Bluesdoodles Live Shows in England 2017 – Throughout 2017 Liz and Kevin travelled to hear good music to share on Bluesdoodles. Bristol was the number one city we visited not surprisingly as it is just across the Severn from South Wales. So behind Door Six, we are re-visiting the live music that made our feet tingle and ears buzz. Live music invigorates and is a great night out, meeting up with friends sometimes listening to bands for the first time. This could be they are a young up and coming band or one you have only heard the music captured in a studio. Whenever and wherever you are listing to live music supporting musicians and having fun it is a special memory moment. Coming up behind other doors will be Gigs in Wales and Festival fun that made 2017 such an enjoyable year.
Back in the O2 Sheffield for the second year HRH Blues III promised with a deep blues infused line-up to be an Easter full of music. They certainly delivered across the two stages, as ever clashes were at times frustrating, demonstrating the wealth of blues in town this weekend.
HRH Blues once again created an ambience, professional on the outside, inside pure unadulterated fun of listening to live music. The two days had a mix of blues from heavy and raw through to delicate and everything in-between. More people this year stepping on the bright blue HRH Blues Train crammed with live music in Sheffield.
With two stages, we heard a total of twenty-two bands and for some Royalty Passes & Media an extra five acoustic acts early on Sunday morning. The one disappointment for many was the missing act. King King had to pull out at the last-minute – now we know it was due to Alan Nimmo having acute Laryngitis. With the number of King King T-shirts in the audience you could have expected annoyance, but all you heard and saw on social media was empathy, love and get well. The bands that did play filled the gap with extended sets from Simon McBride and Ten Years After and a slightly early Saturday.
Getting the Easter music fest started was Dani Wilde who set the scene with quality opening act it was going to be high quality blues form the first to last note. Highlights in the main stage on Saturday were…
For the vast majority that I spoke to the stand out band of the first day and the festival were Billy Walton Band, they bought fun, blues and music that just gets every one excited. Following on from the band that wowed the audience and were still being talked about as the festival closed. Why? A full on band who really get that good-time vibe flowing the boys from New Jersey bring that East Coast joie-de-vie. Billy and the band want you want to party all night. With a horn section adding texture and tone they are just very entertaining and totally enjoyable. They were ready to party with the festival a fan supplied an array of hats and they were delighted to play with the donated headgear. The atmosphere was now loud, electric with blues flowing through the O2.
Follow that, well this is HRH nothing safe, nothing out-of-bounds as The Graveltones, a duo took to the stage. Heavy, raucous, energetic and loud they divided the room just as Marmite on toast would! The guitar was raw and the drumming hard with splinters of wood being torn from the sticks. Heavy, hard with complex rhythms and bucket loads of feel, delivering a punchy set that re-defines duos and the blues.
All aboard the next station on the blues train journey to Finnish Blues with Erja Lyytinen and her band. For many of her fans the first time we have had the opportunity to listen to the music from her acclaimed album Stolen Hearts. I was definitely excited having given her the full 10-doodle paws. High class set from the renowned queen of the blues slide guitar. In the set is Black Ocean for me a highlight and favourite on the album now a live favourite as prog meets blues under the charms and skills of Erja. We joined her on the rocking Chair, sang along with Stolen hearts. Then the trained steamed up the hill with her interpretation of Tina Turner’s Steamy windows. This was blues that sparkled as Erja smiled, played and won our hearts.
This year with the addition of food stalls and coffee there was no need to leave the arena and miss a single note of blues that was weaving their magic over the audience. Now we had two stages running parallel always a conundrum what to stay and listen too. Quick run upstairs to catch some of Will Wilde, this was the decision of many as the second stage was rammed and Will’s harmonica playing won him many new fans. For some the band of the weekend having never heard him play before. Will delivers more ‘authentic’ blues almost a match for Erja, a shame about the clash of blues titans. Will is one of the best blues-harp players on the UK circuit. Now we had a festival exploding under the glories of blues in full flight.
