Aaron Keylock, Jack J Hutchinson, Sea Foam Green
Black Heart, Camden, London
Tuesday 4th April 2017
Another night in Camden. Sounds like it should be a song title. This time it is at the delightfully named Black Heart, a pub that boasts "beer, booze and bands in no particular order." Serving a fine selection of ales downstairs, a small door at the back of the pub leads up a creaky staircase to a small Aladdin’s cave of musical wonder upstairs. Complete with a small bar of its own, the venue looks more like a subterranean basement than a first floor pied-a-terre with exposed brick walls, no windows and a dark, hot and sweaty environment. Ideal for dark, hot and sweaty music. Tonight’s dark, hot sweatiness is provided by three acts. First up is artist Sea Foam Green, or Dave O’Grady from Dublin. A short set of solo acoustic songs opened the night with a gentle introduction. With music described as Americana/Psych/Folk it was an interesting range of songs.
Which lead very nicely to Jack J Hutchinson’s Boom Boom Brotherhood. Consisting of Frontman Jack J Hutchinson (vocals and guitar), Rick Baxendale (bass), Jim Brazendale (drums) they also had a special guest in Tom Brundage (harp) all the way from the good old You Ess of Eh? Jack hails originally from Burnley but has lived for the last 4 years in the Camden neighbourhood making him the local lad (sort of). Jack is the bands chief songwriter with all the songs performed written by him. Sporting his trademark hat and unsuitably warm double denim – it was dark, hot and sweaty remember – Jack dragged some fantastically dirty Blues from his Les Paul Tribute through a Marshall JCM 2000. The majority of the set was taken from his new album ‘Set Your Heart For The Sun’ – a nod to a certain Pink Floyd track. The record is featured in the March 2017 issue of Classic Rock Magazine. They described it as “Heavy Blues of 70's vintage, revved up by memorable riffs and stunning harmony guitar.” And they are quite right to say so. They are a tight trio, come quartet, but with a very relaxed demeanour. Friendly banter between tracks (and during the usual regular LP re-tunings) had the crowd very much at their ease and tapping their toes. The band clearly enjoys what they do. They have been regulars around the Blues scene and are forming a sizeable following. Their sound is the heavier side of Blues come Rock with some fuzz filled riffs. Not sure if I should head-bang or cry into my bourbon. 'Too Much Too Soon' had some lovely swampy slide guitar and was an appropriately dark, hot and sweaty way to end the set. I’m purchasing that album for sure.
Love Is Gonna Bring You Home
Long Time Coming
Fight Fire With Fire
Get It Back
Too Much Too Soon
"Main Event" of the night is the amazingly talented, and very young Aaron Keylock. Still only a teenager, the slightly built unassuming looking lad has exploded onto the scene and he exploded onto the stage to the rather unusual sound of jungle drums. With his long hair, playing style and Les Paul shaped guitar, he bares more than a passing resemblance to one James Page Esq. More of those guitars shortly. Having played with Blackberry Smoke, The Cadillac Three, Tracer, The Graveltones and The Answer and supported the likes of Joanne Shaw Taylor, Aaron has some pedigree to bring to the Camden Massif. Tonight is about promoting and playing his new album 'Cut Against The Grain', written by himself and produced by Fabrizio Grossi. Opening number is the excellent 'Falling Again' which has a really good groove although vocally Aaron took a while to warm into the track. He is still a work in progress vocally but that is not to say he can’t cut it, he can. I just feel that his voice will continue to improve. 'Down' is a great song - alternate fast picking and slow doomy sludge. Yeeha! 'Medicine Man' has Skynyrd overtones and a wonderful T-Rex style riff with slide on the side. 'Spin The Bottle' provides a sing-along chorus with a nice heavy bass riff from Jordan Maycock behind a solid rhythm riff. 'Just One Question' takes us back to a slow Blues classic. Inspired by BB King, our almost feminine faced frontman produced some fine classic Blues, somewhat unusual for a white teenage kid. Seems to be all the rage with the guitar playing youngsters these days though, I am glad to say.
Bringing the tempo back up was 'Ain’t That Kindness' with another Chugger-Chugg rhythm and on to 'All The Right Moves' which has an almost punky schoolboy irreverence about it. He’s good this lad. 'That’s Not Me' is followed by the swampy rocking 'Alabama Getaway'. It’s another of the songs that changes style a couple of times with a good Rock and Roll beat, in the mode of Chuck Berry or George Thorogood, that got my toes tapping. Fred Astaire would have been proud of me. Drummer Sonny Miller Greaves provided and extended drum intro into 'Sun’s Gonna Shine' which again is a song which morphs from one style to another. Palm muting riffage becomes an almost funky boogie and then into a clap along song. All the while Aaron and Sonny are almost jamming with each other for fun. It was a real crowd pleaser. Closing out the set was the title track 'Cut Against The Grain', another fine slice of upbeat Southern slide allowing the double A to show off his fine playing skills.
You have to keep reminding yourself that the fella is still only young yet obviously has years of playing under those fingertips as well as some beautiful guitars. Speaking of which, the three axes played by the man tonight, through a Marshall 1987x head, are all custom built models by fellow Oxfordians TSR Guitars. Newest of the triumvirate of lutherian exquisitivity is a Tennessee Honey Les Paul which was played on the majority of the tracks. Beautiful work gentlemen. As a piece of work, the album is very good and a credit to Mr K’s obvious talents. What will he produce next? Just keep it dark, hot and sweaty.
Spin The Bottle
Just One Question
Ain’t That Kindness
All The Right Moves
That’s Not Me
Sun’s Gonna Shine
Against The Grain
Bad Touch, Broken Witt Rebels
The Borderline, London
Saturday 8th April 2017
On a beautiful sunny evening in London, it seemed a bit of a shame to delve down into The Borderline's newly refurbished basement last Saturday night. However, the musical fayre served up by both 2016 WRC Award nominees Bad Touch and Broken Witt Rebels, more than made that decision the right one. A sell out crowd, including Jack J Hutchinson and Geoff Carne, witnessed the final gig of their Planet Rock Roadstar's double headliner tour with, on this occasion, Bad Touch on first followed by Broken Witt Rebels.The first time we saw Bad Touch was last December at The Dome in Tufnell Park - for the launch of their new album 'Truth Be Told'. The new album saw the five-piece rock band from Norfolk celebrating Classic Rock with Southern boogie influences, supported with heavy guitar riffs and an iron-clad, tight rhythm section including Michael Bailey on bass guitar and Daniel Seekings on guitars/backing vocals, in the great tradition of Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin. Tonight was also going to be the first time we would see 20-year-old guitar virtuoso Harry Slater as Bad Touch's new lead guitarist - Hairy replaced original guitarist Rob Glendinning and it was Rob who had actually suggested Slater as his successor.
They opened their set with their jeans song 'Good On Me' from their first album 'Half Way Home' - its 70's rockin' style swagger a perfect fit to get the Borderline faithful straight into the groove. And what better song title for a band with Zep influences than 'Heartbreaker Soulshaker' - all about being a free spirit - a much funkier track with some awesome guitar work from clean cut, bespectacled, Slater, which was followed by another from 'Truth Be Told' - all about love unrequited - albeit not as heavy as the previous two but nevertheless another powerful vocal performance from the hatted/moustachioed Stevie Westwood that well and truly got 'Under My Skin'. It was back then to a trilogy from 'HWH' - dipping into the foot stompin' singalong 'Wise Water' featuring Slater's slide guitar and Westwood's tambourine, the riff ridden 'Sweet Little Secret' complemented by its obligatory singalong and finally 'Words I Never Said' - with its delightful opening guitar solo where we saw Classic Rock at its undoubted head-banging best.
The final half of the set turned out to be wall to wall 'TBT' as Westwood cried out "London town let me hear you" and we were literally 'Waiting For This'. One of the stand out's, if not the stand out track from 'TBT' - with its heavy guitar riffs, cool drumming from George Drewry and outstanding vocals - it was duly nailed with a roar of approval from the crowd plus an enormous nod to Zep. Step forward the excellent 'Outlaw',with it's blistering guitar intro/outro plus Westwood's superb delivery of its Western lyrics - this is definitely Bad Touch's very own 'Wanted Dead Or Alive'! Their only cover on the night was curiously Otis Redding's 'Hard To Handle'. "Pretty little thing, let me light your candle, cause mama I'm sure hard to handle, now" the Borderline sang before Westwood halted proceedings for some more audience participation on 'My Mother Told Me' - its '70's Quo style intro morphing into some serious Rock reminiscent of Bad Company.
'Take Your Time' slowed things down - its message being don't be hasty - take a deep breath and a step back - a track which again showcased Westwood's vocal range and dexterity - complemented by Slater's gentle guitar. Another '70's' intro - and it's their catchy single '99%' - originally remixed for radio by the legendary Rolling Stones engineer and co-producer, Chris Kimsey - which incidentally initially attracted me to the band - rocked out as usual with some cool harmonies! And unsurprisingly the crowd roared for more - Westwood demanding "See you in the love man'' as the audience waved their arms to the mystic opening of 'The Mountain' - more boundary-stretching from Bad Touch in this beautifully crafted track which is not only heavy in its genre but also its message about the sustainability of our planet and our collective responsibility with pollution. And just when you thought it was all over - the buggers teased us with a bit of 'Moby Dick' before they left us to rapturous applause. Think the social media comment "Arrived early for Broken Witt Rebels to walk into this!!!!!!!!!! wow fabulous what a vibe thank you" nicely sums up Bad Touch's awesome set. Simply try and follow that BWR!
Despite being another up and coming band who the WRC originally showcased in our 'Introducing ....' feature in September 2015 - this was the first time I had personally seen Broken Witt Rebels live, although other WRC correspondents had favourably seen them last year supporting King King in November at the Islington Assembly Halls and headlining The Proud in Camden in October. The Brummie quartet, with their popular brand of Blues Rock, with a hint of Kings of Leon about them, looked both young and trendy, as they made their way onto The Borderline stage. With a line up of
Danny Core - vocals, Luke Davis - bass/backing vocals, James Tranter - lead guitar/backing vocals and James Dudley - drums, BWR started their set with their lead single from their latest 2016 'Georgia Pine' EP - the groovy 'Low' - the Rebels faithful immediately joining in on its chorus with a "low, low, low, wooooooooooh" - leaving us in doubt what a tight unit musically BWR are. I must admit that I had to do a double take when Core grabbed a guitar for the title track of their 2014 release 'Howlin', as not only his stance, but more importantly, the incredible texture of his voice, is so reminiscent of Nashville's JD Simo - as they knocked out this number in true Blues Rock Power style. 'Hurricane' was preceded by 'Snake Eyes' which served up more of the rockin' same with its strong bassline riff, whilst Danny's brilliant a capella opening to 'Turn Me On' had him asking early doors "How are we doing over here?" - the answer being very nicely thank you as his powerful voice tore into this Blues gem. Wow.
Thankfully, The Borderline's recent opening night sound and lighting teething problems had been addressed. Another heavy riff belter 'Getawayman' from 'Georgia Pine', was followed by the tambourine punching Core on 'God Knows' - another vocal stormer from Danny with yet another stand out Blues Rock guitar solo from Tranter. 'Bang Bang' - and we had another a capella intro from Core on this Blues Rocker before Danny demanded "London make some noise" and duly the crowd joined in on the chorus "Oh yeah, oh no, oh yeah, oh no". It was then back to 'Howlin' and 'Bottom Off The Hill' which saw Dudley's mid-segment pounding drum not only resulting in spontaneous hand clapping by those assembled, but also a minimal 'Hey Joe' cover. One noticeable thing about Broken Witt Rebels set was that nearly all their tracks clocked in at under four minutes and there were no elongated Blues Rock jams which you tend to associate with this genre. Perhaps it was a timing thing and the softer title track from 'Georgia Pine' followed suit - once again Core enticing the crowd into a mid-section singalong of "Stay with me tonight" before special guest Stevie Westwood from Bad Touch joined the guys on stage for their penultimate and more up tempo number 'Guns' - another track from "GP' - as the guys rocked out with more audience hand clapping and Westwood even shouting "Up the rebels!" - well I'm sure it wasn't "Up the Villa!" Core's final question: "Do you want to see one more" was greeted with a unanimous "yes" as they rounded off a truly memorable set with an encore of the slower 'Shake Me Down' from Howlin' - a last chance to savour both Core's outstanding voice and a band that are currently on a roll. Broken Witt Rebels return to London Dingwalls on Saturday 3rd June as part of Camden Rocks. Do not miss them.
Erja Lyytinen, JFK Blue,
Connor Selby Band
The 100 Club, London
Tuesday 11th April 2017
We were not only at London's iconic 100 Club last Tuesday night for the official album launch of Erja Lyytinen's album 'Stolen Hearts', but were also lucky enough to be present the previous afternoon for a private unplugged set at Soho's Ain't Nothing But Blues venue where there was also a Q&A session with Erja and producer Chris Kimsey - who both kindly agreed for us to interview them.
Anyway, if you wanted value for money at the 100 Club, then you certainly had it in abundance with two excellent support bands. Must admit I was bit miffed that we missed the start of Connor Selby Band's set, based on the evidence of what we saw when we finally arrived. With Andy Corby on bass, Rob Shearer on drums, Jon Getty on rhythm guitar and a nice young Scottish guy on keyboards (sorry we didn't get your name) - it was one Connor Blues guitar solo, after guitar solo, after guitar solo, including their own funky composition 'This Old World', the soul of James Brown & The Famous Flames 'Cold Sweat', the Blues of Ray Charles' 'I've Got News For You' and just to wrap things up, The Beatles 'With A Little Help From Our Friends' of course Cocker style. Awesome - follow that JFK.
Well not to be outdone JFK Blue (as they are sometimes known) were also launching their debut album 'Rough Round The Edges'. A London/Surrey five piece - they could also boast some pedigree as we virtually stood next to keyboard player Paul Blount who has worked with Jeff Beck, drummer Sol Ezra (ex-Talk Talk) who stood on one our feet when he dismounted the stage, ex-Blockheads bass guitarist Les Victor, lead guitarist Iago Banet and vocalist/guitarist Chris Elliott. Needless to say we were treated to some great Blues Rock with a twist of a Jazz and a touch of Gypsy influence - stand out songs from the new album for mine being 'Shadowlands' and very appropriately 'Having A Real Good Time'.
Erja Lyytinen's tenth studio album 'Stolen Hearts' is her latest release in her 15 year recording career that saw her team up with legendary producer Chris Kimsey to create an album that is somewhat more diverse in styles than previous releases. The "Finnish Slide Goddess" recorded the album in her homeland but it was mastered by the Master in London's Air Studios. And it's a slick production. Whilst known as a Blues artist, Erja has incorporated elements of many other styles in an album that is therefore a mix of tastes. And with lyrical themes that transcend all ages there's something in it for everyone.
Obviously the set list was predominantly taken from the new album - in fact if I counted correctly (I shouldn't have had that extra beer) - just one track from 'Stolen Hearts' was omitted. Erja opened with the superb 'City Of Angels', which tells the story of of her visit to the Californian metropolis, which built to a powerful chorus, with all of its components - voice, guitar, rhythm and the overall mix - delivered perfectly. Erja then actually retrieved her guitar pick from just in front of us (we're not worthy) before she upped the tempo with Lover's Novels' and her keys duet with its faster shuffle and her ever present slide guitar proving that you can take the Slide Goddess out of Finland but you can't take the Slide Goddess out of the girl.
After ten albums it is understandable that an artist wants to introduce a fresh approach and bring in new ideas and there's no denying Erja's singing, songwriting and guitar playing talents, although 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album. Therefore it was pleasing to see that the more Pop than Blues of 'Silver Stones', '24 Angels' and 'Awakening' - with some nice keyboards behind the guitars and vocals - plus the funkier 'Love Laboratory' were all well received by the crowd given Erja's track record of playing the Blues scene. Despite the album launch, their was still time to dip into two tracks from the past - 'Don't Let A Good Woman Down' from her 2011 album 'Voracious Love' and the predominantly key influenced 'Everything's Fine' from 2012 album 'Song's From The Road'. However, one of the highlight's of the gig was indeed a cover of Koko Taylor’s ‘I’m A Woman’ - its pounding bass line not only the perfect nine minute vehicle to showcase Erja's voice and slide guitar prowess but also the bar room piano and her bass guitar and drum engine room. "Oh Yeah!"
