Home Gigs Gig Review : Myles Kennedy & Company ‘Ides of March’ UK Tour 2021, support: Cardinal Black ,Manchester Academy: 9th December 2021

Gig Review : Myles Kennedy & Company ‘Ides of March’ UK Tour 2021, support: Cardinal Black ,Manchester Academy: 9th December 2021

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Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Having seen Myles on his solo ‘Year of The Tiger’ album tour back in 2018, when this tour was announced I knew I wanted to cover it. Sadly, due to prior engagements I’m having to travel further afield than normal to get to see him.

Manchester isn’t a place I frequent, in fact since leaving school in ‘82, I’ve ventured to the rainy city only the once to see a band, Paul Rogers at the Manchester Apollo, my haunt of old during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Reading the horror stories about the bus lanes and bus only roads around the venue I best make sure I’ve got the monies ready for the fines, you know they’ll happen.

Ok so getting to the venue wasn’t as tricky as I thought, with a new bypass and having to fully trusting my Sat Nav, even when it was directing me towards Liverpool was the order of the night. Having spent 3 ½ hrs just getting there is was nice to see the parking was close to the venue and it would appear it was also free. What a result.

A quick queue up and efficient box office staff saw me inside, I just followed the crowd rush and somehow ended up in the arena. Wow this makes a change to my frequent haunts of Rock City and the Rescue Rooms back in Nottingham.

The Pit here is massive and one I’d have loved to have shot from but, due to Covid the pit was off limits, so a crowd shoot it would be. Luckily, I’m armed with my trusty collapsible stool and a couple of big lenses, yes there’s going to be some size envy tonight!

Cardinal Black are up first and I’ll show my ignorance by saying that they’re a new band too me. I’ve heard of them, obviously, but never actually managed to catch them in my travels. 

With their guitar driven style of Alt-Rock, and having a guitar magazine winner of ‘Best New Guitarist in the World’ in Chris Buck, it was never going to be anything else, add the swirling keyboards of Gregg Hollister and the soulful vocals of Gregg’s younger brother Tom Hollister, not forgetting drums and bass, Adam Roberts and Sam Williams, you end up with a tight band full of warmth and depth.

Playing a short set of only 5 songs, they succeeded in getting the crowd warmed up. Kicking off with their debut single, ’Tell Me How It Feels’, vocalist Tom is on it making the right noises, but all too easily. His tone is dripping with a soulfulness not often found this side of the pond, Buck is straight in showing his deft work on the guitar, full of soaring breaks and subtle swells, this song is an enticing way to open the night up, I certainly was wanting more.

This happened with ‘Jump In’ their second single and again Buck takes the lead with some sublime playing as he introduces the song as flat cap wearing Tom, takes over the lead duties with that silky-smooth voice as it caresses you gently through this slow bluesy ballad, Williams, on bass, seems to have the good side of the stage as he’s engulfed in smoke and red and blue lights, he looks the man! This tune is followed by ‘Where Do You Go’ a slightly more upbeat number with a driving bass beat tied in to a great drum riff, as, again Buck and Hollister jnr smash out the melody, again another catchy tune with a familiarity to it that I can’t put my finger on.

Warm Love’ follows and this, I have to say, has me on my feet, Chris Buck’s insane solo on that gold double cut away, has me cheering like a teenager, I’m a sucker for a well-played guitar. With a slow bluesy feed, Hollister’s voice has a similarity to a cross between Alan Nimmo and Frankie Millar in parts. The tune builds towards the inevitable solo, Roberts is in the pocket as he smiles and sticks his tongue out at Hollister snr on keys, a nice Hammond sound resonating from his fingers as he sits behind a banner bearing the band’s name.

The final song in their set is ‘Tied up in Blue’ which again is a guitar driven tune dripping in gold, the combination of guitar and vocal is sublime. There set goes far too quickly.

They are definitely a band to watch out for, I for one will be looking to catch them again, hopefully with a longer set.

After the swift change over which sees the support actually breaking down their own kit, we are ready for the main event. There’s a good crowd in tonight, about 2k at a guess and the energy being given off is electric.

With subdued lighting the trio walk casually on stage, and immediately the crowd erupt like a bottle of pop, as Myles Kennedy straps in to his guitar, you can see the grin on his face, a Cheshire (just up the road) cat doesn’t come close. An acknowledgement to the crowd and we’re into ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ proper, they walked on to a backing track of the rhythm section, they take over ramping it up a level or two. With a guitar sat comfortably Myles ridiculous vocal cuts the atmosphere like a knife, stood centre stage he waves and plays asking the crowd to sing, on drums tonight is his old friend of 35 yrs, Zia Uddin and on bass Tim Tournier who apparently likes Red Bull.

I spent the first four songs weaving my way through the crowd to try and get some half decent photos for the review. During this foray we get ‘A Thousand Words’ again, from the new album ‘The Ides of March’, ‘Devil on the Wall’ with its acoustic 60’s rock n roll vibe, and ‘Turning Stones’ a venture back to the first album, ‘Year of the Tiger’, which sees more acoustic action, at times sounding a bit like Simon and Garfunkel, as the jangly guitar is joined by a single kick drum beat. A superb song which showcases the control Myles has in his voice, projecting with ease as the song nears its conclusion.

