By Andy Fawthrop
Back to the top of the hill to The Conservative Club aka Long Street Blues Club to catch the last date of the UK tour by Californian band Rick Estrin & The Wildcats.
The advance billing was impressive, and the short UK tour had had several sold-out dates. Not sure this gig was technically sold out, but it was certainly pretty rammed in there.
Ian Hopkins had written: “Overflowing with talent and bursting with bravado, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats have created one of the blues’ most instantly recognizable sounds and no-holds-barred styles. With the world-class talents of harmonica master, songwriter and vocalist Rick Estrin, guitar wunderkind Chris “Kid” Andersen, keyboard wizard Lorenzo Farrell and dynamic drummer Alex Pettersen, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats serve up sharp and incisive original blues and gritty roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll.”
So there was much to look forward to, and a lot to live up to. The room was packed and buzzing with anticipation. The crowd were royally entertained by local singer/ songwriter Joe Hicks (always good value for money), and suitably warmed up. Finally, after what seemed a longer gap than usual, the band took to the stage and belted out the first number.
Estrin himself cut an impressive figure at the front – smartly dressed and coiffed, leaning into the mike, and delivering a high-energy performance. Within minutes there was the trademark howling harmonica, backed by driving keyboards and rhythm section. The band were always tight and well-drilled when the songs needed it, but not afraid to cut loose in the breaks either. Think growling, witty, street-smart vocals – often reduced to almost a gravelly whisper, occasionally a haunting drawl – then lashing back out into a full-force vocal delivery. The band itself dropped the sound back at times allowing Estrin to strut his stuff and to paint his pictures, but then returned in full force, producing a wonderful dirty, muddy noise of driving California blues. Yet this was far from being a one-dimensional blues band – we had some great jazzy/ improve passages, and a longish monologue from Estrin himself at one point. Technically impressive, laid-back, grooving and absolutely whip-smart stuff.
And the crowd – not surprisingly – absolutely loved it. As did I – another great night at Long Street Blues. If I had one minor criticism it was that the set was (compared to many bands I’ve seen at the venue) relatively short – just over the hour. I think we could all have done with a bit more!
The band’s latest album is Groovin’ In Greaseland, which I think I’ll be checking out shortly. https://rickestrin.com/
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