It may be the last day of July, but already it is a typical Belfast “summer” evening – the temperature is plummeting into the lower reaches of single figures and the rain isn’t taking its time to belt it down as the PM team duck from the adjacent pub and through the venue doorway for this re-scheduled show. The gig originally had been planned as part of Blues Pills’ UK and Ireland trek this past April, but scheduling difficulties meant that we had to wait a bit longer for the Swedish retro monsters’ debut in this part of the world.
Despite the previous cancellation, openers RavenEye had actually played this very same venue as part of that trek: after all, they already had paid their ferry fares and hotel fees, so they hastily arranged their own – and, as it turned out, very poorly attended – headline show. Built around the multi-award winning blues guitarist Oli Brown, who is using the project to showcase the heavier end of his musical spectrum, the trio are a bundle of broiling energy. Brown leaps around the stage like a maniac and drummer Kev Hickman is grinning from ear to ear, standing up and encouraging the crowd to clap and cheer along when he’s not beating 50 shades of the proverbial out of his kit. Bassist Aaron Spiers is initially a bit more reserved than his two bandmates, but the spirit of the evening quickly engulfs him, and on ‘Hey Hey Yeah’ he takes to the pit barrier, where Brown climbs upon his shoulder to deliver an absolutely blistering solo.
Brown also proves that he is a generous musician: Spiers and Hickman are very much the driving force of the band, and the guitarist happily lets them stretch their own muscles, as when he abandons the guitar altogether and lets the duo prove that they are more than sidekicks to a superstar ego but integral members of an extremely tight and talented unit.
As soon as Elin Larsson opens her throat, you know you are in for a treat, as her Joplin-esque deep throated, roaring blues echoes around the rammed club and immediately captivates everyone present with its psychedelic groove.
Larsson’s fiery, latent energy counterpoints the stoical precision of the three instrumentalists, whose elongated jazz-meets-blues-meets-prog workouts summon a dark Sixties vibe, while the singer’s seering, visceral vocals by turns chill and roast the soul. While the band are laconic in their onstage manner, the singer is obviously enjoying herself, bouncing around the stage and exuding an easy confidence, which transposes itself into her comfortable between-song raps. Hell, she even gives those in the front row of what is underneath her tight black leather skirt when, more than once, she places one of her feet on the stagefront monitors.
The quartet’s thumping, thrumming heavy blues lies evokes early Zeppelin, prime-time Cream and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, and more than pays homage to that golden, pre-metal era as its ethereal hypnotism transports this sweaty venue and everyone therein back to the Denmark Street of 50 years ago with a flawless and totally complete performance that will have many present salivating in anticipation of both the new album and Blue Pills’ return to our fair city.
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Yet To Find / Devil Man
- Photographs by The Dark Queen
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