REVIEW; Long Street Blues Club Weekender

January Blues Banished!

Andy Fawthrop

Two days up at the Con Club this week for Long Street Blues Club’s “Beat The January Blues” Week-ender.

On Saturday night we had a packed room to listen to Liam Ward & Malcolm Thorne (support) and the Kirk Fletcher band.

Ward & Thorne, who are new names to me, were a delight. Their set was clean, fresh, quirky and entertaining. Featuring guitar, vocals and some deft touches on harmonica, these two produced a wonderful set of originals which were laid-back and nicely bluesy. I particularly liked their song “You Are My Medicine”. I’d be happy to go and see these guys again.

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Then a single extended set from the main star Kirk Fletcher and his band. Kirk hails from California and is ex-lead guitarist with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He’s had some great reviews on this tour so far. Ian Hopkins reports that Innes Sibun said he was amazing when he shared a bill with him last year, and Joe Bonamassa rates him as one of the world’s best guitarists. Well, I didn’t know anything about all that, so I could only judge on what I saw and heard.

Kirk himself was obviously up at the front with some snarling guitar work, but there was plenty of featured keyboards too. It took a few numbers to really get the room warmed up, but once the trio hit their stride, the band were really cooking and in their groove. We had guitar solos aplenty, the band providing a solid platform of driving rhythms. There was minimal chat from the stage, and the guys delivered number after number, hardly pausing for breath. The playing was always technically superb, and at times inspired, and the crowd lapped it up, but (for me at least) it didn’t carry that magic spark of real excitement. Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed the gig, but it didn’t quite hit my hot-spot.

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Then just 24 hours later, on Sunday night we had Thompson Smurthwaite (support) and Billy Bremner’s Rockfiles. A slightly smaller crowd this time, but still a great atmosphere.

Thompson Smurthwaite is starting to become a regular in these here parts. Having played support here at the Club a few months ago, Thompson has also recently played slots at The White Bear and The Southgate. It was good to see him back with a large audience again. He was relaxed and confident, joking with the audience, whacking out some great tunes from guitar, harmonica (his “Mississippi saxophone”) and stomp-box. The guy put such heart and soul into his performance. Great entertainment.

Then on to the second main act of the week-end. Billy Bremner was one of the founding members of Dave Edmunds’ Rockpile along with Nick Lowe, and produced some great music during the seventies. Prior to this particular outfit he has had a long track record in session work and a member of Lulu’s backing band the Bruvers. Then a season as guitarist with The Pretenders during the recording of On The Chain Gang – he has always been the guitarist to go to. Billy now resides in Sweden and his touring is carefully rationed so the Club were delighted to be one of a few carefully selected club dates on this UK tour.

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Rockfiles are probably the polar musical opposite to Kirk Fletcher. Whilst the latter was focussed on originality, improvisation and exploration, Rockfiles were just as firmly set on reproducing classic hits of the seventies and eighties. The songs were short, snappy, catchy pop/rock classics. The four-piece hit the stage running, sharing the vocals between them, and never let up for the whole of their 75-minute set. This was Old Skool retro and nostalgia at its very best. And the hits just kept on coming, including “I Knew The Bride When She Used to Rock & Roll”, “Three-time Loser”, “Cruel To Be Kind”, “I Hear You Knocking” and many, many more. The inter-song chat was absolutely minimal, so they could pack more in. The music wasn’t complex, but it was solid, thumping good stuff, and difficult not to enjoy. Absolutely no blues were involved in the making of their performance.

Overall a great weekend of music – four great acts, four different styles, but all enjoyable and great value for money. There was something there for everybody. Devizes is so lucky to have access to so much great live music.

Future 2020 gigs at Long Street Blues Club:

• Saturday 7th March Ian Parker Band
• Saturday 4th April Mike Zito Band
• Saturday 18th April Mark Flanagan Band
• Saturday 30th May Antonio Forcione Quartet


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