Elles Bailey, Lady Nade
The Lexington, Islington, London
Tuesday 12th March 2019
Pentonville Road was always one of the properties I’d try and buy when playing those long games of Monopoly as a child; trying to snap up those light blue cards wasn’t always a successful strategy but my journey up the Pentonville Road on a cold night to discover a new venue (well worth a visit) and two new singers was a definite success. Elles Bailey is a relative newcomer, but has it seems built up a formidable reputation as a live performer, which was borne out by the large, appreciative audience that turned out on a chilly Tuesday evening, many sporting merchandise bought at other live shows.
Having listened to her excellent new album, ‘Road I Call Home’ released only a few days before the gig, I was looking forward to her performance and the young singer did not disappoint. Bursting onto the stage in trademark hat to launch into ‘Wild Wild West’ from the new album it was immediately apparent that Bristol born Elles has a fabulous voice - powerful, but still able to carry the melody and full of character, with alternately a Bluesy and Country edge. She exudes charisma, and, unlike a lot of performers who don’t always seem that comfortable in front of an audience, was immediately bending down from the first number to sing directly to individual members of the crowd. After this engaging start, she carried out an ongoing dialogue with the audience that gave the evening an intimate feel. It was a pleasure to hear a collection of finely crafted songs, ‘Deeper’, played early on and described by the singer as her favourite on the new album, being a good example.
Collaborating with a number of song writing partners for the Nashville recorded album, has clearly paid dividends in creating a number of excellent mature tracks like album opener ‘What’s The Matter With You” - with its strong melody and moody dynamics - played live the song showcased the fine playing of Johnny Henderson on Hammond organ as well as the very tasteful guitar work of Joe Wilkins. The band, including the solid backline of Mathew Jones on drum and Matthew Waer on bass, allowed the music to breathe with sensitive accompaniment throughout. Elles made the ensemble a five piece as she added keyboards on many numbers, including the soulful ballad ‘Light In the Distance’, which the singer introduced and played alone. with a lengthy story about the song being inspired by a friend that died. A strong Country feel was evident in a cover of Levon Helm’s ‘When I Go Away’, which the singer explained she’d heard while listening to local radio while recording in Nashville; and similarly, a new song, introduced as a “taste of album No. 3”, sounded like Elles was channelling Tammy Wynette.
A more Rocky feel was demonstrated on ‘Medicine Man’ (inspired by a music industry charlatan that the singer encountered, to her regret) and the big drum led groove of ‘Road I Call Home’ with its chunky chord motif. The evening closed with early recording ‘Howlin’ Wolf’ and a song inspired by Janis Joplin; musical inspirations clearly acknowledged. A superb performance that left the crowd happy and, judging by the long queue to meet the singer and buy some merch’ after the show, further consolidated her growing fanbase. Earlier in the evening there had been a delightful, relaxed performance by Lady Nade, playing a solo acoustic set which highlighted the purity of her very lovely voice as she sang her quirkily food and drink associated songs. A nice appetiser for the main course that followed.
Simon Green (photos courtesy of Simon Green)
Colt48, Black Orchid Empire,
Stand Alone Hope & Anchor, Islington, London
Friday 15th March 2019
Almost exactly one year ago I was heading out into the heart of London's club land to attend the Borderline to see one of South East London's finest up and coming Rock bands launch their new EP. A creature of habit, tonight, I'm doing the same thing again, yet this time I'm off to the Hope and Anchor in bohemian Islington for Colt 48's latest release ‘Negatives’. Adam Lewis and Matt Savani are the duo that makes up the Nu-Metal/Hard Rock band with their passion driven crunchy riffs.
The new material builds on where they were a year ago as demonstrated by the excellent lead track and recent video from the EP `Disconnected'. All five songs on the CD, given away free with entry to the venue, demonstrate a growing maturity from the two-piece and their rewards are coming. They are embarking on a national tour and have a slot at the famous Camden Rocks this June and are lined up to support ‘Glamour of the Kill’ when they tour later in the year.
Adam and Matt are some of the nicest people I've met on the circuit so it`s no surprise that the gig has a family reunion feel about it. The support acts and audience consist of friends and bands that have supported them previously. Not only does this make for a fun packed evening, but the quality of the musical talent in one room is inspiring.
Unfortunately, I missed the first support act (well it is a very long way to North London from South of the river!) but I'm there in time to see Stand Alone heralding from West Yorkshire. I feel spoilt as from the off it is very clear that they are a class act with some very well crafted songs, crunchy but smooth at the same time. We even get some sound effects taking us back to the Blitz followed up with some nice harmonies and soaring solos.
Next up is Black Orchid Empire - already well known to WRC and firm favourites of many. I'm immediately impressed with the massive five string bass with slanted frets crunching out a pulsing beat and with the energy of the hirsute lead singer. Again, I feel spoilt with the quality of the offering. More Melodic Rock with a heavy twist and a thumping beat coming from a drummer right in the zone.
And then Colt48 take to the stage and the crowd of friends as much as fans pull closer to the stage. They smash straight into the single 'Disconnected' with high energy riffs coming from Adam's semi-hollow guitar and Matt’s powerful drum beat getting the crowd going. It's not long before the expense of energy gives Matt a rather 'wild' look behind the drums and Adam's racing between microphones at either end of the stage creates a similar look for him too! The set comprises of new and old songs before they launch into the final song, the fan favourite 'Hate Hate Relationship'. But the crowd demand 'one more song' and so they oblige with one more track from the new EP. The advantage of such an intimate venue is that the after-show party is a very friendly affair with all the bands and fans intermingling and discussing the show. And what a good value show it was with so many good bands clearly enjoying plying their wares of high-quality Rock music. Just what a Friday night should be about!
Tommy Emmanuel, JD Simo
Royal Festival Hall, London
Wednesday 20th March 2019
Following the release of 2018's ‘Accomplice One’, a hugely successful UK tour and his first ever European Guitar Camp in Scotland, esteemed Grammy-nominated guitarist, composer and guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel stopped off at London's Royal Festival Hall last Wednesday night as part of his March 2019 UK Tour. Accomplice One’, was a 16-track collaborative album and was released in January last year via The Players Club/ Mascot Label Group. Produced by Emmanuel - the album features guests including Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs and David Grisman.
Tommy's special guest was JD Simo, heralding from Chicago, who also appears on 'Accomplice One', and although this was the first time we had seen Emmanuel, we were already well acquainted with JD as the Nashville-based singer-guitarist of SIMO, their recent albums ‘Let Love Show The Way’ (2016) and ‘Rise & Shine’ (2017), deservedly met with huge praise, as was their scintillating live performances across Europe for their blend of Blues, Rock, Psychedelia, Funk, Jazz and jam sounds. Indeed, JD made his way on to the vast but empty RFH stage, without his SIMO compadres Adam and Elad for his solo set, although accompanied by his trusty electric blue guitar in hand, this seemed light years away from when we first saw JD with his guitar case, fighting his way through the cramped crowd at the St. Moritz Club in Soho in November 2015. Although our conclusion that night that "you have to question whether we will ever be able to witness this intimacy again", didn't forsee his latest debut solo album, ‘Off At 11’, released at the beginning of this month, a Psychedelic, free-flowing, dynamic kaleidoscope of sound, energy and vibe that incorporates elements of Acid Rock, traditional Blues, Folk, Soul and free form Jazz around JD’s improvisational skills. The recording of the electric tour de force took place over a three day period in the summer of 2018 during a brief break in touring that included JD’s first shows as a newly cultivated member of [Grateful Dead bassist] Phil Lesh and Friends. Showing off not only his guitar and vocal abilities, but also the incredible rhythm section of drummer and SIMO bro Adam Abrashoff and bassist Luke Easterling, the eight musically dense songs that make up the album were laid down with no edits and no other studio trickery.
JD's foot tapping opener in his forty minute set, saw him not only pounding his guitar, but he also managed to release some awesome fuzzy tone's to match his bearded appearance."I'm JD Simo" he announced to the crowd "and I'm an alcoholic" he jested, as he introduced 'Mind Trouble' from the new album - a real lesson in Blues with some great slide guitar. And if the JD virgins sitting in the RFH wanted proof that this guy can sing as well as play his guitar, then the slower Willie Dixon's Blues classic 'You Need Love', the single from the the album, nailed it. With influences as diverse as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Captain Beefheart, Miles Davis and the Allman Brothers, to Blues guitarists such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, it was no surprise to hear JD recount listening to BB King when he just twelve years of age, as he paid his dues with a Cindy Walker cover, and yet another great vocal - so much so that you couldn't hear a pin drop. JD then thanked Tommy for the tour, but was very modest as he admitted he was way out of his comfort zone and hoped that the audience were happier than when they came in! Well just to prove the point, it wouldn't be Simo without 'A Little Help From My Friends' as he despatched this Beatles classic in true Cocker style, 'that' classic note, once again making the proverbial hairs stand up on the back of your neck, duly getting the rapturous applause it deserved from a genuinely happy crowd. Still can't get use to JD being on his own, but he is a class act. Make sure that you check him out when he headline's London's iconic 100 Club on Tuesday 9th April.
In fact the last time we saw a gig at the Royal Festival Hall, it was Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited which included a 41 piece Heart Of England Philharmonic Orchestra! Step forward Tommy Emmanuel on his tod onto a desolate stage in a cavernous RFH with just three acoustic guitars to back him up! Well, we needn't have worried, given that Emmanuel has been a professional player from the age of six, he is a member of the Order of Australia - bestowed on him by The Queen no less (to recognise Australian citizens for achievement or meritorious service), four time winner of Australia’s Best Guitarist Award, two time ARIA (Australian Grammy) winner and he performed at the closing ceremony at the Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000 - to a televised audience of 2.85 billion viewers! Not only that, but in 1999 Chet Atkins presented Tommy with the Certified Guitar Player Award - distinguished as being one of only five musicians handpicked by his mentor. What a build up - time to Rock on Tommy!
