35 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

So, when I get the thumbs up from Laurence to come along and shoot his gig at Leicester’s The Musician Pub, it’s an offer I can’t refuse.

I’ve been a fan of this guitar prodigy since I witnessed him play in support of KING KING many years ago oop Narf, in the Sage Theatre, Gateshead. That night he totally smashed any pre-conceived conceptions anyone had about his ability to play.

Over the next few years I got the chance to shoot Laurence at several venues including the infamous ‘Flowerpot’ in Derby were he supported Stevie Nimmo and at the Stables in Milton Keynes where he allowed a little upstart on stage, who, armed with a SRV Strat smashed the crowd with his awesome playing, at aged 12 he even played the guitar behind his head, that little chap was the amazing Toby Lee.

The last time I managed to shoot Laurence being at the Royal Leamington Spa Assembly Rooms. That night he was supporting the American Blues Rock Legend Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and apart from an overpowering yellow light, the band knocked it out of the park.

Sadly, tonight my co-conspirator, ‘Waldorf’, is unable to make it so Statler has ventured out, alone, once again armed with a pack of half eaten crayons and a need to fill the car up with petrol on the way home. I managed to get 8 litres on the way in before the pump stopped providing, Gulp! At least I can get home!

Walking into the venue I instantly recognise a familiar face so I make my way over and start chatting to the formidable player that is Jim Kirkpatrick. FM’s axe man has dropped by along with fellow band member, Keyboard player, Jem Davis who is dressed in his familiar white Tee shirt under a waistcoat, always looking ready to play a gig. They have both taken time out to catch Laurence’s show. In doing so I notice Jim’s carrying his amp, looks like the collective tonight are in for a treat.

I’ve gotten there early so I get to chat to Carol of Casbah Events, tonight’s hosts. We end up at the bar where she kindly gets her husband to pay for my drink, thank you for that, a great gesture, even though I’m Tea Total.

We chat briefly about her Events hosting and her desire to promote up and coming musicians and creatives both here in the Musician and in the Sound house, both of which are in Leicester. Carol also explains that we have a University student, studying media in the house tonight taking photo’s along side myself. An example of her willingness to help other. A commendable lady indeed.

First up tonight we have a great guy who also hails from Laurence’s adopted home town, born in Liverpool, Laurence and family moved to Shipstone on Stour when he was but a wee lad of eight. Greg even went to the same school although was a couple of years above him. Sitting on a stool with a Taylor guitar for company, this likeable young chap gets the night underway with an approximate 45 min set.

With a deliberate finger style that fits with his blues roots choice in music he delivers a powerful set full of the raw dynamics that this style of music is all about.

Combine that with his strong clear vocal and you have a combination that has the knowledgeable among us hanging on every breath. A stunning set that not only includes his own work, due out on an album later this year to the several covers that ne nails be it on the Taylor, or sliding around on the electric Godin 5th Avenue, which you can feel is just raring to tear your ears off but is controlled beautifully.

His set includes songs entitled ‘Work for a Living’ writing after watching the Good, The Bad and The Ugly, for the umpteenth time, a brave tune called ‘Come On’ this time written about all the things that annoy him about his intended future wife, she must be special if half the things sang about are true, and a few covers of his obvious hero’s thrown in.

Such as Joey Landreth’s ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’. A great track which sees the Godin and a good stamp on a pedal, thus giving the sound an explosive expansiveness befitting this epic tune. The pedal, for the nerds, is a Walrus Audio Monument pedal, a harmonic tremolo im informed, whatever its ‘sweet’, we like that.

Using a clear bottle neck we get Tony Jo Whites ‘As the Crow Flies’, I believe this bluesy song appeared on his 1972, The Train I’m on album with its train inspired traveling in the lyrics. Its been covered by the greats, Gallagher, The Animals and Bonamassa to name drop, but now you can add Greg Brice to that list.

A great funky tune with superb slide. To be fair I’d not heard the tune before so have looked it up and it’s a banger! I like that one a lot. Rounding his set of we get a chance to see Brice play, as he introduces it, he mentions that it is a show off track, its Sonny Landreth’s ‘Zydeco Shuffle from 1990’s (almost) Everybody Slides.

A rip snorting track to just underline what a great player Greg Brice is. With fingers flying around like little pink maggots, eyes closed he flys around the neck with its controlled chicken picking style of fingering and great slide, he has the attention of the gathered crowd, which has grown considerably.

It reminds me of something that the Awesome Troy Redfern might play on his National. This song receives great applause and leaves him with a huge smile on his face. Good job well done! Check him out he’s a solid player.

Set List: Jiffy Jam, TDLDMA, Weeping Willow Blues, Tipitina, One More Day, Minus 20 Grand,

Work for A Living, Come On, Hallelujah I love her so, Its All Over Now, As the Crow Flies, Zydeco Shuffle.