Haunted by Design’, another from the first album has a gentle, soft, almost spoken vocal as it starts, again a single simple kick drum accompanies the voice through this great tune, one of my personal favourites might I add. The hillbilly guitar break shows again how good a guitar player Kennedy is as he smashes out a solo right at the front of the stage whilst his guitar tech fiddles with his pedal board. This song works well as a trio piece. Warming up he now slips off his Jacket revealing his now trade make plaid shirt, tonight’s is a blue one

Myles tells the crowd how great they are, and as a special treat they’re going to play a song that they have not played on the tour until now. He explains the song is complex and how it was ‘built’ in the studio by parts being added and kept if they worked. He stated before starting the song that they aren’t sure how it’ll work live as a trio due to it’s a complicated arrangement.

As soon as he’s played the first few notes on the guitar, before he’s sung any words, the crowd has guessed and eager to sing along. With its smoke-filled Parisian jazz club vibe. ‘The Ides of March’ has become a firm favourite, with its nice fat bluesy guitar playing, that just slots effortlessly amongst all the Bond villains sat around plotting his demise. Kennedy shows us he’s no slouch in the guitar department as he solos along to a marching drum beat full of crashing cymbals and then it’s back to finger picking and softly spoken lyrics to finish!  

The crowd love the song and Myles says they might have to leave the song in the set. He again thanks the crowd for being so supportive of him and the support band ‘Cardinal Black’ and states, tongue in cheek, that maybe they should do the last three shows in Manchester.

All Ends Well’ on acoustic follows after a brief mention of the band, Tim Tournier on Bass and Zia Uddin on the drums. This Alter-Bridge tune gets the Kennedy treatment. Standing stage centre he cranks out this great tune before going into ‘Songbird’ again from the first album. With its distinctive country vibe, Kennedy swoops and soars vocally, a song that is optimistic in its feel from an album that was born out of such a painful time.

This again flows into the first album’s title track, ‘Year of the Tiger’ another acoustic piece with a driving drum beat and droning guitar. The album about the passing of his father, while he was still young, sees this song about his mum and her battles as she strives to survive and listening to the words its obvious that she is a very special person.

Another trip back to the new album and we have ‘Tell it Like it is’ a slide dripping delight of country influenced song writing, again a driving drum beat pushes this song forward, telling it like it is, just lay it on the line, irrespective of how it all turns out. It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Voice and slide guitar blend into one glorious smorgasbord of fun as the blonde telecaster gets a thorough bottle(neck)ing.

Moonshot’ was written very quickly we’re told, of how suiting up before a gig was taken for granted, brought about by the obvious pandemic situation. Written while clicking through the tv channels and was one of the first songs written for the album. With the Bigsby loaded Gretsch big bodied guitar giving this tune life. With a shout out to the minor key being played during the chorus, a thing that he deliberated over, works. His voice is again sublime during this great tune.

Get Along’ written about previous unrest gets a new lease of life with the disturbances that rippled across America during 2020. This features another visit from the striking Les Paul Gold Top, if you know you know! Up next we have ‘love Can Only Heal’ a sublime tune and one that you feel has to be one of Kennedy’s master pieces. With a bit of a false start as Kennedy tells his guitar tech the thing doesn’t work, only for the tech to race out and turn up the volume knob on the exchanged, orange topped Les Paul, Kennedy says goodnight and fakes a walk off stage, he pronounces himself as an idiot. This again features Kennedy and a bottleneck as the drums blasts out a steady beat once again. It’s at this point that I realise that the annoying guy who’s been talking non-stop in front of me was one of the togs barging around early in the set snapping away. He should know better. Anyways the song finishes with a tumultuous Slide solo that again show cases Kennedy’s guitar ability.

No set would be complete without ‘World on Fire’, this Slash and the Conspirators cover lifts the spirit again; it features the metal resonator guitar once more. So once again, the acoustic guitar is driven by the kick drum as Kennedy is surrounded by a curtain of yellow rotating light, this sees Myles once again, get to the very front of the stage, in shadows for most of the time until the lights strike up and we are into ‘In Stride’ which finishes the set off. With the full band (sic) now beating the venue up as Myles is sliding up and down the guitar neck, shouting out for hands and clapping to which the crowd are already there. The song finishes and with a wave and a thankyou the band leave the stage.

Kennedy’s amp is droning a sound of almost feedback quality, this has happened at every guitar change between most of the songs, a stamp of a pedal cures it as the band are back on and into my favourite track from the new album ‘Worried Mind’. A great choice of encore and final song of the night. Themed about how the times are and the choices given to us to aid us in moving forward, it’s all about give and take, Myles and the band are giving plenty to night but I think the crowd will always take more as the band play the hell out of this great tune full of double stops and a vocal dripping in purity and accuracy. The solo is thick and rounded with clarity and clear highs as the song builds, Kennedy’s voice never faulters as he climbs higher in his register to match the screaming crying out from his McCarty PRS guitar.

And then its done. He takes his guitar off and salutes the crowd ‘Z’ hands out drum sticks to the lucky ones at the barrier, and Myles flicks out a few picks and a copy of the set list, A group bow follows along with the final salutes to the crowd the band eventually leave the stage.

We have witnessed a maestro at work, he’s entertained us with a great selection from his two solo albums and thrown in a few of his collaborative works too. The albums could be described as conceptual in that they both have a strong themes running through them. ‘Year of the Tiger’ about the passing of his father and ‘the Ides of March’ with its Pandemic, Political and Social undertones, some songs obviously written pre pandemic but with how the world has panned out in the last two years, has very become very much of the moment. 

Thank you to Myles and the band for being brave to venture out and entertain us here on the ‘right’ side of the ‘pond’. I think he knows by to-night’s performance, there’ll always be a home for him, here in the UK.

Grab your tickets and VIP Experiences for The Ides Of March Tour, on sale now at https://myleskennedy.com

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