Mic'd up to the the eyeballs, the crystal clarity of Emmanuel's dexterity was a joy to behold, none more so than on his medley of 'Deep River Blues', 'Blue Smoke' and 'Cannonball Rag' which saw the crowd, which had nicely filled out by now, "whoopin" from the cheap seats. It all appeared effortless, as Tommy jokingly looked at his watch, as he moved onto a delightful, foot tappin' slow shoe shuffle before sitting down to tell his Mark Knopfler anecdote about two drunk guys at a bar, cue the amusing 'You Don't Wanna Get You One Of Those' which he co-wrote with the Dire Straits frontman for the new album. Another anecdote about trains introduced the next instrumental with its Harry Potter cinematic chords - think German 'Classical Gas', before the more familiar chords of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' saw the audience hanging off of every note. Beautiful. Emmanuel genuinely shared with the audience how lucky he was to have his 'day job' - although the sacrifice of being away from Oz was understandably reflected in a number of his songs including 'Angelina', dedicated to his daughter who was actually in the audience. Tommy also spoke fondly of his time living in the UK in Lingfield, of which he played a delightful, slow, stand out, instrumental, before asking whether anyone liked the Rolling Stones? "That's ok" - he joked - "as I'm going to play The Beatles!" Well, who needed a band, given this Certified Guitar Player anyway?
Looking at his different set lists between gigs, this guy can play anything! To be fair Emmanuel stopped short of asking for requests, but he did let us in on a secret that he would be singing a certain 'Sergeant Pepper' classic to himself soon for his coming birthday in May. Cue 'When I'm 64' plus a Beatles medley including 'My Guitar Gently Weeps' and 'Lady Madonna', before ending with Mason Williams' awesome 'Classical Gas'. Wow. Well there's only so much you can do with an acoustic guitar right? Wrong! Tommy further demonstrated his versatility with a drum solo! No mass exodus to the washrooms here, as we looked on in disbelief given Tommy's snare drum percussion shenanigans using his mic'd guitar. Time for Emmanuel to take a deep breath as he finished with his poignant 'Rachel's Lullaby', written for his baby daughter - in Tommy's own words - his 'Blackbird'. "It was in tune when I bought it" Emmanuel joked as he tuned his guitar, whilst again saying how lucky he was to do what he does, as he invited JD back on to the stage for a jam and a joint vocal. Tommy and JD finished with '(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay', Otis Redding's classic that they both recorded on 'Accomplice One', leaving us with one last duelling guitar salvo. There was one more from Emmanuel, 'Sail On', movingly dedicated to his late brother Phil, albeit with his amusing heaven anecdote, before Tommy returned for a very short instrumental encore. Emmanuel proved that he's a breathtaking live artist as much as he is on record, and his performance was one of irresistible showmanship, exhilarating finger picking and outstanding musicianship. A performance not to have been missed.
AJ (Photos courtesy of John Bull)
Rod Argent & Colin Blunstone
Thursday 21st March 2019
There are those rare instances when you eagerly anticipate going to a gig and your high expectations are not only matched but exceeded. Needless to say, this equally rare acoustic excursion by Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, a few days ahead of the Zombies being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was one of those occasions. The Boisdale is a pretty smart venue in the heart of Canary Wharf, offering a full dining experience ahead of a musical dessert. Despite the frenetic toing and froing of the army of waiting staff the ambience of the venue is pretty laid back and a pleasant change from some of the grungy, darkly lit caverns normally encountered in London.
Without any great fanfare the seasoned duo came onto the small stage and begin proceedings with ‘Breathe Out, Breathe in’ a song from the 2011 album of the same name. This, like all the songs that followed was an immediately likeable, catchy, melodic tune that didn’t overstay its welcome, hit all the right spots and set up the next number. This also demonstrated the continued high quality of the Zombies song writing output, in that all the numbers played had a timeless quality and were uniformly excellent, regardless of whether they came from the distant past (their induction will coincide with the 50th anniversary to the day of ‘Time of the Season’ reaching No.1 in the States - you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be playing that at the ceremony in New York) or from their more recent output following their reuniting, like 2015’s ‘Still Got That Hunger’.
Colin Blunstone’s voice is still in remarkably fine fettle and there was no shirking of the high notes with all the songs seemingly remaining in their original keys. Rod Argent’s piano playing has a distinctively Jazzy feel to it without being unnecessarily flashy (which did not prevent him later in the set from showing off his chops with a solo piece that allowed him full reign to tinkle the ivories and illustrate what a fine player he is). Most songs were prefaced in this relaxed, charming performance with an introduction by one or the other of the two; ‘I Want You Back Again’ was described as being revived after they heard (the late great) Tom Petty, who covered it, describe it as one of his favourite songs. It is a fabulous song. A story about touring America back in the sixties as part of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars and meeting Little Anthony & the Imperials led into a version of their hit ‘Going Out of My Head’.
‘Moving On’ and ‘Edge of the Rainbow’ from their last album waved the flag again for their undiminished song writing skills, the latter sounding like you’ve been listening to it all your life. Two of Colin’s solo hits from the 70’s kept the momentum going, the gorgeous ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ (a personal favourite) and ‘I Don’t Believe in Miracles’. There were cries of disappointment from the audience as they announced that the duo would only be playing four numbers from their classic (misspelt) album ‘Odessey and Oracle’ following a description of it being Paul Weller’s favourite album. ‘Care of Cell 44’, ‘A Rose for Emily’, ‘This Will Be Our Year’ and ‘Time of The Season’ were rattled off in quick succession, as some in the audience no doubt became misty eyed at hearing these ultra-melodic gems from the past. There were more good natured stories and other songs, including of course ‘She’s Not There’, all of which left the feeling that this was one of those special occasions when it was a real privilege as well as a total pleasure to share the experience of listening to two such talented and likeable musicians, displaying all the skills gained over a life-time of performing.
Simon Green (photos courtesy of Simon Green)
Erja Lyytinen, Blues Engine,
Cheri Lyn, 100 Club, London
Tuesday 26th March 2019
European Blues Award winner Erja Lyytinen will release her brand-new studio album 'Another World' on Friday 26th April via Tuohi Records, and to coincide with this, the Finnish slide-guitarist stopped off at London's iconic 100 Club last Tuesday, as part of her 12-date UK tour, excellently supported by Cheri Lyn and Blues Engine For seventeen years, we’ve known her as the award-winning slide goddess whose heart-and-guts songs have shaken the Blues-Rock scene. This is an artist capable of flowing from the primal Blues of international debut 'Pilgrimage' (2005), to the orchestration of 'Voracious Love' (2010) and the soulful Elmore James tributes of 'The Sky Is Crying' (2014). But following the shattering breakup that fuelled 'Stolen Hearts' (2017), Lyytinen found herself tearing out the page and writing a brand new chapter.
Indeed, the flavour of this evening was female-fronted bands. First up was German born Cheri Lyn, with her modern Blues/Rock/Soul with her powerhouse vocals, plus her five-piece consisting of traditional guitar, bass, drums and two backing vocals. Cheri's bubbly personality was immediately infectious, although inviting the early arrivals in the crowd to clap and sing aloud to her second song was ambitious, but typical of her enjoyable set. The pounding drum plus the smiling faces of her backing singers went hand in hand on the aptly named single 'Sisters With Me', as was the beautifully constructed Blues of 'Caught In The Blues', her very first release, with Cheri Lyn's acoustic guitar complemented by a stand-out guitar solo. And on the theme of female singers, cue a great cover of one of the best ever, namely Janis Joplin's 'Piece Of My Heart', followed by her next slower track that ended with another excellent guitar duet. Following the catchy and very un-German 'Rules Are Meant To Be Broken', Cheri's two trusty backing vocalists left the stage, to be replaced by her Toxic Gold bandmate/vocalist Helen Hurd for a final rocker. So if you like traditional roots music together with contemporary, catchy and smokey sounds and distinctive and seductive powerhouse vocals, then why not get along and check out Toxic Gold at The Hope & Anchor, Islington, this Thursday 4th April?
In contrast, Blues Engine consisting of Katya Chernyakova (vocals), Alex Liutai (bass), Hamish Birchall (drums) and Alex Cooray (guitar) are a sound built on the traditional foundation of the old machinery of the Blues, but with Funk and Soul and Rock bolted on. Leaning on the famous 100 Club halfway pillar, they were a joy to behold as we lapped up 'Mama Don't Know' with its cool guitar jousting between Cooray and Liutai. "How's everyone doing?" enquired the charismatic Katya - "even better" was the answer after Alex's great guitar intro on the next track complemented by Chernyakova's smooth vocals, before they upped the tempo on Charles Sheffield's 'It's Your Voodoo Working' - a foot tapping stand-out from their set with more great work from Cooray including a 'James Bond Theme' snippet. Talking of films, we were really into Blues Brothers territory now, thanks to Birchall's pounding drums and Liutai's smoky bass, before 'Figure Of Speech', which saw a genre switch, with its refreshing Latino Tango feel. They finished their set with another genre curveball, but fan favourite, 'Ascension', which Katya described as "Their happiest Blues song" - with its twist of Pop. Blues Engine's social PR proclaims "It shakes; it rattles; it dances; it lives." Well they certainly lived up to that tonight. Superb.
The last time we caught Finnish slide Goddess/guitarist and singer-songwriter Erja Lyytinen was at The Borderline last November, at a time when she had just been nominated for the second year in a row as Guitarist of the Year 2018 by the European Blues Awards plus an announcement that her new album would feature guest performances from both Sonny Landreth and Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson). Fast forward just under five months later and Erja is back, in fact opening with the same two songs at The Borderline, from her critically acclaimed last album 'Stolen Hearts', released in April last year. 'Lover's Novels' not only saw a text book slide solo from the smiling guitar banshee, but also a great Hammond organ duet. "Hello - so many memories", as Erja duly brought us up to date on their recent touring schedule which included support slots for both both Focus and Santana no less, as her band launched into 'Black Ocean', a more down to earth Blues track with its heavy bass line, a nice funky repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo complemented by both her crystal clear vocal and more awesome organ.