Erja appeared to have a permanent smile on her face during the set and it was clearly apparent that the band were really enjoying the moment despite the discourteous chit-chat from the back of the 100 Club which you could clearly hear during the set's softer moments. For God's sake - why don't you shut the f**k up? As for the Blues Police in the crowd checking out the new album - Erja belted out the title track 'Stolen Hearts', again demonstrating both her strong vocals and fret board skills with a subtle hint of Hendrix. The definitive downbeat Blues track 'Slowly Burning' - was another opportunity for Erja to take it out on her Fender Strat with a smooth controlled vocal delivery given the song's emotional context. Black Ocean' was a more down to earth Blues track with a nice funky repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo complemented by both Erja's crystal clear vocal and more awesome organ. They rounded the album off with the unusual time signature of 'Rocking Chair' - essentially a true Blues track with trademark slide guitar plus a nice grooving riff and vocal that made way for a deserved drum and bass solo. A thoroughly enjoyable evening ended with an a capella intro from Erja on their encore 'People Get Ready' - a beautiful take on the Curtis Mayflied/The Impressions number - Lyytinen's sweet guitar solo bringing back memories of the innocence of the early Bonamassa era. Delightful. All in all, two brilliant two days of great live music, but tonight in particular, when Erja stole 100 hearts.
Krissy Matthews Band
The Fiddler's Elbow, London
Wednesday 19th April 2017
Just five days after the launch of his 'Live At Freak Valley' CD - Krissy Matthews was live at The Fiddler's Elbow in Camden last Wednesday night. The live album was recorded at the Freak Valley Festival in Siegen, Germany, on 27th May 2016 and it really catches the adrenalin and pure excitement of the band in all their glory. Originally from Oxford, Krissy’s band has often been described as an exciting, high octane, Power Rock trio steeped in Blues roots. Indeed, 24 year old Matthews has performed at some of Europe’s most iconic music venues including Ronnie Scott’s, Loreley, Tanzbrunnen and Festa Avante. He’s also opened for many high profile recording artists at the top of their game including Joe Bonamassa, Toto, Greg Allman, Tedeschi Trucks Band and recently performed with The Hamburg Blues Band featuring Maggie Bell no less.
Max Maxwell's drum roll intro and Sam Weston's driving bass launched a two hour set that began with the first three tracks from 'LAFK', namely Matthews incendiary opener 'Feeling For The Blues' - making the point that you don't have to be old and wrinkly to literally get the Blues - although it's difficult to believe that he penned this track at just the age of fourteen and is still only twenty four, followed by the heavy opening bass riff of 'I've Been Searching' - another head-banging composition from Krissy, showcasing that he sure plays a mean guitar, and then finally, more of the same, with 'All Night Long', written at the age of seventeen, again about life's ups and downs with another heavy riff and a cool mid-section guitar solo. The Blues classic 'Sittin' On Top Of The World' - best known for Howlin' Wolf's interpretation - slowed things down nicely before the set list jumped on board the 'Second Class Zone' a real Rock 'n Rollercoaster from Matthews' second album 'Hit The Rock'. Taken from their previous studio album 'Scenes From A Moving Window', the curiously entitled 'Can't Get It Down On Paper', all about not being able to write a song, was eloquently dispatched despite no keys, as was the brief Rock 'n Roll number and title track from their 2011 album 'Hit The Rock', Maxwell's opening hammer once again seeing Matthews steal the show with a Rockin' guitar solo on a track written oddly enough about the band's tour van crashing in Norway six year's earlier.
Another Blues classic - this time Howlin' Wolf's up tempo 'Killing Floor' was followed by 'Living In A Suitcase' and 'The Girl That Lied' which sandwiched 'SFAMW's' 'Out Of Control' before two more song's from 'HTR's' 'Tell Me' and 'Sweet Loving' - the former including both a tender and heavy six minute guitar solo where you would have a heard a pin drop if it hadn't been for the discourteous banter from the left side of Krissy's stage - why don't you just shut the f*k up? 'Sinister Secret' was followed by Blind Willie McTell's 'Searching The Desert For The Blues' - a track he covered and gave his own take on his last studio album 'Scenes From A Moving Window' - its metamorphosis into one delightful jam as per 'LAFV', once again seeing a crowd whooping in delight as Krissy's guitar went into overdrive. In fact, with the exception of the final track of the evening - it was 'LAFV' all the way from then on - with another self-penned Blues Rock corker 'Language By Injection' - written about a night out in Poland when touring - nudge nudge wink wink - before another very personal number that Matthews wrote seven years ago after meeting the King of the Blues - Mr. B.B. King - 'The Soul Will Never Die' that includied both a two minute opening guitar solo that the great man would have been proud of - plus another towards the end which understandably got another roar of approval from the healthy Fiddler's Elbow gathering.
Maxwell's pounding drum heralded another Matthews composition - the boppin' 'Bad Boy' - which saw some more scintillating Krissy fretwork, before the band closed the set with two covers - Hendrix's 'Freedom' - now back as a staple on their live set list and obviously a favourite with Matthews, as this guitar tribute to Jimi truly demonstrated, and finally a cover of Muddy Waters 'I'm Ready' to round off a thoroughly enjoyable gig in a proper pucker Rock pub. To the chagrin of the guy standing to the right of us - ironically there was no time for 'Time Machine' - nor disappointingly for mine did they play the stand-out from 'LAFV' 'Bubbles And The Seven Phones'. But, hey, at the end of day this was an archetypal Blues Rock Power trio at their raw best and at the top of their game without JB's bells and whistles. With two more UK dates, Fuel Cardiff tonight and The Arches Coventry this Thursday, The Krissy Matthews Band European tour finishes appropriately in Germany on Saturday 20th May. Prost!
Royal Albert Hall, London
Thursday 20th April 2017
How do you measure musical greatness? Size of audience? Well, Joe Bonamassa is now very much big time playing iconic spectacular venues like the Royal Albert Hall three times in 8 years. This is the Joe Bonamassa who expertly combines arguably the two most important era’s of Blues music from the Mississippi Delta sound in the US which was strangely misplaced by the American music community until the British invasion where bands like The Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page where delivering back that Blues sound with altogether different attitude and energy. With his insatiable work ethic, Bonamassa puts many fellow musicians to shame with his seemingly never-ending output.
This RAH gig was the first of two nights in the middle of a short UK tour from JB taking in Edinburgh, Blackpool and Sheffield and was a continuation of the ‘Blues Of Desperation’ tour that started in the US last year and continues onward through Europe and then back to the USA and Canada. This UK tour also follows hot on the heels of Joe's critically acclaimed ‘Salute to the British Blues Explosion’ 2016 tour that saw the American guitarist paying homage to the music of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Page on the banks of the River Thames at Greenwich at the Old Royal Naval College amongst other venues and where the WRC last saw him...
For this auspicious occasion however, the WRC decided to really "push the boat out" and delve in to their pockets at some considerable expense and hire a small 5-seater box at the RAH. Get us eh? All very corporate for us lot with drink already laid out in the box on our arrival! Talk about covering both ends of the venue spectrum! And we were in Box 78 which was somehow quite appropriate..The box was cosy to say the least but there was just enough room to invite a couple of potential new WRC members (Hi Steve and Julie!) for a pre-show drink which was fun.. Hope to see them again at another gig soon!
Joe’s legendary magic on the guitar is certainly no mean feat and his vast array of guitars on choice here are simply mindboggling, certainly if you enjoy ogling at guitar well dare I say porn, then Joe has the best on show, from Korina Flying V’s through to 59’ Les Paul’s, a Tele and a couple of Strats, he has it all. The hand-picked backing group shall we call them are a who’s who of whom have played with Joe for many years and certainly have accreditation lists a mile long including "The Tonight Show" (drummer Anton Fig) and working with Stevie Ray Vaughan (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer keyboardist Reese Wynans), the amalgamation of the group definitely feels like your stepping back in time with Joe’s big band approach. But no matter how good the band, all eyes and ears are on Joe....
To the songs themselves then, a group of 16 songs spanning Joe’s career so far, with five of the first six from the new album ‘Blues Of Desperation’, although at least one or two personal favourites of the WRC were omitted,(‘Sloe Gin’ and ‘Slow Train’) which was disappointing to put it mildly. However on the other hand we did get the wonderful ‘Dust Bowl’ and I guess sometimes it’s nice to hear something different in the mix like the stunningly dark title track ‘Blues Of Desperation’. It's entirely reasonable that a visionary artist such as Joe should want to share his latest work. Rarely, if at all, are any of the songs that Joe puts together are 3 minute radio friendly smackers, these are far more elaborate workings, yet all the guitar work is strangely simple yet so pure and wonderful to hear each note ring out. Proper serious Blues Rock is all Joe really wants and gets his blood flowing and with his voice growing in range and confidence with every passing year.
The band and Joe are exceptional on a number of the songs such as `How Deep This River Runs’, where to single out the backing singers are in such fine voice. And also with ‘Love Ain’t A Love Song’, where Joe’s ability to build a song into a crescendo of sheer noise and fun is exactly what we love about him. Half of the songs were covers of Joe's guitar heroes such as B.B. King and Eric Clapton (obviously!) and I particularly enjoyed his faultless cover of EC's sleek ‘Pretending’ which becomes the launch pad for an incomprehensible six string showcase while drummer Anton Fig and the cheerleading brass section lead the audience in keeping time. His two Led Zeppelin covers (‘Boogie With Stu’ and ‘How Many More Times’) did also go down particularly well. On the latter the frontman does what can only be described as a flurry of magic tricks: from The Edge-like harmonics to a near-silent breakdown involving much knob twiddling, to brief moments of wielding his axe like a machine gun.
The crowd, even though it was my 5th time watching the Blues maestro was still an odd one as it’s obviously all seated and although that’s perfect for the moment, it definitely felt that some energy was lost between crowd and Joe due to this separation and certainly took a good while to build up that liveliness that a support band would have been ideal for. Also just on a side note, this would certainly have been improved if Joe was a little more interactive with the crowd during the earlier part of the show instead of a just an obligatory "thank you" after each song. Despite wearing sunglasses throughout his set, Bonamassa doesn’t look a natural showman. Still he’s a man who speaks through his guitar where his true voice lies. He's never been one for all this stage patter lark except to remark while introducing the band mid-set that he considered himself ageing now as he reaches the ripe old age of 40 next month with just the 15 solo albums behind him.. Poor chap...!!! He could also certainly afford giant video screens to show his flying fingers in extreme close up, or, at the very least, his name in lights but no such frills evident here...
Overall though it was the usual technically superb set from the Blues master, the setting is breathtaking, the lighting is tasteful, the audience studious and the backing band, with the two female backing singers that have been recently added to the live show, are all absolutely on fire for the performance. And after 2 hours 20 mins some people will certainly feel that they got a lot of Joe for their buck. The WRC on the other hand weren't so sure.. Maybe it's because these days Joe is so good, perhaps too damn good and a bit too corporate for our tastes now although his playing is sublime. Maybe it's the inflated ticket prices (£100 and above for the best seats) as it ain't cheap to see Joe these days. Fans are highly disappointed at the £35 price tag for a Joe Bonamassa tour T- shirt for example.. However I am sure that we will continue to keep more than a passing eye on his progress from now on. For one thing, there is a ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’ acoustic multi-format project from Joe scheduled for June and also the fourth Black Country Communion later in 2017 for us to eagerly look forward to. Joe also said from the stage that he would be returning to the RAH in 2019 for three nights to celebrate his tenth anniversary at this venue. As ever, his relentless drive can only be marvelled at and admired. And wherever you stand on Joe Bonamassa the argument, nothing can detract from the undoubted talent of Joe Bonamassa the musician. Class is permanent after all isnt it? Wouldn't be surprised if I was there in 2 years time!!
1. This Train
2. Mainline Florida (Eric Clapton cover)
3. Mountain Climbing
4. Blues of Desperation
5. No Good Place for the Lonely
6. How Deep This River Runs
7. Boogie With Stu (Led Zeppelin cover)
8. Never Make Your Move Too Soon (B.B. King cover)
9. Angel of Mercy (Albert King cover)
10. Drum Solo
11. Love Ain't a Love Song
12. Dust Bowl
13. Little Girl (John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers cover)
14. Pretending (Eric Clapton cover)
15. Black Winter/Django
16. How Many More Times (Led Zeppelin cover) (with "The Hunter" snippet by Albert King)
17. Hummingbird (B.B. King cover)
Wrinkly The Silver (Pictures Laurence Harvey)
Hammersmith Apollo, London
Sunday 23rd April 2017
In a career lasting more than 30 years, the US Prog Metal quintet Dream Theater have continued to attract a large and passionate fan base, as well garnering critical acclaim and even the odd Grammy nomination along the way. Last year they released the epic 2 CD concept album 'The Astonishing' and then proceeded to tour, playing the entire album in its entirety (very Prog!). Now swiftly following on, this current tour is in support of the 25th anniversary of the release of their breakthrough album 'Images and Words'.
We are promised a selection of fan favourites, as well as the entire album, so there is a keen sense of anticipation tonight. From the opening salvo of crunching chords that herald 'The Dark Eternal Night', the band had the audience in its palm. Through its twists and turns we went, and there was even a keyboard solo from Jordan Rudess thrown in. It finished with one of the best guitar outro riffs ever put on record. Next up was 'The Bigger Picture' from their self titled album, followed by 'Hell's Kitchen', an instrumental from the 'Falling Into Infinity' album. We were then treated to a couple of singalongs from 'The Astonishing' in the form of 'The Gift of Music' and 'Our New World'.
The musicianship was exemplary, as we have come to expect, and it was time to slow things down a bit. John Myung is the quiet man of the band but is up there with the best in terms of his bass playing. This was now showcased in his rendition of a bass composition by Jaco Pastorius called 'Portait of Tracy'. The quiet didn't last too long though as he finished off by launching into 'As I Am'. This is from their most Metal of albums 'Train of Thought' and they never sounded more like Metallica than they did on that album. Just to reinforce that opinion, they even inserted a chorus from 'Enter Sandman' before the end of the song! The conclusion of Act 1 was 'Breaking All Illusions' from drummer Mike Mangini's debut album 'A Dramatic Turn of Events'. Time for a breather!
Act 2 was all about 'Images and Words'. The band played the album from start to finish and it is remarkable the sheer range and type of song on this firm fan favourite. From the crunch of 'Metropolis Part 1' to the delicate 'Wait for Sleep', they swept the audience up and gave us a thrilling ride. The prowess of guitarist John Petrucci shone through again and again, but the whole band were playing at the top of their game. I, for one, have never seen them play better. At the end of the closing track, 'Learning to Live', the audience was on their feet raising the roof!
The encore was the 25 minute suite 'A Change of Seasons'. A fitting end - this was recorded around the time of 'Images and Words' but was released separately. The near sell out crowd lapped it all up and before long it was all over and we were spilling out into the London night. This was Prog Metal at its finest and was as good as this author has seen them. If you get the chance to catch them live - do it!!
The Dark Eternal Night
The Bigger Picture
The Gift of Music
Our New World
Portrait of Tracy
As I Am
Breaking All Illusions
Act 2 Images and Words
Pull Me Under
Take The Time
Metropolis Part 1
The Miracle And The Sleeper
Under A Glass Moon
Wait For Sleep
Learning To Live
A Change Of Seasons
Dan Patlansky/Ash Wilson
O2 Academy Islington, London
Tuesday 2nd May 2017
Don’t you just hate a guy that has the voice, charisma, good banter and looks, is a master of the guitar and is an all round nice bloke? Well I tried and failed miserably, as the dust settled after celebrated South African Blues Rock guitarist and vocalist Dan Patlansky's explosive O2 Islington Academy gig, which certainly made the Blues Rock at his sold out show in London last Tuesday night. A man who once opened in his homeland for Bruce Springsteen in front of 64,000 people, this was Dan’s first UK tour since he supported King King in 2016. With a number of UK and German gigs already under his belt, this was the third gig of his current UK headline tour following the recent release of his new single 'Sonnova Faith' - taken from Patlansky’s current album 'Introvertigo' - which was voted #1 Blues Rock Album of 2016 by Blues Rock Review USA, which effectively put the wheels in motion for this follow-up tour to take place.
Dan’s special guest was Lincolnshire’s Ash Wilson who we recently saw supporting Sari Schorr & The Engine Room at London’s Borderline, - who again took his just released debut album 'Broken Machine' to another level with a stunning short live set with all bar one taken from the new album. ‘Show Me How To Love You’ was soaked in deep South Blues style, complete with opening chain-rattling percussion and a very strong Ash vocal, whilst the political ‘Worlds Gone Crazy’ - despite them playing as a three piece and the absence of keys – was still a strong rock out number. The Blues shuffle of 'Peace And Love', and it's sad story of the blues of desperation, was followed by the funky ‘Out of Time’, before Ash, who had a good line in patter by the way, introduced ‘Words Of A Woman’ - a song he wrote after innocently witnessing a stranger’s marriage in meltdown. With an undoubted Bonamassa influence, this was a great ballad with strong lyrics and an excellent guitar solo from Wilson - definitely the stand out track for mine from the set. Ash finished off with the only non-‘BM’ song from the set – a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ - a strange choice - but by then Wilson had the crowd eating out of his white glove – only joking. Make sure you check out Ash at his future gigs this year, which includes the TNMC, Caterham, at the end of August, and London’s 100 Club, at the end of November – you will not be disappointed.
