The support slot on this tour has featured a few different acts and the London show provided an opportunity for blues trio the Matt Edwards Band. We arrived mid-set and the delta-blues drawl of Matt’s vocals and gritty guitar playing was already going down well with a decent-sized Monday night crowd. The final number ‘Two Faces’ was particularly effective, powered on a pleasingly dirty riff and finished the set on a high note.
This has been some year for the Kris Barras Band. A new album plugged heartily by Planet Rock radio (other radio stations are available…); the biggest crowd of the day on the Ramblin’ Man Fair’s blues stage in the Summer; and a support berth on the upcoming Joanne Shaw Taylor tour.
The band looked keen as mustard as the gig began, though the sound for opener ‘Heart on Your Sleeve’ was muddy where we were stood. I love the 100 Club, but those iconic pillars create more eddies and swirls than the Thames in spate. We moved stage right and found a decent sound pocket in front of Elliot Blackler on bass.
Barras was already working hard and was rewarded with some decent audience participation by second track, the furious ‘Kick Me Down’. That tune introduced a trio from latest album, ‘The Divine and the Dirty’, of which ‘Stitch Me Up’ stood out with some guitar licks even sharper than Elliot Blackler’s haircut.
The album showcases the range of Barras’s influences and ‘Blood On Your Hands’ was all about old school blues and the infectious snap of Will Beavis’s drums.
The band gave plenty of thought to the pace and tempo of the set and found the right moment to introduce a new composition, ‘What a Way To Go’. Contrasting with much that we had heard so far, this powered along on a chunky riff giving off proper classic hard rock overtones.
‘Fortunate Son’ delved deeper in to blues territory. The Creedence Clearwater Revival cover is a staple of the set and here provided a great opportunity for Josiah J Manning to shine with lush organ runs and beautiful slow-burn exchanges with the bass. Between them they smashed the instrumental passages and earned a great reaction from the punters. A highlight of the set.
Again showing maturity in pitching his material to the audience, Barras followed up with a double hit of some of his best work. ‘Propane’, fuelled by more gorgeous organ sweeps on the rousing chorus, led in to a great version of ‘Hail Mary’. The track kept the atmosphere building, especially on the gospel-infused call and response chorus. The slide work was a joy.
The bluegrass/country lilt of ‘Small Town Blues’ gave way to a Will Beavis drum solo linking neatly into ‘Nothing To Hide’. The traditional feel of ‘I Don’t Want the Blues’ brought some confident soloing and lovely electric piano.
The top crowd-pleasing moment of the night simply had to be the few chunky bars of AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Roise’ that Barras bashed out at the end of ‘She’s More Than Enough’, with the crowd in full voice and with grins on their chops. Inspired.
And then the mood-changer again. ‘Watching Over Me’, written for Barras’s Father, but tonight dedicated to a band mate who had passed away, featured some of the most emotional, wrung-out slow lead breaks of the night.
‘Lovers or losers’ closed out the main set with a flavour of Bon Jovi swagger circa ‘Wanted, Dead or Alive’. Yes really.
Encore, ‘Rock n Roll Running Through My Veins’ was another powerhouse workout, Barras prowling the stage before wheeling out his guitar-behind-the-head and plucking-strings-with-teeth moves. No-one minded the show-boating because Barras had warmed up a drab Monday night with some electric, energetic and compelling blues rock. Onwards and upwards for this band.
Review by Dave Atkinson
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Power Plays w/c 18 February 2019
SKYFEVER Kings (indie)
THE NILE DELTAS Don’t Play With Me (indie)
MIKE HYDER Don’t Look Behind You (indie)
HIGH TREASON Silver Bullets (3MS Music)
THE EXPERIMENTAL The Energy (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 18 February (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 TOBY HITCHCOCK Reckoning (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 REVOLUTION HIGHWAY (Grooveyard Records)
14:00-16:00 DANNI NICHOLLS The Melted Morning (Danni Nicholls Music)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
DRIVING MRS SATAN Popscotch (2013)
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