"Ah - seven and a half minutes of shredding" Lyytinen guiltily confessed before introducing her band and giving us a Finnish translation of 'Everything's Fine'. Cue the great riff of the predominantly keys influenced song of the aforementioned name, from her 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. Commanding the stage with an amazing fret picking solo on her green guitar, Lyytinen oozed real Blues, and with a snippet of Ella Fitzgerald's 'Summertime' - once again confirmed the fact that you can take the green Goddess out of Finland but you can't take the green Goddess out of the girl. A departure from The Borderline setlist was 'Hard As Stone' from the new album, a well constructed light and shade Blues track that built into another trademark Lyytinen guitar salvo. The downbeat 'Stolen Hearts' Blues burner 'Slowly Burning' featured Lyytinen's a cappella vocal echo "Can You Feel My Pain", which hit the mark with Austin Powers standing behind us as he shouted "I Can Feel It Baby". Other than that amusing outburst, this awesome track was duly given the respect it deserved, another opportunity for Erja to take it out on her Fender Strat, with a smooth controlled vocal delivery, given the song's emotional context. This was indeed bordering on Gary Moore excellence.
And talking of influences, despite more slide, the quirky car referenced 'Cherry Overdrive' smacked of Prog time touring with Focus, which is not a bad thing, whilst another new track from her forthcoming album - the title track - was written and composed by Lyttinen, which describes a fictional love story in a parallel universe - given Erja's love of sci-fi movies! With its mix of a big guitar sound, complementary keys and a guitar solo clearly influenced and inspired by Gales/Hendrix and Heart's Melodic 80's Pop/Rock music - this was certainly a delicious appetiser for what we can expect next month - as was the Heavy Rock of 'Snake In The Grass', with Lyytinen laughing on the intro with its biting riffs on its stop-start groovy Funk. "It's been good fun with you folks" as Lyytinen spoilt us with a mouthwatering Mississippi Delta Blues medley. "Robert Johnson eat your heart out. How about this girl from Finland?" she added as her pink slide guitar proceeded to orchestrate some obligatory foot tapping and hand clapping from her enthusiastic faithful. It was time then for another Finnish language masterclass as we all counted down to in Finnish (yes, seriously) to the final song from her set, the unusual time signature of the head banging 'Rocking Chair' - another from 'Stolen Hearts' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark in yer face slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal, before finishing off the night with an excellent encore/cover of Hendrix's 'Crosstown Traffic', with Erja also playing a green kazoo! On a night of real Blues Rock quality, not quantity, Lyytinen once again proved that she is not only the Goddess of the slide guitar, but also has the voice, charisma, banter and looks as well. And if you made the mistake of missing Erja on tour, do console yourself by getting 'Another World' when it's released later this month. You won't be sorry!
AJ (photos courtesy of Bruce Biege)
Hands Off Gretel, Pussy Liquor
Thursday 28th March 2019
The legendary venue, now refurbished, played host to ‘Hands Off Gretel’. The North London setting was chosen as the album launch for their new offering, 'I want the World', although the band hails from South Yorkshire with a sound that owes something more to Seattle. Foreplay was by provided by ‘Pussy Liquor’, the support act, whetting everybody’s appetite with their modern update on raucous Post-Punk. Enter the stage ‘Hands Off Gretel’ who were greeted with great enthusiasm and kicked off their set with ‘Kiss Me Girl’.
Front woman Lauren Tate has the look and the presence to carry this blistering opening off (witness the amount of camera phones held aloft). Her voice ranges from gravelly drawl to pristine Pop which allows the band to vary their mood on the album set-list from grungy workouts to tender balladry. Crucially, this allows them to employ the loud-quiet-loud dynamic within singular songs which was a trademark of early 90’s Grunge bands.
The lyrical content of their songs are self -confessional and packed with raw emotion as you would expect from this genre. This gives the album a self-cathartic feel, but I would be interested to see if Tate could make more political/satirical observations about the world around her, which may develop in later material.
Musically, the bassist, Becky Baldwin has a punchy urgency in her playing and an animated stage presence characterised by a swirl of head-banging hair. At one point the band break into a rendition of the Stooges ‘I Want to Be your Dog’ which kicks off an impromptu mosh-pit, and it’s palpably clear that the energy on stage has permeated into the room.
Ivan De Mello
Wille & The Bandits
O2 Academy Islington, London
Saturday 30th March 2019
Saturday night in a vibrant Islington, the pubs filling up with groups of friends meeting and a bit of a buzz in the air, none more so than in the small indoor shopping centre set back from the main drag which, incongruously, houses the two separate O2 Academy stages; on this evening the more intimate upstairs venue, with lighting that could be classified without fear of contradiction as “subdued”, was the host for Wille & The Bandits. This was my first encounter with the much talked about hirsute trio from Cornwall. Before they came on stage other audience members were excitedly informing me about how good they were live; indeed they were, brilliant in fact!
On paper it sounded potentially like a recipe for an evening of overblown self-indulgence: three talented virtuoso musicians going at full pelt, non-stop instrumental interplay and a 6-string bassist to boot; it sends shivers down your spine at the thought of some dreadful Jazz Rock combo battling themselves into a stupor. The difference with Wille and the Bandits being that they have a bunch of cleverly arranged, powerful melodic songs with great hooks, none more so than the tasty morsels offered up from their magnificent current album ‘Paths’. Opening up with the riffing ‘Victims of the Night’ the strength of their musical vision was immediately apparent, the punchy rhythm stopping halfway through for a spacey Blues interlude that led into an almost Prog style up tempo solo that remained lyrical throughout before effortlessly kicking back into the catchy “Batsh*t crazy” chorus.
Apart from the all-embracing wall of sound the trio create, they also provide a visually interesting spectacle: lead vocalist Wille Edwards is a compelling figure, giving everything to his raspy vocals, neck muscles straining while he alternated mostly between his Gibson and a lap steel - which added wonderfully to the wide musical soundscape - his face frequently caught in a snarl as he gave all his energy to each number, hair falling over his eyes. Stage left, the curly haired and amiable waist-coated figure of Matt Brooks, looking like he’d just stumbled in from rehearsing with the Average White Band, was doing some incredibly nimble fingered work that was a show in itself; he later switched to a Heath Robinson style home-made double bass mid-way through the set which was also used to create some delightful sounds via an array of pedals and other effects when played with a bow. His backing vocals also added greatly to the overall sound. Behind the two front men, drummer Andrew Naumann provided an impressive selection of complicated but not too busy beats while projecting an Old Testament prophet meets 1968 version of Peter Green vibe.
Talking of which, that particular legend’s name was invoked as the band kicked into their own superb version of ‘Black Magic Woman’ which fused ‘Mac with Santana plus their own added Bandit sauce. Each song had its own dynamic, a couple of my personal favourites were the funky groove and infectious chorus of ‘Keep it on the Down-Low’ (that’s going to stay in the live set for a long time) and the excellent ‘Judgement Day’ with its distinctive jaunty guitar hook. The slow burn of the acoustic based ‘Mammon’ was another highlight. The word eclectic often gets misused but not in the case of Wille and the Bandits who take a variety of rich ingredients from the past and put it into their particular blender to produce an imaginative take on the Blues that is totally original. Catch them when you can.
Simon Green (photos courtesy of Simon Green)
Sari Schorr, David Sinclair Four
The Beaverwood Club, Chislehurst
Tuesday 2nd April 2019
The Beaverwood Club, situated in the leafy Kent suburbs, looks like a cricket pavilion, adjoining as it does a cricket pitch in the grounds of the local Beaverwood school. It’s the sort of local venue that does business hosting weddings, parties and celebrations although, like many, it also hosts regular live music nights. Local music mogul, Pete Feenstra, is the man responsible for bringing some top quality acts to this part of the country and has secured the likes of Chantel McGregor, Joanne Shaw Taylor and Walter Trout at this lovely venue. Supporting Walter Trout on his October 2017 tour was Sari Schorr, the up and coming New York Blueser, and tonight she takes the headline spot.
Opening act is the David Sinclair Four, a south London quartet, playing Rock and Roll and Blues. Backed by brothers Jos and Rory Mendoza on drums and bass, guitarist Geoff Peel supports frontman David Sinclair perform a mixed set of classics by artists like Lou Reed and Chuck Berry as well as David’s own material. His track 'Eight Rounds Later' pays homage to years of travelling and drinking around the world whilst 'Coming Off The Rails' is a toe tapping track also reminiscing about enjoying the good times maybe just a touch too much. It’s catchy Rock and Roll that was enjoyed by all and warmed the small crowd nicely.
Sari’s Schorr is a hard-working Blues woman whose humble beginnings, working the music scene in the legendary fierce South Bronx of New York and on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to a performance at Carnegie Hall, has now led her to international success. In 2016, Sari Schorr made her debut album, 'A Force of Nature', produced by iconic British Blues pioneer Mike Vernon (David Bowie, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green). Following her 2017 UK appearances she is now touring the country supporting her new second album 'Never Say Never'. Sari insisted that the album be recorded live to capture the raw energy of her music. It’s an album full of personal emotions that she admits was as painful as it was healing in the making.
Dressed in black jacket, silver scarf, blue jeans and black boots, the operatically trained singer takes to the stage to front her current band of talented British backing musicians. Guitarist Ash Wilson sports a number of guitars although his main axe is a beautiful white Deusenberg hollow body, and is a solo Blues artist in his own right. Bob Fridzema handles keys - both piano and organ - with Mat Beable on bass and Roy Martin on drums.
Opening with just the haunting sound of Ash’s Deusenberg, 'The New Revolution' soon morphs into a full on Rock and Roll groove allowing Sari to showcase her powerhouse vocals, ably supported by Fridzema on backing vocals. Written in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s a song about the struggles he stood for. “Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth” she sings. A powerful song with a powerful message. In contrast, 'Damn The Reason' is slow and sultry in comparison, although Sari’s vocals are no less forceful. All the power and presence of Bonnie Tyler with none of the gravel. But when stopping to chat with the audience between songs, Sari’s voice has the softness of a sexy seductress as she introduces the band.
