Wednesday 15th June 2022
Boston Music Room, London
Swedish Rock band Blues Pills are back touring the UK after an absence of five years and their first since the release of their 2020 album 'Holy Moly!' On this short visit they played only three dates; Download Festival on 10th June, G2 in Glasgow on 14th June and the Boston Music Room in London on 15th June.
Blues Pills were formed in Örebro in 2011 by vocalist Elin Larsson, guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry. They released their debut EP 'Bliss' in 2012 with their debut studio album ‘Blues Pills’ appearing in 2014 on the German record label Nuclear Blast. After the release of the debut album, drummer Berry left to be replaced by André Kvarnström. The live album 'Blues Pills – Live' was released in 2015 and captures the Pills at their very best. Their second studio album ‘Lady in Gold’ was released in 2016 also on Nuclear Blast and saw them move in a slightly more soulful direction. The striking album cover design for both albums was created by the Dutch artist Marijke Koger-Dunham, originally from the 60’s design collective known as ‘The Fool’, where she worked on designs for bands such as Procol Harum, The Move, Cream and the Beatles. A live album/DVD 'Lady in Gold – Live in Paris' was released in 2017, which again captures them at their very best. In November 2018, the band announced the departure of guitarist Dorian Sorriaux who wanted to pursue his own solo career. Bassist Zack Anderson moved over to guitar, and in October 2019 it was announced that Kristoffer Schander would be joining them on the bass. Their latest studio album 'Holy Moly!' was finally released in August 2020 through Nuclear Blast. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical about the release of this album without guitarist Dorian Sorriaux who's style was a major part of the band's sound, however, I needn't have worried as Zack Anderson does a sterling job! The album is definitely a step up with regards song writing and Larsson's vocal performances are off the scale!
The last time I saw Blues Pills was at the intimate Jazz Cafe in Camden, North London on 21st November 2017. On this visit, they played at the acclaimed Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park, North London. The gig was originally scheduled to be at The Dome, which is the larger ballroom above the Boston Arms pub, but due to low ticket sales it was moved to the smaller Boston Music Room at the back of the pub, which turned out to be a good move as they managed to fill the room which subsequently became a sell-out gig!
As soon as the band entered the stage the energy was electric and did not let up until they were done! They stormed through their set with gusto, being well rehearsed, confident, and totally up for it! With the determined intent to rock the place they kicked off with the groove laden 'High Class Woman' from the 2014 'Blues Pills' album. A barn stormin' opener that sees Larsson's vocal pipes well-oiled and ready to blow our minds! “High class woman, high class man, So much power held in your hand, High class woman, high class man, Day is coming and you'll all be damned.” She delivered a performance full of intense passion with copious amounts of stage pounding and mesmerisingly energetic leaps and jumps, commanding the stage as only she can. Staying with the debut album we got 'Ain't No Change', a simmering infectious repeated riff leading into some tasty Blues licks over rumbling drum rolls before Larsson snarled and hollered with vigorous gravitas! “There's a change in the sea, But I know there ain't no change in me, Don't you hide stay with me big moon, Keep on going what more can you do”.
The first of the new songs appeared next in the form of ‘Proud Woman' from the 2020 'Holy Moly!' album. My least favourite from the new album as it does not seem to go anywhere musically, but I dig the sentiment. “Wastin' time believin' lies from the hypocrites, Roll the dice, getting snake eyes, waitin' to get bit, Keep hearing I'm in trouble, I know I ain't all there, Yeah, I don't really care, 'Cause you can't kill the pride in me, There's fire inside of me burning' through every cell, I'm a proud woman.” Another new song 'Kiss My Past Goodbye' from the 2020 'Holy Moly!' album is much more on the money! A heavy groove stuffed song full of cosmic hooks and an eloquently rousing chorus delivered with articulate punch and exuberant energy. “Don't need to tell me what I already know, You're not the one that I was waitin' for, 'Cause you pose like a poser, joke like a joker, act like a bully, Sweet holy moly, cut like a reaper, hot lippin' cheater.”
