Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs + Jack J. Hutchinson
Wednesday 19th September
The Black Heart, London
Halfway through their current 'Pills' UK tour - Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs certainly delivered their meds at a packed and appreciative Black Heart in London's Camden last Wednesday night. Supported by his old mucker Jack J. Hutchinson, Bloater's trio, including Matt Cowley (drums) and Steven Oates (bass), are on the road from September to October, following the release of their latest critically acclaimed album ‘Pills’ in June. We were also lucky enough to grab a few words with the big man before his set, so watch out for that audio interview shortly.
Regularly paying his dues on a thriving Blues Rock circuit, unbelievably this was the first time I had caught Jack J. Hutchinson since he graced BluesRockFest with his band at The Red Lion in Gravesend exactly three years ago. Preferring a fedora to his trademark bowler hat, Hutchinson, clutching his acoustic guitar, quietly arrived on stage, without any fanfare, as part of his 'Paint No Fear' tour, and proceeded to open with two songs from his 'Paint No Fear' album, released at the end of last year which reached #1 in the Amazon Blues chart and the iTunes Blues top 5. Despite being on his tod, Jack opened with his first single from the album 'Rattlesnake Woman' - originally a Psychedelic Space Blues track featuring a duel guitar solo between Hutchinson and Mike Ross - of course a stripped back version tonight, as was 'I Got Your Number' which Jack could have quite easily dedicated to the punters who continued to chatter at the back of the venue. #shutthefuckup. Fair play to Jack as he warmly greeted the audience with a "How the fuck are you?" - and if that didn't get the Black Heart's attention then his next song 'Hip Slickin' most certainly did.
A swampy Cajun delight thanks to Hutchinson's foot stompin' slide - the third single from the album which understandably received a fair slice of Planet Rock airplay. Jack's amusing Italian beard anecdote led us to the pure Rock n' Roll of 'Rapture' and the lovely 'Solemn Song' - two of three songs that Hutchinson has written for RHR's 'Mahogany Drift' - due to be released on Thursday 1st November - a new powerhouse band featuring the triple guitar-frontman line-up of Hutchinson, Troy Redfern and Mike Ross, heavily rooted in the jam band scene, mixing the best of Southern Rock, Americana and Blues. Cue a Jack hand clapping anecdote from the Darlington Blues Festival a few days earlier, followed by the opening track and single from the album 'Deal With The Devil', which truly showcased the strength of his vocals. Indeed, given his final taxi story, this song might have inferred that Jack had taken a ride down to those Mississippi crossroads at some stage! The London based guitarist's eclectic tour continues into October with the Jack J Hutchinson Band, solo acoustic, Hutchinson, Ross & Redfern plus the Space Blues Extravaganza! On this evidence, whatever the format, I promise that I won't leave it another three years till I catch Jack again!
Unlike Jack, the last time I caught Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs was at Ramblin' Man Fair in early July. Following their storming Ramblin' Man set the previous year, Bloater was asked back to perform in the VIP tent on the Saturday, although, at the last minute, the band were asked to deputise for Chas and Dave as Chas was too ill to perform. Sadly, when writing this review, I heard of Chas Hodges's death, and therefore would like to dedicate this review to the legend that was Chas. Suffice to say, on that day, despite being totally unrehearsed, the band proceeded to totally blow away the uncovered Blues Stage on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.
In contrast to JJH's entrance, Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs entered the stage to the strains of 'Blake's 7' (yes really) with Bloater in his trademark Hawaiian shirt and ten gallon hat with Steven and Matt manfully bringing up the rear as they opened with the title track from their excellent new album 'Pills'. BBB then adjusted his mic stand and with a vociferous 'Are You Ready?" launched into ''Robot Girlfriend’ from their previous 'Luxury Hobo' album - Bloater's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with a mean Blues guitar solo. "This is a hot one for the slackers", the Surrey Cockney announced - cue 'Slacker's Paradise' - another new one from 'Pills', as was 'The Digital Number Of The Beast', Bloater complaining it was "so fuckin' hot" as he raised his pint to the audience, with both the song title and the big fella's fine chops suggesting that he had also jumped into that taxi with his special guest down to those crossroads!
Dedicated to those paranoid people in the audience, the delightful 'I Got The Feeling Someone's Watching Me', with its divine tango beat and rhythm, further emphasised Cowley's superb drumming, whilst 'Pills' 'Friday Night's Alright For Drinking' (check out the official video), with its great chorus, showcased the big man's undoubted slide prowess. Oscar Wilde once said that "work was the curse of the drinking classes" - so once Bloater had enquired "How are we doing - has anyone died yet?" - we then got onto to the subject of hangovers, which quite appropriately took us back to Bloater and The City Shakers and ‘Messin With The Booze’, with another awesome Bloater guitar solo and a mighty nod to that riff from Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Classic! Back To 'Pills' and BBB's swipe at the music business or as he put it - "How shit the music industry is!" - and 'Stop Stringing Me Along' (another funny video), although he did take the opportunity of pointing us in the direction of his lovely better half Lisa, on the merch desk, plus also a shout out for 'Pills' backing vocalist Carly Greene who was also in the audience.
Three more newbies followed from 'Pills' - 'Unnaturally Charming', with a great opening riff and its slide guitar, all about a seriously disturbed individual - think "Dexter", said the American lady standing to the left of me, and then from psychopath to sociopath, the equally disturbing lyrics, but brilliant Rock n' Roll of 'Oops Sorry', and then finally, to complete the morbid trio, the brilliant guitar shuffle of 'The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle’ - "for all the over 40's in the audience". As we said at Ramblin' Man - it’s nice when you are made to feel special, although if it's any consolation, at least this time he didn't dedicate it to all the ugly ones in the audience! Anyway, it was now time to feel 'Insanely Happy', and this Reggae track from his 2012 album 'The World Explained' certainly did what it said on the tin!
Bloater’s distorted guitar intro signalled the foot-tapping 'Devils Not Angels' with its killer Rock n' Roll guitar plus Bloater’s distinctive gruff but great vocals, although the Church Of Big Boy Bloater had to be seen to believed as he conducted the volume of his congregation in various shouts of "Oi!". Very funny. The brilliantly entitled 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - also from ‘Luxury Hobo’ - with its 70's Rock n' Roll style, big guitar and lyrics was followed by the fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from ‘The World Explained’, although, I hold my hands up and admit that I actually missed this number, given that Bloater had made an appeal for another beer, which I duly obliged. Anything for a plug for the WRC and this time the big fella duly obliged, as well as plugging his merch for a final time and thanking JJH, the bar staff plus everyone else for coming out on a school night!
The band were joined for their 'Luxury Hobo' barnstormer 'It Came Out Of The Swamp' by Paul-Ronney Angel, the colourful Urban Voodoo Machine frontman, with Oates' brilliant baseline and imaginative lyrics, which Bloater delivered perfectly as usual in a very George Thorogood-esque manner, with Bloater's mean slide guitar duet with Angel's harmonica, thrown in for good measure. There was just time for one encore, 'This Ain't Rufus', from the latest album, and if you closed your eyes you could just imagine Chuck Berry jumping around on the stage to this one, although when I opened them, my abiding memory was Paul Ronney's head poking out of the dressing room door with a drink in his hand! Once again, this literal larger than life performer had truly rocked the Blues, with his trademark dirty strat Roots and R&B, totally complemented by his humorous lyrics and banter. Yes, we were insanely happy!