Arriving at the Robin2, Bilston, on a very chilly Wednesday evening I am anticipating a great night of Blues with Ben Poole and support from Catfish. As per usual, I am utterly disappointed at the dire turn out tonight as I enter the building and am struck by the near empty 700-capacity venue. I saunter over to the bar, order my usual drink, and begin my perusal of the merch stands. There’s a lot on offer tonight and a very enthusiastic Fiona Long gives me a little rundown of what Catfish have been up to recently including announcing their first European tour for next year; while Ben Poole is meandering around in the bar before heading back stage as Catfish take their place on stage. Matt Long (guitar and vocals) approaches the mic and addresses the audience “You’re very quite?” and he’s not wrong at all, I count maybe 30-35 people at most! Shocking!
‘Hit The Ground Running’ fills the room as Matt kicks us off with a riff, the bass rumbles to life, joining in as Matt Long steps back to the microphone and blows the small audience into the back of the room! His vocals are full of depth and soulful blues swagger that really ignite the air. I look over to Fiona and mouth the silent words ‘WOW!’ which results in a smile and a knowing laugh as she settles into the crowd to enjoy the performance. The first song comes to a close and the small but appreciative audience clap and cheer as Catfish slide into the next number, however this time, it is Paul Long on the keys that takes over the vocals for ‘Never Go back’. His vocals are really clear and strong but for me Matt has a much deeper, blues voice that the band should utilise at all times to really ensure they hold the wow factor throughout their set.
They progress through their near 45 minute set with songs such as ‘So Many Roads’, ‘Big Shot’ and ‘Man of Many Words’ with the occasional exchange of lead vocals between Matt and Paul that, as a whole works in their favour as it gives Matt an opportunity to astound the crowd with his intricate and outstanding guitar skills. My personal favourite is ‘Broken Man’, taken from their sophomore album of the same name which achieved Number One status on the IBBA airplay charts in March 2017. ‘Broken Man’ is full of soul, delivers huge vocals and creates an almost hypnotic feel when experienced in a live setting. Just loved it!
Catfish performed a phenomenal set that I couldn’t fault. If you’re a blues fan and get chance to catch them live then don’t miss out. Check these guys out at:
And, if you really enjoyed checking out their music on the links above, why not drop them a vote on the link below. They’ve been nominated for a European Blues Award for BEST BAND so show some support at: https://europeanbluesawards.wordpress.com/
Catfish Blues Band are:
Matthew Long – guitar / vocals
Paul Long – Keys / vocals
Kevin Yates – Drums
Derek White – Bass (standing in for Dusty Bones before new bass player Adam Pyke takes over the bass guitar role).
Hit The Ground Running
Never Go Back
Leading Me On
So Many Roads
Part As Strangers
Man Of Many Words
After a short interlude and a quick refill at the bar, Ben Poole takes to the stage. Ben greets the now slightly inflated audience (10 to 15 more people at best) with “Good Evening!”, to which
small audience replies with a cheer and he kicks off his set with the upbeat ‘Let’s Go Upstairs’. His smooth voice is like a waterfall of silk cascading through the microphone. He belts out some
amazing guitar work alongside the soulful vocals and it amazes me how he does this all so effortlessly. If ever anyone was born to be entertaining people with music it is Ben Poole. He’s just so
relaxed on the stage, his demeanour; attitude; skill; presence and soulful vibe just captivates. Again, for me the only disappointing thing is the appalling turn out. I find it unbelievable that an
artist of his calibre is playing to audiences of only 40-50 people and he hasn’t even got to the blues part of his set yet. Come on people, support live music!
He progresses through his set performing the swagger filled ‘Win You Over’ and the intensely groove-laden ‘The Question Why’, which features an engagingly epic riff before sliding into a cover of Freddie King’s ‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman?’ He starts off with a solo, while Ally McDougal on the drums and Beau Barnard on the bass chill for a few minutes; Ally folding his arms while perched behind his drum set and Beau sipping a beer, his bass hanging limply from the strap. Ben showcases his talents of performing beautiful riffs alongside smooth vocals for a few minutes before the drums and bass eventually kick in. The slow, soulful and gentle yet intensely captivating song has the audience in a slow swaying rhythm as the song increases in volume, the softness dropping away and the blues rhythm fully takes hold. It’s quite intoxicating to be fair. I can’t imagine ever getting bored of hearing these guys play.
The audience are treated to the song ‘Lying to Me’ from his latest album ‘The Time Has Come’, it’s a mid-tempo blues number, with great hooks and enough rhythm to keep the audience swaying in time with the beat. Other songs in his set included ‘Someday You’ll Have Your Own’, ‘Take It No More’, ‘Stay At Mine’, ‘Time Might Never Come’ and my personal favourite ‘Longing For a Woman’, a track he wrote with singer/songwriter Richard Watts (https://www.facebook.com/richardwattsinger/), and which also features on the latest album ‘The Time Has Come’. The intro is alluringly beautiful; soft and tender with vocals that ooze sensuality while the drum and bass sections add depth and pace as the song progresses through a foray of intricately bewildering and smouldering riffs!
Ben Takes time to thank the audience that are in attendance, making sure to point out that without their support he wouldn’t be able to tour the world as he does. He seems to thoroughly appreciate every single member of the small crowd tonight and it’s fantastic that he’s so friendly as well as an amazing musician. There’s nothing more I can say about Ben Poole and his band... truly amazing musician and vocalist who deserves a spot on any music fans live performance bucket list!
The Ben Poole Band are:
Ben Poole - Lead vocals and guitar
Beau Barnard - Bass
Ally McDougal - Drums
Let’s Go Upstairs
Win You Over
The Question Why
Have You Ever Loved a Woman
Lying To Me
Someday You’ll Have Your Own
Stay At Mine
Longing For A Woman
Take It No More
Time Might Never Come
Hanging In The Balance
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