Live Gig Review by: Francijn Suermondt
Photos by: Simon Kneller
On a Friday night after a long week of traveling to shows and heavy workload, I was ready to enjoy some damn fine, sold out in a couple of weeks, Kris Barras, blues-infused, rock n roll at the Exeter Phoenix Centre….I was not going to be disappointed!
The support to Kris Barras on the evening was the Babysnakes, another local band hailing from the south-west. Looking like a bunch of lumberjacks all complete with check shirts and a healthy smattering of hair and baseball caps, I was not sure what to expect from these chaps. Storming in with a splendid mix of bluegrass and southern rock on acid, they opened with three stonking good tunes that got the crowd going like a boomtown at a hoedown. Further into the set and drawing on country influences with tracks such as ‘In Too Deep’, which wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of ‘Nashville’ (and I LOVE Nashville) and progressing further into songs with a heavy mix of ska and bluegrass ….. Babysnakes certainly got the packed to capacity Phoenix, moving and a grooving!
Kris Barras works hard …. VERY hard…whether it is through his previous life as a mixed martial artist or through his full-time career now, as the celebrated Prince of blues and one of the top 15 blues guitarists in the world, as voted by readers of Music Radar/Total Guitar Magazine.
With ACDC blasting through the speakers to rev the crowd up and then walking on to the stage along to the haunting restrains of Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Good The Bad & the Ugly’, the local boy done good was ready to entertain his people.
‘Heart On Your Sleeve’ opened the evening’s blues entertainment and dripped with quality and promise of more treats to come, whilst ‘Kick Me Down’ made me see clearly why Kris has been hailed as the best blues guitarist of our generation.
The fabulous band playing with Kris, start to let rip themselves on songs such as ‘Stitch Me Up’ which displayed some superb honky-tonk playing by Joshua to the fore, allowing a good dose of rhythm and blues boogie-woogie into the 21st century. Whilst ‘Blood On Your Hands’ kept the pace and adrenaline running.
Just something about Kris’s playing has that special je ne sais qui that I do not feel very often with other blues players, and as an out and out rocker myself I thoroughly enjoyed ‘What A Way To Go’ which had a heavier rock infused feel to it…..and I do love good use of a cowbell!!
One of my all-time favorites, ‘Fortunate Son’, was up next…..and I have to say these boys kicked ass with this cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic, with Kris, Josiah Manning (keyboards), Elliott Blackler (bass) and Will Beavis (drums) having a fine old time of it! Loved the way this neatly slid into a nice dose of ‘Freebird’ too!
‘Propane’, my new found Albanian ACDC mad friend said, was his favorite because it was the first song he ever heard from The Kris Barras Band, it was his first introduction and therefore his first love. Watching him dutifully whipping his long hair to the beat, it made me realize what a great mix of music fans was actually in the crowd…young, old, rockers, blues fans, even a friend of Kris’s mum (who proudly announced this to me when I introduced myself to her). And surely that is what all music is about bringing people together?!
With the fabulous ‘Hail Mary’ bringing shouts of “Awesome!” behind me, the boys moved into the country/honky-tonk treat of ‘Small Town Country Blues’….we all understand that feeling here in Torquay sometimes don’t we!
‘Nothing To Hide’ and ‘I Don’t Want The Blues’ and ‘She’s More Than Enough’ was nicely interjected with, I have to say, a stonking rendition of ‘A Whole Lotta Rosie’ and made way for the spine-tingling ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’. This song is written for Kris’s father who sadly passed at the age of 54, having also lost my father when I was very young, this was very evocative for me.
After the final song of ‘Lovers And Losers’, the band came on for an encore and played ‘Rock N Roll Runnin Thru My Veins’ delicious in its slide guitar glory.
What I love is the unassumingness of all the guys on the stage, they all have great stage presence obviously, but with a humbleness somehow too. To one Devonian to another, Kris Barras, we are proud of you and your boys!
Footnote on the Exeter Phoenix: I have to mention the actual venue for the evening’s soiree, the experience from the beginning of the evening to the end was rather gorgeous. Starving hungry I had the best Three Bean Vegi Chilli and the staff simply couldn’t do enough for you!! And a friendlier crowd here you would be hard pushed to find, in fact, a number of them are now friends of mine on Facebook…what’s not to like!