Review & Photography by Ritchie Birnie for MPM
It is time to tick of another one from my bucket list as Eric Gales plays only his second show in Glasgow and he proves worth the wait 100 times over.
Before we get to me going all fanboy, tears and snotters there is no small feat in the support tonight with Danny Bryant. This man is an event all in himself and he was the perfect warm up for Mr Gales with his pure blues set.
I have no idea if the big man is slumming it as its Glasgow but the shirt and blazer are gone for Jeans and a sweatshirt but I could not care less if the guy was up there with a mankini on(well, maybe not, I got pretty close taking photos) as it is that gravelly voice and those amazing fingers we are here for.
Opener “So Excited” had the blues juices flowing as it seemed like 10 minutes before the man started singing with his fretwork blowing away the audience from the off.
Next up was the incredible “Heartbreaker” and to just stand in awe as the man blows you away is one of the reasons to be alive. After those two years of no live music it nearly brings you to tears.
The band has been stripped back to a trio some of the numbers are altered and the keys are missing on the opening of “Westport” and this feels like the first real song as we get to hear Danny in full voice and a song that tears at your heartstrings. Lifted from “The Rage to Survive” this number is a highlight of the set.
“Tired of Trying” is what I would say is a 100% blues blueprint, The amazing guitar, the heart dripping vocals and the suicidal lyrics…total class in my eyes.
It is back to the vaults for “Last Goodbye” and a tip of the hat to Rory Gallagher…the man that introduced me to the Blues in the first place and the mans influence I see rippling through Blues bands new and old to this day. This song is outstanding and it still sounds as fresh as the day it was written.
Danny finishes up on a cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. This song has been covered so often that it really does have to take someone special to do it justice and Danny done that tonight. A beautiful song played to perfection.
Now for the moment this sold out crowd were waiting for, A blues behemoth taking the stage of this beautiful old church. The setting is awesome, the sound is always perfect so last in the mix is Eric Gales and his band and the night has just become unforgettable.
I overheard many comments from the crowd tonight but the one that struck and wrung true the most was “That felt like a religious experience”.
It is true, there was an other worldy feeling tonight. I looked at a man who you could tell has fought all his demons and won, a man with so much strength now he will not be defeated and to prove it he takes you on a journey of discovery that each and every person in here will be able to associate with at least once or twice during the night.
The journey tonight was kicked off with “Smokestack Lightening” and this is one of the few songs not from the most recent release “Crown” played tonight(which Eric may have alluded to once or twice that was available from the merch stall).
This was a pure blues start and the crowd was in the palm of his hand from that moment on.
Next up is “You Don’t Know the Blues” from said Crown album. The album is a huge melting pot of sounds, genres and emotions and as much it has Blues in the title this is as soulful as hell. To see this man in person and take centre stage like a giant as he plays and sings his heart out is something to behold.
Gales gets everyone on board for “Survivor” as he ties us all together with the pandemic that we all endured and here was a song to celebrate it with. This is a blues song for the right now as he takes the formula and twists it to his own vision.
Now Eric spreads some love as he talks about the album and how he finally got to work with Joe Bonamassa and how it was a deal clinched on two diet cokes. You can tell Eric has a bit of a hero in Joe and the fact that this album is so strong is in part due to that partnership.
The Storm is obviously very personal and as he opens with just the vocal line of “How can you love what I do but hate who I am”. We are again back to the soul feel and this one would have slipped into The Commitments soundtrack with ease. This shows the strength and versatility of the man and his band.
Another Crown number in “Put That Back” and the soul vibe is still there. The keys are stunning and with bassist Smokeface sizzling from his fingertips and his face you have another journey within a journey.
The demons show up on “Stand Up” and although this song should have been filled with anger it is a beautiful number which shows the strength this man has inside.
For “Take Me Just as I am” Drummer, wife and inspiration Ladonna Gales takes to the microphone. Eric introduced his wife and the story on how uncomfortable she is at stepping out from behind that drumkit and sharing the spotlight.
This is obviously another journey and how that woman could be apprehensive of a voice given from above I have no idea. This was a beautiful moment between two people and the whole crowd were in awe of the spectacle.
It is time for some lazy blues on “My Own Best Friend”. This is a song for swinging on a porch, for reminiscing, for shutting out a world of noise and looking after yourself…and since we are looking back “Sea of Bad blood” is up next and this classic has smoke face taking on the fretwork gymnastics before we have the whole band absolutely nailing this instrumental.
The night is closed of with another two tracks from Crown with the title track finishing the night in style. This was the track where Joe left the mixing board and took to the instrument he has been master of for decades and as much as there is some tongue in cheek moments in the song it is Eric laying down a gauntlet and the fact that Joe says Gales is the best guitarist in the world maybe we should just shut up and agree.
I know there is nobody here tonight would disagree. Eric is the real deal, he has paid his dues and now it is time to collect. Crown is the album that will take him to new heights and live shows like this will keep that momentum going.