Live Gig Review and Article Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
Delta Deep performed at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on Wednesday, March 30th during their East Coast trek of the Sugar Shack Tour. Delta Deep are a fuel injected blues band featuring Phil Collen of Def Leppard on guitar and vocals, Debbi Blackwell-Cook on vocals, Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots on bass, and Forrest Robinson on drums.
Tonight’s smoking blues show was about the music and how it can reach the fans on many levels; levels which cannot always be verbalize. Songs played from gut and sung from the heart. It doesn’t matter if they’re about pain and suffering or lust and death; Delta Deep’s songs were emotional, raw, and delivered with sex appeal. The originals and cover tunes were performed with a smoldering level of finesse that got the fans grooving and in awe of the band’s musical abilities.
Delta Deep appeared on stage with a minimalistic stage set-up; one guitar rig and one bass rig stacked neatly on either side of the drum riser. No videos, special effects, or smoke were needed to enhance their performance. They clearly wanted the audience to pay attention to their music and how it was being performed. It was a far cry from the way you have seen Phil with Def Leppard. If you’ve ever wondered if it would be strange for him to go from arenas to intimate clubs, turns out that’s not the case. Phil told me, “It doesn’t feel strange going from sold out arenas with the lights, the visuals, and 12,000 screaming people to the club setting. It about expression and I really enjoy that process.” All of their songs were about self-expression; making the listener feel something special – designed to inspire and drive people to take notice!
To the orange glow of the stage lights, the band launched into Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and never looked back; raising the temperature of the room to inferno. Debbi immediately took command the stage and entertained the fans like a minster from the pulpit. Her approach was part singing and part storytelling. She was even channeling her inner James Brown during a few songs to captivate the audience. Preaching love and happiness while sharing stories about her son who was killed three years ago. Delta Deep’s songs help tell the story of her son’s life which seems to bring her comfort.
The band continued to blaze through the perfect combination of songs from their debut CD with Phil and Debbi trading off on lead vocals for “Bang the Lid,” “Treat her Like Candy,” “Black Coffee,” “Private Number,” and “Down in the Delta,” to name just a few in their 75 minute set. All songs were played with a level of musicianship and finesse that would drive your sugar level up to the danger zone!
Phil’s playing as always was superb and masterful. He took center stage for all his solos and the extended solo on “Mistreated” was fast, furious, and intense. For tonight’s show he pulled out two of his Jackson guitars; the walnut Strat with a pointy headstock that he plays with Def Leppard and a new smoked chocolate swirl Strat.
Robert DeLeo is a master of the bass, all ten fingers soulfully and smoothly working to every beat and measure of Debbi’s silky voice. Done in a tasteful way to balance the guitar and yet playing in the pocket of the drums. Forrest Robinson is a powerhouse drummer, pounding out the fiery rhythms.
Like a well oiled machine each member working in perfect harmony. All parts equally as important and intricate to the sum of the whole. Somehow they made their blues style of playing look easy, but being a guitar player I knew it wasn’t. It is a level of playing that’s out of most people’s reach!
It’s always great to see some of your favorite artists out their typical element in an intimate setting doing what they love. If you are on the east coast or should this tour continues to other areas do yourself a favor and check them out.