The Cinelli Brothers & Mississippi Macdonald – 100 Club, Tuesday 30th November 2021
This was an evening of contrasting styles from two sets of musicians that were both showcasing their new albums, both equally excellent in providing an evening of entertaining blues music. This was the sort of musical bonanza that the 100 Club excels in and all for less of an entrance fee than you’d pay down your local blues club.
Mississippi Macdonald kicked off proceedings without any fuss, resplendent in a black shirt with large white polka dots and backed by Phil Gearing, the producer of the artist’s superb new album “Do Right, Say Right”, on second guitar. Mark Johnson-Brown on drums and Elliot Boughen on bass, who also played on the album, completed the line-up and the three supporting players did a good job of recreating the feel of the album despite the absence of the horns and keyboards which played a significant part in creating the album’s ambient feel. From a stylistic perspective, the band’s black suits and red shirts gave them a sharp, ensemble look as they slow burned their way through the set.
The main man can definitely play and his prowess on guitar is matched by his vocals. I really enjoyed his tasteful note selection and distinctive playing style, which reminds me a lot of Robert Cray in his ability to play sharp runs on his Strat’, with lots of staccato string bending in his soloing and fills. Phil Gearing on rhythm guitar played some really nice stuff, driving the groove with clipped hammerings on and runs between chords. They started with the first track on the new album “I Was Wrong” and played a selection of older and new songs; “Drinker’s Blues”, which features the lyrics used in the new album’s title, was one of the standout songs from the superb set, which warmed the crowd up nicely.
In contrast to the more stripped-down sound of the openers, the Cinelli Brothers went for bust and filled the stage with a plethora of guest musicians to help present songs from their forthcoming album “Villa Jukejoint”. They are a band bursting with charisma as well as having some smooth musical moves; their set was a rambunctious celebration of a more swinging style of the blues. They have some really good songs that, despite their comparative youthfulness, manage to recreate an authentic 1950s Chicago vibe.
Marco Cinelli is a compelling and vibrant frontman, alternating between guitar and keyboards and oozing an easy charm, which no doubt accounted for the unusually high female presence in the audience, which was a refreshing change for a blues gig. Competing with him for lead guitar duties was Tom Julian Jones, sporting a Mexican bandito look slightly at odds with his mature student persona. His guitar chops were matched by some fine harmonica work. Enzo Strano (great name) on bass threw some shapes as well as showing some deft playing that helped keep the groove swinging. The sound was boosted stage right by a three-man horn section. They were balanced out stage left by a three-man backing vocalist combo, one of whom energetically gave it large on a pair of congas. They got lost in the mix a bit but helped in providing a rich visual feast across the stage.
If there was a health and safety officer in the vicinity, they might have started to get the clipboard out with the addition of two further guitarists, who came onto the already crowded stage for a few numbers: Big Dez, a French musician who more or less lived up to his name and Scott McKeon, both of whom played nice little cameos and delivered some fine soloing. It was one of those sets where the crowd was going crazy and you felt swept along with the flow of the music and the overwhelmingly happy vibe. I’m not familiar with their material but songs that stood out were “I Believe” with its “High Heel Sneakers” groove; “Married Woman” a piano-driven 50s pastiche with a catchy chorus (perfect for singing out of tune to) and a rocking “Choo Ma Gum”. The sense of onstage mayhem that developed as the night went on continued with cool drummer Allessandro Cinelli swapping places with the bassist for a couple of numbers, just to further illustrate the band’s versatility. Earlier in the set, the band played a number titled “Wanna Have a Good Time”. It certainly looked like they did; so did the audience.