Chantel McGregor @ The Artrix 17th May
Pocket rock dynamo, Chantel, returned to the Artrix with her band to play before a strong audience of young and, perhaps, more aged ‘head bangers’, and rock guitar lovers. It was loud, guitar gluttony, Chantel’s Bradford tones, sometimes a little indistinct from my position, as ‘Caught Out’, exploded from the stage. Having said that, there was an awful lot of head nodding and foot tapping going on, so its probably down to my old ears. Accompanying her on stage were her band of fellow ‘Northeners’, bassist Richard Richie, and new father, drummer, Keith McParthling, I hope he’s much more gentle on the new born than the skins of his drums. Chantel uses pick & mix from her album ‘Like No Other’, and a confection of blues classics. Hendrix had to stand aside for ‘Screams Everlasting’, a beautiful song that demonstrated Chantel’s vocal qualities. A voice easily overlooked as she is lined up for the numerous guitar awards that will, no doubt, be bestowed on her slight shoulders. That Ernie Ball Guitar was put to the test for the out and out rock blasting ‘Disco Lover Suicide’, as the thunderous bass of Rich joined Keith’s crashing drums, powered through, I need ear plugs! A lovely version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s classic ‘Help Me’ cried out, deftly played, as she kicked her heels aside, to feel the stage at her feet, the audience were already there, Chantel could do no wrong.
A short break, she is out in the foyer, chatting and signing, comfortable with her fans, before returning to stage for an unmissable, short acoustic set. I was looking forward to this, to listen and reflect on this talented young artist, stripped from the power play and band. ‘Rhiannon’, is served as aperitif, a taste of Hendrix, ‘All Along The Watch Tower’, and the delicious dessert of Bruno Mars ‘Grenade’. Superlative, I could watch a whole set of Chantel McGregor playing acoustic, she is exceptionally good, and deserved winner of the British Blues Vocalist Award last year. The boys return to stage, ‘Daydream’, the slow burning Robin Trower classic, is played to perfection. ‘Fabulous’, is soon following, and is an apt a description of this show as you could find, Chantel is as fabulous as ever, an easy rapport with her audience, plenty of humour and completely at home on this stage. A brief moment of hesitation as the encore is demanded, no point in stepping back too far from the microphone. It came in the form of the excellent ‘Freefalling’. If Your a guitar rock lover, and have not seen Chantel, then make the effort, failing that find her album, she is ‘Like No Other’. Thank you Artrix.
Words and photos Graham Munn
The Roving Crows, building nests at The Artrix, Bromsgrove 25/04
A first migration for the Roving Crows to Artrix Theatre, the floor was partly set for the more active fledglings, with seating aplenty for the roosters. There was a good gathering of fans along with plenty of first time participants as Paul set the ball rolling with ‘Nancy Valentine’, the pace moderated over the next few songs leading to the beautiful, soft, ‘One Day’, withthe all the band adding to the vocals for this lament. It did not stay soft for long as the band accelerated towards the fabulous ‘White Petticoat’, I’m sure a riot would break out if this was omitted. No worries, Caitlin fiddled the band in to full power. The band were smouldering as they plucked out songs from Bacchanalia, and the later DeliberateDistractions, albums, a new as yet unrecorded ‘On The Road’ was slipped in along with a cheekily named ‘Spicey Wedge’, decidedly a bit hotter, this one. The distant rumble, heralded the opening up of the thunderous ‘Guns’, fired up with the pyrotechnics of drummer Tim Tolhurst aided and abetted by Loz Shaw on bass.
The band , never known to stand still for too long, made use of the spacious Artrix stage, ‘God On Demand’ called out, as Loz prowled over to Greg tinkering with his trumpet, Caitlin hopped and skipped about, Loz coming back for a ‘stand off’ with Paul. ‘Days In The Sun’ upped thepace again, as the set sadly moved ever closer to a finale. ‘President Garfield’ was aired, the audience demanded more, ‘Long Time Dead’, was called for, live for the day, The Roving Crows responded, the entertainment continued. Nobody wanted to rush home, but there are always restraints, the Artrix waited, it could not close for the night until Caitlin had fiddled away the ‘Devil’, for a glorious, rapturous finish.
A brilliant show, as all have come to expect from the band, they will return, and there was still some floor space to fill, so plenty of opportunity for fans to bring along some friends and fill out the Artrix to the limits.
