Review by Pete Finn for MPM
It’s a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, MPM photographer Manny and I are off on another ‘Road Trip’ to a new venue for us.
So, with bellies full of Sunday Lunch and at a time when people of our age are settling down on the sofa for a snooze, the old Muppets are heading to Staffordshire and the market town of Leek to visit The Foxlowe Arts Centre.
The Foxlowe Arts Centre was the brainchild of a group of local people who had the vision of a thriving centre for a rich variety of arts-related projects in the heart of the historic market town of Leek. This elegant Georgian House stands in a prime position at the head of Leek’s Market Place. It has looked out over markets, gatherings, celebrations, and the everyday lives of Leek people for centuries.
The house was not always known as Foxlowe and was generally known as No 1 Leek. Initially a group of volunteers cleared, cleaned, and decorated part of the Georgian building, ready for the first Christmas Exhibition in December 2011 shortly followed by the opening of the community café and a programme of arts events.
We arrive in plenty of time and park up in the Market Place, and pop into The Red Lion Hotel for some refreshments whilst waiting for the 19:30 ‘Doors’. Right on time the doors are opened, we make our way in through a grand entrance and through to the back of the building and a small bar which leads into the hall. It’s long and narrow with a small stage at one end, the stage is relatively low to compensate for the lack of headroom. The soundboard behind me is on a clever Tetris like tower of bar tables, there’s a steady flow of people in from the adjacent bar.
This evening we have the pleasure of seeing two international artists perform in this intimate venue, in the shape of South African Dan Patlansky and supported by American Arielle. A quick look on Google Maps to find out that it’s 7985 miles or 12850 km between their birth places of Johannesburg and New Jersey respectively. It’s amazing how live music can shorten distances and bring people together.
Born in New Jersey, singer/songwriter/musician Arielle’s musical journey began at the age of 5 when she joined the Peninsula Girls Chorus of California. It was a magical moment only equalled when she got her first guitar at the age of ten. It was as if she had found her soul mate. Later, she attained a degree from Musician’s Institute in L.A. and continued her education in the U.K. at London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.
Her first break came when she was ‘Discovered’ in 2010 by Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt. In the years that followed, she made a name for herself touring throughout North America and the UK, opening, and playing with amongst others Joe Bonamassa, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and members of Deep Purple. Good fortune ensued when Arielle was handpicked by guitarist Brian May for a key role in the London-based musical, “We Will Rock You.” The Brian May link continues with her own BMG signature guitar, a copy of her favourite, affectionately known as ‘Two Tone’.
To date Arielle has released three E.P.’s along with three full length albums, her debut in 2015 being ‘The Whale’. The follow up ‘Suspension/Dimension’ in 2019, and the most recent ‘Analog Girl in a Digital World’ last year. There is also a fourth yet untitled album due for release later this year.
Arielle appears on stage from out of the audience with Two Tone hanging off her shoulder, also on stage seated next to her is bassist Devin North from Austin, Texas. After a tune-up jam, she starts her set off with ‘Voices In My Head’ which is taken from her 2018 E.P
Mind Lion’. A dirty sounding intro, with a strong beat, Arielle’s lyrics clear and steady as she narrates the story to us. There’s a couple of tempo changes, that entices you in, excited for more. It’s impossible not to nod your head or tap your foot along to. The crowd liked that one.
Next, it’s a new track, ‘Somewhere Slow’, this is more rock driven, quicker with a deeper vocal. The guitar has a jangly sound which is sitting on bass wash this adds depth and fills the room with sound, the tempo increases as we reach the end of the song. ‘You’re Still a Man’ is taken from the recent ‘Analog Girl in a Digital World’, upbeat and punchy, there’s a great riff back bone that supports fun lyrics and a clever guitar solo, the driving rhythm bounces the track along. The audience are enjoying this.
‘Weakness For You’ is new, Arielle introduces it as an Americana track, based on the rock sounds of the 60’s and 70’s. It has a strong beat as Devin North pounds the strings. Arielle’s voice is clear and prominent. Mid-track they stop playing, and ask for some help from the audience, they need someone to play the triangle, after a few refusals to Arielle’s requests, a guy volunteers, and is welcomed up onto the stage.
His name is Nev, Nev takes over the triangle and joins in. Arielle pauses again and tells Nev to “Big Up” his part and asks if he’s ever been serenaded by an American woman before. This is fun. Nev is now joining in on vocals, the audience are cheering, it’s great entertainment. The track finishes to great cheers. As Arielle changes her guitar, I get a message from Manny who still down by the stage front, guitarist Uli Jon Roth formally with the Scorpions is stood by the stage watching.
