The Summertime Festival held at Warrington Parr Hall this year surpassed superlatives; with the exemplary line up, Joanne Shaw Taylor headlining ahead of The Stevie Nimmo Trio, Bad Touch and Xander & The Peace Pirates, delivering performances that demonstrate each are at the tops of their individual games and bringing a stylistic distinctiveness which cements the passion blues, and blues-rock, demands.
First up are Liverpool’s own Xander & The Peace Pirates. Not for nothing is this a band who have supported the likes of Bon Jovi, Joe Bonamassa and Joe Satriani. Familiar to many in the audience following their five year tenure as The Cavern Club’s resident band, 2017 has brought more big things the way of The Pirates and no wonder on this showing. Their debut album 11-11 was released at the tail end of last year to much acclaim and airplay, but live the band’s music resonates and reverberates into timelessness.
Think of the lyricism crafted by Zep or Purple at their peaks crossed with the dirty, grounded edginess of The Foos and you are still nowhere close to getting the electrifying vibe these five guys generate. With Keith Xander’s remarkable voice blasting out Searching for the Light and Fire like there’s no tomorrow, whilst all the while stretching the limits of guitar mastery with his single hand and prosthetic hook, their overall artistry becomes as mesmerising as it is memorable.
Behind this, Stu Xander’s playing, particularly of the acoustic, and Mike Gay’s superb slide guitar work makes the circle complete, colouring it in with a wonderfulness that marks them out collectively. As aperitifs to the feast, Xander & The Peace Pirates’ performance is more than satisfying.
Another band making much headway in 2017 are Bad Touch. Hailing from Dereham in Norfolk, their own debut
album Truth Be Told has been sending more than favourable waves out across the blues music world, but again it is their energy on stage that sees them at their best. A rich concoction of blended brilliance, theirs is a stew seasoned with such joy that needs to be tasted rather than spoken of.
Stevie Westwood’s throwback curled mane, cavalier facial accoutrement and ‘lively’ dress sense only go to underline what a master of the stage he is. A showman and front man par excellence, Westwood’s vocal range is so uniquely sublime, however, it is quickly apparent that his is a craft that’s been honed in the pursuit of perfection.
Take a listen to tracks such as Wise Water, 99% or their closing song of the evening, the enigmatic The Mountain, then times their effect by twenty in the live arena. An old school R ‘n’ R performance in many ways, it’s nevertheless one that’s continuously being given more than a lick of fresh paint and marks Bad Touch as being a fantastic watch who deserve everything good that comes their way.
With the temperature both inside and out rising, The Stevie Nimmo Trio really set the oven to Gas Mark 9. With his gentle bonhomie and unflustered approach, Nimmo’s smooth vocals and crafted guitar playing dynamism should come with a fire warning.
Roll The Dice sets things, ahem, rolling and rarely is it that the pace and verve drop throughout the fifty minute set. Yet as stand outs go, the title track of the award winning album Sky Won’t Fall, Good Day for the Blues and Make It Up To You are all hard to argue against.
Backed brilliantly by Matt Beable on bass and the powerhouse that is Craig Bacon on drums, the trio’s was a set nothing short of searingly, astonishingly magical on every level and one that had fans old and new roaring for more.
So as this smorgasbord of musical delights reached its zenith, it is left to arguably the hottest female blues artist on the circuit, Joanne Shaw Taylor, to bring a piece de resistance of a main course to the table. And bring it she does.
On her first UK date since an extensive tour in Europe pushing her latest album, Wild, Shaw Taylor rips straight into Dyin’ To Know and follows up magnificently with a smattering of songs old and new, most notably a bubbling, simmering, roasting Diamonds in the Dirt which all but self-flambe’s midpoint; her fingers stretching and bending the strings into the most improbable shapes and so conjuring up the most delicious of sounds.
What really shines, however, is the fun Joanne Shaw Taylor and her immaculate band are clearly having which, in turn, spills into the packed, overheating auditorium. Yes there are quieter moments – her beautifully delicate treatment of David Bowie’s Wild is the Wind being most notable – but mostly this is a rockin’, rollin’ juggernaut of a set that’s quite simply stunning.
Having seen Walter Trout at The Warrington Parr Hall earlier in the year, there is no question that this is a terrific venue with acoustics to die for. Yet, rather than going with seats this evening, as they did back in March, and instead having the audience stand, creates a much greater atmosphere and adds exponentially to an evening as inspirational as it was memorable.
Fantastic? For sure. Dynamic? Definitely: a true four-course, five star banquet of the most sumptuous kind.
The Summertime Festival
Warrington Parr Hall
Joanne Shaw Taylor, The Stevie Nimmo Trio, Bad Touch, Xander & The Peace Pirates
July 15, 2015