If there was something incongruous about finding Big Boy Bloater & The Limits and in a dark biker pub in Camden, it’s nothing that bothers Bloater and his powerhouse trio, who revel in a typically boisterous show built from the ground up.
On a night with some of the windiest weather of the year, Big Boy Bloater’s show acts like an anchor in unsettled times.
His engaging personality draws the crowd into a series of unlikely stories and quirky characters. Everything is brought to life by a gruff voice, some ripping guitar work and a peerless rhythm section that contributes fully to a set of highlights from the ‘Pills’ and ‘Luxury Hobo’ albums, played at maximum volume.
And when I say maximum volume, I mean the bass is up to 11 and the ice in the drinks rattles at the back of the room as the sound teeters on the brink of becoming a mush.
No matter, Bloater ploughs on, raises his glass and offers the first of several cheers and dives headlong into the title track of his new ‘Pills’ album.
He emerges stage left, tucked behind a speaker stack, in a tropical shirt and pork pie hat (natch), before finally taking a sizeable step towards the middle of the stage and firing off an opening volley of catchy licks.
He leads his trio with a piecing guitar tone and a guttural growl that soars above a high volume rumbling bass.
‘Slacker’s Paradise’ follows – all throbbing bass and a hoarse vocal – on a poppy outing that is given extra heft by a sudden uplifting solo of power and precision.
It’s time for another round of cheers and we’re into the funky, bass driven ‘The Digital Number Of The Beast’. He suddenly fires off a solo of real intensity and purpose and follows that by evoking the eerie paranoia of ‘I Got The Feeling Someone’s Watching Me’ from ‘Luxury Hobo’.
Bloater’s songs tread a thin line between eclectic subject matter and catchy tunes. His narratives are left field, especially so on the psychotic character in ‘Unnaturally Charming’, which is a heavy duty riff-driven piece well suited to tonight’s gothic venue.
But Bloater is a real trouper who builds up a sense of momentum that locks his audience in and never lets go.
He thanks the loyal gathering and extends the intro of ‘Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking’ to include the rest of us. It’s a pivotal moment, as he draws us into a set full of colourful narratives and wry observations not too far removed from the late Ian Dury.
Together with plenty of musical variation and several resolving hooks, his songs stay long in the mind after the show has finished.
‘Oops Sorry’ is one of his more annoyingly beguiling pop outings, which he counterbalances with ‘The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle’.
Powered by a fabulous bass line as part of a booming shuffle, the latter finds Bloater at his best, firing off some sinuous guitar over a cooking rhythm section, as he belts out his poignant lines: ”It all ends up in a bit of a scuffle on the Saturday night desperation shuffle.”
For a moment we’re transported back in time to the 70′s and Graham Parker, but for all the snappy riffs and catchy hooks, it’s the in-between song banter that makes him different.
He’s an old school artist with the need to explain what his songs are about and having done so, he draws us in with a great use of dynamics and a killer rhythm section that probably never sounded so loud.
The crowd sticks with him as he slips into a ska number, the title of which is rendered inaudible by the booming PA. He’s rewarded with a great reception for the stop-time rocker ‘Devils Not Angels’ and he dips into his back catalogue for the hot rocking ‘Leonard Cohen’.
He came, he saw and he conquered with a great song catalogue and a kick ass power trio that makes him a contender as a British institution, no pills required!
Earlier, special guest Jack J. Hutchinson impresses with some neat acoustic work, a gravely voice and a handful of good song including the catchy rhythm of ‘I Got Your Number’, the anthemic ‘Deal With The Devil’, and the punchy hook of Rapture’.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Bruce Ackroyd
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