Opening track of her new album is 'King Of Rock And Roll', a tribute to Blues legend Robert Johnson who allegedly sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads of two Mississippi highways to become the greatest Blues musician in history. Ash weighs in with some drop tuned goodness played on a Fender through his unusual 633 Engineering Groove King amp. These are high end boutique UK built amps, this one inspired by the classic Vox AC30 to get those classic British Rock tones. His pedal board is also a collection of top amplification and modulation too. Ash is notable too on 'Thank You', also from the 'Never Say Never' album, with some tasteful wah that complements the songs groove. "I wrote this song for all the good people ruining great relationships. Self-sabotage is a mystifying loop of behavior that destroyed a relationship I really wanted. No matter what I did, this man I loved simply couldn’t believe that he was capable of being loved. Perception can be more powerful than reality" says Sari.
Stopping briefly to welcome her network family - Sari is a regular on social media - she launches into a couple of covers this evening, which are original and enjoyable takes on well-known classics. Bad Company’s 'Ready For Love' is one such that benefits from the power of her superb vocals that are required to do justice to Paul Rodgers anthem, with Fridzema providing a tasteful keyboard solo. As he also did on the Bluesy 'Demolition Man', dedicated to producer Mike Vernon. 'Ain't Got No Money' is a Funky Blues track that allows Ash to show a bit of his love for sixties Rock and Roll, with his white hollow body Deusenberg providing that Shadows twang. But it’s their up temp cover of Willie Dixon’s 'I Just Want To Make Love To You' that really allows Ash to shine. It’s a raunchy clap along version, with Sari’s strong vocals to the fore as ever, but it’s the almost Hendrix style guitar solo that captivates me. Ash is loving it, and it’s great to watch the rest of the band reveling in his joy as he temporarily loses himself in his revelry. The audience really picks up on the feel good factor as the whole band are just having a ball. The song just turns into a fun jam for all.
'Kiss Me' is more of a Rock ballad with a squealing guitar solo, before they launch into the title track of the new album. 'Never Say Never' was written by Small Faces and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan after his wife’s tragic death. Writing this song became part of Ian’s healing process. It’s a song about facing challenges and not being afraid to ask for help. It is slow and soulful with Sari restraining the power of her voice to almost gentle before the song builds to a strong conclusion. Very emotive.
Lifting the tempo, 'Valentina' is a rocking little number that tells of the dangers of getting your priorities wrong. Based upon her own experiences of missing some of the important moments in life whilst following her dream. "Valentina is my alter ego who learns too late that the high price of her pursuits have left her alone and broke in a world that is completely indifferent to her" she explains. The punchy rocking number contains another fine screaming guitar solo, again from the drop tuned Fender. And closing out her main set is 'Freedom', a song about guns, war and violence. "Not all Americans love guns" she proclaims earnestly. This is Sari’s message to the world. Although the world does not appear to be listening. Her voice is stronger than ever as the passion flows from her. Aretha Franklin was the first name that popped into my head. A great song it gave Ash the chance to try out his new red Deusenberg guitar (#NGD). Yes, it worked very nicely Ash.
Disappearing for a very brief sojourn, the band returns to the stage for another notable cover. This time it’s their version of Lead Belly’s 'Black Betty', made famous by Ram Jam. But unlike the famous latter, Sari’s version is a slow sludgy Blues version more akin to the original. Starting once more with just the haunting clean sounds of Ash’s white hollow body, the song explodes into the full Blues with Sari showing every range of vocal talent. High and low, sharp and held, the song is used to showcase exactly why she is headlining shows and will be hitting the highs that match her range. Ash pulls out a beautiful Gilmour-esque solo in what is a really compelling cover that ends the way it started, with a beautiful clean guitar. Closing track is a cracking Country Blues track from the new album called 'Back to L.A.' (I thought you said you were from Brooklyn?). Although it’s a song about looking back at how quickly life goes by, and wishing you hadn’t wasted so much of it, it’s a feel good song with an up beat tempo that skips along to the only too quickly reached conclusion. But it’s a finish with a flourish to an excellent set that showcases not only Sari’s impressive vocal talents, but also thoughtful and interesting songwriting skills.
In an ever more chaotic world, the Beaverwood Club is an island of tranquility in a sea of madness. The woes weighing us down are temporarily lifted to allow us a window of calm. Doctor Feenstra has written his prescription. No medication is required other than that dispensed by barman Dan, along with a large dose of Sari Schorr. Take both before retiring to bed and everything will be fine in the morning.
Sari Schorr setlist:
The New Revolution
Damn the Reason
King Of Rock'n'Roll
Ready For Love (Bad Company cover)
Ain’t Got No Money
I Just Wanna Make Love to You (Willie Dixon cover)
Never Say Never
Black Betty (Lead Belly cover)
Back To LA
UFO, Tara Lynch
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Thursday 4th April 2019
UFO are an English Rock band formed in London in 1968 by Lead vocalist Phil Mogg, guitarist Mick Bolton, bassist Pete Way and drummer Andy Parker. Originally called Hocus Pocus, the group changed their name in 1969 to UFO after the famous underground London club. 2019 marks fifty one years of UFO, despite two hiatuses (1983-1984 and again from 1989-1991), they have released twenty two studio albums and fourteen live albums, and have had countless line-up changes, with vocalist Phil Mogg being the only constant through out.
Their eponymously titled debut album was released in 1970 with the 'UFO 2: Flying' album following in 1971. Both these albums leaned toward a more experimental Psychedelic Space Rock sound. Mick Bolton left the group in 1972, with Larry Wallis joining briefly before Bernie Marsden took over the job for one short tour. The classic band started to take shape when Michael Schenker (Scorpions) joined in June 1973, with the musical direction now veering more towards commercial Melodic Hard Rock. The exceptional 'Phenomenon' album was released in 1974 and was produced by Leo Lyons (Ten Years After). It contains two UFO classics in the form of 'Doctor Doctor' and 'Rock Bottom' that remain in the live set to this day. A run of top-quality classic albums followed, including 'Force It' (1975), 'No Heavy Petting' (1976), 'Lights Out' (1977) and 'Obsession' (1978). Keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond (Chicken Shack/Savoy Brown) joined in 1976 to augment and expand the UFO sound, which can be heard on the hugely successful 1979 live album 'Strangers In The Night'.
Due to growing tension with Mogg, Schenker left in 1978. He went on to make a brief return to the Scorpions before going on to form his own highly successful Michael Schenker Group. Paul 'Tonka' Chapman (Skid Row) was brought in on guitar in time to record the 1980 album 'No Place to Run', which was produced by former Beatles producer George Martin. Paul Raymond left the band before the 1981 self-produced 'The Wild, the Willing and the Innocent' album, which featured Neil Carter (Wild Horses) on keyboards. The 'Mechanix' album followed in 1982. Later that year, founding member Pete Way left the band to form Fastway with Motörhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke and then his own band, Waysted.
Billy Sheehan (Talas) joined on bass for the 1983 album 'Making Contact'. However, shortly after the release of this album UFO decided to disband. A year later Mogg assembled a new UFO line-up before disbanding again in 1989. For the next few years Mogg soldiered on with various line-ups before the classic line-up reunited in 1995 for the 'Walk on Water' album. This line-up (with AC/DC's Simon Wright on drums in place of Parker) went on a world tour. However, tensions arose again, with Schenker leaving the band four shows into the tour! Despite this, Schenker returned to the fold in 1998 and the band embarked on another tour, with Parker again replaced by another drummer.
Schenker rejoined UFO again in 2000 for the 'Covenant' album, and in 2002 for the 'Sharks' album, before departing for the final time! Vinnie Moore was recruited on guitar in 2004 and continues to occupy that role today. Moore appears on a succession of quality albums including 'You Are Here' (2004), 'The Monkey Puzzle' (2006), 'The Visitor' (2009), 'Seven Deadly' (2012), 'A Conspiracy of Stars' (2015) and the covers album 'The Salentino Cuts' (2017).
In May 2018, vocalist Phil Mogg announced that UFO's 50th anniversary tour in 2019 would be his last one as the front man of the band. With this announcement tickets for the tour began to sell by the bucket loads, with fans eager to catch Mogg's last shows with the band. The band's current line-up consists of vocalist Phil Mogg, lead guitarist Vinnie Moore, bass guitarist Rob De Luca, keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond and drummer Andy Parker.
UFO's extensive twenty three date 50th anniversary March/April UK and Ireland tour, billed as 'Last Orders - 50th Anniversary Tour', could well be the band's last major tour of these shores, and certainly Mogg's last hurrah with the band. With reportedly twelve of the dates completely sold out, the anticipation was palpable! Initial rumours suggested that guitarist Michael Schenker and original bassist Pete Way would be making guest appearances, which certainly boosted ticket sales. Unfortunately, once tour dates started selling out, it was announced by both Schenker and Way, that they would not be involved in any of the UFO 50th anniversary shows! This was a major disappointment to a lot of the fans who purchased advanced tickets, me included!
This Shepherds Bush Empire, London gig was completely sold out, with a second night added at The Forum, Kentish Town, London tomorrow. The support came from Tara Lynch, an American Heavy Rock singer/guitarist and her band. She definitely has the chops and warmed the crowd up nicely. After a short break, UFO hit the stage to 'UFO' chants from the crammed in punters. The atmosphere was buzzing and there was a nice rapport within the crowd. When the lights dimmed, the band strolled on ready to rock the place! These days Mogg has joined the hallowed ranks of the baldy rockers! Despite being follically challenged, he has lost none of his Rock star credentials. Dressed all in black, looking slender and fit and prowling the stage with intent and purpose!
The evening's proceedings kicked off with 'Mother Mary' from the 1975 'Force It' album, a good song, but a sluggish start as the band loosened up and acclimatised to the monitor sound. By the time 'We Belong to the Night' from the 1982 'Mechanix' album, cranked up, the band found their chops and things began to lock in. With Parker's drumming solid as a rock, Moore's guitar stinging and De Luca's bass bubbling, the momentum began to escalate. Raymond switched between rhythm guitar and keyboards throughout proceedings, and must be at least a hundred and twenty by now, but he looks like he is about twenty-five! Obviously relishing being on stage, coming to the front at every opportunity to flash some Rock poses and playing left handed guitar strung upside down.
