Rockin' The Blues
Saturday 17th March
The Garage, London
The Mascot Label Group's very first Rockin’ The Blues European Tour, featuring the exceptional talents of Gary Hoey, Quinn Sullivan, Eric Gales and Lance Lopez came to a thunderous close on Saint Patrick's Day at London's The Garage in Highbury last Saturday night. On a day when we were promised another "Beast From The East" - we actually ended up with "The Best From The West" as each American Blues Rock artist played their own individual set before all coming together for a final marvellous jam. This was a must see opportunity to see the finest players of their generation in one place at one time and get up close and personal with them, giving the fans the chance to interact and find out what makes them tick. The Blues was calling…
It was hard to believe when we first saw guitar maestro Gary Hoey at Nell's Jazz & Blues just down the road in Kensington last June, 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. Given his performance that night - after taking time off from his European tour with Beth Hart - fighting through the snow tonight to see Gary perform once again was a no brainer as the shades wearing Hoey, with AJ Pappas on bass and Matt Scurfield on drums opened Rockin' The Blues with the foot-tapping 'Bootmill Blues' from his previous 'Deja Blues' album, before they slowed things down a bit with the title track from the same 2013 album - although there was no let up in Hoey's undoubted guitar prowess with a wonderful instrumental. The catchy title track of his last album 'Dust & Bones' also showcased his much anticipated Fender Stratocaster-driven fury alongside open-D-tuned resonator guitars plugged into half-stacks - Robin Trower eat your heart out! Resplendent in his Motorhead t-shirt, Hoey shared the joy that both his wife and daughter were in the crowd before we sensed another case of deja vu with two more tracks from Deja Blues - 'Boss You Around' and 'Almost Over You' - the latter which featured Jon Butcher on the album, both effortlessly executed. And just to prove the quality of 'Dust & Bones' - the Rock n' Roll of 'Who's Your Daddy' resulted again in general uncontrollable foot tapping - with Gary poignantly dedicating the song at the end to his late father - "Love you Dad". Albert King's 'Born Under A Bad Sign' with its "If it wasn't for bad luck, you know I wouldn't have no luck at all" was, on the contrary, lucky for all those present - thanks to Hoey's turquoise/green guitar solo - well it was St. Paddy's Day after all - before he rounded off a memorable set with a jaw-dropping cover of Focus's 'Hocus Pocus' - Hoey's awesome guitar filling in for Van Leer's iconic yodelling - my only disappointment being that Jan Akkerman actually joined Gary for this classic on stage on the Dutch leg of the tour last week! Drat! Anyway, on the night Hoey proved once again that if you love a ferocious blend of Blues and Rock music, then Gary is the man for you! Follow that fellow Massachusetts born Quinn Sullivan!
Unexpectedly, and a bonus ball throughout the evening, was the inclusion of WRC favourite Big Boy Bloater as Master Of Ceremonies. When you talk about the future of the Blues in the UK or generally, you immediately think of Laurence Jones. Sandwiched in between Hoey and Gales was the US future of the Blues, namely 18 year old (yes, seriously) child prodigy Quinn Sullivan. Unlike, Hoey, Gales and Lopez, this was the first time I had seen Quinn live - although I'd already liked what I heard - and in particular his last album 'Midnight Highway'. "Hello England" Quinn greeted the audience as his fresh faced young band opened with two cracking tracks off the aforementioned 'MH', namely 'Lifting Off' and 'Crazy Into You'. Further comparisons to Laurence Jones were inevitable, given both tracks "Crossover Blues" feel or 'Blues Rock Lite" as some might call it - with their refreshing Pop feel. My initial reaction to the opening chords of Hendrix's 'Little Wing' was that Gales would not be covering it tonight - but if you were in any doubt that this boy could nail the whole Blues spectrum, then Sullivan's awesome guitar solo on this classic proved that young Quinn was up there with the best. 'Real Thing' with its Floydish influence was a real stand-out from this short set before Sullivan paid his dues to UK Blues with a cover of Clapton's classic 'Let It Rain'. To further emphasise both the future and style of his Blues, both Sullivan's young afro-haired keyboard player and his Nathan James lookalike bass guitarist were joined on stage by James Bay guitarist Andy Cortes on 'MH's 'Going' before the mighty Quinn closed with his delightful title track from 'Midnight Highway'. We certainly witnessed the future of the Blues tonight and that guitar is in very safe hands.
Similar to Gary Hoey, we also saw guitar whirlwind Eric Gales for the first time at Nell's Jazz & Blues last June following the release of his incredible new album 'Middle of the Road'. 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 was also his London debut that night. There's no doubting that Eric has had his demon's over the year's and he readily admits that 'MOTR' reflects where he has been personally and where he is now. "100 thousand percent roots Blues" Gales promised The Garage faithful, and his band, consisting of Cody Wright (bass), Nicky Hayes (drums) and Eric's wife LaDonna (percussion) duly delivered, opening with Walter Trout's 'Somebody Goin' Down' - who Eric dueted with on Trout's latest album 'We're All In This Together' - followed by Howling Wolf's 'Smokestack Lightening' and then 'Make It There' from his 2010 album 'Relentless'. Awesome! Groovy backing vocals then heralded Freddie KIng's 'Boogie Man' - a delightful, slower, gentler, version of his single from 'MOTR' - and an opportunity not only to appreciate Eric's evident vocal quality but another intense guitar solo that resulted in Eric's trademark baseball cap falling off! 'Boogie Man' was followed by 'Boogie Funk' - Raw Dawg once again nailing his impeccable credentials to the mast on his upside-down right-handed guitar before a perfect execution of Buddy Guy's delicious 'Baby Please Don't Leave Me' including our first real sniff of Hendrix with a snippet of 'Purple Haze'. Gales' undoubted stage presence, deservedly gave way for a moment, as the spotlight shifted to a drum and bass solo from Hayes and Wright, before his wife LaDonna took the limelight on percussion during 'Swamp'. Our second taste of Hendrix arrived with the classic 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' - which Gales proceeded to smash with some quality licks, with a bit of AC/DC's 'Back In Black' thrown in for good measure. Believe me - given Gales' passion, expression, vigour, vocal delivery and amazing (coincidental) left hand guitar playing - he is the nearest thing you will ever see to Hendrix. Eric you are the real deal!
In fact the last time we saw Eric was at Ramblin' Man Fair last July, guesting on the Planet Rock Main Stage with Supersonic Blues Machine. Cue Eric then as he reciprocated with "So London, England - it's time to bring on one of my friends!" Step forward Lance Lopez - guitarist and lead singer of the aforementioned SBM as he joined Gales' band to continue 'Rockin' The Blues' with two tracks from his own recent album 'Tell The Truth' - namely 'Mr. Lucky' - with a powerful vocal from the cowboy hatted Lopez plus the album's title track and Lance's mean ZZ Top style riff. An evening of Blues Rock at its best was complete as Quinn and Hoey joined them on stage and chipped in with a couple of awesome guitar solos during a final full jam session as they all let rip into covers of Jimi's 'Red House' plus The Alabama State Troupers 'Going Down'. To further complement an amazing gig, the meet and greet after the gig added another dimension to a perfect evening. Can't wait for Rockin' The Blues 2019!