Arielle swaps to an acoustic guitar as she tells us, she “sucks” at relationships and her love is an older man, a 1973 VW ‘Bus’ and this next track ‘73’ again a new one, is for him. It has a big bass sound, the lyrics list different places, maybe a road trip. The acoustic produces sweet sounds, as it’s gently stroked and strummed.
Completing this trio of new songs is ‘The Way You Look at Me’, Arielle introduces her “cute” guitar ‘Two Tone’ to us, she built it about 15 years ago and it’s her “BFF”. The song is about the person you’re in a relationship with, who when they look at you, you know they don’t love you anymore. The vocal is carefully sung, Arielle shows the audience the great range in both her voice and guitar skills as she plays out a great solo.
Arielle thanks the audience for “Hanging Out” with her. The final track of Arielle’s fabulous set tonight is ‘Magick Again’ from the 2017 released E.P. ‘Interim’, the acoustic is back, Arielle asks Devin if he’s ready for an Irish Jig, it has a classic Irish folk music sound, she asks Devin to go faster, the tempo increases, a great way to finish the show. The audience show their appreciation. Arielle leaves the stage the same way she entered, through the audience. We’ve had a great party.
Setlist: Voices In My Head; Somewhere Slow; You’re Still a Man; Weakness For You; 73′; Tie Your Mother Down (not played); The Way You Look at Me; Magick Again (Intro)
Born in Johannesburg in 1981 Dan Patlansky was nurtured on the medley of rock, blues, funk, soul, and jazz that he found in his parents record collection. He discovered the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan and decided that blues-rock was for him. In the early days, there were several albums that he had released in his Homeland of South Africa, but it was in 2014 when his seventh record ‘Dear Silence Thieves’ got him international recognition, he opened for Bruce Springsteen and toured with Joe Satriani shortly afterwards.
This tour is in support of his tenth album, ‘Shelter of Bones’ released earlier this year. It took three years to make, during which time he had to deal with a mixture of personal and other ups and downs that included a worldwide pandemic. He is recently quoted as saying during an interview “Shelter of Bones is an accurate representation of who I am currently as an artist, which is a modern twist on what I love most, the Blues.”
I had the pleasure, and it was a genuine pleasure, of reviewing ‘Shelter of Bones’ for Metal Plant Music last month; https://metalplanetmusic.com/2022/02/album-review-dan-patlansky-shelter-of-bones/
Dan’s band make their way onto stage, we have Ben Matthews (drums) and Tom Swan (bass), shortly followed by Dan Patlansky himself, a courtesy acknowledgement to the audience and it’s straight into ‘Lift Off’ a new and unreleased track, it is an apt start to Dan Patlansky’s set. It’s an instrumental, a high paced Rock ‘n’ Roll style track, there are a couple of harder rock breaks dropped in, the tempo gets faster and faster until there’s a crashing crescendo, with a great drum roll to finish.
A brilliant start to the show. A quick “Hello” from Patlansky and it’s into ‘Soul Parasite’ which is the opening track on ‘Shelter Of Bones’, a crash of cymbals and a more heavy rock sound begins the track, it has a dirty riff. Patlansky seems angry as he shouts the lyrics, his voice sounding slightly gravely adding great texture. He leans back into the guitar solo; this is true classic rock. The crowd cheering and clapping at the end.
The acoustics in the room deserve a complement to the guy on the mixer behind me. “It’s great to be back performing” a grinning Patlansky tells us, he then introduces the band to us. We slide effortlessly into ‘Snake Oil City’ continuing the ‘Shelter Of Bones’ tracks, slower paced and more a blues/jazz feel. The guitar break mid-track is mesmerising, his fingers on the strings moving like a gymnast’s tumbling routine across the mat.
But this is only a taster for the solo later, he’s crouched down low as he plays, and which is delivered with real bite. Patlansky shows a more controlled vocal, almost soothing. This went down very well with the Foxlowe audience.
Patlansky tells us the next song took a lot of courage to write, it was written during a dark period of his life. It’s ‘Lost’ again from the new album, a gentle and passionate ballad, oozing with emotion. Written about the time he found out that his wife was seriously ill. He’d been told to expect the worst. Thankfully, everything was OK in the end. Each note is chosen to convey his feelings, the love resonates through the strings as he strokes them, it’s fabulous.
