Home Gigs Gig Review :HRH BLUES V O2 SHEFFIELD 13-14/04/19 DAY ONE

Gig Review :HRH BLUES V O2 SHEFFIELD 13-14/04/19 DAY ONE

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Welcome to the fifth year of HRH Blues a weekend of music: a lot of 12 bar blues was going to be heard tonight, but this is HRH and definitely some hard and heavy sounds were going to be heard as well.

First band to have the unenviable task of kicking off a blues weekend were  four guys from Bedfordshire and my part of the world Northampton, they are Steve Woodward lead Vox and guitar who back in the day was in the NWOBHM band Tobruk, Carlos Linnett vocals/guitars, Rick King bass/blues harp and Vox, and Pete Castle drums/percussion, playing songs from their first album “30 day hop” and their new album released this month “Hey Mr Bartender”. You knew right from the off this was going to be fun, as soon as they started their set of old school and modern blues as well as some heavy rock blues Rick bends down and shakes his ass at Pete the drummer which got the crowd laughing and clapping. Steve has a nice powerful vocal and there was some great dual guitar work with strong deep bass and a heavy drum back beat. Steve jokingly plugged their new release after nearly every song and “have I mentioned we have a new album out” says Steve with a big grin half way through their set, I think by the end of it everyone knew, even latecomers and I hope they sold many copies: they certainly deserved to. It was a brilliant start to the event and I hope to see them again on the road and at HRH again further up the set-list.

The band who were due to follow (Henry’s Funeral Shoe) had had to back out due to one of the members being sick so the second act was going to be JACK J HUTCHINSON doing a triple shift, (having earlier played a short acoustic set upstairs on stage 2 for the lucky VIP holders and also playing the second stage later in the evening), he had the great opportunity to play the main stage here at Blues and he didn’t waste any time showing the crowd why he is such a popular act to see. Having recently finished supporting Kris Barras on his tour and soon to travel to the Czech Republic, he would be treating the crowd to not only his warm personality on stage but his great style of smoky southern blues along with fast rock n roll and of course blues rock. You could see he loved being on the bigger stage and moved around it making use of all the room he had, his bassist Lazarus has his heart in metal you can tell! as even when Jack is playing the laid back stuff  Laz’s head is banging away and when he went back stage for some reason and came back to big cheers, up went the metal horns a real dude, and his skin beating drummer Felipe: what can I say it must cost him a fair packet in sticks as he breaks so many bless him. Playing songs from his brilliant album “Paint no Fiction” and also a couple from a new album on the way with the awesome title “Who Feeds the Wolf” which of course, when announced, got howls from the crowd which Jack loved. His version of the classic Peter Green Fleetwood Mac number Oh Well had the audience dancing and singing along and he played another crowd pleaser Boom which he used to play with an old band of his called Voodoo Brothers. Towards the end of the set he brought his double neck guitar on and says “Now this shit just got serious”. Having seen Jack a number of times he never fails to give a top-notch performance and I know the crowd loved everything he did.

Third band of the afternoon SAM KELLY’S STATION HOUSE, knowing Sam and the band for many years now I was so pleased to see him and the full ensemble finally on the main stage here at HRH Blues. They filled the stage with their collection of musicians: the legend Sam on drums, Tony Qunta guitars and vocals, Paul Jobson MD, keys and vocals, Jerome Marcus percussion and vocals, Richard Sadler bass, and the wonderful Rowena Poole their lead singer. Creating a whole different vibe to the day, they started  the set with a calypso type number which I suppose this being a blues festival was a risk and they lost a bit of crowd to the bar, myself I loved it, as did many of the females in the front few rows who were showing off their dancing skills and loving the party atmosphere the band had created. It wasn’t long though before the bar huggers came back once they heard the beautiful tones of Rowena on their second number, the whole band gave us  a mixture of blues, soul, funk and even reggae throughout their set with some great musical arrangements, all marshalled expertly by Paul, we also had some great solos from all of them: Jerome surrounded by his huge percussion set-up of congas, bells and all sorts of paraphernalia (not forgetting his legendary triangle), he received huge cheers from the crowd for his skills as did Tony’s solos, one with a little bit of Voodoo Chile thrown in, along with the phenomenal drum patterns of Sam and it wasn’t long before  every one of them were  just having one big fun jam session. But the most stand out moment of their set must go to Tony’s emotional and touching performance of a song called “Black and White” (Two thirds of A Man) written by a blues artist the late T W Henderson, Sam played drums on his album The Wilderness Years and this was a new arrangement of the song, just listen to the lyrics and you can’t help be moved by it, this had a tremendous drum duet between Jerome and Sam and you could have heard a pin drop in the hall. This was only the third band of the day and already the crowd were buzzing and wanting more.