Back downstairs for Pig Iron returning for the second year. Describing themselves as Blues Metal this was pounding heavy blues that incorporates some delicate harp playing. Upstairs was Troy Redfern, the Welsh slide guitar troubadour. With tracks from his current album Backdoor Hoodoo. His rendition of John The Revelator is always a crowd-pleasing winner as it was tonight in Sheffield. The HRH Blues train was now gathering speed and pulling in a wide variety of acts.
Now back to the main stage for Simon McBride and the headliners returning for the second year Ten Year After. First, a stunning blues rock guitarist Simon McBride. The set saturated with scintillating riffs and licks making Simon’s PRS guitar sing and squeal. An accomplished set strewn with covers to extend the time on stage and numbers from his last two albums. What a set it was a tone the festival wanted to hear that mix of SRV, Hendrix woven together with McBride magic. The dueling between bass and guitar was magnificent. As he played Good Times Roll, following a McBride favourite Down To The Wire we were definitely having a great Easter Saturday as he closed with Deadman Walking we were all alive with festival fever.
After fifty years of touring with Ten Years After Chick Churchill & Ric Lee are now joined by bassist Colin Hodgkinson and the charismatic Marcus Bonfanti. Marcus’ vocals are full of power, tonal texture, his guitar playing sharp and the harp adds another dimension to the Ten Year After sound of 2017. No Ten Year After set is complete without The Hobbit, Ric Lee and his drumming acrobatics. A wonderful set blending old stalwarts and new numbers from the forthcoming album A Sting In The Tale out later this year. The whole set is a perfect platform for showcasing what a great and oft underrated guitarist Marcus is. Wow moments of the festival with Love Like A Man and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. Ten Years After strong after Fifty-years and the thrill of a new album. What a Saturday now for Sunday’s delights.
Sunday, started with a Smörgåsbord of acoustic showcases, including Chantel McGregor; Big Boy Bloater, Crow Black Chicken and Dan Patlansky who we would be hearing in full amplified glory during the day. The sets were chilled whilst also demonstrating the varied sounds achievable from the acoustic. This was personified by the difference between Big Boy Bloater and Dan Patlansky, same guitar totally different tone and approach. We heard hollers, blues and songs given new shapes a perfect slow wake up call to join the main blues train downstairs on stage one. Into the mix the wonderful vocals and charm of Jack Hutchinson a welcomed addition to any blues gathering, with a new band album, Set Your Heart For The Sun, let’s hope he is back electric in 2018.
What a stunning set once again from the mighty Sean Webster with his new band The Deadlines. Having heard Sean many times he never disappoints, unsurprisingly he was the find of the weekend for many. His rendition of I’d Rather Go Blind moved many to tears with the raw, intense emotion he puts into every word sung and note played. Sean has the winning combination of a superb blues voice and plays the guitar with lightning blue touch. Now living in Netherlands, Sean is the enigma of the British Blues scene never reaching the heights his playing should be taking him. Let’s hope the station stop on HRH Blues Train will be the launch pad for a renaissance of Sean the bluesman. Following on from Sean, in a bright red dress is Chantel McGregor always a firm favourite with her many fans. The set was a mix of favourites and her latest album. Anyone hoping for some new material would be disappointed, though there was a new drummer in the band. The set was safe, definitely rockier than the early days of Chantel. She still smiles with warmth and affection and Freefalling was a guitar blazing delight as were the other guitar improvisations. Her rhythm section gives her a solid platform, bassist Colin Sutton and Ollie Goss on Drums. The mischievous Chantel was ever present with ‘Aving A Giraffe a fun out take celebrating the April the Giraffe giving birth the story that Chantel has been following on Social media. The set overall felt a little flat, come on Chantel lets have some new McGregor gems soon. This is the nuances that makes live music fun a have to be there moment. British Blues celebration continues with Laurence Jones with his new band. Laurence is maturing the new band seems to fit his style and the addition of Bennet Holland on keys certainly adds some textures to the music complementing Laurence’s stinging guitar. We are enjoying this stop on the train. Yes, this is British blues-rock personified; what is great to see Laurence continuing to grow in stature, developing his sound and staying fresh. The longer lead breaks played with growing confidence adds interest and variance in the live sound. Fantastic audience participation during JJ Cale’s Cocaine, conducted with vigour and winning smile from Laurence more Cream and Clapton than Cale. That is no bad thing in a stalwart of the blues circuit who wins fans whenever he picks up his guitar and plays. .
