BluesFest 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall: day three with Paddy Milner, Danny Bryant, Dr Feelgood and many more
West Arena Foyer
But more pressing was the first act, Danny Bryant, who kicked off daytime proceedings deep in the belly of the Royal Albert Hall, in the West Arena Foyer.
Covering Bob Dylan’s Girl from the North Country, Bryant’s musical talents and amicable stage demeanour immediately engaged the multiplying audience. Bryant explained that this rendition of Dylan’s hit was the first song his long-term mentor Walter Trout had taught him. It also transpires Trout is unwell and the song was picked in homage to him as a great friend. The moving story spilled over into every chord, compelling the then full foyer.
It’s worth noting that the West Arena Foyer is far grander than its name suggests. It’s an intimately lit, tranquil hideaway with sloped ceilings from which to quaff champagne or sip Martinis, while discussing or waiting for your main hall act.
Next up was Paddy Milner’s magic fingers – or, to give their official stage name, Paddy Milner’s Londonola. The point being, there is nothing this Scotsman cannot make a keyboard do. And he wastes no time pretending otherwise. Milner has the crowd clapping along with a mind-bogglingly enjoyable keyboard solo, ably supported by soothing vocals, which left some female fans swooning. Slowing things down with the famous Mother Earth and then cranking things back up New Orleans style with the self-penned Paper, Scissors, Stone, the three-piece effortlessly charmed all generations represented in the diverse audience.
Last but by no means least, lighting up the West Arena Foyer next was The Motives, featuring Matt Taylor. Delivering their highly acclaimed brand of dynamic rhythm & blues, the sharply dressed quartet ensured a clean sweep of great gigs.
In the Q&A hot seat, in the extraordinarily swanky Coda Room, is legend Georgie Fame. Fame, incidentally, is Costello’s warm up in the main hall tonight.
Beneath crystal chandeliers, Fame fascinatingly regaled 50 or so fans with his rise to success. From being discovered at a talent competition in Wales, to the glory days at the Flamingo Jazz Club (which, depressingly, is now an O’Neill’s pub). He also touches on catching one of The Beatles’ early gigs at a tiny venue in Lancashire, and how his drummer, Jimmy Nicol, replaced Ringo Star on tour when the Beatle was unwell.
Characteristics of the blues genre are storytelling, passionate spirit and creative gratitude. It’s these characteristics that connect the six acts on show on Wednesday afternoon in the Elgar Room and the Verdi at the Royal Albert Hall. At the mid-way point in this year’s five-day extravaganza, there was a specific insight into blues from a British perspective.
At the tail end of noon, the contrasting battle between the two venues began with smartly dressed and adoringly followed Andy Fairweather Low and The Low Riders, competing for attention from attitude-driven Never the Bride.
Wales’ Fairweather had a mature group of dedicated admirers still glorifying his days with chart-topping Amen Corner and they were treated for their loyalty with spellbinding performances. Most rewarding was their instrumental renditions of The Shadow’s Apache and Mancini’s Peter Gunn.
There was no time to self-reflect for blues buffs, as another battle commenced at 2pm between The Black Keys-influenced The Hoax and charismatic pianist Mike Sanchez. The future for blues looks bright, exemplified by Wiltshire ensemble The Hoax. Their energy and fresh-faced suave brought in a younger generation to the BluesFest, who were not only entertained but educated with a tribute to BB King’s How Blue Can You Get.
Simultaneously in the Verdi room, Bristol’s Never The Bride were desperately attempting to gain unaccommodating followers, who were either still half-asleep or were intimidated by vocalist Nikki Lamborn’s tattoos and frantic hairstyle, to respond to their hard-hitting classic rock fusion. She attempted to strike an empathy chord with them with her dedication to a homeless person.
Hackney-born Mike Sanchez used his lightning speed finger-tapping and incredible knowledge of the history of the blues to impersonate his heroes. He presented precise impersonations such as Jenny Lewis doing The Big Bopper before jokingly denying requests for “obvious rock”.
As late afternoon emerged, the last two performances – Dr Feelgood and Robert Hart’s latest musical involvement in The Bad Apples – were close matched, and it was hard to call who had the superior finale. They were both lead by a vocalist with an egotistical swagger and both contained secondary singers, who adopted the role when the vocalist needed a break. Though one feels Dr Feelgood’s Robert Kane’s rhetorical question “what else are you going to do on a Wednesday afternoon?” might just take the biscuit. Roll on day four…
Matt Taylor Hobbs and Mark Gatford
Photos: Andrei Grosu
BluesFest is at the Royal Albert Hall until 31st October 2014, for further information or to book visit here.