Felix Rabin + Eliana Cargnelutti
Tuesday 18th January 2022
The Beaverwood, Chislehurst, Kent
Given the news of the postponement of both Erja Lyytinen and Samantha Fish's tours, yet more international Covid-19 gig casualties, it was so good to welcome not one, but two outstanding proponents of Blues Rock from beyond our shores at Chislehurst's The Beaverwood in Kent last Tuesday night. Indeed, the last time we caught the French raised, Swiss based guitarist, Felix Rabin, was in pre-Covid times at London's Islington Assembly Hall in March 2020, with his power trio supporting the very same aforementioned Ms. Fish. As for Italian singer and guitarist, Eliana Cargnelutti, this was a first for us, although we had heard great reports of Ms. Cargnelutti's electric Funk, mixed with Pop and raw Rock plus tight Blues grooves, at her London Water Rats gig the previous week, a venue that Mr. Rabin also plays tonight, Monday 24th January. Do not miss him.
Believe it or not, Felix recorded his debut EP, ‘Down Our Roads’, which featured five originals plus a polite cover of ‘Hey Joe’, back in 2015 when he was just 19. He opened for Thorbjorn Risager at London's 100 Club in March 2018 and ended up as the support for Wishbone Ash later that year, when I saw him at London's O2 Academy Islington. Gaining momentum, in 2019 he did not one but two headline tours up and down the UK, before he indeed supported Samantha Fish, airing live for the first time his forthcoming September 2020 all-killer-no-filler, 'Pogboy', EP, where the writing, the playing, the mood, the singing and the production had all moved up several notches, drawing on wide ranging influences such as John Mayer, Gary Moore (we're not worthy) and Miles Davis. And then, of course, along came Covid ....
As the guys made their way on to the Marquee stage in front of an intimate turn out, it was a case of three had become four since Islington, with the addition of the moustachioed Francesco Gagna on guitars. Indeed, the only constants were 26 year old Felix and Vincenzo Capodivento on bass, given that the not so cosmopolitan sounding James Morgan, had also replaced Niccolo Rebecchi on drums. Similar, to Islington, Felix kicked off with the title track from EP 'Down Our Roads', albeit with a neat acoustic intro from new recruit Francesco, before Gagna swapped over to complete a bank of white guitars, contrasting with their black attire, as we got two tracks on the trot from 'Pogboy', 'Say (You Won’t Leave Me)', drenched in fuzzy wah wah, and the familiar intro of 'Moving On', with Rabin's sumptuous solo tone not only sounding very much like a certain Mr. Gilmour, but also, at the same time, producing a Blues/Soul vibe that smacked strongly of the aforementioned Mayer.
Now deviating from the Islington setlist, the band threw in two curveballs, the first I believe was the unreleased, 'Unaware', a groovy, slower number that accentuated Rabin's undoubted vocal qualities, complemented by a very cool backing vocal from outstanding bass guitarist Capodivento, and secondly, 'Little Hurricane', another from 'Down Our Roads', with its unusual oriental sounding intro, clunky time signature and yet another trademark Rabin guitar solo, all completely beguiling for those lucky enough to be present.
The over-fondness of his habit of using the harmonising “Pog” effects pedal which gave Felix his nickname, "Pogboy", was never more evident when 'Little Hurricane' morphed into the crunchy double tracked, 'Angels'. According to the maker’s website, it gives you a “peanut butter milkshake thick sound”. Well it certainly did what it said on the tin, before the band launched into another from 'Pogboy', the cheeringly entitled slow burner, ‘Death’, bookended by Gagna's acoustic intro/outro, and with Rabin's boot firmly back on that pedal, this perfectly constructed track saw Felix get all Gary Moore on his Strat.
As he swapped his Strat for a Tele for the final couple of songs, Rabin dropped the bombshell that this was the first time the band had met up since last year. The penultimate, aptly unpublished ballad, 'Find Me', exactly suited Felix’s voice, followed by the set closer, 'Gone', which finally unleashed Francesco, alongside a smiling Rabin, on a scorching guitar solo, complemented by pounding drumming per excellence from Morgan, although there was still time for Pogboy to put his pedal to the metal for one final time. No Jimi tour-de-force, but who cared given the chops and grit we witnessed tonight, and with Eliana still to play! And if you missed Pogboy tonight, make sure you catch him at London's The Water Rats tonight. You will not be sorry.
Felix Rabin Setlist:
Down Our Roads
Say (You Won’t Leave Me)
I don’t know what it is about Blues Rock, but there seems to be a disproportionate number of women in the genre. Sure, there are more ladies in visible in Rock now than there ever have been (it only feels like yesterday when The Runaways and Girlschool were, at their inception and peak, seemingly unique within their genres), but now we shredders (Orianthi), globally respected session players/guns for hire (Jennifer Batten)... even all female tribute bands like The Iron Maidens and Systyr Skynyrd. And you haven’t got to spend long on YouTube to find no end of extremely talented players who all deserve more than home recordings.
