Eric Gales + Gary Hoey
Friday 2nd June
Nell's Jazz & Blues, Kensington, London
Following the release of his incredible new album 'Middle of the Road', guitar whirlwind Eric Gales finished his UK tour last Friday night at Nell’s Jazz & Blues in Kensington, London, before playing at the Grolsch Festival in Germany and both the Tonelades Festival and Leganes Blues Festival in Spain. Not only that, but Eric was joined by guitar maestro Gary Hoey, who took time off from his current European tour with Beth Hart, following the release of his latest album ‘Dust & Bones’ last Summer. Believe it or not it was the first time both Gales and Hoey had played England's capital city. We were also lucky enough to do two amazing interviews with both Gary and Eric before the gig - so look out for those audio interviews soon.
It was hard to believe that despite having 20 albums under his belt and having toured with a veritable Rock who's who over the years, that the Massachusetts born Hoey, who once auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, was making his London debut. A driving intro from AJ Pappas (bass) and Matt Scurfield (drums) saw the shades wearing Hoey ask the audience "Are you guys ready to have a good time?" before he counted in "1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4!" and his guitar and vocals duly proceeded to rip into a cover of The Alabama State Troupers 'Going Down' - power trio Blues/Rock at it's best. Wow! The title track from his 2013 'Deja Blues' album slowed things down a bit - although there was no let up in his undoubted guitar prowess - a wonderful instrumental before the catchy title track of his latest album 'Dust & Bones' showcased his much anticipated Fender Stratocaster-driven fury alongside open-D-tuned resonator guitars plugged into half-stacks. Superb.
And if you wanted some real Blues then 'Back Up Against The Wall' fitted the bill, again from 'D&B' - and just to prove that 'D&B' had everything - the Rock n' Roll of 'Who's Your Daddy' resulted in general uncontrollable foot tapping. Hoey's cajun/slide guitar intro heralded 'Boxcar Blues' - the foot tapping now morphing into rocking your head back and forth - well deserving of its "a thrill-a-minute mash up of Robert Johnson meets Led Zeppelin" billing. Awesome. And talking of RJ - next up was 'Dust My Broom' - Hoey, as expected, paying his dues to this all-time Blues classic. 'Steamroller' - another from 'D&B' - also saw Gary paying appropriate homage to one of his biggest influences - a certain Johnny Winter - before he rounded off a memorable set with both a jaw-dropping, not only in respect of song choice, but also the way it was executed - with a cover of Focus's 'Hocus Pocus' no less (including a snippet of 'Cat Scratch Fever') - where Hoey's guitar filled in for Van Leer's iconic yodelling - I think that says everything about how good a guitar player this guy is. Suffice to say that if you love a ferocious blend of Blues and Rock music, then Gary is the man for you! Follow that Eric!
Although 'Middle Of The Road' was Gales' fourth album released on his current label, this was indeed his fifteenth album all told, since he released his debut album at 16 as both a well documented child prodigy and a second coming of Jimi Hendrix. Similar to record label mate Hoey, it was again a surprise that someone with the pedigree of Gales, who has played with the likes of Carlos Santana, that this was also his London debut. Indeed, one WRC member had already seen the guitar whirlwind perform in Newbury earlier on his UK tour and had promised that we were in for a real treat. As it turned out he was not wrong! The band consisting of Cody Wright (bass), Nicky Hayes (drums) and Eric's wife LaDonna (percussion) opened with an instrumental before the larger than life Gales joined them on stage not only wearing his trademark baseball cap but also a towel around his neck before they started to jam to a unknown track that should have really been called 'Rocky'. One of the themes running through the evening was Eric's banter in between songs. There's no doubting that he has had his demon's over the year's and he shared that personal experience with the audience throughout the set - indeed, he readily admits that 'MOTR' reflects where he has been personally and where he is now.
Gales also thoughtfully asked for a moment of silence for those killed in the Manchester bombing before the band launched into the aforementioned album - the Funky Blues and groovy pre-recorded backing vocals of 'Change In Me' - Gales immediately nailing his credentials to the mast on his upside-down right-handed guitar. More pre-recorded backing vocals heralded Freddie KIng's 'Boogie Man' - a delightful, slower, gentler, version of his current single - and an opportunity to appreciate Eric's evident vocal quality, before another cover - this time Buddy Guy's delicious 'Baby Please Don't Leave Me'. 'Sea Of Bad Blood' from the Memphis born "Raw Dawg's" 2011 album 'Transformation' saw Eric and LaDonna depart the stage mid-section for the spotlight to deservedly fall on the beanie hatted Wright and Hayes for a solo/jam before Mr. & Mrs. Gales returned to finish off what they had started before the band threw in a curve ball with a mind blowing instrumental of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'. Outstanding. Other than Gales' undoubted stage presence, his amazing left hand guitar playing and his great vocal delivery - the first real sniff of Hendrix arrived with the classic 'Catfish Blues' - which Jimi made his own and of which Gales proceeded to smash it with some quality licks. It was time then for Eric to give LaDonna some deserved limelight during 'Swamp' - not just for her manic percussion playing but also as a heartfelt thank you from her husband for her support during difficult times. Finally, two Jimi Hendrix Experience classics arrived - namely 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' which also included takes on Zep's 'Kashmir' and AC/DC's 'Back In Black' plus an encore of 'Little Wing', which was followed by a Gales instrumental with his usual passion, expression and vigour. That was it - it finished late and there was a possibility that I might miss my last train. But hey - with music of such high quality - who cared! The good news is that Gales returns to the UK in July as part of the Supersonic Blues Machine super-group at Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone, Kent. We will be there, do not miss them!