Mogg's voice started to open up with his raspy vibrato resonating with seasoned control during 'Run Boy Run' from the 2015 'Conspiracy Of Stars' album. A welcome surprise to the set came next in the form of 'Venus' from the 1995 'Walk On Water' album. A strong song from the 90’s Schenker reunion period had Moore switching between acoustic and electric guitar with ease. A top quality performance from all. The brilliant 'Lights Out' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album, had the crowd singing along, a formidable and anthemic song played with energetic intensity. Proceedings slowed down a bit with the arrival of the beautiful ballad 'Baby Blue' from the 2004 'You Are Here' album, with some tasty harmonics played by Moore on the acoustic guitar plus an intense and emotive vocal performance from Mogg.
Another classic and fan favourite 'Only You Can Rock Me' from the 1978 'Obsession' album pounded in with intent to rouse. Another good excuse for a crowd sing along and fist pumping action! A quality late period song greeted us next in the form of 'Burn Your House Down' from the 2012 'Seven Deadly' album, with a tantalising and sizzling guitar solo from Moore! Mogg asked a lady on the front row what colour her lipstick was before launching into 'Cherry' from the 1978 'Obsession' album. A beguiling and enticing vocal performance from Mogg.
The time had come for a set highlight in the form of 'Love to Love' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album. This song gave Mogg a chance to shine and show us what he can really do with his voice, which he executed with alluring style and seductive panache! A phenomenal song full of tender emotion and raging passion. The sleazy 'Too Hot to Handle' from the 1977 'Lights Out' album slinked in next. One the band's roadies appeared dressed in drag and sashayed next to the drum riser in an attempt to distract Parker! It didn't work though as Parker was concentrating and focused on pounding the skins!
De Luca, the newest member of the band, joining them in 2008, seems to be relishing his role in UFO and playing a classic Thunderbird bass just like Pete Way did. He was quite animated through out the set, throwing his bass above his head a few times. There is no doubt that he is a great bass player, but I do miss Pete Way's presence in the band, particularly for his charismatic personality and lively stage persona, which was always intoxicating and captivating to witness.
The phenomenal 'Makin' Moves' from the underrated 1981 'The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent' album, written by Mogg and Paul Chapman, thundered in to smack our senses! A well-crafted and powerful song, saw an invigorating performance from the band with some spirituous and rousing soloing from Moore. The atmosphere intensified with the arrival of another set highlight and tour-de-force, the thumping heavy 'Rock Bottom' from the 1974 'Phenomenon' album. Mogg commented during the guitar solo that it would be a good opportunity to get a drink in or take a leak! I decided against this advice and stayed to take in all the action. This song gives Moore the chance to stretch out and show off with some fret board noodling, which he executes with passionate determination and subtle dexterity. An exhilarating and stirring performance saw Moore running back and forward and all over the stage, engaging with the audience at opportune moments and throwing some old Hendrix moves with the guitar behind head trick.
The main set came to a close with the anthemic and killer 'Doctor Doctor' from the 1974 'Phenomenon' album. The intro build up to the main riff is tantalising, raising up the tension before exploding into life, exciting the senses as it chugs along like a juggernaut. A mosh pit developed down the front, just like the good old days! For the encore we got the excellent 'Shoot Shoot' from the 1975 'Force It' album. Time for more audience participation and moshing! At the end Moore descended the stage into the pit to allow the front row to strum his guitar. A great ending to a fantastic night of classic Heavy Rock.
Steven C. Gilbert
Savoy Brown + Stan Webb's Chicken Shack, Under The Bridge, London
Friday 12th April 2019
Savoy Brown are an English Blues Rock band formed in London in 1965 by guitarist Kim Simmonds and harmonica player John O'Leary. They gained a growing following at a Monday night Blues club that Kim and his brother Harry started up in 1966, called Kilroy’s, located in the upstairs room of the Nag’s Head Tavern in Battersea. Kilroy’s Blues club became very popular with London Blues enthusiasts, and subsequently went onto to become the birth place and home of the Blue Horizon label run by Mike Vernon. Vernon went on to produce many of Britain’s best loved Blues bands like Chicken Shack, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall’s Blues Breakers.
Savoy Brown have existed for fifty-four years, released thirty nine studio and live albums, with approximately sixty two different members passing through the ranks at one time or another. The only original member and mainstay through out their career is guitarist, vocalist, writer and producer Kim Simmonds.
The original line-up of Savoy Brown included singer Bryce Portius, keyboardist Trevor Jeavons, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Manning and harmonica player John O'Leary (O'Leary appeared on record with the band on its initial recordings for Mike Vernon's Purdah label). Jeavons was replaced by Bob Hall shortly after the band's formation and Martin Stone joined on guitars. Not long after Stone's arrival, O'Leary left the band as a consequence of a dispute with Manager Harry Simmonds. The line-up of Simmonds, Portius, Hall, Chappell, Manning and Stone recorded the band's 1967 Decca debut album, ‘Shake Down’. A rough and ready album of mainly covers which was recorded in three days!
By the time of the release of their second album, almost the entire line-up was overhauled! Out were Portius, Chappell, Manning and Stone, in were vocalist Chris Youlden, guitarist "Lonesome" Dave Peverett, bassist Bob Brunning and drummer Hughie Flint. Both Brunning and Flint were replaced after one single release by Rivers Jobe and Bill Bruford respectively. Bruford lasted a couple of weeks before the arrival of Roger Earl on drums. This line-up recorded two albums in 1968, the brilliant 'Getting to the Point', and the great 'Blue Matter'. Jobe was replaced by bassist Tony Stevens for the excellent 1969 albums 'A Step Further' and 'Raw Sienna'. After the release of these two fine albums, Youlden departed, leaving the remaining band to record the 1970 album 'Looking In'. Following this album, Peverett, Stevens and Earl left to form Foghat with guitarist Rod Price. Foghat went on to achieve great success in America.
Simmonds remained and went on to recruit three quarters of the classic Chicken Shack line-up of the time, including Paul Raymond on keyboards and guitars, Andy Silvester on bass, and Dave Bidwell on drums, with Dave Walker (Redcaps/Beckett/The Idle Race) brought in on vocals. Originally from Walsall in the West Midlands, Walker is a hugely talented powerhouse vocalist, with a hard edged rasp to his voice making him the ideal candidate for the harder edged Blues Rock material. This being one of the strongest Savoy Brown line-ups, they went on to record the much heavier and powerful albums 'Street Corner Talking' in 1971, 'Hellbound Train' in 1972, which was a Top 40 album for them in the US, and 'Lion's Share', also released in 1972. Silvester departed in late 1972 to be replaced by Andy Pyle on bass, with Walker leaving shortly after the 'Lion's Share' album. He went on to enjoy a brief stint in Fleetwood Mac, featuring on their 1973 album 'Penguin', and then going on to replace Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, all be it but for a very short time, until Ozzy returned to the band for the 'Never Say Die' album.
Walker was replaced by the formidable feisty vocalist Jackie Lynton for the tantalisingly vibrant 1973 album 'Jack the Toad'. Lynton, originally from Shepperton, Middlesex, moved to London in the early 60’s where he had a fairly successful solo career playing mostly Pop music covers, later going on to start his own Jackie Lynton Band to play more hard edged R&B. Surprisingly by 1974 it was all change again in Savoy Brown! Out was Lynton and all the previous Chicken Shack musicians, and in was former Chicken Shack leader Stan Webb! Along with guitarist/vocalist Miller Anderson they released the top quality 'Boogie Brothers' album, which also featured Jim Leverton on bass and Eric Dillon on drums. This album marked the end of their most successful period and the end of their association with Decca records.
Once again the line-up was overhauled with Simmonds being the only remaining original member, and only member to feature throughout Savoy Browns history. The late seventies saw such notable albums as 'Skin ‘N’ Bone' (1976) and 'Savage Return' (1978), before entering the new decade with 'Rock ‘N’ Roll Warriors' (1981). The rest of the 80’s and most of the 90’s saw a steady stream of new and archive live releases, with Dave Walker returning for several of these before leaving again in 1991. The band returned to a form of sorts with the release of the solid 2003 studio album 'Strange Dreams' on Blind Pig Records. A further succession of quality albums emerged in subsequent years, including 'Steel' (2007), 'Voodoo Moon' (2011), 'Goin’ to the Delta' (2014), 'The Devil to Pay' (2015) and 'Witchy Feelin' (2017). They will release their fortieth album 'City Night' on Friday 7th June 2019 via Quarto Valley Records (distributed by Proper).
A Savoy Brown gig in London is a rare treat for us Brits, with their main market these days being in the US. This current five-date UK tour is their first UK tour for five years. The last time Savoy Brown played in London was at the Borderline, London on 13th May 2014. The current line-up includes Kim Simmonds - guitars, keyboards, harmonica, vocals (1965-present), Pat DeSalvo - bass (2009-present) and Garnet Grimm - drums (2009–present). The longest running stable line-up the band have ever had!
This gig at Under The Bridge, London was the second of five UK gigs. A good turn out of British Blues fans gave both Stan Webb's Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown a very warm welcome. Most of the early line-up of Chicken Shack has been in Savoy Brown at one time or another, including Webb himself! The last time Stan Webb's Chicken Shack shared the bill with Savoy Brown in the UK was on 21st August 2003 at the Mean Fiddler, London.
The current Chicken Shack line-up consists of Webb on lead guitar and vocals, Neil Archer on rhythm guitar, Rob Newell on bass and Steve Atkins on drums. The set kicked off in style with the beguiling and haunting ‘The Thrill Is Gone’, featured on the 1993 album ‘Plucking Good’, a mesmerizing performance from Webb and band. Next up was the tasty shuffle of ‘Going Up, Going Down’, from the album ‘Going Up, Going Down... The Anthology 1968-2001’. Stan's in between song banter is always quite amusing with his deadpan dry humour coming to the fore.