The 2016 album ‘IntroVertigo’ gives us the next track, ‘Stop The Messin’’. It’s a lot more upbeat with strong vocals and a powerful heartbeat provided by Matthews and Swan. A funky, groovy track, the tempo slows, Patlansky gets down and dirty with a sleazy blues solo. Matthews picks up the pace and Patlansky eagerly follows. Swan’s driving bass carries us over the line. This has the crowd nodding along in time.
Next, we have ‘Bad Soul’ from ‘Shelter Of Bones’, more dirty riffs start the track, Matthews and Swan watch on, then come in with a crushing beat, you can feel it through your body. The beat provides a conduit for punchy lyrics, these in turn carry the listener to centre stage to experience a shattering guitar solo.
We go back in time to the 2004 release ‘Heart of Stone’ from the ‘True Blues’ album. Originally, Dan tells us he wrote this when he was 14/15 years old, and thought it was the best song ever, in fact he thought he’d invented a new genre of music. Patlansky eases us smoothly and carefully into the ‘Blues’, a slow and controlled lyric, a simple drum beat and a wonderful guitar sound, makes you feel totally relaxed, we’re totally drawn in. Just close your eyes and let the sounds massage your ears, I almost forget to make notes, then Patlansky unleashes a fabulously frantic solo, he’s totally ‘Rocking Out’. As the track finishes, the crowd are cheering and whistling, it was awesome.
We leap forward to the most recently released single ‘Hounds Loose’. Almost a heavy funk sound, the band supporting Dan’s vocal. There are tempo changes from the rhythm section sewn together with a variety of great guitar sounds. Patlansky is very gracious in his thanks for the way the audience have received the track.
Patlansky tells us a story about the next track, taken from ‘Move My Soul’ the 2009 album, is ‘Big Things Going Down’. A slow Blues track he loves to play. Apparently, he’d played it a few times then had forgotten about it, until contacted by a man who wanted to make a video with it as a soundtrack. Patlansky agreed, a few months later he received a copy, a grainy back and white film with images of famous people in it, he feared a lawsuit was coming.
A friend asked a short time later how the video went, and after looking on YouTube found that there had been over 3 million hits in 3 months. It’s his most requested track and a favourite to play. This is a near ten-minute epic on the album.
Back to the Blues for the intro, Patlansky caresses the strings, and the notes jump out. The room is silent, and absorbing the experience like a new sponge, no-one is watching through their phone, totally mesmerised, it’s a wonderful spectacle. The noises he is making with his guitar are amazing. Wow.
‘Backbite’ is from the 2014 breakthrough record ‘Dear Silence Thieves’. A 70’s funk sound, shakes the room, this is fun. You can imagine it being played in Huggy Bear’s bar during an episode of Starsky and Hutch. Matthews and Swan are let loose for their own solos, to the delight of the crowd. The foot tapping is back, again another great demonstration of Dan Patlansky’s talents. Next, we are treated to a couple of Stevie Ray Vaughan classics in the form of a medley, with 1984’s ‘Scuttle Buttin’ and 1985’s ‘Say What’. These were performed with admiration and respect of the originals; they were performed brilliantly.
Patlansky thanks the crowd for coming out. The crowd show their thanks too, with cheers and whistles. The band wave and leave the stage.
The band return and are clapped back onto the stage for the encore, which consists of ‘I’ll Keep Trying’ from the new album. Again, a gentle and emotional track, written about his personal flaws. Initially the vocal is the focal point of the sound, it’s almost haunting, with the guitar in subtle support, you could hear a pin drop. But, as it develops and evolves the guitar becomes more and more prominent with a classic rock solo, a clever switch. The very respectful and attentive audience show their appreciation of a wonderful set as the band leave the stage.
Setlist: Lift Off; Soul Parasite; Snake Oil City; Lost; Stop The Messin’; Bad Soul; Heart of Stone; Hounds Loose; Big Things Going Down; Backbite; Scuttle Buttin’/Say What; I’ll Keep Trying
It’s been a great night in Leek. I’ve seen and heard two amazing guitarists/singers. Both accompanied by bands with talented musicians. Unfortunately, this tour is nearly over. But make yourself a little promise to check out Arielle and Dan Patlansky the next time they hit the road. In the meantime, you can do a lot worse than getting your ears familiar with some of their albums.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM