Words and Photos: David Thrower
Less than a month ago an act of senseless violence left the city of Manchester deeply scarred, yet, from the ashes of that atrocity, a mood of defiant determinism has arisen and Vintage Trouble was the latest to witness this outpouring of unity. In town to promote a future album (the release date still close to their respective chests) the ‘Trouble were electrifying, humble and honorific in equal measure and yet further proof that live music may not heal all wounds but is one almighty salve in times of pain.
I had last seen tonight’s support act, guitarist Laurence Jones and his band, opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, way back in 2014 and while his burgeoning talent had yet fully to form there was enough on display to highlight a true talent in the making. Honored with the British Blues Awards ‘Young Artist of the Year’ on a trio of consecutive occasions the band has grown to become a wonderful example of home-grown blues delivered with grinning, youthful exuberance. Songs such as ‘I Will’, with the well-coiffured Jones espousing ‘love is better than war’, shone with a brightness he’d only hinted at those few short years back and left me looking forward to the next opportunity I would run into him and his band – coincidentally supporting Kenny Wayne Shepherd next month.
There are moments watching certain musicians/artists when you feel you’re not merely one in a crowd but more a participating member of a religious congregation and never more so than when standing before the pelvis pushing gyroscope that is Vintage Trouble’s very own Preacher Man, Ty Taylor. Accompanied by his bunch of Western-attired outlaws, the bartender-cum-drummer Richard Danielson, bass player and card-sharp Rick Barrio Dill, the cool behatted gun/guitar-slinger Nalle Colt and new saloon pianist Brian London, the band are becoming harder to define such is their intoxicating blend of rock, rhythm, and blues, soul and blues. Hell, chuck in Ty on the trombone alongside some serious groove and you can now add funk to their overall mix. This is a band that refuses to be defined and, should you get close, are quite happy to pull in numerous differing influences to confound and confuse you even further. New songs such as single ‘Knock Me Out’ and the rafter-raising ‘Run Like the River’, which saw Ty make his way to the upper balcony to conduct his brethren, pulsed with inspirational gravitas – in fact, the Ritz, with its two levels, numerous patrons waving teardrop fans, the rapt devotion and overall pervading rhythm, was reminiscent of the church scene in ‘The Blues Brothers’. Very apt.
However, despite the ability to raise even the stubbornest of rooves, Vintage Trouble spent a great portion of the evening remembering the terrible events that had shocked this vibrant city, Ty filling with emotion as he recalled and reacted to the attack on liberty. The most touching of moments was when the vocalist wandered through the reverent crowd, passed people lost in thought and each other’s arms and consoling groups huddled tight, collection bucket in hand, as he sang the pain-racked ‘Not Alright by Me’. Other songs such as the touching ‘Nobody Told Me’ and the powerful ‘Battle’s End’, dedicated to those present, those willing to celebrate life, tomorrow and freedom and to those no longer able to share such moments of joy thanks to the actions of others, were spine-tinglingly affecting.
At the end of the evening, as the dying strains of ‘Blues Hand Me Down’ thundered to its conclusion, the band left the stage by jumping the barrier and striding through the crowd to meet and greet anyone and everyone such is their connection with the audience.
Manchester has seen its fair share of pain recently and while Vintage Trouble may not have chased away those haunting memories they played their part in making a stand – or, as Ty so eloquently phrased it, ‘You will not be shut down!’ Until next time. And the next…