JHC @ The Cluny, Newcastle
Friday 25th April 2014
After a stressful week at work I really needed something to blow the cobwebs away and all three bands tonight were like a full force gale.
First out of the traps were a quartet from Manchester called Federal Charm who mixed a few self-written songs with a couple of solid gold Rock classics to get the swelling, middle-aged crowd on-side. Their own songs were eminently listenable; think Free with a modern Indie edge; but as a man of a ‘certain age’, it was a joy to hear a note perfect version of Golden Earing’s Radar Love; complete with audience participation. It’s fair to say I wasn’t the only one in the room transported back to their hormonal teenage years by the end.
It only took the roadie ten minutes to change the set up on the small stage before Well Hung Heart featuring Robin Davey from headliners The Hoax and blue haired Elfin featured singer Greta Valenti; who’s singing style evokes both Robert Plant and Punk Princess Polly Styrene; started where Federal Charm left off!
Miss Valenti’s performance was so theatrical it was difficult to take your eyes off her; especially when she occasionally dropped to her knees head banging during Davey’s long and loud guitar solos.
Just like the previous band, Well Hung Heart combined their own songs with some Classics; ending their set with their very own arrangements of Gimme Shelter and Whole Lotta Love; which allowed Greta to show off her vocal range and also her dexterity on the effects pedal as she knelt at Davey’s feet.
So far neither band could really be described as playing what I know as the Blues; as I’d been led to believe; but their mix of old and new Rock music was well worth the admission price anyway.
The Cluny was pretty near capacity when the Hoax shuffled on stage; looking slightly embarrassed by the rowdy reception that they were welcomed by. Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their début album SOUND LIKE THIS they got the show on the road with singer Hugh Coltman attempting to blow the reeds out of his harmonica on a wild version of Rollin’ and Tumblin’…..much to the crowd’s delight.
After three or four songs; I scribbled down that they were ‘the most blues wailing, horse scaring’ band I’ve seen in years. It was easily apparent that each member was at the top of their game; as you would hope after twenty years; but that’s not always the case; is it? The twin guitars of Jon Amor (solid rhythm and liquid solos) and Jess Davey (looked and played like Peter Green circa 1967) were a wet dream for the devotees in the front three rows; and Robin Davey (5 string bass) and Dave Raeburn, who’s powerful drumming felt like a kick in the nuts, provided the ammunition for skinny singer Coltman to be an absolute Tour de Force in centre stage.
We were a few songs into the set before Amor introduced the title track Big City Blues which is an absolute belter and Hipslicker which both had the club rocking as if it was full of teenagers.
Proving that they have strength in depth, not everything was 100mph – Two Steps Back and Stick Around were both low down dirty, smouldering Blues songs that wouldn’t have been out of place in down-town Chicago, 1962.
After the obligatory 50 second foot stomping from the crowd the curtain at the back of the stage moved and a waving Jon Amor scurried across the stage; only to realise no one had followed him. Cue much sniggering when the others did appear.
The first song of the two encores was a request from a devoted fan and BB King’s How Blue Can You Get? Was the perfect opportunity for first Jesse Davey then Jon Amor to show off their respective skills on the electric guitar; and boy do they have skill in abundance.
A can of beer was produced; lubricating Coltman’s larynx which allowed him to end the evening with a lung busting blistering Smokestack Lightening!
What a night; 200 people packed into a poorly ventilated club listening to raw, rocking Blues at it’s very best. What’s not to like?