GERRY JABLONSKI band were up next, hailing from Scotland and with ten years stage experience I was looking forward to seeing them, they started off with an early Dr Feelgood vibe with nice harmonica playing by Peter Narojczyk, good guitar solos from Gerry but that’s where it all ends for me. I know I’m going to get flak for this, but remember this is just my opinion and what I saw and heard I’m not asking anyone to agree with, as the set went on it seemed to be about how much stage time Peter could get. He was more like the front man than Gerry, now don’t get me wrong I like to hear the blues harp as much as anyone but there seemed to be long harmonica solos on every song they played and after a while everything started to sound the same, guitars and rhythm section were good but with the harmonica player jumping to middle of stage and playing endless solos you started to forget about the rest of the band unfortunately, and it all started to repeat itself. It might have been me as the applause at the end and the crowd although not massive enjoyed it and sang and danced along, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about isn’t it. Sorry lads.

I went up to stage two to catch a little bit of MATT PEARCE AND THE MUTINY; unfortunately with stage clashes you can’t see everyone. Having recently reviewed their brilliant album Gotta Get Home I wanted to see how they would sound live. I caught a couple of songs and let me tell you what I heard was very impressive indeed, hope to catch a full set some time.

A welcome return to the BILLY WALTON BAND next on the main stage, over the years Billy has toured with Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Dukes and Little Steven to name just two. Playing a mix of dirty blues, delta and blues rock this band light up a stage with Billy chatting and joking with the audience, flying high kicks around and jumping and jiving they really enjoy themselves with lots of keyboard led songs. This six-piece band had the audience clapping dancing and laughing throughout their set: some great guitar riffs and hooks, funky rhythms, and heavy tracks and the first saxophone and trumpet of the night. Billy has a country voice but also that nice rasp made for the blues, starting his set with an early track Worried Blues then some songs from last year’s album Soul of a Man, including their single “Hell n Highwater” with a nice pause in the middle to wait for the crowd reaction which was given to them with loud cheers.Once again having A welcome return to the BILLY WALTON BAND next on the main stage, over the years Billy has toured with Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Dukes and Little Steven to name just two. Playing a mix of dirty blues, delta and blues rock this band light up a stage with Billy chatting and joking with the audience, flying high kicks around and jumping and jiving they really enjoy themselves with lots of keyboard led songs. This six-piece band had the audience clapping dancing and laughing throughout their set: some great guitar riffs and hooks, funky rhythms, and heavy tracks and the first saxophone and trumpet of the night. Billy has a country voice but also that nice rasp made for the blues, starting his set with an early track Worried Blues then some songs from last year’s album Soul of a Man, including their single “Hell n Highwater” with a nice pause in the middle to wait for the crowd reaction which was given to them with loud cheers.Once again having

between stages I didn’t get to see all the set as GABRIELLA JONES was in stage 2, at only 19 this Birmingham singer-songwriter has supported Bon Jovi and Slash and had been on tour with Beyonce, although the room didn’t have too many inside I loved the way she had them joining in and singing with her never giving up when the reaction was poor and eventually getting most of them on her side singing along, some nice clear vocals with an incredible vibrato. Now 24 she sings pop, blues and rock and is currently preparing songs for her album. Time for some food before the next band had them joining in and singing with her never giving up when the reaction was poor and eventually getting most of them on her side singing along, some nice clear vocals with an incredible vibrato. Now 24 she sings pop, blues and rock and is currently preparing songs for her album.

