Monthly Archives: February 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 13/2/16

“It’s as rough as hell but the rock nights are good fun,” the woman in the cab office tells me as I wait to get taken to the Red Lion. Buried away in an industrial estate along Gravesend’s river frontage, it’s a traditional boozer with a large, cavernous old-fashioned function room that’s been given a makeover as a rock venue and a decent-sized stage put in.

The event is billed as 3G and features three bands. First up are young Kent-based band Salvation Jayne (an all-female line-up save the bass player) who instantly channel the vibe of early 70s Humble Pie with covers of Black Coffee and I Don’t Need No Doctor. Great stuff. Next up is modern blues band Big River, fronted by Damien Fawsett who put the whole evening together with the aim of showcasing guitar rock.

And then, finally, it’s the turn of Dave “Bucket” Colwell with fine backing from the Big River boys, who take the stage once more. Colwell spent a number of years in Bad Company and that’s very much reflected in the sound and feel of tonight’s set. This is not only due to Colwell’s excellent lead guitar-playing but also because he’s joined on vocals by the superb Adam Barron, who can normally be found doing vocal duties with another Bad Company guitar hero, Mick Ralphs. I’d seen Barron performing with the latter only two weeks ago at the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend. But tonight, not only does he get the chance to let his vocal chords loose on some Bad Company classics like Ready For Love, as well as some Colwell solo material, we also get to hear some Free classics this time, too, with brilliantly-performed versions of The Stealer, Fire & Water and All Right Now.

Not only has Barron been fortunate enough to work with some genuine guitar greats, like Colwell, he’s also got the voice to take the polished but emotive blues rock of the early 70s well into the 21st century.

https://www.facebook.com/dbcandfriends/

2016-02-13 22.05.16

Related reviews:
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2016
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015

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Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock, Minehead 31/1/16

Over the course of the Giants of Rock weekend there appears to be an informal game of one-upmanship playing out between the various artists as they recount to the audience the first time they appeared on a Butlins stage: 1976, 1962 and so on…

But no-one beats Ian Hunter’s 1956. At a time when so many of his rock contemporaries are sadly passing away in their late sixties and early seventies, it’s incredible to think that, at 76, not only is Hunter still going strong, still singing and still performing but that he is still a major creative force, writing songs and making albums as consistently original and wonderfully compelling as the ones he made over four decades ago.

I’ve described elsewhere my almost lifelong love affair with the music of Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople. And while the long-defunct (and somewhat forgotten at the time) Mott The Hoople were not the obvious choice for teenage boys to hit upon as one of their favourite bands in the early 1980s, I was privileged, during the course of the weekend, to bump into a fellow Hunter fan of a similar age with an almost identical story as my own. I felt doubly privileged when he turned up with a couple of spare backstage passes for my friend and I a few hours before the gig, allowing me to meet one of my topmost musical heroes after the show.

And what a show it was. Hunter is not usually one for a lot of on-stage banter. But his ability to connect with an audience through the quality of his song-writing and through the power and resonance of his performances is second to none. The sheer range of emotions that one can experience during the course of a single show is incredible: from the exhilarating, joyful irreverence of All The Way From Memphis to the heartfelt, introspection of Boy to the sardonic political commentary of When I’m President. All, of course, delivered with Hunter’s unique vocal style, accompanied by the superbly accomplished musicians in the Rant band.

In what was undoubtedly the number one highlight of a weekend of many highlights, we get a set that any Ian Hunter fan would be delighted to hear: from songs of the Mott The Hoople years like Honaloochie Boogie, to early solo material like Once Bitten Twice Shy to more recent material like Black Tears from his last studio album. Soon the set is drawing to a close but the band return for an encore of Rest In Peace (particularly moving following the death of Mott drummer Dale Griffin), Roll Away The Stone, Life (the brilliant new Hunter anthem from his most recent album) and, of course, All The Young Dudes. What better way to pay tribute to its writer, David Bowie (whose kindness and support came in the form of gifting the song to Mott The Hoople at a make or break stage in their career) than to bellow along to this at the top of our voices.