'You Shook Me' greeted us with intense and chilling bottleneck slide guitar from Webb that cut straight down deep into our souls, and played with fountains of emotional intensity. Magnificent stuff! The stellar ‘Tell Me', from the 1969 album ‘OK Ken’, showcased Webb's amazing vibrato vocals to great effect. The longing in his voice was emoted to perfection, truly awe-inspiring! Next to overwhelm us was the epic ‘Sweetest Little Thing’ from the 1991 album ‘Changes’, written by Webb about his mother. A fantastic moody and dark song that builds in intensity and allows Webb to stretch out and show us what he can really do on his Les Paul guitar, which he executed with pure elegant style and the coolness of a true seasoned pro. Hypnotising stuff!
Onto the heavy section of the set with the towering ‘Poor Boy’ from the 1972 album ‘Imagination Lady’, a monumental riff with a catchy melody and energetic rhythm section. This is one of Webb's best-loved songs that goes down a storm with the attentive crowd. Another great track from the 'Imagination Lady' album followed in the form of the dark and wild ‘Daughter Of A Hillside’. A dirty and gritty riff that grumbled and snarled like a demon! Extremely loud and incredibly heavy, cracking stuff! The set closed with the delectable ‘Dr Brown’ from the 1978 album ‘The Creeper’, and is another heavyweight track that shuffles along nicely. The band was locked in, grooving and swinging! Awesome stuff!
After a short break it was time for the great Savoy Brown to blow our minds! Simmonds is looking fit and well and was in good spirits, all smiles and jovial chatter. You can see he loves what he does by the way he talks enthusiastically about his work. The set kicked of with 'Why Did You Hoodoo Me' from the 2017 'Witchy Feelin' album. A steady paced song with a cool intro riff and some delectable guitar soloing, set the groove nicely. Simmonds playing was sublime, fluid and hypnotising! These days Simmonds handles all the vocals, unfortunately his vocals do not reach the dizzying heights of such greats as Chris Youlden or Dave Walker, but he does a fair job. The time had come for a couple of new songs from the forthcoming 'City Night' album, 'Walking On Hot Stones' and 'Payback Time'. They might be new songs but they sound authentic and relevant. This is a band that is still excited by what the Blues can offer today, which they execute with abounding energy, style and grace.
It was back to the 2017 'Witchy Feelin' album for the enticing 'Livin’ On The Bayou'. A cool riff with some tastefully controlled string bending and vibrato from Simmonds, each note having its own accent, emotion and expression. Grimm and DeSalvo provided a powerful and tight rhythm, anchoring the song with skilful precision. Next up was a dip into the past with 'Poor Girl' from the 1970 'Looking In' album. A luscious steady rocker, with an infectious groove. Fast forwarding on to the chugging instrumental 'Cobra' from the 2014 'Goin' To The Delta' album, a sublime and alluring boogie shuffle! Things slowed down with 'I'll Keep On Singing the Blues' (Memphis Slim) from the 2007 'Steel' album, a nice slow Blues gave the head bangers a rest!
Time for a couple of great tracks from the fantastic 1970 'Raw Sienna' album in the shape of 'Hard Way To Go' and 'Needle and Spoon'. A couple of old classics there and very welcome additions to the set. Bringing the main set to a close was the transcendental Psychedelic Blues Rocker that is 'Louisiana Blues' (Muddy Waters) from the 1969 'Blue Matter' album. A monstrous track with a sensational hypnotic riff and some far out mind-blowing string bending from Simmonds! For the encore we got the mammoth and staggering 'Savoy Brown Boogie' from the 1969 'A Step Further' album. The band got to stretch out on this one, with Simmonds just flying with inventive soloing. A full force boogie explosion! The smile on Simmonds face showed us that this man was in his element, and we were too! At the conclusion of this rave-up, the crowd showed their appreciation by enthusiastically clapping and cheering for more. Simmonds took his guitar off and came to the front of the stage to shake hands with the front row before exiting the stage for a well-earned rest. Unfortunately the popular Savoy Brown live staples 'Hellbound Train' and 'Tell Mama' was not played at this gig. Despite these omissions, the set list was strong, well balanced and interesting. Overall, it was an absolutely fantastic evening of electric blues. A good time was had by all!
Steven C. Gilbert
At The Sun + Hell's Addiction + Ravenbreed, The Black Heart, Camden, London
Friday 12th April 2019
With their debut album, ‘Leave Before The Light’, being released last month, 2019 looks set to be a big year for rising Rockers At The Sun, with UK festivals already lined up, they stopped off last Friday night at Camden's The Black Heart in London supporting said album, 75% of the way through their UK headline tour, with great support from Hell's Addiction and Ravenbreed. Formed in 2016, Harry Dale (vocals), Alex Matthews (bass), Chet Jogia (lead guitar), Craig Steen (drums) and Kieron Heavens (rhythm guitar), spent a year honing their Blues-infused Rock 'n' Roll on the live circuit before heading into the studio to record their acclaimed debut EP 'Breathe', which deservedly gained air play on the likes of Planet Rock, Hard Rock Hell and Total Rock. In fact the the first time we heard At The Sun, was an unplugged session in August 2017 - broadcast live on The WRC Award winning Rock On The Ridge Radio show, just two months after the EP's release.
Indeed the band have put a real shift in on the live circuit over the past few years, which last year saw them finishing third in the Hard Rock Hell Highway to Hell competition, competing against over 200 other bands, culminating in a live final at the O2 Academy in Sheffield. Being an unsigned band, they recorded 'Leave Before The Light', including the four tracks from their EP in separate sessions over a year, before releasing their first single 'Soak It Up' last October. With a driving but melodic sound, At The Sun love recording songs people can move to, combining big riffs with big rhythms and singalong choruses, but ultimately live music is their natural habitat, so there was no excuse not to miss these guys tonight!
Unfortunately, the opportunity cost of a great audio interview with both Alex and Craig in the street outside the venue beforehand, was that we only caught the final song of Ravenbreed's set 'Falling Away' from their debut EP 'Hollowed'. And our disappointment was compounded even further, judging by the very favourable reception from those in the sold out crowd that had made the wise decision to venture up the stairs from the bar to take in this Alternative/Hard Rock band consisting of "I Don't Care" t-shirt wearing Zoey Emelia Allen on vocals, Ross Formosa on bass and backup vocals, Oli Watkins on Drums and Mikey Watkins on guitar and backup vocals. Definitely a case of another time, another gig guys.
Describing themselves as the "child of an illicit three-way between Skid Row, early-Guns N’ Roses & AC/DC", Leicester balls-out Hard Rock band Hell's Addiction did exactly what they said on the tin as they opened their nine track set with a riff driving brace, the second of which requiring the obligatory fist pumping "Oi Oi Oi's" from their assembled faithful. "London, How The Fuck Are You Doing?" enquired vocalist Ben Sargent as they launched into more of the same with 'Masking The Pain' from their EP 'V1.0' plus 'On The Road Again' from their 'Statutory Nuisance' EP. Indeed, this was raw Rock at its best, with lots of hair! Consisting also of Liam Sargent (guitar), Dan Weir (guitar), Jason Green (bass) and Luke Morley (drums), the camaraderie among the three bands was evident as Ben thanked both Ravenbreed and At The Sun, before dedicating a great riff fitting tribute in memory of Hell's Addiction fan Mike, given Ben was also wearing Mike's wristband. Nice touch. "London, Wake The Fuck Up" demanded Ben, which we duly did thanks in no small way to the excellent guitar harmonies on 'The Way I Feel', another from 'Statutory Nuisance', as they finally nailed their AC/DC influences to the mast with two great hand clapping tracks in an awesome finale, before taking the now traditional band/audience selfie. Do not miss Hell's Addiction at Bromsgrove's Breaking Bands Festival on Friday 24th May.
"London How Are We Fucking Doing?" Harry cordially welcomed us to the their eagerly anticipated set. Ironically, At The Sun opened with 'Breathe' the title track from their debut EP, given that it had become very cosy with the sell-out crowd understandably wanting their best vantage point. And if you needed it, their opener was immediate proof of their successful formula of mixing up heavy dirty guitars, pounding rhythms, soaring vocals and ripping solos, with a driving but melodic sound! Cue happy faces and rapturous applause as they went straight into the slower Blues of 'Walk On Over' - another track originally on the debut EP, with Dale preaching that we "Get Our Hands In The Air And Make Some Noise", complemented by some great fret work from Chet and a neat drum outro from Craig. And talking of preaching, before they played 'Preacher', Harry thanked both Hell's Addiction and Ravenbreed and admitted that this was night six of their tour and that he was already absolutely fucked! God help him when they go on a world tour then! This great track from 'Leave Before The Light' was an opportunity to showcase another great riff plus the diminutive Alex on bass, before we were well and truly funked up thanks to their third single from the album 'Only A Fool', which not only saw a tambourine accompaniment, but also the hatted and appropriately named Heavens standing on a speaker stack.
Despite their tag of Blues-infused Rock 'n' Roll, it was pleasing too witness such a young demographic at The Black Heart. Certainly their citing of Avenged Sevenfold as being an influence on their live performances is an appeal, as demonstrated on 'Lifetime' - again another track from 'LBTL'. And talking of their breadth of influences such as Black Stone Cherry, Alter Bridge, Stain, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Queens Of The Stone Age and Monster Truck - their cover of Rag N Bone Man's 'Human' was certainly a curveball, but was one they certainly made their own and was dispatched brilliantly. It was then back to the album and 'Bite Your Tongue' - think the fire in the belly of Bad Company/Free meeting Inglorious's Nathan James square on - with an explosive guitar salvo from Chet Jogia thrown in for good measure. "Thank You London" praised Dale as the band then had us jumping about and our hands in the air to the great guitar riff and solo on their second single 'Lay It On Me' before teasing "Do You Want To Do It With Me" as they dived straight in to the driving riff of 'Renegade'. It was then time to take things down a notch with 'Indestructible' - a poignant song dedicated to one of the band's Mum's in her fight against serious illness - with Jogia's awesome guitar work fittingly hitting the mark. At The Sun completed their debut EP bingo card with 'Devil In Your Eyes', as they truly left their inhibitions at the door, with an excellent opening Dale a cappella along with some great wah wah pedal, that saw us all raising our hands again. Eat your heart out Black Stone Cherry!