Unlike Ash Wilson – this was the first time I had seen Dan Patlansky -although this was not strictly true, as we had the pleasure of interviewing Dan in London a couple of weeks earlier. Patlansky’s opener ‘Drone’ was completely unexpected - a beautiful, soft, jaw-dropping instrumental, so reminiscent of Akkerman, Freischlaider and The Mentulls – with Patlansky’s facial expressions almost as beguiling as his climactic guitar work on this masterpiece. What a start. The powerful raw Blues Rock feel of ‘Introvertigo’ followed, firstly the storming politically preaching new single ‘Sonnova Faith’ – by all accounts the most popular track from the album and then its very first single ‘Stop The Messin’. The driving rock of ‘Bring The World To It’s Knees’ from 2012 release ‘20 Stones’ kept up the unabated momentum before drummer Felix Dehmel counted in a cover of Jimmy Reed’s Blues classic ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ which Dan had performed recently at Sheffield’s HRH: Blues with his good friend Laurence Jones - on this occasion Patlansky doing the honours with yet another outstanding guitar solo.
There was a sure bet of some Hendrix influence on ‘Introvertigo’s ‘Bet On Me’ - and despite his short sleeved shirt – Dan showed both his heart and his soul on his sleeve with some more exemplary guitar work before he sent our pulses racing with his slide guitar intro and a thumping baseline on ‘Heartbeat’, which saw Tom Gatza jumping to his feet during an awesome keyboard solo before the gravelly voiced Patlansky wiped the sweat from his brow and launched into yet another groovy guitar solo. And if you wanted slow Blues, then step forward ‘Still Wanna Be Your Man’. David Gilmour’s influence on Dan Patlansky is never more apparent than on this gem – my personal favourite from ‘Introvertigo’ - and in true Floyd style had a beautiful Patlanksy guitar solo that built into one mother fu**er of a climax. Absolute perfection. Gilmour would have been proud of him, despite the annoying chatter from the back of the audience. Why not join our campaign?: #shutthefuckup
And if you wanted Swagger then there was the pure Blues Rock of ‘Daddy’s Old Gun’ with a great guitar outro solo from Dan – all about an old guy in a South African petrol station who pulled out a gun on a very surprised Patlansky! Dan’s previous album ‘Dear Silence Thieves’ got a look in with the pounding, up-tempo and darn catchy ‘Backbite’ before it was to time jam with another nod to Hendrix and ‘My Chana’ – an opportunity to showcase the band - with solo’s from all of Patlansky’s superb German session musicians including bass guitarist Jonathan Murphy (yes he really is German) – before Patlansky wrapped up the set with his piece de la resistance as he cradled his guitar in his right hand whilst playing an unbelievable guitar solo with just his left which included the chimes of Big Ben! Astonishing!
Once again, Patlansky’s Gilmour influences were again prevalent in his first encore ‘Loosen Up The Grip’ – with its delightful keyboard/drum intro complemented not only by the the power and delivery of Patlansky’s voice but also some soft intricate guitar work plus finger clicks from both Gatza and Dehmel, before its Floyd like concluding chorus. Truly awesome. Dan’s final encore was the rockin’ ‘Fetch Your Spade’ from ‘DST’, which in itself was a microcosm of an extraordinary set list that those lucky enough to be present had the privilege of experiencing. Despite no new material, this was truly a night of music at its ultimate best - a definitive stick of dynamite rock with Blues running all the way through it. Punters comments such as "what an awesome gig", "such a dynamic guitarist" and “such a great gig” were totally justified - and make no mistake - by a country mile, this is already a contender for our 2017 WRC Best Blues Rock Performance award! Dan goes back into the studio next month aiming to release a new album in April next year, but before that he will be returning to Europe mid-Summer and will be back in the UK in November. Do not miss him.
AJ (pics courtesy of Laurence Harvey, Richard Bolwell, Chris Patmore and Edyta Krzesak).
Frankie Miller's Full House, Southbound & Ilona
The Borderline, London
Monday 1st May 2017
Frankie Miller's Full House was originally formed by Miller and guitarist Ray Minhinnett, and tonight their current 40th Anniversary tour concluded with a stonking gig at London's Borderline. Sadly, Frankie suffered a brain haemorrhage in New York City in 1994, while writing material for a new band he and Joe Walsh of the Eagles had formed. Miller spent five months in a coma and when he emerged he was unable to speak or sing and then underwent rehabilitation. The BBC TV documentary Stubborn Kinda Fella (1999), featured Miller and his battle to recover. His last two albums 'Long Way Home' and 'Double Take' (an album of duets), consist of previously unreleased studio material, with Miller's vocals having been recorded before his illness. Minhinnett has continued to work with Frankie - and reformed Full House in 2007 for the first time to celebrate their 30th anniversary. To help perpetuate his music, Frankie also gave Ray his blessing to take a Frankie Miller's Fullhouse line-up out on the road once again, the new roster already being hailed as a 'supergroup', featuring Clive Edwards (UFO/WIld Horses) on drums, David Boyce (Quireboys/Skyscaper) on bass, Danny Peyronel (UFO/Heavy Metal Kids) on keyboards, Paul Manzi (Heavy Metal Kids/Cats In Space) guesting on vocals, Dave 'Bucket' Colwell (Bad Company/Humble Pie) on guitar and of course Minhinnett himself.
Supporting Full House were Bulgarian vocalist and fedora wearing Ilona plus Southbound - a young exciting 5 piece band from Cheshunt playing their own British Blues and Blues Style Rock. Unfortunately we only caught the end of Ilona's unplugged set, but we knew Southbound very well - so much so that the guys walked away with our 2015 WRC ‘One’s To Watch’ award and they also played at our 2015 WRC Xmas bash supporting Albany Down. Opening with the Rory Gallagher influenced 'Book On A Shelf', Elliot Stout's slide guitar sounded as good as ever, before a neat drum intro heralded the funkier Blues of 'Whats A Man Gotta Do' with an even neater solo piece at the end from drummer Aaron Virciglio. 'Paper Cut' was followed by 'Come Judgement Day' with Stout not only taking over from the charismatic Tom Ford on vocals, but also throwing in a mean Blues guitar solo in for good measure. 'You Got A Hold On Me' saw bass guitarist Dan Collins’ intro stepping up to the plate, complemented by the duelling guitar solo's of both Stout and rhythm guitarist Jordan Carter. 'Deceiver' and their last number 'Yes Indeed' sandwiched the Mariachi influenced opening of 'Rock Bottom' and with the excellent Ford on vocals - it was probably the tightest musically that we had seen the guys play. Don't miss them when they deservedly headline the iconic 100 Club on Tuesday 30th May with Deep Blue Sea and Lol Goodman.
The firing of the Full House starting pistol saw the guys open with the dirty Blues Rock of 'The Devil Gun' from Frankie's '74 album 'High Life' before the
rockin' 'Guilty Of The Crime' from 2006 album 'Long Way Home' saw Payronel's keys on fire and some neat slide guitar work from Minhinnett. In the seventies, Miller toured the USA with Bob Seger, and Seger accordingly acknowledged what a big influence Frankie was, consequently covering Miller's 'Ain't Got No Money' from '75 release 'The Rock' - of which FMFH paid their dues to this classic with another Payronel solo plus Bucket doing the honours with a great guitar solo. 'Jezebel Jones' actually featured a Miller duet with Kid Rock on his latest album - but a beret wearing Ray guitar solo caught the eye on this track from 2016 album 'Double Take' - although not be outdone in the titfer stakes - bass guitarist Boyce looked resplendent in his fedora, although we weren't able to confirm that he had borrowed it from Ilona.
The Blues influence of Paul Kossof was palpable right from the start of Bucket's opening solo on 'I Know Why The Sun Don't Shine' - yes Frankie co-wrote this song with the Free legend - an opportunity for the long haired Manzi to flex his vocal chords which he duly nailed with support from two more jaw-dropping guitar solos from Bucket and Minhinnett. FMFH were obviously having fun and even Ray broke into a smile on a solo during 'Be Good To Yourself' before Bucket took over once again as Manz's vocal, for an instant, brought back memories of Frankie in his prime. The epic Blues ballad 'Jealousy' from '82 release 'Standing On The Edge' with both it's thought provoking lyrics and another Bucket solo was immediately followed by 'A Fool In Love', co-written by Miller with another Free legend Andy Fraser. Taken from 'The Rock', which they recorded in America, understandably the Glaswegian was once described as having "all American soul" and being "the white Otis Redding", although FMFH's live version was more true Rock 'n Roll - with even a 'Paper Back Writer' outro from Minhinnett!
Drummer Clive Edwards counted in the punchy 'I'd Lie To You For Your Love', which Frankie co-wrote with the Bellamy Brothers, and after yet another Bucket solo, Peyronel's keys solo on 'Down The Honky Tonk' was sandwiched in between Minhinnett's opener for this rocker and yes, you've get guessed it, another Bucket solo! So the story goes, Honky Tonk was actually The Treble Two Bar in Abercrombie Street Glasgow - apparently at the Apollo during the Frankie who? Tour, Miller introduced the song by saying "This song was started in Beverly Hills and finished in Abercrombie Street". Bucket's neat Blues Brother style riff on 'Blackmail' - a track on which Miller did a duet with Joe Walsh on 'Double Take' - was complemented by some more slide work from Minhinnett before FMFH finished off a storming set with 'Over The Line' from 'Long Way From Home' another track that Frankie co-wrote with The Bellamy Brothers - and finally, the appropriately named 'When It's Rockin'' - a microcosm of the set with solos from Ray, Danny and Bucket. The encore included Millers' most well know song 'Darlin' - which got to number 6 in the October '78 charts - cue the inevitable sing along before they rounded off the evening with 'Woman To Love' from Frankie's 1979 album 'Perfect Fit' - once again with the holy trinity signing off on the night with three more memorable solos! On an evening of all round great entertainment, Full House certainly shuffled the pack and played their cards right ensuring that Frankie's treasured musical legacy continues to flourish.
Inglorious, Mason Hill
Islington Assembly Hall, London
Friday 19th May 2017
The end of a sad week found yours truly at the fabulous Assembly Halls in Islington to see some young old Rock. A sad week as we come to terms with the untimely loss of Chris Cornell - singer, songwriter and inspiration to a whole generation of younger musicians. Young old Rock because those young musicians inspired by the Seattle frontman are now producing some great old style Rock. Something we should be eternally grateful for. In these days of industry produced music for the masses it’s great to see young musicians doing it for real. None of this lot would be seen dead on a TV music competition……
Opening the evening’s entertainment are Glaswegians Mason Hill, a quintet of youngsters who have made their way through a European battle of the bands competition, ‘Surface Festival’, winning the Scottish section beating 12,000 other bands. Entering the stage alone, to launch the opening track 'Broken Son', is lead singer Scott Taylor giving us no doubt that we are in for a good night. Immediate thoughts of a Highlander reference had to be dismissed on purely geographical grounds. Following on are twin guitarists James Bird and Marc Montgomery dealing out the riffs with a fine Les Paul/PRS combo. And providing the steady rhythm are bassist Matthew Ward and drummer Craig McFetridge. Following straight into 'Your Memory', you can see these guys were born 40 years too late. If they were around in the seventies they would be filling arenas today. Think Alter Bridge meets UFO. And then has a love child with Black Stone Cherry. As a nod to that era, they performed an excellent cover of Mountain’s 'Mississippi Queen', with a fine solo from JB before lowering the tempo with 'Out of Reach'. Definite Alter Bridge tones there. 'Survive' has a more modern feel to it with a head down Rock feel rather than a shredding frenzy. And 'No Regret' has an almost Stoner feel to it. And then their debut single from 2 years ago 'Now You See Me'. In a display of heartfelt emotion, and an indication of their younger influences, Taylor dedicates the closing song 'Where I Belong' to Chris Cornell. Starting with just guitar and vocals this track grows into a full Rock ballad. Another tasteful solo, showing that minimalist is often best in a song like this. Well received by the crowd, many of whom are here specifically to see them, Mason Hill warm the heart. And the stage.
Out Of Reach
Now You See Me
Where I Belong
Headline act for the night are the Planet Rock championed Inglorious. PR’s Wyatt Wendell took to the stage to introduce the five piece outfit, reminding us of the meteoric rise they have had. Formed In 2014, the band immediately drew a lot of attention, as well as high praise, from such luminaries as Brian May and current producer Kevin Shirley. Frontman Nathan James is a man mountain of a guy, with looks like Thor from The Avengers (minus the big hammer) and a voice to match. Powerful - a word often used but totally appropriate for Mr J. He’s a cross between Meatloaf, David Coverdale and DLR (Dave Lee Roth? Danny La Rue?). He clearly has that X-factor… Bassist, and He-Man lookalike (by the power of Fender!) Colin Parkinson takes front of stage with James and contributes to vocals on a couple of numbers. Between the two of them they could take on most of the WWF community and sing them out of the ring. I wouldn’t argue with them.
Twin guitar chops are provided by white Les Paul wielding Andreas Eriksson and black Strat wearing Drew Lowe. To be fair to Lowe, he wields his Strat as well but gets little opportunity to shine when alongside the notable Mr E. but when he does, he’s very good. Bringing up the rear physically, but in no way musically, is drummer Phil Beaver. There’s something of the pretty boy look to the band that might explain why there are so many adoring ladies in the audience. But they still have that hard edge – something for everyone. As a look, there are huge hints of 80’s hair metal flamboyance about the band – hats and clothes reminiscent of the mullet era, and what are those comb-over epaulettes on Mr James jacket? But there are all the good things of the 70’s and 80’s about the band too – great songs, musicianship and a showmanship that is genuine, not produced. This is a band clearly influenced by bands like Whitesnake, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin but with nuances reflecting the diversity of their background that makes the music their own. Tonight is their night to show what they can do, promoting their latest album, the imaginatively entitled 'Inglorious 2'. I wonder what the next album will be called? Mind you, that didn’t do Led Zeppelin any harm did it? Can’t wait to see how well 'Inglorious 4' will be received. 'Inglorious 2' was made to be a traditional sounding Rock album where the musicians all performed and recorded together in the same room. No click tracks, autotune or overdubs. Just raw talent and tight playing.
Entering the stage to the rather unusual choice of entry music that is the Grandstand theme tune, their opening track of the night, 'Read All About It', is the first of many from the new album. It’s a showcase of the Hard Rocking song that could be their calling card. Radio friendly Rock it is (one of the Planet Rock playlist regulars) but never bland, this will get you dancing or rocking in equal measures. As Nathan demonstrates for the crowds delight. He’s got some moves up there. 'Breakaway' has a classic 80’s Metal feel to it, including obligatory wah pedal noodling, that Graham Bonnet might want to sing along to whilst 'High Flying Gypsy' slows to a glorious chug. It has that epic, dramatic feel to it. 'Black Magic' is another new track, that I wasn’t overly impressed with, but was generally well received. 'Making Me Pay' has a slow Blues groove feel to it that is very Whitesnake as is 'Change Is Coming', although with a more prominence of keyboards. Another great feeling solo from Eriksson too. 'Hell Or High Water' is another track from the new album that will become a mainstay of the set for years to come (hopefully). A fast Rock with a singalong chorus, it gets the blood pumping. Not sure if Inglorious are a moshing band but this song comes close. The drummer and bassist solo intro on 'Warning' is somewhat different. The song is sex, drums and Rock and Roll, a slow twin guitar chug into fast Rock with screaming vocals. On to the self titled 'Inglorious' with it’s ‘end of the world’ intro riff and dual vocals with bassist Colin Parkinson. It felt like an epically long song that seemed to be much loved by the ladies…
The mood of the set changed dramatically as James took the opportunity to voice his own Chris Cornell tribute. With just Drew on acoustic guitar, he launched into a wonderful rendition of Soundgarden’s 'Black Hole Sun'. Prompting a heartfelt crowd sing along, it was very poignant. Probably the stand out moment of the night. Continuing the acoustic break was a cover of Deep Purples 'Burn' - another clear influence on the band. It was a great interpretation, slow but melodic, James strong voice accompanied by Andreas on acoustic lead, Drew on acoustic rhythm and Parkinson on acoustic bass. Back to electric with some punch in the face Rock, 'Taking The Blame'. I think they should. Following a well received announcement of an October tour Electric Ballroom, they finished off the set with the popular 'Girl Got A Gun' and 'High Class Woman'. The obligatory encore saw another new track, 'I Don’t Need Your Loving', aired – another Whitesnake sounding Bluesy Rock track. Followed by Andreas dreamy Bluesy solo leading into what is arguably Inglorious most well know song, 'Holy Water'. Finishing with 'Until I Die', they went out with a bang. And at their request, we made some fffing noise. Inglorious are one of those lucky bands that have the talent, but also have the support of the likes of Planet Rock too. It’s tough for bands to make a name for themselves out there these days, despite the flourishing live music scene. But Inglorious have jumped on the jet propelled roller coaster and are heading for the heavens, like the flying god of thunder himself. It’s where their destiny lies. They are masters of their universe.
