Review: Chantel McGregor/Tantrum – Bluefunk – 10 Sept 2008

Posted on: Friday, Oct 24, 2008

Chantel McGregor/Tantrum
Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues
Poynton Working Mens Club
Poynton, Cheshire
10 September 2008

Chantel McGregor

I find it no surprise that the more recent gigs of the Chantel McGregor Band have found them venturing beyond the pubs of their West Yorkshire stronghold.  Not only appearing on the fringes of both this years Burnley and Colne festivals, but also taking in some of the noteworthy Blues Clubs and Arts Centres in the North.

What is remarkable is that all this exposure has been achieved while the band as yet still has no commercial product available.  An arduous gig schedule (flyers referencing her excellent self-maintained website copiously distributed) and the word of mouth recommendations that follow can be the only reasons.  Although when you consider that some of the nods could have come from the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Aynsley Lister, and Adrian Byron Burns (Chantel having appeared on stage with all three at some point) then promoters are more liable to take notice.

Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ proved an apt opening title, coming as it did after a typically capricious opening preamble for which Chantel was berated soundly by the locals in placing their village in the county of Lancashire.  (Oops!)

The bittersweet ballad, beautifully sung solo to a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment went some way to make amends, but rendered impatient those unfamiliar with the pretty young Bradford blonde; whose appearance (tiny, bare-footed and wearing a white party dress) did nothing to convince that the night of barnstorming rocking blues they had been promised would come to fruition.  Their fears soon turned into Bisto Kid-like sighs of anticipation when, joined by drummer Martin Rushworth and new bass guitarist Lincoln J. Roth, Chantel switched into electric mode and announced Blind Faith’s ‘Had To Cry Today’ – a solid backbeat led into the rhythm section joining their leader on some heavy riffing, before her screaming solos gave new meaning to the phrase “pulling out all the stops”.  More impressive still was the stomping treatment given to Ten Years After’s ‘One Of These Days’ – Chantel’s strident vocals making way for a controlled solo in which she was joined by Lincoln’s fine counterpoint bass.
The Jimi Hendrix repertoire was represented by ‘Red House’ and ‘Voodoo Chile’.  The former number winning over the few remaining doubters when, going off at a tangent, Chantel’s up and down the scales fretwork brought forth the kind of excited whoops once associated with redskins on the sight of an unprotected wagon train in a B Western movie.  The latter gave solo spots to both Martin and Lincoln, with the theatrically inclined bassman particularly enjoying his turn in the limelight – free from the periodic contraints of hurriedly familiarising himself with his own filed copies of the band’s material found the newcomer (only his seventh gig) holding court like some Medieval entertainer –  strumming like a minstrel one moment, then taking on the mantle of jester; with some high-stepping stage coverage while funking it up.  It certainly beat resembling a knight trying to find the right page.

Chantel’s love of the wah wah pedal was best employed on her treatment of both Robin Trower’s ‘Daydream’ (unearthly high notes) and, my own favourite of the set, Joe Bonamassa’s ‘Mountain Time’ on which her dreamy vocal made way for a magnificent oscillating solo that at one point took things down to a whisper, then imperceptibly rose again until repeated aural intense sparks built and built, coming to a conclusion amidst a hail of thunderous drums.  The crowd went haywire, why the clubs smoke alarm system didn’t is anyone’s guess.

The encore, Jethro Tull’s ‘A New Day Yesterday’ was another ‘no holds barred’ outing that left the audience baying for more. Awesome!

Tantrum

Together, Lancaster youngsters Jamie Walker (lead guitar/vocals), Torten Christensen (bass) and Luke Paget (drums) make up Tantrum.  An apt name for a power trio that, over the last few years, have been creating quite a stir with edgy performances that at times teeter on punk.  Like Chantel, this was their first appearance at the club, and came in the middle of a two week tour of Ireland, (they had just got back that day) Holland and Belgium.  And there was no denying the hour long set here produced more spiky energy than Mrs Tiggywinkle on a busy washday.  Torten’s aggressive repeated crys of the title, ‘Give Me Two Reasons’, on the opener was a prime example of this energy, before the band flowed seamlessly into a swaggering Hoax-like shuffle.

Rhythmic drums then heralded ‘Point Of No Return’; a number that featured plenty of light and shade guitar work, plus a tortured vocal that emphasised just how much Jamie’s voice has developed in strength and authority – he’s been hurt, and he’s angry, and boy does he let you know it!

Funky wah wah led into the psychedelic lyrics of ‘Where Do I Go From Here’, before another segue brought those Hoax memories flooding back again with ‘Missuser(?)’, sounding like a hybrid of ‘Feeding Time’ minus the harp.

I bet I wasn’t the only one issuing a secret sigh of relief in giving the runaway boogie of ‘Burning Out’ a miss on the dancefloor.  This object lesson in band dynamics seemingly ended, then started the feet tapping again, only twice as fast!

‘Take It Back’ was a storming closer containing a myriad of powerful riffs.  Each could have been the start for any number of classy rockers, but, instead, were fitted together as a perfect whole, with all three musicians going for broke.

After rapturous applause Jamie invited Chantel back on stage to take turns in ripping it up on BB’s ‘You Upset Me’.  A triumphant encore!

Though the official result of this top class Yorks/Lancs encounter was a draw (Chantel and Jamie both breaking a string apiece on the night)  the undoubted winners had to be organiser Garry White and the audience, royally entertained by two of the hardest working bands on the scene. Go and see them when they next come your way.

MARTIN BYROM

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