Quick sojourn to Stage 2 for StoneWire a band from the South coast that I had heard about. This is a five-piece led by a big voice. Another great female vocalist out front shaping the StoneWire sound. Whilst on stage one, young gun Aaron Keylock, was completing the very British Blues opening to the day. Solid set as this man’s stage presence grows. He is full of potential and the setlist was a perfect showcasing opportunity for Across The Grain his debut album. The slide guitar was over loud and the vocals slurred but every time you hear him there is improvement, Spin The Bottle a set residence that suits this young man who is truly motivated and shaped by the blues. Not to be missed, if you get the opportunity another HRH Blues festival favourites are definitely Black Crow Chicken. The sound is earthy, dirty blues. Every song has a colourful story as they take the blues train down an Irish lane as roots blues collide with Irish Tradition through the amplifier. The humour is dry and all-encompassing that follows through into the strong lyrics. With Jonestown and a tribute to Pat McManus from Pariah Brothers, the latest album. This is a band I could have listened to for longer. A definite bring back next year request. With Big Boy Bloater following, his acoustic set was superb so we were looking forward to electric Luxury Hobo. The sound was too loud for the small stage area and that meant the music lost its edge. That said what a rendition of bloater blues pushing them to the limits and he knows how to entertain the crowds vital for any set and sometimes missing. The superb track from his album Luxury Hobo, It Came From The Swamp won him many fans another strong contender for stage one 2018.
Now back to Stage 1 for South African, Dan Patlansky who always delivers fireworks from his Strat. Tonight, with a band of session players from Germany we were treated to a stand out set of guitar acrobatics. Old Red is the signatures Strat of Dan, and is off for a refurb after this UK tour. With his latest single from Introvertigo, Sonova Faith given a live airing we hear the clever improvisation that is part of the live show. Never expect to hear the songs the same, chords and lyrics are a constant but the interpretation every time is a certainty. Dan can rock his blues, and then with an application of the blues breaks will slow it right down. Then you listen with care as it is as good as it gets. Dan Patlansky is a showman. He brings Laurence Jones back to play Bright Lights, Big City that sees a guitar dueling that sparked with jaw dropping intensity. Closing the set, instrumental My Chana is a majestic exploration of the every sound a strat can make. As he experiments with feedback, ringing single notes. The audience are spellbound, a collective holding of breath with wonderment. No one wanted the moment to end. Sadly, it did one more act Stan Webbs Chicken Shack and 2017 HRH Blues fell silent.
Easter Sunday, this year more music that chocolate. What a tasty day once again HRH train ride was full of blues hooks, licks and riffs, laughs and friends the perfect festival journey.
HRH Blues III blues train was full of exciting stops along the complex musical map that incorporates The Blues. The festival does not rely on have the same favourite acts returning each year. Weaving into the acts surprises and variance in the sound of blues.
With such an array of blues it is unsurprising, with not a single act announced HRH Blues IV; 14-15th April 2018is already over eighty percent sold. People want to come back, reserving there spot for when the HRH Blues train leaves the station once again in Sheffield 2018. HRH Blues a definite for Blues lovers diaries.
Spring sunshine warmed the pavements as the crowds gathered on the street outside the O2 Academy Bristol. The draw tonight was a double hitting rocking with energy delight with Biters opening the cavalcade of music, culminating with Blackberry Smoke. The bands are both label mates and friends so the pairing made sense on many levels to the audience it was the music, quality.
