HRH BLUES 4 Day 2 - O2 Academy, Sheffield 15.04.18



 As the haze of the fabulous Saturday night cleared and the dawn of expectantly good music began, we were treated to a chilled and stripped back Pre-show Acoustic Special starting with a performance from Catfish. The acoustic guitar, the clarity of the keys was a wonderful way to begin things on Stage 2. The short set was quickly followed by a lone member of Black Thunder Revue demonstrating his southern blues, rock and roll guitar and harmonica dexterity. I had heard good things about Black Thunder Revue and if the tone of the music played acoustically was anything to go by, then the later spot on stage with the full band would be worth catching.

The final acoustic spot went to rock trio Big Canyon, who said they had never done an acoustic set before and, although the guys worked hard their obvious rock roots showed through. The guitar skill was definitely there but their songs did not seem to translate to the acoustic setting and it seemed rather clumsy. However, it prickled my interest enough to ensure I was going to return to catch their electric set later on.

After a storming first day, the main stage of Day 2 kicks off with SUGARMAN SAM AND THE VOODOO MEN - an awesome crazy name for a great band, the front man having the gift of the gab and a cheeky chappy charm as well as a powerful, silky smooth vocal to melt your face off. As well as some lush vocals, Sugarman Sam has some great skills with the guitar and there was some impressive fret work; Sam even wrote a song about his Gibson Les Paul, 'She's A Woman'. There is a vintage ‘60s and ‘70s influence to the music, which is incredibly soulful and bass-heavy. A fantastic opener for Day 2 and ones to watch out for.


Find out more from the band at:


Next up is my performance of the weekend, CATFISH, a band I'd only heard a little from before but who grabbed my attention, made me weep with joy and ensured I became a lifelong fan during their set on the main stage Day 2 HRH Blues 2018.

Already multiple award-winners, Catfish have earned a great reputation as an excellent live band with a world-class front man in 22 year old guitar virtuoso and vocalist Matt Long. These guys play with a real passion and respect for blues, a family affair with Matt's dad, and radio broadcaster, Paul Long on keys and vocals. The absolute star of the set though was Matt who sings with such raw passion and plays with a talent which belies his young age and excites me for how he'll develop and grow over the years and what he will eventually become, a master.

The audience are bewitched as the band throw down songs both old and new from their catalogue, 'Break Me Down', the hauntingly beautiful 'Ghosts' (sung by Paul) and 'Broken Man' - which sends the crowd wild. The performance is both fierce yet gentle in places, but most of all profoundly emotional, the highlight being the closing track, 'Make It Rain', a devastatingly beautiful 14 minute track. 'Make It Rain' was performed with such intensity of feeling that Matt and his guitar were as one, inseparable and he was completely caught up in the song. I've truly never seen this since Gary Moore (I'm a huge fan) and nobody has made me weep through the playing since him. The audience felt every word and every note. A lengthy standing ovation which made Matt quite emotional was well deserved, and the queue for merch and signing was huge! Well done guys.

Find out more from CATFISH at:

CHRIS ANTONIK had some big shoes to fill, as the next act, and delighted the audience with his Canadian blues. Toronto-based Chris is a three-time Award-nominee for Canada's National Blues Awards, and plays with such apparent ease and confidence. His music has a multi-layered sound, with strong and melodic vocals and excellent guitar work throughout, as he performs a packed set including a fierce 'Gold Star'.


Find out more from CHRIS ANTONIK at:

PONTUS SNIBB’S WRECK OF BLUES was one I had been waiting for. The Grammy nominated guitarist and singer had appeared previously at HRH Blues a few years ago and it was obvious why the organisers had been keen to get him back. A delicious blend of American blues, rock and a country rich swagger set the stage alight. Effortlessly chatting to the crowd, introducing songs old and some from his new album ‘Wreck Of Blues’, and his band, Hakan Nyberg (Dad) and Micke Nilsson on bass, in a manner of catching up with old friends. The music spoke for itself. Rich and husky rock fused blues all smouldering together and crashing out of the PA’s. I’m sure Mr Snibb will be back on these shores again soon.