Read All About It
High Flying Gypsy
Making Me Pay
Change Is Coming
Hell or High Water
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover) (acoustic, tribute to Chris Cornell)
Burn (Deep Purple cover) (acoustic)
Taking the Blame
Girl Got a Gun
High Class Woman
I Don't Need Your Loving
Until I Die
The Borderline, London
Thursday 25th May 2017
I'll start with a confession, with over thirty years of gig going under my belt, this is my first visit to The Borderline in the heart of London's West End. Within minutes of arriving I realise what I have been missing, a welcoming atmosphere and an intimate setting, perfect for a one man show such as this.
Support comes from William The Conqueror, or at least, for one night only, one third of them. Harry Harding takes the solo spotlight admitting that tonight his band will be replaced by his right foot on beat keeping duties. Looking like he has just parked his truck outside in Charing Cross Road, his thirty five minute acoustic set flies by, with songs of lost love and confessions to his kids. His last song 'Save It For Somebody Else' is dedicated to "a not very nice crowd in Bristol" from five years ago. A nice Bluesy, Folky feel to his playing, which sounds great in this compact little venue.
Twenty minutes later and with no introduction, the man we are all waiting for emerges from the side of stage black curtain, and with just a stool and acoustic guitar for company, proceeds to blow the crowd and this reviewer away. Matt Andersen opens with 'The Gift Of Life' from his latest album 'Honest Man'. The first thing that hits you is the power and quality of his voice and immediately you know this is going to be a special evening. No time for a chat just yet as it's straight into the uptempo 'Make You Stay' - this time highlighting the quality of musicianship with some great playing. Only two songs in and already the crowd are hanging on every note. It then becomes clear that Matt is also a good little storyteller as he explains the next tune 'Fool For You' is all about your best friends new girlfriend that nobody likes, apparently we all know someone like that. As you would imagine, it's a upbeat, fun song which has some Mississippi Blues thrown in for good measure.
Another song from the 'Honest Man' album, 'Quiet Company', a soft ballad with great guitar work, is up next and it's a pin drop moment, as the the audience takes in this quite beautiful song which highlights the tender side to Matt's usually powerhouse of a voice. Drawing comparisons between his native Canada's and our own mining industries in the UK, the title track from the 'Coal Mining Blues' album follows, another great and poignant song.
Although Mr. Andersen is not a household name (yet) here, he certainly has a good fan base, which is perfectly illustrated as the majority here know every word to 'I Lost My Way' from the 2014 album 'Weightless'. Now it's audience participation time, with Matt performing one of his personal favourites, Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready'. Gone is the Gospel element of the song in favour of simple guitar, with all the girls supplying the "ooohs", the guys the "aaahs", and one man on a stool who has everyone eating out of the palm of his hand.
The next two numbers are polar opposites 'My Last Day' with its frantic playing, big voice and big chorus, followed by the gentle 'In A Crowded Room' with its intricate Bluesy opening and soft vocals, both songs act as a perfect showcase for this man's talent. My personal favourite song of the night is the Country feel of 'When My Angel Gets The Blues' from the 'Second Time Around' album. A terrific song, which given some airplay could be the song that sees Matt's career take off to the next level. Clearly enjoying himself, he even throws in some Jazz improv on 'Round & Round' another cracking song which sees the audience playing their part on backing vocals. The last song (but not really) is a slight contradiction in terms, a light hearted, Blues number, 'Cold Black Soul' is a great fun tune, which we are told is all about the hometown couple who, after getting hitched, the guy realises he has married the devil's bride, once again everyone knows all the words and sing along with gusto.
So the second and really last song of the night is a cover of Bruce Springsteen's 'I'm On Fire',another gentle song, perfectly suited here, which brings to an end a very quick but thoroughly enjoyable seventy five minutes. True to his word, within minutes of coming off stage, Matt can be found at the merchandise stand, chatting to everyone who has stayed to congratulate him on a great set. At which point, I became a bit of a fan boy myself, exchanging a few words, shaking the big mans hand and buying myself a CD. Matt Andersen is a guy that deserves all the success that must surely come his way. I highly recommend checking him out the next time he comes over here, especially if you are lucky enough to see him in this type of setting, he could well be your next favourite artist.
Rebecca Downes Band
O2 Academy, Islington, London
Sunday 14th May 2017
All roads led to London's O2 Academy, Islington, recently to see Snakecharmer as they continued their eleven date UK tour showcasing their new album 'Second Skin', which was released a few days earlier. Supported by both the Rebecca Downes Band and Knock Out Kaine, the band was originally founded in 2011 by former Whitesnake member’s guitarist Micky Moody and bass guitarist Neil Murray along with guitarist Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), drummer Harry James (Thunder, Magnum), keyboardist Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and vocalist Chris Ousey (Heartland). In 2016, Moody left the band and was replaced by Irish born Simon McBride on lead guitar. Slightly harder edged compared to their debut, but with roots still firmly planted in Bad Company early Whitesnake and a hint of late 70's AOR, their set was strong, passionate, rocking and Blues-laden.
The evening got off to a bad start as we were told that the first band Knock Out Kaine were on at 8.20pm. Wrong! Following our bite to eat - and ok - another drink - we made our way into the O2 Academy to be greeted by the Rebecca Downes Band minus Brummie Rebecca who is well known on the Blues Rock circuit and indeed won both Best Female Vocalist and Best Emerging Artist in last year's British Blues Awards. In fact this was the first time we had seen her and we were not to be disappointed, as she burst on to the stage following her 4-piece band's instrumental and opened appropriately with the first track from her second album 'Believe', the powerful rockin' 'Never Gonna Learn' with guitarist Steve Birkett dueting with Downes on vocals. Rebecca hooked up her guitar for the catchy ballad 'It's That Easy' - again from 'Believe' before their only cover of the set - Erma Franklin's 'Piece Of My Heart' saw Downes dispatch this classic with vocal verve. The devilish Birkett co-wrote 'Believe's melodic 'Night Train' with Rebecca - it's opening keys and slide guitar complemented by Downes' super smooth and smokin' vocal as she shook the living daylights out of her mic stand before Steve launched into a Southern Rockin' slide solo. 'Messed Up' was the only other track not from 'Believe', the second single from her debut album 'Back To The Start' which saw Downes belting out the Blues with some groovy supporting keys and guitar before Steve's slide guitar on the Southern Blues influenced 'Long Long Time' from 'Believe' more than made up for the loss of the harp from the album. Another Birkett guitar solo opened the slower Blues ballad 'Sailing On A Pool Of Tears' - for once Downes' vocal being dominated by Steve's awesome guitar work before Rebecca donned her guitar once more as the band finished with the familiar opening pounding drum/slide guitar of 'Believe's title track - its mid-section burst of driving drums/slide solo easily demonstrating why this track was runner up in the Best Blues Song category at last year's British Blues Awards. A superb Blues Rock set with something for everyone - do get to see her!
I hold my hands up as I have never been a massive Whitesnake fan, but must admit that I really enjoyed their two latest gigs - Wembley Arena in December in 2015 and Ramblin' Man Fair in July 2016. Combined with the fact that I really liked what I had heard of Snakecharmer's 'Second Skin' - I was really looking forward to seeing the headliner's as they made their way on to the Academy 2 stage. Given it was essentially an album launch, it was no surprise that the first two melodic numbers were from ‘Second Skin’. ‘Follow Me Under’ had a great riff and was an immediate opportunity for the powerful Ousey to flex his vocal chords, whilst the classic 70’s Classic Rock of ‘Are You Ready To Fly’ similarly demonstrated the strong rhythm section of Neil Murray and Harry James, with trademark Hammond organ for that era from Adam Wakeman. In fact the Whitesnake feel of the latter blended nicely into the first cover of the evening – Whitesnake’s Ready An' Willing before the band went back to their very first album with ‘Accident Prone’. Snakecharmer returned to the new album with the melodic Blues of ‘Where Do We Go From Here’ which built into a pucker rocker before they went back again to their first album with ‘A Little Rock & Roll’ which did exactly what it said on the tin – with a couple of great solo’s from McBride complemented by Wakeman’s keys. Another from their first album ‘Nothing To Lose’ was followed by the opening drums and bass of ‘Hell Of A Way To Live’ –from ‘Second Skin’ - another catchy rockin’ number – which was so reminiscent of Bad Company - with the shades wearing Wisefield dueting powerfully with McBride. It was then time for more melodic Blues with the ‘Second Skin’ ballad ‘I'll Take You As You Are’ – with it’s acoustic opening building into a Blues based hard rocker, helped by the subtlety of Wakeman’s Hammond infusion, which itself was followed by another cool ‘Second Skin’ Bluesy ballad ‘Fade Away’.
Step forward the gem of the evening – OK it was a cover of Whitesnake’s ‘Crying In The Rain’ - but it was just under ten minutes of quality British Hard Rock at its very best – showcasing Ousey's vocal style, which is soulful and smooth before he left the stage and handed it over to McBride and Wisefield to do the honours – before they duly handed the baton over to Wakeman. Awesome. It was then back to ‘Second Skin’ with a nod to the late 70’s AOR and ‘That Kind Of Love’ – a Snakecharmer microcosm – great vocals, harmonies, catchy chorus and riff. James’ pounding drum on ‘Guilty As Charged’ from their first album, nearly saw the giant Murray emerge from the back of the stage, but Neil thought better of it given the tambourine wielding Ousey and both Wisefield and McBride stealing the limelight again with some great guitar work. Ousey’s opening acapella heralded the inevitable cover of Whitesnake’s ‘Here I Go Again’ – cue audience participation - before the guys rounded off a terrific set with Second Skin’s ‘Dress It Up’ - Wisefield’s solid riff, James’s drum beat and Ousey’s high vocal taking them nicely into Foreigner territory with its Bluesy organ/guitar feel and its singalong chorus. Finally, three big shout out's from the night - firstly, to new WRC member Matt who was in the disabled area next to us, secondly to Rebecca who kindly autographed her set list and CD for Matt, and finally WRC member Pete Elphick - who received a text during the gig congratulating him for being part of the production team that won a BAFTA for best live event for The Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration on ITV last May!
Slam Dunk Festival
Monday 29th May 2017
Hatfields University of Hertfordshire is the host for 2017's Slam Dunk festival. Now in its eleventh year, the Southern event is the final leg of a three day festival that sees the same line up play Leeds and Birmingham on consecutive days. Today the University is a school of Rock. And Punk. And Goth. And Emo. And Skaters, Haters and First Daters too. As the lineup shows, it’s a festival aimed at a younger audience, so a university campus is both fitting and effective. With 8 stages, both indoors and out, the music is varied and interesting. The younger audience revels in an atmosphere that is buzzing, but also feels safe. 14 year olds can feel free to wander as they please and parents can feel free to let them. And the parents can also find something to their taste. Handy if the youngsters need to borrow some money from bank of Dad. The bars were doing a roaring trade.
Each of the stages highlights something different. With the Jagermeister, Fireball and Monster stages outside showing the headline acts (have you spotted the drink theme yet?), the Key Club stage does so indoors. The Signature Brew stage is a smaller outside bundle of fun whilst the indoor Impericon stage is a nice Punk collection of aggression. With new talent on the Rock Sound Breakout stage and the eclectic Uprawr stage battering the earholes, the only escape to tranquility is the bar with small intimate acoustic sets. Any one of these stages would be excellent venues in their own right, we are lucky enough to get 8 of them, topped off with the obligatory merch, food and booze venues, this is a nice self-contained event. The sound and production is first rate. Each of the venues has their own acoustical challenges but the techs do their work well. And the organisation was also top drawer. Everything seemed to go off like clockwork, with the bands appearing when and where they were advertised. Entry and exit to the festival were good, although getting out of the car park at the end of the gig was a nightmare with local taxis blocking the only entrance into and out of the event. A well placed traffic warden would have alleviated that problem, and earned a bob or two as well.
Rocking the 10 thousand strong crowds are bands like Neck Deep, Bowling For Soup and headline act Enter Shikari. Not necessarily the 'big names' that you might find at Download or Rock am Ring but the fans are as dedicated and the festival is just as much fun. Which is what festivals should be about. It feels busier this year as the predominantly dry weather allows everyone to chill around the bars and stages. Queues as always for beers and burgers, but they move fairly quickly. Security are hi-viz and everywhere, as would be expected, but are friendly and helpful. Although busy, I saw no trouble. Which is refreshing for a festival of youthful drinkers.
Musical highlights are many and varied across the festival. In no particular order, Madina Lake battered the Impericon stage. Chicagan lead singer Nathan Leone got into the crowd, literally, by crowd surfing whilst tethered (just) to a large security man. It was touch and go that he didn’t get washed out to sea on the tide. Zebrahead grooved the Fireball stage with their own anarchic brand of Punk with hints of Ska and Hip-Hop. Surrey based Homebound brought some strong Rockier Punk music to the Rock Sound stage. Cute Is What We Aim For rocked the Monster Stage with an enjoyable set and Florida’s We The Kings staged a fantastic set, as did The Maine from Canada, both having fun with the Monster stage crowd. Three bands that I shall make sure I see again. Welsh rockers Neck Deep headlined the Monster stage and took to the stage to the sound of MCR’s 'Welcome To The Black Parade'. That got the crowd singing and raised the expectation levels which Neck Deep more than met. Influenced by bands like Sum 41 and A Day To Remember they are a great Pop-Punk band whose strong following jumped, sang and partied the closure of the Monster stage. Excellent stuff.
Bowling For Soup were headliners on the Fireball stage, following on from the trombone infused Less Than Jake. BFS spent as much time joking with the crowd as actually playing but were a hit. Somewhat of a Tenacious D feel about the whole thing which was a good thing. Plenty of toilet humour. A testament to them then that they were able to attract and entertain a huge crowd whilst Enter Shikari were on the stage next to them. We Are The Ocean performed their last ever performance on the main stage. They are calling it a day after 10 years much to their fans disappointment. A sad and joyous performance in equal measures. St Albans band Enter Shikari headlined the 2017 main stage, bringing to an end their special shows to mark 10 years since the release of debut album 'Take To The Skies'. Although not a "Big Name", they really ought to be. With dry ice and a fine laser show lighting up the night sky they attracted a huge crowd who were loving what was a polished and professional performance. These guys closed what was again an impressive event and sent the fans home tired but with some great memories.
It's another fine event this year. I will be back again next year to watch the young and beautiful people enjoying the best times of their lives. A heart-warming sight. And an ear warming sound.
The Borderline, London
Thursday 1st June 2017
This woman can sing! What a voice! A very special, gifted and talented artiste with a natural, seductive and captivating stage presence which hypnotizes and dazzles. Her soulful Blues vocals exude raw emotional power, you can’t help but feel and be moved by her performance.
Mollie Marriott has spent much of her life from the age of 15 growing up in the music industry working mainly as a backing singer with artists including Oasis, Proud Mary, P. P. Arnold, Paul Weller and her stepfather Joe Brown. Mollie is the daughter of the late great legend that is Steve Marriott of Small Faces and Humble Pie fame, who died on 20th April 1991 when Mollie was just 6 years old. Steve’s powerful Soul voice lives on in Mollie’s.
Having seen Mollie many times before, mainly as a backing vocalist at notable high profile gigs such as the London Astoria tribute to her late father on 20th April 2001, the Ronnie Lane Memorial Concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 8th April 2004, Joe Brown’s ’50 years in show business’ gig at the Royal Albert Hall on 24th September 2008 and The Faces reunion in 2015, it wasn’t until I heard Mollie sing lead vocals on the song ‘Tulsa Time’ with Joe Brown at Bill Wyman’s 80th Birthday at the IndigO2 London on 28th October 2016 that I became fully aware of the true power of Mollie’s mesmerizing voice. I became a huge fan from that moment on.
