Tonight The Cube in Malvern had not one but two reasons to get out and listen to live music, each of the double headliners Babajack and Marcus Bonfanti play acoustic music with energy and combine the music with some great stories.
We had a cut down version of Babajack, the set was a combination of the original duo Becky Tate and Trevor Steger, joined on many of the songs by bassist Adam Bertenshaw and sound man for tonight, normally seen as part of the rhythm section with Tosh on drums when Babajack are a foursome. This changes the texture and tone of the music but never the energy and quality of every song performed by Babajack. The set was full of the songs fans associate with the band opening with Running Man the title track of their last studio album, made the evening of music hit the ground running could it get better. This was as ever entertainment that is blues with emotion drilling deep into the roots of the genre and taking us back through the cotton fields and across to Africa with Becky’s percussionist skills on her Djembe the west African drum, traditionally only played by men Babajack flies once again in the face of tradition. The drum’s name according to the Bambarra people is everyone gather around in peace and we certainly did tonight as the magic of the beat produced flowed through the hall in Malvern. The Cube’s hall has great acoustics and performing on the floor rather than the stage with sitting around created an intimate session in the round and the wonderful local Malvern Ale was enjoyed as the perfect accompaniment to live music on a Saturday night. The bass line from Adam on When I’m Gone had a funkier edge this time and worked well with the trio format. We also heard some numbers not performed often these days including Jelly Love along with firm favourites no Babajack gig would be complete without Gallows Pole and Skin and Bones. It was confirmed that the long awaited live album, recorded early in 2015 at The Cube in front of an invited audience can be pre-ordered and you will get a signed copy early September. Hurry because this is a limited early release, miss out on this exciting opportunity and you will have to be patient and wait for Babajack Live, Summer 2015 general release date 10th October 2015. We had a preview of the next project a studio album with two tracks that may be included Religion & Backdoor; tonight Trevor weaved his harmonica notes through the narrative like perfect punctuation making the narrative of the lyrics sung by Becky have more power and deeper emotions. The wine box guitars add a tone that creates the sound frame that is both stripped back and full of musical grit.
A short break, a chance to re-fill our glasses catch up with friends and then co-headliner Marcus Bonfanti stepped on stage, with his Gibson Hummingbird and added his voice of the blues into the mix with Devil Girl. We had a selection from past albums from Marcus, which unfortunately are no longer available and those from his latest EP & DVD Borrowed Time and his British Blues Award winning number The Bittersweet for his immaculate songwriting skills. The guitar solo was stunning on Now I’m Gone; underscoring that his skills on the Gibson are really underrated as he shaped the notes so they told their own take so much more than a collection of high speed, licks, riffs and twiddle bits. Marcus makes the guitar be an integral part of the shape of the story of the lyrics. Marcus is often described by the power of his melodic baritone vocals, this is only half of what makes him such a popular powerhouse on the circuit his guitar playing is superb as he manipulates the six-strings too shape a full acoustic sound the perfect backdrop for his voice and accentuating the mood of the lyrical narrative.
In between the numbers he informed, engaged and most importantly made the audience laugh most often at his own expense as he shared some of the gritty life experiences. We had ballads, sad, reflective, fast and slow songs; his contribution to the world of ballads was John Henry Blues, a work song that tells the story of John Henry who challenged a machine won then died! From the new album we had Layla, no not that semi-famous track but a song full of longing and All She Ever Wants with the added lyrics and percussive guitar all about lost love. Every Marcus set list has to include the song Cheap Whiskey as a salutary lesson to us all, and tonight was no different, he won some new fans by his charming stage presence and above all his music that entertains.
The third segment was a combined encore with Babajack joining him on stage for a closing jam that included a rousing rendition of Leadbelly’s Midnight Special. What a night of high energy and inspired acoustic blues that has a sting of delight in its tail looking forward to the next Babajack and friends event at The Cube.