Review by Paul Quinton
Chantel McGregor is becoming a regular and welcome visitor to The Robin, and tonight’s show pulled in a very healthy crowd for a Tuesday night, but in some ways this was one of an increasing number of gigs recently that suffered from the headliners having no new album to promote.
Tonight’s support was billed as ‘Chris Bevington and Friends’, which was a completely new name to me, and it was a bit of a surprise to see the stage at The Robin filled up by a ten-piece band including horns and backing singers. It was also something of a surprise, and a pleasant one too, to see FM guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick among the band on stage, but best of all, the whole band proved to be one of the most entertaining live acts, especially as a support, you could wish to see. The set list is basically blues covers, but played with such skill and sheer enthusiasm the enjoyment was infectious, and they went down an absolute storm with the Robin crowd. I suspect this band would be a real hit at an event like the Cambridge Rock Festival, but they’ll be back at The Robin for their own show in July, which sounds like a pretty good night out.
Having seen Chantel McGregor a few times over the years, it’s been pretty easy to see how much she’s matured as a performer, as these days she’s far more at ease with the crowd than previously, although some of her between song chat often seemed to tail off without actually going anywhere, and she shows a lot more confidence in her own performance. Musically, she’s also expanded her horizons, as this was far more than just a straightforward blues trio set. Openers ‘Enemy’ and ‘Like No Other’ sounded more hard rock than blues, sounding far more like bands such as Bad Company then the heavily Bonamassa influenced performer she’s been in the past. There was also a lot more ambition in the arrangements, for example ‘Screams Everlasting’ beginning as a gently strummed acoustic piece before turning into an extended guitar workout, and ‘Fabulous ‘, which ended the main set, sounded completely different to the recorded version, again with serious Bad Co. overtones, rather than the poppier inflection it had on the album.
Although she has a new album due later this year, perhaps the biggest reservation about her as a performer is her continuing reliance on covers, and while if a band does play covers it can be fun waiting to be surprised by what the band will play next, it’s often unhealthy to be known for the covers rather than your own material. At least half this set was material by other artists, three songs in, for example, we had her version of ‘Voodoo Chile’, which is surely a song that few could do anything new with, although she gave us some fine guitar work in covering it. Similarly, her solo acoustic showcase in the middle of the set was comprised of two Fleetwood Mac songs, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Gold Dust Woman’, although again excellently played and sung, and one of her own songs, the excellent ‘I’m No Good For You, ’and finally the centrepiece of the whole set, as on her album, Robin Trower’s ‘Daydream’, which has become a very lengthy showcase for her guitar.
There was a single encore, another of her own excellent songs,’Freefalling’ and the promise she made during the main set, that her new album will ready later this year, hopefully means next time she plays The Robin, she can really be herself. She has a great sound, but a lot of the time, it isn’t her own sound.