The first proper Mollie headlining solo gig I attended was at a special intimate acoustic show at Olympic Studios in Barnes on 23rd February 2017, hosted by legendary producer Chris Kimsey. With the stripped back nature of the performance it allowed her voice to really shine, a truly sublime evening.
At the Borderline, Mollie was backed by a five-piece band, which delivered a high calibre set of songs from Mollie’s highly anticipated forthcoming album ‘Truth Is A Wolf’ which will be released in September 2017. The set included masterfully crafted gems written by Mollie such as ‘Transformer’, ‘A Million Miles’, Give Me A Reason’, ‘Gravity’, Trouble and Shame’, the album title track ‘Truth Is A Wolf’, the brilliant new single ‘Control’, released in March this year, and the excellent ‘Ship Of Fools’, which was a special request from one of Mollie’s loyal fans in the front row. This song was released as a single back in 2014.
Unfortunately the set was rather short, but those of us lucky to be there did get to spend a top quality hour in the presence of one of the best Rock/Soul singers around today and be able to experience first-rate songs with an outstanding voice that penetrates deep into your heart and soul. The newly renovated venue was only about half full but the atmosphere was brimming with positive energy. Available at the gig was Mollie’s new four track acoustic sessions EP which she enthusiastically signed for anybody that bought one.
Mollie has recently completed tours supporting Paul Weller and Wilko Johnson. It has just been announced that Mollie will be supporting Bad Touch on their UK tour this November.
1. Run With The Hounds
2. Truth Is A Wolf
4. Ship Of Fools
5. King Of Hearts
6. Give Me A Reason
7. Baby I Love You (Aretha Franklin cover)
11. A Million Miles
Steven C. Gilbert (photos courtesy of Laurence Harvey)
Saturday 3rd June 2017
Well we came, we saw and we conquered last Saturday - taking in some of the 250 bands and artists across 25 of Camden Town’s legendary music venues. As we stepped out of Camden Town Tube Station, the place was packed, the weather was kind and we immediately encountered our first gig - a busker doing a great cover of White Stripes 'Seven Nation Army' with just his mic and a portable speaker - yes Camden was buzzing. We then passed by the long Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction queue at The Underworld to collect our press passes from The World's End pub before heading towards the Electric Ballroom to catch The King Blues. No queue, but the place was hot, heavy and rocking so we decided to head off and try out one off the smaller venues, namely, Simmons Bar, just around the corner in the High Street where we caught Voksal's sound check and a few of their psychedelic tinged Rock tunes, before we set off for our pre-arranged interview with HVMM (pronounced Hum) at Belushi's at the other end of the High Street.
The band from Worcester first came to our attention after the release of their recent single 'Lacerate' - their unique ballsy, bolshy, raw Rock sound receiving rave reviews with influences of Faith No More, Royal Blood, Band Of Skulls and Zep. We caught up with Andy Teece - vocals/guitar, Ebony Clay - lead guitar, Jack Timmis - bass and Samuel Jenkins – drums outside - before the guys took to a sweltering Belushi's stage before knocking out a very impressive original set that included 'Big Green Joe', 'Lacerate', 'Beggars and Thieves', 'Postal', 'Pummelling A Monk' and 'Modern Pussy' - showcasing not only Teece's unique vocal delivery (think Jack White meets Nick Cave), the swagger of Clay's guitar and the solid unit/engine room of Timmis and Jenkins, but also the reason why they are the first British band to be signed by American label ILA. HVMM release their first EP 'Talk To Me Like I'm Dead' on 1st September and also return to Camden and The Proud in two weeks time. Do not miss them and watch out for that audio interview coming soon.
One of the challenges of Camden Rock's is to ensure that you always leave enough time to get from one venue to the another - a task that get's more and more difficult during the day as you consume more alcohol and try and work out both the map and the schedule. Fortunately enough, we arrived in plenty of time for Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs at The Proud - so much so that we were able to stand right down the front. We had the pleasure of interviewing and seeing BBB at London's iconic 100 Club just over a year ago and it was a no-brainer to catch the big man in action again. Despite playing as a three-piece with no keyboards, their Roots and R&B rocked as usual which began with the brilliantly entitled 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - from last year's album ‘Luxury Hobo’ - with its 70's Rock n' Roll style, big guitar and lyrics, followed by the musical barnstormer, 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', with its brilliant baseline, mean guitar and imaginative lyrics, which Bloater delivered perfectly in a very George Thorogood-esque manner.
'Robot Girlfriend’ further reinforced Bloater's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with a mean Blues guitar solo before BBB&TL’s then went back to their self-titled debut album with ‘Every Path Has It’s Puddle’ which originally featured Imelda May - with its ‘feverish’ drum intro and its “kiss and a cuddle” reinforcing the vocal and guitar quality of Bloater’s earlier stuff. BBB's introduction that "There's nothing worse than when you love someone ... and then they take out a restraining order on you!" ... set the scene behind the groovy ‘I Can’t Forget About You’ before the Rock ‘n Rolling ‘Double Whammy’, taken from their second album ‘The World Explained’. These were followed by ‘Messin With The Booze’, taken us back to Bloater and The City Shakers - Bloater’s guitar a mighty nod to Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Classic! BBB<’s then delved back to their first album with the fast moving instrumental 'Rocket Surgery’, with both a deserved bass/drum solo, and then another fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from ‘The World Explained’. Bloater’s distorted guitar intro saw the set close with the foot-tapping 'LH' opener 'Devils Not Angels' and its killer Rock n' Roll guitar and Bloater’s distinctive gruff but great vocals. What a great song to round off a brilliant set. The highlight of the day. Watch out for BBB<’s at Ramblin' Man Fair in July.
It was then time to make our way to The Dublin Castle in Parkway to see Black Orchid Empire. Oddly enough we had seen BOE earlier in the year in Camden at The Monarch in February - exactly why we wanted to see them again! Bassist Dave Ferguson told us before the gig that they would be playing a heap of stuff from their up and coming new album - unfortunately we got a bit lost on the way, so we ended missing the first part of their set, namely, 'Burn', 'Wires' and 'Mountain' - the latter, the very first song BOE ever wrote, with its eastern mystical feel - duly validating their tag of Alt Rock with Progressive tendencies. When we finally arrived it was loud and proud and appropriately 'Riff Of Death' proved what a meticulous power trio BOE are - not only further evidence of their strength but the fact that they are all riffing from the same hymn sheet. Newbie's 'My Favourite Stranger' and 'Celebrity Summer', duly delivered the assurance that their new album is going to be as strong as its predecessor 'Archetype'. Cue 'Come In' - and if you were in any doubt that these guys weren't all about rhythm, melody and heavy riffs with an edge, then Paul Visser's enticing guitar/vocal intro of their very first single from 'Archetype' followed by a riff to die for plus Billy Freedom's pounding drums - resulted in general head banging all round. THE track that attracted me to BOE in the first place and a great way to end their set!
Time for a pint, as we listened to to Skarlett Riot, and at the same time watched some of the Champions League final before going for a pizza. It was raining as we came out, so we decided to head off home via Camden Town underground. To then have been confronted at London Bridge by that cowardly atrocity was truly shocking. Our thoughts go out to all the family and friends of those who were either killed or injured - on a night when they were simply relaxing and enjoying themselves - just as we had been earlier during an excellently organised Camden Rocks Festival. Such a terrible way to end such a memorable day.
Eric Gales/Gary Hoey
Nell's Jazz & Blues, Kensington
Friday 2nd June 2017
Following the release of his incredible new album 'Middle of the Road', guitar whirlwind Eric Gales finished his UK tour last Friday night at Nell’s Jazz & Blues in Kensington, London, before playing at the Grolsch Festival in Germany and both the Tonelades Festival and Leganes Blues Festival in Spain. Not only that, but Eric was joined by guitar maestro Gary Hoey, who took time off from his current European tour with Beth Hart, following the release of his latest album ‘Dust & Bones’ last Summer. Believe it or not it was the first time both Gales and Hoey had played England's capital city. We were also lucky enough to do two amazing interviews with both Gary and Eric before the gig - so look out for those audio interviews soon.
It was hard to believe that despite having 20 albums under his belt and having toured with a veritable Rock who's who over the years, that the Massachusetts born Hoey, who once auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, was making his London debut. A driving intro from AJ Pappas (bass) and Matt Scurfield (drums) saw the shades wearing Hoey ask the audience "Are you guys ready to have a good time?" before he counted in "1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4!" and his guitar and vocals duly proceeded to rip into a cover of The Alabama State Troupers 'Going Down' - power trio Blues/Rock at it's best. Wow! The title track from his 2013 'Deja Blues' album slowed things down a bit - although there was no let up in his undoubted guitar prowess - a wonderful instrumental before the catchy title track of his latest album 'Dust & Bones' showcased his much anticipated Fender Stratocaster-driven fury alongside open-D-tuned resonator guitars plugged into half-stacks. Superb.
And if you wanted some real Blues then 'Back Up Against The Wall' fitted the bill, again from 'D&B' - and just to prove that 'D&B' had everything - the Rock n' Roll of 'Who's Your Daddy' resulted in general uncontrollable foot tapping. Hoey's cajun/slide guitar intro heralded 'Boxcar Blues' - the foot tapping now morphing into rocking your head back and forth - well deserving of its "a thrill-a-minute mash up of Robert Johnson meets Led Zeppelin" billing. Awesome. And talking of RJ - next up was 'Dust My Broom' - Hoey, as expected, paying his dues to this all-time Blues classic. 'Steamroller' - another from 'D&B' - also saw Gary paying appropriate homage to one of his biggest influences - a certain Johnny Winter - before he rounded off a memorable set with both a jaw-dropping, not only in respect of song choice, but also the way it was executed - with a cover of Focus's 'Hocus Pocus' no less (including a snippet of 'Cat Scratch Fever') - where Hoey's guitar filled in for Van Leer's iconic yodelling - I think that says everything about how good a guitar player this guy is. Suffice to say that if you love a ferocious blend of Blues and Rock music, then Gary is the man for you! Follow that Eric!
Although 'Middle Of The Road' was Gales' fourth album released on his current label, this was indeed his fifteenth album all told, since he released his debut album at 16 as both a well documented child prodigy and a second coming of Jimi Hendrix. Similar to record label mate Hoey, it was again a surprise that someone with the pedigree of Gales, who has played with the likes of Carlos Santana, that this was also his London debut. Indeed, one WRC member had already seen the guitar whirlwind perform in Newbury earlier on his UK tour and had promised that we were in for a real treat. As it turned out he was not wrong! The band consisting of Cody Wright (bass), Nicky Hayes (drums) and Eric's wife LaDonna (percussion) opened with an instrumental before the larger than life Gales joined them on stage not only wearing his trademark baseball cap but also a towel around his neck before they started to jam to a unknown track that should have really been called 'Rocky'. One of the themes running through the evening was Eric's banter in between songs. There's no doubting that he has had his demon's over the year's and he shared that personal experience with the audience throughout the set - indeed, he readily admits that 'MOTR' reflects where he has been personally and where he is now.
Gales also thoughtfully asked for a moment of silence for those killed in the Manchester bombing before the band launched into the aforementioned album - the Funky Blues and groovy pre-recorded backing vocals of 'Change In Me' - Gales immediately nailing his credentials to the mast on his upside-down right-handed guitar. More pre-recorded backing vocals heralded Freddie KIng's 'Boogie Man' - a delightful, slower, gentler, version of his current single - and an opportunity to appreciate Eric's evident vocal quality, before another cover - this time Buddy Guy's delicious 'Baby Please Don't Leave Me'. 'Sea Of Bad Blood' from the Memphis born "Raw Dawg's" 2011 album 'Transformation' saw Eric and LaDonna depart the stage mid-section for the spotlight to deservedly fall on the beanie hatted Wright and Hayes for a solo/jam before Mr. & Mrs. Gales returned to finish off what they had started before the band threw in a curve ball with a mind blowing instrumental of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) The Reaper'. Outstanding. Other than Gales' undoubted stage presence, his amazing left hand guitar playing and his great vocal delivery - the first real sniff of Hendrix arrived with the classic 'Catfish Blues' - which Jimi made his own and of which Gales proceeded to smash it with some quality licks. It was time then for Eric to give LaDonna some deserved limelight during 'Swamp' - not just for her manic percussion playing but also as a heartfelt thank you from her husband for her support during difficult times. Finally, two Jimi Hendrix Experience classics arrived - namely 'Voodoo Child (Slight Return)' which also included takes on Zep's 'Kashmir' and AC/DC's 'Back In Black' plus an encore of 'Little Wing', which was followed by a Gales instrumental with his usual passion, expression and vigour. That was it - it finished late and there was a possibility that I might miss my last train. But hey - with music of such high quality - who cared! The good news is that Gales returns to the UK in July as part of the Supersonic Blues Machine super-group at Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone, Kent. We will be there, do not miss them!
Stone Free Festival
O2 Arena, London
Saturday 17th June 2017
All roads led to London last Saturday for this year's Stone Free Festival, Kilimanjaro Live and O2 extravaganza. With doors opening at midday and on a sweltering hot day - the omens were good as I walked through North Greenwich tube station and bumped into a guy wearing an identical Porcupine Tree Albert Hall t-shirt like mine. You couldn't make it up. After we got through security at the O2 Arena entrance we were immediately greeted by the sound of some Rock 'n' Roll with some high energy punch from Melbourne all girl three-piece Tequila Mockinbyrd on the Big Entrance Stage. Unfortunately we missed the first band Bang Bang Romeo - but that would turn out to be just the norm on a day with so much to do and such little time to do it all in.
As for Aussie Rockers Tequila Mockingbyrd - their storming set was taken, other than newbie 'Tell Me', from their recently released worldwide debut album 'Fight and Flight' - which was actually released down under a year ago. 'Money Tree', 'Never Go Home', 'This Ain't Dead', 'Good Time' and 'So Not Me' easily demonstrated why the band have received such great reviews from both Planet Rock and Classic Rock. The stand outs for mine though were their cover of Richie Ramone's 'Somebody Put Something In My Drink' plus their brilliantly entitled finale 'I Smell Rock 'n' Roll which has received a lot of well deserved worldwide airplay over the last year. What we didn't realise at the time of the set - was that lead singer/guitarist Estelle Artois and bass guitarist Jess Reilly had recently left the band for personal reasons and had been speedily replaced by Brit singer/guitarist Louisa Baker plus another Aussie bassist Jacinta Jaye. Tthat the made set even more unbelievable but more about that later.
Anyway, it was time we grabbed our first beer courtesy of The Slug and we then headed over to The Indigo to see The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Despite the band being tagged with being a one hit wonder - is there a more iconic song from the '60s than 'Fire'? Based unfairly on the principle that it would probably be the last song in their set - we arrived late - only for us to be entranced by some really outstanding Prog Rock including both 'Time Captives' and 'Sunrise' from 'Kingdom Come'. "We're not crazy" - declared Arthur as he stood there during the mesmerising 'Touched By All' in his illuminated jacket and tailcoat with trademark face paint - let's beg to differ on that one Arthur. Indeed a curtailed version of 'Fire' - because they were running over time - was another classic off of my bucket list. And on the subject of bucket lists - Arthur's departing words were: "I'm 75 in a couple of days - make sure you come and see me again before I drop dead on stage". Think I will definitely take you up on that one Arthur.
It was becoming very hot work - so there was another lager pit stop before we went to interview both Tequila Mockinbyrd and their fellow Melbourne Rockers in crime - Massive - in the hard to access Amex Lounge (it's a long story). The delightful Josie O'Toole (drums) was understandably the spokesperson for TM - as she dropped the Estelle/Jess bombshell during our audio interview whilst Massive were represented by singer/guitarist Brad Marr - what a nice guy - who reaffirmed the accuracy of the band's reputation as riot-starting, fist swinging road dogs fuelled on adrenaline, lager and a determination to party hard. They were both great audio interviews so watch out for them shortly - but just to prove that perhaps we can drink as well as Massive - we headed back to The Slug for a refill.
One of the great things about the day was a definitive gathering of like minded people who all love their music. So a big hello to Tony (the one with the grey hair ha ha) and his mate who we were chatting to in The Slug plus a another fellow Porcupine Tree fan I was talking to at the bar. Anyway, it was now time for Massive on the Big Entrance Stage and we managed to get up close and personal at the side of the stage. Typical Aussies - these guys are on a perpetual world tour following the release of their critically acclaimed 'Destination Somewhere' album last year - with even Kerrang saying that they were following in the footsteps of Guns 'N Roses. With the return of former band members the Laguda brothers, namely lead guitarist Ben and Aaron on bass, the four piece was completed by Jarrod Edwin (drums) and Marr on vocals, Massive definitely cranked up the tempo as they weaved around the small stage wringing every possible sinew out of their performance with their full frontal Aussie Rock including fans favourite ' Blood Money Blues' (check out the video) and their new single 'Calm Before The Storm' from their forthcoming album. One of the highlights of the day - make sure you catch them at London's Proud on Friday 14th July.