There was a rock n’ roll, retro bite as the band kicked off the night it was full steam ahead for music fun and games. The quartet from Georgia, stepped onto the stage with a step back into the past Norman Greenbaum, Spirit In the Sky. This is a band that have both feet in the 1970’s including a number celebrating the golden age of rock 1975. With the task of warming the crowd, they immediately connected with the Bristol tonight, with a shout out for the gigging venue on a boat we all love where they have played. Thekla the venue where we hear first many a band that become firm favourites, demonstrating the importance of a vibrant and varied landscape of venues in a city. Cardiff, please take note; Womanby Street is a cultural asset!
Now, back to the music with influences flowing through the veins of the music but never clogging the artistry with hints of Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzie and a large helping of T-Rex. Biters, have a forthcoming album due out 19th May on EarAche records; The Future Aint’ What It Used To Be. The superb and ear-catching single from the forthcoming album Stone Cold Love full of T-Rex vibe was part of the opening numbers and we certainly were riding a retro rollercoaster of delight. Fitting in with the southern rock/country rocking vibe Georgia and Gypsy Rose fitted the starter menu perfectly. This is music that entertains. Energetic young band the perfect platform of hooks that caught the vocals and licks that made you shout with joy as the drums pulled the rhythm through every number.
The Bristol crowd was excited and ready for more rock in the form of Blackberry Smoke. Back in Bristol, a band they are road warriors getting their distinctive sound majestic Southern Rock, authentic. They are as they describe themselves Too Country for Rock; Too Rock for Country the sound is a collision of two genres into a crescendo of rock that is full of southern warmth and edgy charm. Tonight Like An Arrow Tour rolled into Bristol, the city music fans appreciated this as the venue was packed from top to bottom. Opening with Fire In The Hole we are ready to put reality on hold and be transported into the land of Blackberry Smoke with the setlist full of songs from the discography covering the whole of the twenty-first century. Yes, Blackberry Smoke are a millennium southern rocking explosion. This is good time rocking music with an edge, the sound permeated through the crowd creating an electric party atmosphere. With Waiting For Thunder from current album having the audience singing and this will be a keeper for a live set becoming a classic. The melding of American music is evident in a number that rocks and Charlie Starr, pulling on the tradition of the holler and the lead break from the keyboard under the guidance of Brandon Still is picked up by the guitar. What a number only five songs in and the venue is steaming with this heavy hollering delight. The music flows with an energy as the southern rock credentials pour through the O2, with Pretty Little Lie. The wonderful southern slide sound from Charlie’s Gibson 335 was a joy to behold, and the keys add that extra tonal layer we are all transported to a special place that live music takes you. There has to be the jam moment, tonight A Sleeping Dog, from The Whippoorwill album is segued with Your Time Is Gonna Come as Zeppelin and Allman’s sounds are pulled into the version tonight. This is the moment when time stands still as the audience is collectively transfixed by the music we are a single entity absorbed and re-vitalised by the cleansing sound of guitars washing the dust away.
Tonight, music is a celebration of the sound of Americana with a willing audience participating in Ain’t Got The Blues, no-one in the audience tonight had the blues the music was a celebration of the positive, feeling good was the result. Another number celebrating the sound of the Acoustic guitar was One Horse Town. All to soon time was catching up the encore left us with a trio of delights. We wanted more, tonight Blackberry Smoke were on top of the game. The guitar harmonies flawless, the percussive rhythm full of edge and the vocals poured out across the auditorium. Closing with Ain’t Much Left, the music had said it all. Live Music rocks with Blackberry Smoke and Biters tonight.
Mayday, you could find a maypole but for me there was only one place to be Colston Hall, for a night of glorious music, stupendous singing it had to be Beth Hart. I was not the only one who came to the conclusion Colston Hall was packed. With seating taken out and a standing area in front of the stage the capacity was stretched to over 2,000; everyone wanted to see and hear Beth the shining star of blues and more.
