“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.
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2016
Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015
“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.
Previous review: Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Minehead 2015
While I’ve seen veteran Bad Company/Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs on stage several times including both Mott reunions as well as guest encores with both Ian Hunter and Paul Rodgers, tonight is the first time I’ve witnessed a full set of the type of music Ralphs is most renowned for.
Ralphs’ physical presence on stage is unassuming and he’s the antithesis of the flash guitar hero but his seemingly effortless guitar playing is pure musical perfection. He’s supported by a strong bunch of seasoned musicians, Jim Maving on second guitar, Dickey Baldwin on bass and Adam Perry, drums.
Adam Barron, who only joined the band in Autumn 2014 takes lead vocals. The youthful Barron, a 2013 contestant on TV series The Voice, looks like he’s stepped straight out of 1975 and his soulful bluesy vocals couldn’t be more suited to Ralphs’ material. It was a real joy to hear the band perform classics like Can’t Get Enough and Feel Like Makin’ Love. But newer material like Should Know Better shows that Ralphs has not lost the knack for writing timeless blues rock classics.
While the big set-piece Bad Company and Mott the Hoople reunions have been eagerly welcomed by fans of both bands it’s nice, too, that Ralphs has also continued to do his own thing. He does it so well. And with a band who clearly get a kick out of working with him.