Buck and Evans define the term ‘critically acclaimed’ in that anyone who has come into contact with their music has universally praised them. However, a good four years since I last saw them (at Highbury Garage) progress has been slow. For reasons often outside their control, a first full length album has yet to appear and since a couple of high-profile festivals, their touring activity has also been low key.
2019 is stepping up to be their most important year yet with the release of the album ‘Write a Better Day’ and their most extensive tour yet including this London show at the prestige 100 Club, where young Shropshire-based blues rockers The Rainbreakers opened the show in very impressive style.
For the uninitiated, Buck and Evans are actually a quartet with hotshot guitarist Chris and singer Sally Ann respectively joined by laid back bassist Dominic Hill and experienced drummer Bob Richards, whose status is such he even has recorded with AC/DC in the studio.
The thing that I hadn’t remembered from my dimly remembered 2015 gig was quite how much of a stand-up comedian Chris was. His self-deprecating remarks about writing the songs and their travails as a band, plus teasing his older bandmates in the manner of a bright but cheeky student (though they gave as good as they got), had people in stitches. Given his passing facial and follicular resemblance to comedian Ross Noble I wondered if the two had momentarily traded places. Their whole presentation was endearingly casual and low-fi, but the grave mistake would be to let this overshadow some quite magical music.
With a slight ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ groove, ‘Slow Train’, was a bold song to kick off with, given that a well-known radio station has made this their most familiar song to date. However the momentum was maintained with ‘Going Home’ and ‘Common Ground ‘with its catchy ‘Never Give it Up’ chorus. ‘Impossible’ began in an almost jazzy fashion but featured the first, but not last, of Chris’ spectacular solos.
Sally Ann, with her bluesy voice and generally seated playing an electric piano, reminded me of a more powerful Christine McVie, even if her raven fringe conjured images of another 1970’s showbiz icon in Liver Birds-era Nerys Hughes.
The set mixed some classy slower songs such as the ballad ‘Fix You’ (half a mark deducted for stealing a C***play title), ‘Trail Of Tears’ with a piano coda from Sally Ann, and ‘Change’ with rockier numbers including ‘Back To Yesterday’ where Chris joked a chorus of ‘who-oahs’ had been written for places like Download where they made an unlikely appearance a few years back.
However it was some longer numbers that began to predominate in the latter half of the set. Both the Otis Redding cover ‘Dreams To Remember’ and ‘Sinking’ followed a similar format, with a sparse, slow backing to showcase Sally Ann’s wonderfully emotive soul voice before Chris built up to an epic solo, combining great technical ability with a tasteful tone second to almost none. In contrast ‘Sunrise’ was an altogether rockier workout, bolstered by some thunderous drumming from Bob.
A single encore in ‘Ain’t No Moonlight’, with a southern groove to it, albeit broken up by typically humorous band introductions, took the set to an hour and 45 minutes. While the level of chat contributed, the set length itself was an indicator that they are already a band of musical substance.
Without doubt Buck and Evans are a marvellous combination of rocking guitar virtuosity allied to soulful singing and warm-hearted songs that stands comparison with Hart/Bonamassa. After this highly impressive show the questions on people’s lips were do they know how good they are, and do they have the drive and the breaks to take their undoubted musical talent right to the top?
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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