Chantel McGregor + Devanna Music
Thursday 11th August 2022
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
Unbelievably, it's now just over ten years since we first saw Chantel McGregor perform at London's 100 Club, with her spellbinding take on Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters', deservedly nominated in that year's WRC 'Best Acoustic' award. Suffice to say that two years later, not only did the diminutive Bluestress walk away with our 'Best Blues Performance' award, but the following year, the Yorkshire lass headlined our 2015 BluesRockFest in Gravesend. And despite having see her with Aynsley Lister at London's 100 Club in February earlier this year, tonight was a local no brainer to catch Chantel on the latest leg of her current UK tour.
Although, the disappointing blow that Blue Nation were no longer supporting Chantel on the night, was softened by the welcome news that Devanna Music had stepped in at the last minute. After another late cancellation, we had previously seen the acoustic husband/wife duo of Joanna and Devon Prosser (who also appear in Kent-based band, The Dirty Perks) supporting Focus at this same venue in May. Once again they played their interpretation of a "favourites" list that covers decades, and to be fair they added a number of new songs to their set, including 'Islands In The Stream', 'I'm A Believer', 'Suspicious Minds', 'Need You Now' (Lady Antebellum) and 'Free Fallin'. Stand out of the set though was Joanna's self-penned solo, 'Hold Still'. Beautiful. Indeed their spot on harmonies, their amusing 'Mrs. Robinson' dedication and the fact that they simply do it for the love of it, came across loud and clear, ensuring that, by the end of their set, their "Nashville" bucket was deservedly full of punters tips.
Following her 2019 live album, 'Bury'd Alive', last year this barefoot guitarist released the 'Shed Sessions', a couple of albums of mostly cover versions, and despite no new original album since 2015's 'Lose Control', we have seen Chantel many times before, and know that she always produces the goods. With long-time bassist Colin Sutton and drummer Thom Gardner to accompany her, Chantel was positively lost in this cavernous (thankfully air-conditioned) marquee, looking all meek and mild in her orange Summer frock, until she unleashed her electric guitar, and some screaming American tinged Blues Rock, rocking out with the Devil on the Bluesy riff of 'Lose Control's' 'Southern Belle', a very apt opener for The Beaverwood. Indeed, even though 'Lose Control' had a much heavier sound to its predecessor, 'Like No Other', songs from her debut album definitely have a harder, rockier feel to them, such as her next song and album opener, 'Fabulous', that Chantel jokingly introduced as "One to dance to at the weekend!".
With a heatwave outside, temperatures began to rise inside The Beaverwood, with 'Your Fever', another from 'LC', with its stop, start driving beat, that once again not only demonstrated that Chantel is a really accomplished guitar player and a talented songwriter, but also showcased that she has a great set of pipes, given the purity and tonal range of her voice. The punchy hooky grooves of 'Caught Out' from 'LNO', lead very neatly in to the beautiful 'Eternal Dream', written by Chantel and inspired by one of her favourite artists, Jeff Buckley, with an extended, emotive, second-half guitar solo, that was truly breathtaking. Yet another from the excellent 'LC' followed, the classic Heavy Rock, strong guitar riff and catchy chorus of 'Killing Time', before Colin and Thom took a break, as our former 2012 Acoustic Award nominee picked up her acoustic guitar to play the delightful and haunting 'Anaesthetize' from 'Lose Control'.
With her merry men returning back to the stage, Chantel continued the acoustic interlude with 'Bury'd Alive's 'Inconsolable', before changing back to her electric guitar for another outstanding solo. Chantel also has a charming stage presence, managing to effortlessly pump out power chords, not to mention endless power riffing and wild solos. Between songs she is bubbly and chatty, even during some of the songs, she is having fun and laughing with the band, but when the need arises and it’s time for the solo, she’s all business, the eyes are closed, head tilted and clearly loses herself completely in the music, letting it flow through her like only the greats can do.
Now the stage was filled to bursting with Hendrix inspired power Blues and her beautiful singing. And boy was it loud, as memories of our 2015 BluesRockFest came flooding back, as Chantel rocked out with the the title track of 'Lose Control', ripping it well and truly up, by blistering the ears of a very appreciative and healthy Beaverwood turn out. Great stuff. Delving back in to the debut album, with the Smokestack Lightning influenced, stripped down feel of ‘I’m No Good For You’, this allowed Chantel's guitar playing and vocals to shine through on this well-constructed song, inspired by Chantel's love of the TV show 'True Blood', which was immediately followed by Gardner's power driven drum intro on the soulful Rhythm and Blues of 'LC's 'Burn Your Anger'.
Naming no names, but Chantel's introduction that "This one's a bit Proggy", might have well seen one of our compatriots leaving to catch his 269 bus, but 'Bury'd Alive's ‘April’ really is a tour de force, an amazing instrumental that made good use of the large number of pedals set out on her pedal board, just waiting for her twinkle toes to engage them. It’s very much Steve Vai and Tea For The Wicked (remember them?) territory, with groove master Sutton outstanding on bass. 'Lose Control's, 'Take The Power', was not only a fitting climax to the set, but also reinforced Chantel's heavier sound, more mature song writing and catchy riffs and melodies, and as expected the audience cried out for "More!". Cue an encore of 'Like No Other's 'Freefalling' (not the earlier Tom Petty version!), with its pure Old School Hard Rock to send the Beaverwood faithful home happy, via Chantel's merch stand of course!
Although diminutive in stature, her talent, passion, tone and intensity is evident in every note. With a great voice, something that so many guitar acts lack, her warm personality is a pleasure to witness. An excellent show from an excellent band. Chantel returns to the iconic 100 Club on Friday 2nd September. Don't get caught out.
Photos by Rockrpix and AJ