Words & Pictures Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
If I was to describe former MMA fighter Kris Barras’ starting point in music as a zero, the bottom left of the graph, to try and explain the impact he’s currently having on the scene it would do no justice to the man at all, in fact it’s positively disrespectful. A hugely successful fighter with some great wins to his name, Kris has retired from the fight scene and returned to what he loves most… rock and blues music. You can see from the footage below why I’m risking a lot with the use of the word zero… but for us, the fans, he’s burst onto the scene from out of nowhere. It’s been like a supersonic jet flying past unannounced at Mach 1 or Maverick buzzing the Tower…. put your coffee cups down folks, this could get bumpy!
The leap Kris has taken since signing to Mascot Label Records and releasing ‘The Divine and Dirty’ is nothing short of phenomenal. Playing to over 400 at a sold out gig in Exeter recently, to his highest attended gig in London at the prestigious 100 Club on Oxford Street, it’s a far cry away from the gigs in 2016 and early 2017 where he was playing to dozens and not hundreds of people.
So what’s changed? The talent has never been in question. The musicians in the Kris Barras Band, Will Beavis on Drums, Elliott Blackler on Bass and Josiah J Manning on keys \ backing vocals all help create a sound that sets the outfit apart from almost all other Blues \ Rock acts out there. All too often Blues acts are formed of the typical 3 piece, guitarist \ vocalist, bass player and drummer which, whilst more than capable of performing some excellent blues tunes doesn’t always have the stage presence to deliver a show along with the music. Not so KBB who, with the additional skills of Josiah’s keys present a sound unlike most other artists and one that has clearly resonated with the public thanks to a significant amount of exposure on Plant Rock radio, Classic Rock magazine and others including MyGlobalMind who first saw Kris and Co at Ramblin’ Man Fair back in 2017.
Those artists that can lack the ability to put on ‘the show’ are typically lost in the moment, wringing the most emotive sounds out of their guitar whilst singing about loves lost and found and, if the old school approaches are taken, songs about waking up in the morning to find the wife and dog have left them… you know the type. Beautiful music, the sort that can often make you hold onto your significant other and maybe shed a few tears into your pint as well. Filled with breathless energy though? Not so much!
Barras, having applied a liberal dose of itching powder down his skinny jeans before he goes on stage moves about like a man possessed. Never still, he plays, sings, works the crowd and mixes it up with his three band mates all in equal measure. His foil, stage left is Elliott Blacker, a bass player who wields his instrument like a weapon of war and is often seen sporting a look on his face that simply suggests “take that!”. He and drummer Will Beavis, keep the band tight, the latter always watching Barras just to see where their erstwhile leader might be taking them next. Looking for a change in routine, an extended solo perhaps Will is always razor sharp to respond and keep the band in check and in time when needed.Finally stage right is Josiah J Manning. A man who clearly uses the same barber as Kris, his keyboard \ piano work lift the songs up above the norm and adds the key ingredient that helps give the songs as much of a soul music feel as they do the blues.
The band do have one final trick up their sleeves and in the same way the Colonel’s special ingredient lifts a bucket of KFC to heavenly heights on a Friday night after a few cold ones, Josiah’s voice adds an additional layer of harmony to the songs as well. It’s entirely possible that the band wouldn’t be on this path to stardom if it wasn’t for the collective efforts of the four musicians. When you see an individual identified in the band’s name, there’s always a fear that it’s all about them to the exclusion of others. Whilst Kris is definitely the charismatic front man and the guy in charge, this feels like a four way approach to the music and his band benefits greatly from the efforts of the other three. There is of course one extra person involved in all of this, Manager, merch desk guy, driver, organiser, you name it he does it but he’s probably the glue that holds it all together to allow the band to focus on what matters most, the show. Mark Owen (no, the other one) deserves a tip of the hat and a handshake if you see him at a KBB gig.
That approach, which sees the band working their way full time through most of 2018 and have already announced touring intentions for next year, is clearly paying off. One has to wonder ‘what next’ for the KBB. A rumour has it that ZZ Top may well be touring next year and, if you managed to catch Kris fronting Supersonic Blues Machine recently at the Shepherds Bush Empire, you’ll recall a certain Billy Gibbons opened the night with music from his new solo album, ‘The Big Bad Blues’. A support slot with ZZ Top? I’d buy a ticket for that!
A review of that fine release from Billy can also be found here:
As the current tour comes to an end, the last show headlining a Blues festival in Kent, a quick shower and freshen up and the boys are back on the road with Joanne Shaw Taylor before a few more shows with Scots rockers Gun. Planet Rockstock beckons on December 1st and as for 2019… we’ll just have to see.
The introduction of a new song in the set at The 100 Club suggests all is well and fans and band have a great year ahead of them.
The 100 Club Setlist
Heart on Your Sleeve
Kick Me Down
Stitch Me Up
Blood On Your Hands
What A Way To Go (new song)
Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Small Town Blues
Drum Solo (Segued two tracks)
Nothing to Hide
I Don’t Want The Blues
She’s More Than Enough
Watching Over Me
Lovers Or Losers
Rock ’n’ Roll Running Through My Veins