Big Boy Bloater And The LiMiTs + The Bitter Pills + Bluesman Mike Francis
Sunday 15th May 2022
The 100 Club, London
Usually a bit of a graveyard shift on a Sunday night, London served up three tasty gig dishes last Sunday 15th May, namely the 2022 UK Blues Awards at Camden's Powerhaus, Robert Jon & The Wreck at Highbury Corner's The Garage, but for mine, after what has seemed like an eternity, and given it was a Sunday after all, we just had to be one of the congregation at the church of Big Boy Bloater and his LiMiTs, as the trio finally returned to The 100 Club, following a three year absence.
Indeed, now a pre-Brexit French resident, Monsieur Bloater, had returned to Blighty, this gig being the middle one of their five-date UK tour. In fact, the last time we actually saw the guys was at Camden's The Black Heart in September 2018, and coincidentally it was actually six years ago to this day that we not only saw him blow the bloody doors off this very same iconic venue, but we also managed to interview the big man before his set.
Although, kicking off the evening, was a 100 Club virgin, Bluesman Mike Francis, also a first for us, but a well respected proponent of "new era Blues", who had joined Bloater for this tour. Despite a lack of early arrivals, those lucky enough to witness Liverpool and Philadelphia's finest, were treated to a short six song set from this one-man kick drum band, that opened with a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughan (always a good choice), a new track, 'Wise Man Blues', that showcased Mike's looper (no backing tracks here folks!) plus the foot stomping 'Five More Wishes'.
A pregnant pause by the former European Blues Awards Best Solo/Acoustic finalist, when changing his guitar (no roadies here folks!), as Francis next dispatched a beautifully poignant acoustic number, before closing out with a cover and singalong to JJ's 'Mercedes Benz', and finished with the Aynsley Lister vibe of 'Blinded By The Bistro'. We're in no doubt that Mike's appeal for his "Help Musicians" collection box was well rewarded after this great start to the evening.
Not be confused with Bloater's 2018 album, 'Pills', the incremental meat in tonight's 100 Club sandwich were West Sussex's trashy Fuzz and Blues duo, The Bitter Pills, consisting of Nico Blake Sc'erri (guitar and lead vocals) and Chris Cooper (drums). Opening with a Rage Against The Machine vibe, these guys did not hold back, keeping their energetic momentum going as they tore straight into their next number 'Gotta Fight Back'. Despite, taking a well earned breather, with a bit of banter with their travelling "Bitter" army ("whistle"), thankfully more of the same ensued, until the more Bluesy, 'Lover Man', with Blake Sc'erri's guitar nicely emanating shades of early White Stripes, showed that they could indeed mix it up a bit.
A great cover and vocal by Nico on Nirvana's 'Getaway', was followed by their latest single, 'Take It Slow', which not unsurprisingly they didn't, suffice to say that Cooper's luminous orange drumsticks were a delightful blur. Their "love letter to Nirvana", 'Hungry For More', was followed by their closer, and the stand out for mine of their eight song set, with the Booker T. & the M.G.'s vibe of 'Shackles'. If you like in yer face Rock & Blues, then I would definitely prescribe The Bitter Pills.
It had been so long since we'd seen Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs, that I'd completely forgotten about Bloater's love of classic Sci-Fi TV themes, as the band entered the stage to the strains of 'Space 1999' (yes really) compared to 'Blake's 7' the last time we saw them! Indeed, you should check out YouTube, and how this has influenced some of their awesome music videos. Anyway, it was good to see the return of his LiMiT's, namely Matt Cowley (drums) and Steven Oates (bass),and of course the big man in his trademark ten gallon hat and his red polka dot brogues, although, sadly, Bloater's better half Lisa, had remained back home in Maison de BBB.
Despite it being Sunday, they kicked off with the brilliant guitar shuffle of 'The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle’, that Bloater usually dedicates "to all the ugly ones in the audience", and to add further insult to injury, followed this up with the brilliantly entitled, 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - from 2016's ‘Luxury Hobo’ album - with its 70's Rock n' Roll style, big guitar and lyrics. Cue the equally disturbing sociopathic lyrics of 'Oops Sorry', another slice of brilliant Rock n' Roll, that saw Bloater photobombed by an oops, sorry, opportunist, from a healthy 100 Club crowd, before the big man broke his silence, exclaiming "It's good to be back", and then launched into the aptly named, 'Insanely Happy', which we all were, smiling and bopping away to this classic from ‘The World Explained’.
Cowley's delightful Bossa Nova drum intro enticed the seductive Link Wray vibe of 'She Gets Naked For A Living', that was followed by the equally imaginatively entitled, ‘Messin With The Booze’ (as opposed to ‘Messin With The Kid’), that took us back to the time of Bloater and The City Shakers - plus the introduction of the shades wearing and beanie hatted Long John, the fusion of his harmonica and Bloater’s guitar, not only adding another dimension to proceedings, but also another mighty nod tonight towards that Booker T. & the M.G.'s. classic! The party continued with Bloater's slide guitar on 'Friday Night's Alright For Drinking' from the aforementioned album, 'Pills', before that Beatles vibe of the title track from BBB's 2008 album, 'That Ain't My Name'. They then went back to their 2012 self-titled debut album with ‘Every Path Has It’s Puddle’, that originally featured Imelda May, with Matt's "feverish" drum intro, its Duanne Eddy twang and a “kiss and a cuddle” chorus, reinforcing the vocal and guitar quality of Bloater’s earlier stuff.
After thanking both Bluesman Mike Francis and The Bitter Pills, the band introduced a new song, 'Banging My Head Against The Wall', before Bloater's delightful slide guitar proved to be the perfect antidote for 'Pills' awkward, 'Nasty Little Rash'! The couple dancing behind me to 'The Beast With 50,000 Eyes' was an obvious nod of approval to a trio of new stuff that also included 'Rise Of The Swamp Monsters' and 'Dirty Disco Blues', plus another from their 2012 self-titled debut, 'Get Over That It's Over', that's mysteriously appeared on YouTube recently, which Bloater partly played one-handed! Next up, and a reflection of the larger-than-life Blues personality re-focussing himself and having a clearer head, was the rip-roaring title track from the critically acclaimed, 'Pills', which was followed by the very amusing and catchy 'Robot Girlfriend', that further reinforced their thoughtful lyrics, intertwined with a mean BBB Blues guitar solo.
Fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from 'The World Explained, preceded a highlight, 'This Ain't Rufus', another from 'Pills', with its Chuck Berry vibe plus coordinated cries of "Oi!" from the audience during the chorus. "You gotta take the anger management course tomorrow" Bloater quipped, following, as usual, an over zealous "Oi" during this classic's quieter moment. Great entertainment. Long John then reappeared, as Bloater's distorted guitar intro meant we were closing with the foot-tapping Rock n' Roll 'Luxury Hobo' opener, 'Devils Not Angels', with LJ's Stranglers/Costello killer harmonica vibe, complemented not only again by the big man's tattooed right hand, but also by his distinctive gruff but great vocals. Long John remained for the encore, as the bassline of the excellent Oates, heralded everyone's favourite, 'It Came Outta The Swamp, a musical barnstormer with more imaginative lyrics, that Bloater delivered perfectly in a very George Thorogood-esque manner.
It would be churlish to say this was well worth waiting for, given what we have all been through recently, although we have certainly missed this big fella's fine chops, dirty Strat Roots and R&B, humorous lyrics and banter. Unfortunately, the band's tour ended last Friday, but with new material on its way - Allez Allez Monsieur Bloater! - Reviens Bientôt!