KRIS BARRAS BAND / MARK PONTIN GROUP / BLACKBALLED - The Patriot, Crumlin 14.09.18
DAVID LYDIARD / NAOMI JEREMIAH
PHOTO CREDITS: JON THEOBALD
What is fast becoming the norm around these parts was another electric night at The Patriot in Crumlin. Venue manager Angela Draycott has invested wisely in better lights, sound system and a refurbished stage and that investment is paying dividends as week after week The Patriot plays host to some incredible musicians. Tonight we were treated to a night of Blues and boy, what a treat it was!
Opening the evening were Manchester based BLACKBALLED, a Blues / Groove / Rock hybrid fronted by Marshall Gill (vocals/guitar) who you may have seen slinging the axe for New Model Army, Tom Wibberley (bass) and Leon Gill (drums).
Dressed in what Marshall described as “chimney sweep suits”, BLACKBALLED kicked off the night with ‘Olde England’ which started out slow before opening itself up into a foot-stomping blues rocker. Straight off the bat the band deliver in spades and that sound system The Patriot has installed let’s everyone be heard clearly. From the snap of Leon’s snare to the gorgeous bass tone of Wibberley, through to the blistering lead guitar from Marshall. A great way to start the evening and get the crowd involved.
‘Gold Digger’ & ‘My Lover’ provided some guttural, low-end groove and what I liked about these songs, well all of the songs I suppose, was that bass tone. It was gorgeous and sat perfectly in the mix, credit to soundman Phil for that one! Nothing felt muddy to my ears. ’55 Groove’ had delicate guitar playing with the occasional dirty riff with a pinch of filthy slide, and Marshall got the audience to join in on this one as well, not that they needed much encouragement.
‘Bucket List’ was possibly my stand out track with a more straight ahead, rhythmic centric riff from Gill and Wibberley showing off some dexterity with his fingers dancing all over his bass strings. My favourite part of this track was the extended jam that slowed itself down to a crawl, occasionally veering into Stoner/Doom territory before coming to a halt.
A thrilling set came to a close with ‘Shoes’ which has a fairly standard blues riff to start things off before we go full Clutch with a barnstormer of a big riff. The band thanked the fans for turning out and the venue for having them back and I think they made quite a few new fans tonight. They were clearly having fun on stage which resonated with the crowd and they showed a high level of expertise with their craft. Marshall is a charismatic frontman with a fantastic voice imbued with passion. His brother Leon is a madman on the drums channelling the likes of Bonham and Moon and he seems, to me at least, to be the one that sets the energy levels for his brother and bass player Tom, who more than ably matched Gill with his fingerwork. There’s a lot of power trio’s out there right now and BLACKBALLED deserve to be recognised as being one of the best on the scene. Great songs, fantastic musicianship, wonderful to watch and, all in all, an awesome, tight live band!
Check them out at the following:-
Flying the Welsh flag on the UK Blues scene and up next were Swansea’s MARK PONTIN GROUP, another trio, delivering more of a classically influenced take on the blues. They open their set up with ‘Cold Day Tune’ from 2013’s debut ‘Days Of Destiny’ which has a nice, chunky sounding riff and shimmering verses, sounding to my ear like a tremolo effect perhaps, before Mark rips open with the first of several scorching guitar solos of the evening, including a nice dual guitar and bass section.
There was a Peter Green feel with the opening lead of ‘Good Stuff’ followed up by a scratchy, muted rhythm that gave the song a funky edge whilst Marks vocals showcased some soul. ‘Chasing Blood’ had some cool lead and bass runs on the intro, some more shimmering verses courtesy of the trem bar, before the dynamic changed up and the notes were getting attacked with some real venom.
Next up, we were treated to a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’ before closing out the set with ‘Traffic Lights’. Really cool groove in this song and the riff had sort of an evil twang to it, the kind of country jangle you can only get from a Tele. Mark got the crowd to engage in some singing before, unfortunately, his guitar cut out right at the end of the song. However, he shrugged it off and continued on like a pro.
Clearly happy to be playing The Patriot, Mark gave a shout out to a few friends in attendance and thanked us all for being supporters of live music. The rhythm section of James Garvey (drums) & the Callum Morgan-Jones (bass) laid down the most perfect of perfect foundations for Mark to sprinkle his magic on top of.
It has to be said that on every song tonight the band were a tight unit and Mark Pontin can make his guitar sing like a bird. Utilising lots of dynamics in his playing, Mark plays with a lot of soul much like the great bluesman of the past and tonight was a fantastic showcase of his and the band's abilities. Like BLACKBALLED before them, it was my first time experiencing MARK PONTIN GROUP live and with a third studio album on the way promising a new feel and new boundaries I can’t wait to get hold of a copy and check it out. If you like your blues in the vein of Peter Green, Jimi Hendrix, Albert King or Buddy Guy then you’d do well to take a listen to MARK PONTIN GROUP.