Then it’s all over. But, of course, it’s not quite all over as we head backstage to meet Mr Hunter and the rest of the Rant Band. A wonderful, moving moment in my life but all the more memorable for coming at the end of such a wonderful, moving performance. Thank you Ian Hunter for continuing to make such amazing music.

http://ianhunter.com/main/

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Previous review: Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Procol Harum at Giants of Rock, Minehead 30/1/16

At any music festival with multiple stages, as a punter you’re bound to be faced with the odd dilemma about which act to choose when two you really like are on at the same time. But the only clash I really dithered over at Giants of Rock 2016 was between Steve Harley and Procol Harum. In the end we plumped for Procol. I’d seen (and massively enjoyed) Harley at Reading Festival thirty-odd years ago, my two companions had seen neither but in the end we all agreed on Procol Harum. A choice none of us regretted. They were top class.

All the trademark features you would expect from Procol are present: the double keyboards with the delicious interplay between hammond organ and piano, the steady authoritative bass lines, the majestic tunes and, of course, Gary Brooker’s commanding vocals. If some rock vocalists make life hard for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery in their early 20s that gets more and more difficult to pull off as they hit their 70s, then Gary Brooker chose wisely. Brooker’s cool and melancholic vocals are as strong tonight as they were in 1967, when the band first hit the charts with A Whiter Shade of Pale.

While I love the unique sound of Procol Harum I must confess to only ever having owned two albums of theirs: a best-of compilation bringing together many of their late 60s and early 70s classics and the band’s most recent album – 2003’s The Well’s On Fire, which I picked up for the princely sum of £1 at Skegness Butlins two years ago. But I’m pleased to say there’s many songs I recognise tonight from the former, and at least one from the latter.

So after taking us on a stunning journey through the likes of Shine on Brightly, Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of), A Salty Dog and Homburg there was just one song left. They leave the stage. They come back on to thunderous applause. But, oh dear, Brooker can’t remember how it goes! They tease the audience with a snatch of When A Man Loves A Woman and then with a surprisingly brilliant rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, before finally the band hit on the familiar chords of A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of the most recognisable, most majestic and surely one of the most beautiful songs of the late 60s. A powerful end to a magnificent performance.

Setlist:
Bringing Home the Bacon
Homburg
An Old English Dream
Dead Man’s Dream
Kaleidoscope
Whaling Stories
Pandora’s Box
Nothing But the Truth
All This and More (which wasn’t played: The VIP Room instead)
Cerdes (Outside the Gates of)
A Salty Dog
Conquistador
A Whiter Shade of Pale

http://www.procolharum.co.uk/

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Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

“If the last time you saw Mick Ralphs was on some distant stadium stage this is a chance to get up close to the man and his music,” says the programme for the weekend.

Actually, no -the last time I saw former Mott the Hoople and Bad Company guitar supremo, Mick Ralphs, was right here at Butlins for the same Giants of Rock weekend just a year ago. But so impressive was he and the rest of his band it was an experience I was more than happy to repeat.

As I noted last year, Ralphs has assembled a very able bunch of musicians, Jim Maving on additional guitar, Dicky Baldwin on bass and (new boy) Damon Sawyer on drums. Inescapable logic about inevitable human mortality is reminding us that the rock icons of the 70s are not going to be around forever. Indeed, we are losing quite a few of them now, even if live audiences are keen to experience the musical genres most closely associated with that era well into the 21st Century. So kudos to Ralphs for looking ahead to the next generation. He has chosen well in recruiting TV’s former Voice contender, Adam Barron, as lead vocalist. Barron, not yet 30 but gigging and singing since his teens has now been with the band some two years. And he is, in my mind, fast establishing himself of one of the finest blues rock vocalists of his generation. He effortlessly handles Bad Company classics like Can’t Get Enough and Feel Like Makin’ Love as well as material from the band’s new album If It Ain’t Broke – a mixture of classic covers (like Shakey Ground and a magnificently soulful Same Old Blues) as well as Ralphs originals (like I Don’t Care and Too Bad). The Butlins crowd responds accordingly and are clearly pleased to have the band back again this year.

