HRH BLUES 4 Day 1 - O2 Academy, Sheffield 14.04.18




HRH Blues was born in a multi-genre event in Wales in 2016 and was so successful that it was transformed into its own 2-day festival, held each year in Sheffield. The HRH Blues events tend to sell out months before the event, and this year was no exception. Blues 5 is already on sale and selling well based on reputation alone. But back to this year. And what a year.

Day 1 opened on the main stage with THE DELLA GRANTS, a group of close friends from Leicester who are taking the scene by storm at the moment, delivering a funky, soulful fusion of blues-rock-Americana which is helping blues-rock become more attractive and accessible to newer and also younger audiences.

The venue is already busy and the band perform a blistering set including the excellent 'Weaker Man' and the Keb’ Mo’ cover 'Am I Wrong', on which Tom Best takes the lead vocal. With Toni Robinson (keys) also playing trumpet pretty damn well, and Tom Best also a dab hand on the harmonica, the band did a stellar job opening the weekend. It was early but it was great to see so many people had turned up to catch the first act, a testament to the interest in this band.

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Next up was JIM KIRKPATRICK & HEAVY WEATHER with the FM-guitarist on fine form and the venue now packed, all enraptured in this blues guitar masterclass. The set was intense and Jim played with his well-loved brand of passion and melancholy, treating the crowd to classics like 'Full Time Occupation' with an air of confidence and raising the roof on the place. There is no doubt Jim Kirkpatrick is an outstanding guitarist.


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THE DANNY GILES BAND (DGB) blew me away with their harsher, angrier bass-heavy sound; they had fire in their belly and they were going to convert as many people as possible into their own particular brand of blues-rock-soul with added balls. This is the first time I've seen these guys and I have to say they are awesome, flat cap included. The vocals are deep and soulful, and the instrumental a fine blend of heavy blues-rock, complete with a hella cool rhythm section interlude. The standout for me in the set was 'I Loved Another Woman' - a lush blues track with a southern twist which made me think of Carlos Santana's 'Smooth'. Love these guys.


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Bringing her insanely passionate and energetic style across the pond, SARI SCHORR gave a powerhouse vocal performance with big sex appeal which had many of these big guys all a-flutter. She was intense, dynamic, and had a great rapport with the band (including her amazing guitarist from Skegness!) and with the audience. It had guitar, it had keys, it had awe-inspiring vocals from Sari, and it had sensuality.

Included in the set, Sari did the most amazing cover of 'Black Betty' that I have ever heard; it blew me away and had me wailing along (out of tune but happy) at full pelt. Combine Sari's sensual performance with some orgasmic guitar-work and you had a real show going on!


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Next up was the irrepressible and infectiously energetic GREG COULSON with his high energy set, displaying his talents as a super-cool vocalist as well as a damn fine guitarist and keys player. With the potential to open up the genre to a new audience, Coulson has an obvious talent and great stage presence, commercially attractive whilst authentic blues, and with a hint of jazz. The performance has style and Coulson is a great mover as he feels the rhythm and enthrals the crowd.


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It seems the whole venue has been waiting for blues guitarist and singer-songwriter DANNY BRYANT as he takes to the stage and gives an outstanding and breathtaking set with his Joe Cocker style voice and his inimitable guitar skills; the crowd just adore him. His set includes modern-classics, 'On The Rocks', 'Blood Money', and 'Groaning Blues', before closing with arousing rendition of 'Knockin On Heaven's Door' following a standing ovation and demands for an encore.

Bryant is on fire today, giving everything he's got to every song, which seems to be the norm for this consistently impressive performer. His set swells, rises and falls, and brings the audience to their feet, as well as metaphorically to their knees. Headline set next year?


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BERNIE MARSDEN, living legend, beloved rock royalty, primarily known for his time with Whitesnake and his writing skills on 'Fool For Your Lovin'' and 'Here I Go Again', got his first gig in 1972. Over forty years later and he walks onto the stage at HRH Blues Sheffield like he never left it, it's his spiritual home and his passion is music.

