Roadstars Hit Cardiff
SIMO Keylock and Federal Charm
The Globe, Cardiff, cold damp November night is just about to get hot with blues-rock guitar shredding that will ignite the audience. Why? On the third night of The Planet Rock ‘Roadstars’ sixteen-night tour has arrived in the Capital city. The Roadstars are young guns that are causing heads to turn wherever they play with youthful verve and enthusiasm. Who are the Roadstars? They are two British bands Aaron Keylock and Federal Charm and from Nashville, U.S.A. SIMO. Tonight we are definitely going to hear a lot of guitars that have strings that will be fast, furious and loud with a long streamer connecting the six-strings to the Blues. This is a trio of bands who are taking turns on who will headline, and tonight it will be SIMO.
The evening kicked off by being exported back to the roots of the blues with field hollers loud and atmospheric from the PA system. Tonight, Aaron Keylock was opening the show. This young band with the much talked about guitarist who has played many gigs and festivals that for a teenager is amazing the rhetoric about his skills is stratospheric so my expectations were very high. As for a variety of reasons, Bluesdoodles has not caught up with Aaron playing live. Completing the power trio drummer Sonny Greaves and bassist Jordan Maycock. I was expecting fireworks as the blues influences combine with the rock as sabbath collides with Winter. One thing for sure the guitar was loud drowning out the vocals so I never heard a word Aaron sang even on his closing number the title track, Against The Grain, from his anticipated debut album due out January 2017 on Mascot.
The set was loud, raw Aaron, for me did not live up to the press I have read and comments from others who have seen him live. With power you need control and the blues is about feel and tonight these were not evident. The set was more rock than blues, enthusiasm over style. Aaron changed guitar but textures and tone stayed the same loud and raw. He is like moonshine straight from the still, we need to have some of the oaky smokiness, smoothness of flavour from maturing that a good sipping whisky has. Aaron, has the potential, he can play the guitar and interaction between the three friends on stage is honest. Opening with a shorter set perhaps didn’t allow for a set that shows the varied side of this young man with so much potential. The slide guide was good and the lead breaks solid but there was no flashing and sparks to really light up the evening.
Short break and Federal Charm hit the stage with a customary energy and smiles as they said we are glad to be back in Cardiff. With full on Mancunian charm they hit the ground running. They too chose to close with Silhouette, the single from the much-praised album Crossing The Divide. Federal Charm produced as strong set the brand of blues rock is delivered better everytime we see them play live. The two guitars, of Paul Bowe and Nick Bowden sometimes in competition but always in harmony. Completing this tech quartet are bassist LD Morawski and drummer Danny Rigg who do so much more than provide a solid platform they bring tonal shape and control for the frontman allowing Nicks vocals to roll and bounce off the music. Federal Charm’s set was full of attitude and at times an arrogant swagger giving the music a hardened edge softened by the blues. The set warmed the venue lifting the audience as they got them closer to the stage singing along and dancing. Nick engaged with the audience who were delighted to have the boys back in town even if for a brief set tonight. The music was played with authority as the rock grooves were as solid as granite with a sparkling strata of blues as the harp was given an airing and the licks and riffs had the shape and feel that is the perfect recipe for a blues-rock band.
Now for the main act SIMO a trio fusing music from every genre into a fluid psychedelic whirlpool that lit up the stage. Keeping up with virtuoso guitarist JD Simo are bassist Elad Shapiro and Adam Abrashoff on drums, they provide rhythms that explode allowing JD to fly with sparkling effervescent guitar fireworks.
The music flowed, no set list this was a hothouse jam full of control, innovation and excitement as slide, met finger picking and the playing of the fret board with both hands was mesmerising. Defining SIMO is like trying to capture mercury in you fingers, you just think one band and the music changes and it is totally different as jazz collides with Hendrix and the Allmans are threaded into the mix. The sound is a musical tapestry of every hue and colour, The vocals powered through it was a perfect aural picture. You see and hear musician and guitar, musicians who excel JD and his band are merged into one being and the connection is complete, seamless as he astounds with rock n roll that has you listening with delight. Into this maelstrom, I heard hints of Tom Principato, Stevie Ray Vaughan stretching the blues colouring the tones with funk and world music. The set had everything, fast and furious, complex, simple and slower numbers this was a jam that was very, very tasty indeed.
The set was everything they promised on the album Let Love Show The Way; and the audience agreed with gasps of wow, utterly brilliant never heard seen anything like this they are stunning. closing the set that was like a river at times still, then a raging torrent then a gentler flow with the only cover of the set their unique interpretation of With A Little Help From My Friends. SIMO certainly made new friends tonight who will be spreading the message to their friends as they tell them what a night they have missed.
With three nights gone, there is still plenty of opportunities to hear these Roadstars live and make your own mind up.