From the first note of the opening number from behind the piano festooned with electric tea lights Beth dominated the stage and beyond with her astounding voice, the number was dramatic full of contained emotion I’ll Take Care Of You; with a great guitar solo but Beth was the person everyone need to see and hear. How to follow the opening number easy if you are Beth, do a stunning version of Nutbush City Limits; proving there are no limits to her captivating talents as she left the piano picked up the mic and got close as she could to the audience and mesmerized them with a show of charisma coated vocals than were sent flying across the auditorium.
The numbers kept coming it was a deluge of vocal and musical glory, Beth was the Queen of Colston Hall, but no one should under-estimate the skill and talent of her musicians whilst they gave her the perfect backdrop a cascading waterfall of sound that gave Beth the scope to soar above them singing the lyrics she wanted us to hear tonight. Yes, there was a planned set-list but Beth is spontaneous and full of humour and as the lively and appreciative audience shouted out the tracks they want to hear she obliged and the band adapted shaping their performance to the whim and majesty that is the performer Beth Hart. There was a very special synergy between the band and Beth it was like watching an organic living being with Beth its the beating Heart.
Delicious Surprise was full of smoky vocal delivery and the lyrics were just life in a pickle jar if we won the lottery, it is her vocals that sets Beth apart from the crowd she sings as if her life depends upon it, she sings so that we can enjoy her music as much as she enjoys the performance. No wonder Beth no longer sings to a few but to the many who flock to her shows time and time again. Beth refuses to be categorised, fenced in or tied to a style she selects the style that suits the lyrics and emotions she wants to share; there is a blending of tones from artists that have also shone in the limelight a mix of Billie Holiday; Eartha Kitt; Amy Winehouse and many divas who have wooed and enchanted audiences but these are just part of the complex distillation of texture, tones and range that is The Voice that defines Beth. As the set progressed and the energy from the stage and audience grew, the sound changed again with a harder rocky sound and she kept the purity of harmonies as she screamed ‘ Do You Feel All Right’ with a rock chicks squeal that was pitch perfect. Sitting on the edge of the stage she the caressed the frenzied audience with gentle vocals before standing up and the rock goddess was back what a performer what a stunning performance.
We heard tracks from her current album, Better Than Home, given a soft sell, we heard the love song to Scott’ the lyrics are superlative and the emotion is hanging on every note as she sings lines we could not even imagine composing such wonderful lyrics showing how love conquers Mechanical Heart is love in the round.
Ending with As Long As I Have a Song, the audience wanted more, and Beth would have played on, the Hall went silent everyone delighted to have been in the company of a genuine performer to sharing her experiences determined to entertain the crowds with her songs, music and warmth.
Tonight there was fun, smiles, tears and every mix of emotions that life can throw at you and definitely have been thrown at Beth with her many oft reported hurdles and challenges she has conquered making her the stellar artist she is today. The music flowed including One Eyed Chicken, Window, St Theresa and Waterfalls; we heard from Beth about the tracks but her voice did all the talking we needed as she mixed up the styles and tones, Blues, Country, Rock above all it was all delivered in the style of Beth. We heard the voice, piano playing and her guitar skills we heard the band in its full gory, and there was acoustic. Whatever the format and style Beth was the heartstone of tonight’s entertainment.
UK TOUR DATES
Book Online: HERE or 24 Hour Box Office: 0844 871 8819
LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC HALL – SUNDAY 3rd MAY 2015
Tickets: £25.00, £32.50 / Box Office: 0844 871 8819
GLASGOW O2 ABC – WEDNESDAY 6th MAY 2015
Tickets: £22.50, £25.00 / Venue Box Office: 0844 477 2000 Book Online: HERE
LONDON BARBICAN – FRIDAY 8th MAY 2015
Tickets: £25.00, £28.50, £32.50 / Venue Box Office: 0207 638 8891
LEEDS O2 ACADEMY – SATURDAY 9th MAY 2015
Tickets: £23.50 – Venue Box Office: 0844 477 2000