Harry's plug for their Merch Stand was genuinely offset by his dedication to thank all of us attending the gig, before warning us that there's a "Steam Train Coming" and to 'Raise Your Glass' (the final track on the album) "Into The Sky" as he proceeded to tell us to "Keep It Going" as we all joined in with our "Wooh Wooh's"! "Thank You So Much - Do You Want One More Song?" Needless to say the answer was in the affirmative as we completed this time the album bingo card with their first single 'Soak It Up' - an awesome finale and overdue opportunity to showcase the excellent Kieron on rhythm guitar. "One More Song, One More Song..." the crowd shouted, which, as Harry admitted, was a bit awkward as they had played all their songs, but given these days of Brexit, he put it to a democratic vote and 'Devil In Your Eyes' won. There's no truth in the rumour that 52% voted for it - but all we know is that as we sang along again, it was definitely another case of eat your heart out Black Stone Cherry 2! A great performance that totally validated the band's belief that it has grown and absorbed new influences - as testified by the variety of the songs in their set. As they stated: it’s a living, breathing journey that they are on, and based on tonight's performance there are also many who want to jump on board with them! Among other gigs planned, At The Sun play Camden Rocks on Saturday 1st June, Hard Rock Hell on Saturday 9th November and Planet Rockstock on Saturday 7th December. Make sure you catch up with them soon!
Flight Brigade + Port Erin
The Half Moon, Putney, London
Thursday 18th April 2019
As far as competitions go, the Half Moon in Putney has been entered into Music Week Awards' Grassroots Venue: Spirit of the Scene.
So spirit was invoked by the main support Port Erin: they began their set with a Krautrock-inspired groove which culminated in a Nick Harper influenced number which caught the zeitgeist: "Lies, Lies, Lies" went the verse, as the tumble of bass, lead guitar and military-precision drumming created an atmospheric opening.
Flight Brigade resemble not so much a Rock-group, but more of an ensemble: they have an electric-violin player as well a bass player, lead guitarist drummer and two keyboardists, but they manage not to over-egg the pudding. They certainly have pop sensibilities, and their brand of chart-friendly Blues/Heavy Rock backing, takes in all manner of influences from A-ha to Radiohead. The collective doesn't seem to have a dominant member which works to their credit as the emphasis is totally shifted to their tunes. The drummer demonstrates tremendous range in adapting to the different sound textures and the addition of the violin player allows them to veer into West-country Folk-Rock on occasion.
The tour showcases their new album 'Chased By Wolves' and the stand-out track 'Fury Road' which has a delicious squealing guitar hook. Despite being a polished band, they do not shy away from distressing subjects in their song writing. Ollie Baines, the lead singer, introduced one of their numbers about Czech prisoners of war who were coerced into the manufacture of bombs in forced labour camps, but instead would sabotage their efforts by neglecting to insert detonators, replacing them with slips of paper that typically would read “Our small contribution to the effort”.
Anthemic and life-affirming, it might be a furious road, but this band is going places.
Ivan De Mello (photos courtesy of Kevin Ronson)
The Borderline, London
Friday 19th April 2019
Personally, I was unaware of this outfit until recently, so the homework finds that this 80’s style AOR band were originally formed back in 1982 by guitarist Laurie Mansworth and drummer Jason Bonham. They recorded a debut album ‘Shaft Of Light’ in 1984,but went their separate ways in ‘85 following tours with the likes of Queen, AC/DC and Meat Loaf. Frontiers Srl Records sought out Laurie to re-release the original album in a 25-year anniversary, reform with a new line-up and a new album in the form of ‘Back to the Start’ (2011). A fresh new album ‘Untold Stories’ was released in August of 2018 on which these latest tour dates are continuing to promote.
Down below in the Borderline tonight the band is playing a well-crafted set from both the first and last albums. Kicking off with ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘Eyes Like Ice’ setting the pace for the songs to come. The feel-good factor is in abundance here backed up by the continuous smile on keyboard player Linda Kelsey-Foster’s face. ’New Skin’ is track of the night for me excellently executed with vocalist Adam Payne in fine form.
‘Men from the Boys’ is the riff stomper where stalwart bassist Rocky Newton (Lionheart) is rocking back and forth in front of drummer Dhani Mansworth (The Treatment and son of Laurie).
‘Summer Rain’, the most easy-listening song and most radio friendly within the latter half of the set, flows steady with ‘Different But The Same’ and ‘Brief Encounter’ closing the show. They return to encore with the king of funky ‘Didn’t Want To Lose Ya’ off the ‘Shaft Of Light’ album where it all began.
If melodic AOR is your bag, then go track these guys!
The Royal Albert Hall, London
Thursday 25th April 2019
Celebrated Blues-Rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe Bonamassa returned to the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London for the first time since April 2017 for three concerts last week following his October 2018 UK Arena Tour. Once again, the mouthwatering prospect of Joe performing alongside a hand-picked group of world-class musicians playing material from his latest studio album 'Redemption', and his 2016 milestone album 'Blues of Desperation', plus, of course, classic Bonamassa fan favourites, was too good to miss. In fact we were there the first time Joe made his debut at the RAH in May 2009 and indeed some amongst us were there when Bonamassa first visited these shores, where JB memorably threw his guitar up in to the air at Sutton's Boom Boom which went straight through a polystyrene ceiling tile! No danger of that happening tonight, at the cavernous RAH, as the Bonamassa virgins and veterans assembled on the Thursday night to witness the recording and touring phenomenon's juggernaut rock and roll on.
Entering to the strains of 'James Bond', the similarly dapper Bonamassa, suited and booted with his trademark slicked back hair and shades, moved from one legend to another, namely Muddy Waters, and a cover of 'Tiger In Your Tank', Joe's energy immediately evident as he ventured, not for the last time, to the edge of the stage, for a solo. What a loosener, as the breakneck pace continued, as Nashville based bass guitarist Michael Rhodes stepped forward on the foot tapping and, no doubt, Johnny Winter influenced 'King Bee Shakedown', from his latest album, with Joe sharing his love, performing another on the money solo, on the opposite side of the stage. The funky 'Evil Mama' showcased the awesome pinkies of former Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble keys man Reese Wynans, who himself recently released his debut solo album 'Sweet Release', with of course, the recording dynamo JB guesting. Bonamassa playfully cupped his ears demanding appreciation for Wynans solo, although not be outdone, Joe prowled around the stage before rocking back and forth on another exquisite solo. JB's slower Blues guitar intro on 'Just Cos' You Can Don't Mean You Should', was not only complemented by Reese's keys and Joe's guitar outro, but also spotlighted Bonamassa's undoubted vocal ability, given perhaps that had been lost in the frenetic start.
A man of few words, Joe thanked the crowd, before maintaining the slower pace with 'Self-Inflicted Wounds', another track from 'Redemption'. If any track was testament to Bonamassa's influences, and more importantly, his widening musical appeal, then this was it, with great atmospheric backing vocals from Australia duo Jade MacRae and Mahalia Barnes (Jimmy Barnes daughter), Jade's superb solo gave Floyd's 'The Great Gig In The Sky' a run for its Oz dollars. The evening was well and truly on track. Cue 'This Train' from 'Blues Of Desperation', with its duel guitar/keys opening, also featuring solos from Wynans, Rhodes, Paulie Cerra on Saxophone and of course Bonamassa, plus choreographed guitar rockin' a la Status Quo from Joe and Michael thrown in for good measure. The Eastern influenced drum intro by Anton Figg (formerly in David Letterman's House Band and who has also appeared on The Simpsons) on the epic title track of 'Blues Of Desperation', melded into another effortless front of stage Bonamassa slide guitar solo and our seemingly endless diet of Blues fillet steak continued with the delectable 'No Good Place For The Lonely'.
For the Bonamassa veterans like myself, Reese's keys intro took us back to 2007 and the title track from 'Sloe Gin', which to many is still the defining JB track, albeit a Tim Curry cover. Twelve years ago, none of us would have imagined Joe playing this classic with a brass section and backing singers, but Bonamassa is a different proposition nowadays and to be fair this added depth and a freshness to its performance, although you can never take away THAT JB guitar solo. Wow! Joe then took his shades off and crammed in both his anecdotes and introductions in one time out. "How are you feeling ladies and gents?" as Bonamassa shared with the audience that this was indeed the tenth anniversary of his first RAH performance and how he had gone on since then to tour the globe plus the fact that a lot of fans think he is British! Jokingly, he pretended to be emotional whilst wiping the sweat away from his brow with a towel, as he also told his RAH coffee mugs story, introduced his seven great musicians including Tower Of Power trumpeter Lee Thornburg and, oh yes, divulged that by Friday he'd have played to over sixteen thousand people during his three-day RAH residency. Bit different to The Boom Boom eh?
In fact the last five songs of Joe's set, including 'Sloe Gin', were classic covers. Delaney & Bonnie's up-tempo 'Well Well' saw another Wynans solo, whilst Figg's delicate mid-section percussion work provided the basis for another explosive Bonamassa masterclass. And just like Joe's performance at The Hampton Court Festival in June last year, Joe was joined on stage once again by special guest Kirk Fletcher as they duly despatched the Rock 'n' Roll of BB King's 'Boogie Woogie Woman'. Now reverting back to a four-piece, it was more like a case of two for one with Willie Dixon's 'Tea For One/I Can't Quit You Babe', the former, so reminiscent of Gilmour, greeted with a cry of "Oh Yeah!" by the guy sitting near to me - the latter so reminiscent of the influence of the slow slow blues of Gary Moore. Joe's outstanding range from quiet to loud not so much making that guitar weep but definitely making it sing, and deservedly getting a standing ovation. No time to sit down as JB finished with Led Zeppelin's 'How Many More Times'. "Oh my God" the same fella in row my yelled, as Bonamassa moved around the stage imperiously, beckoning the delirious crowd, before throwing them a final pick and lifting his guitar into the air for the last time, thankfully, without a polystyrene ceiling tile in sight!