Back to the 2014 debut album with 'Black Smoke', which starts of slow and mellow before breaking into a cacophony of guitar power chords and insane drum crashing and banging, “All of the forests were burnin', And black smoke was rising up through the air, God came down with his white beard long, And damned all the sinners who dared.” Larsson's going crazy prowling the stage making eye contact with everyone in the audience and reaching out to high five as many of us as possible. She made us all feel very much part of the experience. Things got even more wild with 'Bliss' from the 2012 debut EP. A full-on Heavy Psychedelic Stoner Rock freak out! Incessantly overdriven repeated Wah Wah guitar riffs hypnotised and galvanised our minds! Larsson's vigorously energetic dancing whilst belting out the lyrics and maintaining vocal control was mighty impressive. Keeping that Stoner vibe going was 'Astralplane' from the 2014 'Blues Pills' album. Another mellow start with restrained but expressive Blues guitar licks before evolving into a monster riff driven behemoth with madly crashing drums elevating the track up to a full-on assault on the senses. Larsson's beautifully controlled raspy vocals cut through the sonic melee like a knife through soft cheese! Brilliant stuff! “My blood turning cold down to the bone, Lying in the dark my eyes are closed, On my knees it's your last chance to make me know, The sky is black as this feeling in my soul.”
On to another exceptional new song with, 'Dreaming My Life Away', from the 2020 'Holy Moly!' album. Larsson gets to shine all over this one with her passionately expressive vocal performance. “I've been dreaming my life away, Losing my mind at the end of the day, You keep wasting your days away, You had it all now its slipping away.” An enthralling heavy track with spellbindingly groovy guitar from Anderson. The new ones kept coming in the form of 'Bye Bye Birdy', another rollicking high energy epic from the new album. Larsson's emotively sizzling throaty vocal delivery mesmerised. “My little birdy, he's too scared to fly, He stands on the ground stoned, staring at the sky, But one day my birdy, he's gonna fly away, Where he's a-going, Lord knows I just can't say.” A change of pace came with 'Dust' also from the 2020 'Holy Moly!' album. A slow brooding track that slinks along before a high-octane chorus stabs the air, raising the bar and emphasising the intent. “Eyes cut through the night like a knife, Driving with only the light, From our cigarettes, No one can ever escape from this fate, I'm breaking under the weight, Of my regrets.”
'You Gotta Try', the only track played from the 2016 'Lady In Gold' album, slotted in next with a slow burning start before accelerating in tempo towards an invigoratingly rousing chorus, “No one gets by there's no easy way, Time slipping by past repeats itself, No one asks why but I think we had enough, Old folks gonna pass it down, Young folks gonna past it around, You gotta try to be alive, And find a reason to believe in, You gotta try to be alive, And find a reason to believe in, Got to be my reason.” The bass and drums were locked in allowing guitar and vocals to soar far beyond the outer limits of insanity! Excellent performance from the band.
Onto the final lap with two Blues Pills classics from the 2014 debut album, 'Little Sun' opened with dark moody guitar minor chord phrasing before peerlessly emotive vocals came soaring in, the tension started to build when pounding drums perpetually rumbled with overdriven guitar power chords ringing and buzzing, finally exploding in a crescendo of electric madness and high-pitched screams! “The mountains falling all around me, The deep blue ocean overflows, The ground is shaking underneath me, In this spinning world without control, Oh, though it's hard, little sun, You have to know, When dark comes around, It's when you have to glow.” Staying with the 2014 debut album, and the final song of the main set, was the sardonically evil doom laden 'Devil Man'. Opening with Larsson's a capella high-pitched falsetto vocals, “Oh Devil Man, oh Devil Man, You got money in your pocket, You got blackness in your soul, Oh Devil Man, oh Devil Man”, before the heavy crunching guitar riffs came hurtling in and rampaged towards delirium! Larsson's intoxicating dynamism never waned, bouncing and flailing around the stage like a woman possessed, preaching the sins of the devil man, getting right in the faces of the crowd, and making hand contact with everybody within touching distance. At one point I thought she might do a bit of crowd surfing (apparently, she did this at Download Festival a few days before), but it was not be. “Oh Devil Man, oh Devil Man, You think you've got the answer, But you could never know, Oh Devil Man, oh Devil Man, You take diamonds you've been given, And you turn them into coal, Oh Devil Man, oh Devil Man, You ain't got no reason, And your heart's a dirty hole.”
For the encore we were surprised to receive a rendition of David Bowie's 'Moonage Daydream'. (Originally from the 1972 album 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars', which turned fifty this very month). A rapturous celebratory interpretation of this classic song with exquisite vocal delivery from Larsson. The band then left the stage triumphant with the enthusiastically attentive crowd chanting and clapping for more. Unfortunately, they did not return to the stage, leaving us wanting more! It was all over too soon, but they did promise that they will be back before the end of the year. It was quite evident that the band were firing on all four cylinders and without doubt delivered the goods!
Steven C. Gilbert