In a world of unrelenting hype and instant downloads there’s something reassuring about seeing Big Boy Bloater at the 100 Club.
Perhaps it’s the perfect match of an unpretentious artist holding court at a venue that has outlived just about every fad that the music industry has thrown at it.
Either way, Bloater’s Sunday night session is a good barometer of his progress as a newly born rock-blueser. He focuses on his current ‘Luxury Hobo’ CD, full of booming songs, humorous narratives, tight arrangements and catchy hooks that effortlessly translate into a crowd pleasing set.
Dressed in black and topped by a pork pie hat, Bloater hits the stage with an exclamatory ‘Eh!’ For a big guy, he’s surprisingly understated, restricting himself to the occasional raised arm gesture or simply rolling his eyes, as he confidently sets about his new material with a coarse rasp and some steely licks to explore the exuberant good-time rocking with which he’s made his name.
If the title of his 2012 album ‘The World Explained’ suggested he has his own take on the world, the new material updates the music, if not the content, which is still shot through with trademark B-movie imagery and ironic humour.
He’s backed by his band The Limits, who feature the superb rhythm section of drummer Matt Cowley and bass player Steven Oates. Cowley is a feel player, who subtly shapes the songs with a lightness of touch, while Oates’s lilting bass lines lock the band into a mix of uplifting stomps, pulsating grooves and exhilarating rock & roll.
Birthday boy keyboard player Dan Edwards provides jagged motifs and faux B3 sweeps. He even gets an unexpected showcase on an impromptu rock/blues shuffle as Bloater dexterously changes a broken string while voicing the song.
The opening ‘I Love You (But I Can’t Stand Your Friends)’ is an exemplar of Bloater’s new material, and rocks hard enough to satisfy his long time rock and roll fans at the front.
He smothers the funky ‘Robot Girlfriend’ with a caustic growl as his rhythm section cooks up another infectious groove, while the thematic ‘Luxury Hobo Blues’ has a New Orleans flavour that provides an unexpected rootsy counterpoint to his natural rock & roll energy.
It’s a style he returns to again on ‘All Things Considered’, which is a melange of pop and soul that showcases his weathered, but expressive vocals.
There’s plenty of light and shade too, as he leans into the funky slide-led ‘The Devil’s Tail’ and he’s in his element on a rip-roaring whammy bar twang instrumental on which he projects himself to another level of intensity.
Tonight Big Boy Bloater blows away any remaining neuroses associated with his ’Luxury Hobo’ concept. He’s a unique talent with enough of the good stuff to cross over from his retro niche market into the burgeoning rock-blues world.
Earlier on in the evening, Big Boy Bloater’s special guest Robert Ray makes the best of the graveyard shift with some well crafted songs, nifty acoustic guitar work and a rich timbre. He impresses us with self penned numbers like ‘Love Curse’, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ and an unlikely Yardbirds cover. Clearly a singer songwriter with a bright future.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Mark Hughes at MHP Studios
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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