After the usual set change over, which doesn’t take too long as Greg only has a stool a couple of guitars and a pedal box to move, we are greeted by the big smile that is Laurence Jones and his band, which consist of the familiar Bennett Holland on Keys, the new to me Sam Jenkins, safely hidden away behind the Perspex screens, on drums and hipster beard envy, Jack Alexander Timmis on 5 string bass. The band take their places on what is the ultimate night of their Pre-Status Quo OUT OUT Tour Warm Up Tour! Sheesh that’s a title.

With greetings over with and Laurence now sporting his new line of guitar, namely a maroon red Paul Reed Smith complete with a fingerboard festooned with the trade mark flying birds, we launch the night off with a banger of a track, ‘What’s It gonna Be’ the title track from the album released in 2015. It gets underway with a massive kick drum beat from behind the Perspex, swirling keys from Bennett as Laurence stands to the side of the microphone, grinning through his beard.

The New PRS is being stroked calmly, for now, as the song builds. Hipster on bass is locked in and grooving to this early Jones tune. As he acknowledges the crowd, we see those fingers dart up to the dirty end of the guitars neck as we launch into the understated solo. Jeez even behind the battered screen those drums are being hit!

Lead Belly’s ‘Good Morning Blues’ a staple of any Laurence gig is up next and gets the respect it deserves, yes It gets torn a new one by the young (ahem he was 30 last week) blues man. With his wah wah getting an airing, he again launches into the solo, hand behind his back as he holds the right note to the point of it breaking up making the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Two songs in and we have the heads nodding, a gent just across from me, stood in front of Bennett’s Hammond, is lost in full on air-guitar mode. The harmonic picking gets a cheer from the collective, as he riffs out to finish the song. This has always been a favourite of mine and Laurence has done it proud, a great track, complete with a nod to Hendrix as it finishes.

Next we get treated to a couple of new songs ‘Anywhere with Me’ and ‘Can’t Keep from Loving You’. Both are so new in fact that trying to find a copy online to listen too is nigh on impossible, even my old favourite site, Set List Dot FM has a speech given by some American FOX NEWS TV personality tagged to the first track and a version of ‘ Can’t keep Living Like This’ a stunning song in its own right and sees a really young LJ playing at the Bluesmoose Café, tagged to the other.

One of those moments when I’m too busy trying to nail the killer shot and never took any notes. Needless to say, they’re a couple of bangers, both will be out on the new album due later this year.

‘Don’t need no Reason’ gets us back on track, again from the 2015 album What’s it Gonna Be. With its jangly start that soon descends into a fun distorted solo that shows just how good the young songwriter was back in 2015, with classic blues turnarounds and a fat bass line supported by a strong thumping drum beat driving forward as Laurence takes the lead and grooves out, with bends that are off the scale this is a master class of guitar playing from a young man rated by some as being in the top 10 best in the world. A high accolade but just listening to him you instantly agree.

‘Down and Blue’ carry’s on were ‘Don’t Need’ left off. A steady walking beat once again lets Laurence show of the fact that the guy can hold a tune as he sings of the pain getting home when you’re feeling down and blue.

And as is normal, Laurence delivers a solo, subtle and precise with a great tone as the guitar is bent and pushed out of shape giving great harmonic depth to the tune, a single handed vibrato rings out solid as the emotion spills from his fingers, a pause has the crowd cheer just as the band strike up again, you gotta love a false ending.

Laurence talks about the last time he was in the Musician which was pre puberty, someone shouts out 2 years ago to which the reply was hey, I got a beard now! he looks at Mr Hipster, ok and beard envy he says laughing. ‘In Too Deep’, another new song follows again a banger of a driving song with Barret on BV’s as they sing over the repetitive double stop inspired riff which ultimately leads in to a wah wah backed solo, the guy has nailed another great tune as he lofts the PRS on to his thigh ‘Slash’ style and rams a great solo down our throats.

‘Thunder in The Sky’ with its Hendrix inspired opening riff is next, this being the title track off the 2012 album of the same name. With its soft vocal about losing his girl, the matureness of Laurence has lifted this, another of my favourites, to a new level.

Played previously on a Les Paul, tonight see’s the PRS giving it a controlled lunacy, a tighter, more vibrant energy screams as the solo kicks in proper, between contorted faces, Laurence is looking at the sky, eyes closed, then a brief smile to the crowd as he looks at the guitar neck as he bends the strings enough to slice your fingertips. The solo is sonically mesmerising, the crowd cheer as he brings it all back down to earth.

‘Stop Moving the House’ again from What’s it Gonna be. Is apparently inspired by a drunk fan, you can imagine the guy wobbling all over the place lol. With its bluesy Rockabilly vibe reminiscent of your man from the Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, until the solo kicks in which drops instantly into a familiar SRV style boogie as he plays back and forth with Jack ‘The Beard’ on bass.

The setlist has had a shuffle around from previous nights and next we see why. The Green PRS that’s stood patiently screaming ‘pick me’ ‘pick me’! is now being handed across to Laurence’s guest, Mr Jim Kirkpatrick who has, magically appeared on stage like Mr Bens Shop Keeper. Strapping into the sage green PRS we can see the devilment in Jim’s eyes, it’s going to be explosive, he’s up for it.