The inevitable encore saw JB stride out of the dark on to the stage on his own with his trusty acoustic guitar solo in hand for 'Woke Up Dreaming' from his 2003 album 'Blues Deluxe' which really had a bit of everything including a taste of Flamenco plus a real Townshend 'Tommy' acoustic feel to it. The bad news was that there was no time for 'India' in the 135 minute bladder busting set, but the good news was, that there was time for another defining JB classic 'Mountain Time', with amazing harmonies between Michael and Joe, building into its glorious climax, once again complemented by the additional depth of both the horn section and backing vocals. As he left the stage to rapturous applause, JB saluted the crowd, as his band of brothers and sisters simultaneously took a deserved bow. His exit as cinematic as his entrance. Indeed, tonight, his delighted fans, young and old, were well and truly shaken and stirred. The name's Bonamassa .... Joe Bonamassa.
AJ (pictures courtesy of John Hayhurst)
Lethbridge Owen, Katy Hurt,
The Great Flud,
Under The Bridge, London
Friday 26th April 2019
It was under the bridge that the ugly fearsome troll lived who threatened to eat the three billy goats gruff. So I guess I was the obvious candidate to make the trip to the fantastic little venue, under the iconic Stamford Bridge football stadium. And I'm ready to gobble up anything that I see. It's been a long week since the Easter break so what better way to spend a Friday evening than enjoying some quality live music.
The first of our three musical Capra for the evening are The Great Flud, a 5-piece Alt Rock band from London. Clearly influenced by bands like The Smiths and The Cure, the young band members all look like they were born a long time after the 80's style music that clearly enthuses them. Singer Marie Choquet, sporting red Doctor Martins, trousers and colour coordinated hair provides the bubbly fun focus whilst flanked by guitarists Adam Mason and Aiden Scott, sporting Fender Stratocasters into Fender amps. Rhythm is ably provided by bassist Stephen Field and drummer Louis Cowling. The short set is an entertaining hark back to an era of Brit Pop, although often with modern influences such as Rap and Funk, giving us 45 minutes of happy shoe gazing. The jangly guitars and dance beat on tracks like ‘Drive’ and ‘Don't Ask Why’ are indicators of great things to come. It's good to see upcoming talent such as The Great Flud, and to see them being given stage time at such an excellent venue. As the kids of the three acts, I will let these pass without devouring them further and let them go onto hopefully great things.
Second to take the stage is Katy Hurt who I was lucky enough to see earlier this year supporting Ariel Posen. This time she's back at the Bridge, again with guitarist Gab Zsapka, plus bass and drums. This gives her a larger sound than the two piece set I last saw. Zsapka is an excellent guitarist whose electric Les Paul nicely compliments the acoustic guitar of Hurt. Katy, wearing a tasselled dress, denim waistcoat and cowboy boots looks every part the country singer from Nashville, despite her London birth, and has the sort of voice that would grace any Tennessee country scene. Or maybe Taylor Swift concert. Although her short set is decidedly Country, it has a rocking edge, especially with Zsapka's chops, with tracks like 'Sleeping Next To You' and 'See Ya Later', the obligatory Country song about a boy. Gaz gets to show off his slide skills on 'Fire' before the set closes with the title track from Katy's recent EP, 'Unfinished Business', which made it to #2 in the Country charts. As the mellow sounds of the closing track drift away I'm reminded that G.O.A.T. is also an acronym for greatest of all time. Now I'm not sure Katy is there yet but she's well on her way. Watch this space.
Last across the bridge is duet Lethbridge Owen. I say duet although across the set the stage hosts up to eight other musicians at any one time. Kelly Louise Lethbridge is a UK based singer songwriter who has teamed up with guitar impresario Jimmy Owen to form a writing and performing team reminiscent of West coast American Pop Rock. With distinct sounds of Fleetwood Mac about them, the Stevie Knicks/Lindsey Buckingham sound has been honed over a ten year partnership that has only just resulted in their first album - 'Mind Over Matter'. The rest of the time has been spent perfecting their considerable stage skills. Lethbridge sports a classy black and gold hussar style shell jacket with a matching broad rimmed hat giving her a sparkle that matches her voice. Owen, in contrast, is in simple jeans and shirt although he does sport a rather sexy looking Fender Stratocaster. That's what I call accessorising.
The opening track, 'Re-Inspire' sees 7 of the 8 musicians take to the stage with Lethbridge/Owen being accompanied with bass, drums, rhythm guitar and two backing singers. It is the duet's latest single which introduces us to Lethbridge's powerful vocals and Owens considerable guitar skills. Owen is a lover of tone exemplified by his collection of vintage gear like his Plexi amp and boutique pedals. It's very Fleetwood Mac too which is never a bad thing. By contrast, 'The Great Healer' has a more Ska like beat with doomy lyrics albeit in an upbeat style. The track makes heavy use of Owen's Echoplex delay pedal which gives the song an ambient feel. 'Frozen Love' sees the introduction of keyboards which beautifully complements the dual vocal harmonies and shimmering guitar. The song also contains an excellent solo from Owen, utilising the dusty end of the neck, which lasts almost 10 minutes. Does that count as Prog? Opening track of the new album is 'All We Need Is Hope' and is an upbeat, almost Pop song. The backing singers give it a big radio friendly sound and again, the harmony between Lethbridge and Owens is extremely strong. 'Leaving Home' on the other hand is a soulful almost Country song with the addition of an acoustic rhythm guitar. Owen still gets a strong guitar solo in there though.
The set now takes a pleasant turn when the stage clears for a small acoustic set. Jimmy stands alone for an unaccompanied acoustic version of 'From Now On' which enables Owen to showcase all his deftness of touch and tone on his acoustic guitar. It's an enthralling instrumental. Enter Kelly and we are treated to some delightful harmonies on 'April Come She Will' accompanied again with Jimmy's acoustic guitar. And on 'If Only' Kelly takes the lead vocals whilst Jimmy provides backing vocals for the closing acoustic number. Although stripped back, the acoustic songs have a rawness that is pleasing, as well as really allowing the vocal and playing skills of Lethbridge Owen to shine.
With the return of the band, and a much more crowded stage, we return to the full on sound of 'Taking Over Me', with Jimmy using his Strat and Echo pedal to give an almost U2 'Streets Have No Name' vibe. It's also home to another Owen solo whilst Kelly's Stevie Nicks vocals manage to elevate above the sound of the full band. As has the Bluesy 'Back To The Blue'. This has Jimmy playing some fast Blues, with copious quantities of wah pedal but with a funky edge to it. 'Fight For You' is more Pop, think Tom Petty, whilst 'World's Burned Over' is a more sombre/serious experience with Owen's solo sounding like Mark Knopfler. As if the stage wasn't crowded enough, Katy and Gaz are invited up on stage to join in on 'Two Steps Forward'. This is a really enjoyable, fast paced romp of a song. The feel good song gives us both a Gaz solo and Jimmy solo which starkly contrasts the two styles of play. I like them both. For me, it was the best track of the set.
'Love Me Like A Man' sees the stage reduced to four as Lethbridge Owen launch into a traditional Blues number with just bass and drums. It's a chance for Lethbridge to launch into her strong vocal range above a slow Blues groove whilst Jimmy noodles the Blues scale underneath. And closing track 'Axis Bold As Love' allows Owen to show off his full Hendrix, including behind head guitar playing, whilst the band builds to a final crescendo, topped by Kelly's immaculate vocals and crowd interaction. Finishing with a flourish I would say.
It has been a fine night of music with a positive happy vibe. Even a miserable old troll like me leaves with a smile on his face. In the fairy tale. the troll falls into the stream and is carried away by the current. From then on the bridge is safe, and all three goats are able to go to the rich fields around the Summer farm in the hills, and they all live happily ever after. Here's hoping that our three acts get to do the same. Rather than getting washed away, we contemplate washing down a few beers. There's the trip home to think about and stormy weather outside to face. But no rush. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Mother (pictures courtesy of John Bull)
The King's Parade + Imogen
The Borderline, London
Wednesday 24th April 2019
A sell-out audience at The Borderline which re-opened in 2017 with a re-vamped look replete with swanky cocktail lounge, but most importantly with an improved sound and light system. This came to the fore to showcase the vocal talents of both lead singers from the acts on the bill tonight.
Olly Corpe, the lead singer of King’s Parade reveals on 'The Look' that he can croon with the best of them like blue-eyed Soul counterpart Plan B. The band has just released a new EP called 'Mad' and the latest single 'Mistakes' is the track that they choose to open-up their set. The song’s themes are about choices and their consequences; the fear of missing out as a result of one’s decisions can remain a nagging doubt.
'Bunched Up Letters” has a Bluesy feel; 'Haze' is pure Motown and elsewhere there are shades of Prince. The band’s playing is accomplished but understated, bringing the most out of Olly’s voice, demonstrating that their recent residency at Ronnie Scott’s has paid off. Overall their sound is decidedly Pop, which is a testament to their production values and will no doubt bring them to a wider audience.
They have already acquired a dedicated following and they managed to get the entire crowd singing along including the guy manning the merchandise table. They sign out with the title track from the EP, 'Mad' with its rousing chorus Olly demonstrates that he can also produce a gritty, Bluesy-Rock performance.
And when it comes to discussing performances, Imogen the support act’s vocals are simply stunning. She admits, as she chuckles, that most of her lyrics are sad as a preface to 'Maria' and 'White Lines', a song from their 'Faze Green' EP. Her voice betrays a delicate fragility and they finish their set with a number called 'Blood bag', where her wailing would not have been out of place on Pink Floyd’s 'Great Gig in the Sky'.
Ivan De Mello