In 2016, Walter Trout and his band took to the stage to totally electrify the mostly-standing audience within The Chester Live Rooms. It was a night never to be forgotten; the sweat, the laughs and the overall vim and vigour sweeping down from those entertaining to those being royally entertained.
Arguably, it was the blues-rock gig of the year, from here at least.
Twelve months on, there’s a lot to live up to and the setting is very different. Warrington’s Parr Hall is a fabulous venue; small and accessible, the overall ambience being that of those enjoying seated, comfortable appreciation of that which is about to unfold, rather than feverish partying.
It is warm, welcoming and, well, comfortably cosy.
On this balmy early May evening, The Trout Brothers Band led by Jonathan Trout on guitar, Michael Trout on Drums – Dylan Trout presumably at home sitting his GCSEs, or whatever the USA equivalent is – and Adam Ditt on bass, proceeded to heat things up.
Their brand of ‘grit’ induced playing being as contagious as chocoholism and their enthusiasm being as laudable as their abilities, this is a trio / quartet (on occasion) that needs to be seen and recognised in their own right, rather than as an hors d’oeurvres for a massive main course of power and bonhomie.
There is no doubting the consummate skill with which The Trout Brothers Band perform. The storming, rasping, hard-core vibe sees them ripping out chops and licks, whams and bams that simply make the listener tremble, so that thirty minutes – despite this being the standard support set time – simply isn’t enough to justifiably report their prowess.
Suffice to say The Trout Brothers Band are good; very, very good!
So then: the main course.
Looking fitter, healthier and injected full of ‘second chance’ lustre, Walter Trout proceeds to make the stage his home. A blasting As The Years Go Passing By, given Trout’s history with its originator Albert King – read his autobiography Rescued From Reality if you don’t know the tale – comes as a surprise and has the audience gasping in awe.
And it is Trout’s overall energy that most stands out. Given that the man was all but dead three years ago, his strutting and posing, swinging his guitar like, well, an axe, shows here is a man at the top of his game; a consummate, multi-chord maestro that sets jaws a dropping at every turn.
It is the background to those songs from Trout’s last album, Battle Scars – a deeply personal account of several near decease experiences, suffered whilst awaiting a self-confessed excess induced liver transplant in 2015 – that, from the sanctity of hindsight, are made all the more poignant today.
Almost Gone is a thing of beauty whereas Hideaway – despite its deeply affecting background of wishing he were anywhere other than being where he was at its conception; dyeing – is an absolute, oxymoronic rip-roarer, performed with so much dynamism it is as though Trout is still rigged to some kind of peripheral energiser.
With Sammy Avila’s magnificent Hammond keysmanship, Michael Leasure’s powerhouse drumming and, standing in for an indisposed Johnny Griparic, the immaculate bass playing of Adam Ditt forming a foundation built to sustain the most solid of blues-rocks, this slow burning night quickly slips beautifully into fifth gear and higher.
Nevertheless, in true ‘passing on the mantle’ style, the highlight comes when Trout introduces young Oliver Vaudrey to the stage to perform B. B. King’s Rock Me Baby. Oh my word. If ever – and I mean ever – there’s been a moment to make the hairs at the nape of the neck to stand on end, then watching this fifteen year old duelling with the sixty-six year old master is one to live in the mind for a very, very long time.
This, without question, is a superb night of blues-rock; a night to remind us all that no matter whom we appreciate most – Clapton or Bonamassa; BB or JST – its the music that needs to survive.
In the hands of Walter Trout, through his sons and their collective encouragement of the likes of Oliver Vaudrey, the blues, as a genre, is alive and well and in little need of life support.
Support: The Trout Brothers Band
Parr Hall, Warrington
May 6, 2017