Ben Poole + Matt Pearce & The Mutiny
Wednesday 12th December
The Half Moon, Putney, London
Well, I have to admit I was a virgin to seeing either of these guys live until tonight but now I’m a convert. Here’s why.
First up was a short but sweet set from Matt Pearce & The Mutiny. The eagle eyed will have spotted Matt as the bloke from Voodoo Six, notable for their support slots with Iron Maiden. Fellow Voodoo Six man Tony Newton is one of Iron Maiden’s sound guys so there’s the connection. Matt is joined by Guilherme Aguiar on bass sporting an Eddie Izzard style floppy hat, Joe Lazarus on drums and the rather stunning Daliah Sherrington on backing vocals. She’s wearing some rather fetching padded leather pants - she looks like she’s just hastily hopped off her Harley and onto the stage. Joe is Nicko McBrain’s son - another Iron Maiden connection - nice to keep things in the family. It soon becomes very apparent that Mr Peace knows his stuff. He asks if there are Jazz heads in the audience. "Yeah!" goes, er, one guy. With that we’re given 'Ordinary Blues' in a rather extraordinary 7/8, a time signature that you’re more likely to hear from Radiohead or Rush. That’s proper showing off. We also get some some tasty covers that have been cracked open and scrambled up - if you’re gonna do a cover then make it yours. Prince’s 'Strange Relationship' is every bit as funky as the original and morphs rather perfectly into Fleetwood Mac’s classic 'Oh Well'. Of course! Why didn’t Peter Green do that? Along the way we get teases of Hendrix, slap bass solos and washings of wah-wah. But all too soon it was over. I asked Matt if he had any CD's for sale after the gig and he said there’s an album out next year. That should be one to look forward too. If you’re curious you can check out some songs already on Soundcloud.
Time for the main act then. But what’s this? Four skinny blokes all with neatly trimmed beards who look like computer nerds on a work night out have wandered onto the stage. Security! The IT Crowd are touching the instruments! Nope, as it turns out, this is the band. Now, that bloke on the drums looks familiar. Ah, of course it’s Wayne Proctor on day release from King King. But to me he’ll always be best remembered for the classic Jon Amor power trio Amor from the early 2000’s when he was about 12. I’m getting misty eyed already. Bass player Mat Beable from that band was with Ben for a bit too but tonight it’s the equally capable Beau Barnard. Ben plugs in and looks rather pleased to be here. This band has been gigging for a solid 6 months he says, and tonight may not be the end of the tour but it feels like it - London being his home town and all. That gets a suitably rousing cheer.
On goes the Squire Tele and we get a brace of songs from Ben’s latest album 'Anytime You Need Me'. Blimey. This guy is GREAT! The songs are solid and remind of that hard to get alchemy of Soul and Blues that Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang seem to pull off so effortlessly. Yes, he’s that good. And that voice! It sound a bit like Michael Jackson at times which sounds bizarre but my God it works. The band are constantly swapping huge grins between each other. They’re good and they know it. The Tele is swapped for a Les Paul for a cover of Freddie King’s 'Have You Ever Loved A Woman'. Ben does it solo and microphone-less for the first couple of minutes and the Half Moon is SILENT. He even dares to turn the guitar’s volume to zero for a bit and nobody even breathes. There’s not many who can do that without the audience erupting into chat about what happened at work that day. The song slowly builds into the equal of Clapton’s cover of it and maybe just edges past that benchmark at the climax. The Les Paul stays for 'The Question Why' from the 2016 album 'Time Has Come' - another slow burner with some lovely piano work from keys man Joe Mac.
Then the “proper” Tele come out. This one looks like it’s been through the wars. We get another trio of songs from the new album, more Jacko-esque vocals over solid Blues-Soul groove which remind me a bit of Robben Ford, Matt Schofield or Simon McBride. The suspicion that Ben has been soaking up some Michael Jackson is confirmed when we get a wee tease of 'The Way You Make Me Feel' in the middle of a song. Nice. 'Stay At Mine' is introduced as a “cheeky little song” and so it is. They’re all a bit cheeky in fact, well crafted songs that stand well above the vanilla Blues-Rock crowd. At times it’s as slick and skilful as Steely Dan but with just a bit of dirt thrown in. At one point Ben and Joe pull off a bit of wonderful Deep Purple-esque guitar-and-keyboards-call-and-response. If that that wasn’t Deep Purple enough for you - they break into the actual 'Smoke On The Water' for a bit. Big grins abound. Is there anything these guys can’t do? It’s like they’ve put the best of the 20th century in a blender. At the end of the set Ben tells of how he and the band spent weeks and weeks holed up in the studio to produce the new album and how proud they were of it. They should be proud, it’s a corker and the songs sound fantastic live. Wayne produced the album too, which makes you wonder where he gets the time for King King. The band don’t spend too long off stage before being coaxed back for one more - a lovely cover of Don Henley’s 'Dirty Laundry' which made everyone smile and cheer one last time. This really was one one of those gigs that you were sorry to see end and for me both Matt Pearce and Ben Poole have firmly joined that breed of new British guitarists who are carrying forward the legacy of Clapton, Beck and Page. Good luck guys! No pressure….
Pete Elphick (pictures courtesy of Bruce Biege)