Billy Walton Band + Brave Rival

Tuesday 5th April 2022

The 100 Club, London

This was yet another exceptional line-up presented by Solid Entertainments for the Tuesday Blues event at the 100 Club, with the audience treated to music of the highest quality. Portsmouth based Brave Rival offer something a little different. They are essentially a gutsy little power trio with the added lung power of two fine female vocals who, not only deliver super charged melodies in the highest of registers to blow the audience away, but actually perform the numbers with high intensity and provide a moving visual feast along with the excellent guitarist, Ed Clarke, and bassist Billy Dedman, who throw a few shapes themselves to help make this an all action affair.

All but one number on the night came from their very soon to be released debut album Life’s Machine’, which is well worth investigating, full as it is with cracking Rock and Blues songs. The vocals of Chloe Josephine and Lindsay Bonnick combine wonderfully to give numbers like ‘Break me’ an epic grandeur that is really refreshing. Elsewhere they rock out on the punchy riff laded songs like recent single ‘Heart Attack’ and the saucy closing number ‘What’s Your Name Again’, which gives the female perspective after a one-night stand. Donna Peters on drums (non-flashy but solid as a rock) is the third female in the band and it’s good to see the boys outnumbered for once. They were great and are definitely worth making the effort to see if they come by your neck of the woods.

I have to admit that Billy Walton has passed me by. I appeared to be in a minority of one as most folk there had seen him several times and were most excited about the prospect of seeing him again. This turned out to be a real treat for me, going in with no expectations (Brave Rival were a main course by themselves) and leaving on cloud 9 after a sensational set from one v classy outfit. From the opening notes of ‘One in a Million’, from the 10 year-old album ‘Crank It Up’, when the band immediately hit the kind of soulful groove that frequently eludes British musicians, and Billy Walton hit some cool Albert King style bends, it was clear that the audience were in for a fabulous end to the evening.

Exuding some cool Asbury Park sass the band proceeded to crank out one soulful Blues based rocker after another. I don’t know how I’ve missed hearing about Billy Walton as his guitar playing is exceptional. He’s no slouch on the vocal front either and it makes perfect sense to learn that he spent several years playing with the great Southside Johnny (a couple of who’s London concerts in the 80s stand out as some of my best ever live experiences). He was assisted on backing vocals by the very charming Destinee Rae Monroe, who also added some acoustic and took centre stage towards the death on a powerful version of ‘Take Me to The River’, where she hit some notes that probably made dogs prick up their ears several miles away.

An enthusiastic duo sounded like a full horn ensemble and added to the New Jersey flavour. Tom Petraccaro, in particular, on sax gave out the vibe that he was having the time of his life and it brought a smile to the face to watch him get into it on stage. William Paris on bass was definitely too cool for school in his shades and laid back demeanour. Much of the set featured a string of numbers from his most recent studio album, 2020’s ‘Dark Hour’: ‘Confusion’, ‘Cold Day in Hell’, ‘Long Way Down’ and ‘Free World’ followed one after the other; all cracking songs featuring some beautiful playing from the charismatic band leader.

Live favourite ‘Mountain’, from 2015’s ‘Wish For What You Want’ and which also features on recent live collection ‘Live From The Barn’, ended the set and after some schtick where the guitarist pretended to ask the audience to squeeze in a bit as he took a photo, he opened a nifty app that turned his phone into a mini theremin, enabling him to coax some wild notes from his Strat’ for an explosive climax. This is a band that, almost without seeming to break sweat, provide a rollercoaster wall of sound. Smooth stagecraft and sensational music. An amazingly good live act.

Simon Green