Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs + Laura B & Her Band
Thursday 19th January 2023
The 100 Club, London
With BluesFest at The O2 stopped happening already for three years, January Blues at The 100 Club is now no doubt the major annual Blues festival in London. The event this year has unfortunately met with the sad fate that Wilko Johnson, who was orignially scheduled to appear had passed away two months ago, followed only shortly by Kim Simmonds whose final UK show as Savoy Brown was one of the festival highlights in 2020. Our legendary heroes are sadly dropping like flies, leaving a lot of shoes to be filled by today's super talented young musicians, among them Mascot Label artist Big Boy Bloater, whose powerhouse performance last Thursday was arguably the most exciting gig of January Blues Festival 2023.
The responsibility to warm up the audience on that extremely cold night was left in the competent hands of Laura B and her 7 piece band, featuring virtuoso guitarist Chris Corcoran who is to play his own show at the same festival later this week. Although not billed as a co-headliner, they were given a set time of nearly an hour to entertain us with 16 songs, mostly upbeat numbers. Songs like 'Gambling Man', 'Got Me Working Hard', 'Ready For Love' were particularly welcomed by the crowd who agreed with Laura when being asked "Are you hot yet as I do?". 'Too Tired' near the end of their set was another good song, though an inappropriate title for that moment as it was safe to say nobody was too tired but instead all highly anticipating for what's coming up next.
What now seems to be the standard show opener of Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs, 'The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle', instantly set the tone this was going to be a night filled with anything but desperation. Instead the sparks from it ignited a hot party with everybody in the room now focusing their attention on the big man on stage. It didn't take more than three songs of punchy guitar sound and soulful voice from Bloater to convince this humble writer that I had come to the right gig. All the rave reviews I read on this phenomenal Bluesman were no overstatement.
After introducing members of the LiMiTs, Steven Oates on bass and drummer Matt Cowley on drums, BBB displayed his proficient skills on slide with 'Friday Night's Alright For Drinking', another outstanding track from his second and most recent album 'Pills'. Oates and Cowley, both long time collaborators of their band leader, provided a very solid rhythm section even in the absence of keyboardist Dan Edwards. This trio format made the songs rougher than on records yet at the same time more powerful, while Bloater remained a spectacular showman who let his guitar do the talking.
Having said that, our host maintained verbal communication with his audience at the right time, to make sure everyone was enjoying a fun night. He took well deserved pride of having written most of the songs he played tonight except one he wished he had written that was 'My Prayer' by The Platters. A tribute as such reaffirmed Bloater's love of 1950's Rhythm and Blues, a core influence on his own music style. A further interactive moment came as Bloater invited the audience to clap and sing along during 'That Ain't My Name', a song title that sounded ironic as he had chosen to mention the merchandise desk with his CDs and T-shirts prior to playing it.
Then came a brand new song, The Beast With 50,000 Eyes', with enough room for some very soulful slide guitar playing, which continued into the title track from the LiMiTs' second album 'Pills', and 'Robot Girlfriend', which was so funky it got everybody dancing and set the right mood for another extended round of audience participation. From 'Sweet & Brown', 'Bear Cat', to the BBB old time favourite 'Leonard Cohen', which turned the 100 Club into a house full of backing singers. Everybody's high spirits were carried on non-stop to 'Devils And Angels', in which Bloater teased the audience by lowering his guitar volume and gave us the signal to shout "Hey" quite a few times as a build-up to the climax of the show.
Happy moments always make time pass more quickly. Such was the truth to us happy souls soaked in heavenly Blues tunes for over 80 minutes. Suddenly it was time for the band to play the last song, 'It Came Outta The Swamp', again saw BBB playing some flawless slide guitar, proving himself one of the finest Bluesmen of his generation, leaving us eager for more but understood we just have to wait for his next return to the London stage. Meanwhile, a third album is also what we very much looking forward to, and hope it is in the pipeline.