You can check out MARK PONTIN GROUP at the following:-
Not too long ago Kris Barras was playing gigs in front of twenty people, and now here we are on the sixth date of an eighteen date headline run and Kris tells us after the show that, at this point, three of the shows have sold out. It’s not been a bad run over the past two years or so for Mr Barras, signing to the renowned Mascot Label Group, releasing his debut record in March, the incredible “The Divine And Dirty”, fronting supergroup Supersonic Blues Machine and receiving plaudits wherever he plays.
With the crowd suitably warmed up by the previous two outstanding bands, now it was the turn of the KRIS BARRAS BAND. There was excitement in the air for a gig that had been long sold out and people were chomping at the bit to catch a glimpse of this talented guitarist. With his band settled on the stage, the lights darkened as Kris made his way through the crowd and onto the stage to rapturous applause. The band quickly tore into the opener ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’ with its upbeat country rock/blues feel complete with slide guitar. His guitar playing so effortless and when combined with his husky, melodic vocals it makes a perfect marriage as he makes himself comfortable behind his bike chain mic stand. I’ve always been a fan of bespoke mic stands. I think it adds something to the visuals when you can see something different. (see Korn’s Geiger inspired mic stand!).
‘Kick Me Down’ has a filthy riff from Kris and a gorgeous lead tone before ‘Stitch Me Up’ picks the pace back up with some honky-tonk piano from Josiah J Manning and the deep, grooving bass of Elliott Blackler. ‘Blood On My Hands’ reminds me of Clapton with its overdriven riff, catchy chorus and soulful guitar solo.
Having warmed himself up, we’re treated to new song ‘What A Way To Go’ which hints at a maturing sound for the new album which is to be recorded towards the end of this year. The heavy riff strangely reminded me of The Darkness and this track found itself ‘Christopher Walken approved’ thanks to the cowbell of drummer Will Beavis. Not that anything was being held back up to this point but the cover of ‘Fortunate Son’ was incendiary. From the driving drum and bass intro to the Hammond chord swells, the song built up to a blistering extended solo jam with trade-offs between Blackler, Manning and Barras himself before Kris opened up with a killer solo of his own to close it out. One of the best covers I’ve heard!
‘Propane’ featured strong melodies, a catchy chorus and some cracking riffs. Quite a bouncy, upbeat Country Rock song and this was followed by possibly their most well-known song, ‘Hail Mary’. I love the acapella intro and right away it had the crowd singing and dancing along. They were buzzing! The chicken-pickin’ country stylings of ‘Small Town Blues changed the style up again and at one point had Barras and Blackler playing in unison with some frighteningly good speed. Apart from the aforementioned upfront cowbell, drummer Will Beavis had kept a steady beat and was laying down a solid groundwork without being overtly flashy. Seemingly happy to let his bandmates splash the flash as it were. However, for his mini drum solo Will had the chance to flex his chops and show off some complex and technical playing which drew an appreciative roar from the crowd.
‘Nothing To Hide’ kept the pace alive with driving power rhythms and a Hammond lead. Before launching into ‘I Don’t Want The Blues’, Kris had told us how Gary Moore was his first guitar hero and for me this track had that old school bluesy feel to it complete with a walking bass line and a Moore-esque guitar solo. After some piano/guitar call and response we were treated to a blistering outro. ‘She’s More Than Enough’ was a barnstormer complete with a crunchy slide riff, venturing off into AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ before yet another killer guitar solo from Barras.
It’s hard to pick a highlight out of a stellar set, but perhaps that moment came on ‘Watching Over Me’. A song written about his father who had passed away after a short battle with cancer. As to be expected it was a slower number with a beautiful lead guitar tone and so much emotion in the playing. I heard a lot of Gary Moore in this song as well and I thought that perhaps it was Kris’ way of paying tribute to two of his biggest influences. A gorgeous song.
Closing out the set was ‘Lovers Or Losers’, which was a great rocking way to finish up the evening. Kris got the audience to sing along and showed off a bit of flash with a behind-the-head solo followed up by playing with his teeth. Ever the humble performer, Kris thanked everyone for coming before the band returned for an encore of ‘Rock n Roll Running Through My Veins’. What better way to finish than with some dirty slide guitar and a giant chorus?
It was an honour to finally see KRIS BARRAS BAND play live, having missed them a couple of times in the past year and it certainly won't be the last time. You can have all the skill and talent in the world musically, but if you don’t write good songs then it’s nothing but pure self-indulgence. Thankfully KRIS BARRAS BAND has incredible songs and in a live setting provide ample framework for the supremely talented band to move around and flirt with improvisation.
What a belter of an evening that was. The sellout crowd were treated to three superb bands all playing their take on the blues. All contributing to an unforgettable night of live music. The Patriot as a venue is just superb, from the punters to the staff to the facilities, to the bands on stage. You’d be hard pushed to find a better night out anywhere.
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