Date: April 23rd, 2015
The spirit of the swinging Sixties is something usually talked about with fond nostalgia these days, but Blues Pills are bringing it vividly back to life on their Live Over Europe tour. In a night of several firsts, I managed to see their set in Cardiff’s premier artsy rock venue, The Globe, my first gig at the club. It’s small enough to make even the people in the seating upstairs feel part of the action, which lent a certain intimacy to one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
Kicking the night off were The Pearl Harts, two girls from London on their first UK tour who effortlessly handled the often thankless task of warming up the crowd. Appearing on stage as if from nowhere, they launched straight into opener ‘The Chief’ without any fanfare, and I was immediately hooked. There may only have been two of them, but they sure knew how to make a noise. Kirsty Lowrey’s obvious guitar skills, tight drumming from Sara Leigh-Shaw, and the fantastic harmonies of their voices make The Pearl Harts definite ones to watch. While I won’t be able to get ‘Skeleton Made of Diamonds’ or ‘Wolf Eyes’ out of my head any time soon, perhaps the best song of their set was ‘Last Song of Summer’: smoky blues rock with just a hint of sludgey haze that really showed off their musical capabilities. By the end of their set, the crowd had definitely warmed to them, and by the time I got to the merch table nearly all 200 of the hand-signed CDs they had with them that night had gone.
RavenEye came bounding out next, and absolutely blew the crowd away with the sheer energy of their set, consisting mainly of songs from their EP Breaking Out. From the catchy, aptly-named stomper that was opener ‘Get It Started’ through to closer ‘You Got It,’ their enthusiasm and passion for the music they were playing was infectious. Whether it was guitarist/vocalist Oli Brown jumping off the bass drum, or walking out amongst the crowd (a brave thing to do in Cardiff), or the sheer joy on the drummer’s face as he pounded through their set, it was clear they were having just as much fun as the crowd was, evidenced when everyone was invited to sing along to the groovy ‘Hey Hey Yeah’. Fans of all styles of blues rock, from Led Zeppelin through to The John Butler Trio, would do well to look these guys up when they roll into town: their obvious passion for the music electrified their set, and the audience with it. Pure, unadulterated rocking out has never been so fun, or so damn catchy.
The night’s headliners came out to a huge cheer from the small audience. Launching straight into ‘High Class Woman’, Blues Pills blistered through their set without much in the way of audience interaction. However, the absolutely phenomenal set more than made up for this. Where some bands go for on-stage gimmicks, or lots of enjoyable banter with the audience, Blues Pills preferred to let the music do the talking. And talk it did. The lack of theatrics or novelties did not detract at all from the sheer force of the psychedelic blues on display, and the crowd really got into the groove, much like it might have done fifty years ago. The whole set worked well, deftly mixing slow- and fast-paced numbers to show off the band’s brilliant psychedelic blues-metal sound. Highlights included ‘Ain’t No Change’, ‘Astralplane’, and ‘Elements and Things’, but the best song of their set, and of the night as a whole, was undoubtedly ‘Devil Man’. Elin Larsson’s voice echoed through the venue in the introduction, and when the guitars kicked in, the crowd went wild. Special mention, however, must go to the encore, ‘Little Sun’, a slow-paced, soulful number that really brought to light just how in touch with the spirit of the blues the band is. The lack of banter aside, the skill of the musicians and the power of their music really made it feel as if the spirit of the Sixties was alive and swinging.
It remains only for me to say that in terms of energy, it was perhaps the best gig I’ve ever seen. I have never seen such passion on the parts of the bands on show, and I thoroughly recommend every band on display that night.