The Kris Barras Band + Matt Edwards
Monday 24th September
The 100 Club, London
One of the joys of the Blues/Rock productions at this venue is the quality of the support acts and tonight was no exception. Guitarist Matt Edwards’ trio may not be the first name on anyone’s lips, but it’s bands like this which are the bedrock of the scene and which always reward the effort it takes to get to venues an hour or so earlier.
I’d only caught Matt live once before (at the same venue), but was impressed enough with what I heard to buy his debut album ‘Follow The Plan’ (now only available as a download). Somewhere down the line I’ve managed to miss the follow-up album ‘Four Berry Jam’, as the band is currently promoting Matt’s third and most recent CD ‘Backward Roots’.
Given a generous 50 minute set, Matt was able play seven songs from ‘Backward Roots’ (there are ten in total on the album), with only the opener ‘Picking At The Bone’ and ‘Behind The Wall’ taken from ‘Four Berry Jam’. Pennies In The Dirt was my personal favourite and Matt’s playing reminded me a little of another under-rated guitarist, Mitch Laddie (who, coincidentally, guests on one track of Matt’s debut CD).
Matt was ably supported by Stuart Dixon (bass) and Gareth Batson (drums) and, while there was perhaps little variation in tempo across the nine songs, they ensured that our hearts and feet were warmed up before the main event.
(ME setlist: Picking At The Bone; Why Do You; Pennies In The Dirt; Nowhere Else To Hide; Aim High; Behind The Wall; Always Going To Fool A Few; Before The Sun; Two Faces)
That main event was the Kris Barras Band’s biggest headline gig in London so far. In the six short months since the album release gig for ‘The Divine And Dirty’ at Thousand Island (formerly Upstairs At The Garage in Highbury), which was witnessed by a few dozen of us, this band has fast become the new “big thing” on the Blues/Rock scene.
In that time Kris has also found the time to tour with the Supersonic Blues Machine, having replaced Lance Lopez as the band’s frontman, and confidently shared stages on that tour with the band’s special guest, ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons. The KBB’s own reputation increases by leaps and bounds and it was no mean achievement to draw 300 people to the 100 Club on a quiet Monday night.
From the opener ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’, taken from the self-released ‘Lucky 13’ album, the energy level felt greater than before the interval and that is intended as a compliment to the headliner’s, rather than as any criticism of the support act. Perhaps Elliott Blackler (bass) was holding his notes a fraction longer or maybe Will Beavis (drums) was driving the beat a bit quicker; perhaps the presence of fourth musician in Josiah J. Manning (keyboards) made the sound fuller or maybe it was the fact that the band used its own sound guy. Probably it was a combination of all these factors, but whatever it was certainly grabbed and kept everyone’s attention.
Understandably the band was there to further promote ‘The Divine And Dirty’ and the next three songs (‘Kick Me Down’, ‘Stitch Me Up’ and ‘Blood On Your Hands’) were taken from it. Although all three titles could be connected to Kris’ former career as a successful mixed martial arts fighter, I’m not sure that any of them are!
The following pairing of ‘What A Way To Go’ and ‘Fortunate Son’ do not appear in the bands CD’s, so are presumably new songs; if so, they lost nothing by comparison with the recorded titles. ‘Propane’ set the crowd up nicely for a sing-along to the infectious ‘Hail Mary’, which scored from it’s acapella vocal introduction through to last notes of its scorching guitar solo.
‘Small Town Blues’ and ‘Nothing To Hide’ took us back to the ‘Lucky 13’ album, before the less familiar (and possibly new?) ‘I Don’t Want The Blues’ set up another trilogy from ‘The Divine And Dirty’. ‘She’s More Than Enough’ and ‘Lovers Or Losers’ sandwiched what was for many of us the highlight of the night: the extended guitar solo on Kris’ heartfelt tribute to his late father, ‘Watching Over Me’.
‘Lucky 13’ provided the closing ‘Rock ‘n Roll Running Through My Veins’, although no KBB gig would have been complete without the leader’s tip of the hat to Hendrix, so the guitar was played behind Kris’ head and with his teeth to the obvious enjoyment of the large crowd.
There surely won’t be many more opportunities to enjoy this band in smaller venues (their next London show will be at The Garage on 23rd February), so catch them when you can!
(KB setlist: Heart On Your Sleeve; Kick Me Down; Stitch Me Up; Blood On Your Hands; What A Way To Go; Fortunate Son; Propane; Hail Mary; Small Town Blues; Drum Solo; Nothing To Hide; I Don’t Want The Blues; She’s More Than Enough; Watching Over Me; Lovers Or Losers; Rock ‘n Roll Running Through My Veins)
Gary Smith (photos courtesy of Tim Russell)