Wednesday 23rd November 2015
St. Moritz Club, London
Just two days after they supported Walter Trout at The Forum, London - Nashville rock trio SIMO - led by JD Simo - played an exclusive showcase gig at the St. Moritz Club in Soho, London, on Monday night. Situated not far from the old Marquee Club and personally recommended by Joe Bonamassa as “Old school to the max and playing vintage guitars - JD is one of the best out there right now…one of the guys on the scene I’d love to jam with” - the prospect was understandably mouthwatering in advance of their new album 'Let Love Show The Way' - due to be released on Friday 29th January 2016.
Eight days earlier we had witnessed the legendary Power Rock of Mountain plus the influences of Cream and Ten Years After and to be honest - despite its history as part of the London music scene - this was the first time I had visited the St. Moritz. Indeed the venue made the 100 Club look mightily spacious - although ironically indicative of both the 60's live music scene and the emergence of the classic rock, blues and psychedelic genre. Anyway, just as the chosen few had secured their vantage points, bass player Elad Bishop and drummer Adam Abrashoff fought their way through the crowd before a laid back JD arrived with his guitar case - no standing on ceremony from these guys. Loved it already.
JD immediately ripped into a cover of Willie Dixon's Blues classic 'You Need Love' - well it was a showcase - and Simo duly demonstrated that as well as playing a mean guitar he had the vocals to match - well complemented by Bishop's bass also. And if you wanted Classic Rock straight from the 70's - well the short but effective riff of 'Right Now' (not to be confused with 'Alright Now') left you in doubt that they could rock out as well. SIMO then debuted one of their new songs from 'LLSTW', namely 'Two Timin Woman' the intensity of which could not be confused with Hank Snow's classic of the same name. And talking of classic's - the initial pull for me to this gig was when I heard a demo of 'I'll Always Be Around' - JD's slide and Abrashoff's drumming intro enticing you in - before this standout track explodes into life. Cue mandatory JD guitar solo and you have a reason for buying 'LLSTW' on its own - although was a tad bit disappointed that they didn't air the other "LLSTW' demo 'Becky's Last Occupation'.
Yet another from 'LLSTW' - the storming 'I'd Rather Die In Vain' - gave us a full house on the genre bingo card - Jimi's Blue Plaque just up the road in W1 was no doubt reverberating to this nod to his legend. It was then back to the Blues and to their 'Love Vol. 1' EP and 'What's On Your Mind' - a track that not only JD has performed before using Duanne Allman's Les Paul but also many would think is a Blues standard and a cover. Praise indeed. The 'Big Country' style opening riff of 'Long May You Sail' lead into another SIMO epic from 'LLSTW' and a bonus ball with Progressive rock overtones - the togetherness of this three-piece never being more apparent now than during their entire set. The prog flag continued to fly with 'Off at 11' again from 'Love Vol. 1' plus I suppose the obligatory but great drum solo from Abrashoff. There's no doubt that JD's voice has a certain 'Cocker' about it - so the opening guitar salvo to 'With a Little Help From My Friends' made the proverbial hairs on the back of the neck stand up. This necessitated banter later as to what was the better cover - Janis or Joe? One thing for sure was that SIMO nailed it! And there was room from one encore - 'Evil' from their first self-titled album - doffing their caps to Zep with its 'How Many More Times' type riff which - par for the course - proceeded into a jam - but rounded off a wonderful evening that had transported us back in time to when bands and small venues rocked. Given the forthcoming release of "LLSTW' - you have to question whether we will ever be able to witness this intimacy again.