You've guessed it - back to The Slug and some more banter with some great young guys who had travelled down from Preston by coach earlier. The long queue outside The Indigo for iconic New York Hard Rockers Blue Oyster Cult was clearly visible from where we were sitting, and our hearts sank when we heard that the venue was packed and that they were now only letting in people as people came out. Time to use our press passes which thankfully gave us access to upstairs at The Indigo, although we had to sit right down the front on the left hand side of the stairs which was a pretty surreal view overlooking the stage - although we were not complaining. We were fortunate to catch most of their full headline set which ultimately closed the afternoon festivities at this smaller but excellent venue. Throughout their four-decade career, Blue Oyster Cult have garnered huge critical acclaim and were returning to London after a triumphant sold-out show at London’s Forum last Summer. The band's current lineup is Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (lead guitar, vocals), Eric Bloom (lead vocals, "stun guitar"), Jules Radino (drums, percussion), Richie Castellano (keyboard, rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and former bassist Danny Miranda. From our vantage point not only did the enthusiasm of the band bely their fifty years of existence, but also the packed audience - young and old - were as one enjoying a band that is music history. Fan favourites included ‘Burnin' For You' and ‘Godzilla’ - the latter including a Zep 'Heartbreaker' snippet. They closed their set by dedicating their iconic hit single ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ to Messrs. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (another one off of the bucket list) before they returned for their well deserved encore of 'TattooVampire' and 'Hot Rails To Hell' featuring Castellano on vocals. Awesome.
As we said in the Slug after BOC, if we had actually gone home there and then - we would have accepted that we had already had had our money's worth! No time unfortunately to visit the Speak Easy Lounge, the Beer Garden or the Classic Rock Vinyl Fair - it was now time for the O2 Arena main event of Sweet and Richie Blackmore's Rainbow. Legendary British Glam Rock giants Sweet, had thirteen Top 20 hits during the '70s. A bit like trigger's broom - Sweet guitarist Andy Scott is the only 'original' from their line up. Believe it or not, Andy and The Sweet did an American tour with Blackmore and Rainbow forty years ago. We all liked The Sweet in the '70's but no one would ever admit to it and you certainly wouldn't go along to one of their gigs. Despite us all getting older - nostalgia is a wonderful thing as Planet Rock introduced the band and then they proceeded to transport us back to that halcyon Top Of The Pops era with '(Piece Of The) Action', a cover of Hello's 'New York Groove' and then the clincher - the unmistakeable intro to 'Hell Raiser' - brilliant. 'The Six Teens', 'AC/DC' and 'Set Me Free' were followed by cries of "We Want Sweet" - yes it was time for a 'Teenage Rampage' - if only. We were now in classic gold territory now: a medley of 'Wig-Wam Bam' and 'Little Willy' before, poignantly, 'Love Is Like Oxygen', with its superb ELP 'Fanfare For The Common Man' twist, was dedicated to former singer Brian Connelly who unbelievably died twenty years ago. The home run of 'Fox On The Run', the sirens heralding 'Blockbuster' and finally the immortal line "Are You Ready Steve?" from the evergreen feel-good anthem ‘The Ballroom Blitz’, literally brought tears of joy to our eyes. On this evidence - I definitely want to see these guys again. Sweet!
Of all the people we met on the day, the geezer from Durham who was so pissed during the intermission that he needed our help getting his brand new Rainbow t-shirt over his head, will always be an abiding memory for me! Cue the main O2 Arena headliners Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow to end a memorable day with the Classic Rock anthems of Rainbow and Deep Purple! A bit like Scott, Blackmore was unsurprisingly the only member in this particular Rainbow project from their purple era, with Chilean singer Ronnie Romero, keyboardist Jens Johansson, bassist Bob Nouveau (formerly of Blackmore's Night) and drummer David Keith (also from Blackmore's Night). I must admit that I was never a huge Deep Purple fan and even less of a Rainbow fan. Not that I didn't like them, it was just that at that particular time I was listening to other music and I suppose I also resented the fact that Rainbow's biggest hit was actually a cover of one of my all time favourite songwriters song's - Russ Ballard of Argent fame. Despite all this, I was really looking forward to Blackmore's 'greatest hits' set and as it turned out, I was not to be disappointed. Backing tapes of 'Land Of Hope And Glory' and naturally 'Over The Rainbow' heralded the five piece's arrival as they opened with a Rainbow loosener 'Spotlight Kid' from their '81 album 'Difficult To Cure'. Deep Purple's 'Mistreated' was sandwiched in between - would you believe it - two Russ Ballard covers - namely 'I Surrender' and 'Since You Been Gone' - and generally I don't believe in miracles, but for the latter, when Romero invited my idol Ballard to join them on stage - well God well and truly gave Rock 'n Roll to me. You couldn't make it up part deux!
Rainbow's first ever single from their very first album 'Man On The Silver Mountain' included a snippet of 'Women From Tokyo' before the band launched into Deep Purple's classic 'Soldier Of Fortune' which included Blackmore's classy baroque/flamenco/acoustic intro. 'Down To Earth's 'All Night Long' was evidence, if you needed it, that Rainbow could go toe to toe with Deep Purple as far as Hard Rock was concerned, however, I'm afraid Blackmore's classical opening to the title track of 'Difficult To Cure' was the equivalent of a drum solo for mine - cue bog break. Upon my return, Johansson's amazing keyboards on Purple's 'Child In Time' also saw a stunning vocal from Romero. And talking of drums solo's, Keith's opener on 'Stargazer' I'm reliably informed was a first, but if you wanted a bit of audience participation, then Romero invited the Rainbow faithful to handclap along to a cover of The Yardbirds 'Still I'm Sad' which was rounded off by another DK drum solo. Rainbow's classic 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll' sparkled as much as Nouveau's red shoes whilst Blackmore's lack of rapport with the crowd on the night was all forgotten as the guitar legend finished a great set with Rainbow's 'Catch The Rainbow' plus a Deep Purple Holy Trinity: Black Night, Burn (with its amazing backdrop) and Smoke On The Water - cue mandatory air guitars. What a way to end the day. Proof, if you needed it, that there was indeed a pot of gold at the end of this Rainbow. Anyway, despite the heat and difficulty of getting on a Jubilee Line train home (they were rammed full of Guns 'N Roses fans on their way back from their Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park gig) it could no way detract from what was a brilliantly organised day with so much on offer. Stone Free left no stone turned and was awesome. Bring on next year!
O2 Academy, Islington, London
Tuesday 27th June 2017
“Toska - noun /ˈtō-skə/ - Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness."
"No single word in English renders all the shades of Toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.” - Vladimir Nabokov
Well that has cheered me up no end and got me in the mood for some music. So a wet Tuesday night in June saw me visit the upstairs part of the O2 Academy in Islington to do something I hadn’t done before. I feel a bit guilty, so don’t tell anyone, but I went to see and review the act who weren’t headliners. Mortal sin, cast me down into damnation. Or don’t. I just like Toska, who were appearing before the headline act Drewsif Stalin’s Musical Endeavours.
For those who haven’t been to London N1, the Angel of the South, you would be forgiven for thinking you had arrived at a shopping centre. Because you have. But tucked away in a small mall of shops and fancy restaurants, is the much underrated O2 Academy. The downstairs main venue will hold about 800 whilst the more intimate upstairs will fit 250 at a push. Or maybe 275 skinny goths. It’s a great intimate venue with a good atmosphere and good sound. Although sound levels tonight were on the high end of distorting which, for a band like Toska, can detract from the intricacy of their sound. But tonight’s line up were a fairly broad church of music , within the Metal catalogue, so suited some bands better than others.
Openers were Faces Of Eve a Metalcore/Prog band from Hertfordshire. The four piece were minus one tonight as apparently the bass player had gone on holiday. Not to be deterred the remaining faces soldiered on with the aid of a backing track. Well done lads. At least that increased your earnings by a third. Following on are London’s Sentience, a five piece Progressive Tech Metal group. With twin guitars, it was a heavier riff sound with some ear splitting screams , they could have powered the whole gig with the energy that they put out.
And so to the reason for my visit. First impression of the guys from Toska can be deceptive. Guitarist, and YouTube legend Ra(bea) Massaad is a gentle giant with a very warming personality, quick to smile and as friendly as they come. Drummist Ben Minal seems intense in comparison, very serious with a point to make. And bassist Dave Hollingworth comes across as almost painfully shy, although whilst he is quiet, he has good stuff to say. Put them on the stage and things change. They become three animated virtuosos who are lost in the passion of the playing and the music they clearly love. The three friends, originally from Yorkshire, have been playing together for ten years now and are as tight as a very tight thing (insert your own non-PC comment here). As three quarters of the internet sensation Dorje, where they play a mean Metal Rock with short punchy songs, Toska enables them to get more in touch with their lengthy Progressive side. Dorje has it’s Proggy slant but Toska takes it firmly into that genre.
Most notably, all Toska’s tracks are instrumental. And long. But don’t think Gabriel era Genesis, Rush or Yes. Think Incubus (a huge influence on the band) or bands like Sikth or Karnivool who are firm favourites of the now Brighton based trio. Tonight gives them a chance to play some of their new material. In an all too short 50 minute set, they showcase four new tracks whilst including two tried and tested tracks, 'Illumo' and 'Chalk Teeth', from their 2015 EP 'Ode To The Author', which is available free from their bandcamp website. Or you can donate some money. Go on, go give it a listen and send them some (financial) love. The new material is a progression of their old songs. Well it would be wouldn’t it. It’s excellent and I can’t wait to hear the studio versions to fully appreciate the intricate sounds I heard played live. Whilst they only played six tracks, each track was as good as two songs in their own right. In true Prog style, the tracks were varied in tone, intensity and genre, all within a single eight minute or so hit.
You might think that fifty minutes of vocal-free music would pale. It doesn’t. Each track, although similar, has its own distinct edge. Moving from hard chugging djent Metal to gentle harmonic playing, you are lost in their world. One minute you are lost in the fineries of an intricately picked lick. The next you are battering your head to a down and dirty djent chugalong. And whilst this is Prog in the true sense of the word, it is heavy. With the aforementioned high sound levels it’s verging on the brutal. Bea displays guitar skills that make him an idol of the YouTube world, whilst providing the crowd interaction between tracks. His choice of Chapman guitars, through the iconic Victory Kraken amp head, firmly puts him in the high gain, freight train camp of guitar sounds. He rates in my top 5 favourite guitarists of all times. Ever. Nuff said.
Ben batters an impressive drum kit with the ferocity of a Hardcore band but with the taste and delicacy where needed. This is technical drum playing at its finest. Dave is transformed from the quiet mild mannered man to the wild stepping, finger repping bass God. As you would expect from a three piece, all of the instruments are evident but Dave’s bass is so strong, battering its way through your chest to pummel your inner organs to mush. There is a lot of love in the room for these guys. With a growing audience across the world wide webby thing, this is their chance to see their online heroes in the flesh and performing without the backup of computer based refining technology.
So as a band, Toska doesn’t properly describe them if you take the literal meaning above. Far from being sorrowful or dirge like, they are vibrant and absorbing. No drug induced mind wanderings into the ether, this is a delightful wallowing in the raptures of intricate music played at virtuoso standard by three guys who have studied their art and honed their skills to perfection. Maybe they should have called themselves Tonka, after the indestructible toys of our youth. Strong, powerful and likely to last forever. And to bring you hours of joy.
Ramblin' Man Fair, Maidstone
Sunday 30th July 2017
Blues Pills are a Swedish Rock band, formed in Örebro in 2011 and consist of Elin Larsson on vocals, French guitar maestro Dorian Sorriaux, Zack Anderson on bass guitar and new boy André Kvarnström on drums and percussion. They released their debut studio album ‘Blues Pills’ in July 2014 on the German record label Nuclear Blast. Their second studio album ‘Lady in Gold’ was released in August 2016, also on Nuclear Blast. The striking album cover design for both albums was created by the Dutch artist Marijke Koger-Dunham, originally from the 60’s design collective known as ‘The Fool’, where she worked on designs for bands such as Procol Harum, The Move, Cream and the Beatles.
The Blues Pills sound can be described as retro late 60’s/early 70’s Heavy Rock. Despite this retro reference their sound is very much relevant to the present time, played with youthful vigor it is very much happening and current, acknowledging the great rock music structure and sonic textures of the classic 60’s/70’s era, with influences that range from Cream, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Deep Purple, early Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath.
Blues Pills last appeared at the Ramblin’ Man Fair on Sunday 26th July 2015 where they were the opening act on the main stage. They woke up sleepy Kent on that rather wet Sunday afternoon and presented us with a storming blast of Sonic Rock vivacity, delivered with pure elegance and animated energetic spirit. Greg Allman headlined that day, which turned out to be his last ever UK concert before sadly passing away in May 2017.
Fast forward to Sunday 30th July 2017 where Blues Pills were third on the bill on the main stage, the only female fronted band to play the main stage over the three-day event. Thankfully the sun shone bright over Mote Park on this warm and breezy Sunday, which is in stark contrast to Saturday when the heavens opened up and pelted us with incessant rain for the majority of the day and evening! As a result of all the rain from the previous day the grassy area near the front of the stage had become a bit of a mud bath! Despite the prospect of muddy shoes and the likely hood of slipping over, loyal fans braved the mud soup to get up close and personal to support the mighty Blues Pills return to the Ramblin' Man Fair. This year, the band were augmented by the keyboard player/second guitarist Rickard Nygren.
They played an 8 song 45 minute set with the title track from their second studio album 'Lady in Gold'. This song takes on a more Soul direction, a slight departure from the Hard Rock sound of the debut album. A perfect set opener to get the audience engaged and grooving. Second song in was the sublime 'Black Smoke', the first single released in July 2012, also featured on their debut album, quickly followed by 'Bliss', taken from their first EP released back in May 2012 - an explosive mix of atmospheric swirling kaleidoscopic sound collages and mesmerizing hypnotic grooving psychedelic guitar riffs. A weaving tapestry of rich vibrant textures with shades of light and dark.
The dazzling Tony Joe White song 'Elements & Things' was up next, the first cover of the set and the closing track on their second studio album, a real tour de force. Elin and the boys rip into this one, a set favourite and mainstay for the last few years. Fifth song in was the blazing 'You Gotta Try', one of the many highlights from their second studio album. A pounding heavy bass groove keeps this one moving along with wild exuberant dancing from Elin. A rumbling bass line introduces 'High Class Woman', the lead song on their debut album, also released as a single in 2014 - a superlative song, with gutsy vocals from Elin and some tasty guitar work from Dorrian.
Dorian Sorriaux is a revelation, a first-rate, top-notch, skillful guitarist. He creates a rich melodic tone with tastefully controlled vibrato, displaying a delicate touch and dynamism not to dissimilar to the legendary Peter Green.
The second cover song, and seventh song of the set was the rousing anthemic 'Somebody To Love' by Jefferson Airplane, an inspired choice and perfect for Blues Pills. After talking to Elin after their set, she confirmed that they would be recording this song with the possibility of releasing it on an EP, hopefully before the end of the year.
The set closed with the tremendously wicked and mind-blowing 'Devil Man', released on an EP in 2013 and also featured on their debut album. Elin's voice gets to shine as she belts out the intro a cappella before the band come storming in to build up the tension and tear it up! This is one of the band's heaviest songs and always a set highlight.
Elin Larsson is a formidable and gifted singer with an outstandingly rich soulful voice, full of sparkling emotion and spirited passion. She displays an energetic zest and verve that is captivating to witness.
All the elements of Blues Pills music combine together to create an amalgam of hypnotic sounds and a dynamic cohesion of rich textures. Channeled vibrations resonate in grooves that dig down deep to the soul in a cornucopia of emotional layers.
With impressive musicianship and passionate performance Blues Pills delivered the goods.
They have just been confirmed as one of the support bands on the upcoming Black Star Riders UK tour in November 2017.
Steven C. Gilbert
Ramblin' Man Fair, Maidstone
Saturday 29th July 2017
This year's Ramblin' Man Fair kicked off on the Friday night on the Planet Rock Main Stage with the Graham Bonnet Band, Last In Line, Y&T and the mighty Saxon. Unfortunately, we didn't arrive until Saturday morning and were greeted by orderly queues of the RM faithful eagerly awaiting to enter the arena at midday. After a false start we eventually managed to get in just after twelve and immediately turned right for the bar (no change there then) plus the handily placed Rising Stage.
