Essex-based Connor Selby is a name to watch in the blues world: he was awarded young artist of the year two years running in the UK blues awards, and even came to the attention of the Who’s management and opened up their Wembley Stadium show in 2019.
Twickenham’s long-running Eel Pie Club pays homage to blues musicians of an earlier vintage but from time to time shakes up its fairly stable calendar of acts to showcase new talent and this was his debut here. As a local resident, I had no excuse not to check out what the fuss was about.
Compared to his publicity pictures, he now has shorter floppier hair which, allied to the thick glasses he was sporting on this occasion, reminded me of a young Robert Peston! More significantly though, from an early stage his lyrical guitar tone was attracting admiring comments from some of the veteran musicians who can be seen in the crowd at the club when not playing themselves.
He surrounded himself with a band of seasoned players –indeed keyboard player Steve Watts is someone I have seen countless times with other blues acts, most recently Sari Schorr and the same is true of drummer Martin ‘magic’ Johnson. The presence of a full time second guitar player in Joe Anderton also gives him greater creative freedom to express himself on top of a solid base.
He is something of a diffident performer, crouched rather studiously over his guitar and appearing quite shy in his between song intros, but then again this has never held back Joe Bonamassa. He handles lead vocals himself and while not the most naturally gifted of vocalists- a trait shared by many of the guitar greats- his delivery still manages to give the songs a world weariness beyond his years.
What was most impressive was that rather than tread a well-worn but repetitive blues rock line, he is comfortable across a number of different styles across the broad church of the blues. These ranged from the funky grooves of ‘Falling In Love Again’, the most impressive of his early numbers, to the slow blues of ‘Tired Of Wasting my Time’ and ‘You Hurt Me’, but the band rocked out to ‘Emily’.
What was also impressive was the high percentage of originals in the set. Nevertheless he did slip in a Bobby Bland cover, ‘Going Down Slow’ featuring the band jamming to a very tidy ending, and a sweet solo that some observers likened to BB King. A lively cover of the latter’s ‘Paying the Cost To Be the Boss’ proved the comparisons.
On ‘That’s Alright’ a long winding solo compensated for some rather unconvincing vocals, yet on ‘Hear My Prayer’, his singing, in tandem with Steve’s Hammond organ playing successfully radiated a sense of desperation in the song.
‘Show Me a Sign’ with lengthy band jam and ‘Starting Again’ ended the set with ‘Made Up My Mind’ a suitably upbeat choice of the encore, completing a single set of a marathon hour and three quarters at a venue where people traditionally play two shorter sets.
While not the finished article, there is no denying Connor Selby’s talents, so when he is headlining bigger venues, this may be a night to look back on and say ‘I was there’.
Review and photos by Andy Nathan
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