Spikedrivers live at
Pontardawe, Saturday 7th November
Pontadarwe Arts Centre, with cabaret style tables all ready for the show, sadly, that meant for some of the crowd especially ‘ The Swansea Ladies’ limited room to get up and dance. The Spikedrivers started with Got My Ticket as the trio that bring their own special blending of the blues hit the ground running back in Wales among friends.
The interplay between the band members was as ever intuitive as they created medleys and harmonies that quivered, rose and ebbed away across the glorious auditorium of the Victorian theatre. Ben Tyzack’s sublime guitar work, is there a better slide player? Then adding percussion and bass from Constance Redgrave and completing the deep rootsy driven rhythms is Maurice McElroy. The Spikedrivers are a music powered collective that lays down the groove and swirls in the blues so that the music and lyrics reverberate across and auditorium or festival field – they are spellbindingly good. Tonight, was no different with John Henry from their superb album Live In London and their version of JJ Cale’s Call Me The Breeze. Tonight it was not Welsh language being celebrated but Potawatomi, Thunders Walking (jigwek bmosewat), a song exploring Constance’s heritage through her Mother’s people it is a prayer and song that is offered to soldiers everywhere and a fitting moment in the set for reflection on Remembrance weekend; a song and music drenched in emotion.
What a band they are – as the vocals duties swap and the guitars change the sounds are shaped to match the lyrics with pathos, laughter the lyrical colour and texture works with the flow of guitar and rhythms. Whether on Billie Holliday’s Billies Blues or Ghost Train Shuffle ending with a train whistle or Rooster Stopped Crowing with hairbrush driven washboard from Constance.
After a short break, it was time for Maurice to leave the shadows behind his drum kit and step up front for a pot and cahon display, it was great to see him looking fit again and back on stage with the band once again. Blues Train has guitar, pot and washboard, there are the unenlightened who say this is not blues OH! Yes it is! Instruments to have lyrics that tell a story to an earthy beats that is the heart of the blues. Maurice took on singing duties for Two Left Feet and we were all having fun. You do not have to go to the Southern States and the Delta for inspiration since their wonderful Blues to the River inspired by a visit to Burnham-On-Crouch and the river that flows into the Essex Delta.. The second set was a full-on musical tapestry with subtle contours, flashes of sparkling chords and highlights of scintillating slide guitar and the raw silk that was the rhythm that throbbed and gave the music its soul and textures. The encore was demanded as we all wanted them to play on into the night and Dust My Broom and No Expectations ended the show that left everyone with a smile on their face.
It really was great to see the Spikedrivers back in Wales tonight after a lengthy absence and they definitely didn’t disappoint with their Transatlantic Blues as everyone wanted to chat with Ben Constance and Maurice and they were happy to share their time with the audience.