First up, which turned out to be in the very brief sunshine, were The Nile Deltas from The Midlands who described themselves as a very British rock 'n' roll band with an American flavour, think early Whitesnake with a feathering of The Black Crowes, Free with a faint aroma of Blackberry Smoke! Interesting. Well, we immediately clocked ex-Whitesnake and current Snakecharmer member Neil Murray deputising for Bruce Hartley on bass guitar as they opened with 'Lying Eyes' with vocalist Craig Blencowe seemingly trying to outdo Inglorious's Nathan James on the fashion front. As promised the six-piece oozed rock solid Soul and Blues across 'Don't Play With Me', 'Life' and 'Dust Me Down' - with Blencowe's outstanding voice complemented by guitarists Nige Thompson and Tom Lord, drummer Andy Parkinson plus a to-die-for hammond organ from Giles Minkley. They closed out their set with the unreleased 'Need A Little Soul' which completed an impressive twenty five minute set - an outstanding start to the day - a performance that would no doubt result in a shedload of new Ramblin' Man followers - job done.
As the heavens started to open, it was time to turn towards The Planet Rock Main Stage for American Blues-Rock guitarist and singer Jared James Nichols. JJN has been on our radar for a long long time but this was the first time we had actually seen him live - hence he was on our Ramblin' Man scorecard for the day and not only because we were actually interviewing him later on. And we were not to be disappointed as the trio including Erik Sandin on bass guitar and Dennis Holm on drums duly delivered 70's Power Rock at its classic best. JJN staples 'Last Chance' and 'Can You Feel It?' (with its Montrose style riff) were sandwiched in between two newbies from his forthcoming studio album 'Black Magic' due to be released this September. In an all too brief twenty five minute set - Nichols nailed his 70's influences to the mast with a cover of Mountain's Mississippi Queen with a snippet of Cream's 'Politician'. The crowd wanted more - which turned into boos at the start of another Jared solo, as he apparently was told quite firmly to leave the stage. Now this was real original Rock 'n' Roll!
We then headed towards the media area for the first of our six - yes six - interviews during the afternoon. Step forward former Heaven's Basement vocalist and the nattily dressed Aaron Buchanan with his equally stylish sister Laurie who was also a guitarist in Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics who were playing the Rising Stage in ninety minutes. We had seen Aaron and Heaven's Basement supporting Aerosmith at Clapham's Calling Festival just over three year's ago and in a really frank discussion Aaron talked about life after Heaven's Basement how ABATCC got together and their new album 'The Man With Stars On His Knees'. Watch our for that interview soon.
We first interviewed Bad Touch last December in the cold outside the Dome in Tufnell Park - the night of the launch of their latest album 'Truth Be Told' when they supported Whiskey Myers. The last time we saw their Southern boogie influences in the great tradition of Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin was at London's Borderline this April after the shock departure of guitarist Rob Glendinning who had been replaced by Harry Slater. Imagine our surprise as Michael Bailey (bass guitar), Daniel Seekings (guitars/backing vocals), Stevie (Alan? Alan? Alan?) Westwood (vocals) and George Drewry (drums) filed into our interview tent with Rob in tow! Anyway, watch out shortly for our interview on the reason why Rob had returned, plus news on their October tour with The Kentucky Headhunters and their November headline tour with Mollie Marriott.
As the guys headed off for their set on the Rising Stage in two and a half hours time, probably the most surreal interview of the afternoon took place with Liverpool's Xander And The Peace Pirates. Unbelievably, for some reason this really great bunch of guys did not have access to the media area and we ended up doing the interview outside with Keith Xander (lead guitar/vocals, Stuart Xander (guitars), Mike Gay (slide guitar, guitar/vocals), Joel Goldberg (bass) and Adam Goldberg (drums) -where we found out that they had already played The Rising Stage despite the RMF itinerary saying it was Sunday. Again listen out shortly for our interview where the former Cavern residents discuss their Soul, Blues and Rock influences plus their debut album '11:11'. Would you believe the guys follow up interview was with Nicky Horne, no less, and our valiant attempt to locate Nicky in the media area for XATPP was unfortunately unsuccessful (you couldn't make it up).
Enough of the interviews for the time being - it was time for some music as we headed back towards the Planet Rock Main Stage for Steve Harris British Lion. But on the way through the VIP area we were fortunate enough to come across Black Star Rider's Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson finishing of an impromptu acoustic set with none other than Lizzy's 'Jailbreak' - awesome! The last time we saw bass guitarist Steve Harris at a festival was at a very wet and muddy Download last year with of course his day job Iron Maiden. Fast forward thirteen months later and it was again pissing down this time at RMF - although the same shoes I wore at Download were thankfully not as muddy this time. Respect therefore to the RM faithful who braved the elements for his side-project Hard Rock outfit British Lion. To be fair the band did all they could to take the assembled minds off of the weather with a (ahem) storming set including 'A World Without Heaven', 'The Chosen Ones', 'The Burning', 'This Is My God', 'Us Against The World' and 'Eyes Of The Young'. British Lion continue with their European tour this weekend - hopefully it will be under cover!
Fresh from his awesome performance opening the Planet Rock Main Stage earlier, we then returned wet and bedraggled to to media area where we had the pleasure of interviewing Jared James Nichols where Jared told us here about 'Old Glory', his 'pick-less' electric guitar playing technique, what can we expect from his new studio album 'Black Magic' due to be released this September plus how his teeth are so white! From one American to another - namely namesake AJ Vincent from Austin, Texas, heavy keys player in Heavy - Acid Rockers Scorpion Child, who were playing The Grooverider stage in just over two hours. Again watch out for that interview where we discussed not only their latest album 'Acid Roulette' but also his new solo album 'Electric Kind of Love'. London based Rock band Dirty Thrills also played the Grooverider Stage earlier in the day and we were fortunate enough to be asked in our final interview of the day to interview these really great guys on the hoof. A young, exciting and charismatic Hard Rock quartet who play Bluesy Rock ‘n’ Roll with an appealing filthy edge - listen to our interview here as the guys talk about their Planet Rock sponsored UK tour in November when they will support Black Star Riders plus their new album album ‘Heavy Living' which is due to be released on Friday 15th September.
It was still pissing down as we made our way to the bar waiting for Glenn Hughes to arrive on the Planet Rock Main Stage. A few year's ago I would have never have braved the elements getting soaked to see Hughes - but after his brilliant last album 'Resonate' this was a no-brainer as I ventured from the bar on my own to the centre right of the stage into the driving rain. Cue my favourite track from 'Resonate' - 'Flow' - with its stand out guitar/organ riff and an immediate opportunity for Glenn to open his tonsils - although a common theme throughout 'Resonate' is the unexpected direction that some tracks take - on this occasion the delicate mid-section harmony that built into an awesome combination of Soren Andersen's guitar solo complemented by the amazing 'purplesque' keys of Jay Boe. Despite the weather, Hughes' enthusiasm and emotion was already palpable as he reached back 35 years to his collaboration with Pat Travers Band guitarist Pat Thrall and 'Muscle And Blood' - the 64 year old proving that the body and that incredible voice are still willing despite some of his contemporaries falling by the wayside. Next was 'Resonate's' opening single 'Heavy' - an 'in yer face' intro blending the driving guitar of Anderson, the keyboards of Boe and Pontus Engborg's drums (Red Hot Chilli Peppers Chad Smith on the album) before Hughes let rip with his trademark vocals, followed by Deep Purple's 'You Keep On Moving' - Hughes' 'shiver down your spine' vocals, particularly his acapella outro, putting his own personal stamp on another Mk IV nugget. The funky but hard rockin' title track from his 2005 release 'Soul Mover' made way for Black Country Communion's masterpiece 'Black Country' which was delivered in such style by Hughes, Andersen and Engborg - that not only can't the new album come soon enough (with indeed Hughes announcing "Friday 22nd September" in his intro) but neither can BCC's early January 2018 UK tour as well! Brilliant. Naturally, it had to be Deep Purple's 'Burn' to wrap up proceedings on an afternoon where the sopping crowd had witnessed a Rock icon doing what he does best. Stand out of the day so far.
The rain continued as we headed for the first time towards the Grooverider Stage to support our mate AJ from Scorpion Child. One of our party again braved the elements departing the bar for the stage (not me this time), although annoyingly, Ramblin' Man had juxtapositioned the stage and the bar this year, meaning that you didn't have a great view from the bar - unlike we did last year when watching Procol Harum on a glorious Summer's evening. Anyway, we first saw Scorpion Child at Camden's Underworld just under two year's ago supporting their Nuclear Blast label mates Crobot. We enjoyed their brand of Heavy - Acid Rock so much so that we literally got the t-shirt - one of our number proudly wearing it today. Again the Texan flags were unfurled and the five-piece band from Austin unleashed another in your face performance with vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black continually rocking his microphone stand back and forth, with support from Christopher Jay Cowart (lead guitar), Jon "Charn" Rice (percussion), Alec Caballero Padron (bass guitar) and of course AJ Vincent on heavy keys. Before the gig they said they would destroy Great Britain with a sonic avalanche of dark Rock n' Roll and with most of the set taken from their latest album 'Acid Roulette' - they did a bloody good job of it - given the conditions. Come back soon guys.
Despite the expected deluge, Ramblin Man Fair had managed to keep its head above water, although the evening took another twist when we bumped into Big Boy Bloater And The Limits and Jack J. Hutchinson who were both due to perform on the Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage on Sunday. BBB's better half Lisa kindly invited us into their caravan to shelter from the rain - a welcome pitstop - which set us up nicely for our final gig of the evening and a first visit to the aforementioned Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage. Indeed, in the end, this turned out to be the stand out performance of the day - which had nothing to do with being undercover in a tent! Was it really over five years ago since we last saw Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Islington Assembly Halls, appropriately on the 4th July? To be perfectly honest I can't really recall why we missed him at the the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London in April 2015, but if you go back further to November 2011, that was the very first time we saw KWS at London's Koko, and I can still distinctly recall coming away thinking how good this guy was.
So after that big build up, would KWS live up to the billing? Well I think we have already answered that question as the man himself treated us to a full headline set which truly demonstrated the edge that KWS has in his guitar playing - something that stands him apart from many of his peers. Indeed it's difficult to single out particular tracks as favourites as the whole set was totally awesome - suffice to say that we never wanted it to end. Right from the moment he exploded on to the stage with 'Never Lookin' Back', through his classic back catalogue such as 'Deja Voodoo' and 'Born With A Broken Heart' from 'Ledbetter Heights', and onto the new with 'Heat Of The Sun' and 'Diamonds & Gold' from his critically acclaimed new album 'Lay It Own Down', plus covers of classic Blues standards of BB King's 'Baby You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now', Elmore James' 'Talk Me To Baby' and Slim Harpo's 'I'm A King Bee'. But why oh why do some people persist on talking during a gig? Tempers were very fraught where we were standing, as our campaign #shutthefuckup continued to carry momentum as did the unidentified moron who continually farted during the set - #wtf? Back to the music and a deserved acknowledgement re: the contribution of Kenny's band. Ace skin man Chris Layton can always shove his CV in front of your face with one name on it - Stevie Ray Vaughan - enough said, whilst similarly the pedigree of Joe Krown on keys and Kevin McCormick on bass is second to none. However, if we are talking about the ultimate definition of cool then look no further than Noah Hunt whose amazing vocals and Paul Rodgers like stage presence are the perfect complement to Shepherd’s guitar playing. Hunt joined the band in 1998 and it is clear that he and Kenny have become very good friends and there is a tremendous chemistry between them. To be fair, Shepherd did also chip in with some great vocals, but they concluded the set with an amazing version of Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - no pretentious encore, although some might suggest the latter was self-indulgent, but if you can play like Kenny then why not indulge? And talking of hashtags - the post-gig tweet #genius #blues summed this set up perfectly! And so we left the Four Roses Bourbon Outlaw Country Stage with screams of approval ringing in our ears. With Extreme playing the Planet Rock Main Stage in the distance, we decided to call it a day, heading towards the exit. Despite the weather, a glorious day full of great music courtesy of Ramblin' Man Fair. Another day to remember. Roll on tomorrow!
Ramblin' Man Fair, Maidstone
Sunday 30th July 2017
Despite the previous day's torrential rain plus Sunday's threatening dark clouds, I decided to brave Ramblin' Man Fair without a jacket on Day Three - resplendent in my brand new 2017 WRC 'On Tour' t-shirt. As we walked through beautiful Mote Park, the weather was a bit touch and go but after visiting the bar and waiting for KilliT to appear on The Rising Stage, we took in a bit of Stone Broken from afar on The Planet Rock Main Stage. We caught Stone Broken supporting Glenn Hughes at The Islington Assembly Hall in January, and suffice to say our original assessment of these Black Country Hard Rockers was unchanged - still very much contender's for 'Best Support' or 'One's To Watch' in our 2017 WRC Awards! With Rich Moss on vocals/guitar, Chris Davis on guitar/vocals, Kieron Conroy on bass and Robyn Haycock on drums/vocals - their short set was taken from their first album 'All In Time'. Described as a big chunky Rock sound with huge choruses, their opening number, and their very first single, 'Stay All Night' - was Monster Truck meets Blacktop Mojo - with some great guitar work from Davis and Moss. It literally got 'Better' - another track from 'AIT' - consolidating their huge arena Rock sound before the slower intro to 'Be There' led into an inevitable huge riff - the impressive vocals of Moss and guitar work from Davis very reminiscent of Nickelback when they rock. The similar formula of 'Wait For You' and 'Doesn't Matter', was followed by the closing headbanger and second single off of 'AIT' 'Not Your Enemy' although, to be honest, our attention then switched to KilliT - particularly as we were interviewing the guys later.
They were first up on The Rising Stage - albeit later than scheduled - and with the sun now shining - these guys duly put together one of the most high energy sets of the whole weekend. Believe it or not when we originally googled KilliT their music genre was down as Hip-hop/-rap! Nothing could be further from the truth as this bad-ass five-piece multi-national Metal Rock band opened with a stormer from their, as yet, unreleased second album - before they pulverised their six song twenty minute set with five tracks from their debut album 'Shut It Down' including the title track with frontman (Northerner and Blaze Bayley protege) Gaz Twist demanding "Let's fuc*ing have it" plus the stand-out for mine 'Crash And Burn' giving Israeli lead guitarist Niro Knox licence to swagger around the stage Slash style generously throwing his lighted cigarette into the crowd on a great track, appropriately very reminiscent of Velvet Revolver's 'Slither'. With Hungarian Pete Jean on drums, another Google curveball was the unexpected personnel change of Claire from Switzerland now on rhythm guitar and Brit Benny (the pirate) on bass - but it didn't really matter as KilliT sustained an in yer face set with practically no let up - another superb Rising Stage performance that would no doubt add to their growing army of fans. If you like AC/DC, Alice In Chains, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters etc. then get down to Camden's Dublin Castle on Sunday 24th September - you won't be disappointed.
As the sun unbelievably continued to shine, we then headed back towards The Planet Rock Main Stage. Our original itinerary said Danny Worsnop although, we were not sure why, but in the end it turned out to be Snakecharmer who we coincidentally had also caught recently at The Islington O2 Academy. The band were originally founded in 2011 by former Whitesnake member’s guitarist Micky Moody and bass guitarist Neil Murray along with guitarist Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), drummer Harry James (Thunder, Magnum), keyboardist Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and vocalist Chris Ousey (Heartland). In 2016, Moody left the band and was replaced by Irish born Simon McBride on lead guitar. Their recently released second album 'Second Skin' is slightly harder edged compared to their debut, but with roots still firmly planted in Bad Company early Whitesnake and a hint of late 70's AOR and their set was once again strong, passionate, rocking and Blues-laden. ‘Follow Me Under’ had a great riff and was an immediate opportunity for the powerful Ousey to flex his vocal chords, whilst the classic 70’s Classic Rock of ‘Are You Ready To Fly’ similarly demonstrated the strong rhythm section of Neil Murray and Harry James, with trademark Hammond organ for that era from Adam Wakeman It was then time for more melodic Blues with the ‘Second Skin’ ballad ‘I'll Take You As You Are’ – with it’s acoustic opening building into a Blues based hard rocker, helped by the subtlety of Wakeman’s Hammond infusion, however, given our 'On Tour' t-shirts we decided to spread our wings before the end of their set to take in and inhale both the Prog In The Park and the Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage's before our two final band interviews of the weekend. We briefly caught I Am The Morning - think Jethro Tull meets Jacqui McShee's Pentangle - on the Prog Stage, whilst inside the Blues tent we bumped into our mates Bob and Jules from the WRC award winning Rock On The Ridge radio show - with Jules eagerly awaiting Blindstone and in particular their guitarist/vocalist Martin Andersen. We have it on good authority that they didn't disappoint but unfortunately we had to dash of to the media tent.
