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Well that is a first! Arrived at the smashing venue in Swansea, The Garage and the new Blues evenings run by Richard & Carol. As normal said few hellos went to switch on my trusty camera and there was no power… nothing resulting in sheer panic then the realisation no battery in camera why? Still at home charging… hang face in shame! I am positive that there is a blues lyric in this tale somewhere.

mike-markey-nick-jones-heads-of-the-valleys_338x337 So no pictures breathing deeply I sat back and let the blues flow as local duo Mike Markey & Nick Jones entertained with an acoustic set of blues classics delivered with verve and their own distinctive approach with the blending of Mike’s vocals and blues harp with Nick precise guitar work whether dobro or acoustic. The set included Muddy Water’s ‘Can’t be Satisfied’ ; ‘Filthy Rich’ and the old 1926, ‘Fishing Blues’ covered by many and tonight M & J’s version. Then up to the 21st with an Adele track, If It Hadn’t Been for Love; originally recorded by the bluegrass band The SteelDrivers then back to more traditional with Woody Guthrie’s, ‘Dust Bowl Blues’
They certainly warmed up the musical atmosphere of The Garage on Tuesday evening whetting our appetites for Simon McBride.

What a contrast as Simon McBride hit the stage and a wave of heavy blues spread across the venue. From the first chord Simon was playing dynamic lead guitar he is no copy of great guitarist he is producing his own 21st century rock blues that demands your attention from beginning to end. He achieves what appears to be an effortless musical guitar sound combined with his melodic vocals thanks to the beat perfect talents of Paul Hamilton on drums combine with his box of tricks that loops in Hammond Organ, Horns when the song requires giving a perfect melodic backdrop that enables Simon to concentrate on vocals when required and Gareth Hughes on bass. The drumming is the driver of the band combined with the bass which provides a depth of sound and a complexity of the deeper sound; they are the engine house gives Simon a consistent rhythm that he can flow from. The licks come fast and furious no introspective guitar playing that goes on too long as they blend merge and bed effortlessly into the next melodic phrase or introducing the lyric that never get missed. The band plays for the joy of producing the McBride sound that is entrancing. The sound level and pace goes down and the talents of this young man sing out across the club and the voice takes centre stage.. Down to the River is a clever complexity of rhythms that entice so that you never want the track to end as you are absorbed into the music so that there is no beginning or end just the moment that you are relishing.
The set list was full of textures and contrasts with tracks sun as ‘Alcatraz’ with its jazzy slightly Latino beat that makes you sway and want to dance and ‘Fire Me Up’ about his favourite car a 1966 Mustang with a bluesy driving tempo that hurls you along the free-way.. free as a bird. Simon McBride was on fire with the music flowing producing the energy of a live performance no wonder he is compared with some of the greats of the past. Simon changed guitar – still a PRS the favoured make, and the tempo alters again this time the opening is low-key and for Simon and the band a more pedestrian pace ‘Standing Still‘ then opens up the throttle picks up speed and once again you are drawn deep into the sound that weaves and waves across the club. The band leaves and acoustic becomes the guitar of choice, the atmosphere becomes more intimate ‘Rock & Storm’ written and inspired at PRS Studio… this is a love ditty with a story of the static rock and roving storm followed by ‘Devils Road‘. Then Paul & Gareth return now we see the slide in action ‘Take My Hand & Hell Waters Rising’ a favourite duo of tracks that demonstrate the skills as a guitarist and they are full of tonal depth and musical colour.

Simon and the band delighted the crowd tonight with a stellar display of musicianship; there is no doubt that Simon is a superb guitarist and yes it is all too easy to compare him to fellow Irishman Rory Gallagher but for me Simon is his own guitarist with a modern twist he creates at times a sound redolent of sitar and Indian music and in the next beat heavy rock driven licks. He deftly melds and weaves a sound that is live energetic and his own. download (1) Gareth demonstrated his skill with a great bass solo with great intervention from Simon as the band joined in. One last track ‘Dead Man Walking‘ bought the evening to a close with everyone wanting more and for those who haven’t already got his CD’s could buy a bit of the magic to take home including his latest album ‘Crossing The Lines’.

The Garage and Richard Smith are certainly bringing great live music to Swansea and great to see so many enjoying music in the round… coming up is fellow Nugene artist the award-winning talented opening his latest tour in Swansea – Ian Siegal 3rd April Gwyn Ashton, 1st May Hamilton Loomis – 5th June so keep supporting live music in Swansea at the Garage.

Photographs – Liz Aiken Simon McBride @ Guildhall Gloucester (Took my battery that time!)

Catch – Simon McBride on this tour

20th March – The Tunnels, Bristol
21st March – Fibbers, York
22nd March – HRH Blues, Pwllheli
23rd March – Whelans, Dublin
22nd June – Linton Festival

Set List
Lead us Away
Go Down Gamblin’
Down By The River
Alcatraz
So Much Love To Give
Fire Me Up
Starve This Fever
Take My Hand
Hell Waters Rising
Fat Pockets
A Rock & A Storm
(Acoustic)
Devil’s Road
(Acoustic)
Spanish Castle Magic
No Room To Breathe
Rich Man Falling
Down To The Wire
Don’t Be A Fool
One More Try
Encore:

Dead Man Walking

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