An instantly recognisable sound, classic guitar licks, some of the most iconic rock songs of all time and the rich soulful, bluesy vocals of Adam Barron. It’s an on-stage masterclass in classic rock. The Mick Ralphs Blues Band should be a must-see for any fan of the genre.

http://www.mickralphsbluesband.co.uk/

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Previous review: Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

There is enthusiastic and generous applause for former Rainbow frontman, Graham Bonnet, as he takes the stage for the first night of the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend in Minehead this year. Looking as cool as ever (eschewing, as always, the 70s/80s heavy rock get-up in favour of the 60s spiv look) he launches straight into songs from the classic Down To Earth album he did with Rainbow: Eyes of the World and the unforgettable All Night Long. Later on we get to hear Lost in Hollywood and the inevitable Since You’ve Been Gone, as well as his 80s solo single Night Games. It is an absolute sheer joy to be singing along to those songs with a crowd of equally enthusiastic punters.

Some rock vocalists unwittingly, but nevertheless helpfully, make life easier for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery and a choice of songs they’ll forever be associated with that they can still pull off with ease several decades later. Mr Bonnet has perhaps not made life as easy as possible for himself in this regard. What I did begin to notice, however, was that his voice was much more at ease with the Rainbow material than with the harder-edged and more high-octane Michael Schenker Group and Alcatraz material from slightly later in his career. Those latter songs did appear to be placing more of a strain on his vocal chords.

There’s been mixed reactions to Bonnet’s live performances in recent years. I enjoyed the Butlins show and loved singing along with the crowd. However, if I were advising Graham Bonnet I would probably be urging him to centre his live performances mainly around the polished, commercial rock of Down To Earth (and perhaps his subsequent solo album Line-Up which is very much in a similar vein) rather than trying to represent all stages of his career. Indeed, the previous time I saw Bonnet back in 2014 this is exactly what he did.

Look, Graham, you made one of the most iconic and memorable rock albums of the late 70s. You still deliver those songs well and people definitely want to hear them. Plus you’ve got some great musicians. Let your live shows be a celebration of the wonderful songs on Down To Earth rather than unnecessarily straining your voice on material that it is less equipped to deal with these days.

Still a great night though – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

http://www.grahambonnetband.com/

2016-01-29 22.28.00

Previous review: Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Islington

 

Gaz Coombes at The Roundhouse 28/1/16

If the size and prestige of venues says anything about an artist’s career then Gaz Coombes is on an upward curve. After seeing Coombes perform in some iconic venues in the Supergrass days, smallish (and as they say “more intimate”) club gigs have been the order the day for much of his post-Supergrass career thus far. And while those were great shows it’s nice to see him perform to a capacity crowd in Chalk Farm’s infamous Roundhouse tonight for the first in their current In The Round series.

For the first few numbers it’s just Gaz and his guitar on stage. Some beautifully intimate, stripped-back acoustic versions of Oscillate, Hot Fruit, Needle’s Eye and To The Wire from his two solo albums. Then he is joined, not only by his backing band but a full string ensemble. And the stage just fills with sound for a stunning version of Buffalo, the opening track from his latest solo album – the Mercury Prize-nominated Matador. While there’s evidently a certain degree of continuity with some of the more reflective tracks from later-era Supergrass, Coombes’ writing is maturing and tonight’s packed auditorium (not to mention the Mercury Prize nomination, of course) is a sign of the growing recognition of this. We are presented with lush, beautifully instrumented versions of songs from Here Come The Bombs and Matador. Highlights for me included a heartfelt Detroit, a lovely Girl Who Fell To Earth and a fabulous White Noise, probably one of the most Supergrassy songs of his recent career.

Although Coombes has rigorously avoided becoming a one-man Supergrass tribute act, endlessly churning out the back catalogue, he has often treated audiences to one or two renditions of iconic Supergrass material like Moving or Caught By The Fuzz. We get none of that tonight though. But what we do get is a glorious version of David Bowie’s Five Years. We can’t complain at all. The perfect and fitting encore to a stunning evening.

Setlist:
Oscillate
Hot Fruit
Needles Eye
To The Wire
Buffalo
Sleeping Giant
These Days
Detroit
White Noise
Seven Walls
The Girl Who Fell To Earth
20/20
English Rose
Matador
Five Years

http://www.gazcoombes.com/home/#ZIQPwIIF2P4KOtAo.97

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Previous review: Matador album review