PONTUS SNIBBS WRECK OF BLUES Also a return to HRH for this band. Having missed their set last year due to clashes and hearing how good they were, I wanted to catch them today. Pontus comes from Sweden and was originally in rock band Bonafide, and together with Kalle Johansson on bass and I know he usually has his Dad on drums with him but the young man playing with him here certainly wasn’t? unless he’d had surgery!!! sorry man didn’t get your name. They play blues with attitude if you think George Thorogood then you will know the style I mean, real toe tapping stuff, he has a piercing scream to his voice which was easily the loudest heard tonight so far, but also like so many has that great growl for the blues; it’s what I call sleaze bar blues, I really enjoyed his set because sometimes you just to have pay homage to some great singer songwriters and play some covers, and Pontus and the guys played some great covers tonight: Jimmy Reed’s Aint that Lovin You Baby and a great blues version of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic I Can See Clearly Now, and when covers are sung and played this good, you just don’t mind. Along with some rugged blues original numbers and some great guitar solos I was glad I managed to see a full set finally, the hall was absolutely rammed and he got a fantastic cheer from the crowd when he finished his set: a real favourite here at HRH Blues. PONTUS SNIBBS WRECK OF BLUES Also a return to HRH for this band. Having missed their set last year due to clashes and hearing how good they were, I wanted to catch them today. Pontus comes from Sweden and was originally in rock band Bonafide, and together with Kalle Johansson on bass and I know he usually has his Dad on drums with him but the young man playing with him here certainly wasn’t? unless he’d had surgery!!! sorry man didn’t get your name. They play blues with attitude if you think George Thorogood then you will know the style I mean, real toe tapping stuff, he has a piercing scream to his voice which was easily the loudest heard tonight so far, but also like so many has that great growl for the blues; it’s what I call sleaze bar blues, I really enjoyed his set because sometimes you just to have pay homage to some great singer songwriters and play some covers, and Pontus and the guys played some great covers tonight: Jimmy Reed’s Aint that Lovin You Baby and a great blues version of Jimmy Cliff’s reggae classic I Can See Clearly Now, and when covers are sung and played this good, you just don’t mind. Along with some rugged blues original numbers and some great guitar solos I was glad I managed to see a full set finally, the hall was absolutely rammed and he got a fantastic cheer from the crowd when he finished his set: a real favourite here at HRH Blues.

Two years ago, here at Sheffield I had the pleasure of seeing the next artist for the first time and was absolutely blown away by her guitar skills and stage presence and the lovely vibe she creates. CHANTEL McGREGOR was the penultimate act of the night and the room was buzzing waiting for her performance. Chantel has won scores of British blues awards best young artist, best female vocalist, guitarist of the year and all thoroughly deserved. This Bradford lass has a real down to earth attitude when she greets you on stage and you can’t help but warm to her straight away. The other two members of her band, Colin Sutton bass and Ollie Goss drums, all have such a great chemistry on stage: forever smiling at each other and just enjoying what they do. Chantel tonight had the longest set of the night at 90 minutes and the hall was absolutely crammed; the biggest crowd of the night without a doubt and did they witness a performance tonight, she scorched it. Starting off with “Take the Power” with a  great drum pad intro and wonderful bass effects from Colin, she immediately shows her guitar prowess with an infectious riff and then her incredible range of  a deep sultry voice followed by a falsetto going into the first of her jaw dropping guitar solos, this girl is up there with the best of them not just the guitarists like Joanne Shaw Taylor or Nita Strauss but she is as good as any of the big names out there, male and female alike. Playing songs from her albums  Lose Control and Like no Other her set just flew by, a mix of blues, slow dreamy ballads, and hard and heavy rock numbers where her shredding left the audience wide mouthed. In her broad Yorkshire accent she says “we’re going to play some stuff for you tonight, hope you like it”. This is what everyone loves about her, no airs and graces, no posing, just playing music and loving it and she is just as brilliant on the acoustic guitar as the electric and songs like “Anaesthetise”, and “Inconsolable”, show an almost folk side to her and her beautiful voice. And she also played a new one from her soon to be on its way album, the song was Avin a Giraffe with another great solo. When she really disappears into the music on the heavy numbers her guitar face is a beaming smile, in fact she never stops smiling and talking and joking and just having fun with the audience all night. She had cleverly timed it so when they pretended to go off they would have enough time to play their last number “Walk on Land”, an eight minute plus song that starts like a lamb but man does it go out like a lion, where we are treated to the best guitar solo seen all night, head down and moving from side to side  she was like a female Hendrix.. fingers going nonstop this wasn’t just a great set tonight it was a guitar masterclass. Well done Chantel and the guys look forward to seeing you again at Ramblin’ Man where I am sure you will smash it out of the park again.

The headliner tonight was AYNSLEY LISTER who I have read many claim to be one of the best blues guitarists in the world. He plays contemporary blues but after the blistering set by Chantel it was a bit of an anti-climax and many had headed for the exit. I didn’t think he had a very powerful voice and my rock genes which had been more than treated by the last set had by now been bluesed out for the evening and I only stayed for a couple of songs. Feeling thoroughly entertained by the whole day’s proceedings myself and my partner in C…rhyme, photographer LadyGigger also headed for the exit.

A wonderful first day of blues, rock, and a blend of soul and even reggae, bring it on tomorrow for day 2.                             A wonderful first day of blues, rock, and a blend of soul and even reggae, bring it on tomorrow for day 2.

Review by Dave Martin & Pics by Carol Henson aka LadyGigger for Jace Media.

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