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Official Receivers at The Artrix 06/09

 

I was looking forward to a night of soulful music from one of the premier bands in the country, who not only play the part, but look the business as well. Not so fast, first we have to give consideration to an excellent support band, whom I would not have minded seeing in their own right. Not soul this time, but plenty of rock and blues, coming from Slowburner.

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They have a 27 year pedigree, and have supported some influential blues and rock bands over that time. Slowburner is fronted by the charismatic vocalist Paul Bridgewater, Mike Bannister, looking serious on a mean guitar, Rob Newell, thumping out those base notes and just for the night, a drumfest performance from Dave Small stand in Denny Connolly. It must be said, Paul has an outstanding voice, purpose built for this style of electric blues, and certainly looks the part, bringing to mind Paul Rogers and Free. From ‘King Bee’ to ‘Bullfrog Blues’, via JJ Cale, Free, and Muddy Waters, this band play a smorgasbord of blues looking back across the last 50 years. That’s not to dismiss many of their own songs squeezed in to the roller-coaster rock show. Thoroughly enjoyable, those soul boys would have to work hard to better this.

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Whilst not at capacity, there was a good crowd awaiting the Receivers, the cheer went up as they entered the arena. Slickly turned out and loaded with brass, the band strike up, front man Lenny enters,the open floor of the Artrix, tense with expectation, breaks into a writhing mass of born again teenagers, as ‘Soul Finger’, melds into ’25 Miles From Home’. Edwin Starr, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T, are pitched at the auditorium. Whether your a Soul Man or not, you can’t help moving to these classics, helpless against the tide of songs washing over us, ‘How sweet It Is’, to be within the magnetic field of this dynamic, highly charged, band. They are a brass driven 8-piece, towering over the tuneful tubes is Chris on Tenor Sax, with Paul on trumpet, and a second Tenor, sitting squarely on Phil. Tucked behind are the building blocks of funk, Dave on bass, and Tony on drums. Only stalling for Lenny to mop his brow, the soul train rides on, ‘Geno’ almost enticed me to risk my well worn back, but I’m a pro, I had a job to do, sod it! ‘Mustang Sally’ caught me unawares, another week on Tramadol! Venturing up into the galleries, I found a similar picture, abandoned seats, floor space at a premium, you cannot sit still to this stuff. Rick gets carried away on a guitar solo, hinting at some serious rock demons, Simon throws in some nifty keyboard moves, Lenny needs an oxygen mask, time to Show A Bit of Tenderness. The evening is winding up, far too many wild eyed, middle-aged teenagers were about to be released into the Bromsgrove night, looking for more action. It had been a fabulous evening, intoxicating stuff, a superb Slowburner put light to the fuse, and the controlled explosion as the Official Receivers, drew us all in and released the force.

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Do you like good music, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

Words & photos Graham Munn

 

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Chantel McGregor @ The Artrix 17th May

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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.

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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

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The Roving Crows, building nests at The Artrix, Bromsgrove 25/04

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Words And Photos Graham Munn

 

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Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes @ Artrix 04/04

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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.

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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

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Fabulous Boogie Boys, with Sarah Warren @ The Hop Pole 22/03

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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.

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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

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