Review by Peter Keevil, photos by Rich Ward
Swedish/American/French quartet, Blues Pills, are rightly garnering praise amongst the classic rock circles, so Peter Keevil, went to see their first ever visit to Birmingham.
Bristol’s hard rock favourites, BlackWolf, opened proceedings to a rapidly filling Oobleck and delivered a solid, if not over inspiring collection of blues underscored rock n roll. There’s little doubt that what makes them stand out is singer Scott Sharp. He is pleasing to the eye, with a well kept mane of dark golden locks and has a vocal quality in the same vein as Myles Kennedy (Slash / Alter Bridge).
Perhaps it’s the fact they were an opening act and I’m assuming using a house engineer, but the songs didn’t seem to cut through tonight. Listen to their album, The Hunt, and there are some gems there, like ‘Keep Moving On’, ‘Mr Maker’ and ‘Moving Mountains’ but live these seemed to merge into each other a little too much.
There’s definitely ‘something there’ to make me want to re-visit, so I’ll be watching out for their next headline date. I suggest you do too.
The Vintage Caravan are a quirky Icelandic trio. You would have thought that they were far too young to be influenced by the proggy/classic/psych bands of old but it’s amazing what you pick up from your parents’ musical tastes. If, like me, you have seen their video to ‘Expand Your Mind’ I was expecting a bit of a shoe-gazing trip fest. How wrong was I?
TVC have youth on their side and bring that energy in bucket loads to the stage. Bassist Alex, is a grinning, whirling dervish, his movement and engagement highly infectious. A quick glance around the crowd and the grins are mirrored across many faces. Drummer, Guðjón, is stripped to the waist from the off and is a mass of blond hair and flailing arms, while frontman, guitarist, singer, Oskar holds court stage right and is a barrage of riffs and face pulling with every chord.
Killer songs are in abundance; ‘Craving’, the aforementioned ‘Expand Your Mind’, ‘Let Me Be’ and the girl everyone wants to take home to their parents, ‘Cocaine Sally’.
Signed to Nuclear Blast, they are in good hands and we will be seeing plenty more from these guys next year. Join the club and ride the Caravan.
By the time Blues Pills stepped up to the mic, the crowd had filled out to a very respectable 270+. And as if in complete contrast to TVC, the word of the Blues Pills set is ‘sublime’. There’s no bombast about Blues Pills. You won’t find bassist, Zack Anderson cavorting about the stage, he is the epitome of focussed bass lines. Drummer, and ‘new boy’, André Kvarnström holds down the backbone with shuffles and solid beats. The fulcrum of BP is all about the delicate and unique Dorian Sorriaux on guitar and the equally delicate but oh so strong, Elin Larrson, on vocals.
I’ve never seen a player quite like, Sorriaux, before. His dexterity is matched only by his eloquence. Visually, he wears the same facial expression throughout the show, that of the mildly inquisitive. He is like an elegant swan, all calm and serene above the waist (water), while below the power and energy he caresses from the fret board are quite a delight to behold. Beside him is the naturally sexy and furiously talented, Elin Larrson. She is a stereotypical Swede with flowing blonde hair but within that slight frame is a powerhouse of a voice that will take this band far.
From the opening deep resonance of ‘High Class Woman’, through the full force of ‘Devil Man’ to the final throws of ‘Black Smoke’, Blues Pills deliver a performance that surpasses their age and experience ten-fold.
Surprise of the night comes via a cover of Tony Joe White’s ‘Elements and Things’. When I first thought ‘Why do any cover when we really want their own material’… this gave way to a ‘bloody hell this is good’. To coin an X-Factor phase, they owned it and made it theirs and the middle jam breakout was stunning.
Having seen them play in Nuneaton in front of 20 people, to now packing the Oobleck, these guys are on the up and having secured the support slot on the Rival Sons forthcoming tour, when they will play to around 1,000 in Wolverhampton, there ain’t no going back. Sublime.
1. High Class Woman
2. Ain’t No Change
3. Dig In
4. No Hope Left
5. Time Is Now
8. Elements and Things
9. Devil Man
10. Little Sun
11. Black Smoke