But in the field of Blues Rock, I think we are particularly blessed. Arguably following ground broken by (the admittedly more Country flavoured) Bonnie Raitt, Ana Popovic has been around since the mid-90s, Erja Lyytinen not long less, and over the past decade or so we’ve seen the emergence of Chantel McGregor, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Samantha Fish to name but a handful, all nodding towards Sister Rosetta with chops that wouldn’t embarrass Gary Moore, SRV or Joey B.
And now I can add Eliana Cargnelutti to that list. With apologies to Eliana, I have to say that when AJ invited me along for this evening, I was not familiar with Eliana or her work. This is my bad… Eliana is over 10 years and 4 albums into her career, having won the Blues Contest in Pordenone (in her native Italy) in 2010. She was named one of the five “best female guitarists” in the Rock/Blues scene at the American “Jimi Awards” in 2015, and counts Joe Bonamassa amongst her fans after he included her 'I’m a Woman' on a list of recent songs to hear.
So, via a quick visit to the Googleatron, her compositions 'Breath Again' and 'I Don’t Know' confirmed that I was going to be in the right place… although to be honest, she had me at 'Highway Star'.
Oh, and… whilst we’re here for a set from her own band tonight, the significance of the 'Highway Star' home vid had more resonance when I discovered that Eliana is also the guitar player in all-girl Purple tribute band Strange Kind of Women. Something else that had passed me by. YouTube to the rescue again, confirming that I need to try very hard to attend if their pencilled-in UK date(s) in April actually come to pass.
Still, to tonight’s set, and to the canvas and twinkly-light wonder that is currently the gig room at The Beaverwood (sadly, AJ has already used up all of the ‘Marquee’ quips) on what, it has to be said, was a pretty chilly Tuesday evening.
After a stonking set from Felix, the band - Simone Serafini (bass), Carmine Bloisi (drums), Eliana herself (guitar/vocals) and keyboard player Flavio Passon took to the stage to open with 'Breathe Again', the first of four tracks from the latest album, 2021’s 'AUR'.
Joey B’s favourite 'I’m a Woman' with it’s 'Rock me Baby' vibe led into a cover of Susan Tedeschi’s 'I Fell in Love' cranked up by several notches to an enthralling, full-on 12-bar rockout. 'My Man' was followed by another from 'AUR', the upbeat 'Who is the Monster' (unsurprisingly released as a single).
After the opening track from 2015’s 'Electric Woman' album - the rhetorically titled 'Why do I sing the Blues?' - a bit of a gear shift for the delicate, soul-y 'Love Letters', before coming out of the bend and revving up again for sole representative track of the 2013 'Love Affairs' album 'Too Busy', it’s marching rhythm & synced hammond/bass lines paving the way for some fun line-swapping between keyboard and guitar before a great bass solo from Simone Serafini.
A track familiar to all next in the form of ZZ Top’s 'Tush' …well, I say familiar to all… possibly due to my recent playlists (or…err…refreshment taken), my first thought was ‘why are this band covering 'No Class’… but I’ve been falling for that one for 40 years, so I can forgive myself.
Another cover next, but I confess, one I had to look up and search out… 'Burning Organ', the eponymous track from a 2002 album by Paul (Mr Big) Gilbert... more great hammond-y keyboard sound, swapped lines, little solo breaks from all… an absolute joy. Somewhat curiously, I noted at the time that the stabby riff and interspersed lead lines made me think of The Aristocrats … turns out the drums on the original 'Burning Organ' were provided by … Marco Minneman.
Satch has got his own boogie… as had SRV… and so has Eliana :-) After a wonderful cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s almost gospel-y 'Soulshine' (every bit as resonant as the original, for my money), 'Eliana’s Boogie' with it’s (almost, nearly, kinda) 'Tie Your Mother Down' type riff was another chance for the band to let rip and have some fun. As did we.
The set closed as it started with another track from 'AUR' with the Blues/Rock scale tilted a bit more towards the Rock side for 'I Don’t Know'. The album version of this has the addition of a brass section and a guest solo from none other than Ana Popovic, but even with those ingredients missing, this was still a great set closer.
Eliana’s website states she plays Rock Blues with a bit of everything in between: electric Funk, mixed with Pop and raw Rock, tight Blues grooves, and this is no false claim. Some tracks lean heavily toward the Rock side of the scale, some the other way. Mix in some Funk, Jazz, Soul, Pop and even some Gospel vibes, a few non-standard ('Tush' aside) covers, all pumped out by four superb musicians who are totally locked in for the whole set, and you’ve got a compelling, entertaining, show that all still operates within the Blues/Rock brief.
Moreover, the whole band (particularly Eliana herself) seem to be really enjoying themselves.
I am sure we’ve all seen bands and shows where there’s a hint (or more) of going through the motions, or ‘another day at the office’... but none of that here… despite what I am sure would be regarded as a slightly disappointing turn out, the music’s great, the mood joyous and infectious, the delivery flawless. Top marks from me. And, I’m pretty sure, from all in attendance.
Chislehurst… you are the Blues Rock capital of the world. Well, perhaps not, but for a few hours tonight, you gave it your best.
Eliana Cargnelutti Setlist:
I’m a Woman
I Fell in Love
Who is the Monster
Why do I sing the Blues
I Don’t Know
Check out what's on at The Beaverwood at https://www.thebeaverwood.com