Introductions out of the way we have the pair of them strike up into Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse me’ Smack! The sonic assault from these two friends is spell binding. LJ has given way to Jim as he smashes the intro out, finger picking as he does so, his pic gripped between tight lips as he and Laurence swap lines back and forth. Laurence belts out the vocal as they both have fun.

This is what live music is all about, as the keys fight with the guitars in a three-way battle the song builds into a crescendo of outstanding musicianship, Jim’s encouraged to go forward and rock out which he duly does. Great stuff in deed.

Being perhaps better known for his work with AOR band FM, Jim’s solo work is also a pure delight to listen too. He’s currently involved with ‘Band of Friends’ who are out touring Rory Gallagher’s back catalogue, later this year he will be back out on the road again with his main job, FM promoting their new album ‘13’. Get and see him if you can, he doesn’t disappoint.

No Laurence set is ever complete without a nod to the great Jimi Hendrix and to nights no exception, but this time Jim is going to duet with him. A delicate note starts and then another as they weave the intro to ‘Little Wing’. Bennett on keys has taken over the singing on this one to every one’s amazement, as the Hammond swirls and bubbles around.

I’m caught like a rabbit in the car headlights, I didn’t expect this and fair play to Bennett, he is smashing out a true highlight of the night, his voice is simply ridiculous dripping in a honey tone and the emotion, wow its sending shivers, simply stunning! I think Bennett said afterwards that it’s only the second time they’ve played it on this outing. It was a highlight moment, hopefully it will appear on YouTube in due course.

As Jim leaves the stage and heads back to the bar to join Jem, Laurence shouts out ‘do you want to hear anymore Hendrix’, Duh! ‘Do bears Sh1t in the woods’ a guy next to me shouts back, and so we get a further song added to the night, it being the awesome ‘Purple Haze’. As the Wah Wah intro gets underway the bass and drums clout the backbeat, Laurence is right at the front of the stage, as he delivers a master class in Hendrix, then it’s back to the mic as he kisses the sky.

Smiling, he’s on form and clearly having fun as he smashes the strings of his guitar, right arm flailing as he strikes the strings perfectly. This fast-paced tune has the crowd bouncing. The notes keep pouring from the stage as, eyes closed Laurence picks up the guitar and plays it with his teeth much to the crowd’s delight. Bringing it back down he says good night to the crowd as he wraps up the tune with a ridiculous outro, HA HA he’s going nowhere, after the ritual shouting of ‘MORE’ the band come back on stage. The grin on Laurence’s bearded face is bigger than that of the Cheshire Cats.

The encore consists of the re jigged ‘Foolin’ Me’ from the 2014 album Temptation. A fast-paced number with its chugging muted riff played at 100 miles an hour, the drums crashing out around him as he again dances with bass player Jack, something he’s always done.

The bass bounces around a screaming solo as Laurence rips the roof off with a delicacy of a Howitzer, sings repeatedly ‘you won’t keep fooling me! And then he’s back at the front of the stage, in everyone’s face, the PRS screaming like a tormented demon, as the camera phones pounce, eager to catch the moment. A space is made in front of him, the crowd are hoping he’s going to venture amongst us, sadly that’s not to be, not tonight.

The night is finished off with what Laurence has called his ‘Next New Favourite’ song ‘Tonight’ another new one from the up and coming album, and again another stunning new song that when you want a re-listen to is hard to find, my old favourite set list site has the track tagged to ‘I’m Waiting’, its completely the wrong tune.

Don’t you just love new songs lol. Needless to say, its full of tasty guitar weaved around a clever vocal, another great tune I watched and enjoyed like everyone else when I should have scribbled down a couple of notes, (Waldorf would have nailed it) I’ll just have to wait for the album launch and the subsequent tour to support it.

Set List: What’s it Gonna Be, Good Morning Blues, Anywhere With Me (new song), Can’t keep From Loving You (new song), Don’t Need No reason, Down And Blue, In Too Deep (new song), Thunder In The Sky, Stop Moving The House, Before You Accuse Me, Little Wing, Purple Haze.

Encore: Foolin’ Me, Tonight (new song)

So, yet another great night of music spent with old friends in an awesome little venue.

Live music is back folks and it doesn’t get any better than tonight. The playing was simply off the scale. Jim joining Laurence on stage for a couple of numbers added to the fun of the night.

I managed to catch up with Laurence briefly at the merch stand but the fans were queueing for a piece of him so I left him to it. It was nice to catch up with his Dad, Mel, always present and a great guy looking after his boy.

Right if you haven’t managed to catch Laurence on the this warm up tour then you can catch him with the mighty Quo. The ‘OUT OUT’ tour starts in Belfast on Sunday 27th, Moves onto Dublin on the 28th then is back on the mainland at the Bonus Arena, Hull on Wednesday 2nd and tours for a further 11 nights before heading off into Europe in September.

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