Words And Photos Graham Munn
Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes @ Artrix 04/04
The Artrix played Host to Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes for an evening of blues. Supporting Paul was Jacksboro Highway, an acoustic blues trio from Northampton. The lead and rhythm guitars of Martin Fitzhugh and Steve Smith, joined Kev Buxton on harmonica, for some classic blues standards from the likes of Jimmy Reed, Sony Boy Williamson, and Robert Johnson. They also gave a nod to more recent artists like Taj Mahal, JJ Cale and notably a song by Brian Protheroe. ‘No Snow Blues’, with, apparently, lyrics taken poet Sydney Keyes, the wonderful ‘Pinball’ came to mind. All present seemed very comfortable with the offering, and Jacksboro Highway were applauded warmly.
Paul Lamb, strode onto the centre stage, a solo intro on the harp led to the arrival of The Kingsnakes, guitarist Chad Strentz, bass Rod Demick, percussion Dino Coccia, and ‘new born ‘ Lamb, Ryan also on guitar.
Straight into Ray Charles ‘Good To Me’, then Johnny Cash is given breath with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, which seems to fit very nicely into Paul and the bands style of country blues. As you would expect Paul is mesmerising on his harmonicas, played with such subtlety. Chad takes care of most of the vocals, with a few exceptions, Rod and Dino, keeping the whole sound tightly together, without overpowering. Then there is Ryan, who obviously enjoys using the stage, his face reflects the energy of his style, a perfect target for my lens!
Paul takes on the vocals, mixed with his harp, for ‘Ya Ya Blues’ accompanied by Chad, the audience, really got behind this fun bit of music, played with a bit of bite, crocodile shoes tapping out the rhythm.
More superb vocals from Chad, as Paul goes chromatic, and Ryan gets into serious mood with Ray Charles, ‘Black Jack Game’, excellent. Sad to say, there was only a moderate turnout, no matter, the band gave there all and those fortunate to have made the effort were richly rewarded. All joined in for ‘Midnight Special’, as Chad and Ryan, put aside their guitars to share a mike, whilst Rod was joined by Dino at the other, Paul breathed into his harp and led the vocals for this finale. Well not quite, 2 days later, I found my way to the Prince Of Wales at Ledbury, a lovely little pub that is a magnet to some fantastic blues artists. So no surprise to find Paul and Chad galvanising the crowded bar. I joined for Gershwin’s, ‘Summertyne’! played beautifully, as it deserves to be, found a tight spot to sup my Ledbury Dark ale, and enjoy an hour of the harmonica maestro, accompanied by Chad on guitar and vocals. Paul is ‘Hootin & Tootin’, in style, the songs taken from ‘Going Down the Road’, an album release featuring the two in acoustic mode, a perfect fit for this venue. An altogether superbly entertaining few days.
Words And photos Graham Munn
Fabulous Boogie Boys, with Sarah Warren @ The Hop Pole 22/03
The red rash of the Fabulous Boogie Boys, squeezed into the tight corner stage of the Hop pole, promised us a colourful evening of jump jive, rock & roll and a good splash of blues. The Hop Pole was filled out with music fans who like to let their hair down and have a bit of fun, which is the hallmark of this hard ‘rockin’ band. Discretely melding into the crowd, 2 giants of the stage, Steve Steinhaus and Mark English were present to see fellow Dr Teeth member, Jay (Moody) Riley, perform on the keyboards.
Swinging straight into ‘Lovin Machine’, the band kicked off, with Cliff Dawe, lips glued, to his ‘Elvis’ birdcage mike, warming to the task. Old favourites like ‘This Old House’ and ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ are blasted out, Hugh Thomas is given plenty of work on his tenor sax, he does not disappoint. Tightly hemmed in behind, Nick Lynden is wrestling with his double bass. Time for a change in tempo and delivery, as Sarah takes the lead for the Etta James classic, ‘Tough Lover’, with all the passion and grit she could summon. The baton is passed from Cliff to Sarah and back, for ‘Since I Met You Baby’, and again, as they duet through an old 50′s classic, ‘Bloodshot Eyes’. Up the pace again for a bit of ‘Jump Jive and Wail’, before things cool down for the beautiful, yet powerful voice of Sarah Warren, ‘At Last’, there can be few that can match this. The atmosphere in the Hop Pole is electric, not much room for dancing, but that did not seem to stop a few staking a claim to more floor space in the crowded bar, as ‘Rip It Up’, and ‘Chickens’, were rolled out, with a short breather in between as Sarah ‘Just Wanted To Make Love To You’, hot stuff. The floor show from this red army of rockers is frenetic and almost non stop as we head towards the closing session. ‘This Little Light O Mine’, ‘Little Egypt’, ‘Wanna be like you’, and ‘See You Later Alligator’, wind the spring tightly, Cliff giving his all, shadowed at the back, Stu opens ‘Flip Flop Fly’ on his Epiphone guitar, as Richie keeps everyone nicely in check on his drums, heard but almost invisible.
