REVIEW – Billy Walton Band @ LSBC, Con Club, Devizes – Saturday 15th April 2023

A Trip To New Jersey

Andy Fawthrop

Tonight we‘re in the land of Springsteen, Van Zandt and Southside Johnny. We’re on the New Jersey shore, swinging with the band. It’s late, it’s hot, the room is absolutely rammed and The Billy Walton Band are in town. Well, only just, after a late-afternoon scare when their van broke down on the way to the gig. But, hey, that’s rock n’ roll, that’s life on the road. Unfazed, the band played on, and what a show they gave us….

But first things first. Support act for the evening, all the way up from that there London were new (to me) Interstellar Duo. Consisting of sisters Charlotte and Heather Sterland on every combination of piano, viola, violin and vocals, the pair presented something very different indeed. Finalists for UK Country Duo 2022, the two girls gave us some absolutely beautiful, haunting and delicate harmonies. Both vocals and instrumentation were precise and stripped back, reducing the massive crowd to a hushed and respectful silence during the performance, and loud applause as they finished. A hot, noisy blues club may not be the best platform for their brand of vocal harmony, but they absolutely nailed it anyway. Nearest thing I could compare them to was early Kate & Anna McGarrigle, but that might slightly undersell the beauty and ethereal quality of a great performance. Hats off!

Billy Walton is described on his website as “an accomplished guitar master from the vibrant New Jersey Shore music scene. He earned his stripes in the rock & roll trenches, playing lead guitar for many years with Jersey icon, Southside Johnny. He has also shared the stage with music legends; Little Steven, Gary US Bonds and Steven Tyler, to name a few”. Well – wow! That’s a huge reputation to live up to, but there was nothing for us to worry about. The man turned up with a five-piece band behind him and simply let rip with his winning brand of bluesy rock n’ roll.

On stage with him were bassist William Paris, Tom Petraccaro on sax, Eric Safka on Hammond B3, Shane Luckenbough on drums, and vocalist extraordinaire Destinee Monroe. As a unit they were tight, musically adept and extremely powerful, helping Billy to drive forward through a great show.

With his musical background it would have been all too easy to fall back on the old Southside Johnny classics, but instead were treated to a lot more recent material. Yes there were a couple of covers (I Can’t Stand The Rain and I Feel Good), but these blended seamlessly into a near two-hour set of sheer entertainment and showmanship. There was plenty of chat, lots of humour, and great audience interaction. There were deliberate false intros – Stairway To Heaven, Smoke On The Water, Kashmir and even (unbelievably) Puff The Magic Dragon – just to pull the laughs and the applause. We even had a couple of rounds of Happy Birthday! But whilst these guys sure knew how to fool around, they sure as hell knew how to be serious and to deliver a truly great set.

Destinee shrieking high-octane vocals, answered note for note by a wailing keyboard was one of the highlights for me, but this was no one-trick pony. Whilst there were always the wham-bam-thank-you-mam numbers, the band also displayed a lot of depth and texture, mixing up the slower tempos with faster, driving boogie-woogie rhythms.

Lots of applause, dancing, a standing ovation, and an almost psychedelic encore. What more could you possibly want? Yet another great gig at Long Street Blues Club, and what live music is all about.

Future Long Street Blues Club gigs: (but more to be announced/ confirmed next month – watch social media!)

Saturday 6th May 2023 Kyla Brox Band
Saturday 27th May 2023 Gerry Jablonski Band
Saturday 10th June 2023 Eric Bell Band
Friday 13th October 2023 Mike Zito & Albert Castiglia band
Saturday 28th October 2023 Susan Santos


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