Find out more from the band at:

GEOFF ACHISON is an Australian blues artist described as a ‘guitarists guitarist’. He has a relaxed way in which he performs songs, full of soul but the stand out is definitely the guitar playing. From clean and graceful emotional riffs to funking it up with some uplifting grooves and melodies, Geoff has been around since the late ‘90s and the professionalism on top of the talent was clear to witness.


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What can be said about 28 year old BEN POOLE? So much! but most of which you will know if you have heard him play live. An immense talent on the singing front, a pop lightness and a clarity which makes him stand out from the crowd and giving him a commercial value which, with his boyish good looks, could see him catapult into the mainstream in a heartbeat. But the passion in his delivery of the songs and the out and out staggering talent of his guitar playing are what will hopefully bring him notable success. The guitar seems to become part of him, part of his very soul on display for all to see and hear. He seems to meld into the music, fusing his personality with the chords. A raw talent without too many rough edges. A really good 75 minute set allowed Ben to impress and gain a fair few new fans.


Find out more from BEN POOLE at:

STEVIE NIMMO, the elder of the Mrs Nimmo’s talented boys was first up on the main stage.  After falling off his bike, Stevie has been managing to sing only with guitar playing ruled firmly out but it is his voice that has brought him the success for over two decades and we had a demonstration of that in abundance. The sold-out audience were on their feet for most of the set. There is so much danceable music, it’s impossible to sit down! The bass, courtesy of Kelpie McKenzie, brings the groove and the funk, Craig Bacon brought the beats and the guitar played by Dave Devlin tears up the stage, equally matched by Stevie Nimmo’s powerful vocals.

Smiles all around the room – the crowd are ready to party and party they did. A set encompassing songs such as ‘Roll The Dice Again’, ‘Still Hungry,’ ‘Running On Back To You’ and seeing Stevie pick up the guitar for ‘Gambler’s Roll’ was special. Great to see him getting back to full form after 7 months ‘just’ singing…. Finishing the set with the crowd pleasing ‘Going Down’ he really lay down the banner of challenge for his little brother to pick up.


Check out more from STEVE NIMMO at:

So following one awesome Nimmo with another and the irrefutably good KING KING was a great decision from HRH. For a Sunday night with many people having work next day – the room remained packed out. As ‘Highway To Hell’ pumped out into the hall, the singalong began, and that’s how it remained. The only silence being the respectful gawping awe when guitar solos’ were played or the moment needed it.

From the opening song ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’, rocking tunes and catchy lyrics combined with talented musicians and a personality packed singer have ensured that King King have hit the mainstream. The inevitable duet of the brothers Nimmo was forthcoming and topped off a thoroughly enjoyable set.


Find out more from KING KING at:

During the early evening, I managed to catch a few of the bands on the second stage.

Opening the second stage, THE BLACK THUNDER REVUE blew me away with their Mississippi-inspired dirty bluesy alt rock, a hard and heavy instrumental with a killer gritty vocal overlaid. There are 2 vocalists and their voices work well either together or independently, and a deep rumbling bass which I just love. Add in the drums and keys and I'm sold! This is a local band who blur the line between genres and show amazing promise, and I will certainly seek them out again.


Check out more from THE BLACK THUNDER REVUE at:

BIG CANYON did as I thought they may during their electric set on stage 2; they blew it apart! An out and out rock band – huge dirty riffs, hair flying, smashing drums but with an essence of southern rock thrown into the mix. I didn’t get them as a blues band at all, but as a rock band, the trio have some serious potential. After the preciseness of the blues rich guitar maestros which had adorned the event all weekend, well it is HRH Blues, these guys ripped the air apart with their brash and loud sound. Ones to keep a close eye on and the assembled crowd, which was considerable, were very appreciative of such a powerful performance. The guys really did give it their all. Great band, great set.


Check out more from BIG CANYON at:

Two other bands Tom Kilner Band and Del Bromham also graced the stage and many a fond word was spoken about both but unfortunately due to the scheduling I was unable to catch them this time.


However you can find out more from the band themselves on the following links:




Day 2 schedule:-


Main Stage:

Sugarman Sam and the Voodoo Men


Chris Antonik

Pontus Snibb's Wreck of Blues

Geoff Achison

Ben Poole

Stevie Nimmo

King King


Stage 2:

Black Thunder Revue

Big Canyon

Tom Killner Band

Del Bromham