Chelsea Blues, Rhythm and Rock Festival

Saturday 28th May 2022

Bush Hall, London

This Festival has been badly affected mainly due to COVID and the restrictions surrounding it. Last November saw an attempt made to run this show down at Under The Bridge in Chelsea, but almost no-one showed up, despite reasonable ticket sales and that might well have been down to the headline act not being able to travel, due to the restrictions in place. This was a second chance to run the show only this time, with the sale of Chelsea football club still in progress, it would now be at held at West London’s Bush Hall.

The Festival kicked off with Tin Rose, who I last saw at the Under The Bridge gig and at the time I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe it was because the band were feeling somewhat intimidated by the occasion, or were just underwhelmed by the low turnout, but I felt they left a lot on the table. This time, it was different. Tin Rose kicked off the Festival in style and this time they had brought their fans! With songs like 'Spoons' and 'Won’t Be Fooled Again' going down a treat. The slow Blues of 'Something Good' seemed appropriate as this show was billed as a Blues festival, before finishing off with the heavier 'Waiting For The Storm To Pass' and 'Wings Of War' brought the show to a fitting conclusion with 'Penance And Porn'. A fitting start to the festival.

Another last-minute line-up change saw The Ryk Mead Band appear on the bill. Once again, I had recently seen Ryk and his band down at London's 100 Club, only a few weeks ago. Ryk is a guitarist of great pedigree and technique but my criticism remains. He still needs to let some of his personality shine through to make him a more interesting prospect. But his band were tight despite a last minute replacement drummer and the music was undoubtedly the Blues. Songs like the Stevie Ray Vaughan influenced 'Chicago' and 'That’s The Blues' stood strong, despite a sudden bass solo to cover for a string break and a quick guitar change in the latter song. Muddy Waters got his moment with a great cover of 'Rollin’ And Tumblin’ before the 'Falling Into' brought the set to an end. Definitely more enjoyable than last month!

This brought on Jimmy Regal And The Royals. This relatively young three-piece (drums, guitar and harmonica/vocals) impressed with their energy and panache. Along with a few covers (like Little Walter's 'Last Night' and 'Mellow Down Easy'), hardly surprising, with their focus on the harmonica. Otherwise it was about promoting their new album ‘Late Night Chicken’ and the even more recent EP ‘Ain’t Done Yet’. 'Can’t Run' followed by 'Do Whatever You Can' both impressed. Closing the set was the stonking title-track from the latest album: 'Late Night Chicken'. A great set came to a close all too soon. Keep an eye out for these guys. It’s basic, it’s bold and it’s raw!

Next up was The Kendal Connection. Fronted by guitarist/singer/songwriter Nick Kendal and with a backing band of some pedigree, I was left feeling somewhat confused. Despite some impeccable playing, I was trying to decide where he was coming from. Was he a Rock act, a Blues band or a singer-songwriter who hadn’t quite come to terms with what he really wants to be? 'The Heart In The City', as he put it: "a song for anyone struggling with a hard time", sort of summed it up. 'Breathe' was very reminiscent of Steely Dan. 'Arizona Skies' was another song with an identity crisis, as was 'Driving Without Headlights'. 'Sign Of The Times' and 'The Change Is Coming' brought the set to its conclusion. Well played, but some direction needed.

The Cinelli Brothers were up next. I’ll admit to having been at the launch-party for their new album at Nell’s last night with almost all the guests who played on the album present, but tonight they were back to their four-piece best. These multi-talented Italian brothers know how to put on a show. Marco Cinelli’s guitar playing was on point and his piano playing put a smile on my face, while brother Alessandro kept a groove on the drums. Englishman Tom Julian-Jones on guitar and harmonica duties, stood tall alongside their new bass player, Frenchman Stephen Giry, who seemed very up to speed by now and who also showed himself to be a very handy guitarist where necessary. He seems to fit well into this international band.

The first three songs just blew past keeping in with their upbeat approach to the Blues, before they kicked off with an unexpected cover of J.J. Cale’s 'The Breeze'. But it wasn’t long before they were back into their own material. The smouldering 'One Last Cigarette', off the new album ‘Villa JukeJoint’ was followed by the sing-a-long of 'So Far, So Good' and by now some of the crowd were up and dancing! The bouncing bass-line of 'Your Lies' gives way to the groove that is 'No Place For Me' with Marco now on bass guitar and Stephen on guitar. 'Karma' and the the majestic work-out of 'Man Or Woman' left the brothers with only one place to go: their latest single, 'Chew My Gum'! A brilliant set by one of the hardest working bands I know. Another must-see band!

And so on to tonights headlining band: The B.B. King Blues Band. The original dates had not been available to the band and in their rescheduled dates, only Saturday night had been available. So after months of waiting, we finally get to see them. With a band made up of B.B. King alumni along with Eric Demmer making his mark on saxophone, the band started the show with tracks from the the latest B.B. King Blues Band album: 'The Soul of The King', along with some other tracks such as 'Let The Good Times Roll', before being joined on stage by B.B. King’s daughter Claudette King on vocals.

Claudette certainly showed why she deserved to be on stage celebrating her father's life and works. Songs like 'Make Your Move' and 'Whole Kind of Nothing' cemented her well deserved presence on stage. She certainly had the audience eating out of her hand by the end! The band returned to playing without her but after a well deserved break, Claudette would return for the finale and once again, proving that she carries her fathers legacy with pride (and so she should)!

As the audience slowly filed out, I think it was fair to say that the whole day was a success. It was a shame that the crowds weren’t bigger, but I still feel that a lots of people were still choosing to stay away, due to COVID. Only time will tell, but for everyone who was there, they were treated to a wonderful day of Blues, Rhythm and Rock. So I say, well done to the organisers for keeping the Blues alive, especially in such trying times.

Tim Russell