Danny Bryant + Steve Hill
Wednesday 9th May
O2 Academy Islington 2, London
Danny Bryant recently released his highly anticipated new studio album 'Revelation', his fourth studio album to be produced by Richard Hammerton, following in the footsteps of 2015's 'Blood Money' and 2014's 'Temperature Rising', and the new album is one of Danny's most personal and emotional albums of his career. Last Wednesday night Bryant stopped off on his UK tour at London's Islington Academy 2 with special guest - Canadian one man power trio Steve Hill. Hill returned to the scene of his triumph last October (well it was actually downstairs to be precise) supporting Wishbone Ash. As we reported that night, Hill, who hails from Montreal, is an overnight sensation that’s twenty years in the making - a multi-award winning guitarist and singer-songwriter who’s gearing up for world domination. He’s an ambitious and raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian and international Blues Rock scene. Now, he’s ready to break out internationally.
Throughout his career, Steve has shared the stage with many of his musical heroes including Ray Charles, BB King, ZZ Top, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Jeff Beck and many others. Over the course of his many albums he's explored everything from Hard Rock, Country, and Stoner Rock to Folk music while always incorporating the essence of his first love, the Blues. Last year, the one-man band Blues Rock guitar machine, released his album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ in the UK on No Label Records and just two days after this latest London gig he released 'The One Man Blues Rock Band' which was recorded live at La Chapelle, Quebec, a month after the aforementioned Wishbone Ash support slot.
Not unsurprisingly his short 45 minute set list was mainly taken from 'TOMBRB' - but more surprisingly was the initial abject turnout as Hill made his way on to the stage, given his outstanding performance on his last visit here. Opening with the aptly named outright rocker 'Rhythm All Over', Hill's obligatory greeting "How are you doing London?" was delivered as a roadie carried out some running repairs to Steve's hi-hat, an opportunity for Hill to reminisce about that Wishbone Ash gig last year. His second number 'Go On' from 'Volume 2', was immediate proof, if needed, that one musician can sound like three, with Hill standing up whilst singing and playing guitar, with his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drum stick fused to the head of his trusty guitar, plus he gets the bass notes by feeding three of his strings through an Octaver guitar pedal that’s hooked up to a bass amp! "I'm number four in Germany right now", Hill enthused, as we assumed he was talking about their Blues Rock charts as opposed to representing the national football team! Cue the heavy rocker 'Damned' - his opening track on 'Volume 3' - with its palpable influence of namesake Dusty, Billy and Frank, before Steve announced he was coming back in November and then slowed things with 'The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo', his spangly guitar proceeding to build this Cajun influenced number into a powerful Rock jam - Hill's amazing driving slide guitar solo very reminiscent of Peter Green's 'World Keep On Turning'.
His incessant driving Blues Rock continued to blow away a growing gathering, as Steve mixed it up with favourites such as 'The Collector' - which saw a great Hill vocal, contrasted by the amazing sound he managed to get out of his slide guitar on the Blues classic 'Rollin & Tumblin'. Hill's stock social media plug including Tinder got the usual chuckle as he introduced 'Dangerous' his kick-ass single from 'Volume 3' - think King King meets Jimi Hendrix – a Blues Rocker if ever there was one, with lyrics about a personal relationship, the subject matter pretty much the backbone of that whole album. On second thoughts, perhaps the mention of Tinder was appropriate? Steve finished with another classic cover - 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' - not only wringing every sinew out of his guitar but also in his facial expressions as well. "You guys have been awesome" Hill praised the spellbound crowd. Wow - and we still had Danny Bryant to come! Steve Hill continues his UK tour supporting Danny Bryant, finishing at The Apex, Bury St. Edmunds on Friday 1st June. If you do miss him (shame on you), then do the next best thing and do yourself a favour by buying 'The One Man Blues Rock Band' a live album that captures all the energy of his live show.
The first time we saw Danny Bryant was on the big man's birthday at a very wet Ramblin' Man Fair in 2015 - Bryant immediately endearing himself to the crowded Blues tent by saying that he either had all of a sudden become very popular or it was the fact that that everyone wanted to get out of the rain! Well it was definitely a case of the former given Danny’s afforementioned album ‘Temperature Rising’ had been nominated in the British Blues Awards and it was one of those songs - ‘Guntown’ that stood out in an impressive set. Personally - one of my top three sets of that day, although the last time we caught Danny was guesting with Bernie Marsden this January at London's 100 Club. What a night that was! Thankfully Bryant was well enough to play in London tonight, following the postponement of his Bllston gig because of flu two night's earlier.
"Let's have a round of applause for Steve Hill" Danny greeted a more packed Academy - just a shame I suppose they weren't there earlier - as his band counted in and opened with some classic Blues - Bryant's cool fret work on his very apt blue guitar complemented by Dave Raeburn on drums and the very talented Stevie Watts from Danny's Big Band replacing the aforementioned Hammerton on keys. To further emphasise 'Revelation's intensity. his guitar ballad 'Isolate' - as one would expect - all about feeling disconnected from the ones you love and the world around you, saw a great vocal and explosive guitar solo from Bryant, fully reflecting the spontaneous vibe of the track which apparently was done in one take on the album. Watts' keys carried the verse on 'Sister Decline' - all about temptation and addiction - before Bryant's hypnotic guitar riff kicked in - and despite the loss of the brass section from the album - where an old Blues shuffle and contemporary Rock deliciously collide - the energy created by his four-piece more than made up for it to become another live favourite.
Watts' church organ intro prepared us for Bryant's Hendrix sermon of the day - Danny's guitar solo on 'Little Wing' leading his Academy flock to the promised land before one of my all time Bryant favourites - the rockin' 'Prisoner Of The Blues' - saw Stevie assist Danny in throwing of his shackles as he made his blue guitar sing like a jailbird. Bass guitarist Alex Phillips (who we also saw support Danny so admirably in that Ramblin' Man tent three years ago) and Dave Raeburn then left the stage for Bryant's acoustic version and cover of John Mellencamp's Rock song 'Someday The Rains Will Fall'. Initial amusement, given that Danny had thanked the crowd for coming along on a Tuesday when in fact it was a Wednesday, subsided thanks to a passionate vocal from Bryant with the trusty Watts' keys adding depth to the 2007 'Freedom's Road' track. In 2017 Danny toured Europe with a specially assembled nine-piece Big Band featuring keys and a four-piece brass section no less. His next song 'Truth Or Dare' - a real rockin' Blues number - is the one track on 'Revelation' that features his full touring Big Band line-up, and while it truly captures the energy of those live performances, Bryant's four-piece take, particularly Stevie Watts great keys solo, didn't diminish the fact that this track was Blues at its best.
"Are we having fun tonight?" Bryant teased as he proceeded to round off his awesome set, his hunched style and gurning facials effortlessly churning out outstanding Blues guitar solo after outstanding Blues guitar solo and quality vocal after quality vocal, particularly on 'Heartbreaker' as red Strat guitar slinger Danny peered menacingly into a delighted crowd. But as the big man modestly pointed out - it was not all about him, as he showcased his extraordinarily talented three amigos with their own personal solos towards the end of the set. "Thank you and goodnight" said Bryant as he departed the stage before returning for one final slice of driving Blues Rock as an encore. In a recent interview, Bryant opened up on how it's been a difficult year, losing his father and dealing with anxiety and depression. Although, given Bryant's well publicised demons, Danny's set was packed with passion and energy - an impressive display of Danny's Blues/Rock prowess as both a singer and guitarist. You can still catch Danny on his UK tour until Sunday 17th June which also includes a few Big Band shows.