Thursday 1st December 2022
Nell’s Jazz & Blues, West Kensington, London
The young (around 28 years old now) French born, Swiss based guitarist, Felix Rabin has been visiting these shores for a handful of years now, without yet attracting the London audience numbers that his music deserves (his provincial UK gigs are much better attended by all accounts).
He was well received when he supported Samantha Fish in Islington in 2020, but post-pandemic fears meant that barely a dozen hardy souls (including this one!) caught his Water Rats appearance last January. Sadly, only about double that figure were at Nell’s; although the promoter Solid Entertainments had been advertising the show for months, it did not appear in the venue’s own website until 72 hours before the show, after I’d pointed the oversight out to them.
While this must be dispiriting for the musicians (to reduce the atmosphere still further, almost everyone sat at the back of the room, near the bar!), Felix always plays as if there is a bigger crowd to entertain. Hopefully his efforts will be better rewarded when he returns next autumn.
With only two half hour EPs (‘Down Our Roads’ (2016) and ‘Pogboy’ (2020)) to his name, the setlist was bound to include some familiar favourites, but unrecorded new songs accounted for about one third of the 70 minute set, so hopefully another CD is on the horizon.
He opened with the title track of the earlier EP, with Francesco Gagna on acoustic guitar, Vincenzo Capodivento (bass) and James Morgan (drums), immediately locking in to a tight rhythmic groove. Only Vincenzo has recorded with Felix (on ‘Pogboy’), which includes organ and a small horn section; ‘Down Our Roads’ includes no credits, but sounds like a trio session), but is still based in Italy, I believe; Francesco and James are London based.
After the band introductions, Francesco switched to electric guitar for two cuts from ‘Pogboy’, ‘Say’ and ‘Moving On’, the latter of which allowed Felix to stretch out in his solo. Francesco was back on acoustic guitar for ‘Little Hurricane’ (the opener from ‘Down Our Roads’), which opened deceptively gently, before Felix ripped off a long solo to have the guitarheads purring.
The middle section of the show featured four new, as yet unrecorded songs; the first of them, ‘What You Need’, featured another long and hugely impressive solo by the leader. With Francesco back in electric mode the twin guitar sound (with him playing rhythm under Felix’s lead) on ‘As She Comes’ and ‘If Only’, reminded me a little of early 80s recordings by the Pretenders and Blondie (maybe that was just me, though!).
With Francesco back on acoustic, the slow burning start to ‘Death’ reminded me a little of Comfortably Numb (albeit understandably without the “pay-off” of a Gilmour solo!); the song, like the set closer and the encore, is from ‘Pogboy’. Back on electric guitar for ‘Gone’, Francesco was allowed two solos either side of another stinging one by Felix.
The impressive rhythm section was separated for ‘Walk’, as James gave up the drum stool to his predecessor in the band, Niccolo Rebecchi, who was visiting London and had no idea that Felix was touring the UK until after he’d arrived! It was obviously a very happy reunion and James clearly enjoyed watching Niccolo (who had been in the band when it supported Ms Fish in 2020) giving the skins a bit of a hiding!
So, a thoroughly entertaining gig, but enjoyed by far too few punters. I can highly recommend a Felix gig or CD, so please bookmark his name and look out for him next year.
Down Our Roads; Say (You Won’t Leave Me); Moving On; Little Hurricane; What You Need; As She Comes; If Only; Find Me; Death; Gone; Walk.