304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
In terms of giving more credit than it’s due, I sometimes wonder whether I’m still influenced by my youthful years watching “exotic” TV from the States, even if it was initially in black & white when the lure of slick US productions like Gunsmoke and Bilko etc seemed a lot more interesting than the seemingly more pedestrian home-grown offerings of Dixon of Dock Green or Z Cars and so on. The film “American Graffiti” really put the icing on the cake in terms of fictionally highlighting the difference between the apparent experience of being a teenager in the US in the years when rock’n’roll exploded onto the scene, with their convertible hot rods and cute moppets/Grace Kelly lookalikes on their tanned arms, compared to their stereotypical equivalent in the UK, a pimply couple sharing a packet of chips somewhere in the inner suburbs, sheltering from the rain in the dark with any entertainment having closed down early. That sophisticated gloss has lost its shine over the years and the whole era of Trump and the pathetic Republican media stooges pandering to the less educated/self-interested section of the population there (not to mention a 1000 other misdemeanours) has not engendered a contemporary spirit of cross Atlantic admiration.
However, it has to be said that when you watch a musician of the calibre of Eric Gales and his super tight band in action, you can’t help but think that these US visitors bring something unique to the table. In Eric Gale’s case, it’s not just the faultless and joyful musicianship but the sense of showmanship and confidence that the charismatic band leader exudes. It’s a real pleasure to watch someone with total command of their instrument, which he used to devastating effect. Apart from the fact that he plays his Strat’ upside down and left-handed a la Hendrix (which as a conventional player makes one feel queasy just thinking about), he makes it all look effortless; whether locking into a funky rhythmic groove, playing elegant fills, hitting sliding, complicated ascending runs or letting rip with extended solos, his playing was an extension of his larger than life personality.
Not many artists can talk at length about their personal struggles and maintain the attention of a large crowd; let’s face it, it’s all a bit American, but the absolute sincerity and conviction of his words could have melted the heart of even the most curmudgeonly of crusty blues fan. It’s a little ironic though that the huge supportive cheer from the crowd when the guitarist referred to maintaining sobriety after years of abuse was accompanied by raised glasses and boozy approval.
The audience certainly had plenty to cheer about as the guitarist mainly focused on tracks from his latest album, the Joe Bonamassa produced “Crown”. His previous album “The Bookends” was a real belter and the new offering is another good ’un, albeit it with an almost completely different feel, featuring big crunchy, groove-laden tunes, packed out with sizzling horn arrangements. There was no horn section on the night (that would have been something) but the band more than made up for it. Jonathan Lovett on keyboards filled out the sound splendidly, and towards the end of the evening provided a synth solo challenge to the guitarist as they traded increasingly elaborate competing dexterous runs in an extended jam. The bassist, Cody “Smoke Face” Mansfield, looking like an extra from some disturbing nightmare flick in his slightly sinister mask (from which vaping smoke would dramatically, and rather randomly, appear every so often), kept it tight with Nick Hayes on drums. The overall percussive attack was assisted by the charming Mrs Gales on a smaller kit, stage left. As well as providing a calm and dignified presence behind her husband and giving the sound additional energy and rhythm, LaDonna took centre stage and lead vocal for “Take Me as I Am” from the new album, demonstrating, if that was needed, that she wasn’t there to make up the numbers; an assured, powerful and soulful performance.
Several of the songs from the “Crown” like the ”Storm”, played on the night, dealt with the subject of racial equality, which again received a lot of support from the audience when they were introduced. The set was light on the quantity of songs – each song was extended into a lengthy but tight jam – but high on the quality of the playing. The normal set concluded with a masterful extended version of “I want My Crown” before a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Voodoo Chile”, which even brought a smile to the face of the bored-looking security guard tasked with preventing photographers and other riff-raff from re-entering the pit. There are a lot of good acts on the circuit but Eric Gales is a unique talent and one of those artists you have to experience live to get the full flavour of what he has to offer. Keep those eyes peeled for future dates.
Danny Bryant in support has quite a following himself and can squeeze some decent sounds out of his toy Stratocaster (it’s a full-size guitar – it just looks like a mini-version in his great bear paws) but there was no comparison between the two acts.
He seems like a nice guy and his own bit of stage banter, joking about having the last few copies of his fitness video for sale on the merch’ desk (in Betamax) was self-deprecatingly amusing in view of his burly frame, but having seen him several times I am convinced he should get a singer on board as well as some additional creative input. I say it in every review of him, but it’s still true, the most enjoyable number on the night was an instrumental, a cover of an Albert Collins song, which was brilliant. Less good was a stodgy version of William Harris’ “Bullfrog Blues”, referencing of course the wonderful Rory Gallagher version, but entirely failing to recreate any of its joyful swagger. Danny has a lot of talent, but he would do well to freshen up his act and show us what he can really do.