A small but appreciative Red Lion, Gravesend, audience were treated to not one but two great performances on Friday night in the form of The Rainbreakers and The Mentulls. The Rainbreakers, a Shropshire based 4 piece, influenced by classic artists such as Free and Jimi Hendrix whilst embracing newer acts like The Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr, recently released an EP 'Blood Not Brass' to rave reviews. WRC favourites The Mentulls were midway through their Spring UK tour and this week announced details of their highly anticipated 3rd album 'Reflections', produced by King King sticks man Wayne Proctor. The usual Friday night traffic on the M25 looked like it was going to cause the night to dissolve into chaos, however by pushing back the start times by 30 minutes, everything was able to proceed smoothly. I arrived just as The Mentulls were about to soundcheck so was treated to a 'sneak peek' as to what was to come and knew that we were in for a good night. With The Rainbreakers set up and soundchecked, it was time to kick off, albeit a little later than expected.
This was my first time seeing The Rainbreakers and I must say they were a great band, playing with style and enthusiasm, their original material fitting nicely alongside covers of Free's 'Fire & Water', Gary Clark Jr's 'When My Train Pulls In' and the oft covered 'Bright Lights, Big City'. These guys are definitely on their way up and we look forward to welcoming them back on July 4th to open BluesRockFest. After a short break The Mentulls take to the stage. Although the band had only played the venue six months previously, I was surprised at the change in the band. Guitarist Andrew Pipe's confidence on stage had clearly grown, throwing shapes all over the stage whilst pulling off breakneck speed runs and solos, Jamie Pipe played bass parts and juicy fills on his Hammond organ, while Nick Coleman has matured beyond just keeping the beat and at one point in the set gives Jamie and Andrew a well deserved break in the form of a drum solo. The time that the band have spent touring and recording the new album had enabled them to flourish into a slicker, tighter unit.
Throughout the night we were treated to tracks from the forthcoming album 'Reflections' which is released in July and the previous album 'Time Flies' plus covers which included Starship Troopers (Yes), Just Got Paid (ZZ Top/Joe Bonamassa), Red House (Hendrix) and my personal favourite cover of theirs which is a medley of Philip Sayce Instrumentals. The day was one of great sadness in music in that we lost B.B. King to The Great Gig In The Sky and Andrew dedicated the beautiful 'Reflections' (Vid Of The Day taken from previous nights Maltings gig) to him. On this track in particular, Andrew demonstrates that despite his young age (18!) he is capable not only of the searing, fast solos but also of showing restraint with unbelievable tone, you can tell that he really feels what he's playing rather than just playing notes. The emotion oozes out of every note and this track received the biggest cheer of the night. It seemed like the evening had barely started, but like all good things, it had to come to an end, but luckily those who were there were able to buy pre-release copies of the album and if last nights gig is anything to go by, the album is going to be immense.
On a personal note I would like to thank Vic Wintergreen for his sound skills, Terry Lee for having a gem of a venue, John Bull for the photos and both bands for giving it their all. If you get a chance - don't fail to see either of these great bands. Keep Music Live!