocalist for one brief moment… Harry got his moment in the spotlight to perform the end of A Better Man as the rest of the band looked on in wonder. A simple thing, yet pleased so many.

Closing the show, well – come on, it’s a Christmas party, what else could it have been? Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” was note perfect (including THAT note at the end) and was made perfect by the addition of 2 giant inflatable Santas (one of which that was seemed to take great joy in tormenting Luke, it had to be said) and a fake snowstorm to close. It couldn’t have been any better. Seriously.

That was the over riding theme of this gig. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people beaming from ear to ear after a gig in my life. Thunder as a band have such a devoted following, they could be forgiven for turning up and just phoning in a show, but they never do. There really is no other band out there quite like Thunder.

Danny, Ben, Luke, Chris and ‘Arry (and Pete, Tim, Helena-May and Katy) – thank you and Merry Christmas!