His set includes 'Born Under A Bad Sign', 'Sitting On Top Of The World', 'Kinda Wish She Would', and Fleetwood Mac cover 'The Green Manalishi', as the rock veteran navigates his way through generations of classic tracks which hold treasured memories for most of us there. As usual, Bernie keeps the banter flowing between tracks with jokes and tales from his time in the business, delighting fans old and new with his humour and experience. Not surprisingly, he brings on Danny Bryant to accompany him on 'Going Down', a masterstroke which thrills the audience even more; two immense guitar talents on one stage - a guitar enthusiast's wet dream.

The audience take over lead vocals on 'Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City', and the set wouldn’t be complete without a few Whitesnake classics, with Danny performing alongside Bernie, the admiration between the two clear, before Bernie closes his set with Jimmy Rogers' cover 'Walkin' By Myself'; "You know I love you, you know it's true…". Perfection.


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PAT MCMANUS headlines Day One.

Born of a talented musical family in Northern Ireland, Pat has been in and around music his whole life, and is perhaps best known for Mamas Boys with his brothers, Tommy and John (and later Celtus with John). “The Professor” opens his set with 'Iona Sunset', and it's already clear this is going to be special. The set includes some new music and old classics, like the Dylan cover 'All Along The Watchtower' and Mamas Boys' 'Runaway Dreams' and 'Needle In The Groove', Pat switching up his guitar for his trusty flat-back bouzouki for a fiddle solo at one point.

The ghost of Gary Moore is never far away though as he takes us on a rollercoaster ride chock-full of amazing solos, fingers flying over his fretboard for 'Messiah' and  'Still Got The Blues'. This is where the magic happens guys. A lesson on how to wring every ounce of passion from your guitar. Pat gets the audience hot and sweaty with a jam-packed setlist including 'King Bee', 'Wreckage' and 'Belfast Boy', before closing a sensational evening of blues-rock with ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ before finally bringing the curtain down. Brilliant.


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Other stages:

As well as the main stage action, there was a pre-show acoustic special, and a second stage from 5pm.  HRH events just wouldn't be the same without an exclusive acoustic set thrown in with some of our favourite artists, and this year is no different with sets from The Della Grants, Brian Rawson Band, Jim Kirkpatrick, and The Rainbreakers. The acoustic performance of the day for me was The Della Grants, giving an incredibly soulful performance to an intimate audience. The stars of the set were the lead singer, Max Manning, with his beautifully chilled and effortless vocal, and the guitar/harmonica/vocals of Tom Best.

Opening the second stage, BRIAN RAWSON BAND delivered heavy riffs and melodic old-school blues-rock, before handing over to THE BLACK HANDS, a local(ish) band bringing a modern twist to southern-infused blues-rock. They have a great connection with the crowd, a good energy and a really heavy rhythm section which booms in your chest in the small room. The vocals are authentic and tortured, the bass beaut.

RAINBREAKERS are another band on the second stage showing potential for huge growth, delivering smooth harmonic vocals alongside classic rock n roll guitar and hard and heavy drums,   with a ‘60s vibe to their rock-blues-pop fusion. 

Closing the second stage, family-orientated THE LEWIS HAMILTON BAND winner of the Scottish New Music Award 2012 Best Jazz/Blues Recording. The Lewis Hamilton Band performs a selection of blues, rock and Americana music, combining melodic and powerful vocals to the delight of the audience. Competing against the headline acts downstairs was no enviable feat.


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My Day 1 highlights were The Danny Giles Band, Sari Schorr, Greg Coulson. And new finds from the second stage were The Black Hands and Rainbreakers.


Day 1 schedule:- 

Main Stage:

The Della Grants

Jim Kirkpatrick & Heavy Weather

The Danny Giles Band

Sari Schorr

Greg Coulson

Danny Bryant

Bernie Marsden

Pat McManus


Stage 2:

Brian Rawson Band

The Black Hands


Lewis Hamilton Band