Our first interview with Northern Ireland's answer to The Black Crowes - Blackwater Conspiracy - sadly didn't materialise. The guys did play The Rising Stage later, and according to our spy in the crowd, they were great, fully vindicating the fact that their latest album 'Smooth The Breeze' had debuted at number five in two separate UK charts. Not only that, but our spy also bought the CD as well! Enough said! Despite other possible interviews with Skam, Magnum and Martin Turner also not coming to fruition - they say that every cloud has a silver lining, so, off the cuff, we were invited to have a quick chat with teenage guitar sensation Aaron Keylock before he was due to grace the Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage later. The last time we interviewed Aaron was last December, so in our catch up interview here we discussed the recent release of his critically acclaimed debut album 'Cut Against The Grain', further album and festival plans plus which particular Ramblin' Man Fair artist he was looking forward to seeing later that afternoon. One pre-planned interview that did go ahead was when we managed to catch more than a few words from the guys/gal from Rock/Metal band KilliT after their awesome opening set earlier on The Rising Stage. In probably one of our best interviews ever, if not the most mental, we learnt how this multi-national band got together, their plans for a new album/gigs and how they battled to get their voices heard over the RM PA system in the background! The trade-off for being in the media tent meant that we missed Blues Pills on The Planet Rock Main Stage, our only consolation being that one of our WRC correspondent's Steven C. Gilbert caught their set, and in his separate review below, he described unsurprisingly that they well and truly "delivered the goods".
Anyway, a slam dunk on our Ramblin' Man scorecard was Big Boy Bloater & The LiMiTs who were appearing on the Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage at 3pm. We caught BBB&TL's at Camden Rocks in June - the stand-out performance of the festival for mine - and once again this literal larger than life performer didn't disappoint again. OK the set list was pretty much the same as CR's and I'm still coming to terms with them playing as a three-piece with no keyboards, but their Roots and R&B rocked as usual which began with the brilliantly entitled 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - from last year's album ‘Luxury Hobo’ - with its 70's Rock n' Roll style, big guitar and lyrics, followed by the musical barnstormer, 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', with its brilliant baseline, mean guitar and imaginative lyrics, which Bloater delivered perfectly in a very George Thorogood-esque manner. 'Robot Girlfriend’ further reinforced Bloater's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with a mean Blues guitar solo before BBB&TL’s then went back to their self-titled debut album with ‘Every Path Has It’s Puddle’ which originally featured Imelda May - with its ‘feverish’ drum intro and its “kiss and a cuddle” reinforcing the vocal and guitar quality of Bloater’s earlier stuff. BBB's introduction that "There's nothing worse than when you love someone ... and then they take out a restraining order on you!" ... set the scene behind the groovy ‘I Can’t Forget About You’ before the Rock ‘n Rolling ‘Double Whammy’, taken from their second album ‘The World Explained’. These were followed by ‘Messin With The Booze’, taken us back to Bloater and The City Shakers - Bloater’s guitar a mighty nod to Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Classic! BBB<’s then delved back to their first album with the fast moving instrumental 'Rocket Surgery’, with both a deserved bass/drum solo, and then another fast mover ‘Leonard Cohen’ from ‘The World Explained’. Bloater’s distorted guitar intro saw the set close with the foot-tapping 'LH' opener 'Devils Not Angels' and its killer Rock n' Roll guitar and Bloater’s distinctive gruff but great vocals. What a great song to round off another brilliant set - so much so that we hastily arranged to see them again in Greenwich the following weekend!
As we filed out of the Blues Tent - the biggest dilemma of the weekend was about to be addressed. Monster Truck on The The Planet Rock Main Stage or Focus on the Prog In The Park Stage? There's only one way to find out - fight! Given Monster Truck had won our WRC 'Best Support' band award in 2016 and that WRC favourites Focus are so iconic - this was a difficult one to choose - so we wimped out by sitting down and had a bite to eat as we initially listened to Monster Truck from afar opening with 'Why Are You Not Rocking?' - with bare-chested lead guitarist Jer Widerman on the big screen duly dispatching this riff ridden nugget from 'Sittin' Heavy' before 'Old Train' from their debut album 'Furiosity' kept Monster Truck moving along nicely with its "woah woah woa" chorus. However, the standout from 'SH' - and if not one of the best tracks from last year - 'Don't Tell Me How To Live' really made me regret that I was not down the front with mandatory air guitar - with its growling vocal from bass guitarist Jon Harvey and a Heavy Rock riff to die for, the swagger of Widerman's mid-section guitar solo is so reminiscent of Perry in 'Walk This Way' and I just never get tired of listening to or watching the video to this Rock monster. 'The Enforcer' from 'SH' was the very first Monster Truck tune I ever heard - no "free beers" tonight unfortunately - but its distinctive pounding opening drumbeat from Steve Kiely got our hands clapping in the air with even more "woah woah woa's" as we took off once again for a bit of a classic Prog. By definition, a fifty minute set of Prog means five or six songs at most! So imagine my delight as we sat down in the afternoon sun towards the back of a packed Prog In The Park Stage as Menno Gootjes launched into, in my opinion, one of the great guitar solos of all time on 'Eruption' from 'Focus II/Moving Waves' - absolutely bliss. A bit like Trigger's broom, the part's have changed over the year's but the original heartbeat of Thijs van Leer on organ/flute and Pierre van der Linden on drums is still alive and kicking as evidenced on their classics 'Sylvia' and 'Hocus Pocus' but now with Udo Pannekeet on bass guitar replacing Van Leer's stepson Bobby Jacobs. Make sure you see the real deal in its entirety at London's 100 Club on Wednesday 18th October.
If we were being perfectly honest, the reason we headed back towards the Planet Rock Main Stage for Supersonic Blues Machine - was really to see guitar whirlwind Eric Gales, who we not only had the pleasure of seeing, but also interviewing him on his UK tour in June at Nell’s Jazz & Blues in Kensington, London. Supersonic Blues Machine was formed by bass guitarist Fabrizio Grossi, guitarist Lance Lopez and drummer Kenny Aronoff, and they released their acclaimed debut album 'West of Flushing, South of Frisco' in February last year. However, the guest collaboration on the CD was a real Blues "who's who" including Billy Gibbons, Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Eric Gales, Walter Trout and Robben Ford. Cue the understandable level of anticipation when the stylishly dressed trio walked on stage with their equally stylish backing singers, knowing that both Gales and Gibbons were "in the building". To be fair Grossi, Lopez and Aronoff pumped out some real quality power trio Blues early in their set - although the crowd's expectation that Gales and/or Gibbons would join them, in a strange way, impacted our appreciation of their undoubted quality. Sure enough, Gales, as he told us he would in June, immediately upped the ante when he joined them on stage - albeit a bit churlish to say it, but in my humble opinion, if you ever wanted to see the nearest you could get to Hendrix - then this guy is it. Although, now, we were being teased, as we looked towards the right hand side of the stage with a vacant mic stand available for Billy! Suffice to say Gibbons never made it, but this all the same was definitely supersonic Blues in the making, although don't keep us guessing next time please guys!
Another clash resulted in a split in our ranks. I wanted to see The Quireboys on the Four Roses Bourbon Blues Stage but the pull of Aussie Rockers and current WRC favourites Massive on The Rising Stage was just too great for me. As it turned out, from all reports The Quireboys set excellently covered a number of Blues classics - but at the end of the day I made the right choice as one of the best sets of the weekend was unleashed - think junior Aussie Spinal Tap! Anyway, we managed to get up close and personal at the front of the stage. Typical Aussies - these guys are on a perpetual world tour following the release of their critically acclaimed 'Destination Somewhere' album last year - with even Kerrang saying that they were following in the footsteps of Guns 'N Roses. With the recent return of former band members the Laguda brothers, namely lead guitarist Ben and Aaron on bass, the four piece was completed by Jarrod Edwin (drums) and the diminutive but larger than life Brad Marr on vocals. To be fair, things didn't get off to a great start with 'Hollywood' - all about a typical riotous night the guys spent in La La land on tour - as you couldn't hear Brad's vocal. Shame. Suffice to say that once the sounds problems were sorted out Massive cranked up the tempo as they weaved around the small stage wringing every possible sinew out of their performance with their full frontal Aussie Rock including 'One By One', fans favourite ' Blood Money Blues' (check out the video), 'Dancefloor', 'Burn The Sun', Ghost', new single 'Calm Before The Storm' from their forthcoming album and finished with 'Now Or Never'. However, despite the fact that the rain had relented since yesterday, but thanks to copious cans of lager being opened up on stage during their set, with Ben chucking cans at his brother and Brad pouring a full can over his head whilst playing guitar (seriously) - cue Marr's wardrobe malfunction as he slipped and split his crotch - you couldn't make it up! Entertainment wise, these guys are the full package and long may it continue!
Clutching one of Edwin's drumsticks which I managed to catch at the end of Massive's set, the benevolent side of our WRC ranks came to the fore as my drumstick was given away to a little lad who had just witnessed their awesome set. Might be worth a few bob in a few year's time. Anyway, what the hell - it was time to get in a good position for Planet Rock Main Stage headliners ZZ Top! We were actually positioned about five from the front to the right of the stage and despite the constant jab of someone's backpack in my side (we'll touch upon festival etiquette again later) - it was an excellent view. I'd seen ZZ Top twice before, the first time at High Voltage seven year's ago and more recently at Wembley Arena in 2015 when Jeff Beck guested on stage on his 71st birthday. Needless to say both shows were awesome and indeed ZZ Top walked away with our WRC 'Best International' performance two years ago.The eager anticipation of a night to remember was already palpable amongst The Ramblin' Man faithful and if ZZ Top are not the consummate of cool personified - then we would like to know who is as we witnessed a blistering set from the Houston Rockers.
ZZ Top were one of the first proponents of the video promo age, however unlike the stage set up at Wembley there were no giant screens either side of the miserable looking Frank Beard's (the one without the beard) huge drum kit in the middle, but there were the huge screens either side of the stage. However, these guys proved on the night that they do not need any props other than their beards and their cheap sunglasses! To be fair their choreography is so subtle but cool and complements their unique Rock delivery. ‘Got Me Under Pressure’, Waitin’ For The Bus’ and ‘Jesus Left Chicago’ got everyone into the groove before their first big hitter of the evening - ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ - was delivered sadly without that shiny car and pretty girls in the background. Back to the choreography and Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill played matching instruments for most of the set – a battered red guitar and bass plus also, if I’m not mistaken, those guitars from Back To The Future – the only disappointment of the night being that they didn’t rotate! ‘Pincushion’, ‘I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide’ and the more recent and underrated ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’ followed before their traditional deserved homage to Hendrix himself and 'Foxy Lady'. 'Recycler's' 'My Head's In Mississippi' was followed by three cover's namely Robert Petway’s 'Catfish Blues', Merle Travis' 'Sixteen Tons' and a new one for me - Buck Owens And is Buckaroos 'Act Naturally'. This was deliciously backed up by ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ and ‘Chartreuse’ - building up to the final big hitters, 'Just Got Paid' (Joe Bonamassa's staple cover), ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ and ‘Legs’. No 'Rough Boy' and no Jeff Beck joining them this time on their first encore ‘La Grange and ‘Tush’ but hey you can't have everything! Although encore number two of Elvis' 'Jailhouse Rock' somehow ended abruptly with no "good night" from the bearded wonders, possibly because of the fight that erupted between two neathandtertal's behind us. How on earth can you end up fighting at a ZZ Top gig? Anyway, the set list was virtually the same as two years ago and in a way it is more of a performance or a show than a gig, which perhaps to an extent impacts their vocal rapport with the crowd - but hey, at the end of the day, it doesn’t get much better than this! So that was it. Ramblin' Man Fair over for another year as we made our way home out of Mote Park with post-festival depression due to kick in the following morning. Yet another great weekend of live music - and as one famous American once put it - "I'll be back!"
Friday 25th August 2017
A warm Bank Holiday Friday in Islington sees the streets and bars crowded with revellers starting a long weekend of fine weather and partying. Across town, final preparations are being completed for the annual Notting Hill Carnival. Running between the bustling Angel and New Cross areas is the relatively suburban Pentonville Road. And nestled amongst the houses and offices is Surya, an unassuming wine bar looking to attract passing customers. At first I thought I had got the address wrong but hidden below stairs of this otherwise unremarkable bar is a small but perfectly formed den of iniquity. Doubling as a club music venue from 11pm until the early hours of the morning, it is also home to a showcase, live music stage of up and coming talent of assorted genres. Barely large enough to hold 100 people, the stage is right on top of you, and the bands are freely accessed as they transition from backstage to the arena of sound. And talking of sound, the sound is excellent – a small nod of approval is hereby given to sound man Simba who manages to produce fine work for 4 different bands in the confines of a small venue – no mean feat. Take a bow sir.
Although my mission, which I had chosen to accept before the instructions spontaneously combusted in true MI style, was to review Go Primitive, I did also enjoy the short performance of Scout Killers, a 5 piece Alt-Rock band from Bristol/Bath. Lead vocalist Scott Cox is the only member without a beard, tattoos and a jaunty haircut. Julien Morrez (guitarist and backing vocalist), Beau Stevens (guitarist), Josh Ellis (bassist), and Chris Phillips (drummer) all do. Nice to see Morrez sporting a t-shirt from headlining band Seasons. Always great to see bands supporting each other. The band were very animated and clearly enjoyed themselves. Sound wise, there was overtones of Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers which is no bad thing. I would have liked to see more of them. And I shall endeavour to do so.
Which brings me to the primary target of my mission – Go Primitive. And to uncover exactly what Alt-Rock means.
Go Primitive are a four piece Alt-Rock band from Warwickshire UK. Consisting of Tomm E. Williams (guitar/vocals), Adam White (guitar), Dan Teale (drums) and Andy Dove (bass) – they have been rapidly gaining recognition for their attitude-fuelled, modern rock style with a slot at this year’s Glastonbury underlining their success. They have been getting some radio and TV airplay too. Citing such diverse influences as Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl, The Offspring, Blink 182, Don Broco, Biffy Clyro, Yellowcard, You Me At Six, A Day To Remember and Of Mice & Men, you can see that they are aficionados of classic and modern Rock and Metal and their sound reflects that. Williams is not averse to a bit of EVH tapping and shredding but they are not a shred band. There’s a cutting edge to their sound, Metal but with a musical rhythm too and Williams voice stays clear, avoiding the guttural screams of so many current purveyors of modern Rock.
Williams plays a beautiful red Yamaha Pacifica (guitar geek alert…) with a humbucker/P90 pick up combo (and again…) through a 5150 head (geek overload…) giving us that EVH American Rock sound whilst White sports a Gibson Midtown – through an Orange Rockverb head (geek saturation…) giving a classic British Rock slant. Together they make a blend of old new British American sound of wonderfulness. With Dove strumming like a good un’ on the bass and Teale battering for all he is worth, I wasn’t sure how long they would last. Long enough it turns out.
I had expected to hear the small back catalogue of hits from their '100 Ways' EP but instead we were treated to a short 6 song set from their new first Album, 'Choices', which is due for release in early 2018. Produced by Romesh Dodangoda (Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine, Funeral For A Friend, Mötörhead) this is some seriously good Rock. Had they been headlining the night, I expect that we would have heard a lot more but what we got was excellent.
Ironic it probably wasn’t that they started their short set with 'Hold Tight' – probably a requirement from the Health and Safety department to put us on notice of what to expect. Elements of all of their influences shone through their set. Williams reverence for Mr. Grohl showed in his ability to front a powerful band yet remain the focus. Anyone not joining in the overall fun and frolics (there were the odd one or two) were roundly accused of being Bieber fans – how cutting can you get? But all in good fun though. His interaction with the crowd was both friendly and enthusiastic, joining the crowd off stage in a headbanging frenzy as he thrashed his way through the rifftastic final song, 'I Want More'. Prophetic indeed. I did. If you like any of the above mentioned bands, give this lot a listen on YouTube, or any other of your preferred media choice. You are bound to hear something you like.
So apparently, Alt-Rock is any underground based Rock that isn’t Mainstream Rock. My next mission, should I choose to accept it, is to work out what the difference is. Buggered if I know – they all sound good to me. Ethan Hunt, move over, I’m on the case.
1. Hold Tight
3. When I drive
4. Dirty little lies
6. I Want More