It is no secret to anyone that has even heard my name, that Shark Island are my favorite band and I have had a long obsession with them since I was 15 years old. They are yet another one of those bands that I had to wait 28 years to finally see in the UK.
As with many of the bands of that era, I first discovered them on Raw Power, (an hour-long music programme broadcast on terrestrial UK TV at 2am on a Saturday morning!). I had goosebumps within the first few moments of this song and yes I was a little mesmerized by Richard Black. I played this video almost continuously until I wore out the VHS tape and managed to get a copy of their debut label release Law Of The Order.
I fell in love with the album instantly and this album is a rarity in that the more time goes on, the more I love it. If I only had one desert island disc then this would be it! At the time even “Paris Calling” wasn’t often played in the clubs I visited and I didn’t know many people who were really into them. Alas, we never got a UK tour in support of the album, then Richard Black went off to do the Contraband album and tour, the band imploded and my poor little heart was broken.
They are quite possibly the most frustrating band to be a fan of. Over the years there was no news of what they were up to (I remember any American band I happened to talk to would have to endure the “Are Shark Island doing anything” question for many years). In the meanwhile, I spent years searching for a copy of their independently released S’Cool Buss album and the album they did prior to that as The Sharks. Also, over the years different people managed to send me various songs from the leaked demos that were doing the rounds amongst traders.
In 2006 after a wine and YouTube video night I happened upon the band’s My Space page. Imagine my joy when there was mention of an impending album release. Gathering of The Faithful released in 2006 contained reworked versions of the demos that had been floating about. It is an album that divides opinion amongst fans, as it is very different from Law Of The Order. After a few listens I loved the more laid-back approach to the songs. I had hoped we might get a tour but as quickly as Shark Island appeared, they disappeared again. Once again we endured years of complete silence and I truly thought we would never hear anything new or get any live shows.
2016 came and I was so jealous when Shark Island reappeared to play the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, one of my friends was lucky enough to be going and I was so envious as I said they were a band I would never ever get to see in my lifetime. I was proved wrong with this statement when they were announced on the 2017 Hair Metal Heaven bill. I was pleasantly surprised just how many people were very excited at the prospect of seeing them in Hull and they seemed to be one of the favorite bands of the weekend for many of my fellow festivalgoers. Thankfully after my 28-year wait, I was rewarded with an excellent set at Hull.
Since this gig all has been quiet again on the Shark Island Facebook page. Recently to my great excitement Shark Island have been announced to appear at this year’s Hair Metal Heaven and they have just released a limited edition vinyl live album. They are currently also working on a new album.
A few weeks ago I heard rumours of a spring Shark Island tour that didn’t happen. However, my spies did tell me that there was still going to be a London date, but to my frustration, I couldn’t find any mention of it. Luckily just over a week before this gig, Shark Island guitarist Damir happened to send me a message saying they were playing this surprise gig. Luckily I was able to make arrangements to go but sadly the short notice meant a lot of friends I contacted were unable to attend. It did seem a very peculiar decision to plan a “secret” very short notice gig (it was only actually properly revealed to be Shark Island a few days before the event). And if, as UK’s official number one Shark Island stalker, I was late finding out about the party then what hope was there for the rest of the UK fans?
Onto the gig itself! The venue was one of the nicest small venues I have attended on recent trips to London gigs. The door and bar staff were very friendly (the young bar staff surprisingly even seemed to know a little about Shark Island), it was only a few minutes walk from the nearest tube station and the beer was pretty cheap for London, and there was a really good atmosphere. The DJ played a perfect selection of tunes between the bands, all melodic rock that reminded me of Maximes/Nottingham Rock City heydays. In fact, if I lived closer to London I would love this place if it did weekend rock nights playing this genre.
There were four bands in total and it was a pretty eclectic line up; Killa an Italian metal band with a really great female singer, Punk rocker Jiro and Venrez who were a more laid back, alternative sounding band.
It was a fantastic opportunity to see Shark Island in a small and more intimate venue this time. For those who have not seen the band in recent years, the only remaining original member is Richard Black, but the line up seems to have now stabilized with Alex Kane, Damir Simic Shime, Marko Kara and Alen F.
I did wonder what kind of setlist we would get for a headline gig. A few of us hoped we might get treated to “Déjà Vu” from the S’Cool Buss album and I wondered if we would hear any new tracks. As it was, we got a crowd-pleasing set list focusing on some of the best known Law Of The Order and movie soundtrack songs.
The set opened with “Make A Move”, this is a song I have always loved the groove of and I had been pleasantly surprised that it was the set opener at Hull (due to it being a song that might not be known to more casual fans). Richard beckoned the crowd closer (obviously the restraining order on me must not have been issued yet) and so began an evening of us all hanging on to every word and singing our hearts out. We then moved onto Law Of The Order with “Somebody’s Falling”. What I really enjoyed again was that each song was introduced with a story (this is something I always really enjoy in a live setting. It does seem that the bands I enjoy most are those who have frontmen who are also good storytellers. It really does make a gig more of an engaging experience). We still get the signature stage moves (I did slightly regret my front center position as I was in danger of being decapitated by the mike stand several times).
All too soon the set came to an end with the classic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. Sadly two of my favorites, “Get Some Strange” and “Go West”, which were on the setlist, did not get played. The set came in at about 40 minutes in total, four bands with a Sunday night curfew was perhaps a little too much. Oh and all credit to Alex Kane for playing two sets (he also played with Jiro) with an injured hand.
I sincerely hope that this time Shark Island are going to keep some momentum going and not disappear on me again (there are only so many times you can break my heart … right). We have the second Hair Metal Heaven appearance here in the UK to look forward to in September. I (and a lot of other fans it seems) really hope we will also get a tour around this time too. In the current climate though I really think it needs to be a tour with either another band appearing at the festival or one of our more established UK bands that fit the genre and will encourage people to venture out. There is also the new album to look forward to, I sincerely hope people give up expecting Law Of The Order two and embrace the fact that we don’t have a band going through the motions trying to pretend it is still 1989! My final wish is that much as the air of mystique around Shark Island has its appeal, updating the Facebook page more regularly with news would be wonderful.