I’ve now been out to several live gigs since lockdown restrictions eased but it’s still feeling a bit of a novelty and there’s a definitely buzz from the novelty of being in a live music venue. This weekend was the first time I’d been out to my local rock pub, The Carlisle on Hastings seafront, in almost eighteen months, where I had the pleasure of seeing Kent-based blues rock sensations Big River. While little about the Carlisle seems to have changed in the past year-and-a-half (and why on earth would it) there have certainly been big changes afoot in the Big River camp.
Former lead singer Adam Bartholomew has departed and in his place comes another Adam – Adam Barron. While I’ve been following the career of Big River with interest these past few years, indeed ever since the band was formed back in 2016 when guitarist Damo Fawsett quit another Kent-based rock band – Slam Cartel. Similarly, I’ve also been a real fan of Adam Barron, ever since I first saw him fronting Mick Ralphs’ Blues Band at a Butlins Giants of Rock weekend back in 2015.
To say I’m delighted by these two joining forces is a massive understatement. Barron, hugely influenced by Paul Rodgers with a vocal every bit as rich and soulful and emotive as his hero, has an absolutely incredible voice. It’s not difficult to see why a bonafide rock giant like Mick Ralphs snapped him up prior to the former Bad Company guitarist’s sadly debilitating stroke put him out of action. For anyone with a love of classic-era blues rock Barron and Big River is literally a match made in heaven.
At the Carlisle tonight the new line-up certainly did not disappoint. Barron has effortlessly eased himself into the new frontman position, bringing to it both those incredible vocal performances as well as an immediate emotional connection with the audience. The band are in tremendous musical shape, as well. Guitarist Damo Fawsett delivers some stunning solos – his bluesy, soulful playing the perfect match for Barron’s vocals, together with great driving rhythm from bassist Ant Wellman and drummer Joe Martin.
The set-list is a mixture of Big River’s first album (written and recorded prior to Barron’s arrival) a couple of new songs (including the excellent recent single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ – where Barron brings out his ukulele, not something the Carlisle audience are used to seeing on a Saturday night) and a handful of blues and blues rock courtesy of Robert Johnson and Free.
The whole thing is executed with such style and panache I have to keep reminding myself I’m standing in a pub in Hastings rather than a 2,000-seat arena and an £80 hole in my bank balance somewhere. Big River were always a great blues rock band. Now, however, they are undeniably one of the absolute best. It will be fascinating seeing where Big River go from here. They are almost certainly going to be bigger concern than they were previously and I await their next release with eager anticipation.