How can you finish a fast, fun night of rock, rhythm and blues? Well how about turning to Mr. Chuck Berry to show us the way, The Fabulous Boogie Boys presented us with a fabulous and exhausting (as it should be) ‘Jonny be Goode’.
The question is, how did new keyboard player Jay fit into all this mayhem, well he certainly had the right keys to open the door to an entertaining evening of fun at The Hop Pole. Jay, the red jacket fits well, I can only look forward to the next session of the Fabulous Boogie Boys.
Words & Photos Graham Munn
Artrix May 8th
The Blues Band:
Here once more at the Artrix, who are hosting what has become a regular visit from The Blues Band. What I might ask, can I add to the well documented biography of this mature and skilled gang of Blues practitioners.
Paul Jones, he of the Monday night Radio 2 slot, a near encyclopaedic knowledge of the Blues world. Who’s playing where, and who’s no longer playing at all. All this, and he still finds time to tour, either with this band or parts thereof, a fine harmonica player, singing and playing since the early 60′s. (that means he is actually older than me)
Dave Kelly, one of the finest exponents of the Blues guitar complete with slide. Another man who can dig down to the roots of blues, he has played with the greats, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker. The man’s got provenance!
Tom McGuinness, he’s played with Clapton in Eric’s early years, Manfred Mann (as did Paul of course) McGuinness Flint, and later joined Paul to form this band.
Rob Townsend, another man rooted in the 60′s, drummed with Roger Chapman’s ‘Family’, Medicine Head, and has toured with Duane Eddy.
Gary Fletcher, the apparent ‘baby’ of the band, he has been a workman bassist over many years, had played alongside Dave in bands, and was asked along to join The Blues Band.
None of the above need an introduction, they have been around a long time, and not surprisingly, the audience, a sell out, also tend to be of a certain age. They know what to expect, are prepared to pay for it, and they know they will go home with a satisfied grin…………and maybe a few CD’s. They will also be back next time, many grew up through the late 50′s, early 60′s, listening to those same Blues legends as this stalwart band.
Having said all that, I confess to doing much the same (not 50′s). We are all here because these guys can still do the business, well trodden blues songs, some roots, some self penned, all played with enthusiasm and finely honed artistry. Paul, Dave and Tom tell their tales of paths crossed, stages played and the availability of their numerous CD’s, as individuals, or variously formed bands, outside, for sale, in the foyer.
This is a recurring theme between songs, thankfully done with a large dose of banter and humour. Unlike many musicians of their stature, they also are in the foyer, yes to sell, always to sign, and find a bit more time to share a joke and a bit of chat. The queue was long, sales no doubt as good as ever, and a lot of happy people. They were here to see and listen to one of the UK’s most popular Blues bands, maybe to take back a few souvenirs.
A small diversion from the play list as the second set opens, Its a request from a member of the audience. Enter Paul Jones, no accompaniment, he sings ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, the packed auditorium didn’t, regret that is, and he show moved on, all take a turn on vocal leads, with the exception of drummer, Rob.
Plenty of Blues, a bit of gospel, a bit of Rock & Roll in ‘Shake rattle and Roll’, and one I particularly enjoyed, apparently from their ‘Cross Borders’ DVD, ‘Lets Talk It Over. The Blues Band, no doubt will be back, this audience will be back, and so will I.
The Artrix as ever, attract fine bands, who know they will play to full houses, its arguably the outstanding theatre venue in our area, meeting the demand for top performances whatever the show.
Words and Photos By Graham Munn
- Johny Brown Of Band Of Holy Joy Reveals His Perfect Ten
- Hollie April-Together Alone
- Teenage Wildlife-Most Beautiful Thing/The Last Great Love Affair
- Band Of Holy Joy-A Place Called Home
- Blind River Scare-Point Of No Return
Tides From Nebula-Earthshine (8 votes)
The Dirt Tracks-Never Been To Mars (7 votes)
Dan Webb-Hyperspace Clearance (6 votes)
October Sky Release New Album And Tour (5 votes)
Huron-Mary Celeste (5 votes)
Introducing New Town Kings (4 votes)
Das Sexy Clap-So So Sick (4 votes)
Jil Is Lucky-Jil Is Lucky (4 votes)
Interview With Dana Jade (3 votes)
Rendezvous-C Sharp (3 votes)